October 31, 2017 // Perspective
Human formation: A fraternity, not a frat
Human formation, one of the four dimensions of seminary life and the foundation for the other three, speaks to the reality that, within the seminary, we live as men in communion. In other words, we are fully initiated brothers in a great big fraternity. Not a frat, but a fraternity.
Before I entered the seminary, I spent a year in college where I was privileged to be part of a fraternity on campus. Like most other colleges and universities, there are positives and negatives to living in a fraternity. The most positive aspect of this type of fraternity that I can think of is its ability to draw a person outside of themselves and place them in relation to other people. Often times a person heads to college thinking that they are completely free and independent, which is not only wrong, but also harmful. Fraternities, sororities, groups and associations of the like remind us that we do not live for ourselves, but that we live with and for others, that we live in relation to one another. These relationships and friendships are beautiful things, and there are many people who can tell you just how important their college fraternity or sorority was in their growth as a person. On the flipside, we also hear of people who may speak of the negative things that are commonly found in a fraternity: excessive drinking, promiscuity, faithlessness among many, disparate relationships due to opposing thoughts, and unfortunately, many others. Relationships with others, whether stranger or best friend, are at times difficult and can even be harmful. That is why we must be so conscious and intentional about the relationships we form and the friends we have.
I look back on that year in the fraternity before I entered the seminary, and I am overall thankful for the positive impact that it had on me. I do thank God it was a fraternity that, though certainly not perfect and faithful to the Catholic faith, nevertheless allowed me to practice and live my faith without critical judgment. Entering the fraternity within the seminary, however, helped me to realize just how important it is to have strong relationships with those who live with and around you. Not only that, but having a close fraternity within the seminary is crucial to the development and growth of men discerning to be priests.
The seminary, in its job to form men in the ways of Christ and the church, prioritizes the human dimension as the foundation for the rest of seminary life, and at the heart of this human formation are our relationships, first with Christ and second with others. Because our life is then centered on Christ, which means we share a common bond that runs deeper than our love of sports, food, or TV, our relationships with one another become strong and unbreakable. Fraternity becomes a solid rock on which these relationships are cultivated and a springboard for many other areas of growth and improvement. In fact, many priests will say that the best formation they received during their time in the seminary was from their own brother seminarians.
Living in close proximity with one another for a number of years, sharing pews in the church, taking classes together, praying together, playing sports together and eating together, among other things, allows us all to come to know one another as true brothers in Christ. That is the whole point I want to emphasize: When any relationship is founded and continually centered on Christ, that relationship is bound for success. This includes times of correction, as none of us are perfect and often times we need another person to tell us that. With an understanding of our common bond as brothers in Christ all working toward the same goal, no correction should be seen as judgmental or as a personal attack. Rather, correction within the seminary shows the love for a brother seminarian and a desire to see him strive in virtue and in relationship with Christ.
I pray that this fraternity, which is so coveted in the seminary, may not cease, but continue to flourish into the priesthood. Yet at the same time, I also pray for all people: that our relationships may be centered on Christ, and that together we may all lead each other to a conversion of heart and, most importantly, salvation in heaven.
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