"You are the light of the world.... Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father" (Matthew 5:14, 16). Thus speaks our Lord to the crowds in the Sermon on the Mount as he calls them to discipleship. With such positive enthusiasm, it is no wonder that Christianity soon became the faith of the global Roman Empire, an empire that had long been pagan.
Although it may seem that Christianity in the twenty-first century is facing just as hostile a society as it did at its inception-the loss of Catholic identity, the decrease in church attendance and religious vocations, the rise of various spiritualities, to name a few-I refuse to believe so. I do believe, however, that people are searching for a light, and as in times past, many look to our monasteries to furnish the imagination and tools to deal with the great changes engendered by this increasingly globalized world. This situation should not be surprising; throughout history, and often during periods of great change, monasteries have furnished the Church with theologians, artists, and pastors who have shined a new light around many a difficult impasse.
As schools of the Lord's service, our monasteries conduct educational institutions, parishes, retreat houses, and chaplaincies-apostolates that do the kind of work for the Church which most diocesan structures don't always address, thereby filling a particular need for people today. Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary is most suitable for training in such work.
Priestly education and formation at Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary take full advantage of the monastic tradition in educating monastic seminarians. In fact, our seminary focuses on preparing monks for ordination; the monastic life necessitates a course of study fundamentally different from those with a vocation to diocesan priesthood. With the Rule of Benedict as the guide for priestly formation and education (see the USCCB's Program of Priestly Formation, 5th edition, numbers 26-31), Saint John's prepares monks for priesthood so that they can help their home monasteries maintain the rich monastic character of their various apostolates and help fuel that same light about which Jesus speaks in the Sermon on the Mount.
For more information about the program of study and formation, navigate around our Web site, or contact our director of admission at [email protected], 800-361-8318, or 320-363-2896.
You may also want to watch for the publication of the results of our conference, "Monastic Witness and the Priestly Vocation," held at Saint John's Abbey and University in the summer of 2008. Monastic scholars and educators presented and discussed the theological background of priesthood within a monastic context. They also reflected on its application to the monastic model of priestly formation.* Monasteries can be a light so that others may come to the Light of Christ, and Saint John's School of Theology·Seminary will help do just that.
*See Rev. James Orthmann, OCSO, "Priesthood: How are We Preparing for the Future?" Cistercian Studies Quarterly (44.4; November 2009; 462-482).
Rev. Michael Patella, OSB, SSD
Rector, Saint John's Seminary