“How did you know you are called to the priesthood?” and “How do you become a priest?” are the two most frequently asked questions I get. In the last article I answered the first question, and here I will answer the second.
The journey to priesthood differs from man to man; no two paths are the same. Each man brings with him a unique background of education and life experience which mean some adjustments must be made to their program of study and formation. The schedule also differs greatly if he is studying to be a religious like a: Jesuit, Redemptorist, Franciscan, or Dominican for example.
A solid background in philosophy is required before you begin studies in theology at the seminary. Some men spend up to 4 years studying philosophy after they finish high school; while others who already have a university degree in another subject and have years of work experience can go through an intensive one-year philosophy program.
Currently Saint Augustine’s Seminary offers a 6-year program. The theology studies are offered over four years through a teaching partnership of professors between the University of Toronto and the Seminary faculty in-house. During these four years of study, the candidate takes courses in a diverse field of subjects such as: Sacred Scripture, Dogmatic Theology, History, Canon Law, Ethics, Liturgy, Pastoral Counseling, Psychology, Preaching, Interfaith Studies, and Parish Administration. There are also many choices of elective courses available if you have a special interest you wish to learn more about such as the scriptural languages of: Latin, Greek or Hebrew.
In the middle of the four-year theology studies is an internship year. This 12-16 month experience allows the candidate to see first-hand the everyday life of a parish priest. Here he lives with, and is mentored by, a seasoned pastor in a busy parish. Often this helps the candidate and the Church discern if priesthood is this man’s vocation. Many of my peers find this to be one of the most enjoyable experiences of the formation program.
There are many opportunities for hands-on ministry throughout the 6-year program since the academic formation only lasts from September to April. During the 4 months of the summer, or throughout the academic year, the men chose to do placements as a hospital or military chaplain, others visit schools giving talks and catechesis to the youth, others volunteer at a nearby shelter and soup kitchen, and others visit the elderly in long-term care facilities. Many live in a local parish during the summer and help in their home diocese, while others take regular jobs to earn money to pay for their books and school expenses for the upcoming year.
Before all the studies or the internship, the candidate begins the first year in an intensive program of spiritual growth and detachment from the secular society. During this time at the seminary, the candidate fasts from all media, such as: the television, internet or cell phone use, and music. Without distractions, and often in silence, the man uses this time to build the foundations of a solid prayer life as he spends countless hours studying sacred scripture, the Catechism and in prayer.
The first of the two passages are from Saint Luke’s Gospel in the greeting of the Angel Gabriel to Mary. The opening word ‘hail’ literally translated means ‘rejoice and be glad.’
The second passage is the response of Elizabeth when Mary arrives with the Good News that she will give birth to a son, and name him Jesus (‘God with us’ in Matthew 1:23).
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, (Luke 1:28)
Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. (Luke 1:42)
Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
This is the first of Hahn’s books that I’ve read. He comes to me highly recommended by many Catholic parishioners who enjoy reading as much as I do. Friends of mine have told me about him over the years but I never made it a point to read something of his until now.
This book is easy to read and an excellent book for all families – especially for parents. Hahn does a great job of connecting the family’s interior life with that of the Trinity. It is beautiful how he brings all members of the family unit deeply into the inner life of God in the Trinity. Since reading this book, I have a new understanding of how God created humanity in His Divine image and likeness. Hahn also gives many practical examples for us so that we can easily understand what he’s trying to express.
I recommend this book for all families. It would be a great book for families to read and talk about together especially since we are preparing for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia later this year. Couples would also benefit from such an easily presented view of God’s presence in family life.
Feast Day: February 3
Patron Saint of Throat Illnesses
At the beginning of the month, you may remember getting your throat blessed. February 3rd was the feast day of Saint Blaise, the patron saint of throat illnesses. Here two candles are blessed, held slightly open and placed against the throat as a blessing is said.
Saint Blaise’s protection and help for those with throat troubles comes from the legend that a boy was brought to him who had a fish bone stuck in his throat. The boy was about to die when Saint Blaise healed him.
“Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from all ailments of the throat and from every other evil. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.