APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION
of
POPE JOHN PAUL II
  PASTORES DABO VOBIS
March 25, 1992
 


 9. THE YOUNG and the GIFT of SELF in PRIESTHOOD

 29. CELIBACY AND THE GIFT OF SELF


POST-SYNODAL APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION
PASTORES DABO VOBIS
(I W
ILL GIVE YOU SHEPHERDS)
TO THE BISHOPS, CLERGY AND FAITHFUL

IOANNIS PAULI PP. II SUMMI PONTIFICIS ADHORTATIO APOSTOLICA POSTSYNODALIS PASTORES DABO VOBIS
AD EPISCOPOS, SACERDOTES ET CHRISTIFIDELES TOTIUS CATHOLICAE ECCLESIAE

ON THE FORMATION of PRIESTS
in
THE CIRCUMSTANCES
of
THE PRESENT DAY

DE SACERDOTUM FORMATIONE
IN AETATIS NOSTRAE
RERUM CONDICIONE

INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCTIO

1. “I will give you shepherds after my own heart” (Jer. 3:15).

Venerabiles Fratres ac dilecti Filii et Filiae,
salutem et Apostolicam Benedictionem

1. «Pastores dabo vobis iuxta cor meum».1

In these words from the prophet Jeremiah, God promises his people that he will never leave them without shepherds to gather them together and guide them: “I will set shepherds over them [my sheep] who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed (Jer. 23.4).

Per haec Ieremiae prophetae verba promittit Deus populo suo nunquam se illum sine pastoribus relicturum qui eundem colligant ac ducant: «Et suscitabo super eos id est super oves meas pastores, et pascent eos; non formidabunt ultra et non pavebunt».2

The Church, the People of God, constantly experiences the reality of this prophetic message and continues joyfully to thank God for it. She knows that Jesus Christ himself is the living, supreme and definitive fulfillment of God’s promise: “I am the good shepherd” (Jn. 10:11). He, “the great shepherd of the sheep” (Heb. 13:20), entrusted to the apostles and their successors the ministry of shepherding God’s flock (cf. Jn. 21:15ff.; 1 Pt. 5:2).

Ecclesia, Dei populus, huius prophetici nuntii effectionem indesinenter experta, gratias Domino perpetuo laetanter agit, probe sciens ipsum Christum Iesum esse viventem, supremam ac definitivam huius Dei promissionis impletionem: qui enim asseruit: «Ego sum pastor bonus»,3 ipse, pastor magnus ovium,4 apostolis eorumque successoribus ministerium concredidit gregem Dei pascendi.5

Without priests the Church would not be able to live that fundamental obedience which is at the very heart of her existence and her mission in history, an obedience in response to the command of Christ: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19) and “Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk. 22:19; cf. 1 Cor. 11.24), i.e:, an obedience to the command to announce the Gospel and to renew daily the sacrifice of the giving of his body and the shedding of his blood for the life of the world.

Ceterum nunquam sine sacerdotibus potest Ecclesia ad effectum adducere praecipuam illam oboedientiam, quae penitus insita est in ipsa eius exsistentia atque in eius missione erga hominum historiam; eam nempe oboedientiam erga Iesu mandatum: «Euntes ergo, docete omnes gentes» 6 et «hoc facite in meam commemorationem»;7 id est iussum Evangelii nuntiandi et sacrificium sui corporis, pro nobis traditi, necnon sanguinis sui, pro mundi salute effusi, quotidie renovandi.

By faith we know that the Lord’s promise cannot fail. This very promise is the reason and force underlying the Church’s rejoicing at the growth and increase of priestly vocations now taking place in some parts of the world. It is also the foundation and impulse for a renewed act of faith and fervent hope in the face of the grave shortage of priests which is being felt in other parts of the world. Everyone is called upon to share complete trust in the unbroken fulfillment of God’s promise, which the synod fathers expressed in clear and forceful terms: “The synod, with complete trust in the promise of Christ who has said: ‘Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age’ (Mt. 28:20), and aware of the constant activity of the Holy Spirit in the Church, firmly believes that there will never be a complete lack of sacred ministers in the Church.... Even though in a number of regions there is a scarcity of clergy, the action of the Father, who raises up vocations, will nonetheless always be at work in the Church.”[1]

Per fidem nobis innotuit promissionem Domini non posse deficere. Haec ipsa promissio ratio est ac vis, quae laetificat Ecclesiam florentibus atque increbrescentibus vocationibus sacerdotalibus, quae alicubi hodie suscitantur, pariterque fundamentum est et stimulus ad maioris fidei et acrioris spei actum prae gravi sacerdotum penuria, quae in aliis mundi plagis persentitur. Advocamur omnes ut participemus plenam fiduciam, Dei promissionis continuae impletionis, quam synodales Patres perspicue atque fortiter testati sunt: «Synodus cum plena fide in promissione Christi qui dixit: “Ecce ego vobiscum sum omnibus diebus usque ad consummationem saeculi”,8 atque conscia actionis constantis Spiritus Sancti in Ecclesia, firmiter credit non solum indefectibilitatem Ecclesiae sed etiam omnia quae in illa implicantur indefectibilitate... Sacerdotes nunquam in Ecclesia deficient... Deus nunquam christianos viros ad sacerdotium vocare desinet. Firmiter proinde credamus oportet, etiamsi in variis regionibus clerus deficiat, non proinde actionem Patris, cuius est vocationes suscitare, esse unquam cessaturam».9

At the conclusion of the synod, I said that in the face of a crisis of priestly vocations “the first answer which the Church gives lies in a total act of faith in the Holy Spirit. We are deeply convinced that this trusting abandonment will not disappoint if we remain faithful to the graces we have received.”[2]

Ut ipsi in concludenda Synodo, de vocationum sacerdotalium penuria agentes, asseruimus: «At prima quam Ecclesia profert responsio invenitur in plena Spiritui Sancto fidenti adhaesione. Pro certo habemus eiusmodi sui ipsius destitutionem non inducere in errorem, dummodo sane praebeamus nos in gratiam acceptam fideles».10

2. To remain faithful to the grace received! This gift of God does not cancel human freedom; instead it gives rise to freedom, develops freedom and demands freedom.

2. In recepta gratia fideles permanere, Dei enim donum hominis libertatem non delet, sed exsuscitat, auget, exigit.

For this reason, the total trust in God’s unconditional faithfulness to his promise is accompanied in the Church by the grave responsibility to cooperate in the action of God who calls, and to contribute toward creating and preserving the conditions in which the good seed, sown by God, can take root and bring forth abundant fruit. The Church must never cease to pray to the Lord of the harvest that he send laborers into his harvest, (cf. Mt. 9:38). She must propose clearly and courageously to each new generation the vocational call, help people to discern the authenticity of their call from God and to respond to it generously, and give particular care to the formation of candidates for the priesthood.

Ideo plena fiducia immutabilis fidelitatis erga Dei promissionem sociatur in Ecclesia cum gravi responsalitate cooperandi actioni Dei vocantis atque cum eo conferendi in constituendis et servandis condicionibus in quibus bonum semen, a Deo sparsum, et profundas iaciat radices et fructus copiosos ferat. Cessare enim nunquam potest Ecclesia Dominum messis ut operarios in messem suam mittat rogare,11 neque abstinere a proponendo futurae praesertim progeniei perspicuo ac animoso vocationis amplectendae studio: quam deinceps iuvabit ut veritatem Dei vocantis discernat eique magnanimiter respondeat; peculiarem adhibere curam de formatione candidatorum ad presbyteratum.

The formation of future priests, both diocesan and religious, and lifelong assiduous care for their personal sanctification in the ministry and for the constant updating of their pastoral commitment is considered by the Church one of the most demanding and important tasks for the future of the evangelization of humanity.

Futurorum namque sacerdotum formatio tum dioecesanorum tum religiosorum et assidua cura per integrum vitae cursum protrahenda, in ipsorum tendens sanctificationem personalem in ministerio et per continuam renovationem in ipsorum pastorali navitate operandam, habetur ab Ecclesia unum ex muneribus maioris momenti atque difficultatis ad futuram generis humani evangelizationem.

The Church’s work of formation is a continuation in time of Christ’s own work, which the evangelist Mark illustrates in these words: “And he went up on the mountain, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons” (Mk. 3:13-15).

Hoc formativum Ecclesiae opus aliud non est nisi temporalis continuatio illius Christi operis, quod evangelista Marcus his verbis describit: «Et ascendit in montem et vocat ad se, quos voluit ipse, et venerunt ad eum. Et fecit Duodecim, ut essent cum illo et ut mitteret eos praedicare, habentes potestatem eiciendi daemonia».12

It can be said that through her work of forming candidates to the priesthood and priests themselves, the Church throughout her history has continued to live this passage of the Gospel in various ways and with varying intensity. Today, however, the Church feels called to relive with a renewed commitment all that the Master did with his apostles - urged on as she is by the deep and rapid transformations in the societies and culture of our age; by the multiplicity and diversity of contexts in which she announces the Gospel and witnesses to it; by the promising number of priestly vocations being seen in some dioceses around the world; by the urgency of a new look at the contents and methods of priestly formation; by the concern of bishops and their communities about a persisting scarcity of clergy; and by the absolute necessity that the “new evangelization” have priests as its initial “new evangelizers.”

Affirmari potest hanc Evangelii paginam Ecclesiam semper historiae, etsi ratione et intensitate varia, aptasse per opus formativum quod candidatis ad presbyteratum et presbyteris ipsis applicuit. Hodie autem Ecclesia animadvertit vocari sese ad iterandum quod Magister ipse in Apostolis suis fecit, idque nova quadam sollicitudine, prout expostulant profundiores illae ac velociores mutationes quae societatem et culturam nostri temporis afficiunt, necnon pro multiplicitate ac varietate contextuum in quibus Evangelium nuntiat ac testatur pro ipso incremento vocationum sacerdotalium in quibusdam mundi dioecesibus pro urgentiore necessitate perpendendi tum methodos tum etiam argumenta formationis sacerdotalis; pro Episcoporum et communitatum sollicitudine ob diuturnam presbyterorum penuriam; denique pro ipsa necessitate absoluta «novae cuiusdam evangelizationis», quae secum fert ut reperiantur quoque inter presbyteros «novi Evangelii praecones seu evangelizatores».

It is precisely in this cultural and historical context that the last ordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops took place. Dedicated to “the formation of priests in circumstances of the present day,” its purpose was to put into practice the Council’s teaching on this matter, making it more up - to - date and incisive in present circumstances, twenty - five years after the Council itself.[3]

In hoc ipso contextu historico et culturali versatus est recentior Coetus generalis ordinarius Synodi Episcoporum, qui egit de «formatione sacerdotum in hodiernis adiunctis», eo quidem consilio ut annis post quinque et viginti ab absoluto Concilio, doctrinam conciliarem de eodem argumento compleret, normasque reperiret temporibus nostris aptiores atque fortiores.13

3. Following the texts of the Second Vatican Council regarding the ministry of priests and their formation,[4] and with the intention of applying to various situations their rich and authoritative teaching, the Church has on various occasions dealt with the subject of the life, ministry and formation of priests She has done this in a more solemn way during the Synods of Bishops. Already in October 1967, the first general ordinary assembly of the synod devoted five general congregations to the subject of the renewal of seminaries. This work gave a decisive impulse to the formulation of the document of the Congregation for Catholic Education titled Fundamental Norms for Priestly Formation.[5]

3. Concilii Vaticani II placita continuans circa presbyterorum ordinem et eorum formationem,14 et volens ad praxim deducere uberem et gravem doctrinam pro variis rerum condicionibus, Ecclesia aggressa saepius est quaestiones quae presbyterorum vitam, ministerium et formationem attingunt Occasiones praecipue exstiterunt varii Episcoporum Synodorum Coetus. Inde a primo Coetu generali, mense Octobri anno 1967 celebrato, Synodus per quinque congregationes generales tractavit de seminariorum renovatione. Is labor vim maximam habuit in exarandum documentum Congregationis pro Educatione Catholica, cui titulus: «Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis».15.

The second ordinary general assembly held in 1971 spent half its time on the ministerial priesthood. The fruit of the lengthy synodal discussion, incorporated and condensed in some “recommendations,” which were submitted to my predecessor Pope Paul VI and read at the opening of the 1974 synod, referred principally to the teaching on the ministerial priesthood and to some aspects of priestly spirituality and ministry.

Sed praesertim in sacerdotium ministeriale Coetus generalis ordinarius anni 1971 incubuit, qui dimidium laborum suorum tempus in hac quaestione consumpsit. Huius diuturnae tractationis fructus, «commendationes» relatae ad Decessorem Nostrum Papam Paulum VI, quae lectae sunt in aperta Synodo anno 1974, respiciebant praecipue ad doctrinam ipsam sacerdotii ministerialis, atque ad nonnullos aspectus spiri- tualitatis et ministerii sacerdotalis.

On many other occasions the Church’s magisterium has shown its concern for the life and ministry of priests. It may be said that in the years since the Council there has not been any subject treated by the magisterium which has not in some way, explicitly or implicitly, had to do with the presence of priests in the community as well as their role and the need for them in the life of the Church and the world.

Alias etiam occasiones nactum Ecclesiae magisterium perrexit testari suam sollicitudinem de presbyterorum vita et ministerio. Affirmare licet annis Concilium secutis nullum fuisse Magisterii interventum, quin ratione quadam pertinuerit ad sensum praesentiae presbyterorum in ecclesiali communitate, ad eorum munus ac necessitatem pro Ecclesia et pro mundi vita.

In recent years some have voiced a need to return to the theme of the priesthood, treating it from a relatively new point of view, one that was more adapted to present ecclesial and cultural circumstances. Attention has shifted from the question of the priest’s identity to that connected with the process of formation for the priesthood and the quality of priestly life. The new generation of those called to the ministerial priesthood display different characteristics in comparison to those of their immediate predecessors. In addition, they live in a world which in many respects is new and undergoing rapid and continual evolution. All of this cannot be ignored when it comes to programming and carrying out the various phases of formation for those approaching the ministerial priesthood.

Recentioribus vero hisce annis necessitas e permultis partibus percepta erat repetendi quaestionem de sacerdotio, novo quodam modo illam tractando rationeque quadam magis aptata hodiernis circumstantiis ecclesialibus et culturalibus. Attentio nempe alio directa est: non ad sacerdotis sic dictam «identitatem», sed ad quaestiones quae eiusdem ad sacerdotium iter formativum respiciunt, necnon ad vitae qualitates quae presbyterum decent. Namque hodiernorum candidatorum ad sacerdotium ministeriale nova progenies, si eosdem cum vicinioribus praedecessoribus compares, qualitates haud parum diversas prae se ferunt, respectu ad decessorum quippe qui in mundo vivant saepe diverso atque celerrima evolutione sese mutante. Quarum condicionum nemo non videt habendam esse rationem tum in delineandis tum in persequendis itinerariis educativis, quae eosdem ad ministeriale sacerdotium perducant.

Moreover, priests who have been actively involved in the ministry for a more or less lengthy period of time seem to be suffering today from an excessive loss of energy in their ever increasing pastoral activities. Likewise, faced with the difficulties of contemporary culture and society, they feel compelled to re - examine their way of life and their pastoral priorities, and they are more and more aware of their need for ongoing formation.

Ii autem presbyteri, qui longioribus temporis spatiis in exercitium ministeriale incubuerunt, virium quadam dispersione laborare videntur increbrescentibus continuo pastoralis navitatis formis: et adversus novae socialis consortionis necnon novae culturae necessitates inducuntur ad recensendas proprias vivendi et laborandi rationes, ad perquirendos primatus munerum pastoralium, dum persentiunt maiorem in dies necessitatem «formationis permanentis».

The concern of the 1990 Synod of Bishops and its discussion focused on the increase of vocations to the priesthood and the formation of candidates in an attempt to help them come to know and follow Jesus - as they prepare to be ordained and to live the sacrament of holy orders, which configures them to Christ the head and shepherd, the servant and spouse of the Church. At the same time, the synod searched for forms of ongoing formation to provide realistic and effective means of support for priests in their spiritual life and ministry.

In Coetu Synodali Episcoporum anno 1990 acto, disceptationes et meditationes factae sunt de augendis vocationibus ad presbyteratum, de candidatorum formatione, ut pernoscant et sequantur Christum, se parantes ad ordinis sacramentum celebrandum et colendum, quod eos conformes reddit Christo Capiti et Pastori, Servo et Sponso Ecclesiae; et per inventa nova formationis permanentis itinera, ad navitatem ministerialem efficaciorem assequendam ac spiritualitatem sacerdotalem vividiorem.

This same synod also sought to answer a request which was made at the previous synod on the vocation and mission of the laity in the Church and in the world. Lay people themselves had asked that priests commit themselves to their formation so that they, the laity, could be suitably helped to fulfill their role in the ecclesial mission which is shared by all. Indeed, “the more the lay apostolate develops, the more strongly is perceived the need to have well - formed holy priests. Thus the very life of the People of God manifests the teaching of the Second Vatican Council concerning the relationship between the common priesthood and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood. For within the mystery of the Church the hierarchy has a ministerial character (cf. Lumen Gentium, 10). The more the laity’s own sense of vocation is deepened, the more what is proper to the priest stands out.”[6]

Haec eadem Synodus respondere intendebat praecedentis Coetus optatis, de laicorum vocatione et missione in Ecclesia et in mundo. Ipsi laici presbyterorum curam ad suam formationem promovendam postulaverant, ut ipsimet laici ab eisdem opportunius in communi explenda missione assumerentur. Etenim «quo magis laicorum apostolatus augetur, eo magis animadvertitur necessitas habendi sacerdotes, et quidem sacerdotes bene formatos, sacerdotes sanctos. Ita ipsa vita Populi Dei ostendit doctrinam Concilii Vaticani II de necessitudine sacerdotii communis cum sacerdotio ministeriali et hierarchico: etenim in mysterio Ecclesiae hierarchia naturam habet ministerialem.16 Quo altius perdiscitur vocatio laicorum propria, melius apparet id, quod est sacerdotis proprium».17

4. In the ecclesial experience that is typical of the synod (i.e., “a unique experience on a universal basis of episcopal communion, which strengthens the sense of the universal Church and the sense of responsibility of the bishops toward the universal Church and her mission, in affective and effective communion around Peter”),[7] the voice of the various particular churches - and in this synod, for the first time, the voices of some churches from the East - were clearly heard and taken to heart. The churches have proclaimed their faith in the fulfillment of God’s promise: “I will give you shepherds after my own heart” (Jer. 3:15), and they have renewed their pastoral commitment to care for vocations and for the formation of priests - aware that on this depends the future of the Church, her development and her universal mission of salvation.

4. In ea autem experientia ecclesiali, Synodi propria, quae est «peculiaris experientia communionis episcopalis in universalitate, quae sensum confirmat universalis Ecclesiae, Episcoporum responsalitatem erga universam Ecclesiam eiusque munus, in communione adfectiva et effectiva circa Petrum»,18 exaudita est, clara et accurata, vox diversarum Ecclesiarum particularium, atque in hac Synodo primum voces quarundam Ecclesiarum Orientalium quae suam conclamaverunt fidem Dei explendae promissioni tribuendam: «Dabo vobis pastores iuxta cor meum»;19 pariterque sedulitatem suam pastoralem renovarunt de vocationum cura ac de presbyterorum formatione, persuasum habentes Ecclesiae futura simulque eius incrementum ac universalis salutis missionem ex his pendere.

In this post - synodal apostolic exhortation, I take up anew the rich legacy resulting from the reflections, endeavors and indications which were made during the synod’s preparation, as well as those which accompanied the work of the synod fathers, and as the bishop of Rome and successor of Peter I add my voice to theirs - addressing it to each and every one of the faithful, and in particular to each priest and to those involved in the important yet demanding ministry of their formation. Yes, in this exhortation l wish to meet with each and every priest, whether diocesan or religious.

Nunc ad hanc Adhortationem Apostolicam quae Synodum sequitur multas repetentes meditationes, consilia et monita quae labores Patrum synodalium praeparaverunt et comitata sunt, Nostram Romani Episcopi atque Petri Successoris vocem aliis adiungimus, qua corda omnium ac singulorum christifidelium alloquimur, praesertim vero presbyterorum corda et eorum omnium qui operam navant difficili eorum formationis ministerio. Obviam utique Nos offerre cupimus omnibus et singulis presbyteris, dioecesanis ac religiosis, hanc Adhortationem.

Quoting from the “Final Message of the Synod to the People of God,” I make my own the words and the sentiments expressed by the synod fathers: “Brother priests, we want to express our appreciation to you, who are our most important collaborators in the apostolate. Your priesthood is absolutely vital. There is no substitute for it. You carry the main burden of priestly ministry through your day - to - day service of the faithful. You are ministers of the Eucharist and ministers of God’s mercy in the sacrament of penance. It is you who bring comfort to people and guide them in difficult moments in their lives.

Pariter ora et corda Patrum Synodalium in usum Nostrum convertimus, haec verba extremi nuntii Synodi ad Populum Dei: «Animo grato et admiratione pleno vos alloquimur tanquam primos adiutores servitii nostri apostolici. Opus vestrum in Ecclesia vere necessarium est et substitui non potest. Vos portatis pondus ministerii sacerdotalis atque contactum directum cum fidelibus habetis. Vos Eucharistiae estis ministri, misericordiae divinae in Paenitentiae sacramento dispensatores, animarum consolatores, omnium fidelium in procella difficultatum vitae hodiernae duces.

“We acknowledge your work and thank you once again, urging you to continue on your chosen path willingly and joyfully. No one should be discouraged as we are doing God’s work; the same God who calls us, sends us and remains with us every day of our lives. We are ambassadors of Christ.”[8]

Toto ergo corde vos salutatos volumus, gratitudinem nostram vobis exprimimus vosque hortamur ut in hac via perseveretis laeto et prom- pto animo. Ne sinatis vos deprimi. Opus nostrum non nostrum, sed Domini est. Qui nos vocavit et mittit, nobiscum est omnibus diebus vitae nostrae. Pro Christo enim legatione fungimur».20

CHAPTER I

CAPUT I

CHOSEN FROM AMONG ME
The Challenges Facing Priestly Formation
at the Conclusion of the Second Millennium

EX HOMINIBUS ASSUMPTUS
Institutio sacerdotalis adversus provocationes secundi millennii exeuntis

The Priest in His Time

 

5. “Every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God” (Heb. 5:1).

5. «Omnis pontifex ex hominibus assumptus pro hominibus constituitur in his quae sunt ad Deum».21

The Letter to the Hebrews clearly affirms the “human character” of God’s minister he comes from the human community and is at its service, imitating Jesus Christ “who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:1s)?.

Epistula ad Hebraeos perspicue asserit ministri Dei «humanitatem»; is enim ab hominibus et in hominum servitium assumitur, ipsum Christum Iesum imitans, «temptatum per omnia secundum similitudinem absque peccato».22

God always calls his priests from specific human and ecclesial contexts, which inevitably influence them; and to these same contexts the priest is sent for the service of Christ’s Gospel.

Deus sacerdotes suos vocat ex definitis humanis et ecclesialibus contextibus, quorum designantur notis necessario et ad quos in Christi Evangelii servitium mittuntur.

For this reason the synod desired to “contextualize” the subject of priests, viewing it in terms of today’s society and today’s Church in preparation for the third millennium. This is indicated in the second part of the topic’s formulation: “The formation of priests in the circumstances of the present day.”

Propterea Synodus sacerdotii argumentum «pro contextibus tractavit», illud in praesentibus societatis et Ecclesiae constituens, atque ad prospectum aperiens tertii millennii, sicut ceteroqui patet ex ipsa argumenti formula: «De formatione sacerdotali in hodiernis adiunctis».

Certainly “there is an essential aspect of the priest that does not change: the priest of tomorrow, no less than the priest of today, must resemble Christ. When Jesus lived on this earth, he manifested in himself the definitive role of the priestly establishing a ministerial priesthood with which the apostles were the first to be invested. This priesthood is destined to last in endless succession throughout history. In this sense the priest of the third millennium will continue the work of the priests who, in the preceding millennia, have animated the life of the Church. In the third millennium the priestly vocation will continue to be the call to live the unique and permanent priesthood of Christ.”[9] It is equally certain that the life and ministry of the priest must also “adapt to every era and circumstance of life.... For our part we must therefore seek to be as open as possible to light from on high from the Holy Spirit, in order to discover the tendencies of contemporary society, recognize the deepest spiritual needs, determine the most important concrete tasks and the pastoral methods to adopt, and thus respond adequately to human expectations.”[10]

Exsistit sane «quaedam sacerdotalis essentialis imago, quae mutari nequit, cum sacerdos, tam ille quem pro crastino desideramus quam ille qui hodie est, uni Christo assimilari debeat. Christus enim dum in terris vixit, in semetipso exhibuit definitivum presbyteri vultum seu imaginem, ita configurans sacerdotium ministeriale, quod apostoli induere properarunt; idemque destinatum erat per saecula durare, singulis historiae periodis incessanter reproducendum. Presbyter ergo tertii millennii erit hoc sensu continuator presbyterorum qui praecedentibus saeculis Ecclesiae vitam propagarunt. Adeo ut sacerdotalis vocatio, etiam post annum bismillesimum, eadem perstatura sit, vocatio scilicet ad vivendum unicum et permanens Christi sacerdotium».23 Pariter presbyteri tum vita tum ministerium, «aptentur necesse est et temporibus et aliis vitae realis adiunctis... Unde, quoad conatus nostros pertinet, enitamur oportet ut, superno Spiritus Sancti lumini expositi, praecipue dispiciamus quo nostris temporibus societas portendat, qualesque sint profundiores eiusdem spirituales exigentiae; caute item decernamus quaenam sint potiora, eaque concretiora, munera; reperiamus denique quaenam pastorales navitates adhibendae sint, donec tandem responsum nostrum adaequate hominum indigentiis coaptetur».24

With the duty of bringing together the permanent truth of the priestly ministry and the characteristic requirements of the present day, the synod fathers sought to respond to a few necessary questions: What are the positive and negative elements in socio - cultural and ecclesial contexts which affect boys, adolescents and young men who throughout their lives are called to bring to maturity a project of priestly life? What difficulties are posed by our times, and what new possibilities are offered for the exercise of a priestly ministry which corresponds to the gift received in the sacrament and the demands of the spiritual life which is consistent with it?

Cum deberent perennem ministerii veritatem necessitatibus ac proprietatibus huius aetatis aptare, Patres Synodales conati quidem sunt respondere quibusdam necessariis quaestionibus: scilicet, quae problemata, atque eodem tempore, quos utiles stimulos suscitat hodiernus contextus socialis, culturalis et ecclesialis, in pueris et adulescentibus, quibus est in animis volvendum consilium de vita sacerdotali eligenda in omne tempus duratura? Quas difficultates quasque novas facultates praebet nostra aetas ad exercendum ministerium sacerdotale quod congruat cum dono suscepti sacramenti et simul cum postulatis vitae spiritualis eidem consentaneae?

I now mention some comments taken from the synod fathers’ analysis of the situation - fully aware that the great variety of socio - cultural and ecclesial circumstances in different countries limits by necessity our treatment to only the most evident and widespread phenomena, particularly those relating to the question of education and priestly formation.

Ad quaedam nunc nos elementa revocemus indagationis de rerum condicione, quam Patres synodales effecerunt; sed bene nobis conscii permagnam varietatem adiunctorum socialium, culturalium et ecclesialium, quae in diversis nationibus sunt, suadere ut nonnisi communia quaedam et maioris momenti phaenomena significemus, praesertim quae ad educationem vel institutionem presbyterorum respiciant.

The Gospel Today: Hopes and Obstacles

 

6. A number of factors seem to be working toward making people today more deeply aware of the dignity of the human person and more open to religious values, to the Gospel and to the priestly ministry.

6. Multae res hodie in hominibus acriorem conscientiam videntur fovere dignitatis personae et novam apertionem ad religionis valores, ad Evangelium et sacerdotale ministerium.

Despite many contradictions, society is increasingly witnessing a powerful thirst for justice and peace; a more lively sense that humanity must care for creation and respect nature; a more open search for truth; a greater effort to safeguard human dignity; a growing commitment in many sectors of the world population to a more specific international solidarity and a new ordering of the world in freedom and justice. Parallel to the continued development of the potential offered by science and technology and the exchange of information and interaction of cultures, there is a new call for ethics, that is, a quest for meaning - and therefore for an objective standard of values which will delineate the possibilities and limits of progress.

In ipsa societate, quamvis multa sint secum pugnantia, largiorem et fortiorem invenimus iustitiae et pacis sitim, vividiorem sensum curae hominis de mundo deque cultu rerum naturae; apertiorem veritatis inquisitionem atque hominis dignitatis adsectationis, crescentem sedulitatem in multis totius mundi populorum partibus pro necessitudine inter nationes magis in usu posita et pro novo ordine orbis terrarum secundum libertatem et iustitiam. Crescit etiam, dum potentia virium augetur, quae provenit ex scientiis et technologicis disciplinis atque informatio et cultura diffunduntur, nova ethica interrogatio, de significatione videlicet interrogatio, ideoque de vero valorum gradu, quo definiantur progressus facultas et fines.

In the more specifically religious and Christian sphere, ideological prejudice and the violent rejection of the message of spiritual and religious values are crumbling and there are arising new and unexpected possibilities of evangelization and the rebirth of ecclesial life in many parts of the world. These are evident in an increased love of the sacred Scriptures; in the vitality and growing vigor of many young churches and their ever - larger role in the defense and promotion of the values of human life and the person; and in the splendid witness of martyrdom provided by the churches of Central and Eastern Europe as well as that of the faithfulness and courage of other churches which are still forced to undergo persecution and tribulation for the faith.[11]

In campo magis proprie religioso et christiano cessant praeiudicia ideologica, et etiam violentes recusationes nuntii valorum spiritalium atque religiosorum, et simul oriuntur novae ac insperatae facultates evangelizationis et vitae ecclesialis instauratio multis in mundi partibus. Animadvertuntur crescens diffusio cognitionis Sacrorum Bibliorum, multarum Ecclesiarum novellarum vigor et alacritas in provehendis et dilatandis personae valoribus atque vitae humanae dignitate; fulgens martyrii testimonium quarundam Ecclesiarum Europae Centralis et Orientalis, et etiam fides et strenua fortitudo aliarum Ecclesiarum, quae etiam nunc persecutiones et acerbitates pro fide patiuntur.25

The thirst for God and for an active meaningful relationship with him is so strong today that, where there is a lack of a genuine and full proclamation of the Gospel of Christ, there is a rising spread of forms of religiosity without God and the proliferation of many sects. For all children of the Church, and for priests especially, the increase of these phenomena, even in some traditionally Christian environments, is not only a constant motive to examine our consciences as to the credibility of our witness to the Gospel but at the same time is a sign of how deep and widespread is the search for God.

Dei desiderium et cum eo vivae significantisque rationis ibi hodie tam apparet vividum, ubi Evangelii deest verus et integer Iesu nuntius, ut foveat religiositatis formas sine Deo ac multiplices sectas. Earum extensio, etiam in plagis ex more tradito christianis, evadit Ecclesiae sinceris filiis et maxime sacerdotibus, constans causa cur de credibilitate sui testimonii evangelici recogitent, sed etiam signum, quo cognoscitur quam etiamnum alta sit et communis Dei inquisitio.

7. Mingled with these and other positive factors, there are also, however, many problematic or negative elements.

7. Cum his rebus, quae propitiae ac positivae dici possunt, multae aliae intermiscentur, problematicae vel negativae.

Rationalism is still very widespread and, in the name of a reductive concept of “science,” it renders human reason insensitive to an encounter with revelation and with divine transcendence.

Latissime imprimis adhuc diffunditur rationalismus qui, nomine cuiusdam notionis reductivae de «scientia», humanam rationem incuriosam reddit divinae Revelationis et Transcendentiae.

We should take note also of a desperate defense of personal subjectivity which tends to close it off in individualism, rendering it incapable of true human relationships. As a result, many - especially children and young people - seek to compensate for this loneliness with substitutes of various kinds, in more or less acute forms of hedonism or flight from responsibility. Prisoners of the fleeting moment, they seek to “consume” the strongest and most gratifying individual experiences at the level of immediate emotions and sensations, inevitably finding themselves indifferent and “paralyzed” as it were when they come face to face with the summons to embark upon a life project which includes a spiritual and religious dimension and a commitment to solidarity.

Notanda dein pervicax defensio subiectivitatis personalis, qua homo nonnisi in solam sui utilitatem perducitur, ineptus effectus rationum vere humanarum. Atque exinde id provenit, praesertim inter adolescentes et iuvenes, ut solitudinem hanc replere nitantur per succedanea varii generis, imprimis per formas hedonismi plus minusve vehementes, vel per fugam a rebus ipsis; velut fugaci tempori obnoxii «consumere» cupiant experientias illas individuales quam acerrimas ac gratissimas quoad animi motus et corporis sensus praesentes, sed necessario segnes sint et quodammodo torpescant adversus consilium de vita quod rationem spiritualem et religiosam includat et consociatae operae curam.

Furthermore, despite the fall of ideologies which had made materialism a dogma and the refusal of religion a program, there is spreading in every part of the world a sort of practical and existential atheism which coincides with a secularist outlook on life and human destiny. The individual, “all bound up in himself, this man who makes himself not only the center of his every interest, but dares to propose himself as the principle and reason of all reality,”[12] finds himself ever more bereft of that “supplement of soul” which is all the more necessary to him in proportion - as a wide availability of material goods and resources deceives him about his self - sufficiency. There is no longer a need to fight against God; the individual feels he is simply able to do without him.

Diffunditur quoque ubique terrarum, etiam collapsis ideologiis quae materialismum in dogma erexerant et de religione abolenda explicitum instruxerant programma, quaedam nova species atheismi, quem practicum et exsistentialem vocant, qui idem est ac visio saecularis de hominis vita et sorte. Hic igitur homo, «totus in sese conversus, qui in sese ponit centrum cuiuslibet curae, qui audet proclamare sese principium ac rationem cuiuslibet realitatis»,26 sese semper reperit pauperiorem factum illius «supplementi animae» quod eo magis ei necessarium est quo copiosiores opes et bona corporea ei falso suadent se sibi sufficere. Qui proinde, cum nihil necesse sit Deum pugnaciter recusare, simpliciter putat eo non indigere.

In this context special mention should be made of the breakup of the family and an obscuring or distorting of the true meaning of human sexuality. That phenomena have a very negative effect on the education of young people and on their openness to any kind of religious vocation. Furthermore, one should mention the worsening of social injustices and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, the fruit of an inhuman capitalism[13] which increasingly widens the gap between affluent and indigent peoples. In this way tension and unrest are introduced into everyday life, deeply disturbing the lives of people and of whole communities.

In hac descriptione praesertim notandae sunt: dissolutio consortionis familiaris et obscuratio vel «detorta interpretatio» humanae sexualitatis; quae duo phaenomena fortiter obstant iuniorum institutioni et affectioni ad vocationem religiosam. Praeterea notanda sunt incrementum rerum socialium iniustarum et conglobatio divitiarum in paucorum manibus; quasi fructus «inhumani capitalismi» 27 qui tenuiores populos ab opulentioribus latius in dies seiungit: inseruntur sic in hominum consortionem animorum contentiones et sollicitudines, quibus alte perturbatur personarum et communitatum vita.

There are also worrying and negative factors within the Church herself which have a direct influence on the lives and ministry of priests. For example: the lack of due knowledge of the faith among many believers; a catechesis which has little practical effect, stifled as it is by the mass media whose messages are more widespread and persuasive; an incorrectly understood pluralism in theology, culture and pastoral teaching which - though starting out at times with good intentions - ends up by hindering ecumenical dialogue and threatening the necessary unity of faith; a persistent diffidence toward and almost unacceptance of the magisterium of the hierarchy; the one - sided tendencies which reduce the richness of the Gospel message and transform the proclamation and witness to the faith into an element of exclusively human and social liberation or into an alienating flight into superstition and religiosity without God.

Etiam in Ecclesia reperiuntur anxia et noxia, quae directe in presbyterorum vitam et ministerium vim habent: qualia sunt: ignorantia religiosa, qua multi credentes afficiuntur; exigua traditae catechesis efficacia, quam hodie suffocant vulgatiores et suasoriores instrumentorum communicationis nuntii; male intellectus pluralismus theologicus, culturalis, pastoralis, qui licet interdum a bonis propositis proveniat, cedit in difficilem reddendum dialogum oecumenicum et in necessariae fidei unitatis discrimen; perstans etiam quidam veluti diffidentiae vel impatientiae sensus ecclesiastici magisterii: pressiones mancae et reductivae divitiarum nuntii evangelici quae eundem nuntium et fidei testimonium mutant in solam partem liberationis humanae ac socialis, aut in abalienans refugium in superstitionem inque religionem sine Deo.28

A particularly important phenomenon, even though it is relatively recent in many traditionally Christian countries, is the presence within the same territory of large concentrations of people of different races and religions, thereby resulting in multiracial and multi - religious societies. While on the one hand this can be an opportunity for a more frequent and fruitful exercise of dialogue, open - mindedness, good relations and a just tolerance - on the other hand the situation can also result in confusion and relativism, above all among people and populations whose faith has not matured.

Aliud magni ponderis phaenomenum, etsi comparata recens in plerisque veteris traditionis christianae nationibus, praesentia est in uno eodemque territorio densorum nucleorum diversarum gentium et religionum. Coalescere ita incipit nova quaedam consortio, multarum stirpium ac multarum religionum. Id saepe occasio evadit exercendi crebriorem et fructuosiorem dialogum, experiendi invicem mentes, dilatandi experientias mutuae acceptationis et iustae tolerantiae; sed pariter fieri potest occasio confusionis et relativismi, idque vel maxime apud personas et civitates quarum fides nondum ad plenam sui maturationem perducta est.

Added to these factors, and closely linked with the growth of individualism, is the phenomenon of subjectivism in matters of faith. An increasing number of Christians seem to have a reduced sensitivity to the universality and objectivity of the doctrine of the faith because they are subjectively attached to what pleases them; to what corresponds to their own experience; and to what does not impinge on their own habits. In such a context, even the appeal to the inviolability of the individual conscience - in itself a legitimate appeal - may be dangerously, marked by ambiguity.

