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Falling more deeply in love with Christ

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According to the Catholic Church’s Program for Priestly Formation, the foundational principle of the seminarian’s spiritual formation is “to live in ultimate and unceasing union with God the Father through His son, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit” (PPF 170). My summer assignment at the Institute for Priestly Formation (IPF) was a huge help along this path, as we were guided through daily contemplative prayer, weekly spiritual direction, an eight-day directed silent retreat, and courses on Christian spirituality, priestly identities of Christ, authentic masculinity conformed to Jesus, and liturgy as a source of life. 

Arlington seminarians Andrew Clark, Joe Flaherty and I traveled to Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., where we were immersed in this program oriented toward a deeper holiness for those pursuing the priesthood of Jesus Christ. With a mission of guiding seminarians into a life of interiority, IPF effectively drew us into a deeper relationship with our Divine Creator. Personally, everything is now different for me as I have fallen even more deeply in love with Jesus.

A game-changer for me was learning about the “R.I.M. Model of Discipleship,” which stands for relationship, identity, mission. Our Lord tells us, “Remain in me … for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15). IPF really helped me understand the power of the word “nothing,” for often in my own life have I found myself inverting the order of the above model and beginning with mission, while pushing my relationship with him to the side. Early in the summer, I learned that I needed to prioritize first and foremost my relationship with God, trusting that an identity as his beloved son will flow from that relationship — and then comes mission.

Through the development of a richer interior life, specifically through contemplation, God has begun to unlock a lot of key things in my heart. He has helped me to see myself as he sees me and has filled me with tremendous gratitude for the gifts he’s given me. The quality of my relationship with God has transformed into deeper intimacy, and my heart is even more on fire for the Lord. Ultimately, this increased interiority has brought me to fall in love more and more with my Savior. I want to remain in this love, for it has changed everything. Having completed the IPF program, I now find myself in a place of new encounter with God in my day-to-day life. Please God, in His will, may I become a better priest because of it.

Please pray for the mission of IPF and the priests, seminarians and laity that are involved with the program. As they have impacted my spiritual formation profoundly, may they continue to be gifts to the future of the priesthood. Please continue to pray for the seminarians as they continue formation — that they may selflessly be formed to love you, your families and the coming generations. Please pray that we may become priests of our diocese who know Jesus Christ, and have experienced his life and mercy alive in our hearts — to the point of surrendering everything to him. May our hearts grow in desire to lay down our lives for Christ and his church.

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way,” said Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe, Servant of God. “What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.” 

Iglesia, who is from Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Winchester, is entering his first year of theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019