WADE ST. ONGE

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Part 5: Seminarians



V. SEMINARIANS and PRIESTLY TRAINING


Note: Though this generally addresses seminarians and priestly training, it also applies to the many kinds of pastoral training in the Church, to ongoing priestly formation and priestly qualities, to higher studies for other people in the Church (Theology, Philosophy), as well as “religious houses of study”: for women and men religious.


20. Priestly Life
- The seminarian must be prepared for the priesthood through immersion in priestly life, which includes training and experience in the evangelical counsels and virtues he must live out, as well as participation in the life of the Church and the World, which includes dialogue with non-Catholics.

A. Immersion in Priestly Life.  Priestly training must prepare the future priest by immersing him in priestly life, even in the seminary: "The whole pattern of seminary life, permeated with a desire for piety and silence and a careful concern for mutual help, must be so arranged that it provides, in a certain sense, an initiation into the future life which the priest shall lead” (OT11) – a life of prayer and apostolic activity. It is thus essential then that seminarians should be prepared by “be[ing] made clearly aware of the burdens they will be undertaking, and no problem of the priestly life is to be concealed from them” (OT9).

B. Evangelical Counsels. Three of the significant “burdens” are the promises of celibacy and obedience to their superior, as well as simplicity of life.

a. Celibacy. Regarding celibacy, seminarians must be taught to receive “gratefully” this “gift of celibacy” which they should “humbly pray [for] and generously respond to” (OT10), that this “burden” will become a blessing.
i. Chastity. However, seminarians must “be warned of the dangers that threaten their chastity, and helped by safeguards . . . that they may suffer . . . no harm from celibacy [and indeed] acquire a deeper mastery of soul and body” (OT10).
b. Obedience. As for obedience, seminarians must also “be formed in priestly obedience”, and strive to acquire an “internal attitude whereby they accept the authority of superiors from personal conviction and for supernatural reasons” (OT11), not just because “it’s the rules” or because they’ll “get in trouble”. Rather, they ought to obey because “they [are called to] bear witness to . . . unity” with the “Vicar of Christ” and “their own bishop”, in a “humble and trusting charity” and as a “faithful helper” (OT9).

c. Simplicity of Life. Finally, regarding simplicity, “seminarians should
. . . be formed . . . in a simple way of life and in the spirit of self-denial that they are accustomed to giving up willingly even those things which are permitted but are not expedient” (OT9). Thus even in the seminary they should begin to practice simplicity of life and hone that spirit of sacrifice.

C. Participation in the Life of the Church and the World. Even in the seminary, the “seminarians should learn to take part with a generous heart in the life of the whole Church” (OT9). Thus even before they are ordained, “seminarians should be imbued with that truly Catholic spirit which will accustom them to transcend the limits of their own diocese, nation, or rite, and to help the needs of the whole Church, prepared in spirit to preach the Gospel everywhere” (OT20).

D. Dialogue. Seminarians must dialogue with non-Catholics, non-Christians, and modern man.

a. Ecumenism. Thus, seminarians should be “educated in the ecumenical spirit, and duly prepared for fraternal dialogue with non – Christians” (AG16). In order to “contribute” to ecumenism, they must receive a “fuller understanding of the [non-Catholic] churches and ecclesial communities” (OT16).

b. Interreligious Dialogue. In order to contribute to inter-religious dialogue, they must be “introduced to a knowledge of other religions” in order that they may “acknowledge more correctly what truth and goodness [they] possess” as well as “learn to refute their errors and . . . communicate the full light of truth” to their adherents (OT16).

c. Modern Man. Finally, to all men, seminarians must develop “the ability to listen to others and to open their hearts and minds in the spirit of charity” in order that they may “dialogue with [them]” (OT19).
i. Bridging the Gap. In order to prepare for this dialogue with modern man, seminarians in their philosophical, theological, and pastoral training must first of all acquire an “acquaintance” and “appreciation” “of their own . . . culture”, then secondly study “the points of contact which mediate between . . . their homeland . . . and the Christian religion” (AG16).
ii. Pastoral Needs. Attention must also be given to their region’s “pastoral needs”, and they must “learn the history, aim, and method of the Church's missionary activity” as well as the “special . . . conditions of their own people”, which requires “association and living together with [them]” (OT16).


