Throughout my discernment process it has been emphasized that seminary really is a place for discernment. I’ve constantly heard phrases such as “seminary exists for discernment”, “the only way to find out is to go”, and “going to seminary does not necessarily mean you are going to be a priest.” Even our rector here has emphasized that seminary is both a place of formation and discernment. People regularly ask me what percentage of the guys who enter finish, and while the number differs greatly year to year, my conversations have lead me to the anecdotal estimate that about 50% of men who enter will eventually be ordained. Based on all of this, it seems like a pretty normal thing for guys to leave.
That said, it hit me really hard when a classmate told me last week that it would be his last day in seminary. In fact, it hit me way harder than I would have expected. When he pulled me aside and told me he would be leaving that day; I was caught totally off guard. Two nights before we were planning a trip to a baseball game and now he was leaving. At evening prayer he announced his departure to the whole group, we gave our goodbyes, and then he walked out the door. Just like that. We weren’t particularly good friends, in fact we only met three weeks ago, but I felt like I lost a brother. A partner on the journey was gone.
Coming in I had already had doubts and questions about leaving and as the day went on those questions continued to pile.
Is this just the first? Is everyone else thinking about leaving as well? Am I doing something wrong? Am I next? Am I not supposed to be here? Do I have to redeem the group? Am I going to be the only one that sticks it out and finishes? Should I even be worrying about this? Why is this bothering me so much?
At dinner that night, one of the older guys read this passage to address what he thought the new guys might be feeling. At the end of a tough day, the words pierced my heart:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I needed those words. I’m still not sure what the future holds, but right now I am supposed to be here. Christ is with me, and He continues to guide me and draw me nearer to his heart in prayer. I have no need to stress or be worried. The peace that brought me here will continue to guide me forward.
Now that some time has passed I have been able to process and see things more clearly. I’ve been able to remind myself that I really am excited for him. I’m thankful for his “yes” to come and equally grateful for his “yes” to leave a place where he really felt a lack of peace and joy. He’s not a failure but an example of how the system is supposed to work. I pray that I will be as willing to courageously follow Christ’s continuing call.
You will be missed