Pizza with Heroes
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of spending an evening with the seminariansof Our Lady of Lebanon Seminary, a community of young men preparing for priestly ministry in the Maronite Church in the United States. We went for pizza along with Msgr. Peter Azar, rector of the Seminary, and Msgr. George Sebaali, pastor of Our Lady of Lebanon Church.
The eight seminarians are of different ages, different native tongues, and different mentalities. Nevertheless, they have formed a beautiful community in which they will live as they prepare themselves for the priesthood.
Naturally, being with the seminarians caused me to reminisce about my own days in the seminary. I managed to keep most of these memories to myself and did not—well, for the most part—bore the group with stories of “in my day.”
In comparing ourselves with seminarians, we priests usually hold the opinion that we had it rougher: our prayer time was longer, our studies more difficult, and our superiors more demanding.
Careful reflection will reveal that prayer, studies, and discipline have not changed very much. However, the Church and society have changed. When I entered the seminary—some 50 years ago—Church and the priesthood were facing some challenges, but still enjoyed the prestige and respect of society. People may not have understood the call of a priestly vocation, but they appreciated the sacrifices that a seminarian was willing to make. All that has changed.
In society today, there is a lack of appreciation of religion and faith, disdain for clergy on the part of many, and disappointment in Church leaders. The Church seems to be imitating society with its inclination to polarize. People sometimes view the priests with suspicion.
Nevertheless, in the face of all these negative factors, these eight men recognize a call bigger than themselves and were willing to stand up and assert, “I want to be a priest.” This is an act of heroism.Our seminarians realize that society needs Christ and that Christ calls men to the priesthood in order to share salvation through Word and Sacrament.
The seminarians need our support: anyone who has put a son or daughter through college knows that it is expensive. The seminarians deserve our gratitude. They will benefit from our loving prayers.
Chorbishop John D. Faris