It was our first session of Human Development, and we were all sitting anxiously awaiting the arrival of our vice-rector to begin the lecture.
So he arrived, split us into two groups and said, "Choose question 1 or A." Myself and one of the other men ended up with question A: Who do you say the Son of God is? We looked at each other and thought, "Great, this is easy, we know this one."
We had five minutes to prepare our talk and then we were to present it to class. We jumped straight in, like keen young seminarians wanting to impress formation staff with our knowledge of Holy Scripture and Church teaching, and started spouting everything we knew about this question. We began with Mark 8 and John 6 – "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God" – then onto John 10:10 – "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" – and expanded with more of our knowledge. "He is the anointed one, the Messiah" and so on ... We thought, "We've got this in the bag, complete text-book answer, happy days."
So we presented and were very pleased with ourselves. However, when we looked to Father Paul, he was just smiling. Eventually, he said, "Yeah, you're right and that's all true. But what I asked was 'Who do YOU say the Son of God is?'."
That was the first lesson I learned at seminary. What we should have talked about was our vocation stories, what we were doing the evening before, how we've come to recognise the Lord in our lives, and how we've responded to His Love. You see, we can know scripture by heart, we can all learn the faith and regurgitate it when required. But we need to LIVE the faith.
Of course it is very important to read Holy Scripture and the Catechism, as these too are integral to forming a relationship with Christ. However, personal relationship with Jesus Christ comes first and foremost in living out our "Universal Call to Holiness", as promulgated by Pope Paul VI in Lumen Gentium.
This first month of seminary formation has been a great blessing nonetheless, a time of radical life change in order to respond to what the Lord is calling us to – namely, complete giving of self to following Him. We must truly heed Saint John Paul II in his 1982 address to the young people in Cardiff, when he told them not to be afraid to answer the Lord's call.
Please pray for me as I continue my seminary training, and be assured of my prayers for you all.