Written by Colin Jones ’14, Philosophy, Catholic Studies, and Classical Languages
When I first came to Saint John Vianney Seminary, my academic advisor gave me two reasons why I should major in Catholic Studies in addition to my required Philosophy major. One, it wasn’t very hard to do, since a few of the classes overlapped with the seminary curriculum, and two, it offered the once-in-a-lifetime experience of studying in Rome. Let’s just say it didn’t take me a very long time to make a decision (I mean, come on, it’s Rome!). Before I had even taken my first class in Catholic Studies, I had declared it as one of my majors.
While you would probably be correct in saying that this was a rash, spur of the moment decision, looking back two years later I can honestly say that it was one of the best decisions I ever made. And I haven’t even gone to Rome yet!
For a seminarian studying to be one day ordained to the priesthood, God willing, the Catholic Studies program at St. Thomas has been one of the most tremendous blessings of my formation. In the two Catholic Studies classes that I have completed, and the one that I am currently taking in the program, I have been blessed with the rich, profound, and transformative experience of learning about the beautiful faith of the Catholic Church, the Church which I hope to one day take as my bride.
In Catholic Studies 101, The Search for Happiness, Fr. Keating gave us a description of the Church which I will never forget: “To believe the way of truth, to pray the way of sanctification, and to live the way of love and transformation.” As a priest, my ultimate task will be to impart this understanding of the Catholic Church to every man, woman, and child who walks through the doors of my parish. It will be my job to teach my parishioners that it is only in the Catholic Church that they will obtain the truth, the sanctification, the love, and the transformation for which they so ardently long. And it will be up to me to show my flock that in a world which so often sees religion, particularly the Catholic Church, as a detriment and a hindrance to society, it is actually only through the salvific teachings of the Church that we can become truly free.
In my current Catholic Vision class with Dr. Junker, this has been precisely the topic at hand. We have been reading everything from the Gospel of John, to Pope Benedict’s homilies on creation, to St. Augustine’s City of God, and in doing so have delved into two of the deepest realities of humanity with a “Catholic lens,” showing how the human person only comes into his true self when he is in union with Christ. It is my prayer that, as a priest, I will be able to help others to see the world through this same “Catholic lens,” and thus show them the way to Christ.
In his 2012 letter to seminarians on the topic of Intellectual Formation, Cardinal Wuerl of Washington states that “ you are required to take so many courses in Catholic teaching, history and philosophy so that you are not only aware of the immense gift of the Catholic tradition, but that you are also well prepared to access it, understand it, appropriate it and share it”
While the Catholic Studies program is by no means a “required” field for SJV seminarians, it fits exactly into this description of intellectual formation which Cardinal Wuerl describes. Through the Catholic Studies program, I have indeed gained a much greater awareness of and appreciation for the “immense gift of the Catholic tradition,” and have become “well prepared to access it, understand it, appropriate it and share it.” If it be the Father’s will that I one day bring Christ to world as his priest, I have no doubt that the beautiful gift of the Catholic Studies program will be an immense blessing for my priesthood.
And I haven’t even gone to Rome yet. Praised be Jesus Christ!