success stories

Posted January 3, 2004

Book: The New Men
Author: Brian Murphy
Grosset/Putnam, New York, pp.292

Excerpt from Jacket:

The New Men is a fascinating and moving window on what was until now a completely private experience. Former Vatican correspondent Brian Murphy chronicles a year in the lives of six American seminarians, six "New Men," as they enter the Vaticanís "West Point for priests" ó the North American College in Rome ó and struggle to leave a world in which they were great successes, for a life of service, celibacy, and self-denial.

Each of these men ó a top gun Air Force pilot, a high-living New Orleans lawyer, a pair of brilliant twins from the top of their class at Harvard, a farm boy from North Dakota, and a Vietnamese refugee who survived the fall of Saigon ó must adjust to an entirely new way of living, must find his own way through prayer, meditation, and honest scrutiny of his innermost doubts and fears. Monsignor Timothy Dolan (now Archbishop Dolan of Milwaukee), rector of the North American College, talks openly abut his New Men, sharing this worries and his hopes for them. And the men themselves talk about the worlds they are leaving behind ó the worlds of families, girlfriends, corporate America, and most difficult to give up, the world of independence.

Excerpt from book:

A stout little book is the seminariansí everyday companion. The text of the Litrugy of the Hours draws on the earliest Christian traditions of celebrating the evolution of the day: morning, midday, evening, and night. The book, called a breviary or the Divine Office, contains psalms, readings, prayers, and other special offerings for each phase of each day as the Christian year draws toward and flows from Easter.

The breviary shapes and guides the seminariansí own meditations ó on the faith or their own calling. The passages in their own way tend to reflect the time it should be read: the morning prayers are often full of hope and appeals for stronger faith; daytime passages frequently remind how much faith and religion can be infused with routine tasks; night prayers stress self-examination and intercession for divine mercy.

Relatively few Roman Catholics dutifully keep up with the breviary readings. But it becomes an intense part of the seminary experience. Seminarians are expected to follow ó alone or in groups ó the passages in the breviary. At their ordination as deacons, they make the promise to pray daily the Divine Office.

"I love that word," the first-year seminarians at the North American College were told by the rector, Monsignor Timothy Dolan. "Thatís why we sometimes call it Ďthe Office.í Because itís our job. Itís our office to pray daily.

He adds a warning. "The first thing to go when a priest is in trouble is the Office."

. . . ."When a priest is in trouble ó drinking, sexually ó who is the first to recognize it?" said Dolan, sitting in one of the easy chairs in his study. "Itís not usually the bishop. He has a lot of other things to deal with. Is it the parishioners? Not usually. Itís other priests. If they donít intervene, then things start to spin out of control."

. . . . Dolan underlined two words in his talk with two bold strokes: self-knowledge.

"Self-knowledge. Thatís what itís all about," Dolan told me. "We try to tell the guys: admit who you are and whether you have anything that is eating at you. Itís not the end of your vocation to admit you may have trouble sorting out some of the sexual issues. No one says the rules of the Church has are easy. But, for Godís sake, donít wait until youíre ordained to realize you have a problem."

. . . . "If," Dolan said, pointing his finger out at the pews, "you are unable to live a chaste life here and now, that is a rather clear indication that you cannot embrace celibacy, which means, my brothers, your are not called to the priesthood.

"Can I get specific? I hope I do not offend with this candor:

"If you now find yourself in a genital relationship with a woman or man:

"If you are purchasing pornography or viewing pornographic films:

"If you visit prostitutes, female or male, or are into cruising, that is, frequenting bars, parks, or areas of town in the hopes of making sexual contact of any kind:

"If you bury or ignore questions of sexual behavior or orientation, or cannot even calmly discuss such matters without becoming tongue-tied or snickering like a sophomore in high school:

Dolan went on, ticking off problem after problem:

"If you detect any genital attraction to children:

"If you have an uncontrollable habit of frequent masturbation:

"If you find yourself constantly viewing women ó or men ó as sex objects, existing to satisfy your lustful desires:

"You should seek the time, space, and counseling necessary to control this before continuing on toward the priesthood.. Now, brothers, Iím not talking about periodic falls, ongoing temptations, or the struggles to live chastely that every healthy person faces. Iím speaking about serious, continual, sustained lapses or uncontrollable urges."

Table of Contents:

The tomb
Benedictís cave
The rector
Scot and Roger
The spaghetti bowl
Mardi Gras
The circle
New men