The ‘Map Year’ offers two semesters of serious intellectual study, probing the reading material discursively, even conversationally, in a seminar format. We call to aid a multitude of authors, always seeking to understand their motivating questions and lines of reflection, rather than merely noting their conclusions.
What do the seminarians study?
The end of our study is to promote a flexibility of mind adequate to discover how faith, drawing from the past, thereby roots itself ever more deeply in the present. Such an attitude was, arguably, the origin of the creative serenity that inspired such bold Catholic apostolates as Fr Tompkins and Fr Coady’s Antigonish Movement, Catherine de Hueck Doherty’s Madonna House, Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin’s Catholic Worker, Frank Sheed’s Catholic Evidence Guild, Jacques and Raïssa Maritain’s Thomist Circles, Pius Parsch’s Liturgical Apostolate, the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd developed by Maria Montessori’s disciple Sofia Cavalletti, as well as the scores of young men who beat a path to the doors of monasteries in pursuit of the Trappist vision Thomas Merton disclosed.
Our physical setting, likewise, promotes engagement with the contemporary world and actual parish life, for our seminary is no ivory tower or country estate. It is located on the premises of the Toronto Oratory, which serves two inner-city parishes and numerous surrounding extended-care facilities. Here seminarians assist with parish ministry, participate in parish liturgy, are trained to sing in the parish choir, share a common table with the Oratorian Fathers and Brothers, and receive regular spiritual guidance.
A bishop, religious superior, or vocations director will have noted that enrolling in the ‘Map Year’ delays a seminarian’s ordination and adds to his educational expenditure. Is it worth it? Our students think so. This is study with a difference. It begins to give seminarians a more comprehensive grasp of the ‘strange city’ to which Newman alluded. It is ‘worth it’ if students are confirmed in their vocations and acquire the confidence to navigate the present without anxiety.