Ad haec, et arcte coniunctum cum crescente studio sui, aliud adiungitur phaenomenum: transiisse quodammodo fidem in aream rerum subiectivo iudicio dimetiendarum. Id est, imminuta est apud crescentem christifidelium turbam perceptio summae universae et obiectivae doctrinae fidei; pro adhaesione dumtaxat subiectiva ad ea tantummodo quae cuique placent, quae personali experientiae aptatur, quae proprias consuetudines non turbat. Etiam compellatio ad inviolabilitatem sui conscientiae, quae est ipsa per se legitima, evadit in hoc contextu res periculo ambiguitatis non exempta.

This situation also gives rise to the phenomenon of belonging to the Church in ways which are ever more partial and conditional, with a resulting negative influence on the birth of new vocations to the priesthood, on the priest’s own self - awareness and on his ministry within the community.

Hinc promanant etiam illae accessiones ad Ecclesiam parte tantum tales habendae et condicionibus astrictae, quae damnosam habent vim in ortu novarum ad sacerdotium vocationum; immo, et in ipsam conscientiam presbyterorum et sui ministerii in communitate.

Finally, in many parts of the Church today it is still the scarcity of priests which creates the most serious problem. The faithful are often left to themselves for long periods, without sufficient pastoral support. As a result their growth as Christians suffers, not to mention their capacity to become better promoters of evangelization.

Denique in multis Ecclesiis etiamnum exigua praesentia et penuria virium sacerdotalium vel graviora problemata gignunt. Christifideles namque saepe ac diutius sibimetipsis relinquuntur nullo oblato pastorali iuvamine: unde non solum eorum vita christiana debitis destituitur incrementis, sed facultas ipsa minuitur ut ipsi evadant evangelizationis auctores.

Young People: Vocation and Priestly Formation

 

8. The many contradictions and potentialities marking our societies and cultures - as well as ecclesial communities - are perceived, lived and experienced by our young people with a particular intensity and have immediate and very acute repercussions on their personal growth. Thus, the emergence and development of priestly vocations among boys, adolescents and young men are continually under pressure and facing obstacles.

8. Multae res secum pugnantes et vires, quibus signantur non tantummodo hodiernae hominum consortiones et culturae sed et ipsae ecclesiales communitates, percipiuntur, usurpantur, et experimento comprobantur a iuvenibus ardore prorsus peculiari, cum effectibus proximis in ipsorum itinere institutorio maximi momenti. Inde fit ut vocationis sacerdotalis ortus et processus in pueris, adolescentibus, iuvenibus continuo in obstacula et sollicitationes incidant.

The lure of the so - called “consumer society” is so strong among young people that they become totally dominated and imprisoned by an individualistic, materialistic and hedonistic interpretation of human existence. Material “well - being,” which is so intensely sought after, becomes the one ideal to be striven for in life, a well - being which is to be attained in any way and at any price. There is a refusal of anything that speaks of sacrifice and a rejection of any effort to look for and to practice spiritual and religious values. The all - determining “concern” for having supplants the primacy of being, and consequently personal and interpersonal values are interpreted and lived not according to the logic of giving and generosity but according to the logic of selfish possession and the exploitation of others.

Trahuntur illi vehementissime peculiari quadam illecebra societatis quam dicimus «consumisticam» qua impelluntur ad amplectendam eam vitae interpretationem quam individualisticam, materialisticam et hedonisticam appellamus. «Commodum» materialiter intellectum principem obtinet locum, uti unicus vitae finis; quod commodum est quovis pretio, quavis condicione consequendum! Hinc necessario recusatur quidquid sacrificium sapit, et abicitur quidquid laborem et conatum exigit, in vivendo iuxta valores spirituales et religiosos. Cura enim unica «habendi», «esse» pervertit, quod primum est, eum consecutione interpretandi et colendi valores personae proprios et inter personas non secundum doni rationem et naturam gratuitam, sed contra secundum possessionem nimium sui amantem et alterius malum.

This is particularly reflected in that outlook on human sexuality according to which sexuality’s dignity in service to communion and to the reciprocal donation between persons becomes degraded and thereby reduced to nothing more than a consumer good. In this case, many young people undergo an affective experience which, instead of contributing to a harmonious and joyous growth in personality which opens them outward in an act of self - giving, becomes a serious psychological and ethical process of turning inward toward self, a situation which cannot fail to have grave consequences on them in the future.

Haec omnia apparent in ipsa interpretatione sexualitatis humanae, quae, a propria dignitate deiecta (quippe quae in servitium communionis data sit et in signum donationis sui inter personas), reducitur hodie ad genus bonorum consumendorum. Ita experientia affectiva multorum iuvenum desinit non in harmonicum iucundumque incrementum propriae personae sese in sui donum alteri tradentis, sed in vitiosam involutionem, ethicam et psychologicam, quae non poterit eorum futura gravibus condicionibus non astringere.

In the case of some young people a distorted sense of freedom lies at the root of these tendencies. Instead of being understood as obedience to objective and universal truth, freedom is lived out as a blind acquiescence to instinctive forces and to an individual’s will to power. Therefore, on the level of thought and behavior, it is almost natural to find an erosion of internal consent to ethical principles. On the religious level, such a situation, if it does not always lead to an explicit refusal of God, causes widespread indifference and results in a life which, even in its more significant moments and more decisive choices, is lived as if God did not exist. In this context it is difficult not only to respond fully to a vocation to the priesthood but even to understand its very meaning as a special witness to the primacy of “being” over “having,” and as a recognition that the significance of life consists in a free and responsible giving of oneself to others, a willingness to place oneself entirely at the Service of the Gospel and the kingdom of God as a priest.

In harum propensionum radice, quod ad multos iuvenes pertinet, est distorta quaedam experientia libertatis: ea enim, potius quam ut oboedientia erga veritatem obiectivam et universalem, colitur ab his velut caecus assensus erga appetituum vim et erga singulorum praepotentem voluntatem. Sic quodam modo naturales fiunt, quoad cogitandi atque agendi rationem, dissolutio consensus circa ethica principia, immo, et quoad rem religiosam, si non semper aperta Dei reiectio, magna religionis neglegentia et utcumque vita quae sic vivitur, etiam in gravissimis optatis et in maximis electionibus, velut si nullus esset Deus. In huiusmodi contextu, non solum difficilis intellectu apparet ipsius vocationis ad sacerdotium effectio, sed ipsum sacerdotium sensu suo fere destituitur, quod testatur maius prae se gerere momentum «esse» quam «habere», quod agnitio est vitae sensus tanquam sui doni liberi et conscii aliis dati, et tanquam voluntatis se omnino servitio tradendi Dei Regno et Evangelio nuntiando in peculiari illa forma.

Often the world of young people is a “problem’ in the Church community itself. In fact, if in them - more so than in adults - there is present a strong tendency to subjectivize the Christian faith and to belong only partially and conditionally to the life and mission of the Church, and if the Church community is slow for a variety of reasons to initiate and sustain an up - to - date and courageous pastoral care for young people, they risk being left to themselves, at the mercy of their psychological frailty? dissatisfied and critical of a world of adults who, in failing to live the faith in a consistent and mature fashion, do not appear to them as credible models.

Mundus autem iuvenum, etiam in ecclesiali communitate, saepe «quaestio» efficitur. Si illi enim magis etiam quam adulti fortiter contendunt fidem christianam subiectivam reddere et ex parte tantum et cum exceptione ad vitam et missionem Ecclesiae pertinere in communitate ecclesiali, ob varias causas quaevis nova et efficax navitas pastoralis ardua fit, atque proinde iuniores in periculo sunt ne sibimetipsis relinquantur in potestate propriae fragilitatis psychologicae, nulla re satiati, in adultos critici, qui fidem nec cohaerenter profitentes se exemplaria credibilia non exhibent.

Thus we see how difficult it is to present young people with a full and penetrating experience of Christian and ecclesial life and to educate them in it. So, the prospect of having a vocation to the priesthood is far from the actual everyday interests which young men have in life.

Hinc evidens fit difficultas iunioribus integrum et implexum vitae christianae et ecclesialis exemplar proponendi ad quod ii instituendi sint: vocatio nempe ad sacerdotium longe a concretis et quotidianis iuvenum placitis exsulat.

 

 

 

 

9. Nevertheless, there are positive situations and tendencies which bring about and nurture in the heart of adolescents and young men a new readiness, and even a genuine search, for ethical and spiritual values. These naturally offer favorable conditions for embarking on the journey of a vocation which leads toward the total gift of self to Christ and to the Church in the priesthood.

9. Non tamen desunt condiciones et stimuli efficaces qui in cordibus adolescentium et iuvenum novum suscitant adfectum atque veram valorum ethicorum et spiritualium inquisitionem, qui natura sua humus apta sunt itineri vocationali ad se prorsus donandum Christo et Ecclesiae per sacerdotium.

First of all, mention should be made of the decrease of certain phenomena which had caused many problems in the recent past, such as radical rebellion, libertarian tendencies, utopian claims, indiscriminate forms of socialization and violence.

Animadvertendum est, imprimis attenuata hodie esse quaedam phaenomena quae recentioribus annis non paucas excitaverunt difficultates, quales fuere contentio radicitus effecta, impulsus ad libertatem quoquo modo vindicandam, fictae iurium vindictae, formae indistinctae aequationis et communionis bonorum omnium, violentia.

It must be recognized, moreover, that today’ s young people, with the vigor and vitality typical of their age, are also bearers of ideals which are coming to the fore in history: the thirst for freedom; the recognition of the inestimable value of the person; the need for authenticity and sincerity; a new conception and style of reciprocity in the rapport between men and women; a convinced and earnest seeking after a more just, sympathetic and united world; openness and dialogue with all; and the commitment to peace.

Agnoscendum praeterea est iuvenes hodiernos, quo pollent propter aetatem vigore et flore, sua proposita efferre quae in historia progrediuntur: sitim imprimis libertatis; agnitionem immensi «personae» valoris; veritatis ac perspicuitatis necessitatem; novam vicissitudinis notionem et rationem in necessitudinibus inter virum et mulierem; exquisitionem sinceram ac sedulam mundi iustioris, coniunctioris et concordioris; apertionem ac dialogum cum omnibus, curam de pace tuenda.

The fruitful and active development among so many young people today of numerous and varied forms of voluntary service, directed toward the most forgotten and forsaken of our society, represents in these times a particularly important resource for personal growth. It stimulates and sustains young people in a style of life which is less self - interested and more open and sympathetic toward the poor. This way of life can help young men perceive, desire and accept a vocation to stable and total service of others, following the path of complete consecration to God as a priest.

Incrementum tam amplum ac vivum inter tot iuvenes nostri temporis multorum et variorum generum voluntarii muneris, quibus operam navant condicionibus nostrae civilis consortionis neglectioribus et pauperioribus est via institutoria magni momenti, quippe quae eos stimulet, sustineat ad amplectendum vitae stilum vere integrum et a lucro abstinentem, in pauperes procliviorem et apertiorem. Per hanc procul dubio viam, quam qui percurrunt facilius et celerius perveniunt ad apprehendendum quid tandem sit aliis ex vocatione stabili servire, paratiores evadent ad ineundam eam Deo consecrationem quae in vitam sacerdotalem forte desinat.

The recent collapse of ideologies, the heavily critical opposition to a world of adults who do not always offer a witness of a life based on moral and transcendent values, and the experience of companions who seek escape through drugs and violence - contribute in no small fashion to making more keen and inescapable the fundamental question as to what values are truly capable of giving the fullest meaning to life, suffering and death. For many young people the question of religion and the need for spirituality are becoming more explicit. This is illustrated in the desire for “desert experiences” and for prayer, in the return to a more personal and regular reading of the word of God and in the study of theology.

Recens ideologiarum collapsus, ratio censoria qua iuvenes adultorum mundum intuentur, qui non semper eisdem praebent testimonium vitae valoribus moralibus et transcendentibus ornatae, ipsa aequalium experientia, qui in droga et in violentia effugium quaerunt, in unam eandemque conspirare videntur interrogationem, nullatenus eludendam: quales nempe sunt valores per quos vitae, dolori, morti ipsi plenior sensus restituatur? Hinc est quod apud non paucos iuvenes clarior fit appetitio religiosa ac spiritalitatis necessitas: hinc interior sitis experiendi solitudinem et deprecationem ac lectionis Verbi Dei magis propriae et consuetae repetitio atque theologiae studium.

As has happened in their involvement in the sphere of voluntary social service, young people are becoming more actively involved as leaders in the ecclesial community, above all through their membership in various groups - whether traditional but renewed ones or of more recent origin. Their experience of a Church challenged to undertake a “new evangelization” by virtue of her faithfulness to the Spirit who animates her and in response to the demands of a world far from Christ but in need of him, as well as their experience of a Church ever more united with individuals and peoples in the defense and promotion of the dignity of the person and of the human rights of each and every one - these experiences open the hearts and lives of the young to the exciting and demanding ideals which can find their concrete fulfillment in following Christ and in embracing the priesthood.

Et sicut in regione voluntarii muneris socialis, ita in communitate ecclesiali iuvenes industriores usque fiunt et primas agunt partes, praesertim congregationes participando, tum translaticias sed renovatas, tum recentiores: Ecclesiae experientia, ad «novam evangelizationem» incitatae per fidelitatem erga Spiritum Sanctum, qui eam animat et per necessitates mundi, a Christo longinqui sed eo indigentis, sicut et experientia Ecclesiae coniunctioris in dies cum homine et populis in defendenda et provehenda personae dignitate atque humanis iuribus omnium et cuiusque, iuvenum corda et vitam aperiunt ad boni specimina quam pulcherrima et obligatoria, quae possunt ad affectum adduci Christi assectatione in sacerdotio.

Naturally it is not possible to ignore this human and ecclesial situation - characterized by strong ambivalence - not only in the pastoral care of vocations and the formation of future priests, but also in the care of priests in their life and ministry and their ongoing formation. At the same time, while it is possible to detect various forms of “crisis” to which priests are subjected today in their ministry, in their spiritual life and indeed in the very interpretation of the nature and significance of the ministerial priesthood - mention must likewise be made, in a spirit of joy and hope, of the new positive possibilities which the present historical moment is offering to priests for the fulfillment of their mission.

Patet hanc humanam et ecclesialem condicionem, forti ambivalentia signatam, minime neglegi posse non solum in vocationum actione pastorali et in opere formationis futurorum sacerdotum, sed ne in vita quidem et in ministerio sacerdotum inque eorum perpetua formatione. Ita, si intellegi possunt varia «discriminum» genera, quae hodierni sacerdotes experiuntur in ministerii exercitio, in sua vita spiritali et in ipsa interpretatione naturae et significationis sacerdotii ministerialis, notandae quoque sunt, cum gaudio et spe, commodae novae facultates, quas hoc tempus praebet sacerdotibus, ut suum munus expleant.

Gospel Discernment

 

10. The complex situation of the present day, briefly outlined above in general terms and examples, needs not only to be known but also and above all to be interpreted. Only in this way can an adequate answer can be given to the fundamental question: How can we form priests who are truly able to respond to the demands of our times and capable of evangelizing the world of today?[15]

10. Haec autem rerum condicio, etsi celeriter et minutatim atque exemplis descripta, non tantummodo noscenda, sed etiam, et imprimis interpretanda est. Hac una via apte responderi poterit fundamentali huic interrogationi: «Quomodo formandi sunt presbyteri qui vere nostris temporibus pares sint ad hodiernum mundum evangelizandum idonei?».29

Knowledge of the situation is important. However, simply to provide data is not enough; what is needed is a “scientific” inquiry in order to sketch a precise and concrete picture of today’s socio - cultural and ecclesial circumstances.

Est quidem magni momenti rerum condicionem novisse. Non enim sufficit simplex argumentorum annotamentum: necessaria est investigatio «scientiae», quae diligenter et certe ac definite socialia, culturalia atque ecclesialia adiuncta describat.

Even more important is an interpretation of the situation. Such an interpretation is required because of the ambivalence and at times contradictions which are characteristic of the present situation where there is a mixture of difficulties and potentialities, negative elements and reasons for hope, obstacles and alternatives, as in the field mentioned in the Gospel where good seed and weeds are both sown and “co - exist” (cf. Mt. 13:24ff.).

Sed maioris quoque momenti est huiusce condicionis interpretatio, quam requirit ambivalentia et interdum inconsequentia, quae eandem condicionem notat, in qua arcte difficultates et potentiae intermiscentur, incommoda et causae spei, impedimenta et apertiones sicut in evangelico agro, in quo seruntur et «simul vivunt» bonum semen et zizania.30

It is not always easy to give an interpretive reading capable of distinguishing good from evil or signs of hope from threats. In the formation of priests it is not sufficient simply to welcome the positive factors and to counteract the negative ones. The positive factors themselves need to be subjected to a careful work of discernment, so that they do not become isolated and contradict one another, becoming absolutes and at odds with one another. The same is true for the negative factors, which are not to be rejected en bloc and without distinction, because in each one there may lie hidden some value which awaits liberation and restoration to its full truth.

Non semper facilis est interpretatio quae malum a bono discernat, spei signa a minis. In formandis presbyteris non solum et simpliciter ea quae prosunt accipienda sunt et damnosa e contrario reicienda. Ea ipsa quae prosunt sunt attente discernenda, ne alterum alterum excludat neve invicem pugnent, cum absoluta fiunt et mutuo sibi adversantur. Idem dicendum est de iis, quae damnosa sunt: non omnia sunt sine ulla distinctione penitus respuenda; saepe enim horum unumquodque potest abditum habere valorem aliquem qui forte eruendus in libertatem est et ad plenam suam veritatem restituendus.

For a believer the interpretation of the historical situation finds its principle for understanding and its criterion for making practical choices in a new and unique reality, that is, in a Gospel discernment. This interpretation is a work which is done in the light and strength provided by the true and living Gospel, which is Jesus Christ, and in virtue of the gift of the Holy Spirit. In such a way, Gospel discernment gathers from the historical situation - from its events and circumstances - not just a simple “fact” to be precisely recorded yet capable of leaving a person indifferent or passive, but a “task,” a challenge to responsible freedom - both of the individual person and of the community. It is a “challenge” which is linked to a “call” which God causes to sound in the historical situation itself. In this situation, and also through it, God calls the believer - and first of all the Church - to ensure that “the Gospel of vocation and priesthood” expresses its perennial truth in the changing circumstances of life. In this case, the words of the Second Vatican Council are also applicable to the formation of priests: “The Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel so that in a language intelligible to every generation, she can respond to the perennial questions which people ask about this present life and the life to come, and about the relationship of the one to the other. We must therefore recognize and understand the world in which we live, it’s expectations, its longings and its often dramatic characteristics.”[16]

Condicionis historiae interpretatio, secundum Christi fidelem, suum invenit cognoscendi principium et normam electionum efficientium, quae inde consequuntur, in se nova ac singulari, videlicet in evangelica discretione: quae interpretatio fit in lumine inque vi Evangelii, Evangelii nimirum vivi et personalis, quod Iesus Christus est, et per Spiritus Sancti donum. Hoc modo discretio evangelica in condicione historica et in eius eventibus non simplex «indicium» deprehenditur diligenter annotandum, ante quod liceat in neglegentia ac socordia manere, sed «officium», provocationem adversus consciam personae libertatem, tum singulorum tum communitatis. Provocatio haec est quae coniungitur «arcessitui», quam Deus, in ipsa historica condicione resonat: in ipsa quoque et per ipsam Deus credentem vocat, et prius Ecclesiam, ad efficiendum ut «Evangelium vocationis et sacerdotii» suam perennem veritatem exprimat etiam vitae adiunctis mutatis. Formationi quoque sacerdotum applicanda sunt verba Concilii Vaticani II: «Per omne tempus Ecclesiae officium incumbit signa temporum perscrutandi et sub Evangelii luce interpretandi; ita ut, modo unicuique generationi accommodato, ad perennes hominum interrogationes de sensu vitae praesentis et futurae deque earum mutua relatione respondere possit. Oportet itaque ut mundus in quo vivimus, necnon eius exspectationes, appetitiones et indoles saepe dramatica cognoscantur et intelligantur».31

This Gospel discernment is based on trust in the love of Jesus Christ, who always and tirelessly cares for his Church (cf. Eph. 5:29), he the Lord and Master, the key, the center and the purpose of the whole of human history.[17] This discernment is nourished by the light and strength of the Holy Spirit who evokes everywhere and in all circumstances, obedience to the faith, the joyous courage of following Jesus, and the gift of wisdom, which judges all things and is judged by no one (cf. 1 Cor. 2:15). It rests on the fidelity of the Father to his promises.

Haec evangelica discretio fundamentum habet in fiducia erga amorem Christi Iesu, Ecclesiae curam indesinenter et indefesse sustinentis,32 cum unus Ipse sit Dominus et Magister, lapis angularis, totiusque humanae historiae centrum et finis;33 luce et vi nutritur Spiritus Sancti, semper et ubique suscitantis fidei oboedientiam necnon iucundum in assectatione Christi animum, sapientiaeque donum quae iudicat omnia et ipsa a nemine iudicatur;34 requiescit denique in Patris fidelitate erga promissiones suas.

In this way the Church feels that she can face the difficulties and challenges of this new period of history and can also provide, in the present and in the future, priests who are well trained to be convinced and fervent ministers of the “new evangelization,” faithful and generous servants of Jesus Christ and of the human family. We are not unmindful of difficulties in this regard; they are neither few nor insignificant. However, to surmount these difficulties we have at our disposal our hope, our faith in the unfailing love of Christ, and our certainty that the priestly ministry in the life of the Church and in the world knows no substitute.

Hac ratione putat Ecclesia posse se difficultatibus et provocationibus huius novi historiae spatii occurrere, immo et in praesens et in reliquum tempus providere presbyteros bene formatos, certos et alacres «novae evangelizationis» ministros, fideles et generosos Christi et hominum famulos. Non nos difficultates celamus, quae nec paucae sunt nec leves. Sed eas vincunt nostra spes, nostra fides in indeficientem Christi amorem nostraque persuasio ministerium sacerdotale pro Ecclesiae et mundi vita substitui non posse.

CHAPTER II

CAPUT II

HE HAS ANOINTED ME AND HAS SENT ME FORTH
The Nature and Mission of the Ministerial Priesthood

PROPTER QUOD UNXIT ME ... ET MISIT ME PRAEDICARE
De natura et missione sacerdotii ministerialis

A Look at the Priest

 

11. “The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him” (Lk. 4:20). What the evangelist Luke says about the people in the synagogue at Nazareth that Sabbath, listening to Jesus’ commentary on the words of the prophet Isaiah which he had just read, can be applied to all Christians. They are always called to recognize in Jesus of Nazareth the definitive fulfillment of the message of the prophets: “And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”‘ (Lk. 4:21). The “Scripture” he had read was this: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk. 4:18-19; cf. Is. 61:1-2). Jesus thus presents himself as filled with the Spirit, “consecrated with an anointing,” “sent to preach good news to the poor.” He is the Messiah, the Messiah who is priest, prophet and king.

11. «Omnium in synagoga oculi erant intendentes in eum».35 Omnia quae evangelista Lucas dicit de iis qui aderant die sabbati in synagoga Nazareth et qui exspectabant quid, plicato Isaiae volumine, esset Christus commentaturus, applicari valent universis christianis, cum et ipsi vocati sint ut agnoscant impletum esse in Iesu Nazarethano propheticum praeconium: «Coepit autem dicere ad illos: hodie impleta est haec Scriptura in auribus vestris».36 «Scriptura» autem haec erat: «Spiritus Domini super me; propter quod unxit me evangelizare pauperibus, misit me praedicare captivis remissionem et caecis visum, dimittere confractos in remissione, praedicare annum Domini acceptum».37 Iesus ergo ostendit sese tanquam Spiritu plenum, unctione consecratum, missum ad annuntiandum pauperibus bonum nuntium; est igitur Messias, et quidem Messias sacerdos, propheta, rex.

These are the features of Christ upon which the eyes of faith and love of Christians should be fixed. Using this “contemplation” as a starting point and making continual reference to it, the synod fathers reflected on the problem of priestly formation in present - day circumstances. This problem cannot be solved without previous reflection upon the goal of formation, that is, the ministerial priesthood, or more precisely, the ministerial priesthood as a participation - in the Church - in the very priesthood of Jesus Christ. Knowledge of the nature and mission of the ministerial priesthood is an essential presupposition, and at the same time the surest guide and incentive toward the development of pastoral activities in the Church for fostering and discerning vocations to the priesthood and training those called to the ordained ministry.

Hic est ergo Christi vultus in quem prospiciant necesse est fidei et amoris oculi eorum omnium qui in Christum crediderunt. Atque ex hac potissimum «contemplatione» reputaverunt Patres synodales totam suam reflexionem de formatione presbyterorum in hodiernis adiunctis. Haec quaestio solutionem habere non potest sine praevia reflexione circa metam quam attingere debet totum formationis iter. Quae meta aliud non est nisi sacerdotium ministeriale; idque quatenus Ecclesiae participatio est in Ipsius Christi sacerdotio. Notio plena igitur naturae et missionis sacerdotii ministerialis est absolute necessaria nec removeri potest, immo velut itineris ductor sequenda; ipsa enim stimulus efficax est quo in Ecclesia promoveri possit navitas pastoralis et discretio vocationum sacerdotalium, et qua instruatur aequa formatio eorum qui ad ministerium ordinatum sunt vocati.

A correct and in - depth awareness of the nature and mission of the ministerial priesthood is the path which must be taken - and in fact the synod did take it - in order to emerge from the crisis of priestly identity. In the final address to the synod I stated: “This crisis arose in the years immediately following the Council. It was based on an erroneous understanding of - and sometimes even a conscious bias against - the doctrine of the conciliar magisterium. Undoubtedly, herein lies one of the reasons for the great number of defections experienced then by the Church, losses which did serious harm to pastoral ministry and priestly vocations, especially missionary vocations. It is as though the 1990 synod - rediscovering, by means of the many statements which we heard in this hall, the full depth of priestly identity - has striven to instill hope in the wake of these sad losses. These statements showed an awareness of the specific ontological bond which unites the priesthood to Christ the high priest and good shepherd. This identity is built upon the type of formation which must be provided for priesthood and then endure throughout the priest’s whole life. This was the precise purpose of the synod.”[18]

Recta igitur et alta notitia naturae et missionis sacerdotii ministerialis via una est persequenda (eamque ipsa Synodus persecuta est) ut exire liceat tandem de «crisi» identitatis sacerdotis. «Discrimen hoc — diximus in extrema Synodi allocutione — ortum suum novit continuo post Concilium Vaticanum II. Consensiones invenit in vitiosa, interdum consulto insidiosa, facultate percipiendi doctrinam magisterii Concilii. Ibi absque dubio insidet magna causa plurium desertionum ab Ecclesia tum perceptarum, desertiones quae graviter sane affecerunt pastorale ministerium atque vocationes ad sacerdotium, praesertim vero vocationes missionales. Res se habet veluti si Synodus anni millesimi nongentesimi nonagesimi iterum detegendo, per tot interpellationes quas hac in aula audivimus, integram sacerdotalis identitatis gravitatem, post acerbas eiusmodi desertiones spem infundere conata sit. Interpellationes huiusmodi patefecerunt conscientiam nexus ontologici peculiaris qui iungit presbyterum Christo, Summo Sacerdoti atque Bono Pastori. Identitas haec componit naturam aptae institutionis ad sacerdotium recte accipiendum, atque deinde totum per sacerdotalis vitae tempus. Hoc Synodi propositum germanum».38

For this reason the synod considered it necessary to summarize the nature and mission of the ministerial priesthood, as the Church’s faith has acknowledged them down the centuries of its history and as the Second Vatican Council has presented them anew to the people of our day.[19]

Ob hanc ergo rationem necessarium duxit Synodus revocare, modo quodam synthetico ac fundamentali, naturam et missionem sacerdotii ministerialis, quales Ecclesiae fides per saecula indesinenter recepit, et sicut Concilium Vaticanum II hominibus nostri temporis eas exhibuit.39

In the Church as Mystery, Communion and Mission

 

12. “The priest’s identity,” as the synod fathers wrote, “like every Christian identity, has its source in the Blessed Trinity,”[20] which is revealed and is communicated to people in Christ, establishing, in him and through the Spirit, the Church as “the seed and the beginning of the kingdom.”[21] The apostolic exhortation Christifideles Laici, summarizing the Council’s teaching, presents the Church as mystery, communion and mission: “She is mystery because the very life and love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the gift gratuitously offered to all those who are born of water and the Spirit (cf. Jn. 3:5) and called to relive the very communion of God and to manifest it and communicate it in history [mission].”[22]

12. «Identitas sacerdotalis — ita Patres synodales enuntiarunt — in Sanctissima Trinitate fontem habet»,40 quae in Christo hominibus revelatur atque semetipsam communicat, in eo et per Spiritum consti- tuens Ecclesiam tanquam «semen et initium Regni».41 Exhortatio «Christifideles Laici» doctrinam Concilii resumens, Ecclesiam exhibet velut mysterium, communionem, missionem; ipsa «mysterium est, quia amor et vita Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti donum sunt absolute gratuitum, iis omnibus oblatum qui nati sunt ex aqua et Spiritu,42 in id vocati ut ipsam Dei communionem vivant eamque per historiae decursum manifestent et communicent (missionem)».43

It is within the Church’s mystery, as a mystery of Trinitarian communion in missionary tension, that every Christian identity is revealed, and likewise the specific identity of the priest and his ministry. Indeed, the priest, by virtue of the consecration which he receives in the sacrament of orders, is sent forth by the Father through the mediatorship of Jesus Christ, to whom he is configured in a special way as head and shepherd of his people, in order to live and work by the power of the Holy Spirit in service of the Church and for the salvation of the world.[23]

Identitas christiana, atque etiam peculiaris identitas sacerdotis eiusque ministerii, revelatur tantummodo intra Ecclesiae mysterium, veluti mysterium communionis trinitariae in tensione missionaria. Presbyter enim, vi consecrationis quam per Ordinis sacramentum recipit, a Patre per Christum Iesum mittitur, Cui, tanquam Capiti et populi Pastori, configuratur, peculiari quodam modo, ut in fortitudine Sancti Spiritus vivat et operetur in Ecclesiae servitium et pro mundi Salute.44

In this way the fundamentally “relational” dimension of priestly identity can be understood. Through the priesthood which arises from the depths of the ineffable mystery of God, that is, from the love of the Father, the grace of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit’s gift of unity, the priest sacramentally enters into communion with the bishop and with other priests[24] in order to serve the People of God who are the Church and to draw all mankind to Christ in accordance with the Lord’s prayer: “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one...even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn. 17:11, 21).

Satis intellegi potest connotatio praecipuae relationis identitatis presbyteri: per sacerdotium, quod a profunditate inscrutabilis Dei mysterii procedit, id est, ex amore Patris, ex gratia Christi Iesu, exque dono unitatis Spiritus Sancti, presbyter inseritur sacramentaliter in communionem cum episcopo et cum aliis presbyteris,45 ut Dei Populo, qui Ecclesia est, inserviat, et omnes ad Christum trahat, secundum Domini preces: «Pater Sancte, serva eos in nomine tuo, quod dedisti mihi, ut sint unum sicut et nos. Sicut tu, Pater, in me et ego in Te, ut et ipsi in nobis unum sint: ut mundus credat quia tu me misisti».46

Consequently, the nature and mission of the ministerial priesthood cannot be defined except through this multiple and rich interconnection of relationships which arise from the Blessed Trinity and are prolonged in the communion of the Church, as a sign and instrument of Christ, of communion with God and of the unity of all humanity.[25] In this context the ecclesiology of communion becomes decisive for understanding the identity of the priest, his essential dignity, and his vocation and mission among the People of God and in the world. Reference to the Church is therefore necessary, even if not primary, in defining the identity of the priest. As a mystery, the Church is essentially related to Jesus Christ. She is his fullness, his body, his spouse. She is the “sign” and living “memorial” of his permanent presence and activity in our midst and on our behalf. The priest finds the full truth of his identity in being a derivation, a specific participation in and continuation of Christ himself, the one high priest of the new and eternal covenant. The priest is a living and transparent image of Christ the priest. The priesthood of Christ, the expression of his absolute “newness” in salvation history, constitutes the one source and essential model of the priesthood shared by all Christians and the priest in particular. Reference to Christ is thus the absolutely necessary key for understanding the reality of priesthood.

Non aliter proinde definiri potest natura et missio sacerdotii ministerialis nisi intra hunc multiplicem et ditissimum contextum rationum, quae scaturiunt a Sanctissima Trinitate atque prolatantur in communione Ecclesiae, velut signum atque instrumentum, in Christo, unionis cum Deo et unitatis totius humani generis.47 Hoc contextu «ecclesiologia communionis» fit decretoria ad intellegendam presbyteri identitatem eiusque primigeniam dignitatem, eius vocationem et missionem in Populo Dei et in universo mundo. In definienda proinde presbyteri identitate necessitudo ad Ecclesiam est ideo necessaria, licet non primo in loco ponenda. Ecclesia enim, qua mysterium, essentialiter ad Christum refertur: Ipsius enim est plenitudo, corpus, sponsa; est «signum» atque vivum «memoriale» permanentis Illius praesentiae et actionis intra nos et pro nobis. Presbyter identitatis suae assequitur plenam veritatem in eo quod est deductio, participatio specifica et continuatio est Ipsius Christi novi aeternique Foederis summi et unici sacerdotis; presbyter imago viva et perspicua est Christi sacerdotis. Christi sacerdotium, veluti significatio absolutae cuiusdam «novitatis» in Salutis historia, fons unus evadit et exemplar unicum et insubstituibile christiani sacerdotii, nominatim vero presbyterii. Unde fieri haud potest ut realitatis sacerdotalis apprehensio fiat nisi per absolute necessariam ad Christum relationem.

The Fundamental Relationship With Christ the Head and Shepherd

 

13. Jesus Christ has revealed in himself the perfect and definitive features of the priesthood of the new Covenant.[26] He did this throughout his earthly life, but especially in the central event of his passion, death and resurrection.

13. Sacerdotii novi Foederis vultum, eundemque perfectum ac definitivum, in Semetipso Christus nobis ostendit:48 idque effecit per integram suae in terris vitam, sed praesertim in centrali illo eventu Passionis, Mortis et Resurrectionis.

As the author of the letter to the Hebrews writes, Jesus, being a man like us and at the same time the only begotten Son of God, is in his very being the perfect mediator between the Father and humanity (cf. Heb. 8-9). Thanks to the gift of his Holy Spirit he gives us immediate access to God: “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father! “‘ (Gal. 4:6; cf. Rom. 8:15)

Ut bene scribit auctor Epistolae ad Hebraeos, Iesus cum esset homo ut nos, itemque Unigenitus Dei Filius, evasit sua ipsius natura Mediator perfectus inter Patrem et homines,49 qui, per donum Spiritus, aperit immediatum ad Deum accessum: «Misit Deus Spiritum Filii sui in corda nostra clamantem: Abba, Pater!».50

Jesus brought his role as mediator to complete fulfillment when he offered himself on the cross, thereby opening to us, once and for all, access to the heavenly sanctuary, to the Father’s house (cf. Heb. 9:24-28). Compared with Jesus, Moses and all other “mediators” between God and his people in the Old Testament - kings, priests and prophets - are no more than “figures” and “shadows of the good things to come” instead of “the true form of these realities” (cf. Heb. 10:1).

Iesus plane suam mediatoris missionem tum complet cum sese super crucem offert, atque semel et in omne tempus accessum reserat ad caeleste Sanctuarium, ad Patris donum.51 Adeo ut, si ad Christum comparentur tum Moyses aliique Veteris Testamenti «mediatores» inter Deum et suum Populum — reges scilicet, sacerdotes et prophetae — remanent «figurae» dumtaxat vel «umbrae bonorum futurorum», non sicut ipsa res.52

Jesus is the promised good shepherd (cf. Ez. 34), who knows each one of his sheep, who offers his life for them and who wishes to gather them together as one flock with one shepherd (cf. Jn. 10:11-16). He is the shepherd who has come “not to be served but to serve” (Mt. 20:28), who in the paschal action of the washing of the feet (cf. Jn. 13:1-20) leaves to his disciples a model of service to one another and who freely offers himself as the “innocent lamb” sacrificed for our redemption (cf. Jn. 1:36; Rv. 5:6, 12).

Est enim Iesus bonus pastor quem prophetae nuntiaverant,53 qui oves suas singillatim novit, qui pro eisdem vitam suam tradit, qui universas conducere vult «in unum gregem, sub uno pastore».54 Pastor Idem est qui «non ministrari venit sed servire»,55 qui, in illo paschali actu in quo discipulorum pedes laverat,56 suis tradidit ministrandi exemplar, illis imitandum, cum Ipse sponte, velut «agnus innocens, sese pro nostra tradiderit redemptione».57

With the one definitive sacrifice of the cross, Jesus communicated to all his disciples the dignity and mission of priests of the new and eternal covenant. And thus the promise which God had made to Israel was fulfilled: “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6). According to St. Peter, the whole people of the new covenant is established as “a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pt. 2:5). The baptized are “living stones” who build the spiritual edifice by keeping close to Christ, “that living stone...in God’s sight chosen and precious” (1 Pt. 2:4). The new priestly people which is the Church not only has its authentic image in Christ, but also receives from him a real ontological share in his one eternal priesthood, to which she must conform every aspect of her life.

Christus autem, per suum unicum ac definitivum crucis sacrificium, communicat cum universis suis discipulis dignitatem et missionem novi et aeterni Foederis, sic promissionem adimplens quam Deus Israeli olim fecerat: «Et vos eritis mihi regnum sacerdotum et gens sancta».58 Nam, ut ait Apostolus Petrus, totus novi Foederis populus vocatur ut ex eo fiat aedificium spirituale: «Et ipsi, tanquam lapides vivi aedificamini domus spiritualis in sacerdotium per Iesum Christum».59 Sunt enim baptizati quasi «lapides vivi» quibuscum, cum Christo sociatis, construitur aedificium spirituale in «lapidem vivum... coram Deo autem electum, pretiosum».60 Hic novus sacerdotalis populus qui est Ecclesia, non solum propriam sui imaginem in Christo habet, sed ab Eodem recipit realem et ontologicam participationem in authentico et unico sacerdotio, cui cum tota vita erit conformandus.

