Seminarians give spiritual aid to pro-life warriors

Witnessing to our faith can be an intimidating task in any realm of the public eye. Those who choose to show this witness in praying for the defense of life know the challenges.

Imagine standing alone outside of Planned Parenthood clinic and praying for the souls of the men and women entering and exiting. You do your best to look at each person that passes, just simply to acknowledge their presence. No one seems to want to make eye contact with you. This avoidance from others makes you feel uncomfortable, insignificant, and you feel the weight of everything you’re confronted with. Despair may easily begin to set in.

The reality is, one can often feel alone in pro-life work. The recognition of this hardship prompted the St. John Vianney Theological Seminary to begin a pro-life apostolate aimed at providing spiritual encouragement.

Last year, with the help of four seminarians, and under the direction of Father Gary Selin and guidance from the Holy Spirit, they began their work. Father Selin, in summarizing the mission of the apostolate told the Denver Catholic, “The St. John Vianney Pro-Life Apostolate is to help form and mentor those people in the pro-life movement, particularly on a spiritual level.”

 With the help of the Respect Life Office of Catholic Charities, the group of seminarians began last year by educating themselves on the spectrum of life from conception to natural death. They continued their ministry with assisting in the twice-yearly 40 Days for Life campaign, which includes praying a rosary outside a Planned Parenthood.

Late last spring, the seminarians in this apostolate led a day of recollection with this focus of ministering to the spiritual leaders of the pro-life movement.

For the seminarians themselves, this apostolate is an opportunity to develop and grow in their abilities to minister to others as future priests. Opportunities for growth are abundant in being able to support future parishioners in pro-life ministry, along with how to educate and invite others within their future parishes to become active in pro-life ministry.              

Father Selin, in commenting on the need for this apostolate said, “Whenever we’re defending life … it brings up often times great visceral, emotional, even violent behaviors. … There’s very much a spiritual battle.”         

Leaders do feel this spiritual warfare at times. That is where The St. John Vianney Pro-Life Apostolate is important for encouragement, spiritual protection, and as being a visible sign of Christ’s hope in conquering death. Seminarians Jonathan Tansill from the Diocese of Phoenix, and Codi Krueger from the Diocese of Helena, will be taking this mission on as the seminarian leaders this year.           

They, along with other seminarians studying in the archdiocese, will be making their presence known throughout 40 Days for Life, which goes from Sept. 28-Nov.6.

This time will afford multiple opportunities to pray in community, strengthen one another, and to give hope for those who wish to inscribe a victory for life into the history books.

We should keep in mind that it’s God’s story we are a part of, said Father Selin, and we are not alone in being faithful instruments in filling the pages: “St. Mother Teresa . . . her famous quotation is ‘We’re not called to be successful, but to be faithful’. . .We have to lift up our eyes and say, ‘We have to do what we’re called to do to be faithful and leave the rest over to God’s divine providence and power because he’s the author of life.’”

40 days for life begins Sept. 28

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COMING UP: Forming mind and heart in faith

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“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

People tell me pretty regularly that we should not over-intellectualizing the faith — making the Church simply about ideas, doctrines, and rules. I agree that this can be a problem, but we also have to guard seriously against an opposite problem — emotionalizing and privatizing faith. We are blessed with a reasonable faith that can be studied in harmony with the truth of the natural world. Faith and reason strengthen one another, together leading our minds to conform to the mind of the God who is our Creator and Redeemer. In the midst of a secularism which pits science against the faith, it is important that we form our minds in the truth. Being rooted in the truth of our faith does not lead to abstract ideas, but to an encounter with the living God which sets our hearts on fire with His love.

The Dominicans have a long history of teaching the faith, founded originally to preach to those who had fallen into the dualistic heresy of Albigensian and producing the Common Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas. The papal theologian, who advised the pope, by tradition comes from St. Dominic’s Order. One of the most renown Dominicans teaching in the United States, Father Thomas Joseph White, has recently been called to Rome to teach at the Angelicum, the Pontifical University of the Dominicans. Father White, though a profound scholar, has produced a clear and accessible overview of the Catholic faith.

Father White’s book, The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism (Catholic University of America Press, 2017) offers a serious overview of the Catholic faith. It is not a scholarly work, but one that does challenge us to enter more deeply into the theological tradition of the Church, flowing from the Bible and Catechism, the Fathers, and especially the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. Part of the genius of the book is how it uses the theological tradition to address contemporary concerns such as evolution, sexual ethics, and relativism. The book contains seven major sections—Reason and Revelation, God and Trinity, Creation and the Human Person, Incarnation and Atonement, the Church, Social Doctrine, and the Last Things—as well as a robust epilogue on prayer.

Father White challenges us to “to be an intellectual. . . to seek to see into the depths of reality” (1). As intellectual beings, we have been created in the image of God and are called to enter into his truth and life. Therefore, White reminds us that “every person has to accept risk in truth’s call to us. Even religious indifference is a kind of risk, perhaps the greatest of all, for if nothing is ventured, nothing is gained. The mind is reason’s instrument, but the heart its seat” (5). Therefore, the ultimate questions lead the mind into prayerful contemplation of the truth. Theology cannot remain an intellectual enterprise alone, but must lead us to encounter God in prayer: “Prayer is grounded in our natural desire for the truth. When we pray we are trying to find God, to praise him, and to see all things realistically in light of him. In a sense, then, prayer stems from a search for perspective” (288).

Our faith forms us as a whole person and shapes our feelings and desires according to what is highest. Father White rightly points out that “heart and intelligence go together” (49). When it comes to God, intellectual theory is not enough, as he calls us to know him in a “concrete, personal, affective relationship” (48). This does not mean that we can dispense with theology. Quite to the contrary, “we want to get right who God is, and what the mystery of Christ is, so that we can be in living contact with divine love” (42). God speaks to us so that we may come to know him by exercising our minds to know the truth given us through the Church (36).

Knowing God is the work a lifetime and our eternal vocation. We can strengthen our faith by studying theological truths and deepening our capacity to contemplate divine things. Father White’s book will help us all to be theologians, entering into the practice of theology as faith seeking understanding. As we come to know God more, it should lead us to fall in love with him more deeply, strengthening our relationship with him and preparing us to see him face to face.