So today is the second day of the Antiochian House of Studies for the seminarians here in Ligonier PA. The House of Studies is a program that brings together all of the seminarians of the Antiochian Archdiocese for a few days every August for classes, seminars, and to worship together. This year we are blessed by the presence of His Grace, Bishop THOMAS who has made it a point to come to the House of Studies to spend time with the seminarians every year. So far it has been wonderful!
Years ago the seminarians had to come for two weeks, together with those who take the St. Stephen’s Program (a correspondence course for theology and other fields run by my Archdiocese) and it was decided a few years ago to give the seminarians their own time so that we could concentrate on the topics and issues that are specific to seminarians. This has continued till today and we have multiple sessions a day where the two priests who are running the classes lecture and we have discussions and the like. The thing I like most about it is how very practical everything is. At seminary we get lots of theory, but not so much in the way of concrete examples. Here, we are given valuable information that will help us as priests and pastors. I am very grateful to His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP for accepting me as a seminarian of the Archdiocese and giving me this opportunity at the House of Studies to learn, and grow, and grow closer to my brother seminarians.
So far we’ve covered a number of topics, from hearing confessions to parish council meetings and what to do when things go very, very wrong.
We had “homework” last night that consisted of interviewing one of the other guys from a different seminary than the one you’re going to. My partner was Fr. Lucas who I’ve met a few times at St. Vlad’s but didn’t really know very well. We spent a number of hours, probably more than Fr. John envisioned, just talking and getting to know one another. The final part of the homework was then getting up at the morning session today and introducing the person you interviewed. It was such a pleasure to get to know Fr. Lucas better, and all of the guys said the same thing. I know it sounds kinda cheesy but it is just such a valuable thing to do, to get to know the people we are not only going to seminary with (though different actual schools) but who we’re going to, hopefully, serve with in the Antiochian Archdiocese for the rest of our lives.
One of the things I’ve loved most about being here with my brothers is the services. We’ve had daily Matins and Vespers every morning and evening and Bishop THOMAS has been at all of them too. One of priest seminarians and deacon seminarians have served each, while those who want to chant go up and chant and the rest of us stand together and join in singing. It is such a powerful experience to be worshiping together that some of us were jokingly saying we’d like to stay here and have a seminary established so we wouldn’t have to part ways come Thursday. Oh well, at least we can visit each other without too much difficulty and since the Antiochians are at all the seminaries we can act as a sort of “diplomatic corp” between them all, a bridge between Holy Cross, St. Vladimir’s, and St. Tikhon’s.
One thing I wanted to mention was something I was able to participate in before Vespers, we went had had a supplicatory service to St. Raphael of Brooklyn (Yes, Brooklyn, New York), whose grave is near the chapel. I have a great affinity for St. Raphael because of past events in my life so it is always a great joy to come and visit his grave and be so close to him. I will post more about him in the coming days, but for those who don’t know anything about him I suggest you go and check out the OrthoWiki section on his amazing life and his continued life in Christ and his miracles that continue to this day as he watched over the Church in the Americas. Here is a link to it: http://www.orthodoxwiki.org/Raphael_of_Brooklyn
Anyway, the time has come for dinner in the dining hall and I’m sure Chef Tim has prepared another delicious meal for us. I had a little time between the end of Vespers and dinner, hence why I’m doing my post now instead of later. Updates will be forthcoming.
As always, keep us in your prayers.