14. For the sake of this universal priesthood of the new covenant Jesus gathered disciples during his earthly mission (cf. Lk. 10:1-12), and with a specific and authoritative mandate he called and appointed the Twelve “to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons” (Mk. 3:14-15).

14. In servitium autem huiusce universalis novi Foederis sacerdotii, Iesus apud se convocat, per terrenae suae missionis cursum, discipulos aliquot,61 eosque «Duodecim» peculiari et imperioso mandato in collegium instituit «ut essent cum illo et ut mitteret eos praedicare, habentes potestatem eiciendi daemonia».62

For this reason, already during his public ministry (cf. Mt. 16:18), and then most fully after his death and resurrection (cf. Mt. 28; Jn. 20; 21), Jesus had conferred on Peter and the Twelve entirely special powers with regard to the future community and the evangelization of all peoples. After having called them to follow him, he kept them at his side and lived with them, imparting his teaching of salvation to them through word and example, and finally he sent them out to all mankind. To enable them to carry out this mission Jesus confers upon the apostles, by a specific paschal outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the same messianic authority which he had received from the Father, conferred in its fullness in his resurrection: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt. 28:18-20).

Propterea, iam perdurante suo publico magisterio,63 sed plenius deinceps post mortem et resurrectionem,64 Iesus confert Petro et duodecim potestates omnino singulares quoad futuram communitatem et pro evangelizandis omnibus gentibus. Quibus, ubi ad se insequendum eos vocavit et apud sese habuit, et vivens cum ipsis, exemplo et verbis, doctrinam tradidit salutis; quos denique testes misit ad omnes gentes. Atque ut huiusmodi missionem implerent, Iesus contulit apostolis, et quidem per virtutem specificae effusionis Spiritus Sancti, eandem auctoritatem messianicam quam a Patre Ipse acceperat, et cuius plenitudo per resurrectionem confertur: «Data est mihi omnis potestas in caelo et in terra. Euntes ergo docete omnes gentes, baptizantes eos in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, docentes eos servare omnia quaecumque mandavi vobis, et ecce ego vobiscum sum omnibus diebus usque ad consummationem saeculi».65

Jesus thus established a close relationship between the ministry entrusted to the apostles and his own mission: “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me” (Mt. 10:40); “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Lk. 10:16). Indeed, in the light of the paschal event of the death and resurrection, the fourth Gospel affirms this with great force and clarity: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (Jn. 20:21; cf. 13:20; 17:18). Just as Jesus has a mission which comes to him directly from God and makes present the very authority of God (cf. Mt. 7:29; 21:23; Mk. 1:27; 11:28; Lk. 20:2; 24:19), so too the apostles have a mission which comes to them from Jesus. And just as “the Son can do nothing of his own accord” (Jn. 5:19) such that his teaching is not his own but the teaching of the One who sent him (cf. Jn. 7:16), so Jesus says to the apostles: “Apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). Their mission is not theirs but is the same mission of Jesus. All this is possible not as a result of human abilities, but only with the “gift” of Christ and his Spirit, with the “sacrament”: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn. 20:22-23). And so the apostles, not by any special merit of their own, but only through a gratuitous participation in the grace of Christ, prolong throughout history to the end of time the same mission of Jesus on behalf of humanity.

Iesus sic statuit arctam necessitudinem inter ministerium quod apostolis concredidit et suam propriam missionem: «Qui vos recipit, me recipit: et qui me recipit, recipit eum qui me misit»;66 «Qui vos audit, me audit, et qui vos spernit, me spernit; qui autem me spernit, spernit eum qui me misit».67 Immo, quartum Evangelium, in lucis paschalis eventu mortis et resurrectionis, gravi vigore et perspicuitate asserit: «Sicut misit me Pater, et ego mitto vos».68 Sicut ergo Iesus missionem habet quae directe a Deo venit et ipsam Dei auctoritatem exhibet,69 ita apostoli missionem habent quae a Iesu provenit. Et sicut «non potest Filius a se facere quidquam»,70 quandoquidem «mea doctrina non est mea, sed eius qui misit me»,71 ita apostolis suis Ipse dicit: «Sine me nihil potestis facere»;72 eorum enim missio non alia est nisi ipsius Iesu missio. Idque fieri potest non ex humanis viribus, sed tantummodo per Christi et Spiritus sui donum, per sacramentum scilicet: «Accipite Spiritum Sanctum; quorum remiseritis peccata, remissa sunt eis, quorum retinueritis, retenta sunt»,73 id est, apostoli, non propter suum aliquod peculiare meritum, sed tantummodo propter gratuitam Christi ipsius gratiae participationem, protrahunt per humanae historiae decursum usque ad temporum consummationem eandem Christi missionem pro hominum salute.

The sign and presupposition of the authenticity and fruitfulness of this mission is the apostles’ unity with Jesus and, in him, with one another and with the Father - as the priestly prayer of our Lord, which sums up his mission, bears witness (cf. Jn. 17:20-23).

Signum vero ac praenuntium authenticitatis et fecunditatis huiusce missionis est apostolorum unitas cum Iesu et inter sese et cum Patre, ut perspicue apparet in oratione sacerdotali Domini, quae synthesis habita est totius eius missionis.74

 

 

 

 

15. In their turn, the apostles, appointed by the Lord, progressively carried out their mission by calling - in various but complementary ways - other men as bishops, as priests and as deacons in order to fulfill the command of the risen Jesus who sent them forth to all people in every age.

15. Apostoli autem, a Domino constituti, quantum ad eos pertinet propriae missioni responsum dabunt si alios aliter homines, diversa sed aeque pari ratione, tanquam episcopos, presbyteros, diaconos advocabunt, qui idem Christi resurgentis mandatum expleant, eosque mittant ad omnes omnium temporum homines.

The writings of the New Testament are unanimous in stressing that it is the same Spirit of Christ who introduces these men chosen from among their brethren into the ministry Through the laying on of hands (cf. Acts 6:6; 1 Tm. 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tm. 1:6) which transmits the gift of the Spirit, they are called and empowered to continue the same ministry of reconciliation, of shepherding the flock of God and of teaching (cf. Acts 20:28; 1 Pt. 5:2).

Novum Testamentum plurimi unanimiter facit quod hi homines inter fratres excepti ab ipso Christi Spiritu mittuntur. Nam per manuum impositionem 75 quae Spiritus donum transmittit, advocantur atque instruuntur ad perpetuandum idem ministerium, homines scilicet reconciliandi, pascendi, docendi.76

Therefore, priests are called to prolong the presence of Christ, the one high priest, embodying his way of life and making him visible in the midst of the flock entrusted to their care. We find this clearly and precisely stated in the first letter of Peter: “I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory” (1 Pt. 5:1-4).

Vocantur igitur presbyteri ad protrahendam Christi praesentiam, unius Pastoris Summi, idque faciunt Eum per vitae genus imitantes et evadentes imagines, illius instar, in medio grege ipsis concredito. Ut enim acute et perspicue in I Petri Epistola reperire est: «Seniores (presbyteros) ergo qui in vobis sunt obsecro, consenior (com-presbyter) et testis Christi passionum, qui et eius quae in futuro revelanda est, gloriae communicator: pascite qui est in vobis gregem Dei, providentes non coacte sed spontanee secundum Deum, neque turpis lucri gratia, sed voluntarie, neque ut dominantes in cleris, sed formae facti gregis. Et cum apparuerit princeps pastorum, percipietis immarcescibilem gloriae coronam».77

In the Church and on behalf of the Church, priests are a sacramental representation of Jesus Christ - the head and shepherd - authoritatively proclaiming his word, repeating his acts of forgiveness and his offer of salvation - particularly in baptism, penance and the Eucharist, showing his loving concern to the point of a total gift of self for the flock, which they gather into unity and lead to the Father through Christ and in the Spirit. In a word, priests exist and act in order to proclaim the Gospel to the world and to build up the Church in the name and person of Christ the head and shepherd.[27]

Sunt igitur presbyteri in Ecclesia et pro Ecclesia velut repraesentatio sacramentalis Christi Capitis et Pastoris: cuius verba cum auctoritate proclamant, cuius misericordis indulgentiae gestum salutem offerentem imitantur, idque in Baptismate praesertim, in Paenitentia, in Eucharistia; eiusdem item exercent dilectionem et sollicitudines, usque ad totale sui donum pro grege, quem in unitatem congregant et ad Patrem perducunt per Christum in Spiritu. Uno verbo, exsistunt et operantur pro Evangelio mundo nuntiando, et nomine et persona Christi Capitis et Pastoris, ad Ecclesiam ipsius aedificandam.78

This is the ordinary and proper way in which ordained ministers share in the one priesthood of Christ. By the sacramental anointing of holy orders, the Holy Spirit configures them in a new and special way to Jesus Christ the head and shepherd; he forms and strengthens them with his pastoral charity; and he gives them an authoritative role in the Church as servants of the proclamation of the Gospel to every people and of the fullness of Christian life of all the baptized.

Hic est peculiaris et proprius modus quo ordinati administri participant unum Christi sacerdotium. Sanctus autem Spiritus, per sacramentalem Ordinis unctionem, eosdem configurat novo quodam atque specifico titulo ad Christum Iesum, Caput et Pastorem, eosque per caritatem pastoralem conformat atque animat et in Ecclesia constituit, nobilissima quidem condicione servorum nuntii evangelici ad omnem creaturam, et servorum pro pleniore vita christiana omnium baptizatorum.

The truth of the priest as it emerges from the Word of God, that is, from Jesus Christ himself and from his constitutive plan for the Church, is thus proclaimed with joyful gratitude by the Preface of the liturgy of the Chrism Mass: “By your Holy Spirit you anointed your only Son high priest of the new and eternal covenant. With wisdom and love you have planned that this one priesthood should continue in the Church. Christ gives the dignity of a royal priesthood to the people he has made his own. From these, with a brother’s love, he chooses men to share his sacred ministry by the laying on of hands. He appointed them to renew in his name the sacrifice of redemption as they set before your family his paschal meal. He calls them to lead your holy people in love, nourish them by your word and strengthen them through the sacraments. Father, they are to give their live in your service and for the salvation of your people as they strive to grow in the likeness of Christ and honor you by their courageous witness of faith and love.”

Veritas ergo presbyteri, qualis ex Verbo Dei eruitur (id est a Christo ipso et ab Eius placitis Ecclesiam constituendi) celebratur, non sine exsultatione et gaudio, in liturgica Praefatione in Missa Chrismatis: «Qui Unigenitum tuum, Sancti Spiritus unctione, novi et aeterni testamenti constituisti pontificem, et ineffabili dignatus es dispositione sancire, ut unicum Eius sacerdotium in Ecclesia servaretur. Ipse enim non solum regali sacerdotio populum adquisitionis exornat, sed etiam fraterna homines eligit bonitate, ut sacri sui ministerii fiant manuum impositione participes. Qui sacrificium renovent eius nomine, redemptionis humanae, tuis apparent filiis paschale convivium, et plebem tuam sanctam caritate praeveniant, verbo nutriant, reficiant sacramentis. Qui, vitam pro te fratrumque salute tradentes, ad ipsius Christi nitantur imaginem conformari, et constantes tibi fidem amoremque testentur».

Serving the Church and the World

 

16. The priest’s fundamental relationship is to Jesus Christ, head and shepherd. Indeed, the priest participates in a specific and authoritative way in the “consecration/anointing” and in the “mission” of Christ (cf. Lk. 4:18-19). But intimately linked to this relationship is the priest’s relationship with the Church. It is not a question of “relations” which are merely juxtaposed, but rather of ones which are interiorly united in a kind of mutual immanence. The priest’s relation to the Church is inscribed in the very relation which the priest has to Christ, such that the “sacramental representation” to Christ serves as the basis and inspiration for the relation of the priest to the Church.

16. Sacerdos unam eamque necessariam habet relationem, scilicet cum Iesu Christo, Capite et Pastore: partem enim habet in eius «consecratione-communione» necnon «missione», et quidem ratione specifica et gravi.79 At cum ea relatione ad Christum intime alia cohaeret, scilicet cum Ecclesia. Neque propterea simpliciter dicendae sunt relationes invicem cohaerentes, sed intime coniunctae per mutuam immanentiam. Relatio enim ad Ecclesiam inclusa est in unica relatione sacerdotis ad Christum, in quantum est Christi ipsius «repraesentatio sacramentalis», quae fundat atque sustinet sacerdotii relationem ad Ecclesiam.

In this sense the synod fathers wrote: “Inasmuch as he represents Christ the head, shepherd and spouse of the Church, the priest is placed not only in the Church but also in the forefront of the Church. The priesthood, along with the word of God and the sacramental signs which it serves, belongs to the constitutive elements of the Church. The ministry of the priest is entirely on behalf of the Church; it aims at promoting the exercise of the common priesthood of the entire People of God; it is ordered not only to the particular Church but also to the universal Church (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 10), in communion with the bishop, with Peter and under Peter. Through the priesthood of the bishop, the priesthood of the second order is incorporated in the apostolic structure of the Church. In this way priests, like the apostles, act as ambassadors of Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:20). This is the basis of the missionary character of every priest.”[28]

Atque hoc sensu scripserunt Patres synodales: «Quatenus repraesentat Christum Caput, Pastorem et Sponsum Ecclesiae, sacerdos non tantum in Ecclesia, sed etiam erga Ecclesiam ponitur. Sacerdotium una cum Verbo Dei ac signis sacramentalibus quibus inservit pertinet ad Ecclesiae elementa constitutiva. Ministerium presbyteri est omnino pro Ecclesia et pro exercitii provectione communis sacerdotii totius populi Dei et non solum ad Ecclesiam particularem sed etiam ad Ecclesiam universalem ordinatur,80 in communione cum Episcopo, cum Petro et sub Petro. Per episcopi sacerdotium, alterius ordinis sacerdotium coniungitur cum Ecclesiae apostolica constitutione. Ideo sacerdos, sicut Apostoli, munere fungitur legati Christi.81 Hoc super fundamentum stat cuiusvis sacerdotis missionarius animus».82

Therefore, the ordained ministry arises with the Church and has in bishops, and in priests who are related to and are in communion with them, a particular relation to the original ministry of the apostles - to which it truly “succeeds” - even though with regard to the latter it assumes different forms.

Ministerium ergo ordinatum cum ipsa Ecclesia incipit, et in episcopis, necnon in presbyteris, in relatione-communione cum ipsis, peculiarem in modum refertur ad primigenium ministerium apostolorum, in quorum «successionem» realiter advocantur, etiam si per alias formas id perficitur.

Consequently, the ordained priesthood ought not to be thought of as existing prior to the Church, because it is totally at the service of the Church. Nor should it be considered as posterior to the ecclesial community, as if the Church could be imagined as already established without this priesthood.

Non igitur censendum erit ordinatum sacerdotium velut aliquid Ecclesia ipsa antiquius, quandoquidem totum id in Ecclesiae servitium sit natum; neque ut aliquid communitate ecclesiali posterius, quasi concipi hanc possit prius constitutam esse et postea sacerdotio donatam.

The relation of the priest to Jesus Christ, and in him to his Church, is found in the very being of the priest by virtue of his sacramental consecration/anointing and in his activity, that is, in his mission or ministry. In particular, “the priest minister is the servant of Christ present in the Church as mystery, communion and mission. In virtue of his participation in the ‘anointing’ and ‘mission’ of Christ, the priest can continue Christ’s prayer, word, sacrifice and salvific action in the Church. In this way, the priest is a servant of the Church as mystery because he actuates the Church’s sacramental signs of the presence of the risen Christ. He is a servant of the Church as communion because - in union with the bishop and closely related to the presbyterate - he builds up the unity of the Church community in the harmony of diverse vocations, charisms and services. Finally, the priest is a servant to the Church as mission because he makes the community a herald and witness of the Gospel.”[29]

Relatio sacerdotis ad Christum Iesum, et in Ipso ad ipsius Ecclesiam, ponenda est in eo quod sacerdos est factus vi consecrationis-unctionis sacramentalis, et in eo quod ut talis operatur, id est in missione et ministerio. Nominatim «Sacerdos ministerialis est servus Christi, praesentis in Ecclesia-mysterio-communione-missione. Cum participare valeat “unctionem” et “missionem” Christi, potest perpetuas in Ecclesia facere Eiusdem preces, verba, sacrificium, actionem salvificam. Evadit sic servus Ecclesiae mysterii, cum agere valeat, signis ecclesialibus et sacramentalibus, praesentiam Christi resurgentis. Est quoque servus Ecclesiae communionis quia cum sit ipse coniunctus Episcopo in arcta cum presbyterio relatione, constructor evadit communitatis ecclesialis in harmonia diversarum vocationum diversorumque charismatum et servitiorum. Evadit denique servus Ecclesiae missionis, qui sua ipsius navitate communitatem reddit praeconem atque testem Evangelio».83

Thus, by his very nature and sacramental mission, the priest appears in the structure of the Church as a sign of the absolute priority and gratuitousness of the grace given to the Church by the risen Christ. Through the ministerial priesthood the Church becomes aware in faith that her being comes not from herself but from the grace of Christ in the Holy Spirit. The apostles and their successors, inasmuch as they exercise an authority which comes to them from Christ, the head and shepherd, are placed - with their ministry - in the fore front of the Church as a visible continuation and sacramental sign of Christ in his own position before the Church and the world, as the enduring and ever new source of salvation, he “who is head of the Church, his body, and is himself its savior” (Eph. 5:23).

Atque ita sacerdos, ob suam ipsius naturam et missionem sacramentalem apparet in Ecclesiae structura tanquam signum absolutae prioritatis et gratuitatis illius gratiae quae a Christo resurgente confertur Ecclesiae. Atque per ministeriale sacerdotium Ecclesia conscientiam sui ipsius in fide adquirit, se non a semetipsa originem sumpsisse, sed a Christi gratia in Spiritu Sancto. Apostoli autem eorumque successores, cum potestatem non suam sed a Christo Capite et Pastore receptam habeant, locum coram Ecclesia occupant — per suum ministerium — quod non nisi signum et continuatio sacramentalis et visibilis est Ipsius Christi, qui coram Ecclesia et mundo unus auctor et origo est Salutis; Salutis scilicet permanentis et semper novae, cum unus sit «ipse salvator corporis».84

 

 

17. By its very nature, the ordained ministry can be carried out only to the extent that the priest is united to Christ through sacramental participation in the priestly order, and thus to the extent that he is in hierarchical communion with his own bishop. The ordained ministry has a radical “communitarian form” and can only be carried out as “a collective work.”[30] The Council dealt extensively with this communal aspect of the nature of the priesthood, [31] examining in succession the relationship of the priest with his own bishop, with other priests and with the lay faithful.

17. Ministerium ordinatum, vi ipsius naturae tum tantummodo impletur cum presbyter Christo coniunctus perstat per insertionem sacramentalem in ordinem presbyteralem, id est, quatenus in communione hierarchica remanet cum proprio Episcopo. Ministerium enim ordinatum suam habet praecipuam «formam communitariam», unde tantummodo ut «opus collectivum» impletur.85 In hac sacerdotii natura «communionali» diu immoratum est Concilium,86 distincte perpendens relationes presbyteri cum proprio Episcopo, cum aliis presbyteris, cum christifidelibus laicis.

The ministry of priests is above all communion and a responsible and necessary cooperation with the bishop’s ministry, in concern for the universal Church and for the individual particular churches, for whose service they form with the bishop a single presbyterate.

Presbyterorum ministerium est imprimis communio necnon necessaria et responsalis collaboratio pro ministerio episcopi, in sollicitudine pro Ecclesia universali et pro singulis Ecclesiis particularibus, in quarum servitium presbyteri unum constituunt cum episcopo presbyterium.

Each priest, whether diocesan or religious, is united to the other members of this presbyterate on the basis of the sacrament of holy orders and by particular bonds of apostolic charity, ministry and fraternity All priests in fact, whether diocesan or religious, share in the one priesthood of Christ the head and shepherd; “they work for the same cause, namely, the building up of the body of Christ, which demands a variety of functions and new adaptations, especially at the present time,”[32] and is enriched down the centuries by ever new charisms.

Singuli autem sacerdotes, sive dioecesani sive religiosi sunt, uniuntur ceteris presbyterii membris vi communis sacramenti Ordinis, per peculiaria caritatis apostolicae vincula. Universi enim presbyteri, seu dioecesani seu religiosi, participes effecti sunt unius sacerdotii Christi Capitis et Pastoris, «omnes pro eadem causa laborant, id est in corporis Christi aedificationem; quae rursus, cum multiplices functiones exigat novasque identidem adaptationes secum ferat, praesertim hisce nostris temporibus»,87 decurrentibus saeculis ditanda indesinenter est novis charismatibus.

Finally, because their role and task within the Church do not replace but promote the baptismal priesthood of the entire People of God, leading it to its full ecclesial realization, priests have a positive and helping relationship to the laity. Priests are there to serve the faith, hope and charity of the laity. They recognize and uphold, as brothers and friends, the dignity of the laity as children of God and help them to exercise fully their specific role in the overall context of the Church’s mission.[33]

Presbyteri tandem, siquidem eorum imago et peculiare in Ecclesia munus sacerdotium baptismale totius Dei Populi non removet, sed ad adiuvandum natum est, id ad plenum sui actum ecclesialem perducendo, erga christifideles laicos sese habeant necesse est velut definiti promotores, cum in servitium positi sint eorum fidei, spei et caritatis. Eorundem ergo, tanquam fratres et amici, agnoscant et sustineant dignitatem filiorum Dei, eosque adiuvent ut in plenitudine exercere valeant munus quod in ambitu missionis Ecclesiae eisdem contigit.88

The ministerial priesthood conferred by the sacrament of holy orders and the common or “royal” priesthood of the faithful, which differ essentially and not only in degree,[34] are ordered one to the other - for each in its own way derives from the one priesthood of Christ. Indeed, the ministerial priesthood does not of itself signify a greater degree of holiness with regard to the common priesthood of the faithful; through it Christ gives to priests, in the Spirit, a particular gift so that they can help the People of God to exercise faithfully and fully the common priesthood which it has received.[35]

Sacerdotium ministeriale quod per Ordinis sacramentum confertur et illud commune seu «regale» christifidelium sacerdotium, inter sese non gradu tantum sed essentialiter diversum 89 ad invicem tamen coordinantur, cum utrumque — licet aliud alia forma — ab uno Christi sacerdotio proveniat. Ceterum sacerdotium ministeriale non per sese altiorem sanctitatis gradum requirit respectu communis christifidelium sacerdotii; sed per id presbyteris a Christo per Spiritum peculiare datur donum quo possint Populum Dei iuvare ut fideliter et plene adimpleat sacerdotium sibi collatum.90

18. As the Council points out, “the spiritual gift which priests have received in ordination does not prepare them merely for a limited and circumscribed mission, but for the fullest, in fact the universal, mission of salvation to the end of the earth. The reason is that every priestly ministry shares in the fullness of the mission entrusted by Christ to the apostles.”[36]

18. Ut opportune Concilium animadverterat: «Donum spirituale quod presbyteri in ordinatione acceperunt, illos non ad limitatam quandam et coartatam missionem praeparat, sed ad amplissimam et universalem missionem Salutis usque ad ultimum terrae, nam quodlibet sacerdotale ministerium participat ipsam universalem amplitudinem missionis a Christo Apostolis concreditae».91

By the very nature of their ministry they should therefore be penetrated and animated by a profound missionary spirit and “with that truly Catholic spirit which habitually looks beyond the boundaries of diocese, country or rite to meet the needs of the whole Church, being prepared in spirit to preach the Gospel everywhere.”[37]

Propter naturam autem ipsius ministerii oportet ut presbyteri penitus animentur profundo spiritu missionario: «Eo scilicet spiritu vere catholico quo propriae dioecesis, nationis vel ritus fines transcendere et totius Ecclesiae necessitates iuvare assuescant, animo parati ad Evangelium ubique praedicandum».92

Furthermore, precisely because within the Church’s life the priest is a man of communion, in his relations with all people he must be a man of mission and dialogue. Deeply rooted in the truth and charity of Christ, and impelled by the desire and imperative to proclaim Christ’s salvation to all, the priest is called to witness in all his relationships to fraternity, service and a common quest for the truth, as well as a concern for the promotion of justice and peace. This is the case above all with the brethren of other churches and Christian denominations, but it also extends to the followers of other religions, to people of good will and in particular to the poor and the defenseless, and to all who yearn - even if they do not know it or cannot express it - for the truth and the salvation of Christ, in accordance with the words of Jesus who said: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mk. 2:17).

Presbyter praeterea, cum intra Ecclesiae vitam eo vocetur ut communionis promotor sit, id conari debet ut, inter alios, ipse potissimum missionis et dialogi sit fautor. Actis ergo profundioribus in veritate et caritate christiana radicibus, et desiderio ardens nuntiandi universorum Salutem, auctor imprimis exstabit nectendis fraternitatis et servitii vinculis, veritatis in omnibus persequendae, iustitiae et pacis inter omnes homines provehendae; idque praesertim cum aliarum Ecclesiarum vel christianarum confessionum fratribus, non ipsis aliarum religionum fidelibus exclusis; brevi, cum hominibus bonae voluntatis et peculiari modo cum tenuioribus et infirmioribus, immo et cum iis qui, licet inscii et indocti, veritatem et Christi salutem sitiunt, secundum verbum Iesu qui dixit: «Non egent, qui sani sunt, medico, sed qui male habent. Non veni vocare iustos, sed peccatores ad paenitentiam».93

Today, in particular, the pressing pastoral task of the new evangelization calls for the involvement of the entire People of God, and requires a new fervor, new methods and a new expression for the announcing and witnessing of the Gospel. This task demands priests who are deeply and fully immersed in the mystery of Christ and capable of embodying a new style of pastoral life, marked by a profound communion with the pope, the bishops and other priests, and a fruitful cooperation with the lay faithful, always respecting and fostering the different roles, charisms and ministries present within the ecclesial community.[38]

Hodie praesertim urgentius illud munus pastorale novae evangelizationis, quod universum Dei Populum sollicitat novamque alacritatem, novas methodos, novam denique linguam pro Evangelio nuntiando postulat, sacerdotes requirit qui radicitus atque integre in Christi mysterium immersi sint, capaces novum pastoralis vitae stilum in actum ponendi; qui et profunda communione cum Summo Pontifice, cum Episcopis, apud semetipsos emineant, et per fecundam cum christifidelibus laicis collaborationem signentur, reverentes nihilominus et provehentes quae, intra ecclesialem communitatem, diversa sunt vel munera, vel charismata, vel ministeria.94

“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk. 4:2 1). Let us listen once again to these words of Jesus in the light of the ministerial priesthood which we have presented in its nature and mission. The “today” to which Jesus refers, precisely because it belongs to and defines the “fullness of time,” the time of full and definitive salvation, indicates the time of the Church. The consecration and mission of Christ - “The Spirit of the Lord...has anointed me and has sent me to preach good news to the poor” (cf. Lk. 4:18) - are the living branch from which bud the consecration and mission of the Church, the “fullness” of Christ (cf. Eph. 1:23). In the rebirth of baptism, the Spirit of the Lord is poured out on all believers, consecrating them as a spiritual temple and a holy priesthood and sending them forth to make known the marvels of him who out of darkness has called them into his marvelous light (cf. 1 Pt. 2:4-10). The priest shares in Christ’s consecration and mission in a specific and authoritative way, through the sacrament of holy orders, by virtue of which he is configured in his being to Jesus Christ, head and shepherd, and shares in the mission of “preaching the good news to the poor” in the name and person of Christ himself.

«Hodie impleta est haec Scriptura in auribus vestris».95 Audiamus denuo oportet haec Iesu verba, sub luce tamen sacerdotii ministerialis, prout id ostendimus, natura praesertim in missione eius perspecta. Si Iesus «hodie» dicit, meminerimus etiam temporum plenitudinem designari, tempus nempe assequendae plenioris et definitivae salutis, id est, Ecclesiae tempus! Consecratio ergo et missio Christi: «Spiritus Domini... unxit me, evangelizare pauperibus, misit me praedicare... annum Domini acceptum»,96 sunt radices vivae e quibus consecratio et missio Ecclesiae germinant, cum ipsa sit Christi «plenitudo»:97 per baptismi enim lavacrum Spiritus Domini super universos effunditur credentes, qui in id consecrantur ut aedificatio fiant spiritualis per sacerdotium sanctum, quos eosdem mittit ut testes sint prodigiorum illius qui eos e tenebris eruit in admirabile lumen suum.98 Presbyter partem habet modo quodam specifico ac probabili, consecrationis et missionis Christi, id est per sacramentum ordinis, cuius vi ipse configuratur ad similitudinem Christi Capitis et Pastoris, missionem tum accipiens «nuntiandi pauperibus... annum Domini acceptum». Idque nomine et persona Ipsius Christi.

In their final message the synod fathers summarized briefly but eloquently the “truth,” or better the “mystery” and “gift” of the ministerial priesthood, when they stated: “We derive our identity ultimately from the love of the Father, we turn our gaze to the Son, sent by the Father as high priest and good shepherd. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are united sacramentally to him in the ministerial priesthood. Our priestly life and activity continue the life and activity of Christ himself. Here lies our identity, our true dignity, the source of our joy, the very basis of our life.”[39]

Patres synodales, in ipsorum ad Populum Dei nuntio, paucis quidem sed ditissimis verbis in compendium duxerunt sacerdotii ministerialis «veritatem», melius «mysterium» seu «donum», cum ita scripserunt: «Nostra identitas, tanquam ultimum fontem amorem habet Patris. Cum Filio, Summo Sacerdote et Bono Pastore ab eo misso, in sacerdotio ministeriali per Spiritus Sancti actionem sacramentaliter coniungimur. Vita et navitas sacerdotis est vitae et navitatis ipsius Christi Sacerdotis continuatio: haec est nostra identitas, vera dignitas, gaudii fons, vitae certitudo».99

CHAPTER III

CAPUT III

THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME
The Spiritual Life of the Priest

SPIRITUS DOMINI SUPER ME
De vita spirituali presbyterorum

A “Specific” Vocation to Holiness

 

19. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” (Lk. 4:18). The Spirit is not simply “upon” the Messiah, but he “fills” him, penetrating every part of him and reaching to the very depths of all that he is and does. Indeed, the Spirit is the principle of the “consecration” and “mission” of the Messiah: “Because he has anointed me and sent me to preach good news to the poor” (cf. Lk. 4:18). Through the Spirit, Jesus belongs totally and exclusively to God and shares in the infinite holiness of God, who calls him, chooses him and sends him forth. In this way the Spirit of the Lord is revealed as the source of holiness and of the call to holiness.

19. «Spiritus Domini super me».100 Spiritus non «super» simpliciter est: Messiam «replet», penetrat, in suo esse et operari assequitur. Spiritus enim principium est «consecrationis» et «missionis» Messiae: «Propter quod unxit me... et misit me... praedicare annum Domini acceptum».101 Propter Spiritum ergo Christus totaliter et exclusive ad Deum pertinet, partem habet in infinita Dei sanctitate, Ipsum vocantis, eligentis, mittentis. Sic itaque sese Spiritus Domini revelat, tamquam sanctitatis fontem et ad sanctificationem vocationem.

This name “Spirit of the Lord” is “upon” the entire People of God, which becomes established as a people “consecrated” to God and “sent” by God to announce the Gospel of salvation. The members of the People of God are “inebriated” and “sealed” with the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 12:13; 2 Cor. 1:21ff.; Eph. 1:13; 4:30) and called to holiness.

Idem autem «Spiritus Domini» est etiam «super» integrum Dei Populum, qui in id tamquam «consecratus» populus a Deo constituitur, et a Deo «mittitur» ut salvificum annuntiet Evangelium. Atque ab eodem Spiritu Populi Dei membra omnia «inebriantur», «signantur»102 et ad sanctitatem denique vocantur.

In particular, the Spirit reveals to us and communicates the fundamental calling which the Father addresses to everyone from all eternity: the vocation to be “holy and blameless before him...in love,” by virtue of our predestination to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ (cf. Eph. 1:4-5). This is not all. By revealing and communicating this vocation to us, the Spirit becomes within us the principle and wellspring of its fulfillment. He, the Spirit of the Son (cf. Gal. 4:6), configures us to Christ Jesus and makes us sharers in his life as Son, that is, sharers in his life of love for the Father and for our brothers and sisters. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). In these words the apostle Paul reminds us that a Christian life is a “spiritual life,” that is, a life enlivened and led by the Spirit toward holiness or the perfection of charity.

Peculiari autem modo Spiritus nobis revelat et communicat eam fundamentalem vocationem quam ab aeterno universis destinat Pater: vocationem scilicet ut «sancti simus et immaculati in conspectu eius in caritate», vi illius beneplaciti voluntatis suae «qui praedestinavit nos in adoptionem filiorum per Iesum Christum in ipsum».103 Atque huiusmodi vocationem non revelando tantum et communicando Spiritus fit in nobis robur et voluntas ad eius effectionem: ipse enim Filii Spiritus 104 nos cum Christo conformat participesque efficit suae filialis vitae, id est caritatis erga Patrem et erga fratres nostros: «Si vivimus Spiritu, Spiritu et ambulemus».105 Quibus verbis nos apostolus Paulus commeminit christianorum exsistentiam «vitam esse spiritualem», id est per Spiritum animatam et ductam versus sanctitatem vel caritatis perfectionem.

The Council’s statement that “all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity”[40] applies in a special way to priests. They are called not only because they have been baptized, but also and specifically because they are priests, that is, under a new title and in new and different ways deriving from the sacrament of holy orders.

Assertio autem Concilii: «Omnes christifideles cuiuscumque status vel ordinis ad vitae christianae plenitudinem et caritatis perfectionem vocari»106 peculiarissimo quodam modo presbyteris applicanda est: illi ad id enim vocantur non eo tantum quod baptizati sunt, sed ea ipsa ratione quia sunt presbyteri, id est, novo quodam titulo et peculiaribus rationibus ex Ordinis sacramento derivantibus.

20. The Council’s Decree on Priestly Life and Ministry gives us a particularly rich and thought - provoking synthesis of the priest’s “spiritual life” and of the gift and duty to become “saints”: “By the sacrament of orders priests are configured to Christ the priest so that as ministers of the head and co - workers with the episcopal order they may build up and establish his whole body which is the Church. Like all Christians they have already received in the consecration of baptism the sign and gift of their great calling and grace which enables and obliges them even in the midst of human weakness to seek perfection (cf. 2 Cor. 12:9), according to the Lord’s word: ‘You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt. 5:48). But priests are bound in a special way to strive for this perfection, since they are consecrated to God in a new way by their ordination. They have become living instruments of Christ the eternal priest, so that through the ages they, can accomplish his wonderful work of reuniting the whole human race with heavenly power. Therefore, since every priest in his own way represents the person of Christ himself, he is endowed with a special grace. By this grace the priest, through his service of the people committed to his care and all the People of God, is able the better to pursue the perfection of Christ, whose place he takes. The human weakness of his flesh is remedied by the holiness of him who became for us a high priest ‘holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners’ (Heb. 7:26).”[41]

20. De presbyterorum «vita spirituali» et de eorum dono et responsalitate ut «sancti» fiant, Concilii Decretum de presbyterorum ministerio et vita compendium suppeditat copia et stimulis perquam munificum: «Sacramento Ordinis presbyteri Christo Sacerdoti configurantur, ut ministri Capitis, ad totum Eius corpus, quod est Ecclesia, exstruendum et aedificandum, tanquam ordinis episcopalis cooperatores. Iam quidem in Baptismi consecratione, sicut omnes christifideles, signum et donum acceperunt tantae vocationis et gratiae ut, vel in infirmitate humana, perfectionem prosequi possint et debeant, iuxta verbum Domini: “Estote ergo vos perfecti, sicut Pater vester caelestis perfectus est”.107 Ad hanc vero perfectionem acquirendam peculiari ratione tenentur sacerdotes, quippe qui, Deo in ordinis receptione novo modo consecrati, Christi Aeterni Sacerdotis viva instrumenta efficiantur, ut mirabile opus Eius, quod superna efficacitate universum hominum convictum redintegravit, per tempora persequi valeant. Cum ergo omnis sacerdos, suo modo, Ipsius Christi personam gerat, particulari quoque gratia ditatur ut, inserviendo plebi commissae et universo populo Dei, Eius perfectionem altius prosequi possit, cuius partes sustinet, utque humanae infirmitati carnis medeatur sanctitas Illius, qui nobis factus est Pontifex, “sanctus, innocens, impollutus, segregatus a peccatoribus”108».109

The Council first affirms the “common” vocation to holiness. This vocation is rooted in baptism, which characterizes the priest as one of the “faithful” (Christifedelis), as a “brother among brothers,” a member of the People of God, joyfully sharing in the gifts of salvation (cf. Eph. 4:4-6) and in the common duty of walking “according to the Spirit” in the footsteps of the one master and Lord. We recall the celebrated words of St. Augustine: “For you I am a bishop, with you I am a Christian. The former title speaks of a task undertaken, the latter of grace; the former betokens danger, the latter salvation.”[42]

Asserit ergo imprimis Concilium «communem» esse vocationem ad sanctitatem. Quae quidem vocatio radices habet in Baptismate, quod presbyterum notat tamquam christifidelem, «fratrem inter fratres», insertum Dei Populo atque cum eo unitum, laetum in Salutis donis cum reliquis compartiendis110 et in communi officio incedendi «secundum Spiritum» in adsectatione unius Magistri et Domini. Meminerimus celeberrimi divi Augustini effati: «Vobis sum episcopus, vobiscum sum christianus...Illud nomen est periculi, hoc salutis».111

With the same clarity the conciliar text also speaks of a “specific” vocation to holiness, or more precisely of a vocation based on the sacrament of holy orders - as a sacrament proper and specific to the priest - and thus involving a new consecration to God through ordination. St. Augustine also alludes to this specific vocation when, after the words “For you I am a bishop, with you I am a Christian, he goes on to say: “If therefore it is to me a greater cause for joy to have been rescued with you than to have been placed as your leader, following the Lord’s command, I will devote myself to the best of my abilities to serve you, so as not to show myself ungrateful to him who rescued me with that price which has made me your fellow servant.”[43]

Eadem perspicuitate conciliaris loquitur textus de vocatione «specifica» ad sanctitatem, idque profecto tanquam de vocatione originem trahente a sacramento ordinis, quod presbyterorum proprium est atque peculiare, vi novae cuiusdam consecrationis quam ordinationem dicimus. Ad eandem praecipuam vocationem innuere pergit S. Augustinus cum superiora verba explanans, ita prosequitur: «Si ergo plus me delectat, quod vobiscum emptus sum, quam quod vobis praepositus sum; tunc, ut Dominus praecipit, ero abundantius vester servus, ne ingratus sim pretio, quo vester merui esse conservus».112

The conciliar text goes on to point out some elements necessary for defining what constitutes the “specific quality” of the priest’s spiritual life. These are elements connected with the priest’s “consecration,” which configures him to Christ the head and shepherd of the Church, with the “mission” or ministry peculiar to the priest; which equips and obliges him to be a “living instrument of Christ the eternal priest” and to act “in the name and in the person of Christ himself” and with his entire “life,” called to manifest and witness in a fundamental way the “radicalism of the Gospel.”[44]

Pertractat deinceps conciliaris textus quasdam minutatim res earum e quibus dignoscitur praecipua presbyterorum vita spiritualis. Quarum pleraeque connectuntur cum «consecratione», quae eorum propria est eosque ad Christum, Ecclesiae Caput et Pastorem configurat; vel cum «missione» vel ministerio presbyterorum proprio, quod eos habiles efficit et instruit ut fiant «Christi Sacerdotis aeterni viva instrumenta» et ad agendum provehit «Ipsius Christi nomine et persona»; idque per totam ipsorum vitam, quae manifeste invitatur ad testimonium reddendum modo quodam originali et alacri, per sic dictum «radicalismum evangelicum».113

 

 

 

 

Configuration to Christ, the Head and Shepherd, and Pastoral Charity

 

 

 

 

 

21. By sacramental consecration the priest is configured to Jesus Christ as head and shepherd of the Church, and he is endowed with a “spiritual power” which is a share in the authority with which Jesus Christ guides the Church through his Spirit.[45]

21. Presbyter, per sacramentalem hanc consecrationem, configuratur Christo Iesu quatenus Capiti et Pastori Ecclesiae, atque exinde, donationis instar, recipit eam «spiritualem potestatem» quae participatio est auctoritatis summae qua Christus, per Spiritum suum, ducit Ecclesiam.114

By virtue of this consecration brought about by the outpouring of the Spirit in the sacrament of holy orders, the spiritual life of the priest is marked, molded and characterized by the way of thinking and acting proper to Jesus Christ, head and shepherd of the Church, and which are summed up in his pastoral charily.

