For all of the Church that is steeped in tradition and ritual, there still exists the room and opportunity for individual experience and expression.
That’s one of the over-riding lessons Norman McFall takes from his studies at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana in preparation for his May 28 priestly ordination in the Diocese of Little Rock.
“One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about St. Meinrad is it’s not a cookie-cutter seminary,” he said. “They work really hard to help form you as a human — intellectually, spiritually, pastorally. One of the key issues here has been you learn to be who you are as a person.
“Knowing who you really are and then coming to the altar to give yourself to Christ to serve his Church, you’re really giving yourself. You’re not giving a facsimile of somebody or something else.”
Part of who McFall is is a husband and the first married seminarian in St. Meinrad’s history. McFall said the lengths to which the faculty and staff went to accommodate his situation was gratifying.
“This has been a wonderful chapter in our lives, to be here at the formation process of St. Meinrad, he said. “They’ve been extraordinarily hospitable here; they’ve worked hard at making something happen that’s never happened here before, which is having a married seminarian. They’ve just been wonderful to my wife and to me.
“It will be sad to leave them behind, but I’m looking forward to getting back to Arkansas and doing the very thing that I’ve been preparing to do. So right now I have some mixed emotions of excitement and a tinge of sadness, too, to be leaving here.”
Another part of who McFall is — that of an ordained Baptist minister — afforded him the unique viewpoint comparing two theological schools of thought during his formation and education. He said for as much as was different between the two faiths, there were a number of elements that were very similar.
“One of the key similarities is the focus on knowing God,” he said. “Developing a relationship with Christ through words, through prayer, through devotion, the emphasis on Scripture, that’s all very similar.
“What’s been different, of course, has been the sacramental theology reality of the Catholic Church, that is, the graces that we receive from Christ through the sacraments. It’s the starting point to understanding more and more of what it means to be Roman Catholic.”
Many of these lessons and the road of faith they have led him down coalesced in the final days of his seminary education, he said. Not least of which was his practicum class where he got a small taste of what lay before him.
“I did my final presentation to the practicum class where I did the whole Mass myself as if I was a priest,” he said. “I’ll tell you that really rang my bell when I finished. I just had this deep sense of joy and I look forward to being the main celebrant at my first Mass on May 29. I got the sense that this is what I want to do the rest of my life.”
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