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Thanks to you, 'seeds of priesthood' are nurtured here

Archbishop's homily to ABCD donors gathered at St. John Vianney Seminary

Homily preached by Archbishop Thomas Wenski at a Mass Dec. 4 at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami for donors to the annual ABCD (ArchBishop’s Charities and Development) appeal. The Mass was followed by a dinner outdoors on the seminary campus.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preaches the homily to ABCD donors gathered for Mass, and later a dinner, at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preaches the homily to ABCD donors gathered for Mass, and later a dinner, at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami.

For many of you, this might be your first visit to St. John Vianney College Seminary, where young men who have discerned a call to the priesthood begin their studies and formation. In fact, before Mass somebody told me, "I didn't even know this place was here!"

Well, it is here — with its highest enrollment in a long time: over 90 students studying for the seven dioceses of Florida and a few others. But it is here because of you - for without you and your support for the formation of future priests through the ABCD, this seminary could not remain open.

The word "seminary" derives from a Latin word which originally meant "seed bed" — here the seeds of a priestly vocation are nurtured and fostered. It takes time to grow priests — the young men here may spend two to four years studying here; then they'll graduate to our theologate or “grad school,” St. Vincent de Paul in Boynton Beach for another four to five years. It takes money, as any of you who have or have had kids in college know. So this is a great place for me to help make the case for your support of the ABCD; but it is also a great place to celebrate Mass during the season of Advent. Advent is about "waiting," patient waiting and longing for the Lord who enters into our lives — and isn't the ministry of our priests one of the privileged ways that we experience the Lord's coming and presence in our lives?

Of course, as you know already, Advent celebrates the various ways that God enters into our lives. We can identify three stages:
  1. Jesus’ historic birth in Bethlehem 
  2. his daily coming in the sacramental life of the Church, and 
  3. the Lord’s final coming in glory and majesty at the end of time. 
The season of Advent celebrates all three “comings” by giving voice in prayer and in song to the spiritual desire, or longing, that precedes each stage of the Lord’s advent or coming.

The first stage of Advent is filled with images from the Old Testament that describe with great poignancy Israel’s desire for the coming of the Messiah, the one who would save his people. Jesus’ coming is both a fulfillment of this profound desire for salvation and a disappointment. The people of Israel were hoping for salvation “here and now,” a political and economic solution to the world’s troubles. Instead, the Lord brought healing and the forgiveness of sins — a spiritual solution the size of a mustard seed that was destined to grow exponentially until it embraces the whole world and all of human history.

The second stage of Advent addresses the hopes and fears of our everyday lives. We are an anxious people worrying about many things. The economy is weak and uncertain, which threatens our future as individuals, families and communities. War continues and terrorist threats (and acts) surround us. The sanctity of marriage is increasingly undermined and family life is too often broken. Real hope seems to be in short supply, so we are tempted to substitute various “isms” — materialism, consumerism, hedonism, etc. The Lord of life comes into this broken world every day through the sacramental life of his Church. He invites us to receive him, to be comforted and forgiven, and to renew our baptismal promises to reject sin and choose to follow him — without counting the cost.

The third stage of Advent comes at the end of time, at an hour that no one knows or can accurately predict. This third coming of Advent begins for each of us the day we die, and it culminates on the Last Day, when all humanity and all history — past, present and future — are united in a single moment of justice and mercy.

In this fast pace and hectic life we lead, we can allow ourselves to be hijacked by the tyranny of the immediate. So engrossed are we with our daily duties and tasks that we forget we are on a journey that leads to eternal life. We too often forget that Jesus will come again, when all is said and done, and take us to himself.

Each stage of Advent has its own longing, its own set of desires. What they all have in common is the anticipation that someone — a savior — will reach out to us and save us from the sin and guilt of the past, from the problems and confusion of daily life, and from our deep-seated fears about the future. In each stage, it is Jesus Christ who comes and who reaches out to us — calling each one of us by name.

The Jesus of history who spoke to the people of his day using parables and wise sayings speaks to us today in Scripture, in the sacraments and in the faithful witness of his disciples and saints. The Jesus who is coming again at the end of our days is the same Christ who was born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago and is present now in the holy Eucharist. We wait in joyful hope for his coming again. We long for him — the Blessed Hope — and we yearn for the salvation he brings because we need it desperately, not just once and for all but continually, every day and for all eternity.

Advent is a time of longing, but it is also a time of rejoicing. We are people who have been given the gift of hope. As stewards, we are called to nurture and protect this wonderful gift. We are responsible for growing it and sharing it generously with others.

Hope grows when it is reinforced by the sights and sounds and smells of this wonderful season. It is nurtured by our Advent prayers and by the songs that express so well our confident expectation that he will come again!

Hope grows and is nurtured here in this seedbed, or seminary; hope grows here and in the many ministries of our archdiocese that are supported — because of you, thanks to you — through the ABCD.
Archbishop Thomas Wenski poses with Reyna Jovel, left, and Danoushka Capponi of St. Joseph Parish in Miami Beach. Behind them is St. Raphael Chapel, the centerpiece building on the campus of St. John Vianney College Seminary.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski poses with Reyna Jovel, left, and Danoushka Capponi of St. Joseph Parish in Miami Beach. Behind them is St. Raphael Chapel, the centerpiece building on the campus of St. John Vianney College Seminary.

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