Life has been busy at the College over the past couple of months. I seem to say that in most of my posts, but there is no other way of describing it. Some of the 'highlights' of late include a private Audience with Pope Francis in the Apostolic Palace (see previous post), ordinations to the Diaconate, the institution of new Lectors, and the admission of new Candidates for Holy Orders.
While I wont reflect again on the College community's time with the the Holy Father on the 14th April, I will reflect on the later events of that evening. At a Mass with Archbishop Tartaglia and Archbishop Cushley, three seminarians were instituted as Lectors. I was one of them. Of course, many people will not have any idea what this means - I certainly didn't before I came to seminary. Every seminarian must be instituted to the ministry of 'Reader' at some time before his ordination. Essentially, Lectors are instituted as ministers of the Word of God. They are asked to take seriously their prayer and mediation with the Scriptures, and to be able to help with Catechesis (instructing others in the Faith). While many people now read at Mass back home, this is the Lector's primary role.
Clearly, 'Lectorate' is an important step on the journey towards Priesthood. At the Scots College, it is the first ministry that seminarians receive, and it takes place during the third year (that is, the first year of theological studies). Myself, Charles Coyle and Paul Opatah were instituted as Lectors at the end of a very busy day. I certainly won't ever forget the 14th April: I met the Pope, I was instituted as a Lector, and I enjoyed the company of my friends from the English and Irish Colleges, who helped me celebrate.
Next, two weeks later, the entire community was very busy preparing for the ordinations to the Diaconate. This is without doubt the 'biggest' event in the College calendar every year. This year, three men in their sixth year were ordained as deacons - Paul Denney, Bernard Mournian and Jonathan Whitworth. The College chapel was as packed as it has ever been on Sunday 1st May, with around 200 people in attendance for the Mass and later reception. This included around 40 priests from Scotland, Rome and elsewhere. Bishop Toal from the Diocese of Motherwell was the main celebrant.
The ordinations serve as a real encouragement for everyone in the community, not least of all the seminarians who hope one day to be ordained themselves. Now that they are deacons, Paul, Bernard and Jonathan turn their attention towards their priestly ordinations.
Finally, on Thursday 12th May, the Vatican's Bishop Brian Farrell visited the College and celebrated Mass, during which he formally admitted three seminarians as Candidates for Holy Orders. Emmanuel Alagbaoso, Emmet O'Dowd and Rafal Szweda are in their fifth year of formation, and at the Mass they publicly declared their intention to be ordained to the priesthood.
So, in a four week period, we had all of this - and much more - in the College calendar. However, the formal timetable becomes less hectic now, as we enter into another summer exam session. One thing that is certainly different from last year is the weather - 30°C days and 25° nights haven't yet arrived in Rome.
Please remember the seminarians and deacons in your prayers over the next few weeks. We need your prayers!