Many years ago, I came across a brief (four-page) pamphlet of rules for seminarians while on vacation. I found it in an old book while doing research on Catholic reactions to science in the 19th century. The pamphlet refers to students at St. Charles College of the Petit Seminaire (minor seminary) of St. Sulpice. St. Charles opened in 1848 in Maryland but was largely destroyed by fire in 1911.
There’s no date on the pamphlet. I was researching in books mainly from the 1850s and 1860s, so perhaps this is the best estimate for when this pamphlet was printed. It’s a fragile and interesting piece of Catholic history, so I thought I’d post the text here for other researchers, and for people who might be curious about the rules Catholic seminarians were expected to follow when they left the seminary on “vacation.” The text below shows a life of discipline that didn’t end when the student left the seminary; indeed, in the “wilderness” of real life, seminarians were warned to be on their guard as well as on their best behavior.
Manner of Spending the Vacation for the Students of St. Charles’ College, Petit Séminaire of St. Sulpice.
- Have a fixed hour of rising, never later than six o’clock; Morning Prayer; Meditation for a quarter of an hour at least, from some edifying book.
- Mass, if possible, every day.
- During the forenoon, the Little Hours of the Office of the Blessed Virgin.
- An hour or two of serious Study, according to the advice of your director.
- Read a Chapter of the New Testament before dinner, and make the Particular examen on the Virtue which you have proposed to yourself to acquire. Never be ashamed to say Grace before and after meals.
- Vespers and Complins. Pay a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, if the Church is not too distant.
- Recite Matins and Lauds either in the Church or whilst taking a walk; Beads; Spiritual Reading.
- Evening Prayers and Examination of Conscience. Retire to bed, as much as possible, at a fixed hour; and prepare the subject of meditation for the following day.
- Receive the Sacraments as often as in the Seminary. Their assistance is much more needed in the world. Have the same zeal for communion as when in the Seminary.
- On Sundays and Festivals assist in surplice with gravity and piety at the office of the Parish. If your services are required to serve Mass, do so in a pious and edifying manner. Do not speak in the sacristy without necessity; and then in a few words, and with a low voice.
- Show great respect for your Parish Priest; great deference for his salutary admonitions; and entire willingness to assist him, should he require your services. Seek the society of Ecclesiastics.
What is to be Observed.
The Religious duties prescribed above, in the Daily and Weekly Exercises. Habitual recourse to the Blessed Virgin, as Special Protectress of the Vacation. Fidelity to the laws of the Church.
Towards the Neighbor.
Towards All—Charity; Condescension; Politeness.
Towards Parents—Docility; Forwardness to oblige them; the most affectionate Respect.
Towards Brothers, Sisters, and Relatives—Be among them as an angel of peace.
Towards Strangers—Discretion; Reserve; Circumspection with the young; Avoid too great familiarity. If you can, do something for the poor.
Modesty; Simplicity; Avoid every appearance of haughtiness. In moments of difficulty have recourse to God and to the Blessed Virgin. Keep a strict guard over yourself, especially in the company of persons of a different sex. Moderate your curiosity. Avoid noisy conversation, loud laughter, and every thing contrary to clerical modesty. Before setting out on a journey say the “Itinerarium.”
What is to be Avoided.
- Be on your guard against Human Respect, and even sometimes against the improper counsels of your relatives. Hence you should show yourself from the beginning of the vacation to be such as God requires, and as you have promised to be.
- Avoid Idleness, the source of temptation and dangerous to all, but particularly to youth. In the beginning and at the end of the vacation, abstain from serious studies; those days should be spent in exercises of piety.
- Be not discouraged after a first fault. Should you neglect any of your duties, resolve to do better; and apply with new zeal to fulfill them. Should you be so unhappy as to fall into sin, go and confess immediately.
- Avoid—with extreme caution—bad company, dangerous reading, worldly entertainments and parties in which one is exposed to see, hear, or do what might wound conscience.
- Be resolute in refusing to be treated with better fare than is usual in the family, or with other attentions always out of place, which parents think themselves bound to show a son who is an ecclesiastic. Avoid spending some days at the home of a fellow seminarian, whose parents might be inconvenienced by your stay.
- Avoid, as well as in private as in public, all vanity and worldliness in dress, gesture, gait or conversation.
Review these rules occasionally by way of spiritual reading.
J.M.J. (Jesus, Mary, Joseph)