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More like splinters

“We have the cross.”

This was the answer to a question during a panel discussion at the seminary, boldly proclaimed by a brother seminarian when the question was posed, “What is uniquely attractive about the Catholic Church?”

The rousing applause he received from the auditorium full of seminarians led me to wonder from my own folding seat, “Is the cross really attractive to me?”

The topic came up again at one of our Wednesday “Rector’s Dinners,” a community-wide, humbler version of a white-tablecloth meal. It was a seminarian initiative that this event also be a forum for one of our brothers to vulnerably share a concrete way God is working in his life.

This particular week the seminarian’s witness hit home for me when he related the cross to seminary life. “At the seminary, the cross often feels more like many splinters,” he said. I knew exactly what he meant — my cross also feels like many splinters, rather than one big weight. I dug deeper to identify these splinters in my own life.

For one thing, it’s resigning myself to the fact that my time is no longer my own. A lot of formation is learning to show up in the right place, at the right time, wearing the proper attire. At a deeper level though, it’s getting used to being a public person and coming to terms with my own perceived limitations. I’m an introvert, and I’m a seminarian for a diocese that’s far from my parents in upstate New York. I know these splinters are helping to form me into the man, and God-willing, the priest of Jesus Christ I am called to become.

Lest I be misunderstood, my time at seminary has been one of joy and peace, and I’ve felt the support of my diocese and seminary throughout it all.

The third comment about the cross came during a recent silent retreat and helped me to weave all these experiences together.

The retreat challenged me to ask myself, what portion of the cross does the Lord desire for me? It can be easy to accept that Jesus carried his cross and was crucified in our place, and seek out an easier path. But through the daily readings of the Liturgy of the Hours, I’ve noticed that the saints had a different attitude. Each, in their own way, said ‘yes’ to the portion of the cross the Lord desired for them. I particularly love the way St. Therese of Lisieux accepted the splinters of her daily life, reaching the heights of sanctity despite the outward appearances of an unremarkable life.

Our lives are made remarkable in God’s eyes by even the most mundane splinters, when we unite them to the cross of Christ. Let us pray that we all remember this as we take up our cross, in all its little splinters, each day.

Banach, who is from St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington, is in his first year of pre-theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020