Saturday, September 23, 2006

Happy New Year!

It sounds a bit odd to be sending New Year greetings in September, but I’m just back from a beautiful Mass in St. Paul’s basilica, a celebration especially for our new first-year students for the priesthood. I suspect that they were all feeling nervous as today is the first day of a whole new way of life for them. They are all ‘late vocations’ and from English-speaking backgrounds, although they are from several different countries and, as older men, have followed very different paths to the start of their seminary days.

The basilica of St. Paul’s-outside-the-walls is a very special place to start off the studies for the priesthood: Sts. Paul and Timothy are buried within the beautiful building. St. Ignatius and his first companions took their vows before the icon of Our Lady in one of the side chapels. 1,300 years of Benedictine monasticism have hallowed the place where, today, millions of people from every corner of the globe, come to pay their respects and to pray.

I imagine that Paul and Timothy must have also felt nervous as they themselves began preaching the Gospel. What was it like for Paul, who had been a persecutor, to suddenly start trying to convince people that he had decided that, for him, "life (was) Christ"? Did he have to face opposition? Did people remind him that he'd been the cause of the death of one of their relatives or friends? Did they ask what he thought he knew as a johnny-cum-lately? Was Timothy scared as he accompanied a firebrand such as Paul? Were there times when he wished he was anywhere other than in Paul's company, especially when the going became tough? How long did it take for Timothy to decide that he had to throw in his lot with Paul and follow him as enthusiastically as Paul himself launched into his new role as 'Apostle of the Gentiles'?

Across the world, there must be many new students for the priesthood taking a deep breath and plunging into a new journey towards God. May he bless them and guide them.

God bless,
Sr. Janet