Per hanc ergo consecrationem a Spiritu peractam in sacramentali effusione, spiritualis presbyteri vita instruitur, confingitur, signatur quodammodo iis habitibus, gestibus, placitis, quae Ipsius Christi Iesu, Capitis et Pastoris Ecclesiae, propria sunt, et quae compendio efficiunt caritatem quam dicimus pastoralem.

Jesus Christ is head of the Church his body. He is the “head” in the new and unique sense of being a “servant,” according to his own words: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). Jesus’ service attains its fullest expression in his death on the cross, that is, in his total gift of self in humility and love. “He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:7-8). The authority of Jesus Christ as head coincides then with his service, with his gift, with his total, humble and loving dedication on behalf of the Church. All this he did in perfect obedience to the Father; he is the one true Suffering Servant of God, both priest and victim.

Christus est Ecclesiae Caput, sui scilicet Corporis. «Caput» est eo quidem novo et sibi proprio modo, «servum» scilicet significandi, prout ab Ipsius verbis evincitur: «Filius hominis non venit ut ministraretur ei, sed ut ministraret et daret animam suam redemptionem pro multis».115 Quod servitium seu «ministerium» plenitudinem sui attigit per mortem in cruce acceptam, id est per totale sui donum, in humilitate et amore: «Semetipsum exinanivit formam servi accipiens, in similitudinem hominum factus; et habitu inventus ut homo, humiliavit semetipsum factus oboediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis».116 Auctoritas autem Christi Iesu Capitis eadem est ac Ipsius servitium, donum, totalis deditio, humilis atque dilectionis plena, erga Ecclesiam. Idque in perfecta erga Patrem oboedientia. Ille enim, unicus verusque est afflictus et dolens Domini Servus, idemque Sacerdos et Hostia seu Victima.

The spiritual existence of every priest receives its life and inspiration from exactly this type of authority, from service to the Church, precisely inasmuch as it is required by the priest’s configuration to Jesus Christ Head and Servant of the Church.[46] As St. Augustine once reminded a bishop on the day of his ordination: “He who is head of the people must in the first place realize that he is to be the servant of many. And he should not disdain being such; I say it once again, he should not disdain being the servant of many, because the Lord of Lords did not disdain to make himself our servant.”[47]

Hac potissimum auctoritatis forma, id est, servitio Ecclesiae oblato, tota animatur et vivificatur existentia spiritualis cuiusvis presbyteri, idque perficitur exigente ipsius configuratione ad Christum Iesum, Ecclesiae Caput et Servum.117 Bene ergo divus Augustinus episcopum aliquem ita hortabatur occasione illius ordinationis: «Qui populo praeest oportet ante omnia cognoscat se multis inservire. Neque hoc eum paeniteat, eum non abhorreat se multorum servum esse, quia Dominum Dominorum non dedecuit nostrum fieri servum».118

The spiritual life of the ministers of the New Testament should therefore be marked by this fundamental attitude of service to the People of God (cf. Mt. 20:24ff.; Mk. 10:43-44), freed from all presumption of desire of “lording over” those in their charge (cf. 1 Pt. 5 :2-3). The priest is to perform this service freely and willingly as God desires. In this way the priests, as the ministers, the “elders” of the community, will be in their person the “model” of the flock, which for its part is called to display this same priestly attitude of service toward the world - in order to bring to humanity the fullness of life and complete liberation.

Instruenda igitur erit spiritualis vita ministrorum Novi Testamenti iuxta necessarium hoc exemplar in Populi Dei servitium,119 procul a quavis ostentatione et a desiderio «dominandi» in gregem cuique concreditum.120 Sit igitur servitium magno animo acceptum et libenter secundum Deum exhibitum; ita fiet ut ministri, qui in communitate «seniores», id est presbyteri nominantur, evadere possint «exemplar» gregis, qui vicissim erga universum mundum eandem hanc servitii indolem, tanquam sacerdotalem habitum, induant pro pleniore hominis vita, vel etiam pro ipsius integra liberatione.

 

 

 

 

22. The figure of Jesus Christ as shepherd of the Church, his flock, takes up and represents in new and more evocative terms the same content as that of Jesus Christ as head and servant. Fulfilling the prophetic proclamation of the Messiah and savior joyfully announced by the psalmist and the prophet Ezekiel (cf. Ps. 22-23; Ez. 34:11ff.), Jesus presents himself as “the good shepherd” (Jn. 10:11, 14), not only of Israel but of all humanity (cf. Jn. 10:16). His whole life is a continual manifestation of his “pastoral charity,” or rather, a daily enactment of it. He feels compassion for the crowds because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (cf. Mt. 9:35-36). He goes in search of the straying and scattered sheep (cf. Mt. 18:12-14) and joyfully celebrates their return. He gathers and protects them. He knows them and calls each one by name (cf. Jn. 10:3). He leads them to green pastures and still waters (cf. Ps. 22-23) and spreads a table for them, nourishing them with his own life. The good shepherd offers this life through his own death and resurrection, as the Church sings out in the Roman liturgy: “The good shepherd is risen! He who laid down his life for his sheep, who died for his flock, he is risen, alleluia.”[48]

22. Christi imago, Pastoris Ecclesiae, quae Eius est grex, recipit atque denuo proponit novis ac versicoloribus delineamentis eadem quae in imagine Christi Capitis vel Servi reperiuntur. Est enim ipse Christus Iesus qui verum faciens propheticum praeconium de Messia Salvatore, olim laetanter a Psalmorum vate et ab Ezechiele propheta cantatum,121 semetipsum velut «bonum Pastorem» ostendit 122 neque Israelis tantummodo, sed hominum universorum;123 eiusque vita manifestatio est, nunquam interrupta, immo quotidiana exhibitio eius «caritatis pastoralis»: multitudinum miseretur, quippe quae, velut oves sine pastore, defessae et confectae sint;124 quaerit quae vel erraverunt vel viribus defecerunt,125 festumque agit quoties invenit; eas denique colligit et tuetur, novit, vocat tandem nominatim,126 in pascuis etiam virentibus et super aquas quietis collocat;127 mensam denique pro ipsis instruit, eas suae ipsius vitae nutrimento fovet. Hanc Bonus Pastor vitam, per suam mortem et resurrectionem offert, ut perspicue liturgia Romana pangit: «Surrexit Pastor Bonus, qui animam suam posuit pro ovibus suis, et pro grege suo mori dignatus est».128

The author of the first letter of Peter calls Jesus the “chief Shepherd” (1 Pt. 5:4) because his work and mission continue in the Church through the apostles (cf. Jn. 21:15-17) and their successors (cf. 1 Pt. 5:1ff.), and through priests. By virtue of their consecration, priests are configured to Jesus the good shepherd and are called to imitate and to live out his own pastoral charity.

«Pastorum Principem» appellat Iesum Petrus 129 idque quia eius opus et missio continuatur in Ecclesia per apostolos 130 et per eorum successores 131 et per presbyteros. Vi huius consecrationis, presbyteri, qui cum Iesu Bono Pastore configurantur, vocati sunt ad imitandam illius caritatem pastoralem eamque per vitam exprimendam.

Christ’s gift of himself to his Church, the fruit of his love, is described in terms of that unique gift of self made by the bridegroom to the bride, as the sacred texts often suggest. Jesus is the true bridegroom who offers to the Church the wine of salvation (cf. Jn. 2:11). He who is “the head of the Church, his body, and is himself its savior” (Eph. 5:23) “loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5 :25-27). The Church is indeed the body in which Christ the head is present and active, but she is also the bride who proceeds like a new Eve from the open side of the redeemer on the cross.

Eadem sui donatio qua Christus sese Ecclesiae suae tradit cum eam facit amoris sui fructum, perfecte cohaeret cum illa primigenia deditione quae propria sponsi est erga sponsam, ut saepe, etiam in sacris textibus innuitur. Iesus enim verus est sponsus, qui Ecclesiae Salutis porrigit vinum.132 Ipse, «qui Caput est Ecclesiae... ipse salvator corporis»,133 dilexit Ecclesiam et se ipsum tradidit pro ea ut eam sanctificaret mundans lavacro aquae in verbo, ut exhiberet ipse sibi gloriosam Ecclesiam, non habentem maculam aut rugam aut aliquid eiusmodi, sed ut sit sancta et immaculata».134 Ecclesia profecto corpus est in quo praesens adest atque operatur Christus Caput, sed eadem est etiam sponsa, quae velut nova Eva, ab aperto latere Redemptoris in cruce pendentis prosilit.

Hence Christ stands “before” the Church and “nourishes and cherishes her” (Eph. 5 :29), giving his life for her. The priest is called to be the living image of Jesus Christ, the spouse of the Church.[49] Of course, he will always remain a member of the community as a believer alongside his other brothers and sisters who have been called by the Spirit, but in virtue of his configuration to Christ, the head and shepherd, the priest stands in this spousal relationship with regard to the community. “Inasmuch as he represents Christ, the head, shepherd and spouse of the Church, the priest is placed not only in the Church but also in the forefront of the Church.”[50] In his spiritual life, therefore, he is called to live out Christ’s spousal love toward the Church, his bride. Therefore, the priest’s life ought to radiate this spousal character, which demands that he be a witness to Christ’s spousal love and thus be capable of loving people with a heart which is new, generous and pure - with genuine self - detachment, with full, constant and faithful dedication and at the same time with a kind of “divine jealousy” (cf. 2 Cor. 11:2) and even with a kind of maternal tenderness, capable of bearing “the pangs of birth” until “Christ be formed” in the faithful (cf. Gal. 4:19).

Propterea dicitur Christus prostare «coram» Ecclesia, eamque «nutrire et fovere»,135 vitam pro ea in donum offerens. Sacerdos ergo advocatur ut sit imago vivens Iesu Christi, Ecclesiae sponsi: 136 remanet ipse quidem semper communitatis pars, sicut remanent credentes ceteri, omnesque alii fratres et sorores, qui ab Spiritu sunt convocati, sed vi eiusdem configurationis ad Christum Caput et Pastorem, ipse presbyter positus est in eiusmodi relatione sponsali erga propriam communitatem: «Quatenus repraesentat Christum Caput, Pastorem et Sponsum Ecclesiae, sacerdos non tantum in Ecclesia, sed etiam erga Ecclesiam ponitur».137 Sic ergo invitatur presbyter ut in sua vita spirituali dilectionem eam vivat quam Christus Sponsus erga sponsam Ecclesiam fovet. Eius igitur vita sic illustranda est et instruenda, sub hoc quoque sponsali prospectu, ut testis fiat amoris sponsalis Christi; valens proinde omnes diligere, corde quidem novo, magnanimo et puro, per veram sui ipsius neglegentiam, per plenam deditionem, continuam fidelemque, et simul per quandam amantis aemulationem («aemulor enim Vos»138), ea animi materni lenitate quae nec blanditias spernat materni animi proprias, nec loquelam ipsius «parturientis» suam facere recuset, «donec in christifidelium cordibus denuo formetur Christus».139

 

 

 

 

23. The internal principle, the force which animates and guides the spiritual life of the priest inasmuch as he is configured to Christ the head and shepherd, is pastoral charity, as a participation in Jesus Christ’s own pastoral charity, a gift freely bestowed by the Holy Spirit and likewise a task and a call which demand a free and committed response on the part of the priest.

23. Principium interius, virtus scilicet qua presbyteri vita spiritualis animetur et quasi manuducatur, quatenus is configuratur Christo Capiti et Pastori, ponendum est in caritate pastorali, id est in participatione ipsius caritatis pastoralis Christi Iesu; quae et gratuitum Spiritus Sancti donum erit, et simul munus et liberum responsale presbyteri responsum.

The essential content of this pastoral charity is the gift of self, the total gift of self to the Church, following the example of Christ. “Pastoral charity is the virtue by which we imitate Christ in his self - giving and service. It is not just what we do, but our gift of self, which manifests Christ’s love for his flock. Pastoral charity determines our way of thinking and acting, our way of relating to people. It makes special demands on us.”[51]

In qua pastorali caritate primum contineatur necesse est donum sui: donum scilicet totale, Ecclesiae tradendum, ad imaginem Christi eiusdemque donationis imitationem. «Caritas enim pastorum ea virtus est qua Christum in sui donatione et in servitio imitamur: non proinde ponenda est in illis quae facimus, sed reperienda in nostrum ipsorum dono, quo exprimatur Christi amor gregi oblatus. Huiusmodi caritas pastoralis confirmabit nostram cogitandi et agendi rationem nostrumque morem ad homines accedendi. Idque severam a nobis postulat renuntiationem...».140

The gift of self, which is the source and synthesis of pastoral charity, is directed toward the Church. This was true of Christ who “loved the Church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25), and the same must be true for the priest. With pastoral charity, which distinguishes the exercise of the priestly ministry as an amoris officium,[52] “the priest, who welcomes the call to ministry, is in a position to make this a loving choice, as a result of which the Church and souls become his first interest, and with this concrete spirituality he becomes capable of loving the universal Church and that part of it entrusted to him with the deep love of a husband for his wife.”[53] The gift of self has no limits, marked as it is by the same apostolic and missionary zeal of Christ, the good shepherd, who said: “And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd” (Jn. 10:16).

Hoc nostri donum, quod radix et synthesis est caritatis pastoralis, Ecclesiae est destinandum. Sic nos edocuit Christus qui «dilexit Ecclesiam et se ipsum tradidit pro ea»;141 eodem ergo modo sacerdos operetur. Per caritatem pastoralem, quae ministerii sacerdotalis exercitium sic instruit tanquam «amoris officium»,142 «sacerdos, qui vocationem ad ministerium amplexus est, capax redditur id ipsius velut optatum amoris exemplum exercendi, unde nullum potiorem profiteatur amorem, quam Ecclesiae et animarum; hac concreta spiritualitate munitus eadem cordis incitatione qua sponsus ad sponsam trahetur, et universalem pariter Ecclesiam diliget et eam eiusdem portionem quae fuerit ipsi concredita».143 Donum sui limites non novit, cum eius insigne sit idem atque apostolicus et missionarius Christi, boni Pastoris, impetus, qui dixit: «Et alias oves habeo, quae non sunt ex hoc ovili; et illas oportet me adducere, et vocem meam audient, et fiet unus grex, unus pastor».144

Within the Church community the priest’s pastoral charity impels and demands in a particular and specific way his personal relationship with the presbyterate, united in and with the bishop, as the Council explicitly states: “Pastoral charity requires that a priest always work in the bond of communion with the bishop and with his brother priests, lest his efforts be in vain.”[54]

Intra communitatem autem ecclesialem haec pastoralis caritas sacerdotis sollicitat, immo peculiari ac specifico modo exigit, personalem quandam relationem cum cetero presbyterio, intra sese et cum Episcopo compacto, ut explicite a Concilio declaratum est: «Pastoralis ergo caritas postulat ut Presbyteri, ne in vacuum currant, in vinculo communionis cum Episcopis et cum aliis in sacerdotio fratribus semper labo- rent».145

The gift of self to the Church concerns her insofar as she is the body and the bride of Jesus Christ. In this way the primary point of reference of the priest’s charity is Jesus Christ himself. Only in loving and serving Christ the head and spouse will charity become a source, criterion, measure and impetus for the priest’s love and service to the Church, the body and spouse of Christ. The apostle Paul had a clear and sure understanding of this point. Writing to the Christians of the church in Corinth, he refers to “ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor 4:5). Above all, this was the explicit and programmatic teaching of Jesus when he entrusted to Peter the ministry of shepherding the flock only after his threefold affirmation of love, indeed only after he had expressed a preferential love: “He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter...said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.”‘ (Jn. 21:17)

Donum nostri Ecclesiae ad eam respicit in quantum Ipsa Christi Iesu Sponsa est. Caritas ergo sacerdotis Christum primum respicit: et tantummodo ea caritas quae Christum Caput et Sponsum amat eique inservit, evadere potest fons, criterium, mensura, incitatio denique amoris et servitii, quod presbyter Ecclesiae, Christi Corpori et Sponsae, tradit. Atque haec erat perlucida et strenua perceptio Pauli apostoli, cum ad christianos Ecclesiae Corinthi sic scribebat: «Nos autem servos vestros per Iesum».146 Nam haec fuerat praesertim doctrina Iesu explicita et pro futuro, cum ipse Petro tradidit pascendum gregem non antequam ab eo triplicem amoris, immo praedilectionis, attestationem exquisivit: «Dicit ei tertio: Simon Ioannis, amas me?... Dicit ei Petrus: Domine tu, omnia scis: tu cognoscis quia amo te. Dicit ei: pasce oves meas...».147

Pastoral charity, which has its specific source in the sacrament of holy orders, finds its full expression and its supreme nourishment in the Eucharist. As the Council states: “This pastoral charity flows mainly from the eucharistic sacrifice, which is thus the center and root of the whole priestly life. The priestly soul strives thereby to apply to itself the action which takes place on the altar of sacrifice.”[55] Indeed, the Eucharist re - presents, makes once again priest, the sacrifice of the cross, the full gift of Christ to the Church, the gift of his body given and his blood shed, as the supreme witness of the fact that he is head and shepherd, servant and spouse of the Church. Precisely because of this, the priest’s pastoral charity not only flows from the Eucharist but finds in the celebration of the Eucharist its highest realization - just as it is from the Eucharist that he receives the grace and obligation to give his whole life a “sacrificial” dimension.

Pastoralis caritas, quae fontem specificum in Ordinis sacramento habet, pleniorem sui sensum et supremum alimentum in Eucharistia reperit: «Haec quidem pastoralis caritas maxime profluit a sacrificio eucharistico, quod ideo centrum et radix totius vitae presbyteri exstat, ita ut quod in sacrificali ara agitur, sacerdotalis animus in se referre studeat».148 In Eucharistia enim «repraesentatur», id est denuo praesens fit, crucis sacrificium, totale Christi ad Ecclesiam suam donum, corporis scilicet quod traditur, sanguinis qui effunditur; supremum testimonium Illius qui Caput est et Pastor, Servus et Sponsus Ecclesiae. Atque ob hanc potissimum caritatis pastoralis postulationem presbyter non tantum dicitur ab Eucharistia procedere sed in eadem invenire meliorem sui significationem, sicuti ab Eucharistia quoque et gratiam et munus recipit conferendi auctoritatem «sacrificalem» toti suae exsistentiae.

This same pastoral charity is the dynamic inner principle capable of unifying the many different activities of the priest. In virtue of this pastoral charity the essential and permanent demand for unity between the priest’s interior life and all his external actions and the obligations of the ministry can be properly fulfilled, a demand particularly urgent in a socio - cultural and ecclesial context strongly marked by complexity, fragmentation and dispersion. Only by directing every moment and every one of his acts toward the fundamental choice to “give his life for the flock” can the priest guarantee this unity which is vital and indispensable for his harmony and spiritual balance. The Council reminds us that “priests attain to the unity of their lives by uniting themselves with Christ whose food was to fulfill the will of him who sent him to do his work.... In this way, by assuming the role of the good shepherd they will find in the very exercise of pastoral charity the bond of priestly perfection which will unify their lives and activities.”[56]

Haec eadem caritas pastoralis principium habetur, interius et dynamicum, capax in unum perducendi multiplicem et variam sacerdotis navitatem. Per eam enim responsum dari potest exigentiae illi, essentiali necnon permanenti, unitatis inter vitam scilicet interiorem et complures actiones et munia quae secum fert ministerii responsalitas; quod postulatum urgentius et implicatius hodie effectum est, in hoc socio-culturali et ecclesiali contextu, in quo etiam munera internectuntur, minutatim dividuntur, dispertiuntur. Unde tum tantum incitatio quaevis et gestus quivis possunt in unam intentionem reduci «vitam pro grege ponendi» cum omnia haec in unitatem rediguntur, aequilibrio interiori spirituali presbyteri necessariam. «Quam vitae unitatem... struere valent presbyteri, exemplum in ministerio adimplendo sequentes Christi Domini, cuius cibus erat voluntatem facere Illius qui Eum misit, ut opus suum perficeret... Sic Boni Pastoris partes agendo, in ipso caritatis pastoralis exercitio invenient vinculum perfectionis sacerdotalis, ad unitatem eorum vitam et actionem redigens».149

 

 

 

 

The Spiritual Life in the Exercise of the Ministry

 

 

 

 

 

24. The Spirit of the Lord anointed Christ and sent him forth to announce the Gospel (cf. Lk. 4:18). The priest’s mission is not extraneous to his consecration or juxtaposed to it, but represents its intrinsic and vital purpose: Consecration is for mission. In this sense, not only consecration but mission as well is under the seal of the Spirit and the influence of his sanctifying power.

24. Spiritus Domini Christum consecravit et ad Evangelium misit nuntiandum.150 Missio ergo non est elementum exterius, consecrationi adiunctum, sed eiusdem intrinsecum vitalemque sensum constituit: consecratio enim missioni destinatur. Atque ita fit ut non tantummodo consecratio sed etiam missio subsit Spiritus dominatui, sub Ipsius scilicet sanctificanti influxu.

This was the case in Jesus’ life. This was the case in the lives of the apostles and their successors. This is the case for the entire Church and within her for priests: All have received the Spirit as a gift and call to holiness in and through the carrying out of the mission.[57]

Id Iesu Ipsi contigit, idemque apostolis eorumque successoribus exspectandum fuit. Idem ergo Ecclesiae et eius presbyteris erit experiendum: omnibus enim Spiritus ut donum exspectandum est, ut vocatio ad sanctificationem, ut sustentandae missionis iuvamen.151

Therefore, an intimate bond exists between the priest’s spiritual life and the exercise of his ministry,[58] a bond which the Council expresses in this fashion: “And so it is that they are grounded in the life of the Spirit while they exercise the ministry of the Spirit and of justice (cf. 2 Cor. 3:8-9), as long as they are docile to Christ’s Spirit, who gives them life and guidance. For by their everyday sacred actions, as by the entire ministry which they exercise in union with the bishop and their fellow priests, they are being directed toward perfection of life. Priestly holiness itself contributes very greatly to a fruitful fulfillment of the priestly ministry.”[59]

Datur igitur interior quaedam relatio inter vitam spiritualem presbyteri et exercitium eius ministerii,152 quod ita per Concilium descripta sunt: «Itaque ministerium Spiritus et iustitiae exercentes, dummodo sint docibiles Spiritui Christi qui eos vivificat et ducit, in vita spiritus firmantur. Per ipsas enim cotidianas sacras actiones, sicut et per integrum sui ministerium, quod cum Episcopo et Presbyteris communicantes exercent, ipsi ad vitae perfectionem ordinantur. Ipsa autem sanctitas Presbyterorum ad proprium ministerium fructuose complendum plurimum confert».153

“Live the mystery that has been placed in your hands!” This is the invitation and admonition which the Church addresses to the priest in the Rite of Ordination, when the offerings of the holy people for the eucharistic sacrifice are placed in his hands. The “mystery” of which the priest is a “steward” (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1) is definitively Jesus Christ himself, who in the Spirit is the source of holiness and the call to sanctification. This “mystery” seeks expression in the priestly life. For this to be so, there is need for great vigilance and lively awareness. Once again, the Rite of Ordination introduces these words with this recommendation: “Beware of what you will be doing.” In the same way Paul had admonished Timothy, “Do not neglect the gift you have” (1 Tm. 4:14; cf. 2 Tm. 1:6).

«Agnosce ergo quod agis, imitare quod tractas». Hanc seu invitationem seu admonitionem Ecclesia presbytero in ipso ordinationis ritu proponit, cum eidem defertur oblatio populi sancti pro complendo sacro sacrificio. «Mysterium» autem, cuius presbyter est «dispensator»,154 est ad ultimum ipse Christus qui in Spiritu est fons sanctitatis et ad sanctificationem invitatio. «Mysterium» ergo in presbyteri vitam inserendum est; quantum hinc exsurgit vigilantiae officium, quanta conscientia! Propterea idem ordinationis ritus ad commemorata verba haec quoque addidit: «Vide ut quod legeris credas, quod credideris doceas, quod docueris imiteris». Bene igitur Paulus episcopum Timotheum admonebat: «Noli neglegere donationem quae in te est».155

The relation between a priest’s spiritual life and the exercise of his ministry can also be explained on the basis of the pastoral charity bestowed by the sacrament of holy orders. The ministry of the priest, precisely because of its participation in the saving ministry of Jesus Christ the head and shepherd, cannot fail to express and live out his pastoral charity which is both the source and spirit of his service and gift of self. In its objective reality the priestly ministry is an “amoris officium”, according to the previously quoted expression of St. Augustine. This objective reality itself serves as both the basis and requirement for a corresponding ethos, which can be none other than a life of love, as St. Augustine himself points out: Sit amoris officium pascere dominicum gregem.[60] This ethos, and as a result the spiritual life, is none other than embracing consciously and freely - that is to say in one’s mind and heart, in one’s decisions and actions - the “truth” of the priestly ministry as an amoris officium.

Aliquam explicationem etiam habet relatio inter vitam spiritualem et ministerium sacerdotale; consideretur caritas pastoralis quae per Ordinis sacramentum donatur. Cum ministerium sacerdotale participatio potissimum sit ministerii salvifici Christi Capitis et Pastoris, non potest vivam non exprimere Eiusdem caritatem pastoralem, quae simul est fons et spiritus huiusmodi servitii et sui ipsius doni. Est enim presbyterale ministerium, si obiectiva eiusdem realitas consideratur, «amoris officium», iuxta Augustini effatum; obiectiva proinde haec realitas fundamentum evadit et invitatio erga inde nascens «ethos», quod non aliud erit nisi vivendi dilectio, ut bene adnotat ipse Augustinus: «Sit amoris officium pascere dominicum gregem».156 Hoc «ethos» et proinde ipsa vita spiritualis, aliud non est nisi acceptatio, in libertate, in conscientia, et proinde mente, corde, optatis et actibus, illius «veritatis» ministerii sacerdotalis tamquam amoris officii.

25. For a spiritual life that grows through the exercise of the ministry, it is essential that the priest should continually renew and deepen his awareness of being a minister of Jesus Christ by virtue of sacramental consecration and configuration to Christ the head and shepherd of the Church.

25. Summi est momenti pro vita spirituali quae per ministeriale explicatur exercitium, ut presbyter indesinenter renovet atque profundiorem efficiat conscientiam esse se Christi Iesu administrum, idque per sacramentalem consecrationem et per conformationem Eius qui Ecclesiae est Caput et Pastor.

This awareness is not only in accordance with the very nature of the mission which the priest carries out on behalf of the Church and humanity, but it also provides a focus for the spiritual life of the priest who carries out that mission. Indeed, the priest is chosen by Christ not as an “object” but as a “person.” In other words, he is not inert and passive, but rather is a “living instrument,” as the Council states, precisely in the passage where it refers to the duty to pursue this perfection [61] The Council also speaks of priests as “companions and helpers” of God who is “the holy one and sanctifier.”[62]

Conscientia haec non dumtaxat cohaeret cum natura missionis quam sacerdos pro Ecclesia et pro hominibus explet, sed et praecipui ponderis est ipsa vita spiritualis sacerdotis in missionem suam incumbentis; sacerdos enim a Christo non ut «res» sed ut «persona» assumitur; non ille fit iners et passivum instrumentum, sed «instru- mentum vivum», ut asserit Concilium eo potissimum loco ubi de obligatione loquitur in huiusmodi perfectionem tendendi.157 Idemque Concilium, de sacerdotibus loquitur «sociis et adiutoribus»: Deum autem «Sanctum et Sanctificatorem» nominat! 158

In this way the exercise of his ministry deeply involves the priest himself as a conscious, free and responsible person. The bond with Jesus Christ assured by consecration and configuration to him in the sacrament of orders gives rise to and requires in the priest the further bond which comes from his “intention,” that is, from a conscious and free choice to do in his ministerial activities what the Church intends to do. This bond tends by its very nature to become as extensive and profound as possible, affecting one’s way of thinking, feeling and life itself: in other words, creating a series of moral and spiritual “dispositions” which correspond to the ministerial actions performed by the priest.

Eo igitur sensu id certe elucet: provocari liberam et responsalem personae conscientiam per ministerii exercitium, cum vinculum illud quod presbyterum et Christum nectit, quodque ex consecratione et conformatione per Ordinis sacramentum promanat itemque fundamentum exstat et postulatum alterius vinculi quod reponitur in sic dicta «intentione» id est, in voluntate conscienter faciendi per ministerialem gestum quidquid facere intendit Ecclesia. Hoc autem novum vinculum, natura sua, eo tendit ut quam latissime omnino pateat, mentes, affectus, vitam ipsam pertrahens, scilicet ipsam congeriem «dispositionum» moralium et spiritualium, quae seiungi non possunt a navitate pastorali quam presbyter exsequitur.

There can be no doubt that the exercise of the priestly ministry, especially in the celebration of the sacraments, receives its saving effects from the action of Christ himself who becomes present in the sacraments. But so as to emphasize the gratuitous nature of salvation which makes a person both “saved” and a “savior” - always and only in Christ - God’s plan has ordained that the efficacy of the exercise of the ministry is also conditioned by a greater or lesser human receptivity and participation.[63] In particular, the greater or lesser degree of the holiness of the minister has a real effect on the proclamation of the word, the celebration of the sacraments and the leadership of the community in charity. This was clearly stated by the Council: “The very holiness of priests is of the greatest benefit for the fruitful fulfillment of their ministry. While it is possible for God’s grace to carry out the work of salvation through unworthy ministers, yet God ordinarily prefers to show his wonders through those men who are more submissive to the impulse and guidance of the Holy Spirit and who, because of their intimate union with Christ and their holiness of life, are able to say with St. Paul: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’ (Gal. 2:20).”[64]

Nullum est dubium quin ministerii presbyteralis exercitium, et nominatim sacramentorum celebratio, vim suam salutiferam ab una Christi actione in sacramento praesenti nanciscantur. At eadem efficacia ministerii exercitii pendet etiam e minore vel maiore acceptione et humana participatione.159 Singulariter maior vel minor ministri sanctitas re vim habet in nuntium verbi, in sacramentorum celebrationem, in moderationem communitatis, in caritate. Quae omnia lucidius ab ipso Concilio declarantur: «Ipsa autem sanctitas Presbyterorum ad proprium ministerium fructuose complendum, plurimum confert: quamvis enim gratia Dei etiam per indignos ministros opus salutis explere possit, tamen per illos ordinaria lege praeoptat Deus sua mirabilia ostendere, qui dociliores impulsui et ductui Spiritus Sancti facti, ob suam intimam cum Christo unionem et vitae sanctimoniam, cum apostolo dicere valeant: “Vivo autem, iam non ego, vivit vero in me Christus” 160».161

The consciousness that one is a minister of Jesus Christ the head and shepherd also brings with it a thankful and joyful awareness that one has received a singular grace and treasure from Jesus Christ: the grace of having been freely chosen by the Lord to be a “living instrument” in the work of salvation. This choice bears witness to Jesus Christ’s love for the priest. This love, like other loves and yet even more so, demands a response. After his resurrection, Jesus asked Peter the basic question about love: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” And following his response Jesus entrusts Peter with the mission: “Feed my lambs” (Jn. 21:15). Jesus first asks Peter if he loves him so as to be able to entrust his flock to him. However, in reality it was Christ’s own love, free and unsolicited, which gave rise to his question to Peter and to his act of entrusting “his” sheep to Peter. Therefore, every ministerial action - while it leads to loving and serving the Church - provides an incentive to grow in ever greater love and service of Jesus Christ the head, shepherd and spouse of the Church, a love which is always a response to the free and unsolicited love of God in Christ. Growth in the love of Jesus Christ determines in turn the growth of love for the Church: “We are your shepherds (pascimus vobis), with you we receive nourishment (pascimur vobiscum). May the Lord give us the strength to love you to the extent of dying for you, either in fact or in desire (aut effectu aut affectu).”[65]

Presbyter ergo, conscius factus esse se Christi Capitis et Pastoris administrum, hanc quoque conscientiam adquirit gaudio plenam, peculiari se gratia esse a Christo Iesu donatum, cum gratiam receperit et gratuito se a Domino electum comperiat tanquam «instrumentum vivum» in opera salutis. Huiusmodi electio amorem Christi Iesu testatur erga presbyteros. Ceterum haec dilectio, vel etiam forte magis quam quaevis aliae dilectiones, ad eundem propemodum, amoris responsum secum fert. Haec quaestio fundamentalis est, quam Iesus, post resurrectionem, Petro posuit: «Simon Ioannis, diligis me plus his?». Petro autem affirmative respondenti ilico missio traditur: «Pasce oves meas».162 Petrum scilicet Iesus interrogat ut tum tantum cum diligere asseruerit, eidem gregem suum tradat. Re vera praevenit omnia ipsa libera Iesu dilectio, quae et interrogationem ab apostolo instruit et in concredenda cura «suarum» ovium completur. Sic quivis ministerialis gestus, dum eo tendit ut Ecclesiae sincera dilectio et servitium exhibeatur, maturat pariter amorem et servitium Iesu exhibitum, qui Ecclesiae ipsius et Caput et Pastor et Sponsus est. Isque amor exprimitur ad modum responsionis praevenienti liberae ac gratuitae Dei in Christo dilectioni. Atque rursus quodvis incrementum dilectionis erga Christum, incrementum secum fert in amore Ecclesiae: «Pascimus vos — Augustinus ait — pascimur vobiscum: det nobis Dominus vires sic amandi vos ut possimus etiam mori pro vobis aut effectu aut affectu».163

26. Thanks to the insightful teaching of the Second Vatican Council,[66] we can grasp the conditions and demands, the manifestations and fruits of the intimate bond between the priest’s spiritual life and the exercise of his threefold ministry of word, sacrament and pastoral charity.

26. Percipere ex ditissima Concilii Vaticani II doctrina possumus 164 quaenam sint condiciones, exigentiae, fructus ex intima relatione quae viget inter vitam spiritualem presbyteri et exercitium eius triplicis ministerii: Verbi, Sacramenti, servitii Caritatis.

