Formation is one of the buzzwords around Nashotah House. It’s what we do, and why we exist. It’s one of the things that differentiates Nashotah House from other Anglican Seminaries. Aside from our classical curriculum,which includes everything from Pastoral and Systematic Theology to Spirituality, Biblical Languages (both Greek and Hebrew are required), and field education in a local church, our day to day life together is intended to form our students as catholic priests, in the Anglican tradition. Day in and day out, the Eucharist and Daily Office are celebrated in St. Mary’s chapel. It has been said that you cannot worship there daily for three years without it changing you, without you absorbing the rhythms of the Christian year.
Each student and staff member is assigned a spot on our dining room rotation, serving the community by clearing tables and helping keep the refectory tidy and in decent order. Every week, we all serve for two hours in various tasks around campus; again, to serve our community. Some students will have janitorial responsibilities, while others will help to keep our grounds beautiful.
This is all an outgrowth of our benedictine spirituality. Ora et Labora, Work and Prayer together help to inhabit the ideal of the Christian Community. During the summer prior to their junior year, students read Saint Benedict’s Rule and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, both descriptions of Christian communities. To quote Bonhoeffer and Benedict,
“A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner.” (Bonhoeffer)
“The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.” (Bonhoeffer)
“Idleness is the enemy of the soul; and therefore the brethren ought to be employed in manual labor at certain times, at others, in devout reading.” (Benedict)
All of this has, as its purpose, the formation of the christian priest, intellectually and faithfully. Nashotah House alum regularly point to the formation they recieved here as being unique and critically important to their lives as priests. Our professor of Systematic Theology and rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Ashippun, Wisconsin, Fr. Tom Holtzen, has this to say about formation at Nashotah House:
‘The Catholic understanding of formation is that of habit (habitus)–we are shaped by what we do. This idea has roots in Aristotle’s notion that we become righteous by doing right actions. At Nashotah House we live our formation each and every day. There a line in the Nashotah House prayer that begins “Bless all who may be trained here . . .” As students we were taught to cross ourselves when we said that line. As a professor I still cross myself when I say that line. I do so, because every day I live and work at Nashotah House I know that I still am being formed here.’