21. Pastoral Training and Dialogue
- The seminarian must chiefly be formed through pastoral training, in order that he may be a priest that will imitate Christ and His priesthood.

A. Pastoral End to all Priestly Training: in Imitation of Christ the Good Shepherd. Since the seminary is to produce shepherds of souls in imitation of Christ, “all the forms of training - spiritual, intellectual, disciplinary - are to be ordered with concerted effort towards this pastoral end” (OT4). Thus, “seminarians should be diligently instructed in pastoral training in the areas of catechesis and preaching, in liturgical worship and the administration of the sacraments, in works of charity, in assisting the erring and the unbelieving, and in the other pastoral functions” (OT19) – in short, everything.

a. Spiritual Direction and Apostolic Training. A great help in meeting this goal is “instruct[ion] in inspiring and fostering the apostolic activity of the laity and in promoting the . . . apostolate” (OT20), as well as “instruct[ion] in the art of directing souls”, which will help the future priest bring the faithful “to [an] apostolic Christian life and to the fulfillment of the duties of their state of life” (OT19).

b. Internships and Practicums. However, before ordination, seminarians should have opportunities to “hone” these skills through internships. “Seminarians [when being] initiated into pastoral work . . . by opportune practical projects [should] act on their own responsibility . . . and in . . . conjunction with others . . . under the leadership of men skilled in pastoral work” (OT20).
i. Duties for Interns. Their internships should be grounded in prayer (OT20) and be a time for “a more intense introduction to the spiritual life” as well as an “introduction to pastoral work” (OT12) – thus, a mix of spiritual development and pastoral training. Finally, priests also have administrative duties, and as such, should be “trained in ordinary ecclesiastical and financial administration” (AG16).


22. Spiritual Formation
- The seminarian must be given a thorough spiritual formation, consisting of a fruitful prayer and devotional life, saturated with Scripture and in Marian devotion, as well as a solid liturgical formation, all to achieve the goal of building a close and intimate relationship with Christ, which will issue itself forth through his fruits of service.

A. Relationship with Christ. The goal of the seminary program is simple: “The entire training of the students should be oriented to the formation of true shepherds of souls after the model of our Lord Jesus Christ, teacher, priest and shepherd” (OT4). Everything done and taught at seminary must keep this objective in the forefront.

a. Friendship with Christ. As a result, “seminarians, upon ordination, should be accustomed to adhere to Christ as friends, in an intimate companionship, and live His paschal mystery themselves that they can initiate into it the flock committed to them” (OT8).

b. Prayer and Evangelical Life. Furthermore, “seminarians should learn to live according to the Gospel ideal, to be strengthened in faith, hope and charity [the theological virtues], so that they may acquire the spirit of prayer, learn to defend and strengthen their vocation, obtain an increase of other virtues and grow in the zeal to gain all men for Christ” (OT8). Thus, in being “formed as shepherds”, priests should live the Gospel out in their own lives, excel in virtue, be men of deep and profound prayer, embrace their priesthood, and therefore be effective evangelists.

c. Holy Obedience and Service to the Poor. Finally, they “should [also] be taught to seek Christ . . . in the bishop who sends them and in the people to whom they are sent, especially the poor, the children, the sick,
the sinners and the unbelievers” (OT8).

d. Unity of Life. Thus, they shall “live in an intimate and unceasing union with the Father through His Son Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit” (OT8) – or, in other words, find their “unity of life”, especially with the help of their “spiritual director” (OT8), for their “spiritual life [should be] strengthened by the very pastoral work they do” (OT9).
i. Link to the Pastoral and Dogmatic; Integration of the Spiritual into Daily Life. It is essential, of course, that “the spiritual training should be closely connected with the doctrinal and pastoral” (OT8), so that what is taught is applied to and integrated into their own spiritual lives, for as we said, everything done and taught has its unity in Christ the Good Shepherd. Thus, “the whole training of the students should be planned in the light of the mystery of salvation as it is revealed in the Scriptures [which] they can discover and live in the liturgy” (AG16). Thus, what is studied leads to prayer, and prayer feeds back into study. It is a cycle, not two separate entities.

