By Jeff Craig, Seminarian

As we begin the new year, I am thankful again for Father Kevin asking me to give my home parish, Saint Al’s, an update about my seminary experience thus far.

Studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome has been a blessing that I don’t believe I could have ever imagined. I am thankful for studying for the priesthood with about 230 other seminarians from all over the United States. I am thankful for the classes because — even though they are taught in Italian — they are enlightening and engaging with every aspect of human life.

Finally, living about a seven-minute walk from the Vatican, I am able to attend many prayer services and liturgies that Pope Francis leads. These two final aspects of my seminary experience are what I want to focus on.

I think that for many of us, when we hear of religion, we put our faith in one box and our daily life and concerns into another box. We separate the two. Yet, what I am continually reminded of in my classes is how our faith changes our daily life in a way that makes our faith and daily life integrated as compared to separated.

In a recent reflection on the Sacrament of Baptism, Pope Francis said that the faith we receive in baptism “illuminates the heart, it makes things be seen in a different light.” While this simple yet meaningful phrase would take a lifetime of prayer to understand fully, the truth is that the light of faith illumines each and every experience of our lives and makes our lives just that much more beautiful.

Faith illumines our joys and our struggles. Faith illumines our silent, personal prayer and also our relationships with others. Faith guides us on how to live and how to inspire others to live, gently and with patience.

This new year, I want to make it a priority to live a life that is truly illumined by faith, illumined by the love of God, illumined by His gentle presence. I believe that if I live this year illumined by faith, then this year will be one of peace, unity, sharing, loving, and of thanksgiving.

In fact, each time we go to Mass, we hear and celebrate these very qualities. May our life reflect the greatest prayer known to man, the Holy Mass. No matter the issues and disputes this past year has presented us with, we who live by the illumination of our faith have the peace and security of always being spiritually provided for and loved by the God who created us and knows the deepest desires of our illumined hearts.

With this faith, we do not stand still, but rather move forward today, tomorrow, to 2018, 2019, 2020, and beyond, illumined by the Light that is Jesus Christ, who we receive in the Eucharist and who lives in us, who is the King of Peace, and who calls us to indeed look forward to our calling to be one with Him in Heaven. The way we live now and into the future is in response to this heavenly calling.

Together, may we walk with God in each and every experience of our lives and become closer to His Loving Presence to fill our days with His radiant light, and may His life-giving words echo in our hearts, “I am with you always”. (Matthew, 28:20).

If you would like to correspond with seminarian Jeff Craig, please email him at jcraig@diopitt.com

Mailing address: Pontifical North American College
00120 Vatican City State
(Europe)