The priest is first of all a minister of the word of God. He is consecrated and sent forth to proclaim the good news of the kingdom to all, calling every person to the obedience of faith and leading believers to an ever increasing knowledge of and communion in the mystery of God, as revealed and communicated to us in Christ. For this reason, the priest himself ought first of all to develop a great personal familiarity with the word of God. Knowledge of its linguistic or exegetical aspects, though certainly necessary, is not enough. He needs to approach the word with a docile and prayerful heart so that it may deeply penetrate his thoughts and feelings and bring about a new outlook in him “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16) - such that his words and his choices and attitudes may become ever more a reflection, a proclamation and a witness to the Gospel. Only if he “abides” in the word will the priest become a perfect disciple of the Lord. Only then will he know the truth and be set truly free, overcoming every conditioning which is contrary or foreign to the Gospel (cf. Jn. 8:31-32). The priest ought to be the first “believer” in the word, while being fully aware that the words of his ministry are not “his,” but those of the One who sent him. He is not the master of the word, but its servant. He is not the sole possessor of the word; in its regard he is in debt to the People of God. Precisely because he can and does evangelize, the priest - like every other member of the Church - ought to grow in awareness that he himself is continually in need of being evangelized.[67] He proclaims the word in his capacity as “minister,” as a sharer in the prophetic authority of Christ and the Church. As a result, in order that he himself may possess and give to the faithful the guarantee that he is transmitting the Gospel in its fullness, the priest is called to develop a special sensitivity, love and docility to the living tradition of the Church and to her magisterium. These are not foreign to the word, but serve its proper interpretation and preserve its authentic meaning.[68]

Est enim imprimis sacerdos Verbi Dei administer, cum consecratus et missus sit ad nuntiandum hominibus universis Evangelium Regni, singulos ad oboedientiam fidei provocando et christifideles perducendo ad profundiorem in dies notitiam et communionem Dei mysterii, nobis in Christo revelati et communicati. Sacerdos ergo debebit propterea usum et consuetudinem cum Dei verbo imprimis fovere, cui non sufficiet linguisticos dumtaxat et exegeticos aspectus novisse, licet id quoque necessarium sit; accedendum enim ad Dei Verbum est, corde docili et orante, ut sic possint ipsum cogitationes et affectum sacerdotis penitus permeare novamque instruere mentis conformationem — «sensum Domini» 165 — ita etiam presbyteri verba, immo optata et placita, sensim evadant perlucidum Evangelii testimonium et nuntium. Tum enim, tantummodo si in Verbo «remaneat», poterit sacerdos fieri perfectus Domini discipulus; tum veritatem discernet; tum vere liber erit, cum superare didicerit quidquid Evangelio contrarium sit aut ab eo diversum.166 Presbyteri est in Verbo «credentium» esse primum, bene scientem Verba sui ministerii non «sua» esse, sed illius qui eum misit. Cuius Verbi non ille dominus est, sed servus; neque unus possessor, sed debitor, coram Dei Populo. Quandoquidem autem sacerdos, qui de facto evangelizat, ut etiam evangelizare queat, ipse, sicut Ecclesia, conscius omnino esse debet necessitatis suae ipsius evangelizationis.167 Verbum ipse nuntiat, qua administer est, particeps propheticae auctoritatis Christi et Ecclesiae; propterea, ut christifideles tutos faciat sese eis Evangelium integrum traditurum, vocatur sacerdos ad animi sensibilitatem augendam; omnem dilectionem colendam, peculiarem quandam promptitudinem exhibendam erga vivam Ecclesiae et Magisterii traditionem: quae nullatenus aliena a Verbo Dei sunt, sed illius rectam interpretationem fovent verumque sensum custodiunt.168

It is above all in the celebration of the sacraments and in the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours that the priest is called to live and witness to the deep unity between the exercise of his ministry and his spiritual life. The gift of grace offered to the Church becomes the principle of holiness and a call to sanctification. For the priest as well, the truly central place, both in his ministry and spiritual life, belongs to the Eucharist, since in it is contained “the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself our pasch and the living bread which gives life to men through his flesh - that flesh which is given life and gives life through the Holy Spirit. Thus people are invited and led to offer themselves, their works and all creation with Christ.”[69]

Maxime autem vocatur sacerdos ad testificandam profundam unitatem quae viget inter exercitium sui ministerii et vitam spiritualem, in celebrandis Sacramentis et in celebratione Liturgiae Horarum: donum gratiae, quod Ecclesiae offertur, vitae et sanctitatis principium et vocatio ad sanctificationem est. Ministerii et spiritualis vitae etiam sacerdoti locus centralis, tum in ministerio exercendo, tum in vita spirituali Eucharistiae est quoniam in ea «totum bonum spirituale Ecclesiae continetur, ipse scilicet Christus, Pascha nostrum panisque vivus per carnem suam Spiritu Sancto vivificatam et vivificantem, vitam praestans hominibus, qui ita invitantur et adducuntur ad se ipsos, suos labores cunctasque res creatas una cum ipso offerendos».169

From the various sacraments, and in particular from the specific grace proper to each of them, the priest’s spiritual life receives certain features. It is built up and molded by the different characteristics and demands of each of the sacraments as he celebrates them and experiences them.

A reliquis autem sacramentis, sed singulatim ab uniuscuiusque propria et peculiari gratia, recidunt in presbyteri vitam spiritualem peculiares quaedam notae. Ea enim instruitur quodammodo et coagmentatur per proprietates et postulata variorum sacramentorum, quae illi celebranda immo et vivenda veniunt.

I would like to make special mention of the sacrament of penance, of which priests are the ministers, but ought also to be its beneficiaries, becoming themselves witnesses of God’s mercy toward sinners. Once again, I would like to set forth what I wrote in the exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia: “The priest’s spiritual and pastoral life, like that of his brothers and sisters, lay and religious, depends, for its quality and fervor, on the frequent and conscientious personal practice of the sacrament of penance. The priest’s celebration of the Eucharist and administration of the other sacraments, his pastoral zeal, his relationship with the faithful, his communion with his brother priests, his collaboration with his bishop, his life of prayer - in a word, the whole of his priestly existence, suffers an inexorable decline if by negligence or for some other reason he fails to receive the sacrament of penance at regular intervals and in a spirit of genuine faith and devotion. If a priest were no longer to go to confession or properly confess his sins, his priestly being and his priestly action would feel its effects very soon, and this would also be noticed by the community of which he was the pastor.”[70]

Peculiare volumus addere verbum circa Paenitentiae sacramentum, cuius, cum presbyteri ministri sint, esse pariter debent beneficiarii ut miserentis Dei indulgentiae erga peccatores non ministros sese tantummodo exhibeant, sed testes evadant. Recolere hic placet quae olim, in Adhortatione «Reconciliatio et Paenitentia» collegeramus: «Spiritualis ac pastoralis vita sacerdotis, perinde ac fratrum eius laicorum ac religiosorum, pendet ex assiduo diligentique usu personali sacramenti Paenitentiae. Eucharistiae celebratio ac sacramentorum reliquorum ministerium, ardor pastoralis, necessitudo cum fidelibus, communio cum fratribus, socia cum Episcopo opera, vita orationis: ut paucis dicamus, tota sacerdotalis vita contrahit sibi necessario detrimentum, si ob neglegentiam aliamve quamvis ob causam, usus periodicus, in vera fide ac pietate innixus, Sacramenti Paenitentiae ei defuerit. In sacerdote, qui non amplius peccata sua confiteretur, aut male confiteretur, ipsum eius sacerdotem esse et eius sacerdotem agere inde afficerentur, atque etiam Communitas id animadverteret, cuius ille est pastor».170

Finally, the priest is called to express in his life the authority and service of Jesus Christ the head and priest of the Church by encouraging and leading the ecclesial community, that is, by gathering together “the family of God as a fellowship endowed with the spirit of unity” and by leading it “in Christ through the Spirit to God the Father.”[71] This munus regendi represents a very delicate and complex duty which, in addition to the attention which must be given to a variety of persons and their vocations, also involves the ability to coordinate all the gifts and charisms which the Spirit inspires in the community, to discern them and to put them to good use for the upbuilding of the Church in constant union with the bishops. This ministry demands of the priest an intense spiritual life, filled with those qualities and virtues which are typical of a person who “presides over” and “leads” a community, of an “elder” in the noblest and richest sense of the word: qualities and virtues such as faithfulness, integrity, consistency, wisdom, a welcoming spirit, friendliness, goodness of heart, decisive firmness in essentials, freedom from overly subjective viewpoints, personal disinterestedness, patience, an enthusiasm for daily tasks, confidence in the value of the hidden workings of grace as manifested in the simple and the poor (cf. Ti. 1:7-8).

Vocatur denique presbyter ut auctoritatem et servitium Christo, Ecclesiae Capiti et Pastori exhibeat, etiam communitatem animans et ducens, id est, «familiam Dei ut fraternitatem in unum» animans colligat eamque «per Christum in Spiritu ad Deum Patrem adducat».171 Hoc autem «munus regendi», munus est difficile admodum et implexum, cum includat, praeter curam singulorum et diversarum vocationum, facultatem in unum colligendi varietatem donorum et charismatum quae Spiritus in communitate exsuscitat, singula inspiciendo et pretium addendo in aedificationem Ecclesiae, et nunquam non in communione cum Episcopis. Agitur enim de ministerio quod in sacerdote intensiorem exigit vitam spiritualem, florentem illis qualitatibus et virtutibus quae propriae sunt eius cui «praesidere» contigit communitati eamque ducere, id est «senio- ris» seu «presbyteri», nobiliore vocabuli sensu: quales sunt fidelitas, cohaerentia seu constantia, sapientia, omnium acceptatio, affabilis et comis bonitas, firmitas et auctoritas in essentialibus, libertas praesertim a prospectu minus subiectivo, abstinentia in proprio bono curando, patientia, oblectatio etiam laboris quotidiani, fiducia denique in Dei gratiam, quae etiam hac ratione in simplicioribus et tenuioribus saepe manifestatur.172

Priestly Life and the Radicalism of the Gospel

 

27. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” (Lk. 4:18). The Holy Spirit poured out in the sacrament of holy orders is a source of holiness and a call to sanctification. This is the case not only because it configures the priest to Christ, the head and shepherd of the Church, entrusting him with a prophetic, priestly and royal mission to be carried out in the name and person of Christ, but also because it inspires and enlivens his daily existence, enriching it with gifts and demands, virtues and incentives which are summed up in pastoral charity. This charity is a synthesis which unifies the values and virtues contained in the Gospel and likewise a power which sustains their development toward Christian perfection.[72]

27. «Spiritus Domini super me» 173 Spirtus Sanctus per ordinis sacramentum effusus, fons sanctitatis est et invitatio ad sanctificationem, neque id tantum quia sacerdotem ad Christum, Ecclesiae Caput et Pastorem, assimilat vel configurat, eique missionem tradit propheticam, sacerdotalem, regalem, quam nomine ac persona Christi adimplet, sed etiam quia animat et vivificat eius vitam quotidianam, ditissimis eam instruens donis, exigentiis, virtutibus, impulsionibus, quae omnia in caritatem pastoralem veluti in compendium trahunt. Huiusmodi caritas fit synthesis quae valores et virtutes evangelicas unificat et simul vis quae provehit pleniorem cursum versus christianam perfectionem.174

For all Christians without exception, the radicalism of the Gospel represents a fundamental, undeniable demand flowing from the call of Christ to follow and imitate him by virtue of the intimate communion of life with him brought about by the Spirit (cf. Mt. 8:18ff.; 10:37ff.; Mk. 8:34-38; 10:17-21; Lk. 9:57ff.). This same demand is made anew to priests, not only because they are “in” the Church, but because they are “in the forefront” of the Church inasmuch as they are configured to Christ, the head and shepherd. equipped for and committed to the ordained ministry, and inspired by pastoral charity. Within and as a manifestation of the radicalism of the Gospel one can find a blossoming of many virtues and ethical demands which are decisive for the pastoral and spiritual life of the priest, such as faith, humility in relation to the mystery of God, mercy and prudence. A particularly significant expression of the radicalism of the Gospel is seen in the different “evangelical counsels” which Jesus proposes in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mt. 5-7), and among them the intimately related counsels of obedience, chastity and poverty.[73] The priest is called to live these counsels in accordance with those ways and, more specifically, those goals and that basic meaning which derive from and express his own priestly identity

Radicalismus igitur evangelicus sic, et quidem pro christianis omnibus, nullo excluso, exigentia fundamentalis evadit nemini abdicanda, cum ab Ipsius Christi invitatione proveniat Eum sequendi et imitandi, vi artioris communionis cum Illo, quam Spiritus operatur.175 Haec eadem exigentia sacerdotes pertingit, neque ob eam dumtaxat causam quod et ipsi in Ecclesia sunt, sed qui in Ecclesia quodammodo praesunt, quatenus Christo Capiti et Pastori configurantur, instructi praeterea atque missi ad ministerium per Ordinem collatum, caritate denique pastorali muniti. Iamvero intra hunc evangelicum radicalismum, quem manifestum exhibent, reperiri potest dives multiplicium virtutum et exigentiarum ethicarum seges, quae necessariae censentur pro sacerdotis pastorali et spirituali vita, quales, exempli causa, sunt: fides, humilitas adversus Dei mysterium, indulgentia, prudentia; potior vero radicalismi significatio reperienda est in varietate «consiliorum evangelicorum» quae Iesus in Beatitudinum Sermone proposuit,176 et quorum potiora, intime inter sese cohaerentia, consilia sunt: oboedientia, castitas, paupertas:177 quae omnia sacerdos vocatur in vita sua ad exercenda iuxta modum, et altius secundum fines et significationem primigeniam, quibus identitas sacerdotalis exprimitur vel ab eadem derivantur.

28. “Among the virtues most necessary for the priestly ministry must be named that disposition of soul by which priests are always ready to seek not their own will, but the will of him who sent them (cf. Jn. 4:34; 5 :30; 6:38).”[74] It is in the spiritual life of the priest that obedience takes on certain special characteristics.

28. «Inter virtutes quae maxime in ministerio sacerdotali necessariae censentur, commemoranda venit illa animi dispositio quae eosdem indesinenter impellit non ad voluntatem propriam exsequendam, sed ad implendam voluntatem Eius qui misit eos 178».179 Agitur alio verbo de oboedientia, quae cum hic de sacerdotis vita spirituali agatur, peculiaritates quasdam induere debet, quas recensere oportet.

First of all, obedience is “apostolic” in the sense that it recognizes, loves and serves the Church in her hierarchical structure. Indeed, there can be no genuine priestly ministry except in communion with the supreme pontiff and the episcopal college, especially with one’s own diocesan bishop, who deserves that “filial respect and obedience” promised during the rite of ordination. This “submission” to those invested with ecclesial authority is in no way a kind of humiliation. It flows instead from the responsible freedom of the priest who accepts not only the demands of an organized and organic ecclesial life, but also that grace of discernment and responsibility in ecclesial decisions which was assured by Jesus to his apostles and their successors for the sake of faithfully safeguarding the mystery of the Church and serving the structure of the Christian community among its common path toward salvation.

Sit imprimis oboedientia «apostolica», eo sensu ut Ecclesiam in sua structura hierarchica agnoscat et amet, eidemque servire profiteatur. Nullum enim datur sacerdotale ministerium nisi in communione cum Summo Pontifice et cum collegio episcopali, praesertim cum propriae dioecesis Episcopo cui debetur «peculiaris quaedam reverentia atque oboedientia» prout in Ordinationis ritu promittitur. Huiusmodi autem «submissio» illis oblata a quibus auctoritas ecclesialis induitur, nihil propterea indecori habet, sed proveniat necesse est ab ipsa responsali presbyteri libertate, qui non tantummodo sua facit postulata vitae ecclesialis, prout organice haec instructa est, sed gratiam ipsam discretionis et responsalitatis erga ecclesialia placita, quippe quae concredita a Iesu ipso sint apostolis eorumque successoribus, ut fideliter servetur Ecclesiae mysterium et tota christianae communitatis compago nullo privetur subsidio, quo per unum idemque iter salutem suam attingat.

Authentic Christian obedience, when it is properly motivated and lived without servility, helps the priest to exercise in accordance with the Gospel the authority entrusted to him for his work with the People of God: an authority free from authoritarianism or demagoguery. Only the person who knows how to obey in Christian really able to require obedience from others in accordance with the Gospel.

Nam christiana oboedientia, si talis est, si scilicet, suo fundamento nisa, non serviliter vivitur, presbyterum iuvat ut etiam perlucida quadam evangelica ratione, auctoritatem adhibeat quae ad regendum Dei populum eidem concredita est: sine auctoritatis scilicet abusu et sine demagogicis placitis. Is enim tantummodo qui in Christo didicit oboedire, didicit quoque quomodo, iuxta Evangelium, sit aliorum oboedientia exigenda.

Priestly obedience has also a “community” dimension: It is not the obedience of an individual who alone relates to authority, but rather an obedience which is deeply a part of the unity of the presbyterate, which as such is called to cooperate harmoniously with the bishop and, through him, with Peter’s successor.[75]

Habet quoque presbyteralis oboedientia exigentiam quandam «communitariam»: non enim erga auctoritatem consideranda est individua singulorum oboedientia; sed profunde inseritur in unitatem presbyterii, quod, ut tale, ad concordem cum Episcopo collaborationem fovendam vocatur, et per eum cum Petri successore.180

This aspect of the priest’s obedience demands a marked spirit of asceticism, both in the sense of a tendency not to become too bound up in one’s own preferences or points of view and in the sense of giving brother priests the opportunity to make good use of their talents, and abilities, setting aside all forms of jealousy, envy and rivalry. Priestly obedience should be one of solidarity, based on belonging to a single presbyterate. Within the presbyterate, this obedience is expressed in co - responsibility regarding directions to be taken and choices to be made.

Hic aspectus oboedientiae sacerdotalis non qualemcumque asceticam postulat contentionem; idque ita est intellegendum ut presbyter nunquam nimis propriis placitis vel personali suo rerum prospectui adhaereat, et sciat praeterea locum sodalibus concedere ut ipsi quoque talenta et facultates sine zelotypia, sine invidia, sine aemulatione exhibeant. Propria ergo sacerdotis oboedientia sit imprimis solidalis, qua scilicet prodat sentire sese ut unius presbyterii membrum, suaque responsaliter et libere exprimat placita vel optata intra presbyterii unitatem.

Finally, priestly obedience has a particular “pastoral” character. It is lived in an atmosphere of constant readiness to allow oneself to be taken up, as it were “consumed,” by the needs and demands of the flock. These last ought to be truly reasonable and at times they need to be evaluated and tested to see how genuine they are. But it is undeniable that the priest’s life is fully “taken up” by the hunger for the Gospel and for faith, hope and love for God and his mystery, a hunger which is more or less consciously present in the People of God entrusted to him.

Sacerdotalis denique oboedientia characterem quendam habet «pastoralitatis». Vivitur scilicet per indesinentem animi disponibilitatem, quasi sese sacerdos praebeat «edendum» per necessitates et exigentias gregis. Quae proinde erunt ratione quodammodo perpendendae, et si casus ferat, inter sese comparandae, unde ad veritatis criterium earum selectio fiat; id, quoquomodo demum fit, plane «occupatam» presbyteri vitam tandem ostendet, fame scilicet Evangelii, fidei, spei, dilectionis Dei Eiusque mysterii; quae omnia ipse presbyter praesentia animadvertit in Dei populo suis curis concredito.

 

 

 

 

29. Referring to the evangelical counsels, the Council states that “preeminent among these counsels is that precious gift of divine grace given to some by the Father (cf. Mt. 19:11; 1 Cor. 7:7) in order more easily to devote themselves to God alone with an undivided heart (cf. 1 Cor. 7:32-34) in virginity or celibacy. This perfect continence for love of the kingdom of heaven has always been held in high esteem by the Church as a sign and stimulus of love, and as a singular source of spiritual fertility in the world.”[76] In virginity and celibacy, chastity retains its original meaning, that is, of human sexuality lived as a genuine sign of and precious service to the love of communion and gift of self to others. This meaning is fully found in virginity which makes evident, even in the renunciation of marriage, the “nuptial meaning” of the body through a communion and a personal gift to Jesus Christ and his Church which prefigures and anticipates the perfect and final communion and self - giving of the world to come: “In virginity or celibacy, the human being is awaiting, also in a bodily way, the eschatological marriage of Christ with the Church, giving himself or herself completely to the Church in the hope that Christ may give himself to the Church in the full truth of eternal life.[77]

29. Inter evangelica consilia, asseritur in Concilio: «Eminet pretiosum gratiae divinae donum, quod a Patre quibusdam datur,181 ut in virginitate vel caelibatu facilius indiviso corde 182 Deo soli se devoveant. Haec perfecta propter regnum caelorum continentia semper in honore praecipuo ab Ecclesia habita est, tanquam signum et stimulus caritatis, ac quidam peculiaris fons spiritualis fecunditatis in mundo».183 In virginitate autem et caelibatu significationem suam primigeniam servat castitas, id est, sexualitatis humanae quae vivitur velut authentica manifestatio ac pretiosum servitium erga amorem communionis et donationis interpersonalis. Haec significatio plene in virginitate remanet, quae realem efficit, et quidem etiam per renuntiationem coniugii, «significationem sponsalem» corporis, idque per communionem et donationem personalem Christo Iesu et eius Ecclesiae; quae omnia praefigurant quodammodo et antevertunt communionem, et donationem perfectam et definitivam futurae vitae: «In ipsa virginitate homo exspectat, etiam corpore, nuptias eschatologicas Christi cum Ecclesia, dum se totum Ecclesiae tradit, sperans Christum quoque se Ecclesiae daturum in plena vitae aeternae veritate».184

In this light one can more easily understand and appreciate the reasons behind the centuries - old choice which the Western Church has made and maintained - despite all the difficulties and objections raised down the centuries - of conferring the order of presbyter only on men who have given proof that they have been called by God to the gift of chastity in absolute and perpetual celibacy.

Sub hac luce intellegi facilius atque aestimari poterunt rationes ob quas occidentalis Ecclesia per plura saecula perrexerit nihil obstantibus difficultatibus et obiectionibus, perdurantibus saeculis indentidem manifestatis, conferre ordinem presbyteralem solis viris qui ostenderint se a Deo vocari in donum castitatis in caelibatu et absoluto et perpetuo.

The synod fathers clearly and forcefully expressed their thought on this matter in an important proposal which deserves to be quoted here in full: “While in no way interfering with the discipline of the Oriental churches, the synod, in the conviction that perfect chastity in priestly celibacy is a charism, reminds priests that celibacy is a priceless gift of God for the Church and has a prophetic value for the world today. This synod strongly reaffirms what the Latin Church and some Oriental rites require that is, that the priesthood be conferred only on those men who have received from God the gift of the vocation to celibate chastity (without prejudice to the tradition of some Oriental churches and particular cases of married clergy who convert to Catholicism, which are admitted as exceptions in Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on priestly celibacy, no. 42). The synod does not wish to leave any doubts in the mind of anyone regarding the Church’s firm will to maintain the law that demands perpetual and freely chosen celibacy for present and future candidates for priestly ordination in the Latin rite. The synod would like to see celibacy presented and explained in the fullness of its biblical, theological and spiritual richness, as a precious gift given by God to his Church and as a sign of the kingdom which is not of this world - a sign of God’s love for this world and of the undivided love of the priest for God and for God’s people, with the result that celibacy is seen as a positive enrichment of the priesthood.”[78]

Patres synodales perspicue, immo et fortiter, expressum voluerunt proprium de hac re iudicium, per Propositionem summae cuiusdam gravitatis, quam idcirco integram hic suscipere et exhibere placet: «Firma manente disciplina Ecclesiarum orientalium, Synodus persuasum habens caelibatum sacerdotalem charisma esse, presbyteris recolit ipsum Dei donum inaestimabile pro Ecclesia constituere, et valorem propheticum pro hodierno mundo praeferre. Haec Synodus fortiter iterum affirmat id quod Ecclesia Latina et aliqui orientales ritus requirunt, sacerdotium nempe conferendum esse illis tantum viris qui acceperunt a Deo donum vocationis ad castitatem caelibem (sine praeiudicio traditionis quarumdam Ecclesiarum Orientalium et casuum particularium cleri conversi uxorati, pro quo datur exceptio in Encyclica «Sacerdotalis Caelibatus» Papae Pauli VI). Synodus nullum in cuiuslibet mente dubium relinquere vult de Ecclesiae firma voluntate legem retinendi, quae requirit caelibatum libere electum atque perpetuum pro admissis et admittendis ad ordinationem sacerdotalem in ritu Latino. Synodus exoptat ut caelibatus exponatur et explicetur in sua plena ubertate et biblica et theologica et spirituali, tanquam donum pretiosum a Deo Ecclesiae suae datum, atque signum Regni quod non est huius mundi, signum utique Dei amoris erga hunc mundum, necnon sacerdotis amoris indivisi erga Deum et populum Dei, ita ut caelibatus perspiciatur tanquam locupletatio positiva sacerdotii».185

It is especially important that the priest understand the theological motivation of the Church’s law on celibacy. Inasmuch as it is a law, it expresses the Church’s will, even before the will of the subject expressed by his readiness. But the will of the Church finds its ultimate motivation in the link between celibacy and sacred ordination, which configures the priest to Jesus Christ the head and spouse of the Church. The Church, as the spouse of Jesus Christ, wishes to be loved by the priest in the total and exclusive manner in which Jesus Christ her head and spouse loved her. Priestly celibacy, then, is the gift of self in and with Christ to his Church and expresses the priest’s service to the Church in and with the Lord.

Peculiaris sane momenti est ut sacerdos theologicas causas bene intellegat huius legis ecclesiasticae de caelibatu. Ea enim, quae lex est, Ecclesiae voluntatem exprimit, quae tempore praecedit ipsi subiecti presbyteri voluntati circa eius disponibilitatem. Sed Ecclesiae voluntas ultimam sui rationem invenit in eo vinculo quod caelibatus habet cum Ordinatione sacra, in id tendente ut sacerdos Christo Iesu, Ecclesiae Capiti et Sponso, configuretur. Ecclesia enim, ut Christi Iesu Sponsa, amari a sacerdote vult eadem illa totali et exclusiva ratione qua a Christo amatur. Caelibatus igitur sacerdotalis sic est donum sui in Christo et cum Christo, Ecclesiae Eius oblatum; idemque sic exprimit sacerdotis servitium Ecclesiae in et cum Domino praestitum.

For an adequate priestly spiritual life, celibacy ought not to be considered and lived as an isolated or purely negative element, but as one aspect of the positive, specific and characteristic approach to being a priest. Leaving father and mother, the priest follows Jesus the good shepherd in an apostolic communion, in the service of the People of God. Celibacy, then, is to be welcomed and continually renewed with a free and loving decision as a priceless gift from God, as an “incentive to pastoral charity “[79] as a singular sharing in God’s fatherhood and in the fruitfulness of the Church, and as a witness to the world of the eschatological kingdom. To put into practice all the moral, pastoral and spiritual demands of priestly celibacy it is absolutely necessary that the priest pray humbly and trustingly, as the Council points out: “In the world today, many people call perfect continence impossible. The more they do so, the more humbly and perseveringly priests should join with the Church in praying for the grace of fidelity. It is never denied to those who ask. At the same time let priests make use of all the supernatural and natural helps which are now available to all.”[80] Once again it is prayer, together with the Church’s sacraments and ascetical practice, which will provide hope in difficulties, forgiveness in failings, and confidence and courage in resuming the journey.

Quo autem adaequate agatur vita spiritualis presbyteri, convenit ut caelibatus ita apprehendatur atque in vitam adducatur, non ut segregata eaque negativa condicio, sed tanquam aspectus positivi cuiusdam valoris, specifici ac vitae sacerdotalis proprii; presbyter enim, patre ac matre relictis, Iesum bonum Pastorem in communione apostolica et in Dei servitio sequitur. Caelibatus ergo deliberandus est benevolenti ac libera optione, indesinenter renovanda, tanquam inaestimabile Dei donum, velut «stimulus caritatis pastoralis»,186 ut singularis participatio tum in Dei paternitatem tum in Ecclesiae fecunditatem; brevi, ut testimonium mundo exhibitum Regni cuiusdam eschatologici. Ut autem in vitam transeant caelibatus sacerdotalis exigentiae, seu morales seu pastorales seu spirituales, necessaria absolute redditur oratio humilis et fiduciosa, prout opportune Concilium admonuerat: «Quo magis autem perfecta continentia in mundo huius temporis a non paucis hominibus impossibilis reputatur, eo humilius et perseverantius presbyteri gratiam fidelitatis, nunquam petentibus denegatam, una cum Ecclesia expostulabunt, cuncta subsidia supernaturalia et naturalia insimul adhibentes, quae omnibus praesto sunt».187 Eademque oratio, Ecclesiae Sacramentis adiuncta et cum ascetica contentione sociata, victoriae spem in difficultate versantibus restituet, indulgentiam cadentibus, fiduciam et strenuitatem in viam sese denuo immittentibus.

30. On the subject of evangelical poverty, the synod fathers gave a concise yet important description, presenting it as “the subjection of all goods to the supreme good of God and his kingdom.[81] In reality, only the person who contemplates and lives the mystery of God as the one and supreme good, as the true and definitive treasure, can understand and practice poverty, which is certainly not a matter of despising or rejecting material goods but of a loving and responsible use of these goods and at the same time an ability to renounce them with great interior freedom - that is, with reference to God and his plan.

30. Brevem, eamque profundam paupertatis evangelicae descriptionem excuderunt Patres synodales cum eam ita ostenderunt ut «submissionem omnium bonorum Bono Supremo Dei, et eius Regni».188 Re quidem vera ille dumtaxat intellegere ac assequi valet paupertatem, qui Dei mysterium contemplatur et vivit tanquam unum et summum Bonum, ut veras ac definitivas divitias. Paupertas enim nullatenus est bonorum materialium contemptus et repulsio, sed eorundem usus, gratus quidem et benevolens, modo simul adsit per summam libertatem interiorem, laeta ipsorum abstinentia, id est, relate ad Deum et ad Eiusdem placita.

Poverty for the priest, by virtue of his sacramental configuration to Christ, the head and shepherd, takes on specific “pastoral” connotations which the synod fathers took up from the Council’s teachings and further developed. Among other things, they wrote: “Priests, following the example of Christ, who, rich though he was, became poor for love of us (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9) - should consider the poor and the weakest as people entrusted in a special way to them, and they should be capable of witnessing to poverty with a simple and austere lifestyle, having learned the generous renunciation of superfluous things(Optatam Totius, 9; Code of Canon Law, Canon 282).”[83]

Paupertas sacerdotis, propter eiusdem sacramentalem configurationem ad Christum Caput et Pastorem, certas induit condiciones «pastorales» circa quas immorati quoque sunt Patres Synodales, conciliarem doctrinam recipientes et evolventes.189 Scripserunt enim, inter alia: «Sacerdotes, ad exemplum Christi, qui cum esset dives, propter amorem nostri factus est pauper,190 considerare debent pauperes ac debiliores speciali eis modo commendatos, necnon capaces esse debent perhibendi testimonium paupertatis vita simplici et austera, cum iam soliti sint de superfluis generose abstinere 191».192

It is true that “the workman deserves his wages” (Lk. 10:7) and that “the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the Gospel should get their living by the Gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14), but it is no less true that this right of the apostle can in no way be confused with attempts of any kind to condition service to the Gospel and the Church upon the advantages and interests which can derive from it. Poverty alone ensures that the priest remains available to be sent wherever his work will be most useful and needed even at the cost of personal sacrifice. It is a condition and essential premise of the apostle’s docility to the Spirit, making him ready to “go forth,” without traveling bag or personalities, following only the will of the Master(cf. Lk. 9:57-62; Mk. 10:17-22).

Verum est «dignum esse operarium mercede sua» et «dispo- suisse Dominum ut qui Evangelium annuntiat, de Evangelio vivat» 193 sed tantumdem verum est non posse ullatenus hoc ius confundi cum qualicunque postulatione flectendi Evangelii et Ecclesiae servitium ad commoda et lucra quae exinde emanare etiam possent. Una paupertas tuetur sacerdotis veram disponibilitatem, ut eo mittatur quo eius sit opus utilius vel urgentius, etiam per sacrificium personale. Condicio enim et velut indispensabilis quaedam lex accepta in sacerdotio est, qua apostolus Spiritui «docibilis», promptus indesinenter sit «eo ire» — etiam absque saburra et ligaminibus — quo Magistri placitum vocaverit.194

Being personally involved in the life of the community and being responsible for it, the priest should also offer the witness of a total “honesty” in the administration of the goods of the community, which he will never treat as ;f they were his own property, but rather something for which he will be held accountable by God and his brothers and sisters, especially the poor. Moreover, his awareness of belonging to the one presbyterate will be an incentive for the priest to commit himself to promoting both a more equitable distribution of goods among his fellow priests and a certain common use of goods (cf. Acts 2:42-47).

Sacerdos, quoties communitati insertus, illius gerit responsalitatem materialem, tenetur munere suo perlucide bonorum illius communitatis administrationi testimonium exhibere; non ergo ea negotia pertractabit veluti de suo ipsius ageretur patrimonio, sed ut res quarum rationem Deo ac fratribus, pauperibus praesertim, est redditurus. Quem proinde sacerdotem, cum conscium habere debeat pertinere sese cum aliis ad unicum Presbyterium, conscientia impellet ut nihil omittat per quae bona communia aequius inter fratres distribuantur, qui vocati sunt «omnia habere communia».195

The interior freedom which is safeguarded and nourished by evangelical poverty will help the priest to stand beside the underprivileged; to practice solidarity with their efforts to create a more just society; to be more sensitive and capable of understanding and discerning realities involving the economic and social aspects of life; and to promote a preferential option for the poor. The latter, while excluding no one from the proclamation and gift of salvation, will assist him in gently approaching the poor, sinners and all those on the margins of society, following the model given by Jesus in carrying out his prophetic and priestly ministry (cf. Lk. 4:18).

Interior autem libertas quam evangelica paupertas custodit et alit, sacerdotem comparat ut propius ad infirmiores accedat eorumque conatibus pro instauranda iustiore consortione solidalem sese exhibeat; ut per eandem responsalitatis apprehensionem, noscere et iudicare discat ea phaenomena quae cum rebus oeconomicis et socialibus ubique nectuntur; ut denique provehere sciat quam dicimus praeferentialem pro tenuioribus optionem: quae, nullum ab annuntiando dono salutis excludens, iuxta exemplar a Christo exhibitum dum ministerio prophetico ac sacerdotali incumbebat, propensior fiat in parvulos, in peccatores, in eorum magnam turbam qui hodie «emarginati» quoquo modo dicuntur.196

Nor should the prophetic significance of priestly poverty be forgotten, so urgently needed in affluent and consumeristic societies: “A truly poor priest is indeed a specific sign of separation from, disavowal of and non - submission to the tyranny of a contemporary world which puts all its trust in money and in material security.”[84]

In oblivionem ne recedat significatio prophetica paupertatis sacerdotalis, quae urgentior quodammodo censenda est in nostra consortione opulenta et consumistica: «Sacerdos vere pauper est, certe, signum concretum separationis, abrenuntiationis et non subiectionis ad mundi contemporanei tyrannidem, quae omnem suam fiduciam in pecuniam ponit et securitatem materialem».197

Jesus Christ, who brought his pastoral charity to perfection on the cross with a complete exterior and interior emptying of self, is both the model and source of the virtues of obedience, chastity and poverty which the priest is called to live out as an expression of his pastoral charity for his brothers and sisters. In accordance with St. Paul’s words to the Christians at Philippi, the priest should have “the mind which was in Christ Jesus,” emptying himself of his own “self,” so as to discover, in a charity which is obedient, chaste and poor, the royal road of union with God and unity with his brothers and sisters (cf. Phil. 2:5).

Christus Iesus, qui in cruce, omnibus rebus nudatus, caritatem pastoralem ad perfectionem extulit, exemplar ibidem factus est, necnon et fons, omnium virtutum, oboedientiae imprimis, castitatis, paupertatis, quas sacerdos tanquam significationem dilectionis pastoralis erga fratres, insequi et attingere iubetur. Atque ut Paulus ad christianos Philippenses scribit, debet sacerdos «eadem sentire quae et in Christo Iesu», qui semetipsum exinanivit ut per oboedientem, castam, pauperem caritatem, viam principem reperiret perfectae ad Deum et ad fratres unionis.198

Membership in and Dedication to the Particular Church

 

31. Like every authentically Christian spiritual life, the spiritual life of the priest has an essential and undeniable ecclesial dimension which is a sharing in the holiness of the Church herself, which we profess in the Creed to be a “communion of saints.” The holiness of the Christian has its source in the holiness of the Church; it expresses that holiness and at the same time enriches it. This ecclesial dimension takes on special forms, purposes and meanings in the spiritual life of the priest by virtue of his specific relation to the Church, always as a result of his configuration to Christ the head and shepherd, his ordained ministry and his pastoral charity.

31. Sicut alia quaevis vita spiritualis, modo ea vere christiana sit, etiam spiritualis vita sacerdotalis essentiales et non renuntiabiles habet peculiaritates ecclesiales: est enim participatio quaedam sanctitatis ipsius Ecclesiae, quam in Professione Fidei «Sanctorum Communionem» iure vocamus. Nam christifidelium sanctitas ab Ecclesiae sanctitate derivat, eamque et exprimit et ditat. At in sacerdote haec ecclesialis peculiaritas modos suos, fines ac significationes adquirit, vi specificae eiusdem ad Ecclesiam relationis, cuius semper in initio est illa ad Christum Caput et Pastorem configuratio, quae per ordinatum ministerium, per caritatem pastoralem exhibetur.

In this perspective, it is necessary to consider the priest’s membership in and dedication to a particular Church. These two factors are not the result of purely organizational and disciplinary needs. On the contrary, the priest’s relationship with his bishop in the one presbyterate, his sharing in the bishop’s ecclesial concern and his devotion to the evangelical care of the People of God in the specific historical and contextual conditions of a particular Church are elements which must be taken into account in sketching the proper configuration of the priest and his spiritual life. In this sense, “incardination” cannot be confined to a purely juridical bond, but also involves a set of attitudes as well as spiritual and pastoral decisions which help to fill out the specific features of the priestly vocation.

Rebus ita perspectis valor spiritalis evadit pro presbytero ipsa eius inscriptio ac dedicatio in servitium cuiusdam Ecclesiae particularis. In eo enim vinculo non organizationis dumtaxat et disciplinae normae sunt perpendendae: potiora e contra habeantur tum vinculum ipsum quo singuli ad Episcopum in uno Presbyterio uniuntur, tum participatio in sollicitudinibus ecclesialibus, tum denique dedicatio ad curas evangelicas Populi Dei in concretis adiunctis historicis et temporalibus cuiuscumque Ecclesiae particularis; haec enim talia sunt ut per ea vel maxime designetur quodammodo propria sacerdotis eiusque vitae spiritualis imago, atque eo sensu illa quae «incardinatio» dici solet, non vinculum dumtaxat iuridicum constituit, sed habitudines et optiones, spirituales et pastorales, secum fert, quae non parum conferunt in conficiendum concretum archetypum presbyteri.

The priest needs to be aware that his “being in a particular Church” constitutes by its very nature a significant element in his living a Christian spirituality. In this sense, the priest finds precisely in his belonging to and dedication to the particular Church a wealth of meaning, criteria for discernment and action which shape both his pastoral mission and his spiritual life.

Necessarium proinde est ut conscius sacerdos fiat illud suum «ad particularem Ecclesiam pertinere» esse natura sua tale ut exinde certam atque peculiarem vivat christianam spiritualitatem. Eo igitur sensu inveniet presbyter, in ipsa sui deditione et pertinentia ad Ecclesiam particularem, copiosum fontem significationum et criteriorum pro discretione et actione, unde eius tum pastoralis missio tum vita spiritualis penitus conformetur.

Other insights or reference to other traditions of spiritual life can contribute to the priest’s journey toward perfection, for these are capable of enriching the life of individual priests as well as enlivening the presbyterate with precious spiritual gifts. Such is the case with many old and new Church associations which welcome priests into their spiritual family: from societies of apostolic life to priestly secular institutes, and from various forms of spiritual communion and sharing to ecclesial movements.

