Had this really begun?
11th September 2014. A day of great significance for me – a day that will forever be a treasured memory – had arrived. This was the day I had looked forward to ever since my acceptance in March. It was only when the wheels of the plane touched down in Madrid that I gradually began to realize that this is actually happening; the wheels were literally in motion as it screeched against the scorching, hot tarmac in central Spain. I was here, this is real, (inserts the most cliché of phrases); it was ‘the beginning of the rest of my life’. As I heard the sign for “we’ve landed, the plane has now been safely taxied and you can now officially unfasten your seat belt” I began to embrace the fact that this journey has now begun; a journey that is beyond lonesome; a journey in which we walk together with the Lord.
Just a house in the country, right?
All accounted for! The four of us had arrived safely, and from Madrid we were escorted to a vaguely disclosed location outside of the city – Valladolid – where we will, for the most part, be residing. It is commonly known as ‘Country House’, a place of ‘rest and relaxation’ which the seminarians happily embrace at both the beginning and end of their time in Spain. The grounds are very extensive, and its facilities were beyond anything that I had ever encountered. Among the few acres of the property there lies a tennis court, a full-sized swimming pool, table tennis and snooker tables, a beautiful chapel and more bedrooms than you can count on both hands! This place definitely speaks volumes with regard to ‘rest and relaxation’ and after three days here, we were definitely well-rested and moved on to our more permanent residence located in northern Spain.
“Ora et Labora“
Adopting the Benedictine motto, ‘ora et labora’ (‘pray and work’). These two elements are fundamental to life in seminary. We have a structured timetable which keeps us busy Sunday to Friday. Our timetable always begins with prayer, meditation at 7:30am, followed by Lauds at 8am or simply Lauds at 8am, with the exception of one day where Lauds is 7:15am, followed by Mass on completion. Breakfast follows until 9am, which is when lectures begin, usually beginning with Spanish for an hour, followed by one of three possible courses: Intellectual Development, Human Development or Spiritual Development. This takes us to either Mass/lunch, which is between 1-2pm. We have some free/study time between 3-5pm. This is then followed by tutorials/Liturgy preparation/seminars/workshops which usually take us to dinner around 8pm; on completion with the exception of one day, we are free for the evening.
Sundays are usually the busiest day with regards to our timetable. The preparation for Mass takes time and effort; this may be because of our role as ‘Sacristan’ – one of two main roles here, the other being ‘Refectorian’. Additionally, one may be serving/reading at Mass, usually one or the other. So time, as well as careful preparation, is key, not only because Sunday is the high point, the day which commences our week, but also because we welcome friends of the College – Spanish as well as English-speaking to join us in the Eucharist. Therefore, we seemingly have more of an obligation as we are representing the College, and strive to give a solemn, well-orchestrated Mass. On completion, our friends are most welcome to join us in our Refectory for tea or coffee; a great opportunity to practice our Spanish and put those lessons to good use!
Is it fun? Or is it all work and prayer?
Of course, the common misconception is that it’s boring and all ‘we’ do is pray! It is important for us to acknowledge that prayer plays a crucial role in our formation, but it isn’t the only element needed in forming good men for priesthood. Our social time as seminarians, and formally with the College, aids in giving our respective diocese ‘well-rounded individuals’, God-willing, suitable and acceptable for priestly formation in the near future!
Every now and then, we attend various events with the Colleges, from classical concerts to football matches. We have recently had the opportunity to attend formally as a College in a long-standing religious exhibition which has been around for over five centuries! This particular exhibition hosted by various cathedrals and churches down the years was on the ‘Eucharist’. This was an art exhibition featuring an extensive collection of religious paintings from around the world, particularly that of Spain.
We occasionally go out for dinner as just seminarians on our day off, usually on the Saturday. We also enjoy a good movie or two, in English of course! Our College has a vast collection of DVDs and videos that are well in the hundreds, and they are added to, with new films every month and upon request.
The journey continues…
As mentioned at the beginning, this is a journey that is far from lonely. It is a journey that we know, is supported by both our friends and family, from their words of encouragement, either by phone or by letters. But most importantly, we are supported by the generosity of your prayers, we in turn keep you in ours. We honestly couldn’t be the seminarians that we are without your prayers, so please continue to pray for us as we for you, especially as this year progresses.
On behalf of my brother seminarians at the Royal English College, we are grateful – THANK YOU!