Yet, I had much to learn. Seminaries come in different
packages, so it seems. A youth still wet behind the ears, I
was placed in a preparatory seminary where I mainly was
provided a classical education. In this case, I was treated
to the basic doctrines of the Church as well as provided with
a glossary style approach to the Saints--especially those
great Saints of the Early Church. The preparatory students,
me included, were barely past their middle teens. Our
minds were malleable, mainly because they were near
vacant. So virtually all the teaching at this level was quite
simplistic. Still, we were acquiring a background for the
next stage in our learning.
By the time I was well into my 19th year, I had transferred to
a major theological seminary where we studied the Saints,
the Early Fathers of the Church in far more depth. We also
studied the Bible and St. Jerome's Commentaries. As for
the practical side of our priestly training, we were trained
liturgically--how to perform the Mass, providing the Eucharistic
Meal, listening to Confession, administering a parish, and
relating to the people. And, above all, we learned about
Church Authority and its Hierarchy. As a priest we must be
dutiful to this authority.
However, entering into Holy Orders went by steps. First we
aspirants had to serve as deacons for a period of time, before
we could be ordained as a priest. The deacon worked especially
on the practical side, helping with marriage rites, visiting the sick,
and attending to the poor. And if deemed ready by our immediate
Church authority and our teachers, we were declared candidates
for priestly ordination.
Before ordination we were required to reflect upon our life as
a priest. Was our faith strong? Could we bend to authority, no
matter where its dictates might take us? And, especially, could
we lead a celibate life?
At this point, only 21, I easily talked myself into meeting all these
requirements. Sitting silently in my room, I made an attempt
towards deep reflection; but, honestly, I was nowhere mature
enough to delve seriously into these questions. I just *felt* that
I had answered these questions, however--looking back--I doubt
that I was truly thinking about them.
Moving along, I declared before God that I was ready to be
ordained as a priest. The great day arrived! I was clothed in
white, suggesting purity, and I lay flat on the floor before my
presiding bishop. At the end of the ceremony, I rose and knelt
before the bishop. He placed hands on my shoulders, and upon
rising I had become a priest.