Last evening I had the pleasure of taking three seminarians from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary out to dinner in Gettysburg.
As I drove up Highway 15 to Emmitsburg, MD, I noticed the leaves on the trees were more brilliant with fall colors than they are down here in the suburbs of Washington, DC.
And, when you step on the front porch of the seminary itself you are treated to a panoramic view of the entire area, almost breathtaking, on a perfect autumn day with the sun going down over the easternmost point of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
(I wondered if anyone ever hit golf balls on the large grass field that sits in front of the seminary. There were at least 120 yards if you hit diagonally, I thought.)
I arrived in time for Vespers and took the final seat in the back row as the men filled the chapel with the sound of the first hymn. They sang well and with fervor – it was quite beautiful, and a welcome change from what I normally hear at Mass.
Over 150 seminarians, staff, and teachers were there. Mount St. Mary’s is now the largest seminary in North America according to Deacon Matthew Arbuckle, who led our small expedition up to the inn in Gettysburg.
Most of our meal was devoted to a discussion of preaching and liturgy. I asked my three soon-to-be-priests what they thought was the common denominator of great preaching. What do homilies from priests like Father Rutler, Father Pavone, and Father Corapi have in common, though their styles are very different? What “ignites” their preaching?
After dinner, we sat on “the porch” for an hour with Rev. William B. Kaufmann, chaplain at the University and the Grotto. I reminisced with Father Kaufmann, also a convert to the Church, about our days in the Protestant seminary and what we had read – Pannenberg, Moltmann, Barth, Tillich, Jensen, Braaten – and how most of that was forgotten nowadays.
The cigars were good, the whiskey better, the company the best, and as I drove home I thought how much more optimistic many Catholics would be if they dropped by the Mount for a visit. I’ve already promised to return next fall for a reprise of our evening – it will be my pleasure and my privilege.