What is a typical day like at the seminary?
This is a great question. Thank you for asking. Formation at every Catholic seminary is built upon four important “pillars,” and these provide the foundation for the typical seminary day. Namely, formation should target the Human, Spiritual, Intellectual, and Pastoral components of the candidate for priesthood. Not every day at the seminary looks the same, but regular activities center around strengthening these areas.
The human personality of a priest should ideally act as a bridge by which others may encounter Christ. Therefore, seminary formation includes the fostering of an environment in which one may grow as a human person. Students spend time together, grow in relationship with one another, take time to eat and play together, and confide in one another. Thus, a significant portion of the day is spent doing very “human” things. They play basketball and soccer together, spend time talking about events or beliefs, and joke around. Growth happens because these things occur in a supportive Christian environment.
At the heart of the role of a priest is the task of leading others into a relationship with God. Therefore, candidates for the priesthood must be firmly grounded in their own relationship with Jesus Christ. Thus, every day of seminary includes prayer and the Mass. Seminarians learn how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, and they join together to pray at certain times of day, such as for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. Students also develop the capacity to enter more deeply into personal prayer, and they are encouraged to spend an hour (known as a Holy Hour) each day in such prayer. This may be time to meditate on the scriptures, dialogue with God, or just rest in His presence. The daily celebration of the Eucharist with the community leads the seminarian to grow in his capacity to offer himself more profoundly to God.
To love God, we must know God. Therefore, seminarians pursue a track of study through Philosophy and Theology to help lead them more deeply into the mysteries of the faith. Students in their early years at the seminary take a class load heavy in philosophy, which helps to lay a foundation for later theology classes. Philosophy classes also lead students to appreciate the intellectual currents of the time and to recognize one’s own ways of understanding the world. Throughout the last four years at the seminary, students take theology classes to help them to more profoundly appreciate God’s action in the world and how that is manifested within the Bible, the Sacraments, the Church, and Tradition. This prepares seminarians to teach others. Therefore, classes and personal study constitute a significant focus during a typical day.
Priests are not destined to be just academics. Rather, most are called to exercise a pastoral role within a community of faith. They will participate in Christ’s own pastoral charity. Therefore, the pastoral potential of the seminarian must be developed as well. On a regular basis students have the opportunity to visit parishes, feed the hungry, visit the sick, and perform other pastoral works. A parish internship in which the seminarian is able to begin developing his own pastoral identity is also integral to formation. Most students also compete a course of Clinical Pastoral Education, which provides experience ministering as a chaplain in a health care setting.