B. Prayer and Devotional Life.

a. Scripture. In their prayer and devotional lives, “daily reading of and meditating on” Scripture is essential (OT16), for in doing so, seminarians must be “prepared for the ministry of the word, understanding [Scripture] more perfectly, possessing it more firmly, expressing it in words and in example, for the ministry of worship and of sanctification [to bear more fruit] through the [Mass] and the sacraments”, evangelise more effectively, and perfect “humility” in priestly “service” (OT4), as well as “receiv[ing] . . . inspiration and nourishment” (OT16). It is through Scripture – the living Word of God – that this is possible, as outlined throughout Dei Verbum.

b. Liturgical Prayer and Participation. Besides meditation on Scripture, seminarians should “seek Christ . . . in the active participation in the [liturgy], especially in the Eucharist and in the divine office” (OT8). In order for seminarians to “understand” and “take part wholeheartedly” in the liturgy, seminarians personally need “to celebrate the sacred mysteries, as well as [certain] popular devotions” (SC17) themselves.

c. Private Prayer. Of course, “practices of piety [should be] cultivated”, but should not exercise a monopoly in “spiritual formation” or consist in mere “religious affectation” (OT8).

d. Marian Devotion. Besides feeding off the “two tables” (SC56) of Scripture and the Eucharist, “seminarians . . . should love and venerate with a filial trust the most blessed Virgin Mary” (OT8).

C. Liturgical Formation.

a. Liturgical Formation and Direction. There should be a “liturgical formation” and “direction”, in order that “they may be able to understand the sacred rites and take part in them wholeheartedly”, as well as “learn how to observe the liturgical laws”. Much of this presupposes the “need personally to celebrate the sacred mysteries, as well as [certain] popular devotions” (SC17).

b. Artistic Training. Seminarians should also be “taught about . . . sacred art, in order that they may “appreciate and preserve” Church art and “aid . . . artists” with “good advice” (SC129).

c. Sacred Music. “Great importance is to be attached to the teaching and practice of music in seminaries . . . and also in other Catholic institutions and schools. To impart this instruction, teachers are to be carefully trained and put in charge of the teaching of sacred music” (SC115).


23. Personal Formation
- Besides studies and pastoral formation, seminarians, to be effective in their ministry, must be given personal formation as well.  

A. Means and Ends. “The norms of Christian education are to be religiously observed and properly complemented by the newer findings of sound psychology and pedagogy so that a due human maturity be developed in seminarians, including stability of mind, an ability to make weighty decisions, a sound evaluation of men and events, formation in strength of character, and esteem for virtues such as sincerity of mind, a constant concern for justice, fidelity to one's promises, refinement in manners, and modesty in speech coupled with charity” (OT11). All of these personal qualities are necessary for the priesthood.

B. Discipline. Thus, the need for discipline, which must be “applied according to . . . age”, in order to “provide for the acquisition of self-mastery [and] maturity, and the development of the other dispositions of mind” so they may “use freedom wisely, to act spontaneously and energetically, and to work together harmoniously with [others]” (OT11).

Miscellaneous: Formation, Administration, Community, Minor Seminary

C. Nature of the Community. Relationship. “Under the rector's leadership teachers are to form a very closely knit community both in spirit and in activity and they are to constitute among themselves and with the students a kind of family that will develop in the students a deep joy in their own vocation” (OT5). Also, “the students should be conveniently divided into smaller groups so that a better provision is had for the personal formation of each” (OT7).

