End of the School Year!

I consider my seminary studies to all be about training for future ministry and I sometimes do extra study, beyond requirements, when I feel that certain information will hone my pastoral usefulness in the long term.

Welcome to article 29 of a weekly series on the formation journey of Br. Josh, MIC, a second-year seminarian at the Marian House of Studies in Steubenville, Ohio. It is the continuation of Br. Josh's previous column, "Novice Notes."

By Br. Josh, MIC

My first year in seminary ended quickly but quietly. It felt rather sudden, but I didn’t have to make any final, hectic scramble to get things done. 

I did my final papers early, so I was ahead in my studies and had time to comfortably prepare for final exams. I studied well and the exams ended. My grades were good. 

Then, classes were over. Being able to rest the active part of my mind felt like a huge relief, like having a big weight taken off of me that I hadn’t fully recognized was there. Finally, I could cease my strenuous mental labors for a while. 

Things to do
I started by knocking out a list of projects that needed to be accomplished, such as cleaning my room, scheduling vacations with family and doing some needful shopping. My only pair of black shoes was extremely old and had developed holes in the bottoms, so whenever I stepped in water puddles, my feet got wet. I replaced them and felt very happy for the next few days that I could finally walk in water without getting wet!

My first marathon was over, but I am not done running. The next marathon that my sister Sarah and I are planning is a 32-mile ultramarathon through trails in Ohio’s woodlands. My superiors are supportive. I saw that it was necessary to begin training on rough trails, developing elevation gain, so I set out to run along the woodland trails near one of our cemeteries, as well as a big hill right by our Marian House of Studies.

Brother Jacob, who completed the half marathon when Sarah and I ran the full marathon, has provided strong fraternal encouragement and support.

I started running outdoors wearing a backpack with two full water bottles in it, along with a few gels, electrolytes and bananas. The water was heavy! I feel that wearing more weight is good preparation, as is all the new running uphill and downhill. 

Sarah and I completed half marathons on trails within 24 hours of one another, she doing hers in California and me doing mine as a practice run in Ohio.

Stumbling on Happiness
In the mornings, outside of running, prayer, and completing practical tasks, I took some time to read a psychology book recommended by Professor Storm, the head of our Franciscan University psychology department. It is called Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, a psychologist who researched what makes people happy and what does not. 

Professor Storm said in class that the research shows that materialism does not satisfy because people have a tendency to adapt to a new status quo. If we get a pay raise at work or purchase a new possession, this temporarily increases our happiness but then our happiness soon slides down to where it was before.

People chase what makes them feel happier, but they have to keep chasing new things to feel that temporary boost of happiness because they always adapt and their happiness falls back to where it was before. However, Professor Storm told me that some things do increase happiness in a lasting way, according to the research, including spending time enjoying nature outdoors, deep friendships, religion and philosophy.

I found this research intriguing and decided to dig deeper into it, so I bought the book that the professor recommended. 

Good training
I consider my seminary studies to all be about training for future ministry and I sometimes do extra study, beyond requirements, when I feel that certain information will hone my pastoral usefulness in the long term. I use a laptop in classes because dusty notebooks of old notes end up in boxes in attics, never to be seen again, but my computer saves class lectures in an easily accessible way for review years in the future. 

Spring is making greenery blossom everywhere here in Steubenville, and I have time now to enjoy it and be out in it, running through the midst of it. I’m taking a bit more time to do artwork and meditation, as well. 

My first year in seminary is over, and I am enjoying a peaceful interlude before the next school year begins. 

Next: "Climbing a Spiritual Mountain."
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