Last January, I had breakfast with a veteran priest in San Francisco, who reminisced long about the challenges of his 50 years of ordination. I remember at least one thing he said very well: every unfaithful priest has stopped praying; if you stop praying, you will become an unfaithful priest. After this summer’s many close-ups of priestly infidelity, these prophesies are echoing often, and I am comforted to be at a Seminary where daily holy hour, examen, and frequent confession are the low bar.
The need for holiness is obvious, and it brings up an important question: why do we study, rather than simply pray all day? How does knowledge help us to love like the Divine Heart? In seminary, we establish ourselves within the boundaries or borders of our Catholic Faith and the perennial philosophy. But aren’t we post-modern men sometimes tempted to believe that walls and boundaries, especially of the intellectual kind, make for less freedom? How is “orthodoxy” not just a straight-jacket for man’s ingenuity and self-determination? I sometimes think of it this way: adherence to the Church’s teaching authority, what we often call “orthodoxy,” is to the life of the Christian as the skin is to the body. Skin is the border of my physical self; it is a unified organ and the first line of defense against disease. It’s not only the first point of contact with the outside world, but also it causes inner integrity. No skin, no life. A boundary doesn’t simply keep things in or out, but defines the area of freedom an organism has to live, grow, and thrive.
We establish ourselves by acts of faith within the (spacious!) boundaries of “orthodoxy” so that we can live and thrive as spiritual, Truth-seeking beings. We accept limits because we intuit that a borderless, undefined existence is meaningless. In the life of a seminarian, holiness is everything. And maintaining and deepening orthodoxy creates the interior space of freedom to encounter God in prayer, to see Him in His own Light, and to love Him with His own Love.
~Trevor Lontine (2nd year seminarian Archdiocese of Denver, 1st Theology)