Sunday, August 25, 2013

Week One and the Eve of Classes

It is an amazing thing when dreams start to blend into reality; that has been my experience this past week, when Sunday evening a week ago I moved into Lewis Hall to continue my discernment for the priesthood. For about two days, our community was small – the sixteen of us who entered Immaculate Conception Seminary as the “new men.” During those first days, I described my feelings to a friend as feeling like a kid at Christmas – everything wrapped in excitement, both because of the newness of each part of our orientation together, but also because the dream has indeed started to become a reality. Each long day was packed from dawn ‘til night with newness: new information, new friends, new structure to the measurement of our days between cycles of community prayer.

The last half of the week was spent on a retreat with all the community – new guys, returning seminarians, and faculty. Those who may know my challenge with remembering names can imagine that as one of my personal speed bumps when meeting about sixty or seventy people in the span of five days. I’d like to hope I have about two-thirds of the names down so far, and I’ll give myself the coming week or two to remember the rest; the retreat with the returning men became a special time to get acquainted, and to hear stories of just what I can expect in the community living for the next year. I still feel like a kid at Christmas, perhaps more so as one on Christmas Eve, knowing there are surprises right around the corner with each new day.

Tomorrow begins the academic term, with classes starting at 8:30 after morning prayer at 6:30 – does everyone get excited about starting their Monday morning with Canon Law? (Let’s see if I say that two weeks from now!)

Most significant about this week has been that time is now measured by prayer; sure, there are lots of scheduled meetings and classes, but all center around and make way for when we gather to pray together, along with the encouragement to extend that prayerfulness into our personal time, too.  What a gift that has been! In the closing comments of our retreat, the seminary rector offered this insight to us: “God is inviting us to so much more than ordination.” In a very real sense, that comment defines so much of what has happened this week, and what will happen in the weeks ahead. For me, the academic class work is a gift and opportunity, along with the gift of time to sit with God, to enter into God’s time, kairos, and to find hidden there the invitation to simply listen to what Jesus has in mind for me each day.  The good news is that we have the time for this quiet reflection. The better news is that we are learning how to make this time count for the rest of our lives.

Thanks to all who have shared thoughts and prayers, text messages, and e-mails this week. I value that prayerful support more than words can describe in this blog, so I will leave it as simply repeating my thanks to each of you.

The campus bells have just tolled 8 o’clock; the hustle and bustle of the undergrad celebrations that filled Seton Hall today have quieted down to simply night birds and cricket sounds from my window; night prayer will be calling us together in the beautiful chapel in about an hour or so. I can’t imagine a better way to wrap up a busy day than with these moments of quiet solitude.

Thank you, God, for the gifts that have filled my days this past week, and for the graced moments in the day ahead. “Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive.” So much more than a prayer for meals; so much more than an invitation to ordination!

P.S. – Many have asked what my address is here. I can be found at Rev. Mr. Jim Grogan, Immaculate Conception Seminary, 400 South Orange Avenue, South Orange, NJ 07079 until next May