The Open Course “From Priest Ordination to Priesthood” gave us a glimpse into the journey of becoming a priest. We contemplated the mystery, origin, and purpose of the sacraments as illuminated by our many wise and learned priest-teachers. I learned that all true rituals are mirrors in the physical world of what exists in the spiritual world. The sacraments are celebrated by angels reaching upward through the hierarchies all the way up to the altar of the Trinity.
The task of a priest is to stand as a bridge between the spiritual worlds and humanity. This role requires honesty, self-awareness, true humility, spiritual discipline, and a constant willingness to serve the Christ. We learned that it is not easy. Our teachers made it clear that the office of priesthood is something that is given from the spiritual world and it requires daily diligence. It is not a personal accomplishment, but a gesture of devoted obedience that allows the grace of God to descend.
The journey toward priesthood can be fraught with challenges. In a real sense, so many forces would prefer if no one walked this path. I asked the seminarians what they were experiencing:
– Vera said that while the adversary may attack us, the whole spiritual world wants us to succeed, and that she feels their help greatly: “The journey to priesthood would not be possible without their help.”
– Manuel said that the trials he encounters on this journey feel very precise: “The enemy has good aim. He knows where we are weak, and that is helpful, because it shows you where you need to grow.”
– Olive described her journey in terms of how her friends responded to her: When she was merely a “seeker,” they were supportive, but when she declared her intention to follow the priest training, “it was as if my friends became cold, no longer trusted me or understood what I was doing with my life.” She felt their aversion and realized that the further one goes on the Christian path, the more antagonism one is likely to encounter in a culture that is based on materi- alistic values.
– Melissa described her decision to study at the Seminary to be one of the best of her life so far. She highly recommends a worthwhile year at the Seminary to anyone who wishes to deepen his or her relationship with the Christian Commu- nity.
– Linda said that she feels very grateful to be at the Seminary where she is deepening her relationship with Christ and with the Sacraments, and she is grateful to Bastiaan and to all of the priests who share their wisdom and experi- ence and help the Seminarians when there are “bumps in the road.”
All of the students expressed immense gratitude for their teachers and for the spiritual gifts they were receiving in this course and in their other courses. Each person, no matter how widely varied the contours of his or her life-experience, finds a home here, a cocoon in which it is possible to undergo the transforma- tion from aspirant toward priest.
by DIANA HAYNES