What to Say to a Young Man Considering the Seminary Today
By Father Eugene Hemrick
From the Catholic News Service
"What would you tell to a young man thinking about entering the seminary, given the recent sex-abuse scandals?"
When I heard this question, it occurred to me that perhaps a better question to ask is: What would you say to a gentleman or woman contemplating the presidency of the United States, or being a senator, a CEO or a professional athlete after the scandals these professions have experienced?
My very first advice would be to recall the great leaders chosen by God who committed scandals! David, author of the Psalms and whose name is closely related to Christ, the Son of David, not only committed adultery, but also murder. Moses murdered an Egyptian and repeatedly questioned God. Samson sold out to Delilah, St. Peter denied Christ and St. Paul condoned the stoning of Stephen.
These biblical lessons teach us that as long as we live on earth, and no matter how exalted a position we enjoy, being anointed doesn't mean that the oil so penetrates a person's being that it creates a slippery, fully protective wall against temptation. These lessons also teach us to have hope in redemption. Even saints sinned, but through grace and persistence were able to re- find that inner harmony with God that leads to sainthood.
Next, I would tell the young man to take a deep look at the ironies in today's society. We are horrified when a high-ranking person commits a sexual sin, yet we sit complacent when explicit sexual material appears in our newspapers and magazines, pops up on the Internet and saturates our movies. It is taboo to illicitly engage in sex, yet society spends billions of dollars manufacturing lurid images and creating sensual lyrics that not only invite this behavior, but appear to hail it. The irony of the adult world is that by its nature it is a world of repeated temptations that militate against everything that goes into becoming mature and a true adult. Among other things, maturity translates into prudence, courage, and temperance. In other words, those thinking of the seminary need to be men who thoughts tend toward the virtuous in a world that applauds virtue, but often does not practice it.
Finally, I would ask a man contemplating entering a seminary how he feels about priests in particular, and other prominent people in responsible, visible positions who have a propensity to give into certain temptations, and don't do anything to counter them.
If he replied nonchalantly, "I guess that's life," or if he became overly righteous and felt they should be condemned to hell, I would advise him to forget the priesthood.
If he said he realized that life often tempts us to embrace its darker side, and felt that the best way to counter this is by communicating Christ's and the saints' teachings, which specifically address overwhelming temptations and the best means for overcoming them, I would advise him to enter the seminary.
If he further felt sorry for those who tend to live an inordinate life, and instead of shunning them, would seek ways of reaching out to them — that this is what Christ meant by mercy — I would consider him a good candidate for the priesthood.
If he fervently desired to manifest the wholesomeness of the spiritual life and the hope it holds out for those who fall, I would consider him an excellent candidate.
If ever the ranks of the priesthood needed well-grounded men dedicated to spiritual excellence, it is today -- in a society groping for values, especially the value of its own sexuality and of honesty.