Ad progrediendum ergo versus perfectionem valere etiam possunt aliae inspirationes et relationes ad alias vitae spirituales traditiones, per quas singulorum vita sacerdotalis ditari potest, immo et perfici presbyterium varietate et pretio donorum spiritualium. Atque talis est casus multarum aggregationum ecclesialium, tum antiquarum tum novarum, quae in proprium ambitum etiam presbyteros recipiunt, quales sunt nonnullae societates vitae apostolicae, vel instituta saecularia presbyteralia, vel formae variae communionis et fraternitatis spiritualis, vel etiam motus illi diversi qui ecclesiales dicuntur.

Priests who belong to religious orders and congregations represent a spiritual enrichment for the entire diocesan presbyterate, to which they contribute specific charisms and special ministries, stimulating the particular church by their presence to be more intensely open to the Church throughout the world.[85]

Sacerdotes, qui saepe ad Ordines vel ad Religiosas quasdam Congregationes pertinent, divitiae spirituales evadunt pro tota presbyterali compagine dioecesana, in eam inferentes specifica charismata et qualificata quaedam ministeria, atque sic stimulos addentes vel sola hac praesentia intra Ecclesiam particularem, per quos ea impensius progrediatur ad universalioris Ecclesiae mensuram.199

The priest’s membership in a particular church and his dedication - even to the gift of his life - to the upbuilding of the Church, “in the person” of Christ the head and shepherd, in service of the entire Christian community and in a generous and filial relationship with the bishop, must be strengthened by every charism which becomes part of his priestly life or surrounds it.[86]

Sacerdotis ergo vinculum ac dedicatio Ecclesiae particulari, idque ita ut pro aedificatione Ecclesiae vita ipsa possit dono impendi, «in persona Christi Capitis et Pastoris» in servitium totius communitatis christianae, per filialem et benevolentem ad Episcopum relationem, validitatem accipere debent a quolibet charismate, quod pars fiat cuiuslibet sacerdotalis vitae vel cum ea nectatur.200

For the abundance of The Spirit’s gifts to be welcomed with joy and allowed to bear fruit for the glory of God and the good of the entire Church, each person is required first to have a knowledge and discernment of his or her own charisms and those of others, and always to use these charisms with Christian humility, with firm self - control and with the intention, above all else, to help build up the entire community which each particular charism is meant to serve. Moreover, all are required to make a sincere effort to live in mutual esteem, to respect others and to hold in esteem all the positive and legitimate diversities present in the presbyterate. This too constitutes part of the priest’s spiritual life and continual practice of asceticism.

Ut autem haec donorum Spiritus copia cum laetitia recipiatur atque in Dei gloriam efflorescat et fructus suos pro Ecclesia universa ferat, requiritur ut omnibus praesto sit notitia imprimis et discretio charismatum, tum propriorum tum etiam aliorum, eorundemque exercitium, quod tamen et humilitas christiana continenter comitetur, immo et virtus sui ipsius criticum iudicium ferendi, ea sola intentione plus quam quaelibet alia cura praevalente, aedificationem totius communitatis iuvandi, cui ceterum quodvis peculiare charisma inservire vocatum est. Atque ab omnibus tum esset exspectandus sincerus aestimationis reciprocae conatus, mutua personarum reverentia, coordinata perpensio omnium positivarum legitimarum diversitatum, quae cum in ipsa ingeniorum varietate etiam in Presbyterio inveniuntur. Quae omnia partem constituunt vitae spiritualis atque presbyteri perpetuae asceseos.

32. Membership in and dedication to a particular church does not limit the activity and life of the presbyterate to that church: A restriction of this sort is not possible, given the very nature both of the particular church[87] and of the priestly ministry. In this regard the Council teaches that “the spiritual gift which priests received at their ordination prepares them not for any limited or narrow mission but for the widest scope of the universal mission of salvation ‘to the end of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). For every priestly ministry shares in the universality of the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles.”[88]

32. Ne propterea nexus et insertio in particularem Ecclesiam claudant navitatem et vitam presbyteri: haec claudi nequeunt natura ipsa tum Ecclesiae particularis 201 tum ipsius ministerii sacerdotalis. Scribit enim in hunc sensum Concilium: «Donum spirituale, quod presbyteri in ordinatione acceperunt, illos non ad limitatam quandam et coarctatam missionem praeparat, sed ad amplissimam et universalem missionem salutis “usque ad ultimum terrae”,202 nam quodlibet sacerdotale ministerium participat ipsam universalem amplitudinem missionis a Christo Apostolis concreditae».203

It thus follows that the spiritual life of the priest should be profoundly marked by a missionary zeal and dynamism. In the exercise of their ministry and the witness of their lives, priests have the duty to form the community entrusted to them as a truly missionary community. As I wrote in the encyclical Redemptoris Missio, “all priests must have the mind and heart of missionaries open to the needs of the Church and the world, with concern for those farthest away and especially for the non - Christian groups in their own area. They should have at heart, in their prayers and particularly at the eucharistic sacrifice, the concern of the whole Church for all of humanity.”[89]

Hinc sequitur vitam spiritualem presbyterorum signari debere profundo quodam anhelitu ac dynamismo missionario. Ad eos ceterum pertinet, per ministeriorum scilicet exercitium et per vitae testimonium, reperire qua ratione communitas ea, cui praesunt, evadat vere missionaria; nam ut in Encyclica «Redemptoris Missio» habetur: «Necesse proinde est universi presbyteri animum mentemque habeant missionalem ac pateant pariter Ecclesiae et mundi necessitatibus simul respicientes homines longinquos et, ante omnes, coetus non christianos suorum locorum. Debent plane experiri in precatione sua, ac praesertim in eucharistico sacrificio, sollicitudinem Ecclesiae omnis de universo hominum genere».204

If the lives of priests are generously inspired by this missionary spirit, it will be easier to respond to that increasingly serious demand of the Church today which arises from the unequal distribution of the clergy. In this regard, the Council was both quite clear and forceful: “Let priests remember then that they must have at heart the care of all the churches. Hence priests belonging to dioceses which are rich in vocations should show themselves willing and ready, with the permission or at the urging of their own bishop, to exercise their ministry in other regions, missions or activities which suffer from a shortage of clergy.”[90]

Si ergo hic missionarius spiritus fecunde presbyterorum pervaserit vitam, facillima evadet responsio ad eam difficultatem, quae gravior in dies in Ecclesia fit, ex non aequa cleri distributione provenientem. Quo sensu nihil exactius fortiusve dictum est, ultra Concilii ipsius verba: «Meminerint igitur presbyteri omnium Ecclesiarum sollicitudinem sibi cordi esse debere. Quapropter presbyteri illarum dioecesium quae maiore vocationum copia ditantur, libenter se paratos praebeant, permittente vel exhortante proprio Ordinario, ad suum ministerium in regionibus, missionibus vel operibus cleri penuria laborantibus exercendum».205

“Renew in Them the Outpouring of Your Spirit of Holiness”

 

33. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor” (Lk. 4:18). Even today Christ makes these words which he proclaimed in the synagogue of Nazareth echo in our priestly hearts. Indeed, our faith reveals to us the presence of the spirit of Christ at work in our being, in our acting and in our living, just as the sacrament of orders has configured, equipped and molded it.

33. «Spiritus Domini super me; propter quod unxit me, evangelizare pauperibus, misit me praedicare... annum Domini acceptum».206 Haec verba, quae Iesus in synagoga Nazareth edixit, hodie etiam in nostro sacerdotali corde resonare voluit. Nostra enim fides nobis operantem Christi Spiritus praesentiam revelat in nostra, qua sumus, agimus et vivimus ratione, prout eam Ordinis sacramentum configuravit, ditavit atque confinxit.

Yes, the Spirit of the Lord is the principal agent in our spiritual life. He creates our “new heart,” inspires it and guides it with the “new law” of love, of pastoral charity.

Certo Spiritus Domini prior est auctor nostrae vitae spiritualis. Ipse enim «cor novum» creat, animat, ducit, caritatis imprimis «nova lege», caritatis scilicet pastoralis.

For the development of the spiritual life it is essential to be aware that the priest will never lack the grace of the Holy Spirit as a totally gratuitous gift and as a task which he is called to undertake. Awareness of this gift is the foundation and support of the priest’s unflagging trust amid the difficulties, temptations and weaknesses which he will meet along his spiritual path.

In hac autem vita spirituali evolvenda summi ponderis est certitudo, qua nunquam sacerdos destituitur, gratiae Spiritus Sancti, quae et donum est totaliter gratuitum, et munus responsalitatem personalem excitans. Huius doni conscientia infundit et sustinet stabilem sacerdotis fiduciam, etiam in difficultatibus, in tentationibus, in infirmitatibus, quae in quavis vita spirituali nunquam non reperiuntur.

Here I would repeat to all priests what I said to so many of them on another occasion: “The priestly vocation is essentially a call to holiness in the form which derives from the sacrament of orders. Holiness is intimacy with God; it is the imitation of Christ, who was poor, chaste and humble; it is unreserved love for souls and a giving of oneself on their behalf and for their true good; it is love for the Church which is holy and wants us to be holy, because this is the mission that Christ entrusted to her. Each one of you should also be holy in order to help your brothers and sisters to pursue their vocation to holiness.

Libenter proinde hoc loco omnibus presbyteris tradimus quae ediximus multis eorum aliis in adiunctis: «Est essentia sua sacerdotalis vocatio, vocatio item ad sanctitatem, forma scilicet quae ex Ordinis sacramento emanat. Sanctitas est cum Deo intimitas; imitatio est Christi pauperis, casti, humilis; amor est sine ambiguitatibus erga animas, et pro ipsarum bono spontaneum donum; amor est erga Ecclesiam, quae et sancta est et sanctos nos vult, cum sancta sit missio ipsi a Christo concredita. Vestrum ergo unusquisque sanctus esse debet atque adiutorio fratribus esse, ut vocationem ad sanctitatem ipsi etiam alacriter persequantur.

“How can we fail to reflect on...the essential role that the Holy Spirit carries out in this particular call to holiness which is proper to the priestly ministry? Let us remember the words of the rite of priestly ordination which are considered to be central in the sacramental formula: ‘Almighty Father, give these your sons the dignity of the priesthood. Renew in them the outpouring of your Spirit of holiness. O Lord, may they fulfill the ministry of the second degree of priesthood received from you, and by their example may they lead all to upright conduct of life.’

Quidni animadvertamus in id essentiale munus quo Spiritus Sanctus fungitur in hac peculiari ad sanctitatem vocatione quae propria est ministerii sacerdotalis? Verba ipsa meminerimus quae in ritu Ordinationis presbyterorum potiora habentur in formula sacramentali: “Da, quaesumus, omnipotens Pater, in hos famulos tuos presbyterii dignitatem; innova in visceribus eorum Spiritum sanctitatis; acceptum a Te, Deus, secundi meriti munus obtineant, censuramque morum exemplo suae conversationis insinuent”.

“Beloved, through ordination, you have received the same Spirit of Christ, who makes you like him, so that you can act in his name and so that his very mind and heart might live in you. This intimate communion with the Spirit of Christ - while guaranteeing the efficacy of the sacramental actions which you perform in persona Christi - seeks to be expressed in fervent prayer, in integrity of life, in the pastoral charity of a ministry tirelessly spending itself for the salvation of the brethren. In a word, it calls for your personal sanctification.”[91]

Per ordinationem ergo, carissimi, eundem Christi Spiritum recepistis, qui Eidem vos assimilat, ut possitis eius nomine agere Eiusdemque sensus in vobismetipsis habere et vivere. Haec intima cum Christi Spiritu communio, dum ex alia parte efficaciam tuetur actionis sacramentalis, quam vos “in persona Christi” ponitis, id etiam postulat, ut eandem vos exprimatis, tum in ferventi oratione tum in vitae cohaerentia seu firmitate, tum in caritate pastorali illius ministerii quod indefesse in salutem fratrum est protendendum. Postulat, brevi, vestram personalem sanctificationem».207

CHAPTER IV

CAPUT IV

COME AND SEE
Priestly Vocation in the Church’s Pastoral Work

VENITE ET VIDEBITIS
Vocatio sacerdotalis in ecclesiae navitate pastorali

Seek, Follow, Abide

 

34. “Come, and see” (Jn. 1:39). This was the reply Jesus gave to the two disciples of John the Baptist who asked him where he was staying. In these words we find the meaning of vocation.

34. «Venite et videbitis».208 In hac Christi responsione, data duobus Ioannis discipulis, a Iesu «ubi maneret» sciscitantibus, adaequatatam vocationis significationem invenimus.

This is how the evangelist relates the call of Andrew and Peter: “The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, ‘What do you seek?’ Arid they said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘Where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘ Come and see. ‘ They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.

Ecce imprimis qua ratione, prout ab Evangelista enarratur Andreae et Petri vocatio evenerit: «Altera die iterum stabat Ioannes et ex discipulis eius duo, et respiciens Iesum ambulantem dicit: “Ecce agnus Dei”. Et audierunt eum duo discipuli loquentem et secuti sunt Iesum. Conversus autem Iesus et videns eos sequentes se dicit eis: “ Quid quaeritis?”. Qui dixerunt ei: “Rabbi (quod dicitur interpretatum Magister) ubi manes?”. Dicit eis: “Venite et videbitis”. Venerunt ergo et viderunt ubi maneret, et apud eum manserunt die illo; hora autem erat quasi decima.

“One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother, Simon, and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, ‘So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter)” (Jn. 1:35-42).

Erat Andreas frater Simonis Petri, unus ex duobus qui audierant a Ioanne et secuti fuerant eum. Invenit hic primum fratrem suum, Simonem, et dicit ei: “Invenimus Messiam” (quod est interpretatum Christus); adduxit eum ad Iesum. Intuitus eum Iesus dixit: “Tu es Simon, filius Ioannis; tu vocaberis Cephas” (quod interpretatur Petrus)».209

This Gospel passage is one of many in the Bible where the “mystery” of vocation is described, in our case the mystery of the vocation to be apostles of Jesus. This passage of John, which is also significant for the Christian vocation as such, has a particular value with regard to the priestly vocation. As the community of Jesus’ disciples, the Church is called to contemplate this scene which in some way is renewed constantly down the ages. The Church is invited to delve more deeply into the original and personal meaning of the call to follow Christ in the priestly ministry and the unbreakable bond between divine grace and human responsibility which is contained and revealed in these two terms which we find more than once in the Gospel: Come follow me (cf. Mt. 19:21). She is asked to discern and to live out he proper dynamism of vocation, its gradual and concrete development in the phases of seeking Christ, finding him and staying with him.

Haec Evangelii pagina ex illis est quae in Libro Sacro nobis exhibent vocationis mysterium, atque adeo in casu nostro, quale mysterium sit eo vocari ut exinde Iesu apostolus quis fiat. At eadem Ioannis pagina, quae etiam pro vocatione christiana ut tali significationem obtinet, symboli instar est quoties de vocatione presbyterali est agendum. Et Ecclesia, qua discipulorum Iesu est communitas, prospicere invitatur in hanc scaenam quae per historiam quodammodo indesinenter renovatur; ut in ea scilicet reperiat primigenium ac personalem sensum vocationis ad Christi adsectationem per sacerdotale ministerium, illudque etiam vinculum, prorsus inscindibile, quod viget inter divinam gratiam et hominis responsalitatem, prout includitur et simul revelatur in duplici illo vocabulo quod saepe in Evangelio conspicimus sociatum: veni et sequere.210 Provocatur per haec Ecclesia ad interpretandum et cognoscendum dynamismum illum qui vocationis est proprius, et cuius triplicem veluti gressum reperire est, concrete sese succedentem: velut si seiunctim dictum fuisset: Iesum primum quaerere, dein sequi, denique apud ipsum manere.

The Church gathers from this “Gospel of vocation” the paradigm, strength and impulse behind her pastoral work of promoting vocations, of her mission to care for the birth, discernment and fostering of vocations, particularly those to the priesthood. By the very fact that “the lack of priests is certainly a sad thing for any Church,”[92] pastoral work for vocations needs especially today, to be taken up with a new vigor and more decisive commitment by all the members of the Church, in the awareness that it is not a secondary or marginal matter, or the business of one group only, as if it were but a “part,” no matter how important, of the entire pastoral work of the Church. Rather as the synod fathers frequently repeated, it is an essential part of he overall pastoral work of each Church,[93] a concern which demands to be integrated into and fully identified with the ordinary “care of souls,”[94] a connatural and essential dimension of the Church’s pastoral work, of her very life and mission.[95]

Nullibi aptius reperit Ecclesia exemplar «Evangelii de vocatione» nisi in hac pagina, unde vim et impulsum trahit quo pastoralis navitas vocationum moveri incipiat; cuius scilicet missionis partes sint: vocationes, ad sacerdotium praesertim, excitare, discernere, comitari. Et quidem, quoniam «sacerdotum inopia profecto constituit uniuscuiusque Ecclesiae maestitiam»,211 postulat pastoralis vocationalis, hodie vel maxime, ut munus hoc ab omnibus Ecclesiae membris cum vigore ac decisione circa huiusmodi penuriam suscipiatur, cum satis omnibus manifestum appareat curam vocationum sacerdotalium non esse aliquid secundarii vel accessorii ordinis, nec portionem quandam curarum in quam insula quaedam vel sector christifidelium incumbat, quasi «pars» sit tantummodo, etiamsi grandior, pastoralis globalis Ecclesiae, ea econtra est, ut saepius a Patribus synodalibus assertum ostenditur, activitas intime connexa cum activitate pastorali uniuscuiusque Ecclesiae particularis,212 cura scilicet quae dicitur ordinaria,213 quaeque dimensio quodammodo censenda est connaturalis et essentialis pastoralis navitatis Ecclesiae, id est, totius pastoralis operis elementum praecipuum.214

Indeed, concern for vocations is a connatural and essential dimension of the Church’s pastoral work. The reason for this is that vocation, in a certain sense, defines the very being of the Church, even before her activity. In the Church’s very name, ecclesia, we find its deep vocational aspect, for the Church is a “convocation,” an assembly of those who have been called: “All those who in faith look toward Jesus, the author of salvation and the principle of unity and peace, God has gathered together and established as the Church, that she may be for each and everyone the visible sacrament of this saving unity.”[96]

Utique, dimensio vocationalis est connaturalis et essentialis pro pastorali Ecclesiae navitate. Idque ex eo provenit quod vocatio quodammodo prius Ecclesiae profundum «esse» describat quam eiusdem «operari». Idque ex ipso Ecclesiae nomine plane eruitur ipsius indoles vocationalis, quippe quod verti etiam potuisset vocabulo «convocationis». «Deus congregationem eorum qui in Iesum, salutis auctorem et unitatis pacisque principium, credentes aspiciunt, convocat et constituit Ecclesiam, ut sit universis et singulis sacramentum visibile huius salutiferae unitatis».215

A genuinely theological assessment of priestly vocation and pastoral work in its regard can only arise from an assessment of the mystery of the Church as a Mysterium vocationis.

Atque inde id provenit ut vera lectio theologica de vocatione sacerdotali ac de pastorali circa ipsam, non possit initium non sumere ab hoc Ecclesiae mysterio, et quidem potissimum qua vocationis mysterium est.

The Church and the Gift of Vocation

 

35. Every Christian vocation finds its foundation in the gratuitous and prevenient choice made by the Father “who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:3-5).

35. Quaevis christiana vocatio fundamentum habet in gratuita, eaque praeveniente, electione Patris: «Qui benedixit nos in omni benedictione spiritali in caelestibus in Christo, sicut elegit nos in Ipso ante mundi constitutionem, ut essemus sancti et immaculati in conspectu Eius in caritate, qui praedestinavit nos in adoptionem filiorum per Iesum Christum in Ipsum, secundum beneplacitum voluntatis suae».216

Each Christian vocation comes from God and is God’s gift. However, it is never bestowed outside of or independently of the Church. Instead it always comes about in the Church and through the Church because, as the Second Vatican Council reminds us, “God has willed to make men holy and save them, not as individuals without any bond or link between them, but rather to make them into a people who might acknowledge him and serve him in holiness.”[97]

Quaevis itaque christiana vocatio a Deo venit, Dei donum est. At nunquam ea tribuitur ab extra, independenter ab Ecclesia, sed in ea et per eam transit, nam, ut bene a Concilio Vaticano II commemoratur: «Placuit Deo homines non singulatim, quavis mutua connexione seclusa, sanctificare et salvare, sed eos in populum constituere, qui in veritate Iesum agnoscerent Ipsique sancte servirent».217

The Church not only embraces in herself all the vocations which God gives her along the path to salvation, but she herself appears as a mystery of vocation, a luminous and living reflection of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. In truth, the Church, a “people made one by the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,”[98] carries within her the mystery of the Father, who, being neither called nor sent by anyone (cf. Rom. 11:33-35), calls all to hallow his name and do his will; she guards within herself the mystery of the Son, who is called by the Father and sent to proclaim the kingdom of God to all and who calls all to follow him; and she is the trustee of the mystery of the Holy Spirit, who consecrates for mission those whom the Father calls through his Son Jesus Christ.

Ecclesia autem non tantummodo in sese colligit vocationes omnes, quas ei in salutem itineranti Deus donat, sed ipsa sese configurat in «vocationis mysterium», scilicet in fulgentem ac virentem nitorem qui Sanctissimae Trinitatis mysterium reverberat. Nam revera Ecclesia «populus, in unitate Patris, Filii et Spiritus Sancti congregatus»,218 in sese Patris imprimis mysterium portat, qui a nemine vocatus neve missus 219 omnes Ipse vocat, ut nomen suum sanctificent et voluntatem adimpleant; dein Filii etiam mysterium custodit, qui a Patre vocatur et mittitur ut Dei Regnum omnibus nuntiet, omnes in sui adsectationem advocando; qui depositum denique Spiritus Sancti mysterium suscipit, per cuius opus ad missionem ii consecrantur quos Pater per Filium suum Iesum Christum vocat.

The Church, being by her very nature a “vocation,” is also a begetter and educator of vocations. This is so because she is a “sacrament,” a “sign” and “instrument” in which the vocation of every Christian is reflected and lived out. And she is so in her activity, in the exercise of her ministry of proclaiming the word, in her celebration of the sacraments and in her service and witness to charity.

Ecclesia ergo, cum «vocatio» sit ipsa, vi suae propriae institutionis et navitatis, est etiam vocationum generatrix atque educatrix. Idque qua «sacramentum» est, qua «instrumentum» in quo adimpletur et resonat cuiusvis christiani vocatio; talis quoque est in suo «operari» id est in evolvendo sui ipsius mysterio, Verbi scilicet nuntiandi, Sacramenta celebrandi, caritatis servitium et testimonium exhibendi.

We can now see the essential dimension of the Christian vocation: Not only does it derive “from” the Church and her mediation, not only does it come to be known and find fulfillment “in” the Church, but it also necessarily appears - in fundamental service to God - as a service “to” the Church. Christian vocation, whatever shape it takes, is a gift whose purpose is to build up the Church and to increase the kingdom of God in the world.[99]

Immoremur nunc oportet in mensuranda dimensione essentiali vocationis christianae: quae non tantummodo ab Ecclesia et ab illius mediatione derivat, nec solum sese noscendam praebet; impletur Ecclesia, sed configurat sese — in fundamentali quodam Dei servitio — etiam, et quidem necessario in servitium Ecclesiae praestitum. Unde christiana vocatio, in quavis sua forma, donum dicendum est in Ecclesiae aedificationem destinatum atque in incrementum Regni Dei in mundo.220

What is true of every vocation is true specifically of the priestly vocation: The latter is a call, by the sacrament of holy orders received in the Church, to place oneself at the service of the People of God with a particular belonging and configuration to Jesus Christ and with the authority of acting “in the name and in the person” of him who is head and shepherd of the Church.

Quod de quavis christiana vocatione asseritur, idem specifica ratione, in vocatione presbyterali adimpletur: haec vocatur, per Ordinis sacramentum ab Ecclesia acceptum, in Dei populi servitium per peculiarem pertinentiam et configurationem ad Christum, et cum auctoritate agendi «nomine et persona» Christi, Ecclesiae Capitis et Pastoris.

From this point of view, we understand the statement of the synod fathers: “The vocation of each priest exists in the Church and for the Church: Through her this vocation is brought to fulfillment. Hence we can say that every priest receives his vocation from our Lord through the Church as a gracious gift, a grace gratis data (charisma). It is the task of the bishop or the competent superior not only to examine the suitability and the vocation of the candidate but also to recognize it. This ecclesiastical element is inherent in a vocation to the priestly ministry as such. The candidate to the priesthood should receive his vocation not by imposing his own personal conditions, but accepting also the norms and conditions which the Church herself lays down, in the fulfillment of her responsibility.”[100]

Atque in hoc prospectu satis intellegibilia ostenduntur quae per Patres synodales expressa sunt: «Vocatio ad presbyteratum semper eget humanis mediationibus. Privilegiata mediatrix est Ecclesia: in ea et pro ea datur vocatio uniuscuiusque presbyteri: per eam talis vocatio venit. Ex hoc sequitur omnem presbyterum per Ecclesiam a Domino vocationem accipere quasi donum gratiosum, gratiam gratis datam (charisma). Accipere igitur oportet vocationem non imponendo proprias uniuscuiusque condiciones, sed in simplicitate cordis: humilitate et gratitudine accipiendo etiam circumstantias vel condiciones quas ipsa ponit Ecclesia».221

 

 

 

 

The Vocational Dialogue - Divine Initiative and Human Response

 

 

 

 

 

36. The history of every priestly vocation, as indeed of every Christian vocation, is the history of an inexpressible dialogue between God and human beings, between the love of God who calls and the freedom of individuals who respond lovingly to him. These two indivisible aspects of vocation, God’s gratuitous gift and the responsible freedom of human beings, are reflected in a splendid and very effective way in the brief words with which the evangelist Mark presents the calling of the Twelve: Jesus “went up into the hills, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him” (Mk. 3:13). On the one hand, we have the completely free decision of Jesus; on the other, the “coming” of the Twelve, their “following” Jesus.

36. Historia cuiusvis vocationis presbyteralis, sicut ceterum cuiusvis fere vocationis christianae, historia est ineffabilis dialogi inter Deum et hominem, inter amorem Dei vocantis et libertatem hominis Deo respondentis. Hic duplex vocationis aspectus, indissociabilis, quippe gratuitum Dei donum homini libero offertur, splendet, ratione quadam efficaci, in verbis mire pressis quibus evangelista Marcus Duodecim Apostolorum vocationem enarrat: Iesus «ascendit in montem, et vocat ad se quos voluit Ipse, et venerunt ad Eum».222 Ubi liquide apparet Iesum, per absolutam suam libertatem vocare, apostolos autem Duodecim primum venire, dein Iesum sequi.

This is the constant paradigm, the fundamental datum of every vocation: whether of prophets, apostles, priests, religious, the lay faithful - of everyone.

Atque hoc est perpetuum vocationum omnium «paradigma». Hoc est iter invariatum cuiusvis vocationis, seu prophetarum seu apostolorum; seu sacerdotum vel religiosorum; seu christifidelium: cuiusvis denique qui a Deo vocatur.

First of all, indeed in a prevenient and decisive way, comes the free and gracious intervention of God who calls. It is God who takes the initiative in the call. This was, for example, the experience of the prophet Jeremiah: “Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘ Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you prophet to the nations”‘ (Jer. 1:4-5). The same truth is presented by the apostle Paul, who roots every vocation in the eternal election in Christ, made “before the foundation of the world” and “according to the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:4-5). The absolute primacy of grace in vocation is most perfectly proclaimed in the words of Jesus: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (Jn. 15:16).

Praecipua ergo, immo praeveniens et constitutiva in omni vocatione est, liber et gratuitus Dei vocantis interventus. Nam nullius nisi Eius est vocare. Atque haec est notissima Ieremiae prophetae experientia: «Et factum est verbum Domini ad me dicens: Priusquam te formarem in utero, novi te, et antequam exires de vulva, sanctificavi te et prophetam in gentibus dedi te».223 Eademque veritas ab apostolo Paulo comprobatur, qui omnem vocationem in aeterna Christi electione ponit, qui «elegit nos in ipso ante mundi constitutionem» et «secundum beneplacitum voluntatis suae».224 Ceterum hoc gratiae prioris donum nullibi perfectius declaratur quam in ipsius Iesu verbis: «Non vos me elegistis, sed ego elegi vos, et posui vos, ut eatis et fructum afferatis et fructus vester maneat».225

If the priestly vocation bears unequivocal witness to the primacy of grace, God’s free and sovereign decision to call man calls for total respect. It cannot be forced in the slightest by any human ambition, and it cannot be replaced by any human decision. Vocation is a gift of God’s grace and never a human right, such that “one can never consider priestly life as a simply human affair, nor the mission of the minister as a simply personal project.”[101] Every claim or presumption on the part of those called is thus radically excluded (cf Heb 5 4ff ). Their entire heart and spirit should be filled with an amazed and deeply felt gratitude. an unshakable trust and hope, because those who have been called know that they are rooted not in their own strength but in the unconditional faithfulness of God who calls.

Si ergo presbyteralis vocatio, modo quodam nullatenus aequivoco, primatum gratiae extollit, illud liberum ac supremum Dei placitum hominem vocandi reverentia est maxima suscipiendum, nec trahi ullo modo debet versus aliam, quaecumque demum est, humanam voluntatem, immo nec per quodvis aliud humanum placitum substitui. Vocatio enim donum est divinae gratiae, non autem quodlibet humanum ius; adeo ut «nunquam censeri possit vita sacerdotalis tanquam promotio simpliciter humana, nec reputanda ministerialis missio velut personale simpliciter inceptum».226 Unde in radice appareat ilico sublata quaelibet laus vel praesumptio quam «vocati», honorem sibi sumentes, iactare possent.227 Mirabunda ergo gratitudine repleatur commotum cor eorum qui vocari se senserint; fiducia insuper, atque adeo, imperturbata ac stabili spe, probe scientes se non proprio robore fundari, sed fundamenta iecisse in incondicionata Dei vocantis fidelitate.

“He called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him” (Mk. 3:13). This “coming,” which is the same as “following” Jesus, expresses the free response of the Twelve to the Master’s call. We see it in the case of Peter and Andrew: “And he said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Mt. 4:19-20). The experience of James and John was exactly the same (cf. Mt. 4:21-22). And so it is always: In vocation there shine out at the same time God’s gracious love and the highest possible exaltation of human freedom - the freedom of following God’s call and entrusting oneself to him.

«Et vocat ad se quos voluit ipse, et venerunt ad eum».228 Hoc «venerunt», vel quod idem valet «secuti sunt», liberam exprimit adhaesionem per quam «Duodecim» Magistro vocanti responsum dederunt. Id sic impletum narratur a Petro et Andrea: «Et ait illis: “Venite post me: et faciam vos piscatores hominum”. Illi autem statim, relicta navi et patre suo, secuti sunt eum».229 Eademque fuisse dicitur Iacobi et Ioannis experientia.230 Idemque indesinenter alii experti sunt: cum in vocatione insimul splendeat gratuitus Dei amor et altissima libertatis humanae exaltatio, quae in eo reponitur ut homo Deo vocanti adhaereat eique indubitata fiducia sese tradat.

In effect, grace and freedom are not opposed. On the contrary, grace enlivens and sustains human freedom, setting it free from the slavery of sin (cf. Jn. 8:34-36), healing it and elevating it in its ability to be open to receiving God’s gift. And if we cannot in any way minimize the absolutely gratuitous initiative of God who calls, neither can we in any way minimize the serious responsibility which persons face in the challenge of their freedom. And so when he hears Jesus’ invitation to “Come, follow me” the rich young man refuses, a sign - albeit only a negative sign - of his freedom: “At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions” (Mk. 10:22).

Revera gratia et libertas non in oppositionem veniunt. E contra gratia libertatem hominis concitat et continet, eam a servitute peccati redimens;231 eam praeterea sanat et elevat capacemque reddit ad Deum sese porrigendi Eiusque dona captandi. Et sicut nemini licet novitatem Dei absoluta gratuitate vocantis pertingere, pariter nulli fas est permovere ea hominis placita quae ipse libere sit amplexus. Unde etiam ad Iesu invitationem: «Veni et sequere me» iuvenis ille dives recusare ausus est, quo — licet id in proprium damnum commiserit — libertatem suam nihilominus asseruisse sit dicendus: «Qui, contristatus in hoc verbo, abiit maerens: erat enim habens possessiones multas».232

Freedom, therefore, is essential to vocation - a freedom which, when it gives a positive response, appears as a deep personal adherence, as a loving gift - or rather as a gift given back to the giver who is God who calls, an oblation:

Libertas ergo essentialis vocationi est; eaque libertas, si in assertivum responsum ducat, adhaesio personalis et profunda definietur, vel benevolens donatio, vel restitutio Donatori elargita (Deo scilicet vocanti, cui, oblationis in modum, sua Ipsius dona repraesentantur).

“The call” - Paul VI once said - “is as extensive as the response. There cannot be vocations unless they be free; that is, unless they be spontaneous offerings of oneself, conscious, generous, total....Oblations, we call them: Here lies in practice the heart of the matter.... It is the humble and penetrating voice of Christ who says, today as yesterday, and even more than yesterday: Come. Freedom reaches its supreme foundation: precisely that of oblation, of generosity, of sacrifice.”[102] «Vocatio — dicere solitus erat Paulus VI — ad responsionis mensuram aptatur, neque vocationes ullae sunt nisi liberae; nisi scilicet evadant spontaneae sui oblationes, conscientes, liberales, totales... Oblationes diximus: sed hinc vera promanat quaestio! Nam vox potest insonare, humilis et penetrans, ipsius Christi, hodie etiam sicut heri et plus quam heri, dicentis: Veni. Libertas ergo in discrimen venit sui gravioris certaminis; si vocanti respondere tandem didicerit per oblationem, per liberalitatem, per sui ipsius sacrificium».233

102  Pope Paul VI, Message for the fifth World Day of Prayer for Priestly Vocations (April 19,1968): Insegnamenti VI (1968), 134-135.

 

The free oblation, which constitutes the intimate and most precious core of a person’s response to God who calls, finds its incomparable model, indeed its living root, in the most free oblation which Jesus Christ, the first of those called, made to the Father’s will: “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘ Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me.... Then I said, lo, I have come to do your will, O God”‘ (Heb. 10:5, 7).

Libera ergo oblatio, in qua reponitur intimior ac validior sensus responsionis hominis ad vocantem Deum, exemplar praestantissimum, immo radicem suam reperit in ea liberrima oblatione Christi Iesu (qui «vocatorum» censendus est omnium primus) ad Patris voluntatem: «Ideo ingrediens mundum dicit: Hostiam et oblationem noluisti, corpus autem aptasti mihi... tum dixi: ecce venio... ut faciam, Deus, voluntatem tuam».234

The creature who more than any other has lived the full truth of vocation is Mary the virgin mother, and she did so in intimate communion with Christ: No one has responded with a love greater than hers to the immense love of God. [103]

In intima unione cum Christo, Maria quoque, et virgo et mater, magis quam ceterae, inter creaturas, plenissimam vocationis veritatem experta est; nemo enim ut illa amori summo Dei responsum dedit cum tam grandi amore.235

 

 

 

 

37. “At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions” (Mk. 10:22). The rich young man in the Gospel who did not follow Jesus’ call reminds us of the obstacles preventing or eliminating one’s free response: Material goods are not the only things that can shut the human heart to the values of the Spirit and the radical demands of the kingdom of God, certain social and cultural conditions of our day can also present many threats and can impose distorted and false visions about the true nature of vocation, making it difficult, if not impossible, to embrace or even to understand it.

37. «Qui, contristatus in hoc verbo, abiit maerens; erat enim habens possessiones multas».236 Iuvenis ille dives de quo Evangelium loquitur, et qui vocationem Iesu non sequitur, indicat nobis qualia obstacula possint liberam hominis responsionem suffocare et extinguere; non enim tantummodo materialia bona possunt humanum cor occludere valoribus spiritualibus et radicalioribus Regni Dei exigentiis, sed etiam nonnullae ex condicionibus socialibus et culturalibus nostrae aetatis possunt protrudere non leviores minas et falso prospectu exhibere vocationis naturam, atque ita difficilem reddere vel forte penitus impedire illius acceptationem vel comprehensionem.

Many people have such a general and confused idea of God that their religiosity becomes a religiosity without God, where God’s will is seen as an immutable and unavoidable fate to which one has to bend and resign oneself in a totally passive manner. But this is not the face of God which Jesus Christ came to reveal to us: God is truly a Father who with an eternal and prevenient love calls human beings and opens up with them a marvelous and permanent dialogue, inviting them, as his children, to share his own divine life. It is true that if human beings have an erroneous vision of God cannot even recognize the truth about themselves, and thus they will be unable to perceive or live their vocation in its genuine value: Vocation will be felt only as a crushing burden imposed upon them.

Multi enim adeo de Deo genericam ac confusam habent notionem, ut incaute in religiositatis formas recidant a quibus Deus omnino abesse monstratur, quibus proinde nulla Dei voluntas unquam agnoscetur, cum Eum tantum habeant ut immutabile et ineluctabile fatum, cui homo patienter ac passive aptetur necesse est. At non his est Dei vultus, quem Christus revelaturus venit: Deus enim Pater imprimis est, qui per paternum aeternumque ac praevenientem amorem hominem vocat et ad mirum et permanentem secum dialogum recipit, eum invitans ut secum, filii instar, divinae vitae fiat particeps. Verum est hominem, si erratam Dei perceptionem habeat, nullatenus posse veritatem circa semetipsum agnoscere; quo in casu nulla vocatio percipi vel traduci in vitam, prout est, potest, pleniore suo valore; percipietur tantummodo ut impositum pondus, quod ferri ac supportari vix potest.

Certain distorted ideas regarding human nature, sometimes backed up by specious philosophical or “scientific” theories, also sometimes lead people to consider their own existence and freedom as totally determined and conditioned by external factors of an educational, psychological, cultural or environmental type. In other cases, freedom is understood in terms of total autonomy, the sole and indisputable basis for personal choices, and effectively as self - affirmation at any cost. But these ways of thinking make it impossible to understand and live one’s vocation as a free dialogue of love, which arises from the communication of God to the human person and ends in the sincere self giving. {gift of Self]

Etiam nonnullae erratae circa hominem notiones, quae saepe per praetextuosa argumenta, philosophica vel scientifica protruduntur, hominem quandoque eo inducunt ut propriam existentiam et libertatem sic intellegat tanquam determinatas et condicionatas per causas exteriores, aliunde provenientes; v.g. ex ordine educativo, psychologico, culturali et ambientali. Alias sic intellegitur libertas quasi absoluta omnino gaudeat autonomia, et quasi unus ipsa sibi sit optionum personalium fons primasque sibi partes ubique reservandas esse autumet. Sed hac via sibi ipsi viam praecludit ad intellegendam et vivendam vocationem ut liberum amoris dialogum, qui enascitur ex communicatione Dei ad hominem, et concluditur in donum sincerum sui ipsius.

