Did you know that there is an institute for continuing education for priests and deacons at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington? It is called the Sacred Heart Institute and it serves priests and deacons in the Archdiocese of New Work, the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Diocese of Rockville Centre. It offers retreats, lectures, on-line courses, pilgrimages, and a developing wealth of opportunities for priests and deacons. I have taken two on-line courses and am presently taking one on the theology and pastoral care of Saint Augustine.

These courses are very informative and they afford me the opportunity to do some serious reading and study with the guidance of people far smarter than me. Despite the initial challenges of technology, I have enjoyed these offerings and hope they help me in preaching and pastoring.

I start this article with these thoughts for two reasons. First, I think it is important for all of us in the Catholic community to know that there are many new opportunities for continuing education for priests and deacons through the Sacred Heart Institute.  Second I want to encourage parishioners to take part in adult education/formation courses offered in their parishes. We have a rich Catholic tradition that can deepen our faith and encourage us to remain close to Christ and to His Church.

One giant in our tradition is Saint Augustine. He lived in the fourth century and wrote extensively on theological and pastoral matters. I would like to share with you just one small gem I found in my reading. It comes from the Life of St. Augustine by Bishop Possidius, a contemporary and colleague of St. Augustine. I place it in context:

“His spoons only were silver, but the vessels in which food was served were earthen, wooden or marble; yet this was not from the compulsion of necessity, but from the choice of his own will. He always showed hospitality. At the table he loved reading and discussion rather than eating and drinking, and against that pest of human custom he had this inscription on his table:

‘Who injures the name of an absent friend

May not at this table as guest attend.’

Thus he warned every guest to refrain from unnecessary and harmful tales”

Given all the profound things Augustine said, this is but one little part. But, given the lack of decent public discourse in our society today and the penchant to put down those who do not agree with our opinions, it is worth noting. It would be worthwhile for us in offering hospitality to family and friends to set some ground rules so that the guests are invited to say only the good things people need to hear and to avoid gossip and negativity. This is fundamental to living the Christian life. Part of hospitality is setting the right tone for Christian conversation. Let us always praise the glory of God’s name by the respectfulness of our conversations.

Stay tuned for more gems from St. Augustine. The course is four weeks long!

Rev. James M. McNamara

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