My Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ!
Fourth Sunday of Easter is Good Shepherd Sunday when we pray to our Eternal Shepherd Jesus Christ to give us shepherds that will be like that staff – the extension of his hand.
Every vocation to the priesthood and religious life begins with a moment when Christ touches a person. I would like to invite you to listen to Brother Casmir who is preparing to be an Oblate priest. Thank you Brother:
I grew up in a village in India. It is looked after by diocesan priests but when they were away there was an Oblate priest who would come to do supplies. After some years he became close to the local community because of his humility, frankness and friendly and witty nature. Although our village was Christian there had been a heated argument between to individuals in the community which divided the village into two parties hating each other. One day the Oblate came to do supplies and after the Mass he said: “It is a beautiful village but because of such and such people the Christian spirit here has been spoiled. It cannot keep going like that any longer.” After the Mass there was lots of angry people commenting about what the Oblate said but a month later the people from the both parties got reconciled and there was peace in our village again. When I looked at the Oblate who so courageously but also with kindness and compassion reacted to the situation who split our community I said to myself: “I want to be like him.”
Isn’t mysterious how things worked. The Oblate priest wanted to reconcile the families but through his ministry a new vocation was born. That event led Brother Casmir to joining the Oblates and over a number of years Brother Casmir, like all the other Scholastics, has been given lots of opportunities to strengthen his relationship with Christ. As you know the place where we train or better to say where we form our future priests is called a seminary but it is not just a building but it is the space of friendship between Christ and our future priests. Some of you must have been to the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday at St Mary’s seminary up the road from your church. Some of you maybe even have had a chance to go inside. Bur let me give you a different insight into the seminary. Let’s look at the timetable that, hopefully can give you a taste of our daily, ordinary life:
7.00am –Lauds, Meditation &EUCHARIST
8.15am – Breakfast
10am – CTC/personal study
12.20pm – Midday Prayer & Particular Examen
12.30pm – Lunch
2pm – CTC/personal study
5.30pm – Spiritual Reading (Private)
6pm – Vespers &Oraison
6.45pm – Dinner
9.30pm – Lectio Divina (Monday)
9.30pm – Community (Tuesday)
10.30pm – Sacrum Silenicum
I hope I don’t need to explain what the Eucharist is. Breakfast, lunch and dinner should be easy to understand too. But let’s look at some other events of our seminary day.
Lauds is the prayer praising God at the beginning of the new day while Vespers is the evening prayer giving thanks to God for all his blessing bestowed upon the world, the Church and us during the day. The both prayers are composed of some psalms, hymns and Scripture reading.
Meditation and Oraison? Meditation, that 30 minutes in silence when we ponder the Word of God. Oraison is a very Oblate prayer. Again it is 30 minutes in silence when as an Oblate community we are gathered in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament to listen together to Our Lord’s promptings and guidance.
Being in the seminary also means studying of Theology. CTC it is the Institute where our seminarians study. They will graduate with a degree but the most important thing is that they learn about God in order to love him more.
During our day we also make sure that we have time to talk to each other, to share our stories and to support each other. Our day is usually full-on, that’s why at 9.30pm we leave whatever we are doing to spend some time together. It is like a family quality time.
As you can see our students have got plenty of opportunities to stay close to Christ by their prayers, study and community life. It is important for a future Oblate priest to feel the touch of Jesus.
That is also the reason why Brother Casmir comes to your parish every weekend. It is not simply to get some skills, and I do believe that he gets some good pastoral skills here among you, but the most important thing is that, he can meet Christ in the midst of your community too. As the Rector of the Seminary I would like to thank you for allowing our students to be touched by Christ present among you. Your parish was officially established just a year after St Mary’s seminary was opened. For 50 years our Oblate students have been finding Christ when they come to share your parish activities.
I also want to ask you to pray so that some men from your parish could have faith and courage to say YES to Jesus’ invitation to be an Oblate like Brother Casmir did.
This year, every last weekend of the moth we have a community weekend at St Mary’s. It is an open door weekend when we welcome some single men to share our ordinary life of prayer, study and community. If there is a random thought in your mind that Christ may draw you to the priesthood or religious life, please feel invited to come. There is no cost involved. All you need to have is an open heart. If you have questions I am most happy to talk to you today and Brother Casmir will be with you for the rest of the year.
This staff reminds me of Aaron' staff that while placed in the sacred space flourished to show that God chose Aaron and his sons to be priests in Israel after they left Egypt. The fruitful priestly ministry is also the gift from God, it is his work accomplished through those, who chosen by Christ to be with him and to be sent out with his Good News, see that what they do wins Christ more friends. Priesthood may invoke many questions but in the hands of Jesus a priest becomes the extension of his caring hand.