Holy Cross seminarians usually spend their summers on assignment at one of our many apostolates around the world – teaching, working among the poor, experiencing parish life from the inside, etc. However, there are also those lucky few of us who get to spend this time taking classes toward the completion of our Master's in Divinity degrees.
You heard me right – summer school! But I hope you won't hear me as coming across sarcastically when I say that. When Cardinal Dolan came to the Notre Dame campus for commencement this year, he said in his keynote address, "At her best, this university has the heart of Mary, meaning this university gives us Jesus and His Church and clings to them both with love and loyalty and service."
To be able to study theology at Notre Dame, even during the summer, therefore, is to step into the heart of Mary and also the mind of Mary, working to understand more fully how it is that God has come to us, born of a woman, to save us and to lead us into eternal life.
I myself am taking two courses this summer, one at a time, both of which are required credits for the M.Div. – Ecclesiology (the study of the Church) and Eucharist (the study of, well, the Eucharist).
Classes meet for three weeks at a time for about two-and-a-half hours a day (excluding Saturday and Sunday). As such, they are serious time and energy commitments, but by no means do they take so much out of you that you can't find ways to relax, pray, and do other things. Baseball games, weddings, cookouts, fireworks, taking quiet walks around God Quad after the sun goes down – summer doesn't lose its flair, even if you do happen to be facing an essay exam the next day on the relationship between Vatican I and Vatican II.
Seminarians who stay in town for summer school do not continue living in the seminary itself. Rather, we get plugged into other local Holy Cross residences (mostly parish rectories) where we can experience religious life (its people, its ministries, its challenges) from different perspectives.
I am living right now with three of my classmates at Old College, the oldest building on Notre Dame's campus and the home of our undergraduate seminary program during the academic year. It has been a unique experience because we are the ones responsible for determining how we are going to give lived expression as a community to our vows.
Our common chastity calls us to single-hearted intimacy with God by holding each other to a daily rhythm of prayer and the practice of fraternal charity. Our common poverty calls us to trusting dependence on God by relying on each other for the meeting of our material needs (e.g., by shopping for each other, cooking for each other, studying with each other). Our common obedience calls us to willing surrender to God by putting ourselves at each other's disposal, looking out not primarily for our own interests, but rather for those of others.
Sounds idyllic, right? Obviously, this is a difficult reality to live into, and my classmates and I are by no means expert at it. However, the grace of our vows promises us that, through the complexities and challenges of life in common, there can be discerned a movement of the Spirit that is making the reign of God more and more present in the world.
So you see, even summer school can be used to help usher in the Kingdom, especially when it is in the shadow of Notre Dame, our mother, at the heart of her university.
Mr. Chase Pepper, C.S.C., is in his third year of temporary vows and is studying theology as a seminarian at Moreau Seminary on the campus of Notre Dame. He and other seminarians at Moreau write a post each month for the Spes Unica Blog, sharing on their life and formation at Moreau. Meet our other men in formation, and learn more about seminary life in Holy Cross, and specifically about the Postulant Program at Moreau Seminary, which constitutes the first year of religious and priestly formation in Holy Cross for college graduates and Old College seniors.