Transitioning into seminary life

by Joseph Littlefield

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“I instantly recognized that it was in the midst of all this chaos that God was taking control of my struggles, because I allowed him to do so through my humble cries for help in prayer.” –Joseph Littlefield, Fargo Diocese seminarian

Going into my first semester of seminary this year, there was definitely a lot of unknown factors. The only thing I knew was that I was going to seminary in Detroit at Sacred Heart Major Seminary as a College III seminarian.

However, despite all the unknown factors, I thought to myself “I got this. I have two years of college experience as a philosophy major at the University of Mary under my belt. I have a consistent prayer life. I have gone to daily mass five times a week for the two years. I, for the most part, have my life together right now! I’m ready for whatever seminary life has to throw at me.” I thought my transition into seminary life was going to be an easy one. Was I wrong!

While attending the University of Mary, I was used to doing things my way. I was used to having the complete freedom to choose how to live my life. I decided when I woke up in the morning and what time I went to bed. I chose what I wanted to wear each day. I decided when I wanted to eat, pray, go to Mass, and do homework.

Truly, I had complete control over my life schedule other than the time my classes were at every day. And for the most part, I felt like I managed all these things pretty well. I felt like I accomplished the things that I needed to accomplish academically, spiritually and socially.

Looking back on all these things now, I am able to recognize that I knew I was accomplishing all these things with the help of God’s grace, but that I wasn’t totally believing and living in this fact. I was still depending a lot on myself and on my own talents and strengths to get things done in my life. Once again, I was thinking “I got this. I am in control. I have my life together.” It was only when I started seminary that I realized just how wrong I was.

In my transition to seminary life, I gave up and surrendered a lot of my freedom of choice. I went from living my life exactly how I wanted to having a lot of things decided for me. At seminary, they set the curfew. They make the dress code. They decide when you eat, pray and go to Mass. They decide your class schedule and what classes you have to take. They decide what your house job is. The list goes on and on.

On top of this, I found my classes here at seminary to be a lot harder and challenging. My class periods are a lot longer. I was given a lot more reading homework to do. Rather than being graded on written homework and tests for the most part, I was being graded on nothing but papers and tests. This was a complete shock to my system in comparison to my previous way of life that I was so used to living at the University of Mary.

After about a month and a half into my fall semester at seminary, I recognized that it seemed like I was drowning. The thoughts popped into my mind “I don’t ‘got’ this. I’m not in control. My life is truly not altogether.” It was during this time when I finally turned to the Lord in prayer and said, “I am weak and I can’t do this all on my own.”

This was the first time I saw just how utterly weak and helpless I am without God’s saving grace in every aspect of my life. From that day forward, I would always humble myself in my daily struggles by sending up little cries to God in prayer admitting my weaknesses and pleading for his help and his grace. And boy, he surely give it to me!

Recently, I found myself reflecting about how I got through my first semester of seminary. I remembered back to how in the midst of things, it strangely seemed like I was never accomplishing anything or getting homework done, even though I was. It was in this time that I was truly able to see that my life was always in mass chaos and I didn’t have much, if any, control over it.

In this moment, I thought to myself “There is no possible way I could have gotten everything done last semester on my own!” I instantly recognized that it was in the midst of all this chaos that God was taking control of my struggles, because I allowed him to do so through my humble cries for help in prayer.

It's here, in the chaos of life, where God wants to teach me and you a lesson. We may not be in control of our lives, but we can trust in the one who is. Instead of us saying, “I got this,” let us cry out for help in our weaknesses through humble prayer, and allow God to step in and do his thing and say, “I got this. I got you covered.”

Littlefield is a College III student studying at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Mich.

Editor’s Note: Seminarian Life is a monthly column written by current Diocese of Fargo seminarians. It gives New Earth readers a glimpse of what these discerning young men are experiencing. Please continue to pray for them.