The chapel door was firmly closed and fastened…from the inside??? ... A piece of paper, stuck on at an angle, bore two words: ‘Mass Practice’. Shortly afterwards, one of the students emerged, looking exhausted. “I didn’t know that Mass could be so tiring!”…but then as far as he is concerned, he’s on countdown. Within a very few weeks he will no longer be a deacon, but a priest. Being present for Mass is a very different matter from learning to preside at it!
Last week thirty-three members of the Beda Association visited the college, all of them former students, some of whom were ordained to the priesthood only last summer. It was a real thrill to see them concelebrating at Mass, rather than merely participating as deacons.
Living in a seminary can be an interesting experience. My Congregation has had a convent inside the Beda for more than forty years and so the Sisters have seen many changes in that time. Once created as the seminary for late vocations to the priesthood for England and Wales, the students now range from across the world, wherever English is spoken. Just at the present time there are representatives, not only of England and Wales, but also of Ireland, Gibraltar, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, India, Macao, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, the Philippines, Canada, Russia and Iran, but over the years there have also been other nationalities. It’s interesting to see the way in which each student adapts to a multi-cultural environment, living within Rome, frequently having to eat the food of unfamiliar countries, perhaps studying for the first time for many years and yet with the same question, “Is the priesthood the direction in which God is calling me?” Sometimes the answer is no.
Yet, for those who are on the path to the priesthood, this time of year is busy, full and, perhaps, anxious. There are exams in a range of subjects, but also, something most people don’t realise, is that the deacons have their ‘faculty exam’, an essential before they will be allowed, as priests, to administer the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Within a few weeks, seminaries across the world will be giving birth to a new generation of priests. Students will suddenly find themselves responsible for the pastoral care of many people of all different shapes, sizes, interests, backgrounds, talents and cares. Let’s pray for them.