Today marks the beginning of the 40 Hours celebrations at my alma mater, Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary outside of Philadelphia. The annual devotion allows the students, faculty and staff at Overbrook the opportunity to prayerfully reflect on their respective vocations as seminarians, teachers and faithful members of the Body of Christ.

The 40 Hours devotions were introduced to the United States by the 4th Bishop of Philadelphia, Saint John Neumann when he was the bishop of the Diocese of Philadelphia and they have continued without interruption ever since.

During my seminary education, the annual celebration of 40 Hours was a welcome respite from the rigors of academic life. It was an opportunity to spend time in prayerful reflection to ponder the great mystery of the Eucharist as well as celebrate the communal bond of prayer that united all of us as students.

Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary for almost 200 years has educated men for ministry to the Catholic priesthood. Admittedly, not all of us continued to ordination but the fraternity continues among all the Seminary’s illustrious alumni regardless of our vocations in life. Ranking perhaps at the top of memorable events from my college and graduate school education at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary is the annual celebration of 40 Hours which concluded with the patronal feast of Saint Charles Borromeo on November 4th.

Scores of students, potential priests and bishops have observed this Fall ritual at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary and it marks a sacred time of prayer, reflection and solitude to ponder one’s relationship with God, each other as brothers in faith and overall the Church. The days of Fall with longer nights, distant fragrances of leaves burning and the chill that permeates the air mark the days of 40 Hours devotions that allowed all of us to pause to celebrate the Eucharist as the fons of our lives, then and now in whatever occupation to which we are called.

The prayerful quiet permeates the entire campus at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary for 40 Hours and the opportunity to refresh ourselves spiritually is indeed welcome after academic mid-terms and pastoral assignments all take second place and yield to days and nights designated sacred to celebrate our faith in Christ Jesus and His Real Presence in the Eucharist.

While my own days at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary began forty years ago, I continue to observe these days as opportunities to reflect on my own personal faith, renew my love of the Eucharist and finally restore my commitment to pray for the Church and all of the clergy, especially my brothers in faith that shared the days of 40 Hours with me so many years ago.

While secular colleges and universities have annual homecoming celebrations, 40 Hours has always felt like the homecoming festivities at Overbrook when all the alumni were graciously welcome to worship and adore Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist, renew old friendships and recall days of our collective youth when we were in the choir stalls as students.

Our lives are often filled with the pressures of everyday life, deadlines, schedules and events that often frustrate us with regularity. The annual respite during 40 Hours at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary marks a departure from all these things and celebrates our faith, our many years of friendship with our fellow students, some are priests, some are bishops, many are engaged in activities not associated with Holy Orders, and some have gone to rest in the Lord. Regardless of where we are and whatever we have become, we share a common faith in Christ marked with our unitive relationship with our days at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary. The annual 40 Hours celebration is indeed the spiritual homecoming for all the alumni of Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary regardless of wherever we are and whatever vocation we are engaged.

Today’s students at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary as the spes ecclesia , the hope of the Church as her future deacons, priests and bishops. Take the great spiritual opportunity you have during the annual 40 Hours devotions and the patronal feast of Saint Charles Borromeo on November 4th to relax, pray and discern your personal vocations as potential ministers of the Church. Hopefully after experiencing many years of the annual 40 Hours devotions and celebrations of the patronal feast of Saint Charles Borromeo you will embody the motto of Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, “exiit qui seminat,” because you are both the seeds of future ministry and the potential sowers of faith for the People of God.

A prayerful and spiritual observance of 40 Hours and a joyous celebration of our seminary’s namesake, Saint Charles Borromeo to all of you. Prosit!

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