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Convocation ‘07 – Archbishop Mass

Today, began my first 3-day Convocation Retreat.  It’s a time for all Miami seminarians from minor seminary (St. John Vianney), major (St. Vincent) and newbies (like me) to spend time together in prayer, fellowship and great food.  I thought it was going to be a super-spiritually reflective time for 3 days non-stop, but it wasn’t (although it had several opportunities).  It was more of a 3 day vacation with frat-brothers.  Even though I only knew a couple of guys when I arrived, I had a great time getting to know several of the 40+ other seminarians.  No matter how diverse our backgrounds were, everyone connected at some level and the welcome and encouragement was overwhelming.  It all began with Mass, the ultimate celebration.

Archbishop Favalora @ MassEvening Mass with Archbishop Favalora in the chapel of St. Mary’s Cathedral was great.  As soon as the Archbishop noted the feast day of the Apostle Matthias, I knew the tone was set.  As the first reading, Acts 1:15-17, 20-26, spoke of Matthias being “chosen” to replace Judas, it made me question my own “call” as the reality of being called a “seminarian” starts to sink in.  The Archbishop spoke on 2 major points specific to us, as seminarians.

His first point was about “our personal call.”  When considering the priesthood, many of us ask, “why would I like to be a priest?”  As the reading highlights, the priesthood is not something we “choose,” but are “called by God” to respond to.  Despite all our gift, talents and abilities that we may have, the real question we should ask is, “why would God call me to the priesthood?”  This is what discernment in the seminary experience is all about.

His second point was about “God providing our needs.”  As we respond to his call to a vocation beyond our own gifts and abilities, we should trust that the Lord will provide for our needs.  But we must never forget to spend time in prayer.  The mass and homily were a great beginning, not only to the retreat, but to discernment as a seminarian. 

After Mass, we had dinner with the Archbishop and with Bishop Estevez.  It was comforting to see how personable both were, especially since I didn’t know what you talk about with a bishop.  I’m glad I just listened.  The Archbishop even joked (or so we thought) about praying for rain while we’re at the beach tomorrow.  As I ate and shared with “veteran” seminarians, I began to realize how much of the seminary experience I’m missing out because I can’t speak spanish yet.  I want to talk to others, but I hate to interupt conversations that I walk in on and don’t understand.  Since I’m slow to find english words to express myself, I’m afraid my biggest challenge in seminary will be to master spanish to communicate the Gospel to as many people as God sends to me.  I welcome the challenge and know there will be many to help me as I help them. shaking hands

After dinner, we drove down to the Youth Center Retreat House (next to Viscaya) to some evening freetime spent getting to know other seminarians.  I was especially drawn to the guys in major seminary, like the new transitional deacons, to hear their experiences in minor seminary and how they persevered through the rough patches in their discernment process.  I was happy to see how they were so down-to-earth and easy to talk to.  A great first day!   

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