Today, the 1st May, the Scots College will see three seminarians ordained deacon. Bernard Mournian, from the Diocese of Motherwell, considers his experience of seminary.
These final days of preparation for my ordination to the diaconate have been marked by a sense of excited anticipation. It has also been an opportunity to take stock of everything that has led me to this significant milestone moment in my life, remembering all those people who have nurtured and encouraged my vocation. I have particularly happy memories of the people I have met and the experiences I have enjoyed in the Eternal City during these past six years, not least in this four-hundredth anniversary of the Scots College as a seminary. Monsignor Charles Burns has lived in Rome for over fifty years and has told generations of seminarians that, “Romanità is like a sacrament of initiation — it gives you character and cannot be repeated.”
I have come to treasure this thought and endeavoured to live up to it, and the six years I have spent in Rome have revealed to me the depth of its truth. This has involved not only taking advantage of the cultural experiences Rome offers, but more importantly the forging of lasting friendships, not just in the Scots College, but also among the students from across the globe who have come to Rome, united in a common purpose — to follow a call that the Lord has given.
Living in Rome, a city which has been marked by the vocations of many saints who have lived here, has led me in a very real way to participate in the Communion of the Saints and to join them in praying for the building-up of the Church. For example, I spent my pre-ordination retreat in the dwelling place of the early Christian martyrs, Sts. John and Paul. In that monastery dedicated to them there are many paintings adorning the walls of saints who stayed there over the centuries and this reminded me – indeed, they seemed to beckon me – to ask for their intercession that I may be able to gain something of their virtue to help me in my ministry as deacon.
It was nice to learn after the retreat that this community was traditionally used by Scottish seminarians preparing for ordination, including my own mother’s cousin, Fr. Walter Scott, as well as the late Cardinal Winning and Archbishop Emeritus of Glasgow-Mario Conti, to name but a few!
In a homily he gave on the feast day of St John Ogilvie, Monsignor Burns reminded us that our co-patron had crossed paths with many saints: “The silent interplay of sanctity is all too evident in the contacts and influence of all these holy men and women.” We too have this same providential advantage of meeting saints along the way, although we do not realise it. Monsignor Burns then went on to imagine a group photograph of all the saints that St John Ogilvie had met – what a beautiful and full picture it would have been! If I could do the same here in Rome, who knows whose face from that photograph would be shining out in sanctity four hundred years later!
In this four-hundredth anniversary of the college as a seminary, the whole Scots College community was honoured and privileged to have a private audience with His Holiness, Pope Francis. It was a truly amazing experience to be received individually by the successor of Peter, and as we awaited the Holy Father’s coming into the hall in the Apostolic Palace to greet us, I imagined Monsignor Burns’ whispering in my ear those familiar words, which perfectly summed up the amazing moment: “Romanità is like a sacrament of initiation — it gives you character and cannot be repeated.”
The gift of these years in Rome has been an incomparably precious privilege as I continue in my vocation. I cannot thank the Lord enough for giving me the opportunity to study and live in this wonderful place, which I will always consider as my second home. For it was here that I travelled not knowing the fullness of joy that awaited me–the beginning of my life as Christ’s deacon and, please God, His priest.