This January, I attended the SEEK Conference in St. Louis, presented by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). Br. Gregory and I joined other SOLT members from various missions to host a booth and meet students traveling to the conference from across the country! In addition to the college students, there were 24 bishops and 300 priests as well as many seminarians, religious brothers and sisters, and lay missionaries: 17,000 total attendees! It was truly an experience of the universality of the Church.
SEEK was very encouraging for me coming after my first semester of seminary. As a new seminarian, the previous months had been an intense time to learn to be faithful to my responsibilities when each day does not necessarily bring an exciting new cocktail of experiences. The seminarian must learn to be “trustworthy in very small matters” (Luke 16:10). Good as this is, one can lose perspective of the beauty of the Church within the nitty-gritty routines of life. However, at SEEK, the Holy Spirit’s dynamic presence within so many people in the Church was very palpable! I was re-encouraged in my own vocation and reminded of the foundation of my call to love Christ’s Church.
This experience evoked what I imagine Heaven will be like once time has been gathered together into eternity and we are reunited in communion with those we love from our whole life. At SEEK, I met so many new people eager to follow Jesus, but I also encountered fellow seminarians, childhood friends, alumni from my college days, former SOLT missionary volunteers, and many others reemerging from my past! Many of these meetings were unexpected, though not surprising—each one a confirmation that we are striving, in our own ways, to be busy about God’s work.
I also tasted heaven in the daily liturgy. During the conference, the highlight of every day for me was gathering with the thousands for daily Mass. The procession of clergy alone took nearly 20 minutes! These liturgies lasted about two hours and were sublime tastes of ecclesial and eucharistic communion with the Church. Any experience of genuine liturgical communion on earth is a participation in and foretaste of heaven when all the “communions” that have ever been will be present as a “now.” Fr. Flanagan, our SOLT founder, used to teach his spiritual children to “live from communion to communion.” When life’s travails bear upon you, harden not your heart, but SEEK to reenter the communion of God.
Br. Andrew Collart, SOLT