D. Administration and Teachers. “The administrators and teachers of seminaries are to be selected from the best men, and are to be carefully prepared” in “sound doctrine, suitable pastoral experience and special spiritual and pedagogical training,” which may require the setting up of “institutes” or at least “courses”, and must include occasional “meetings of seminary directors” (OT5).

E. Minor Seminary.

a. Formation and Direction. In minor seminaries, students should receive a “special religious formation”, especially “appropriate spiritual direction”,

b. Holiness and Sacrifice. . . . so they may acquire the “generosity” and “purity” necessary to be priests (OT3) – or in other words, holiness and a spirit of sacrifice.
c. Role of Parents and Formators. To this end, superiors and formators must give “fatherly” direction, and parents must “cooperate” (OT3).

d. Age Appropriate. Since “the daily routine of minor seminarians should be in accord with the [seminarian’s] age . . . stage of development [and according to a] healthy psychology”, the schedule must be structured accordingly (OT3).

e. Family and Social Contact. It is essential that “social and cultural contacts and . . . contact with one's own family” be provided for (OT3).

f. Studies. Regarding studies, they should consist of “humanistic and scientific training as a foundation for higher studies” (OT13), and their “studies [should be] arranged [so] that [students] can easily continue them elsewhere should they choose a different state of life” (OT3).

g. Dismissal from Seminary and Ensuing Guidance. And if they do choose another state, or if they are “not qualified for the priesthood [they] should be given sufficient direction and guided in a fatherly way to . . . eagerly embrace the lay apostolate” (OT6).


24. Teaching Methods; Philosophy; Theology
- Seminarians should be taught in such a way that the instruction itself will be formative (rather than a mere imparting of information), which includes a philosophy which is both practical and will prepare students for dialogue, and a scholastic and dynamic theology which one can apply not only to one’s spiritual life, but also to the many problems facing the world and issues in which the faith can and should be applied.

A. Methods.

a. Formation over Information. “Teaching methods” must be in harmony with the principle that “doctrinal training ought to tend not to a mere communication of ideas but to a true and intimate formation of the students” (OT17). Thus, the instruction should aim at forming the man into another Christ (alter Christus), not just impart a wealth of information and myriads of head knowledge. Thus, “an excessive multiplication of courses and lectures” must be avoided, as well as “questions which scarcely retain any importance or which ought to be referred to higher . . . studies” (OT17).

b. Introduction to Theology – Pastoral and Dynamic Orientation. Studies should begin with an “introductory course” presenting the “mystery of salvation” in such a way that seminarians “perceive the meaning, order, and pastoral end of their studies, and learn to penetrate their own entire lives with faith” (OT14). Thus, right from the beginning, seminarians should come to see the purpose of their studies – chiefly, the purpose of forming them into pastors and shepherds, as well as understand that their studies are to be integrated into their spiritual lives and help them grow deeper in Christ.

c. Interpenetration of Philosophy and Theology, and its
Christocentric Nature
. Furthermore, Philosophy and Theology should shed light on each other, and demonstrate how Jesus Christ “affects the human race, influences the Church, and is especially at work in the priestly ministry” (OT14).  Thus, Jesus must be the center which sheds light and meaning on all subject matter – which therefore has a profound effect on a priest’s priesthood.

d. Secular Methods. Finally, seminarians should be “taught to use the aids which . . . pedagogy, psychology, and sociology can provide” (OT20).

B. Philosophy.

a. Purpose. In the teaching of philosophy, students must be “led to acquire a solid and coherent knowledge of man, the world, and of God.” (OT15).

b. Practical Knowledge. Helpful to this end would be that “both ancient and modern philosophy . . . be taught, with an emphasis on philosophies which “exercise a greater influence in their own nations” (OT15), necessitating that students be led to draw the “connection between philosophy and the true problems of life” (OT15). Thus, philosophy must be very practical, being applicable to everyday problems and meeting the average person’s needs.  

c. Necessity for Dialogue. The main goal of philosophical study, therefore, is to bring students to an “understanding” of the “modern mind” in order to equip them for “dialogue with [modern] men” (OT15). To help meet this apologetic aim, students must be given a knowledge of “various [philosophical] systems” in order to “hold . . . to what is . . . true” and “detect the roots of errors and refute them” (OT15).

