Authored by Leland Thorpe
A friend recently asked me what keeps me going as a seminarian and as a convert. I don’t think I’m ruining any large secret when I admit here that it’s not always easy to be a seminarian. We’ve given up a career and a family. Someone else tells us when to wake up, what to wear, where to go, what to study, with whom to spend most of our time. Objectively, this can be a tough life. We’re also still human (again, I hope that’s not a surprise!) and so subject to all the emotional and psychological peaks and troughs that come with the territory. There are times when it can be hard to continue in this way of life.
As postulants, we spend a day each month in a mini-retreat, which we call a “day of recollection.” Our formator, Fr. Tom, suggested spending the day with the Lord reviewing the last few years, calling to mind the graces we noticed as they came, and asking for the grace to see in a clearer way how God has been at work in our decisions to begin formation with the Oblates of the Virgin Mary and to continue into the novitiate next year. For me, that reflection easily expanded to include my experience as a convert to Catholicism and the years of discernment. In reviewing the past years with all the various movements of consolation and desolation, the thing that stood out most clearly to me was the security found in letting Our Lord look on me with love, and in calling to mind the words he spoke to my heart at various times: “Follow me.” “I chose you.” “Do not be afraid.” “You are precious and exalted in my eyes, and I love you.”
Just a few days ago, a priest I highly admire was speaking about his current role in the order, which comes with a huge amount of responsibility and a ton of work. He said that when he had agreed to take on this position, the Lord said to him in prayer, “We’ve got a love affair, but it needs some work. That’s why I want you in this position, so we can deepen our love.”
So there’s my answer to my friend, and my musings for this entry — what keeps me going is calling to mind my own specific, personal encounters with the love of Our Lord; taking time each day to renew that encounter by resting in His gaze and listening to His voice; and trusting that the work of each day is His gift to me to deepen that relationship.
The title of this entry is taken from the Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius of Loyola. St. Ignatius recommends that we begin each period of prayer and meditation with a brief period in which we call to mind how Our Lord looks upon us, individually, and so enter into prayer in response to that gaze.