In the present context there is also a certain tendency to view the bond between human beings and God in an individualistic and self - centered way, as if God’s call reached the individual by a direct route without in any way passing through the community. Its purpose is held to be the benefit, or the very salvation, of the individual called and not a total dedication to God in the service of the community. We thus find another very deep and at the same time subtle threat which makes it impossible to recognize and accept joyfully the ecclesial dimension which naturally marks every Christian vocation, and the priestly vocation in particular: As the Council reminds us, priestly ministry acquires its genuine meaning and attains to its fullest truth in serving and in fostering the growth of the Christian community and the common priesthood of the faithful.[104]

Nec desunt inter hodierni temporis gentes qui relationem hominis ad Deum, ratione, quam dicunt, individualistica et intimistica, interpretentur, quasi Deus singulos dumtaxat, via nempe personali, respiceret, nulla interposita communitatis specie; id est, quasi Deus bonum aliquod, forte etiam singulorum quos vocat salutem intenderet, non vero eorum ad Deum dedicationem per communitatis servitium. In ea ergo cogitandi ratione reponuntur novae quaedam, eaeque profundiores ac subtiliores minae, quae agnoscere vel alacriter amplecti vetant eam conformationem ecclesialem quae praesens in quavis vocatione christiana semper percepta est, peculiari autem modo in vocatione presbyterali: nam, ut Concilium bene commeminit: Sacerdotium ministeriale suum replet sensum et veritatem in inserviendo communitati christianae et in latius in ipsa provehendo sacerdotio communi christifidelium.237

The cultural context which we have just recalled, and which affects Christians themselves and especially young people, helps us to understand the spread of the crisis of priestly vocations, a crisis that is rooted in and accompanied by even more radical crises of faith. The synod fathers made this very point when recognizing that the crisis of vocations to the priesthood has deep roots in the cultural environment and in the outlook and practical behavior of Christians.”[105]

Hic itaque culturalis contextus, cuius meminimus, et cuius percipitur influxus inter christianos, maxime aetate iuniores, intellectu faciliorem reddit ipsam vocationum sacerdotalium penuriam, quippe quae a radicaliori crisi ipsius fidei non sit aliena. Id etiam synodales Patres aperte denuntiant, cum asserunt crisim vocationum radicem funditus habere in modo vivendi et credendi fidelium.238

Hence the urgent need that the Church’s pastoral work in promoting vocations be aimed decisively and primarily toward restoring a “Christian mentality,” one built on faith and sustained by it. More than ever, what is now needed is an evangelization which never tires of pointing to the true face of God, the Father who calls each one of us in Jesus Christ, and to the genuine meaning of human freedom as the principal driving force behind the responsible gift of oneself. Only thus will the indispensable foundations be laid, so that every vocation, including the priestly vocation, will be perceived for what it really is, loved in its beauty and lived out with total dedication and deep joy.

Defluit hinc urgentia cuiusdam «pastoralis vocationalis» Ecclesiae, quae id imprimis respiciat ut «mens christiana» quodammodo restauretur, qualis per fidem vivam generatur ac sustinetur. Unde denuo apparet urgentiorem esse eam evangelizationem promovere quae non recuset verum Dei vultum ostendere, Patrem scilicet qui in Christo Iesu nos universos et singulos vocat; quae pariter genuinum asserat libertatis humanae sensum; in qua percipiendum est initium et animi robur quod responsale sui donum comitatur. Ea tantummodo ratione fundamenta iacientur necessaria ut quaevis vocatio, sacerdotalis praesertim, ob suam veritatem perspiciatur, ob suam pulchritudinem ametur, cum profundiore gaudio ac per totalem deditionem vivatur.

Content and Methods of Pastoral Work for Promoting Vocations

 

38. Certainly a vocation is a fathomless mystery involving the relationship established by God with human beings in their absolute uniqueness, a mystery perceived and heard as a call which awaits a response in the depths of one’s conscience, which is “a person’s most secret core and sanctuary. There one is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.”[106] But this does not eliminate the communitarian and in particular the ecclesial dimension of vocation. The Church is also truly present and at work in the vocation of every priest.

38. Vocatio mysterium est, idque impenetrabile, cum attingat relationem ipsam quam Deus cum homine instaurat. Res certo certius unica atque non repetibilis, mysterium proinde, quod velut obscurior quaedam clamantis vox, in profundiore dumtaxat conscientia exauditur, quae est, «nucleus secretissimus atque sacrarium hominis, in quo solus est cum Deo, cuius vox resonat in intimo eius».239 Sed non proinde communitaria vocationis proportio, ut sit scilicet ecclesialis, removetur, cum Ecclesia in quavis vocatione presbyterali reali praesentia et operatione semper adsit.

In her service to the priestly vocation and its development, that is, in the birth, discernment and care of each vocation, the Church can look for her model to Andrew, one of the first two disciples who set out to follow Jesus. Andrew himself told his brother what had happened to him: “‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ)” (Jn. 1:41). His account of this “discovery” opened the way to a meeting: “He brought him to Jesus” (Jn. 1:42). There can be no doubt about the absolutely free initiative nor about the sovereign decision of Jesus. It is Jesus who calls Simon and gives him a new name: “Jesus looked at him, and said, ‘So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter)” (Jn. 1:42). But Andrew also acted with initiative: He arranged his brother’s meeting with Jesus.

Si iam de inserviendo vocationi presbyterali agendum est, scilicet, quomodo per totum eius iter sint candidati iuvandi atque sedula discretione ducendi et comitandi, habet Ecclesia exemplar in Andrea, qui inter primos fuit eorum qui Iesum sequi decreverunt: ipse quid sibi acciderit fratri enuntiat: «Invenimus Messiam (quod est interpretatum Christus)».240 Sed narratio huius «inventionis» praeludii instar est ad colloquium: «Adduxit eum ad Iesum».241 Hic autem nullum prostat dubium quin vocationis novitas uni sit Iesu tradenda, cum Ipse, per absolute liberam et supremam voluntatem interveniat: vocat enim Simonem Iesus, eique novum imponit nomen: «Intuitus eum Iesus dixit: Tu es Simon, filius Ioannis; tu vocaberis Cephas, quod interpretatur Petrus».242 Sed habuisse Andreas quoque partem in hac vocatione dicendus est, cum ipse fratrem impulerit ut Iesum conveniret.

“He brought him to Jesus.” In a way, this is the heart of all the Church’s pastoral work on behalf of vocations, in which she cares for the birth and growth of vocations, making use of the gifts and responsibilities, of the charisms and ministry she has received from Christ and his Spirit. The Church, as a priestly, prophetic and kingly people, is committed to foster and to serve the birth and maturing of priestly vocations through her prayer and sacramental life; by her proclamation of the word and by education in the faith; by her example and witness of charity.

«Adduxit eum ad Iesum». Hic quodammodo reponendus est navitatis pastoralis vocationalis Ecclesiae cardo; per eam enim ipsa nascentium et crescentium vocationum curam suscipit, in usum pertrahens dona et responsalitates, charismata et ministeria, quae a Christo et ab Eius Spiritu accepta habet. Ecclesia enim, ut populus est sacerdotalis, propheticus ac regalis, promovere et suppeditare obligatur quidquid nascentibus et maturantibus vocationibus praestandum apparet, per preces imprimis, per sacramentalem vitam, per Verbi praeconium, per fidei educationem, per caritatis ductum ac testimonium.

The Church, in her dignity and responsibility as a priestly people, possesses in prayer and in the celebration of the liturgy the essential and primary stages of her pastoral work for vocations. Indeed, Christian prayer, nourished by the word of God, creates an ideal environment where each individual can discover the truth of his own being and the identity of the personal and unrepeatable life project which the Father entrusts to him. It is therefore necessary to educate boys and young men so that they will become faithful to prayer and meditation on God’s word: in silence and listening, they will be able to perceive the Lord who is calling them to the priesthood, and be able to follow that call promptly and generously.

Habet Ecclesia in sua ipsius dignitate et responsalitate, qua populus sacerdotalis est, momenta essentialia et potiora pastoralis vocationalis, in oratione praesertim et in celebrationibus liturgicis; preces quippe christianae, cum per Dei Verbum nutriantur, dilatant id ideale spatium in quo licet homini veritatem suae «naturae» persentire, atque proinde metiri quoque qualis sit identitas et natura illius incepti, personalis quidem ac non repetibilis, quod Pater ei in manibus tradit. Necesse igitur erit pueros praesertim et iuniores ita instituere ut perstare fideles valeant et velint orationi et Verbi Dei meditationi; per silentium enim et per auscultationem Domini vocem percipient ad sacerdotium vocantem, eamque prompto et alacri animo sequentur.

The Church should daily take up Jesus’ persuasive and demanding invitation to “pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Mt. 9:38). Obedient to Christ’s command, the Church first of all makes a humble profession of faith: In praying for vocations, conscious of her urgent need of them for her very life and mission, she acknowledges that they are a gift of God and, as such, must be asked for by a ceaseless and trusting prayer of petition. This prayer, the pivot of all pastoral work for vocations, is required’ not only of individuals but of entire ecclesial communities. There can be no doubt about the importance of individual initiatives of prayer, of special times set apart for such prayer - beginning with the World Day of Prayer for Vocations - and of the explicit commitment of persons and groups particularly concerned with the problem of priestly vocations. Today the prayerful expectation of new vocations should become an ever more continual and widespread habit within the entire Christian community and in every one of its parts. Thus it will be possible to relive the experience of the apostles in the upper room who, in union with Mary, prayerfully awaited the outpouring of the Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14), who will not fail to raise up once again in the People of God “worthy ministers for the altar, ardent but gentle proclaimers of the Gospel.”[107]

Audienda quotidie ab Ecclesia est illa instans Iesu invitatio «Rogate ergo Dominum messis ut mittat operarios in messem suam».243 Atque Ecclesia, sic efficiens, dum iussum Christi exsequitur, eximiam imprimis fidei professionem profert: nam dum pro vocationibus supplices elevat preces, non tantummodo agnoscit earumdem pro sua ipsius vita et missione necessitatem, sed et agnoscit eas esse Dei dona, et ut talia haec esse expostulanda per fiduciales et perpetuas supplicationes. Huiusmodi preces, cum cardo sint totius pastoralis vocationalis, non singulos solum pertrahere debent fideles, sed totam ipsam ecclesialem communitatem. Nemo est qui dubitet de momento quod habent singula orandi incepta, tempora etiam huic supplicationi assignata, et imprimis sic dictus Dies Mundialis pro vocationibus; pariter provehenda veniunt nonnulla alia personarum vel coetuum incepta, qui gravitate huiusce quaestionis permoventur. Sed magis quam unquam haec hodie provehenda est pro vocationibus supplicandi consuetudo, quae utinam frequentior evadat et latius diffundatur donec totam pervadat communitatem Ecclesialem atque praesens fiat in quavis realitate ecclesiali. Sic enim viva fiet Apostolorum experientia, qui quidem in caenaculo cum Maria orantes, effusionem Spiritus exspectarunt.244 Qui Spiritus non desinet in Dei populo «dignos altaribus excitare ministros, et Evangelii sui strenuos ac mites assertores efficere».245

In addition, the liturgy, as the summit and source of the Church’s existence[108] and in particular of all Christian prayer, plays an influential and indispensable role in the pastoral work of promoting vocations. The liturgy is a living experience of God’s gift and a great school for learning how to respond to his call. As such, every liturgical celebration, and especially the Eucharist, reveals to us the true face of God and grants us a share in the paschal mystery, in the “hour” for which Jesus came into the world and toward which he freely and willingly made his way in obedience to the Father’s call (cf. Jn. 13:1). It shows us the Church as a priestly people and a community structured in the variety and complementarity of its charisms and vocations. The redemptive sacrifice of Christ, which the Church celebrates in mystery, accords a particular value to suffering endured in union with the Lord Jesus. The synod fathers invited us never to forget that “through the offering of sufferings, which are so frequent in human life, the Christian who is ill offers himself as a victim to God, in the image of Christ, who has consecrated himself for us all” (cf. Jn. 17:19) and that “the offering of sufferings for this intention is a great help in fostering vocations.”[109]

Liturgia autem, quae totius vitae Ecclesiae et peculiariter omnis christianae orationis culmen dicitur et fons,246 munus habet necessarium et summi cuiusdam momenti in pastorali vocationali. Per eam enim viva adquiritur donorum Dei experientia, unde schola vitae fit, in qua responsum paratur, si forte vocaverit. Nam quaevis celebratio liturgica, eucharistica praesertim, verum exhibet Dei vultum, et Paschatis mysterii participes efficit, id est praesentes apud Eum collocat in illa «hora» pro qua Iesus venit in mundum, et in quam libere ac sponte Patri oboediens progressus est pro mundi salute;247 ipsa Ecclesiae vultum exhibet, tanquam populi sacerdotum et communitatis bene coagmentatae in varietate et complementarietate charismatum et vocationum. Christi sacrificium pro nostra redemptione acceptum, quod Ecclesia in mysterio celebrat, vim peculiarem confert christifidelium etiam aerumnis et infirmitatibus, si eas vivere satagant in unione cum Domini Iesu Passione. Ideo Synodales Patres, postquam orationem christifidelibus enixe pro vocationibus commendarunt, haec addunt: «Item, oblatione dolorum, tam frequentium in vita hominum, infirmus christianus Deo victimam sese offert, ad imaginem Christi, qui pro omnibus nobis se sanctificavit.248 Multum pro vocationibus valet fovendis, si dolores illi pro tali offerantur intentione».249

39. In carrying out her prophetic role, the Church feels herself irrevocably committed to the task of proclaiming and witnessing to the Christian meaning of vocation, or as we might say, to “the Gospel of vocation.” Here too, she feels the urgency of the apostle’s exclamation: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16) This admonishment rings out especially for us who are pastors but, together with us, it touches all educators in the Church. Preaching and catechesis must always show their intrinsic vocational dimension: The word of God enlightens believers to appreciate life as a response to God’s call and leads them to embrace in faith the gift of a personal vocation.

39. Sentit Ecclesia in exercenda sua prophetica missione incumbendum sibi esse (idque opus nulli esse delegandum) in munus «Evangelii Nuntiandi», ita tamen ut simul testimonium quoque reddat de sensu christiano tantae «vocationis»; velut si dicamus, eidem esse praedicandum quoddam «Evangelium vocationis». Atque in hoc impellitur Ecclesia eodem illo propriae missionis sensu quo Apostolus in hanc exclamationem ducitur: «Vae enim mihi est, si non evangelizavero».250 Id monitum nobis imprimis, pastoribus, resonat, et nobiscum ceteros in Ecclesiae educatores pertingit: nam tum catechesis tum praedicatio hunc vocationalem prospectum ante oculos habeant necesse est; Verbum enim Dei christifideles sic debet illuminare ut vitam respiciant tanquam responsionem Deo vocanti: quos eo ipso disponet ad acceptandum per fidem etiam donum personalis cuiusdam vocationis.

But all this, however important and even essential, is not enough: We need a “direct preaching on the mystery of vocation in the Church, on the value of the ministerial priesthood, on God’s people’s.”[10] A properly structured catechesis, directed to all the members of the Church, in addition to dissipating doubts and countering one - sided or distorted ideas about priestly ministry, will open believers’ hearts to expect the gift and create favorable conditions for the birth of new vocations. The time has come to speak courageously about priestly life as a priceless gift and a splendid and privileged form of Christian living. Educators, and priests in particular, should not be afraid to set forth explicitly and forcefully the priestly vocation as a real possibility for those young people who demonstrate the necessary gifts and talents. There should be no fear that one is thereby conditioning them or limiting their freedom; quite the contrary, a clear invitation, made at the right time, can be decisive in eliciting from young people a free and genuine response. Besides, the history of the Church and that of many individual priests whose vocations blossomed at a young age bear ample witness to how providential the presence and conversation of a priest can be: not only his words, but his very presence, a concrete and joyful witness which can raise questions and lead to decisions, even definitive ones.

Quae omnia, licet summi sint momenti, non tamen sufficiunt: requiritur insuper «Praedicatio directa de mysterio vocationis in Ecclesia, de valore sacerdotii ministerialis et de eius instanti necessitate pro Populo Dei».251 Catechesis ergo, organica atque universis Ecclesiae membris apte oblata, non dubia tantum dispellet et conceptus unilaterales vel erratos circa ministerium sacerdotale dissipabit, sed et corda christifidelium in exspectationem huius «doni» aperiet, et condiciones eo ipso disponet excitandis vocationibus aptiores. Tempus adest ut strenue de vita sacerdotali sic loquamur ut ipsa veluti inaestimabilis appareat valor, necnon splendens ac peculiaris vitae christianae optio. Ne paveant ergo educatores, praesertim si sacerdotes ipsi sunt, expliciter et fortiter vocationem ad presbyteratum proponere tanquam veram possibilitatem iis omnibus iunioribus oblatam, quos dona et dotes iuxta rei mensuram habere constiterit. Neve metu deterreantur ne eorundem libertatem condicionibus ac limitibus adstringant, cum oppositum potius constet, posse liberrimum et authenticum responsum tum maxime valere cum, plena sub luce, vera rerum condicio suo tempore deliberanti patuerit. Ceterum ipsa Ecclesiae historia, sicuti illa etiam singularum vocationum sacerdotalium etiam in tenerrima aetate enatarum, tutissima testimonia prostant quam providenter verba et vita sacerdotis, necnon ipsius saepe proximitas vel vicinitas, deliberationi pondus addiderit: quippe per concretum et alacre vitae testimonium, et etiam silenter, removendis saepe iuverit interrogationibus, lucem et voluntatem abunde suppeditando.

40. As a kingly people, the Church sees herself rooted in and enlivened by “the law of the Spirit of life” (Rom. 8:2), which is essentially the royal law of charity (cf. Jas. 2:8) or the perfect law of freedom (cf. Jas. 1:25). Therefore, the Church fulfills her mission when she guides every member of the faithful to discover and live his or her own vocation in freedom and to bring it to fulfillment in charity.

40. Radicatam se et animatam agnoscit Ecclesia prout Populus regalis est, per eam Spiritus legem quae vitam affert;252 quae aliis verbis essentialiter eadem est «caritatis regalis lex»253 vel «lex perfectae libertatis».254 Ecclesia propterea suam exsequitur missionem cum universos christifideles eo ducit ut ipsi propriam vocationem in libertate reperiant et vivant, in caritate autem adimpleant.

In carrying out her educational role, the Church aims with special concern at developing in children, adolescents and young men a desire and a will to follow Jesus Christ in a total and attractive way. This educational work, while addressed to the Christian community as such, must also be aimed at the individual person: Indeed, God with his call reaches the call of each individual, and the Spirit, who abides deep within each disciple (cf. 1 Jn. 3:24), gives himself to each Christian with different charisms and special signs. Each one, therefore, must be helped to embrace the gift entrusted to him as a completely unique person, and to hear the words which the Spirit of God personally addresses to him.

Eo proinde tendit Ecclesia in suo munere educativo, et quidem peculiari et praevalenti cura, ut in pueris, adulescentibus et iunioribus, desiderium et voluntatem exsuscitet ut Christum Iesum audacter et allicienti animo sequantur. At educativum opus, quod tamen communitatem christianam qua talem respicit, revera singulatim exercetur; prorsus ut ipse Deus, singulorum hominum cor per vocationem attingit; et sicut Spiritus sese singulatim christifidelibus tradit, in singulari animo cuiusque discipuli operans,255 per charismata scilicet diversa et per peculiares cuiusque manifestationes. Iuvandi sunt ergo singuli ad dispiciendum quodnam sibi donum Dominus obtulerit, tanquam personis singulis ac non repetibilibus, quibus exaudire datur verba quae Dei Spiritus illis singulariter pronuntiat.

From this point of view, the pastoral work of promoting vocations to the priesthood will also be able to find expression in a firm and encouraging invitation to spiritual direction. It is necessary to rediscover the great tradition of personage spiritual guidance which has always brought great and precious fruits to the Church’s life. In certain cases and under precise conditions this work can be assisted, but not replaced, by forms of analysis or psychological help.[111] Children, adolescents and young men are invited to discover and appreciate the gift of spiritual direction, to look for it and experience it, and to ask for it with trusting insistence from those who are their educators in the faith. Priests, for their part, should be the first to devote time and energies to this work of education and personal spiritual guidance: They will never regret having neglected or put in second place so many other things which are themselves good and useful, if this proved necessary for them to be faithful to their ministry as cooperators of the Spirit in enlightening and guiding those who have been called.

Atque in hoc rerum prospectu, vocationum ad sacerdotium cura viam reperiat oportet ut etiam firmiter proponat et suadeat spiritualem quam dicimus, directionem. Pernecessarium quippe est, etiam eam traditam praxim denuo invenire, recentiore vocabulo «comitationis spiritualis personalis» hodie expressam, quae copiosissimam procul dubio fructuum segetem pro Ecclesiae vita per saecula tulit. Nec recusamus posse in quibusdam casibus et sub certis condicionibus, non substitui, sed iuvari dumtaxat, per alias analysis vel adiutorii psychologici formas.256 Invitatos ergo se sentiant pueri, adulescentes et iuniores ad inveniendum et recte aestimandum donum directionis spiritualis, idque quaerendum atque experimento comprobandum, sibi apud educatores ius praeservantes fiduciali cum perseverantia idoneos directores expostulare. Atque sacerdotes, pro eorum experientia, priores sese exhibeant in suppeditando hoc opere educationis et adiutorii spiritualis personalis; non eos unquam pigebit neglexisse vel aliquandiu in secundum locum etiam utilia et pulchra opera amandasse, si illa potius praeferenda concrete erant, et perstandum sibi animadverterant proprio muneri fideles collaboratorum Spiritus, per illuminationem scilicet et ductum eorum qui ab Illo fuerint vocati.

The aim of education for a Christian is to attain the “stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13) under the influence of the Spirit. This happens when, imitating and sharing Christ’s charity, a person turns his entire life into an act of loving service (cf. Jn. 13:14-15), offering to God a spiritual worship acceptable to him (cf. Rom . 12:1) and giving himself to his brothers and sisters. The service of love is the fundamental meaning of every vocation, and it finds a specific expression in the priestly vocation. Indeed, a priest is called to live out, as radically as possible, the pastoral charity of Jesus, the love of the good shepherd who “lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11).

Christianae educationis scopus est educandos eo perducere ut «mensuram aetatis plenitudinis Christi» 257 per Spiritus influxum attingant. Idque tum efficitur cum, per eius caritatis imitationem atque participationem, tota vita fit amoris servitium;258 cum Deo cultus spiritalis offertur;259 cum denique fratribus in donum nosmetipsos tradimus. Hoc autem amoris servitium exprimit fundamentalem sensum cuiusvis vocationis, sed id in presbyterali vocatione maxime adimpletur: in qua sacerdos eo se vocari agnoscit ut per vitam suam, ratione quam maxime possit radicali, pastoralem Iesu caritatem exprimat, Boni scilicet Pastoris, vitam pro ovibus ponentis.260

Consequently, an authentic pastoral work on behalf of vocations will never tire of training boys, adolescents and young men to appreciate commitment, the meaning of free service, the value of sacrifice and unconditional self - giving. In this context it is easy to see the great value of forms of volunteer work, which so many young people are growing to appreciate. If volunteer work is inspired by the Gospel values, capable of training people to discern true needs, lived with dedication and faithfulness each day, open to the possibility of a total commitment in consecrated life and nourished in prayer, then it will be more readily able to sustain a life of disinterested and free commitment and will make the one involved in it more sensitive to the voice of God who may be calling him to the priesthood. Unlike the rich young man, the person involved in volunteer work would be able to accept the invitation lovingly addressed to him by Jesus (cf. Mk. 10:21); and he would be able to accept it because his only wealth now consists in giving himself to others and in “losing” his life.

Propterea igitur vera pastoralis vocationum nunquam omittet pueros, adulescentes ac iuniores ad mensuram huiusce servitii gratuiti oblationis, ac sacrificiorum aestimationem, ad sui ipsius sine ulla condicione donationem educare. Atque hinc commemoranda peculiari modo est ea quae dici solet «voluntariatus experientia», in quam maior in dies increscit iuniorum sensibilitas. Si is voluntariatus evangelicis nitatur placitis, si educare valeat ad necessitates discernendas, si perseveranti deditione quotidie in praxim adducatur; si denique promptum sese exhibeat etiam ad permanentem eam deditionis formam quam, oratione nutritam, consecratam vitam vocamus, tum huiusmodi voluntariatus capax efficietur vitam gratuita deditione plenam exornandi, eosque qui hanc vitae formam sint amplexati aptiores reddet ad exaudiendam Dei vocem, ad sacerdotium forte vocantem. Atque, aliter ac ille dives iuvenis, poterit hic «voluntarius» invitationi, caritatis plenae, assentiri, qua eum Iesus vocat;261 sponte ac properanter illum secuturum se esse respondebit, cum sola illa bona sint in se donando et in vita perdenda.

We Are All Responsible for Priestly Vocations

 

41. The priestly vocation is a gift from God. It is undoubtedly a great good for the person who is its first recipient. But it is also a gift to the Church as a whole, a benefit to her life and mission. The Church, therefore, is called to safeguard this gift, to esteem it and love it. She is responsible for the birth and development of priestly vocations. Consequently, the pastoral work of promoting vocations has as its active agents, as its protagonists, the ecclesial community as such, in its various expressions: from the universal Church to the particular church and, by analogy, from the particular church to each of its parishes and to every part of the People of God.

41. Vocatio sacerdotalis est donum Dei, ingens procul dubio bonum, ei saltem cui primo destinatur. Sed ingens donum praecipue donum est ipsi Ecclesiae, ad cuius vitam et missionem vocatio singularis adiungitur. In eam proinde officium incumbit donum hoc aestimandi, amandi, custodiendi; fiat scilicet responsalis nascentium et maturescentium vocationum sacerdotalium. Hinc sequitur ut pastoralis vocationum navitas subiectum habeat activum, ut dicimus, vel protagonisten, ipsam communitatem ecclesialem qua talem, variato vocabulo iuxta varietatum mensuram: aliud enim est Ecclesia universalis, aliud Ecclesia particularis; aliud paroecia, aliud denique fortuitus aliquis eorum coetuum, qui hodie plurimi in Populo Dei enascuntur.

There is an urgent need, especially nowadays, for a more widespread and deeply felt conviction that all the members of the Church, without exception, have the grace and responsibility to look after vocations. The Second Vatican Council was quite explicit in this regard: “The duty of fostering vocations falls on the whole Christian community, and they should discharge it principally by living full Christian lives.”[112] Only on the basis of this conviction will pastoral work on behalf of vocations be able to show its truly ecclesial aspect, develop a harmonious plan of action, and make use of specific agencies and appropriate instruments of communion and co - responsibility.

Urget maxime, hodiernis praesertim temporibus, ut diffundatur atque radices iaciat ea persuasio: gratiam et responsalitatem circa vocationum curam partiendam esse inter omnia Ecclesiae membra, nullo excluso. Concilium Vaticanum II id explicite ac severe enuntiavit cum scripsit: «Fovendarum vocationum officium ad totam christianam communitatem pertinet, quae imprimis vita plene christiana id provehere debet».262 Pastoralis ergo vocationalis tum tantum vere ecclesialem viam sectari dicetur, cum haec persuasa habens concordem navitatem sequatur, sedulo adhibendo quae reperta sunt organa specifica vel communionis et corresponsalitatis instrumenta.

The first responsibility for the pastoral work of promoting priestly vocations lies with the bishop,[113] who is called to be the first to exercise this responsibility even though he can and must call upon many others to cooperate with him. As the father and friend of his presbyterate, it falls primarily to the bishop to be concerned about “giving continuity” to the priestly charism and ministry, bringing it new forces by the laying on of hands. He will be actively concerned to ensure that the vocational dimension is always present in the whole range of ordinary pastoral work, and that it is fully integrated and practically identified with it. It is his duty to foster and coordinate various initiatives on behalf of vocations.[114]

Ceterum in episcopum 263 recidit prima responsalitas huius pastoralis navitatis erga vocationes sacerdotales: ipse eam curam suam faciat, ad quam procul dubio multiplices collaboratores trahere poterit: sed ipse pater imprimis et amicus sit in presbyterio, in quem onus incumbit et sollicitudo «continuandi» charismata et ministerium presbyterale, nova adiuncta propagine «per manuum impositionem»; curam item sibi sollicite assumat ut prospectus quidam vocationis praesens perseveret in quotidiana pastorali navitate, atque adeo, ut cum eadem integretur. Ad eum praeterea officium spectat promovendi et coordinandi varia illa vocationalia incepta quae forte enascantur.264

The bishop can rely above all on the cooperation of his presbyterate. All its priests are united to him and share his responsibility in seeking and fostering priestly vocations. Indeed, as the Council states, “it is the priests’ part as instructors of the people in the faith to see to it that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation.”[115] “This duty belongs to the very nature of the priestly ministry which makes the priest share in the concern of the whole Church lest laborers should ever be wanting to the People of God here on earth.”[116] The very life of priests, their unconditional dedication to God’s flock, their witness of loving service to the Lord and to his Church - a witness marked by free acceptance of the cross in the spirit of hope and Easter joy - their fraternal unity and zeal for the evangelization of the world are the first and most convincing factor in the growth of vocations.[117]

Sciat nihilominus Episcopus posse se benevolenter per reliquum Presbyterium iuvari, cum sacerdotes omnes responsaliter coniungantur in quaerendis et provehendis vocationibus sacerdotalibus. Nam, ut per Concilium fuerat assertum: «Ad sacerdotes, qui fidei educatores sunt pertinet curare... ut singuli fideles ad suam propriam vocationem secundum Evangelium excolendam... in Spiritu Sancto adducantur»;265 et alibi adiungit: «Quod officium sane pertinet ad ipsam missionem sacerdotalem, qua quidem particeps fit presbyter sollicitudinis totius Ecclesiae, ne in Populo Dei hic in terris operarii unquam desint».266 Vita ergo ipsorum presbyterorum, eorumque incondicionata in Dei legem deditio, necnon testimonium benevolentis servitii Domino et eius Ecclesiae praestiti — testimonium etiam per Crucis optionem signatum, in spe et gaudio Paschali — eorum insuper fraterna concordia et zelus pro mundi evangelizatione, primum atque efficacissimum exstabunt instrumentum fecunditatis vocationalis.267

A very special responsibility falls upon the Christian family, which by virtue of the sacrament of matrimony shares in its own unique way in the educational mission of the Church - teacher and mother. As the synod fathers wrote: “The Christian family, which is truly a ‘domestic Church’ (Lumen Gentium, 11), has always offered and continues to offer favorable conditions for the birth of vocations. Since the reality of the Christian family is endangered nowadays, much importance should be given to pastoral work on behalf of the family, in order that the families themselves, generously accepting the gift of human life, may be ‘as it were, a first seminary’ (Optatam Totius, 2) in which children can acquire from the beginning an awareness of piety and prayer and love for the Church.[118] Following upon and in harmony with the work of parents and the family, the school is also called to live its identity as an “educating community” by providing a correct understanding of the dimension of vocation as an innate and fundamental value of the human person. In this sense, if it is endowed with a Christian spirit (either by a significant presence of members of the Church in state schools, following the laws of each country, or above all in the case of the Catholic school), it can infuse “in the hearts of boys and young men a desire to do God’s will in that state in life which is most suitable to each person, and never excluding the vocation to the priestly ministry.”[119]

Peculiaris vero spectat responsalitas ad christianam familiam, quippe quae vi sacramenti matrimonii particeps fit, modo quodam proprio ac singulari, missionis Ecclesiae, quae magistra est et mater. Ut enim synodales Patres scripserunt, «familia christiana, quae est vera “ecclesia domestica”,268 condiciones vocationum ortui favorabiles offerebat et offert. Quia hodie imago traditionalis familiae in periculo versatur, magnum momentum tribuatur actioni circa familias, ut sint iterum “velut primum seminarium”,269 ubi filii sensum pietatis, orationis et amorem erga Ecclesiam quam primum acquirant».270 In harmonia autem et continuitate cum parentum et totius familiae opere, addendum est scholae munus et officium, cum ipsa suam identitatem «communitatis educatricis» vivere vocata sit tanquam culturale servitium, a quo excludi non potest illa dimensio vocationalis quae evadere nata est fundamentalis et nativus quidam personae humanae valor. In eo sensu, si schola convenienter imbuta est spiritu christiano (idque fieri potest per qualificatam ecclesialem praesentiam in schola publica, iuxta varietatem normarum nationalium, sed praesertim in schola manifeste catholica) potest «in animos puerorum et iuvenum infundere universale optatum voluntatem Dei exsequendi, in statu unicuique aptiore, nunquam exclusa vocatione ad servitium sacerdotale».271

The lay faithful also, and particularly catechists, teachers, educators and youth ministers, each with his or her own resources and style, have great importance in the pastoral work of promoting priestly vocations: The more they inculcate a deep appreciation of young people’s vocation and mission in the Church, the more they will be able to recognize the unique value of the priestly vocation and mission.

Etiam christifideles laici, praesertim catechistae, magistri, educatores omnis generis, animatores quos dicimus operae pastoralis iuvenilis, sua quisque ratione ac methodo, summum habere possunt momentum in hac pastorali vocationum presbyteralium; quo altius enim ipsi penetraverint sensum propriae vocationis in Ecclesia, eo celerius agnoscent valorem et, quod substitui nequit vocationis et missionis sacerdotalis pretium.

With regard to diocesan and parish communities, special appreciation and encouragement should be given to groups which promote vocations, whose members make an important contribution by prayer and sufferings offered up for priestly and religious vocations, as well as by moral and material support.

Intra communitates autem dioecesanas vel paroeciales, peculiari quadam cura aestimandi ac promovendi sunt coetus vocationales, quorum scilicet membra supplicationes, et ipsas praecipue infirmitates, pro vocationibus offerunt sacerdotalibus et religiosis, et aliquando etiam moralia aliqua aut materialia subsidia suppeditant.

We should also remember the numerous groups, movements and associations of lay faithful whom the Holy Spirit raises up and fosters in the Church with a view to a more missionary Christian presence in the world. These various groupings of lay people are proving a particularly fertile field for the manifestation of vocations to consecrated life, and are truly environments in which vocations can be encouraged and can grow. Many young people, in and through these groupings, have heard the Lord’s call to follow him along the path of priestly ministry[120] and have responded with a generosity that is reassuring. These groupings, therefore, are to be utilized well, so that in communion with the whole Church and for the sake of her growth they may make their proper contribution to the development of the pastoral work of promoting vocations.

Commemorandi hic quoque sunt ii crebriores coetus, motus, consociationes christifidelium laicorum, quos Spiritus Sanctus sparsim per Ecclesias enasci ac crescere efficit, eo consilio ut testimonium persequantur praesentiae christianae, missionariae praesertim, in mundo. Haec varietas aggregationum laicorum, sese in dies clarius ostendit ut campum peculiariter fertilem unde enascantur vocationes consecratae, ut vera ac propria loca proponendis ac maturandis vocationibus opportuna. Nam non pauci reperiuntur iuniores, qui in his consociationibus Dominum audierunt eos vocantem ut se in via sacerdotii ministerialis sequerentur,272 atque liberum ac liberale dederunt responsum. Provehantur ergo huiusmodi coetus, quandoquidem, in communione cum Ecclesia crescentes, poterunt non parum conferre promovendae efficaciter navitati pastorali.

The various elements and members of the Church involved in the pastoral work of promoting vocations will make their work more effective insofar as they stimulate the ecclesial community as such, starting with the parish, to sense that the problem of priestly vocations cannot in any way be delegated to some “official” group (priests in general and the priests working in the seminary in particular), for inasmuch as it is “a vital problem which lies at the very heart of the Church,”[121] it should be at the heart of the love which each Christian feels for the Church.

Tandem varia illa coetuum soboles atque multiformia Ecclesiae membra quae curam huius navitatis susceperunt, eo efficacius suo muneri fungentur, quo impensius addere stimulos didicerint communitatibus ecclesialibus qua talibus, paroeciis imprimis, ut nempe quaestionem hanc de presbyteralibus vocationibus sic intellegant ut nullo modo quibusdam dumtaxat «delegatis» eam concredant (qui de more vel sacerdotes esse solent vel seminario addicti), sed id esse «problema vitale, quo nullum aliud Ecclesiae cor intimius angat»,273 cuique proinde potior amor cuiusvis christiani est servandus.

CHAPTER V

CAPUT V

HE APPOINTED TWELVE TO BE WITH HIM
The Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood

ET FECIT DUODECIM UT ESSENT CUM ILLO
De institutione candidatorum sacerdotii

Following Christ as the Apostles Did

Christum ad modum apostolorum sequi

42. “And he went up on the mountain, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons” (Mk. 3:13-15).

42. «Et ascendit in montem, et vocat ad se, quos voluit ipse, et venerunt ad eum. Et fecit Duodecim, ut essent cum illo, et ut mitteret eos praedicare, habentes potestatem eiciendi daemonia».274

“To be with him”: It is not difficult to find in these words a reference to Jesus’ “accompanying” the apostles for the sake of their vocation. After calling them and before he sends them out, indeed in order to be able to send them out to preach, Jesus asks them to set aside a “period of time” for formation. The aim of this time is to develop a relationship of deep communion and friendship with himself. In this time they receive the benefit of a catechesis that is deeper than the teaching he gives to the people (cf. Mt. 13:11); also he wishes them to be witnesses of his silent prayer to the Father (cf. Jn. 17:1-26; Lk. 22:39-45).

