By Corey Close
Greetings from Rome! I hope you all had a chance to read last month’s column in which I spoke about the transition in the house from our summers to commencing studies here at the North American College (NAC).
The month of October is known at the NAC for three major events: ordination to the diaconate in St. Peter’s Basilica of our fourth-year men, beginning our studies in the city, and “Oktoberween,” a combination of Oktoberfest and Halloween, but more on that later.
One of the great traditions and privileges we have here at the NAC is that most men who study here are ordained deacons in St. Peter’s on the first Thursday of October (Oct. 7 this year). In case you are unaware, men who study to be ordained priests are ordained deacons around six to 12 months before their priestly ordination. While ordination to the diaconate doesn’t let them perform all of the ministries of a priest, it is the moment that they cease to be laymen, and take up the three promises made by all priests.
These promises are to live in chaste celibacy, to swear obedience to our bishop and his successors, and to promise to faithfully pray the Liturgy of the Hours every day. Most of us are aware of the first promise. The second, obedience, entails trusting that God works through our bishop in where we are sent and in what we are asked to do. The final promise may be unfamiliar to some, but priests pray what is called the Liturgy of the Hours every day — an assortment of the Psalms and some readings from the Old and New Testaments. It is a beautiful way to pray, and I encourage everyone, no matter who you are, to at least look into what this “Prayer of the Church” is, because it may help your prayer life.
All three promises are solemn ones, and the time they are made is perhaps the most transitory moment in the life of a new priest. It is very much akin to the day when a couple gets married and begins their life together; it’s that big.
The ordination Mass in St. Peter’s includes many cardinals and bishops, as well as friends and family of the men being ordained to the priesthood. Topped off with a large choir which I will be a part of, this Mass is very special for those ordained and their families. After the ordination, the new priests usually have nice dinners with their friends and families and then the weekend is free for us all to travel.
This year, I plan to travel to Malta to enjoy the sights on this beautiful island. Following this time, we move into the academic year and begin studies in earnest at one of our various institutions. I will work to complete my Sacred Theology Bachelor (STB) this year, while seminarians ahead of me are completing their Sacred Theology License (STL).
The event that marks the end of October for us is lovingly called “Oktoberween,” which is a combination of Oktoberfest and Halloween. This year it will be on Friday, Oct. 22, when we begin with a big German dinner, full of sauerkraut, sausage, noodles and, of course, German beer. We then move to our lounge where the men brave enough to sport a costume are brought out one by one in a competition to see who has the best costume. This is a time for laughter, camaraderie, and certainly letting off some steam. The whole event is led by our second-year men (I am a third-year seminarian) who, after the show, take us on a frightening tour of a haunted house. Last year I got to participate as one of the monsters! It’s an evening of good fun that can break the tensions of the beginning of the school year.
Once again I would like to thank you for reading my column, and ask you to pray especially for the newly ordained, that their future priesthood may be blessed and fruitful. God bless!
(Corey Close is a third-year seminarian studying for the Diocese of Davenport at the North American College in Rome.)