By: The Rev. Canon Giuseppe Gagliano, Montreal Dio board member
I often think back to one of the most truthful and ominous pieces of advice I received when I was in seminary: learn to pray now, because it’s just going to get harder. What my professor meant was that seminary is the ideal place to cultivate the habits that you need to carry into ministry, especially the habit of prayer—both private and corporate. Ministers-in-training have the opportunity to take advantage of an environment that is conducive to prayer before pastoral responsibilities take to the fore and even overwhelm our best intentions.
Prayer is the joy and duty of every pastor from every Christian tradition. It’s one of those aspects of our practice that is shared across denominational lines. A place like Dio, where United and Anglican traditions meet, provides a tremendous opportunity to learn how to pray within and outside one’s own tradition. The seminary also opens up so many opportunities to pray together in chapel—to lead and to be led in the worship of God.
Of course, my professor’s advice was not simply about prayer. The seminary environment is a place to cultivate all the habits that one needs for ministry: cooperation across difference, active listening, study of scripture, liturgical skills, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc. It’s not as though ordination confers these special habits by the laying on of hands. Each one must be practiced and honed.
So, in the midst of the bustle of seminary life, I encourage all of us to take that time to pray—both in the quiet of our hearts and with the voices of others. Every chapel service is an opportunity to cultivate the Christian life as both ministers and laity. This development is so gradual that it may be imperceptible, but Christian history has shown us that prayer makes a difference in the call to holiness.
If my professor’s words strike you with pangs of dread (as they did to me!), I encourage you that there is no time like the present to pray. In the words of St Thomas à Kempis in The Imitation of Christ: “Do not lose heart . . . in pursuing your spiritual life. There is yet time, and your hour is not past. Why delay your purpose? Arise! Begin at once and say: ‘Now is the time to act, now is the time to fight, now is the proper time to amend.’” Now is the time to pray.
This message was written by The Rev. Canon Giuseppe Gagliano for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a weekly news digest distributed to the college community.