For this academic year at least, our lectures at the Pontifical Gregorian University are over and the exam period has begun. I have mixed feelings about entering the exam period because, like most things, it has its pros and cons.
During the exams, the normal seminary timetable is abandoned to give us more flexibility. It’s the formation staff’s way of acknowledging that during the exams, we students face more pressure and a more relaxed timetable could make all the difference.
I think it would be fair to say that having to wake up early is one of the least popular aspects of being in a seminary. We normally have our morning prayer at 6:45 am and this is immediately followed by mass. Those who hate getting up early in particular welcome the exam period because the more flexible timetable eliminates the need for early starts: the exam timetable gives us a choice of two masses to attend – one in the morning and one in the afternoon – and the communal morning prayer is also suspended (it is said in private instead).
Another great thing is that during the exam period, we are relieved of certain house duties such as setting up the refectory for breakfast – these are done by members of staff instead.
These are the pleasant things about the exam period. A less pleasant aspect is the sense of isolation it gives me. I live in a community and I am surrounded by people who are on the same boat, but ultimately I am on my own. Nobody can study for me and nobody can pass my exams for me. It is one of those occasions when only I can help myself. It feels that the tunnel that I have to journey under is long and dark, and that the light at the end of it takes a while to show.
How do I cope? By making time to still do the things I enjoy such as blogging and other creative pursuits. It goes without saying that taking time to pray is also important, as is doing something physical such as going out for a walk. I also constantly remind myself that exams do not last forever. The light at the end of the tunnel is there and it will eventually reveal itself.
Or, as one of my Theology professors would put it, there is no Resurrection without the Crucifixion.