As this letter arrives at your parishes, here at the seminary we will be welcoming a few hundred guests for our Advent open day which will culminate in Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent. I have always found Advent to be an especially beautiful time in the Church's liturgical calendar. The wreath, the O Antiphons and Nativity plays help to heighten the excitement of the coming of the Christ child at Christmas. For me as a seminarian, this season has come to hold an additional significance over the last few years. There is something in the season, I feel, that makes a seminarian feel at home.
Each year the Church affords us these four and a bit weeks in which we look forward eagerly to encountering Jesus, our Emmanuel. In these weeks we are also afforded the opportunity to consider what it is that might make us more ready to make the most of this Christmas encounter. We could ask ourselves whether we have made room 'in the inn' of our lives to be able to welcome Jesus and the Holy Family. If we haven't, then we can spend Advent making this room – both spiritually and practically – for the encounter with the Christ child. In many of our parishes, our schools and pastoral areas there will be additional opportunities for us to come together in prayer, and also to come to be reconciled with God in the Sacrament of Confession.
This opportunity, which the Church gives all her children during Advent, is similar to the
opportunity which the Church grants her seminarians over the course of, generally, six to eight years. Our formation is oriented to the Sacramental priesthood: the living out of a graced moment of encounter with the Lord when we are conformed to Him through the Sacrament of Holy Orders – something we can look forward to (God willing) in the future. Up until this point – and beyond via 'ongoing formation' as my Rector would be keen to note – we have the chance to consider who we are, and how we are (or are not) open to receiving the grace of the Lord. We are able, through prayer, study, the Sacraments (especially the Eucharist and Confession), pastoral experience and self-reflection, to seek the Lord and His Will for our lives.
As you come closer to the Lord during this wonderful season of anticipation and preparation, please remember me and my brother seminarians in your prayers. And be assured that we will continue to pray for you, whom we look forward to ministering with and to in the coming years.