Soooooo, you are thinking about going to Seminary. What should you consider doing in the meantime? Here is what we at Good Guys Wear Black suggest:
Learn A Job Skill
Yes, learn a real job skill. It is my firm belief that no man should enter seminary until he has worked at least 6 months in a factory, or digging ditches. Regardless of my opinion, you should know how to do something to support your family, whether or not you will be a Tent-making priest. HVAC, plumbing, carpentry, electrician, stone mason, brick layer, computer tech, software developer/programmer, medical tech, ultrasound technician, teacher – all these and more are great choices. Many of them are journeyman positions which you can apprentice for (today, most journeyman skills offer apprenticeships, but so few apprentices will actually work or show up on time, and therefore are in great demand). Do you have a job skill? Have you ever had a real job? If not, what makes you think you will ever understand your flock?
Get A Hobby
This may seem peripheral, but it is not. A hand’s on hobby is crucial for your mental and physical health, now and in years to come. Don’t doubt it. Most clergy had hobbies in college, played an instrument, or something else which they really enjoyed, but quit once they entered seminary and never picked it up again. Don’t. Just don’t do that. There are a multitude of healthy hobbies around. What do you like to do? Gardening is always good and peaceful – and you get your hands dirty to boot! Learn something new – an instrument, like guitar or fiddle. Try painting, sculpting, wood carving, or stone carving. Learn something different – like Highland bagpipes. Learn something enjoyable and get better at it. Enjoy yourself, and learn how to enjoy yourself regardless of circumstances. You’ll live longer, and therefore you’ll be able to serve longer.
Get Your Exterior Life in Order
You don’t have to be rich to attend seminary, but if you have trouble balancing a checkbook, arranging your work and tasks based on priority, or are constantly behind on something, you should address these things now.
The devil will use these against you during and after seminary, so take away his weapons.
Call to mind this verse from the Holy Scriptures:
If then you have not been faithful in the worldly wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?
– Luke 16:11
The answer is ‘no one.’ No one should anyway. Take the time now to put your affairs in order. Just as in conversion to Christ, the old man must die, so, too, your old self, your old life must die in order for you to put your hand to the plow and serve Christ.
Get Your Interior Life In Order
If you aren’t used to interior prayer, struggling with the passions, and guarding your heart – now is the time to begin. Seminary is a busy time, and your personal prayer life will suffer once you arrive. In other words, the seminary is NOT the place to begin interior work. There are many good guides to the interior life for beginners, but we are not going to list them here.
Because you should be asking your confessor and spiritual father about this. If you attempt it yourself, you will fail. Just assume you’re weak, and you will be within the mark. Get to work, learn your strengths but more importantly, learn your weaknesses. Your spiritual father will help you.
Read the Bible
All of it. Aloud. If you haven’t read the entire Bible, carefully, word for word, you’ve got no business considering ordination. According to Canon, our bishops must know the entire Psalter. In the monasteries of St. Pachomius, in order to be considered for entrance as a novice, you had to know the whole New Testament. Where do you stack up in comparison? After all, once in seminary you won’t have time to do that kind of reading. Don’t wait until you get there, it will be too late.
This is the Orthodox standard. If you haven’t read the Bible, or studied it in depth before,
GET THIS BOOK:
Called To Serve: A Basic Bible Survey For Orthodox Christians.