Seminary is a challenging time on many levels. The seminarian is tasked with growing in his relationship with the Lord and listening to His voice. He is challenged in the classroom, and in the pastoral application of what he has learned. He is challenged when he was to figure out how to effectively preach and teach the faith. One of the biggest adjustments for a seminarian, however, might be becoming a “public person.”
When I started working at WTOK-TV in Meridian and anchoring the sportscast each night, I couldn’t help but notice when people would stare at me. I would go to Wal-Mart and someone would glance over to me and it was for just a split second longer than a normal glance. After a while I realized that people were trying to figure out where they knew me from! Some people would recognize me and come over and speak with me like we were old friends, after all, they saw me everyday. It took time for me to get comfortable with that reality, and so it was funny to me when I left television, went to seminary, and then started wearing a roman collar and noticing a similar phenomenon. When you wear clerics, you make a statement about who you are and what you are about, and people react. Many react with curiosity, others with joy (mostly Catholics ha!), and some (very few in my experience) with suspicion or even anger or hatred.
We give seminarians a chance to get used to this experience before they reach ordination. At about the halfway point of their formation, a seminarian typically receives “candidacy.” They make a public declaration that in good conscience they believe they are being called to the priesthood, and they start to wear a roman collar in public and become a public representative of the church. The seminarian begins to see the effect that the identity that they will take on with ordination will have on their life. When someone sees a roman collar, they should expect to be cared about, listened to and respected. In some ways priests need to be “all things to all people,” especially when someone is in need. This is why the men get the chance, when they are ready, to experience this before ordination. Grace builds on nature, and so if our men do not get in the habit of being there for people in a real way before ordination, they will not magically start being there for parishioners once they get ordained. Wearing clerics before ordination can give them valuable insight into the responsibility they are taking on to care for the People of God.
I wanted to explain this process because I often get that question, and our seminarians who have received candidacy do as well: why do some guys who are not yet priests wear the collar? The roman collar does not equal priesthood, but it should make someone confident that the person wearing one knows the Lord and wants to bring them into deeper relationship with Him.
Friday, October 9, 2020 – First annual Homegrown Harvest Gala and Fundraiser (virtual)
For more information and sponsorship opportunities visit: https://one.bidpal.net/homegrownharvest2020/welcome