Unlike most of our seminarians I have had the good fortune of remaining in college – continuing my formation relatively uninterrupted. The Beda College in Rome is a seminary for older English-speaking students, where all the formation takes place in-house.
Some changes to our life have, of course, resulted from the Italian lockdown, not least of which are the restrictions on venturing outside the college, and the maintenance of appropriate social distancing. We have also had to get used to seeing some of our lecturers on a computer screen, rather than in person, since professors can no longer come in from outside and must teach remotely.
We are, however, extremely fortunate at the Beda in having a sizeable garden, a small orchard and a tennis court – enabling exercise and relaxation outdoors without having to leave the college premises. Indeed, we have much to be thankful for – in the nearby apartment blocks people are confined in much smaller spaces.
The 15 students and 5 formation staff remaining here continue to live the community life of the college with daily mass, other times of communal prayer, meals and recreation – supported generously by those who staff our kitchen and help maintain the buildings and grounds.
The lockdown has created a quieter environment with the closure of neighbouring institutions and reduced road traffic. As well as being more conducive to prayer, reflection and study the changed ambiance has also encouraged wildlife in the garden and I delight in observing the various kinds of birds, butterflies and other creatures on our doorstep.
More than anything, however, I remain conscious of the serious times we are living through, the great suffering being endured by so many and the constant need to pray for all. I have found myself getting in touch via email with old friends and colleagues and have been delighted to hear from people I’ve been out of touch with for some time.
Pope Francis has reminded us of our own lack of self-sufficiency brought to the fore in this crisis. We each have a great need of the Lord Jesus in our lives; we must ‘hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them.’
Pictured above is Mike Smith at the Beda in Rome