morning prayer was made optional

By Diogenes (articles ) | Dec 17, 2006

Daily life for seminarians changed radically. Changes in discipline were among the most obvious. Students were allowed to dress however they wished. They were not restricted to the seminary grounds. Morning prayer was made optional. They could read newspapers and magazines more freely. In 1969 the traditional "major" and "minor" seminaries were divided into three new institutions: De Sales Preparatory High School, St. Francis de Sales College, and Saint Francis Seminary. In 1972 lay students, including women, were admitted for graduate study to work toward newly names degrees. In 1975 the first class of permanent deacons was ordained. Not all of the changes instituted at the seminary have lasted. Yet it is clear that the faculty and administration struggled sincerely to meet the challenges presented by the Church and society.

Until the last line, it reads like a conservative's indictment of the crack-up of seminary life. On the contrary, it's a page from the web-history of Milwaukee's St. Francis Seminary, and the march of progress is meant to make us smile. The details are telling. We're told, "A new curriculum provided students with training in behavioral sciences such as psychology and sociology with less emphasis on philosophy and theology." We're told, "[As of 1971] former seminarians could remain as lay students." We're shown a program for the Rite of Tonsure for the same year featuring a cover in the manner of a Jimi Hendrix dust-jacket. Heavy.

The chapter of the history covering the years 1965-1981 is given the title "Naming the Whirlwind," which by its self-regarding clumsiness captures the spirit of the time very well. There's little reason to think Milwaukee's seminary differed greatly from other houses of priestly formation in the same period, but the tone of naive congratulation in this history makes it interesting as a kind of cultural core sample. If you were born after 1970, and you wonder why your pastor knows the complete Simon & Garfunkle libretto by heart but can't name the Joyful Mysteries, this will help you understand.

(Tip to Terrence Berres)

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  • Posted by: Fr. William - Dec. 18, 2006 10:13 PM ET USA

    Yes, this is Abp. Dolan's seminary. We need to pray for the abp., as he is moving more & more to a diplomatic approach that seeks compromise to make everyone "happy" (i.e. a centrism agenda endorsed by cdls. Mahony & McCarrick, & such bps. as Skylstad, Lynch, Thomas of Helena, Trautman, Pilarczyk), which actually un-glues the "local church" from the Holy See. We have yet to hear from the abp, e.g., about 140 his priests who signed a public letter opposing the Church's Teaching on marriage.

  • Posted by: Lisa Nicholas, PhD - Dec. 18, 2006 9:31 PM ET USA

    Recently, in my confession, I accused myself of various sins of sloth. The priest suggested I attend one of his time-management seminars. I had to explain to HIM that my problem is not poor organization skills but a defect of the will. Just one example of why I have to screw up my resolve to go to confession -- I'm afraid NOT of admitting my faults, but having to listen to the lame psycho-babble that the confessor will offer in lieu of spiritual counsel. BTW, he absolved me without penance.

  • Posted by: Meg Q - Dec. 18, 2006 9:08 PM ET USA

    "If you were born after 1970, and you wonder why your pastor knows the complete Simon & Garfunkle libretto by heart but can't name the Joyful Mysteries, this will help you understand." Indeed, now I know (born St. Augustine's Day, 1971). Now I know, especially, why priests that age just *hate* the "Young Fogey" priests of my generation (and younger) . . .

  • Posted by: - Dec. 18, 2006 5:42 PM ET USA

    In spite of this nonsense the Church struggles on. God help us!

  • Posted by: - Dec. 18, 2006 1:27 PM ET USA

    C.S. Lewis was a prophet.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 18, 2006 1:19 PM ET USA

    Groovy, when do we get to sing "Stairway to Heaven"?

  • Posted by: JARay - Dec. 18, 2006 8:24 AM ET USA

    It bears no resemblance to the Seminary I knew. After night prayers the lights were to be out by 10 pm. Going out at night! Unheard of! Before night prayers one had to confess to the vice-President (ancient usage of words) any misdemeanours. Confession was a weekly matter. One could never leave the Seminary without a companion. Rise at 6 am. Chapel by 7 am. Silence from night prayers until after breakfast.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 17, 2006 9:11 AM ET USA

    On the "Into the Future" page of the website, we find the following tidbit: "February 1981 Community hymnal, "Now to god our Voices Raise" edited by Fr. Ken Augustine was issued/published." Do you suppose the uncapitalized reference to the Deity was merely a typo on the website? Or a Freudian slip? By the way, below it is a picture of the "seminary" choir, in which 9 of the 13 members are . . . ahem . . . middle aged females. Into the Future indeed.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 17, 2006 7:39 AM ET USA

    Optional morning prayer!? How very liberal! In my seminary missing morning prayer was a total no-no. We were however, allowed to remain outside the seminary until after midnight, just about all night, in fact - just as long as we turned up in time for morning prayer. That we would shape our broader social life around our responsibility to the community assembled in prayer, was taken as a sign of commitment and maturity...

  • Posted by: - Dec. 17, 2006 7:23 AM ET USA

    I think that's a photo of Jim Morrison, once of the Doors. Just a guess. Strange days, indeed.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 17, 2006 6:40 AM ET USA

    To quote the Austrian Emperor from the Movie Amadeus "Well... there it is" Methinks you have once again hit the nail on the head.