So, first things first- I offer my heartfelt thanks to all for your prayers. Things have gone really well lately. I'm finally almost finished moving into my room, having unpacked my trunks and rearranged my furniture and all such things. I think I may have caught a cold, but then again that could just be my allergies rebelling against the fact that I actually took the time to dust my room this week.
My Italian test... oh, my Italian test. Only God and a small handful of Italians know how that went, and judging from the fact that the test was Monday, there were only thirty of us taking it, they had our scores before we left the building, and we still do not know how we did, this is likely a small handful of highly bureaucratic Italians who know how the test went. [:) I'll let you know when I know, but, again, only God knows when that will be. The written part of the examination definitely went well enough; I'm not at all worried about the results of that half. The oral part was a little rougher. I do not think that I represented my Italian abilities as well as I could have, and I do not know if I could have as well as I should have. (NB: To be fair and in all seriousness and charity, they were truly lovely people who administered our test, but things do tend to take, well, significantly more time over here than they did in the states. It's just part of the Italian culture, I suppose.)
I have had my first meetings with my formation advisor and spiritual director since last I wrote. These are two important elements of seminary life; a seminarian is not expected simply to study theology, but also to become formed into a better person so that he might more ably serve God and His people. The formation advisor calls the seminarian on in the area of human formation, helping him to overcome perceived character flaws and challenging him to grow through various apostolates and endeavors which force him both to step outside his comfort zone and to grow in his ability to take on difficult tasks. The spiritual director helps the seminarian to discern the voice of God in the seminarian's life. The director helps him to take a closer look at his prayer life and even his day-to-day life, since our spiritual life cannot be compartmentalized but deeply influences our whole person, and see where God is leading him and where he needs to work to grow in holiness. The spiritual director also becomes a spiritual mentor of sorts, sharing his experience in spiritual warfare with the younger man. Formation direction is what is referred to as part of the external forum, while spiritual direction falls under the heading of internal forum. Essentially, external forum discussions are public domain- the formator can bring whatever he discusses with you to the rector or others involved in your formation. Internal forum, on the other hand, is shared with no one. Seminarians are thus encouraged to be totally honest with both parties, but to be willing to be brutally honest with their spiritual directors. A spiritual director cannot help you discern the movements of your soul, how our Lord and the Adversary are trying to work in you, if you are not sharing the movements of your soul with him. There are whole books that could be written on this subject and I considered finding a couple nice passages from a bishops' conference document to help explain, but I imagine this is more than plenty.
If you had not noticed, I just now made an executive decision to color code my paragraphs, especially if they start getting rather lengthy. Black sentences are simply my commentary on how things have gone since my last post. Light blue paragraphs are passages in which I have strayed from my normal commentary to explain something of importance, whether it's in the life of a seminarian or in the workings of the Vatican or in how Italians cross the street. Finally, I think I will color paragraphs in which I wax theological or philosophical red, or whatever color doesn't contrast too badly with the background, if such a thing ever does happen. [:) So we'll see how the system works.
I don't have any especially impressive pictures at the moment, though I do intend to take pictures of the grounds here in due time and get them up. The first-year men are leaving for retreat tomorrow, though, so I will not be able to post again until next weekend. We are drawing much closer to the diaconate ordinations in early October. All of the fourth-year men who were not ordained deacons back in their home dioceses will be ordained by a visiting American archbishop at Saint Peter's, at least I'm pretty sure that's how it works, having yet to attend one. I will be singing in the choir for that Mass, too, which is pretty neat- there aren't too many people that can say they got to sing in a Mass at the main altar in Saint Peter's. Choir has been a grueling and humbling experience, much like Italian. In a way, they really are very much alike, both being languages rather foreign to me. I was a little lost during our first practice when the choir director starting telling us to "add a breath to the beginning of the third note in measure 35" and then to "make sure to remember the crescendoes!" and other foreign concepts. I've been picking it up quickly enough, though, and things have really been smoothing out. Once the deaconate ordinations are completed, I'm pretty sure we will have one week off and then classes finally start. I'll write more once the time comes. Thank you again for all your prayers. Please pray for us while we are on retreat; I will be remembering all of you in my prayers. May God richly bless you all.