As I wrote last time, this weekend was the season of the selection conference. After several hours of train travel, I rolled up to the seminary where the whole affair was to be conducted. There were quite a few others ‘selectees’, from across the southern part of the country. I was the only one from my diocese.
I had just arrived to lunch – being Friday, I was treated to fish and chips (no mayonnaise unfortunately, which is one of the few things which continuously irritate me about England). However, my haddock had only settled a few moments before the whole process began. I was packed off up some stairs to see the psychiatrist: talk about jumping in the deep end. This was all very clinical. Asked some questions. Answered said questions. Thanks, bye!
Next up was a discussion group. About half the group were put around a table and given eight questions to answer collectively. The discussion was observed. After half an hour of feeling like we were in a zoo, the situation became vaguely normal as we chatted about Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, condoms and Latin. All the normal things really.
The sunlight finished with a gathering in small group to chat and celebrate Vespers. In the evening, I had a ‘spiritual interview’, which was the only one which lasted the whole allotted time period (and the only one with a priest). It was quite nice to talk about my faith without talking about my ‘feelings’. The interview did turn into a discussion about architecture and a tour of the (fine) library, as this is the pet topic of both myself and the selector.
Afterwards was sung English Compline followed by the Angelus (and a magnum silencium). I slept well that night in my attic room. Funnily enough, my first selector stayed in the same room when he was being selected. As seems to be the case in most seminaries, they put the heating on for guests, so I was roasting under all the sheets and blankets.
The next day opened with Mass, and the Rosary. Another meeting mid-morning talked about my work experience, education, academic interests and my views of Church. I think this essentially revolved around my interpretation of Vatican One. Interesting though: I think this interview was my most challenging. I had a siesta afterwards.
My sleep was interrupted by lunch and another interview – this one about my relationships, family life, and personality. From this, and my other interviews, I have come to the conclusion that many people think too much and as a result, don’t buy one-word answers. I think this is a shame, as dragging up irrelevant points and focusing on my choice of vocabulary is not necessarily the best way to create a well-rounded (and well-founded) image of an individual in an hour-long meeting. It has to be done I suppose. After this, I had a medical examination, and then it was all over. Another siesta was called for.
After dinner, there was a little celebratory drinks session in the bar, as like-minded groups seemed to cluster together as is the case at such things. Lemonade. Bed.
Sunday began with sung Lauds. The psalm tones were new to me, but easy to pick up, and gentle on the ear. Around mid-morning was sung Mass. Surprisingly for a seminary, there was only a single celebrant. It was Laetare Sunday, and he wore a very dusty red looking rose chasuble, which makes a nice change from the normal Barbie pink. This was a very good Mass, and a very good homily about ‘lifting up’. I enjoy loaded homilies.
Sat next to another blogger at lunch (roast lamb and banoffie pie). During this period, all the candidates were being voted on. A lift to the station and a trip back to university via home to fulfil my Mothers’ Day obligations.
Now there is nothing more left to do but wait for the interviews with our Bishops. Most candidates have already had their psychological assessments. I have mine in next month.
It is the Bishop who makes the decision. The vote of the selection conference is only advisory, and it is non-binding. The Bishop can (and does) make up his mind with or without their advice.
The first of the candidates has his interview with his Bishop tomorrow, and the last have theirs in June. I have my interview in May. Though it is a long time away (and much has to happen in between) I’m very pleased it will happen in Mary’s Month, as I’m sure I’ll need her tender loving help either way.
Please keep all the candidates in your prayers.