Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Community and Communion

The brothers have gone for their retreat and the seminary is quiet. In many respects, it has become a retreat environment for the formators as well. In one of the quiet moments of prayer, several things popped in for a visit. These became elements of a reflection that followed. As it was a personal reflection, I posted in my own blog. What I am posting here is personal but pertains more to seminary life.

Our vision-mission statement this year (as well as last year) uses the word communion. As a seminary that now houses both Singaporean and non-Singaporean seminarians, we really try to live communion. Perhaps someone might say that seminarians are forced to live together in the same house. Thus living in communion is necessary for maintaining the peaceful atmosphere of the seminary. I have to admit that living together in the same house definitely motivates people to live together harmoniously. However, communion is not harmony. Communion is not co-operation. Communion is not simple unity. Taking our cue from our reflections during Holy Week, communion in the Church is modelled after the communion between Jesus and the Father. It involves a relationship of love and obedience. It involves obedience that may demand great sacrifice. It involves knowing the truth about oneself.

As a priest, communion involves love and obedience of my bishop and my brother priests. That is why the Chrism Mass is held in the morning of Holy Thursday, not normally a time which would have the greatest participation of the laity. It's a celebration of the ministerial priesthood and its expression in the communion of the bishop with his priests. While it is good that the laity are present, the celebration is principally centred on the ordained priests, the bishop possessing the fullness of the priesthood. It is a celebration of the acceptance of the call of God to the priestly vocation.

Seminarians must experience this communion in their training. I believe that the seminary, being a place where seminarians are ‘obligated’ to live together, makes it easier for them to experience this communion. Carrying this experience of communion with them when they enter into the ministry where, as secular priests, they may be living alone, they will hopefully not become ‘singularities’. (For what I mean by singularities, please follow this Wikipedia link.) Thus, in many ways, the formation priests in the seminary work together. We may seem to have other ‘jobs’ outside the seminary, we are still working for one diocese and one Church.

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