Charles Lewis: The miracle of St. Augustine's Seminary

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  • March 28, 2019

Consider this a non-poetic, nonrhyming ode to St. Augustine’s Seminary. I love the Toronto school and I want to explain why. And then I hope you will love it, too.

In the winter of 2014 I found myself staring at the walls at home. I had just retired from the National Post for health reasons and was bored out of my skull. I was addicted to being in a newsroom.

I was used to hyper activity every day. I began to miss the intellectual challenge, the rush of writing under extreme deadlines. I used to think of it as the rush a crazed rabbit might get as it tried to cross highway traffic.

It was exhausting but it felt good to be in the game and in the public eye. Yes, I am afraid I possess an ego.

But at home, it was “quiet, too quiet,” as they used to say in the Westerns of old.

I was not used to having so many free hours in the day. I started obsessing on Facebook. I would call friends at work to chat, forgetting they were working. Those with call display stopped answering. I began to think my e-mail sends were not sending. They were.

Somehow I found out that I could audit courses given by St. Augustine’s Seminary at their University of Toronto campus.

I could have tried to take these courses for credit but after a lifetime of deadlines and having my work judged all I wanted to do was learn for enjoyment and without pressure I began in the fall of 2014 with a basic course on Catholic theology and I was hooked. Later I took classes in Christology, ethics, creation, grace, ecclesiology, liturgy, the Trinity and the letters of St. Paul.

Almost all my classmates were seminarians and I got to see a few get ordained, a real blessing for them and for me. I have written this before, and it bears repeating, that these men are some of the finest people I have ever known. They are open in a way that has become nearly extinct in our society. They are nearly all without guile. All seem to contain sharp minds and at times wicked senses of humour.

To be honest some classes I found a bit beyond me. At those times I would stop taking notes and just listen. At first I would get frustrated not following completely, but then realized that whatever amount of information I gleaned was more than I knew before.

This is the great thing about Catholicism: The depth of our faith is bottomless.

I also realized that it was a tremendous privilege to listen to all these great teachers, whose lives were dedicated to expounding the faith, ensuring our Church will be left in good hands.

They need to be named because without them we would be adrift. They are all generous and kind. They are simply lovely people. Here are the names of some of these wonderful men and women: Fr. Kevin Belgrave, Patricia Murphy, Josephine Lombardi, Fr. Charles Anang, Mary Morrocco and Msgr. Robert Nusca.

As a journalist, whose instinct is to fill every silence with the sound of his own voice, I worried I would ask too many questions. I could end up a disrupter — a nice quality in a newsroom but less so everywhere else in civilized life. And then there was the age difference. Yet, in each class I found an atmosphere of intellectual openness in which questions and discussion were encouraged.

I am writing now as a way of saying thanks to this great institution for a particular reason. I decided to start volunteer work in the fall that will allow me to apply what I have learned in class. Where I will work is a place I can be of use to Catholics who need company and help. I have a few hurdles to get past but God willing it will happen.

I would not have had the confidence to do this even a few years ago.

Then I realized what I was learning was coming together for me in a seamless whole. I was becoming more fluent in the faith though I doubt I will ever be fully fluent. It also made Scripture come alive for me. I used to think of the Bible as work; now I think of it as a blessing.

I owe a great debt to St. Augustine’s. It was what I needed when I needed to fill what was looking to me as an empty future.

Since my conversion 10 years ago I have never regretted becoming a Catholic. Through St. Augustine’s that assuredness has become even more solid — a miracle given that I never thought I could love the faith more.

(Lewis is a Toronto writer and regular contributor to The Register.) 


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Support The Catholic Register

Unlike many other news websites, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our site. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.