Jesus Caritas: A Deeper Look

by Emmanuelle del Castillo 

Once a month, seminarians get into their Jesus Caritas groups and set aside academics for this time.  Groups consist of a diocese or a group of seminarians from different dioceses.  Jesus Caritas nights start with having dinner with the group members, followed by evening prayer, lectio divina, a review of life afterwards, and finally night prayer.

Jesus Caritas is actually a Latin motto, which is translated as Jesus loves, from Blessed Charles de Foucauld.  Father Richard Keolker, a spiritual director at Mount Angel Seminary, said, "It [Jesus Caritas] is a wonderful way that many priests have found to be able to share with a deep and profound level their love for the Gospel."

An important aspect of Jesus Caritas is that whatever is shared among the group members stays within the group members.  Many seminarians would compare it to the seal of confession, as priests would not dare to share one's confession with another person.  Matthew Olsen of the Diocese of Fresno said, "Sure, you can have a bunch of your friends and share your troubles, but with that 'seal' you are assured that nothing of your words would be known except by those in your group."  With that seal, personal information will not be released to the outside. 
 
Lectio divina is a spiritual reflection on Scripture.  The seminarians reflect on the Gospel of the upcoming Sunday.  According to Father Keolker, Charles de Foucauld used to say, "Cry the Gospel with your life!"  With lectio divina, participants focus on the Scriptures, especially the Gospels.  Aristotle Quan of the Diocese of Orange said, "It is good to see different viewpoints of the Gospels."

The review of life is one of the activities of a Jesus Caritas group and the main reason for the vow of secrecy.  Emmanuel Sanchez, who is also from the Diocese of Orange, said, "We usually keep our problems in our head...by saying your problems out loud, we acknowledge that we have a problem or two, we are open to each other's suggestions."
 
First impressions of Jesus Caritas were unenthusiastic for some seminarians.  As the academic year progressed, the seminarians interviewed for this article learned of a need for it.  Matthew Olsen said that he "never had something like this" at his last seminary.  Father Keolker and seminarians interviewed for this article highly recommended that each diocese have Jesus Caritas meetings.
 
Jesus Caritas is part of the spiritual pillar of Mount Angel Seminary's priestly formation.  The other three pillars are the intellectual, human, and pastoral pillars.