Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
In writing to you, I wish to inform you that I have successfully completed my first year of studies (out of a total of seven years) at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, Nebraska. Thank you for your prayers and support in this endeavor. It has truly been a great year that I will never forget!
I have enjoyed the many opportunities that have been presented to me during my time at the seminary, especially the extra opportunities for prayer, spiritual reading, and for socializing with fellow seminarians. The whole seminary took a trip to Colorado to go hiking in the beginning of the academic year. This was a great chance to begin to become acquainted with my new confrères. The first year class took many day-trips as well, including a visit to the Omaha Zoo, the Strategic Air Command Museum, the Carmelite nuns, the “Pink Sisters,” the Schoenstatt Shrine of Our Lady, and a few nearby hiking trips. These outings provide welcome breaks from the many studies that we do at the seminary.
My classes this year were very good, though. This year, I took Latin I, Introduction to the Spiritual Life, Introduction to Liturgy, Christian Doctrine, Gregorian Chant, Music and Morality, Sacred Scripture, and Constitutions of the FSSP (our fraternity: the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter). I received my report card and found that, with the help of God, I had performed quite well in all of my classes. This fall, I will begin to take more difficult classes as I begin the study of Philosophy for two years, followed by four years of Theology.
Also this fall, on October 19, I will receive what is called the “First Clerical Tonsure.” Tonsure is a ceremony in which a man leaves behind his state as a lay person and becomes a cleric, a person consecrated to the service of God and His Holy Catholic Church. This internal transformation is shown externally by the change of dress that takes place during the ceremony. The man begins to wear publically and constantly the roman cassock and white clerical collar, showing his consecration to the service of God and the Church. The transformation takes place when the Bishop cuts five snips of hair in the shape of a cross from the head of the one being tonsured, symbolizing the renunciation of a worldly life and the offering of oneself to God. One is allowed to let the hair grow back, though.
But why all this? Why give one’s life completely to God? Well, God calls everyone to a particular vocation in life. Some He calls to the priesthood, some to the religious life, others to the married life, and still others He calls to remain unmarried. On our efforts to cooperate with God’s will for our lives depends our Eternal Salvation. If God is calling me to the priesthood, I must cooperate with a generous and joyful heart, recognizing the marvelous privilege it would be to serve God and His people as a priest.
Venerable Pope Pius XII, in his hallmark encyclical letter of 1947, Mediator Dei, stated that “Jesus the Son of God quite clearly had one aim in view when He undertook the mission of mercy which was to endow mankind with the rich blessings of supernatural grace” (MD #1). Before Our Lord’s passion and death, He instituted the Catholic priesthood as a way of perpetuating His work upon Earth, particularly in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is “the supreme instrument whereby the merits won by the divine Redeemer upon the cross are distributed to the faithful” (MD #79).
Pius XII further explains that “By [priests], [the faithful] will be supplied with the comforts and food of the spiritual life. From them they will procure the medicine of salvation assuring their cure and happy recovery from the fatal sickness of their sins. The priest, finally, will bless their homes, consecrate their families and help them, as they breathe their last, across the threshold of eternal happiness” (MD #43). So, we can see that the priesthood is absolutely essential for the salvation of souls.
In order to ensure that the world has good Catholic priests to lead its people to Christ, it is essential that young men studying for the priesthood in seminaries be formed properly that they may grow in the knowledge and holiness that are necessary to become worthy instruments through which Jesus Christ may communicate to the world “the rich blessings of supernatural grace” (MD #1).
As can easily be seen from the above paragraphs, the priesthood is vitally important, and without seminarians, what guarantee do we have of priests for the future?
So, dear parish family, I ask you to please continue to remember me in your prayers. I have enjoyed my first year very much, and I look forward to a great second year and beyond. It has been great to have been home on summer vacation. I will return to the seminary on August 31. I thank you all for your support, most especially for the prayers that you already offer for me. I pray for you all every day.
Please remember that St. John Vianney, the patron of parish priests, once said, “The priest is not a priest for himself; he is a priest for YOU!”
Thank you all very much!
May God bless you and may Our Lady of Guadalupe protect you!
John E. Streff
On the Feast of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary