Every night after dinner at St. John Paul II Seminary, a few of my brothers and I go to the St. Joseph common room. The common room is, in many ways, the heart of our friendships and fraternal life at the seminary. We gather there to watch movies, to play pool and foosball, and to celebrate at several parties throughout the year. On an average day, however, I head over to where we have a piano, drum set, and a few guitars. Sometimes I practice on my own; sometimes Isaiah is on the drums or Peter picks a mandolin. Playing music is a great way to take my mind off homework and to gain new appreciation for my favorite songs.
A few weeks ago, our director of spiritual formation, Fr. Chris Seith, gave a talk on St. Joseph, the patron saint of our common room. St. Joseph is often remembered as a hard worker, and he was. He worked hard so that Mary could be free to wonder at, behold, and adore Christ. But St. Joseph also knew how to play. He didn’t take himself too seriously, trying to live up to his own idea of masculinity. Instead, he let God lead the way. Fr. Seith reminded us that play does not have a “tense need to structure everything.” Spiritually, Joseph didn’t try to use his prayer to figure out what to do about Mary’s pregnancy – he let himself rest, and God gave him confidence. Joseph opened himself up to adventure and creativity and allowed God to lead him to Egypt to keep his family safe. St. Joseph’s life wasn’t perfectly structured to do the most efficient work. As a result, he was able to be open to God’s work, and God turned him into a great man and a great saint.
I have seen God work through my play as well. Practicing music in the common room, my brothers and I challenge and encourage each other, and we all grow in our talents. Recently, a few seminarians and I played live music for students at a campus ministry event at Catholic University. Through classics like John Denver and new favorites from the Hillbilly Thomists, we were able to share our joy with our fellow students. We didn’t practice for more than a few minutes for that specific event, but the hours of play in the common room had prepared us for God to work through us and give his people the beauty of music. The gift of the St. Joseph common room has opened me up to the power of play – when we stop working for ourselves, we allow God to work through us and to show his love.
Mr. Riordon is a College III seminarian for the Archdiocese of Washington.