Vietnamese seminarians start a new life on the day of the cassock
I am immensely impressed with the Cassock Day celebrations. It really touches me to see seminarians become tearful and delighted, but slightly embarrassed, to put on the long awaited cassocks for the first time. The rector of the seminary told them that “receiving cassocks marks a new stage in the process of following God. Now you have to live a different life than other young people.
I look up at my cassock and tell myself that I had such an experience and such a state of mind. Many questions immediately spring to mind: After years of seminary study, am I a man of God? Am I a man who has been changed to be like God? Am I really different from others?
The Cassock Day ceremony marks the beginning of a new life which consists of sacrificing our hearts and souls and receiving the black cassocks of loyalty and love. I am chosen to wear the garment up to my ankles not because I am better, wiser or more worthy than others, but only because of the love of God.
It is said that “clothes do not produce monks” but religious clothes are a sign of devotion and poverty and some people lead a consecrated life only because they like the color of the clothes. Religious clothing also contains the holiness expected in clerics, monks and nuns, as they are said to be soft and beautiful.
Wearing the cassock to attend masses and liturgical functions is not to be respected and given priority by others but to show that we belong to God as a people of God. Consecrated life is nothing other than choosing Christ and walking on his path.
The cassock reminds me of a choice to abandon myself, for the narrow way of the cross, to die for the world. Giving up doesn’t beg my existence but deepens it. It is a way to sanctify myself in order to sanctify others. The unreasonableness of the cross is the foundation of love: to die so that the world may live eternally in the love of God. The time to be tested is the opportunity to grow.
I am only a sinner among sinners, I have temptations and challenges, and I am drawn to the desires of the world
The cassock also shows a choice to live out the evangelical counsels – black is poverty and chastity, and ankle-length clothing refers to obedience. The 33-button garment, which is not put on and taken off quickly, reminds seminarians that they value the invitation of God and the high ideal of the priesthood that they pursue.
However, cassocks are not the garment of saints because wearing them is not enough to be a saint. Behind them there are men who have human flaws, weaknesses, flaws and emotions. Seminarians are mysteries to themselves. On the one hand, they are characterized by talents and gifts shaped by grace; on the other, they are marked by their limits and fragilities of human nature.
I am only a sinner among sinners, I have temptations and challenges, and I am drawn to worldly desires. If I live up to the sign of the Cassock Day ceremony, I easily become holy through the cassock which serves as armor quietly protecting me on the path to worshiping God and serving people.
Sometimes the cassock becomes much too tight because I pay great attention to asceticism, considering consecrated life as a heaviness instead of a grace. I ignore the grace of being in the house of God to dream of worldly pleasures and do my private will instead of taking priority over seeking and doing God’s will. The cassock reminds me to follow Christ, who has done nothing, and to abandon my own intentions.
The cassock becomes too loose as I seek security for myself, shirk responsibility, do my homework for the sake of form, and totally despise people in need. The cassock is killing me for my own greed and selfishness.
My cassock is fading because I quickly forget my vows at the cassock day ceremony and recoil from difficulties and challenges. I am encouraged to die for my human frailties and my variability.
Many times I am called to leave my flesh and my sins whenever I have soiled my cassock by committing sins and forming bad characters.
Saint Josemaría Escriva said: “How pitiful is a man of God who has fallen! But how much more pitiful is a man of God who is lukewarm and worldly! In fact, consecrated life only awakens the world if clerics, monks and nuns wake up first. I am called to integrate myself into the world, not to disappear from the face of the earth, and to change myself in order to become better. I must overcome the temptation to deliver myself from evil, so if I am half God, my life is in vain.
The perfect path is not reached if they fail to surrender and fight against human weaknesses.
Consecrated persons must respect the world and men, but despise all evil and all banalities. I am still a young man with great desire, but I am encouraged to purge myself of worldly desires and aspire to holiness, God and souls. The late Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan described him as being “among and for the world with his means but not by the world”.
It is necessary to have good images of seminarians today so that in the future we can have shepherds according to the heart of God: saints, enthusiastic and devoted to the service of the Church. The seminarians must bravely say no to what does not suit their vocations and stay away from the spirits of the world while daring to swim against the tide without getting carried away. The perfect path is not reached if they fail to surrender and fight against human weaknesses.
Discipleship is a never-ending experience, and the process of following God requires that I make constant, hard efforts to dedicate myself to God forever. Believing in the help of God, with the cassock, I move forward firmly with faith in words: each of you must give as he has decided personally and not reluctantly, as if he were obliged. God loves enthusiastic donors.
This article was summarized and translated by a UCA News reporter from a Vietnamese article posted on gpbuichu.org here.