Excerpt from Father Kelly’s Fall Rector’s Conference
When I first became rector, one of the seniors asked me, “What’s your vision?” I recalled immediately that vision of St. John Bosco, an Italian priest who had a dream of two pillars amid a stormy sea. One pillar emerges from the waters bearing a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Another larger pillar emerges with a monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament. A large ship, the Church bearing the Holy Father dressed in white, was leading the ship amidst the sea between these two pillars.
What is the vision of SJV? To guide SJV between the Blessed Virgin Mary and the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. St. John Bosco’s vision is the stability of our formation program. How fitting since to be a priest is to be Eucharistic. That’s the center of our life.
The Beginning of Vocation
There are tremendous graces from ordination—you glow for a while after that! But after time, the applause fades and you experience the cross. This is a really important time. Beloved (+) Bishop Sirba from Duluth, a former spiritual director of mine, once said, “Your vocation begins at the first experience of disillusionment. You might even experience that in seminary.”
This might not be what I thought it was. Is this really God’s plan for my life? Where you go when you have that thought is really important.
Vocation begins when it’s tested. We must choose where we turn to for strength and for our consolation. Where do we go with our discouragements or disappointments, our sadness or our loneliness? We can try to run from or numb them, but we all know that never works in the long run. We end up feeling a little bit worse knowing we’ve just avoided something.
The only way through it is with Christ on the Cross. We have the beautiful gift to remain with Him in the Blessed Sacrament and to live in friendship with Jesus in our house. He is the way to the Father and the peace the world does not give. This is the privileged place of the Catholic. Where do I turn? To the presence of God in the Blessed Sacrament. This is relational prayer. To come before Him and say, “I trust You are with me. I’m going to act as if You only know about my life the things I tell You.” And it might take 45 minutes, but then we are disposed to hear Him.
In the words of Deacon James Keating, loneliness moves to solitude moves to communion in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
Trust that time is never wasted in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. It takes patience and fortitude to transform discouragements into solitude then communion.
In his senior words of wisdom, Toby Ellis (Diocese of St. Cloud, SJV ‘23) said “I spent 1,100 hours in prayer at SJV in front of the Blessed Sacrament in my four years here. You can’t spend that many hours in the sun without feeling it’s effects, and you can’t spend that many hours in front of our Lord without feeling his effects.” It has a power that’s imperceptible to our senses: sensuum defectui, according to St. Thomas Aquinas.
How do you prepare for the Liturgy of the Eucharist? Adoration. Holy Mass unfolds too quickly, and we need time to personally unpack and ponder what has come to us through God’s presence in the Eucharist. The Liturgy of the Eucharist is the communal celebration of what happens privately in Adoration.
We’re blessed to have been a Eucharistic community for a long time. For over 15 years, we’ve had a mandatory Holy Hour built into our day. It’s reflected in our building project. This isn’t a building with a tabernacle; this is a tabernacle with a building. This isn’t just a room we put together. We designed this space for and around Him.
There’s no searching for the sanctuary lamp in our chapel. We want to be Men of the Eucharist. We don’t want to confuse who the leader of our House is: It’s the Lord.
Our belief in the Real Presence must translate into charity and service to one another. The Eucharist is the fount of Charity, fount of love. May we love one another as He has loved us.
This article was originally published in the Fall 2023 Vianney News magazine.