Deacon Matthew Millay

  • Diocese/Religious Community Archdiocese of Louisville

Degrees Pursuing at Saint Meinrad

  • Master of Divinity

Closing Remarks for the Board of Overseers Session

February 3, 2024

Good morning, and I hope you have all had a good weekend. It is a pleasure to be here with you this morning. First, I want to thank Duane Schaefer for asking me to speak this morning. Also, I want to extend my thanks to each of you. On behalf of the seminary community, I give thanks to all of you for the work you do here, and otherwise, to help Saint Meinrad do the vital work of formation, for the glory of God, and for the life of the Church.

This morning, I have been asked to talk to you about a couple of things. These include my vocation story, and my formation and experience of life in the seminary here at St. Meinrad. To ground my remarks, and in the spirit of Benedictine formation, I want to invite us all to listen to a specific passage from Sacred Scripture. It is an option that can be used for the Ritual Mass for the Ordination of Priests. This passage comes from the fifth chapter of Saint Matthew’s Gospel.

Jesus said to his disciples,

            “You are the salt of the earth.

            But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?

            It is no longer good for anything,

            but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

            You are the light of the world.

            A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.

            Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;

            It is set on a lampstand,

            where it gives light to all in the house.

            Just so, your light must shine before others,

            that they may see your good deeds

            and glorify your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:13-16

In so many ways, this passage stands at the intersection of my vocation story and my formation and life at the seminary. First, allow me to comment on my vocation story. I can trace the call to priesthood back to early childhood. When I was young, my Granddad was my babysitter, and he along with my Granny, and my parents, always showed signs of openness to my vocation. For example, I remember how my mom made me a Roman collar to wear on career day in kindergarten. I was a happy camper that day. Also, at home, and at my grandparents’ house, I often played Mass. Of course, I took the role of the priest. I remember how my Granddad would even allow me to use one of his house coats as my chasuble. 

Many mornings, after my impromptu Mass, and breakfast, I would follow Granddad up to the sunroom. There, each day, he sat at a butcher block, which he used as an everything table. It was there that he offered his prayers each day, and it is there where he took coffee breaks. I remember how he would even go so far as to pour the three- or four-year-old me a cup of coffee. Now, make no mistake, it was one part coffee, and three parts milk and sugar. As I look back, I recall how the days we shared there are some of the happiest memories I have. The sunroom was always a place of refreshment, light, and peace. It was where I felt a deep sense of belonging. The sunroom was what I imagine heaven would feel like. It was a salt and light place.

I tell you this story, because of its effect on me. It is a window into the deepest part of who I am, and it helps you see the faith I brought with me to this Holy Hill. At almost every turn, I have always felt a sense of belonging in the Church. I credit my parents and grandparents, for their steadfast faith, which always translated to attending Sunday Mass, to giving glory to God each week no matter what. So, my vocation to the priesthood is not the result of a blinding light, like it was for St. Paul, but it is a story of approaching a warm, pleasant light. This light is the gentle light of God’s love that I have experienced from an early age.

When I arrived at Saint Meinrad, I must admit, though, it was a sort of deer in the headlights moment. As soon, as I pulled up to the front door, my car was unloaded, hands were shaken, a room was blessed, and Wham! I knew I was a seminarian. I will admit too, that the formation culture of Saint Meinrad is unparalleled. Almost all the pastors I had growing up, spent some part or completed their formation at Saint Meinrad. They were all gifted and unique. That is because Saint Meinrad is not a priest production factory. Rather, it is a home. Even more, it is a school of the Lord’s service. It is not a place that seeks to erase personality or humanity. Rather, it is a place where grace builds upon human nature.

Therefore, I say, that seminary formation at Saint Meinrad is a salt and light experience. So often, as you likely know, when salt is used in cooking it draws water out. In a similar way, the formation process at Saint Meinrad brings together many of us, from a variety of places, and our experience here draws out the gifts that we can offer the Church. Indeed, the gifts are as unique as the person who offers them. Looking at my class, because we are all unique, it is easy to imagine prophetic voices. These will be voices that will proclaim Jesus Christ, in season, and out of season, to the many places and people, we will serve. Indeed, these voices will echo in the Church. We will hear them echoing from the Great Smoky Mountains to the music-filled halls of Tennessee. We will hear them echoing from the far east, of South Korea, and Vietnam, to the wild west of Texas. We will hear these voices echoing, from the land of live free or die, to the capital of the state of Illinois. Indeed, we will hear these voices echoing from the crossroads of America to the heartland of a commonwealth known for horse racing and bourbon, and all the way to the brightly shining shores of Alabama.

You see, in so many ways, my formation here has taught me gratitude for my classmates, to not take anybody for granted. Likewise, my formation has taught me to trust in God, and therefore, to trust in those whom I know to be fathers and brothers. Formation here at Saint Meinrad has added salt to my life in the form of many occasions where I have experienced a father’s and a brother’s kindness.

When I look upon my life at the seminary these past six years, I see now that life at Saint Meinrad is also light. Here we rest upon a city set on a mountain, well, a hill, that cannot be hidden. The light of Saint Meinrad is not self-sustaining, though. Rather people of all walks of life are attracted to this place because it radiates the true source of light, Jesus Christ. We see the light of Christ in the wee hours of the morning when monks and seminarians rise to pray. We see the light of Christ, when cooks and housekeepers, and when staff of all kinds light their lamps of service. We see the light of Christ in headlights aglow, as professors process to and from the Hill each day to teach. We see the light of Christ in a similar procession each week, as seminarians return from ministering to all who are in need of Christ’s comfort and compassion.

No matter how much we minister, though, we return to the source of all our good works, in the light of prayer in our chapel. Each day, in prayer, as we focus on living the conversion of life that we teach and preach, the light of recollection shines brightly. In other words, here at Saint Meinrad, we are given the opportunity to let the light of Christ shine within our hearts each day. This is so that we can then radiate the love of God for others.

In that spirit of recollection, as I bring these remarks to a close, and because we are gathered here, I invite you to imagine with me for a moment, that this room is like the sunroom I mentioned earlier. Together we can see the warm light of God’s Kingdom shining forth in the midst of life, reminding us that we belong to God and that we belong in the Church. Here, in this place, we ponder about the salt and light of our own lives. Certainly, we are all here, in this place of salt and light for a reason. Overseers, make no mistake, I see your presence here as God’s way of bringing salt and light to the seminary. You are the salt that helps us get a taste for the concerns of the Church, and you help to draw out of us a full spirit of recollection.

Likewise, your presence sheds light on the lively needs of those whom we serve and will serve. Therefore, in this moment, it is my prayer, that together we may live the last part of that Gospel passage I read today. That in all things, our light may continue to shine before others, that they may see our good deeds, and rightly glorify our heavenly Father.