C. Theology.

a. Objectives (Four-Fold). The main objectives in the teaching of theology is four-fold: “[Theology] should be so taught that the students will correctly draw out Catholic doctrine from divine revelation, profoundly penetrate it, make it the food of their own spiritual lives, and be enabled to proclaim, explain, and protect it in their priestly ministry” (OT16).
i. Draw out Doctrine. Thus, students must first be able to see where Catholic doctrine is rooted in Scripture and Tradition and how it is drawn from them,
ii. Doctrinal Penetration. . . . and must secondly “penetrate” that doctrine – meaning, they must make it “fruitful” by drawing out its implications iii. Food for Spiritual Life. . . . and applying it to their own “spiritual lives”, as well as the lives of others and the problems and state of the world – which will help them “proclaim” that doctrine.
iv. Doctrinal Application. In doing so, they will “learn to seek the solutions to human problems under the light of revelation, to apply the eternal truths of revelation to the changeable conditions of human affairs and to communicate them in a way suited to men of our day” (OT16). This dialogue with modern man is, as it is in Philosophy, one of the chief ends of Theology.

b. Methods. Thus, teaching methods must be accordingly “revised”.
i. Use of Scripture. To this end, theology should be “renewed” by bathing it in the light of “the mystery of Christ and salvation history”, which is found most profoundly in Scripture. Therefore, students must be “formed with particular care in the study of the Bible which ought to be the soul of all theology, being first initiated carefully into the method of exegesis, then next to see the great themes of divine revelation” (OT16).
ii. Patristics, Dogmatic History, Thomism. Thus, in “dogmatic theology”, the “biblical themes” are presented first, followed by the “contribution” of the “Fathers of the . . . Church”, thirdly the “history of dogma”, and finally, the “penetrat[ion of] these truths . . . with the help of [Thomistic] speculation”.
iii. Practical Application. In doing so, the Church seeks the “interconnection” between the truths themselves and in the “entire life of the Church” (OT16). Thus, once again, Church teachings must be practical – applicable to the everyday life of the average man, as well as shed light on other teachings and show how it all relates and “fits together”.

c. Various Disciplines.
i. Moral Theology. Once again, we read that “moral theology” too should be “nourished more on the . . . Bible”, and should aim to “shed light” on the “loftiness of [the] call” of Christians and their “obligation . . . to bear fruit in charity for the life of the world” (OT16). Thus, the moral life is not about “rights” and “wrongs”, but about loving God and our neighbour and bringing “life” and light to the world.
ii. Canon Law, Church History. Both “canon law” and “church history” likewise should be bathed in the light of “the mystery of the Church” (OT16), or in other words, should show how canonical laws flow from and relate to Church teaching and to Christ and his teachings and how church history reinforce the truths the Church teaches us and continues the story of salvation as found in Scripture.
iii. Liturgy. Finally, liturgy – one of the “major courses”, should be “taught under its theological, historical, spiritual, pastoral, and juridical aspects” (SC16), which requires all “professors . . . [in] each of their own subjects, [to] bring out the connection between their subjects and the liturgy. . . . especially [in] dogmatic, spiritual, and pastoral theology and for those of Holy Scripture” (SC16).

d. Ecumenical Perspective. However, all “theology . . . must be taught with due regard for the ecumenical point of view, so that they may correspond more exactly with the facts . . . and not [be] polemical” (UR10), for in the past, some Catholic theology was “apologetic” – trying to explain how the Catholic Church was “right”, which was sometimes inaccurate and unfair.

D. Languages. It is “necessary” for seminarians to study the “liturgical language proper to [their] rite” and “Latin” - the language used in Church documents, while the study of Greek and Hebrew – the “languages of the Bible” are “encouraged” (OT13).

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