«Ut essent cum illo»: non arduum est in hisce verbis legere quam hodie «comitationem vocationalem» dicimus, per quam Iesus apostolos efformare constituit. Postquam eos vocaverat, et prius quam mitteret, atque adeo, ut eos potissimum ad praedicandum mitteret, Iesus eis destinavit «tempus» formationis, in id intentum ut relatio quaedam communionis et profundae amicitiae enasceretur inter eos et semetipsum. Quibus proinde ipse praeservat profundiorem quandam catechesim relate ad illam quam communibus auditoribus destinat,275 eosque testes efficit silentis suae orationis ad Patrem.276

In her care for priestly vocations the Church in every age draws her inspiration from Christ’s example. There have been, and to some extent there still are, many different practical forms according to which the Church has been involved in the pastoral care of vocations. Her task is not only to discern but also to “accompany” priestly vocations. But the spirit which must inspire and sustain her remains the same: that of bringing to the priesthood only those who have been called, and to bring them adequately trained, namely, with a conscious and free response of adherence and involvement of their whole person with Jesus Christ, who calls them to intimacy of life with him and to share in his mission of salvation. In this sense, the “seminary” in its different forms - and analogously the “house” of formation for religious priests - more than a place, a material space, should be a spiritual place, a way of life, an atmosphere that fosters and ensures a process of formation, so that the person who is called to the priesthood by God may become, with the sacrament of orders, a living image of Jesus Christ, head and shepherd of the Church. In their final message the synod fathers have grasped in a direct and deep way the original and specific meaning of the formation of candidates for the priesthood, when they say that “To live in the seminary, which is a school of the Gospel, means to follow Christ as the apostles did. You are led by Christ into the service of God the Father and of all people, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Thus you become more like Christ the good shepherd in order better to serve the Church and the world as a priest.

Hinc est quod Ecclesia omnibus temporibus, quoties de vocationibus sacerdotalibus sollicita est, Christi exemplum imitari satagit. Variae quidem fuerunt, et etiam nunc sunt, concretae formae iuxta quas incubuit Ecclesia in hanc pastoralem navitatem vocationalem, in id tendentem, non ut dumtaxat vocationes ad sacerdotium discerneret, sed ut easdem «comitaretur». At mens, qua excitandae ac sustentandae sunt, eadem manet: ut ad sacerdotium eos tantummodo ducat qui vocati fuerint, eosque adaequata ratione instructos; id est, paratos per liberum adhaesionis responsum ad sese totos tradendos personae Christi Iesu, qui eos ad arctiorem cum se vitam vocat participesque efficit in sua ipsius Salutis missione. Atque in hoc sensu, quod «seminarium» dictum est, variis suis succedentibus formis et, analoga ratione «domus formationis» pro sacerdotibus religiosis, priusquam locus sit vel spatium materiale, spatium est spirituale, per vitae itinerarium, vel atmosphaera quaedam, quae provehit et tuetur integrum formationis processum; id quidem ita ut qui a Deo ad sacerdotium vocatur, evadere possit, per sacramentum Ordinis, viva Christi, Ecclesiae Capitis et Pastoris, imago. Bene ergo Patres synodales, in suo conclusivo nuntio ad Dei Populum, apprehenderunt, modo quodam immediato ac profundo, significationem primigeniam institutionis candidatorum sacerdotii, sine qua ad tantum munus qualificari vix possent, haec asserendo: «Vita in seminario, Evangelii schola, est vita in Christi adsectatione, sicut illa apostolorum; talis vita est permittere se educari a Christo ad Patris et hominum servitium, sub Spiritus Sancti ductu; immo, est Christo bono Pastori se configurari ad melius in Ecclesia et mundo sacerdotale servitium.

In preparing for the priesthood we learn how to respond from the heart to Christ’s basic question: ‘Do you love me?’ (Jn. 21:15). For the future priest the answer can only mean total self giving.”[122]

Formatio ad sacerdotium est responsionem personalem discere Christi interrogationi: “Amas me?”. Responsio pro futuro sacerdote nequit alia esse quam propriae vitae totalis donatio».277

What needs to be done is to transfer this spirit - which can never be lacking in the Church - to the social, psychological, political and cultural conditions of the world today, conditions which are so varied and complex, as the synod fathers have confirmed, bearing in mind the different particular churches. The fathers, with words expressing thoughtful concern but at the same time great hope, have shown awareness of and reflected at length on the efforts going on in all their churches to identify and update methods of training candidates for the priesthood.

Agitur ergo nunc de vertendo hoc spiritu, nunquam in Ecclesia defecturo, in condiciones sociales, psychologicas, politicas et culturales mundi hodierni, ceterum haud parum varietate et implexitate hinc inde diversas, prout ipsi synodales Patres testati sunt cum referendum erat de diversis Ecclesiis particularibus. Iidemque Patres, sermone licet cauto et anxietudine insignito etsi non minore spe suffulto, patienter alii alios auscultarunt et diutius perspexerunt quaenam aetate nostra viae reperiri possent ut candidatorum sacerdotii institutio in omnibus Ecclesiis hodie perficeretur.

This present exhortation seeks to gather the results of the work of the synod, setting out some established points, indicating some essential goals, making available to all the wealth of experiences and training programs which have already been tried and found worthwhile. In this exhortation we consider “initial” formation and “ongoing” formation separately, but without forgetting that they are closely linked and that as a result they should become one sole organic journey of Christian and priestly living. The exhortation looks at the different areas of formation - the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral areas - as well as the settings and the persons responsible for the formation of candidates for the priesthood.

Hinc est quod Adhortatio, cum colligere quodammodo intendat laborum synodalium fructus, constabilire primum debeat quaedam puncta nullatenus movenda; designare dein metas quasdam omnino assequendas; commonstrare omnibus et offerre experientiarum divitias et varietatem methodorum, experimento alicubi comprobatarum. In his evolvendis, Adhortatio seorsum perpendit institutionem quam dicimus «initialem», dein vero eam quam formationem appellamus «permanentem», quin ullibi neglegatur profundius illud vinculum quo altera alteri unitur, et quo utraque ita connectitur ut exinde unum atque organicum exsurgat christianae et sacerdotalis vitae itinerarium. Immoratur denique Adhortatio in perspiciendis aliquibus sic dictis «dimensionibus» seu qualitatibus huiusce institutionis, quam separatim respicit ut humanam, spiritualem, intellectualem, pastoralem. Nonnulla tandem adduntur de locis et de personis quibus tota concredenda sit candidatorum sacerdotii institutio.

I. The Areas of Priestly Formation

I. Dimensiones institutionis sacerdotalis

Human Formation, the Basis of All Priestly Formation

 

43. “The whole work of priestly formation would be deprived of its necessary foundation if it lacked a suitable human formation.”[123] This statement by the synod fathers expresses not only a fact which reason brings to our consideration every day and which experience confirms, but a requirement which has a deeper and specific motivation in the very nature of the priest and his ministry.

43. «Absque opportuna humana formatione tota sacerdotalis formatio careret basi».278 Haec Patrum synodalium assertio exprimit non dumtaxat «datum» aliquod quotidie per rationem expostulatum et per experientiam comprobatum, sed exigentiam quae profundiores et specificas habet causas in natura ipsa tum presbyteri qui instituendus est, tum ministerii ad quod aptandus.

The priest, who is called to be a “living image” of Jesus Christ, head and shepherd of the Church, should seek to reflect in himself, as far as possible, the human perfection which shines forth in the incarnate Son of God and which is reflected with particular liveliness in his attitudes toward others as we see narrated in the Gospels. The ministry of the priest is, certainly, to proclaim the word, to celebrate the sacraments, to guide the Christian community in charity “in the name and in the person of Christ,” but all this he does dealing always and only with individual human beings: “Every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God” (Heb. 5:1). So we see that the human formation of the priest shows its special importance when related to the receivers of the mission: In order that his ministry may be humanly as credible and acceptable as possible, it is important that the priest should mold his human personality in such a way that it becomes a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ the Redeemer of humanity. It is necessary that, following the example of Jesus who “knew what was in humanity” (Jn. 2:25; cf. 8:3-11), the priest should be able to know the depths of the human heart, to perceive difficulties and problems, to make meeting and dialogue easy, to create trust and cooperation, to express serene and objective judgments.

Nam presbyter, qui ideo efformatur ut «viva imago» evadat Christi Iesu, Ecclesiae Capitis et Pastoris, eam debet attingere humanam perfectionem quae in Filio Dei, homine facto, splendet, quaeque singulari nitore perlucet in eiusdem cum aliis consuetudine, prout ab Evangelistis nobis transmittitur. Ministerium erit presbyteri Verbum nuntiare, sacramenta tradere, communitatem in caritatem christianam «nomine ac personae Christi» ducere, sed hoc fieri vix potest nisi cum concretis hominibus. «Omnis pontifex ex hominibus assumptus pro hominibus constituitur in his quae sunt ad Deum».279 Propterea formatio humana sacerdotis suum exhibet peculiare momentum in relatione ad eos ad quos per missionem suam destinatur. Atque ut eius ministerium sit hominibus credendum atque accipiendum, valde oportet ut sacerdos ea induatur humanitate, in qua homines non obstaculum sed pontem reperiant quo brevius pervenire valeant ad Christum Iesum, hominis Redemptorem; necessarium ergo videtur ut sacerdos, exemplum Illius sequens qui bene «sciebat quid esset in homine»,280 capax reddatur noscendi humani animi profunditatem, eius difficultates et problemata instinctu detegendi, dialogum et animorum propinquitatem promovendi, fiduciam et collaborationem alendi, placida ac obiectiva de omnibus iudicia promendi.

Future priests should therefore cultivate a series of human qualities, not only out of proper and due growth and realization of self, but also with a view to the ministry. These qualities are needed for them to be balanced people, strong and free, capable of bearing the weight of pastoral responsibilities. They need to be educated to love the truth, to be loyal, to respect every person, to have a sense of justice, to be true to their word, to be genuinely compassionate, to be men of integrity and, especially, to be balanced in judgment and behavior.[124] A simple and demanding program for this human formation can be found in the words of the apostle Paul to the Philippians: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). It is interesting to note that Paul, precisely in these profoundly human qualities, presents himself as a model to his faithful, for he goes on to say: “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do” (Phil. 4:9).

At non proinde ob hanc unice sui ipsius iustam maturationem haec omnia procuranda sunt, sed respiciendum maxime ad futuri ministerii qualitatem: colant igitur qui presbyteri sunt futuri eas humanitatis dotes quibus sic dicta «personalitas» instruitur, aequilibrio mentis insignis, fortis, libera; brevi, quae vere capax sit responsalitates pastorales in sese recipiendi. Sic ergo instruantur candidati ut veritatem ac fidelitatem ament, ut quemvis revereantur, ut iustitiae ductu in omnibus regantur, ut dato verbo fideles perstare noverint, ut compati addiscant, ut sibi ipsis constent seu cohaerentes perstare sciant, ut denique recte de rebus et hominibus iudicent, ut nobilia dumtaxat placita eligere optent.281 Quae omnia, ad institutionem humanam perquam necessaria, brevius atque vehementius a Paulo apostolo recensentur apud Philippenses: «De cetero fratres, quaecumque sunt vera, quaecumque pudica, quaecumque iusta, quaecumque casta, quaecumque amabilia, quaecumque bonae famae, si qua virtus et si qua laus, haec cogitate».282 Neque pondere suo destitui videantur quae sequuntur, cum scilicet harum virtutum vere humanarum se ipsum exemplar apud christifideles exhibet: «Quae et didicistis et accepistis et audistis et vidistis in me, haec agite».283

Of special importance is the capacity to relate to others. This is truly fundamental for a person who is called to be responsible for a community and to be a “man of communion.” This demands that the priest not be arrogant, or quarrelsome, but affable, hospitable, sincere in his words and heart, prudent and discreet, generous and ready to serve, capable of opening himself to clear and brotherly relationships and of encouraging the same in others, and quick to understand, forgive and console[125] (cf. 1 Tm. 3:1-5; Ti. 1:7-9). People today are often trapped in situations of standardization and loneliness, especially in large urban centers, and they become ever more appreciative of the value of communion. Today this is one of the most eloquent signs and one of the most effective ways of transmitting the Gospel message.

Peculiaris momenti dicenda est illa «relationis capacitas» qua quis ad aliorum usum et consuetudinem facilem sese disponit: vere essentialis dos iis presbyteris qui eo in communitate vocabuntur ut «communionis artifices» habeantur. Id secum imprimis fert ut sacerdos ne arrogans neve litigiosus sit, sed mitis et affabilis, hospitalis, verbo et corde sincerus,284 prudens et sciens, benevolens et ad serviendum promptus, capax praeterea suscitandi, secum imprimis sed etiam aliorum inter sese, incorruptas et fraternas relationes; indulgentiae et consolationi facilis.285 Homines hodierni, cum saepe ita vivere cogantur ut, praesertim in maximis opulentioribusque urbibus, vel catervatim vel e contra singulatim a ceteris deserti vivant, vehementius in dies pertrahuntur in eam quam breviore vocabulo «communionem» dicere assuevimus: hoc est hodie eloquentissimum signum necnon efficacissima progrediendi via, a praeconio evangelico nullatenus aliena.

In this context affective maturity, which is the result of an education in true and responsible love, is a significant and decisive factor in the formation of candidates for the priesthood.

In hoc contextu illa advenit qualitas seu dos, cuius obtentus et difficilior est et magis determinans, maturitas scilicet affectiva, quae cardo est totius fere educationis ad amorem verum et responsalem.

 

 

 

 

44. Affective maturity presupposes an awareness that love has a central role in human life. In fact, as I have written in the encyclical Redemptor Hominis, “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself; his life is meaningless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.[126]

44. Maturitas affectiva conscios atque persuasos praesupponit homines amorem quodammodo habendum esse humanae exsistentiae centrum. Re quidem vera, ut in Encyclica «Redemptor Hominis» scriptum reliquimus: «Homo sine amore vivere nequit. Sibimet manet quiddam quod incomprehensibile est, eiusque vita sensu privatur, nisi invenit amorem, nisi amorem experitur suumque efficit, nisi penitus amorem participat».286

We are speaking of a love that involves the entire person, in all his or her aspects - physical, psychic and spiritual - and which is expressed in the “nuptial meaning” of the human body, thanks to which a person gives oneself to another and takes the other to oneself. A properly understood sexual education leads to understanding and realizing this “truth” about human love. We need to be aware that there is a widespread social and cultural atmosphere which “largely reduces human sexuality to the level of something commonplace, since it interprets and lives it in a reductive and impoverished way by linking it solely with the body and with selfish pleasure.”[127] Sometimes the very family situations in which priestly vocations arise will display not a few weaknesses and at times even serious failings.

De eo igitur amore hic loquimur qui integram attingit personam, id est, qua physica, psychica atque spiritualis natura est: et qui plenius exprimitur per «significationem coniugalem» ipsius humani corporis, cuius vi sese invicem personae tradunt et accipiunt. Ad intellegendam igitur et exsequendam hanc amoris humani «veritatem» instruitur illa quae «sexualis educatio» nominatur. Quae rursus, si recte intellegitur, eo maxime inserviet ut obviam saltem veniamus illis socialibus et culturalibus placitis, «quae maxima ex parte sexualitatem humanam reddunt “vulgarem”, quandoquidem accipiunt eam et exsequuntur anguste misereque iungentes eam corpori soli et nonnisi voluptati singulorum sibi solis consulentium».287 Et quidem, quod ad hanc quaestionem attinet, dolendum saepe est, etiam in familiis ipsis unde vocationes sacerdotales proveniunt, saepe detegi aliam deficere, aliam vero per transversum hac in re ire solitam.

In such a context, an education for sexuality becomes more difficult but also more urgent. It should be truly and fully personal and therefore should present chastity in a manner that shows appreciation and love for it as a “virtue that develops a person’s authentic maturity and makes him or her capable of respecting and fostering the ‘nuptial meaning’ of the body.”[128]

In alio licet simili tantum contextu, difficilior alia sed pariter urgens apparet exigentia cuiusdam sexualitatis educationis, quae tamen vere et plene personalis sit et spatium quodammodo disponat aestimationi et amori castitatis; haec enim virtus est «quae germanam personae maturitatem provehit illamque aptam facit ut revereatur et promoveat “significationem sponsalem” corporis».288

Education for responsible love and the affective maturity of the person are totally necessary for those who, like the priest, are called to celibacy, that is, to offer with the grace of the Spirit and the free response of one’s own will the whole of one’s love and care to Jesus Christ and to his Church. In view of the commitment to celibacy, affective maturity should bring to human relationships of serene friendship and deep brotherliness a strong, lively and personal love for Jesus Christ. As the synod fathers have written, “A love for Christ, which overflows into a dedication to everyone, is of the greatest importance in developing affective maturity. Thus the candidate, who is called to celibacy, will find in affective maturity a firm support to live chastity in faithfulness and joy.”[129]

Educatio itaque ad amorem responsalem, sicuti ipsa affectiva personae maturatio, peculiariter necessariae evadunt ei qui, ut presbyter, ad caelibatum vocatur, id est ad offerendam Christo Iesu et Ecclesiae, per Spiritus gratiam ac cum libera propriae voluntatis responsione, sui amoris suaeque sollicitudinis plenitudinem. Atque in prospectu huius caelibatus compromissionis, huiusmodi affectiva maturitas includat necesse est in ipsam relationum humanarum congeriem, quae serena amicitia et profundiore quadam fraternitate distinguitur, magnam eamque vivam ac personalem Christi Iesu dilectionem. Ut recte synodales Patres scripserunt: «Maximi est momenti in maturitate affectiva suscitanda, Christi amor in universali deditione protractus. Ita candidatus, ad caelibatum vocatus, in affectiva maturitate firmum fulcrum inveniet, ut gaudens et fidelis castus vivat».289

Since the charism of celibacy, even when it is genuine and has proved itself, leaves one’s affections and instinctive impulses intact, candidates to the priesthood need an affective maturity which is prudent, able to renounce anything that is a threat to it, vigilant over both body and spirit, and capable of esteem and respect in interpersonal relationships between men and women. A precious help can be given by a suitable education to true friendship, following the image of the bonds of fraternal affection which Christ himself lived on earth (cf. Jn. 11:5).

Et quia caelibatus charisma, etiam cum authenticum atque voluntarie comprobatum est, non eo ipso tangit naturales affectivitatis inclinationes et instinctus pulsiones, ea maturitas affectiva quae candidatis sacerdotii comparanda est, ditetur insuper per necessariam prudentiam, ut scilicet renuntiare etiam addiscant iis rebus, sub quibus insidiae latere possent; vigiles proinde perstare assuescant circa corpus et spiritum, immo circa aestimationem etiam et reverentiam quae necessario in relationibus interpersonalibus cum viris et feminis intercedunt. Magni pretii adiutorium eis offertur si adaequata educatione instruantur ad eam amicitiam quae exemplum reperiat in illo vinculo fraterni affectus quem Christus ipse vixit dum inter homines versatus est.290

Human maturity, and in particular affective maturity, requires a clear and strong training in freedom, which expresses itself in convinced and heartfelt obedience to the “truth of one’s own being, to the “meaning” of one’s own existence, that is to the “sincere gift of self” as the way and fundamental content of the authentic realization of self.[130] Thus understood, freedom requires the person to be truly master of oneself, determined to fight and overcome the different forms of selfishness and individualism which threaten the life of each one, ready to open out to others, generous in dedication and service to one’s neighbor. This is important for the response that will have to be given to the vocation, and in particular to the priestly vocation, and for faithfulness to it and to the commitments connected with it, even in times of difficulty. On this educational journey toward a mature, responsible freedom, the community life of the seminary can provide help.[131]

Humana ergo maturitas, et affectiva praesertim, formationem postulant nitore ac robore splendentem, ad eam libertatem quae tandem eadem est ac rationalis oboedientia erga «veritatem» proprii «esse», erga «significationem» vitae, erga «donum sui» quod presbyter amplectitur ut seipsum authentice perficiat.291 Quibus recte perpensis, libertas presbyterum ducet ut sui ipsius dominium perpetuo exerceat, paratumque se continuo testetur ad vincenda ea egoismi ac individualismi certamina quae in uniuscuiusque vitam insidias nectunt; presbyterum, brevi, «hominem ad alteros» efficient, deditioni et servitio proximorum totum traditum. Idque summi erit momenti, quandoquidem ab ea pendet quale dandum responsum sit vocationi, praesertim sacerdotali, et qualis fidelitas erga suscepta onera exspectari possit si difficilia tempora obvenerint. In hoc autem institutionis itinerario ad maturam et responsalem libertatem adquirendam, poterunt valde iuvari candidati si adaequata instruatur vivendi ratio in seminario.292

Intimately connected with formation to responsible freedom is education of the moral conscience Such education calls from the depths of one’s own “self” obedience to moral obligations and at the same time reveals the deep meaning of such obedience. It is a conscious and free response, and therefore a loving response, to God’s demands, to God’s love. “The human maturity of the priest - the synod fathers write - should include especially the formation of his conscience. In order that the candidate may faithfully meet his obligations with regard to God and the Church and wisely guide the consciences of the faithful he should become accustomed to listening to the voice of God, who speaks to him in his heart, and to adhere with love and constancy to his will.”[132]

Intime cum hac educatione ad libertatem responsalem coniungitur educatio ad conscientiam moralem; haec enim, dum ab intima persona expostulat ut prompte ad obligationes morales oboedire assuescat, profundiorem oboedientiae sensum detegit, quippe quae eam exhibeat ut liberam atque consciam responsionem, id est in amore fundatam, erga Dei dilectionem Eiusque desideria: «Humana maturitas sacerdotis specialiter includere debet suae conscientiae efformationem. Candidatus enim, ut obligationes suas erga Deum et Ecclesiam fideliter solvere possit, et fidelium conscientias sapienter dirigere queat, assuescere debet vocem Dei audire, qui loquitur in tabernaculo cordis, et Eius voluntati amanter et firmiter adhaerere».293

Spiritual Formation: In Communion with God and in Search of Christ

 

45. Human formation, when it is carried out in the context of an anthropology which is open to the full truth regarding the human person, leads to and finds its completion in spiritual formation. Every human being, as God’s creature who has been redeemed by Christ’s blood, is called to be reborn “of water and the Spirit” (Jn. 3:S) and to become a “son in the Son.” In this wonderful plan of God is to be found the basis of the essentially religious dimension of the human person, which moreover can be grasped and recognized by reason itself: The human individual is open to transcendence, to the absolute; he has a heart which is restless until it rests in the Lord.[133]

45. Ipsa autem humana formatio, si tamen ea comparatur in contextu anthropologiae quae totam respiciat hominis «veritatem», aperienda et complenda est per formationem spiritualem, cum omnis homo a Deo creatus et per Christi sanguinem redemptus, eo vocetur ut, regeneratus «per aquam et Spiritum»,294 «filius in Filio» fiat. In quo efficaci Dei consilio fundatur tota hominis natura, quae, ex ipsa sui constitutione, religiosa effecta est, prout ceterum plane perspicitur, immo et admittitur etiam ab eo qui primos ratiocinandi gressus instituit: homo enim, qui indubitanter cor adeo irrequietum habet ut nonnisi in Domino requiescat,295 ad transcendentiam atque ad absolutum portendere facile demonstratur.

The educational process of a spiritual life, seen as a relationship and communion with God, derives and develops from this fundamental and irrepressible religious need. In the light of revelation and Christian experience, spiritual formation possesses the unmistakable originality which derives from evangelical “newness.” Indeed, it “is the work of the Holy Spirit and engages a person in his totality. It introduces him to a deep communion with Jesus Christ, the good shepherd, and leads to the total submission of one’s life to the Spirit, in a filial attitude toward the Father and a trustful attachment to the Church. Spiritual formation has its roots in the experience of the cross, which in deep communion leads to the totality of the paschal mystery.”[134]

Movetur hinc, ab hac scilicet fundamentali et minime abroganda religionis exigentia, iter illud educativum per quod instruenda est — atque ea potissimum formatio spiritualis dicitur — via relationis et communionis cum Deo; quae iuxta revelationem et christianam experientiam necessario possidet claram proprietatem, quae ex novitate oritur evangelica. Nam «opus Spiritus est, personamque totaliter complectitur; per eam deducitur candidatus ad profundiorem cum Iesu Christo bono Pastore communionem, per eamque perduci quoque valet ad vitam totam Spiritus ductui tradendam, per filialem erga Patrem fiduciam et fidelem erga Ecclesiam benevolentiam et amorem. Formatio huiusmodi nullibi ditiores radices habet nisi quas in crucis experientia iacit, per quam unam sacerdoti patet aditus, in profundiore communione, ad Paschalis Mysterii plenitudinem».296

Spiritual formation, as we have just seen, is applicable to all the faithful. Nevertheless, it should be structured according to the meanings and connotations which derive from the identity of the priest and his ministry. And just as for all the faithful spiritual formation is central and unifies their being and living as Christians, that is, as new creatures in Christ who walk in the Spirit, so too for every priest his spiritual formation is the core which unifies and gives life to his being a priest and his acting as a priest. In this context, the synod fathers state that “without spiritual formation pastoral formation would be left without foundation”[135] and that spiritual formation is “an extremely important element of a priest’s education.”[136]

Agitur ergo, ut perspicue apparet, de ea formatione spirituali quae, etsi communiore quodam modo christifidelibus instruenda est, postulat nihilominus ut, quoties de presbytero ac de eius ministerio agitur, aptanda appareat ad tanti muneris peculiaritates. Atque, ut pro quovis christifideli omnis efformatio spiritualis centrum et unitatem reponat necesse est in eorum «christianos esse» et «christiane vivere», id est, ut nova in Christo enascatur creatura quae per Spiritum incedat, ita pro presbytero eo portendenda spiritualis institutio est ut ipsa fiat velut cor, quod unitatem vitamque conferat iis omnibus per quae presbyter dicitur et est. Quae omnia perspicue asserta sunt a synodalibus Patribus hisce simplicioribus verbis: «Sine formatione spirituali eius pastoralis formatio absque basi procederet»,297 idque potissimum quia «formatio spiritualis tanquam elementum maximi momenti est in sacerdotali educatione».298

The essential content of spiritual formation specifically leading toward the priesthood is well expressed in the Council’s decree Optatam Totius: “Spiritual formation...should be conducted in such a way that the students may learn to live in intimate and unceasing union with God the Father through his Son Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. Those who are to take on the likeness of Christ the priest by sacred ordination should form the habit of drawing close to him as friends in every detail of their lives. They should live his paschal mystery in such a way that they will know how to initiate into it the people committed to their charge. They should be taught to seek Christ in faithful meditation on the word of God and in active participation in the sacred mysteries of the Church, especially the Eucharist and the Divine Office, to seek him in the bishop by whom they are sent and in the people to whom they are sent, especially the poor, little children, the weak, sinners and unbelievers. With the confidence of sons they should love and reverence the most blessed Virgin Mary, who was given as a mother to the disciple by Jesus Christ as he was dying on the cross.”[137]

Praecipua materies formationis spiritualis in concreto ad presbyteratum itinerario, apte acta est in Conciliari Decreto «Optatam Totius»: «Institutio spiritualis ... ita impertiatur ut alumni cum Patre, per Filium Eius Iesum Christum, in Spiritu Sancto familiari et assidua societate vivere discant. Per sacram ordinationem Christo Sacerdoti configurandi, etiam intima totius vitae consortione, ut amici, Ei adhaerere assuescant. Eius Mysterium Paschale ita vivant ut in illud initiare sciant plebem sibi committendam. Christum quaerere edoceantur in verbi Dei fideli meditatione, in actuosa cum sacrosanctis Ecclesiae Mysteriis communicatione, imprimis in Eucharistia et in officio divino; in Episcopo qui eos mittit, et in hominibus ad quos mittuntur: praesertim pauperibus, parvulis, infirmis, peccatoribus et incredulis. Beatissimam Virginem Mariam, quae a Christo Iesu in cruce moriente discipulo data est uti mater, filiali fiducia diligant et colant».299

46. This text from the Council deserves our careful and loving meditation, out of which we will easily be able to outline some fundamental values and demands of the spiritual path trodden by the candidate for the priesthood.

46. Perpendendus est hic conciliaris textus cura quadam et amore, cum erui ex ipso facile possit quinam potiores valores censendi sint, vel quaenam exigentiae praecipuae pro itinere spirituali cuiuslibet candidati sacerdotii.

First there is the value and demand of “living intimately united” to Jesus Christ. Our union with the Lord Jesus, which has its roots in baptism and is nourished with the Eucharist, has to express itself and be radically renewed each day. Intimate communion with the Blessed Trinity, that is, the new life of grace which makes us children of God, constitutes the “novelty” of the believer, a novelty which involves both his being and his acting. It constitutes the “mystery” of Christian existence which is under the influence of the Spirit: it should, as a result, constitute the ethos of Christian living. Jesus has taught us this marvelous reality of Christian living, which is also the heart of spiritual life, with his allegory of the vine and the branches: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.... Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:1, 4-5).

Atque is imprimis eminet valor, qui ab eisdem exigit «ut intime ad Christum Iesum uniti» vivant. Haec enim unio, in baptismate radicata et per Eucharistiam nutrita, exprimenda in quotidiana vita est per perfectam sui atque permanentem renovationem. Nam intimior cum Sanctissima Trinitate communio, id est, nova illa gratiae vita, quae Dei filios efficit — praecipua, eaque ingens, credentium novitas — totum eorumdem «esse» et «operari» pertingere nata est, cum mysterium ipsum constituat humanae existentiae, prout haec influxui Spiritus subest, et consequenter constituere ipsa debeat novum christianae vitae «ethos». Eamque miram christianae vitae conformationem, per quam totius spiritualis vitae cor attingitur, nos Iesus Christus edocuit ac per allegoriam vitis et palmitum mire illustravit: «Ego sum vitis vera, et Pater meus agricola est... Manete in me et ego in vobis. Sicut palmes non potest ferre fructus a semetipso, nisi manserit in vite, sic nec vos, nisi in me manseritis. Ego sum vitis, vos palmites. Qui manet in me, et ego in eo, hic fert fructum multum, quia sine me nihil potestis facere».300

There are spiritual and religious values present in today’s culture, and man, notwithstanding appearances to the contrary, cannot help but hunger and thirst for God. However, the Christian religion is often regarded as just one religion among many or reduced to nothing more than a social ethic at the service of man. As a result, its amazing novelty in human history is quite often not apparent. It is a “mystery,” the event of the coming of the Son of God who becomes man and gives to those who welcome him the “power to become children of God” (Jn. 1:12). It is the proclamation, nay the gift, of a personal covenant of love and life between God and human beings. Only if future priests, through a suitable spiritual formation, have become deeply aware and have increasingly experienced this “mystery” will they be able to communicate this amazing and blessed message to others (cf. 1 Jn. 1:1-4).

Nec desunt in hodierna quidem cultura valores spirituales ac religiosi, cum omnis homo, etiam cum saepe opposita ostentare contingat, tamen Dei fame et siti indefesse afficiatur. Aliunde ipsa christiana religio, cum properanter a plerisque velut una de multis religio censeatur, in id discrimen venit ut nihil superius vulgus videatur offerre praeter bonam ethicam socialem, in hominis servitium eximie valentem. At celatur saepe vel vulgum effugit mira eius atque historica «novitas», quae vel immotos animos evertere posset si intimius apprehenderetur; quippe quae sese ut «mysterium» revelet. Atque id mysterium, advenientis scilicet ad nos Dei Filii, hominis facti, quod iis omnibus qui illud receperint «potestatem dat filios Dei fieri»,301 nuntium fit, immo donum, personalis cuiusdam foederis dilectionis et vitae Dei cum homine. Id igitur praeconium, mirae cuiusdam et beatificantis novitatis,302 tunc tantum presbyteri aliis communicare poterunt cum per adaequatam institutionem spiritualem, huiusce mysterii intimiorem notitiam et indesinentem experientiam adquisierint.

The Council text, while taking account of the absolute transcendence of the Christian mystery, describes the communion of future priests with Jesus in terms of friendship. And indeed it is not an absurdity for a person to aim at this, for it is the priceless gift of Christ, who said to his apostles, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (Jn. 15:15).

Textus hic conciliaris, cum absolutam christiani mysterii transcendentiam satis declaraverit, non neglegit in clariorem lucem ponere eam intimam futuri presbyteri cum Iesu communionem per quandam amicitiae formam esse potissimum exhibendam. Neque haec quantumvis altior aspiratio absurda homini censenda est: donum solius Christi est, qui suis edixerat apostolis: «Iam non dico vos servos, quia servus nescit quid facit dominus eius; vos autem dixi amicos, quia omnia quae audivi a Patre meo, nota feci vobis».303

The Council text then points out a second great spiritual value: the search for Jesus. “They should be taught to seek Christ.” This, along with the quaerere Deum (the search for God), is a classical theme of Christian spirituality. It has a specific application in the context of the calling of the apostles. When John tells the story of the way the first two disciples followed Christ, he highlights this “search.” It is Jesus himself who asks the question: “What do you seek?” And the two reply: “Rabbi, where are you staying?” The evangelist continues: “He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day” (Jn. 1:37-39).

Alterum altioris pretii valorem ipse conciliaris textus deinceps enuntiat Iesu quaesitionem: «Doceantur Christum quaerere». Id enim, simul cum «Deum quaerere», argumentum fit in spiritualitate christiana classicum, quod tum potissimum locum sibi proprium habere dicitur, ubi de apostolorum vocatione est eloquendum. Ioannes enim, enarrans quae duobus primis Iesu discipulis evenerunt, ea perspicue eminere facit per quae huiusmodi quaesitio illustratur, cum Iesum ipsum incipientem inducit: «Quid quaeritis?». Quem uterque vicissim interrogant: «Rabbi, ubi manes?». Et prosequitur evangelista: «Dicit eis: Venite et videbitis. Venerunt ergo et viderunt ubi maneret, et apud eum manserunt die illo».304 Hoc ergo asserendum plane est: vitam spiritualem eorum qui ad sacerdotium sese parant tum exactius definiri, cum potissimum haec innuitur quaesitio.

FORMATION = searching, finding, following, communing/sharing

 

In a certain sense, the spiritual life of the person who is preparing for the priesthood is dominated by this search: by it and by the “finding” of the Master, to follow him, to be in communion with him. So inexhaustible is the mystery of the imitation of Christ and the sharing in his life that this “seeking” will also have to continue throughout the priest’s life and ministry. Likewise this “finding” the Master will have to continue in order to bring him to others, or rather in order to excite in others the desire to seek out the Master. But all this becomes possible if it is proposed to others as a living “experience,’ an experience that is worthwhile sharing. This was the path followed by Andrew to lead his brother Simon to Jesus. The evangelist John writes that Andrew “first found his brother Simon, and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ)” and brought him to Jesus (Jn. 1:41-42). And so Simon too will be called, as an apostle, to follow the Messiah: “Jesus looked at him and said, ‘So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter)” (Jn. 1:42).

Tum candidatus in «inveniendum» Magistrum totus protenditur, cum Eumdem subsequitur, ut in communione cum Ipso maneat. Similiter in ministerio et vita sacerdotali erit perpetuo continuanda huiusmodi quaesitio cum nunquam exhauriri possit illud ingens mysterium imitationis et participationis e Christi vita et exemplo. Itemque continuandus erit conatus hic Magistrum «inveniendi»; id in aliorum beneficium erit aggrediendum, ut nempe in aliis quoque excitetur desiderium tantum Magistrum reperiendi. Id vero, quod ad nos attinet, praestari aliis potest per nostram vitae «experientiam», si eam alii quoque detexerint esse compartiendam. Atque haec potissimum fuit via qua Andreas usus est ut Simonem fratrem ad Iesum adduceret. «Andreas enim — ut scribit evangelista Ioannes — invenit primum fratrem suum Simonem, et dicit ei: Invenimus Messiam (quod est interpretatum Christus). Adduxit eum ad Iesum».305 Sic ergo etiam Simon, ut apostolus sit, in Messiae adsectationem vocabitur: «Intuitus eum Iesus dixit: Tu es Simon, filius Ioannis; tu vocaberis Cephas (quod interpretatur Petrus)».306

But what does to seek Christ signify in the spiritual life? And where is he to be found? “Rabbi, where are you staying?” The decree Optatam Totius would seem to indicate a triple path to be covered: a faithful meditation on the word of God, active participation in the Church’s holy mysteries and the service of charity to the “little ones.” These are three great values and demands which further define the content of the spiritual formation of the candidate to the priesthood.

Quaerendum nunc venit quid in vita spirituali sibi velit «Christum quaerere». Et ubi Eum inveniemus? «Magister, ubi manes?». Conciliare decretum «Optatam Totius» triplicem designare viam videtur cum haec deinceps innuit: «Fidelem verbi Dei meditationem; active in sacrosanctis Ecclesiae mysteriis interesse; caritatis servitia erga tenuiores vel “parvulos” amplecti». Id est, cum enuntiat tres altioris pretii valores, per quos institutio spiritualis candidatorum sacerdotii ulterius describitur.

47. An essential element of spiritual formation is the prayerful and meditated reading of the word of God (lectio divina), a humble and loving listening of him who speaks. It is in fact by the light and with the strength of the word of God that one’s own vocation can be discovered and understood, loved and followed, and one’s own mission carried out. So true is this that the person’s entire existence finds its unifying and radical meaning in being the terminus of God’s word which calls man and the beginning of man’s word which answers God. Familiarity with the word of God will make conversion easy, not only in the sense of detaching us from evil so as to adhere to the good, but also in the sense of nourishing our heart with the thoughts of God, so that the faith (as a response to the word) becomes our new basis for judging and evaluating persons and things, events and problems.

47. Elementum imprimis essentiale pro formatione spirituali est Verbi Dei lectio, humilis et amabilis auscultatio illius qui loquitur. Scilicet tum tantum propria vocatio detegitur et propria adimpletur missio cum utraque in luce et vi Verbi Dei perspicitur, intellegitur, amatur; cum utramque sic tantummodo amplecti decrevimus. Adeo ut integra hominis existentia tum dumtaxat plenum et unitarium attingat sensum, cum velut terminus appareat tum Verbi Dei hominem vocantis, tum verbi hominis ad Deum responsum dantis. Familiaris quidem cum Dei Verbo consuetudo facilius reddet necessariae conversionis itinerarium: conversio quippe non in eo solum ponitur ut per mali detestationem uni bono adhaereamus, sed in eo quoque ut mens et cor sola Dei cogitatione nutriantur, unde una fides, eaque ut responsio Verbo, evadat novum iudicandi et aestimandi criterium, erga homines et res, erga eventus et quaestiones.

Provided that we approach the word of God and listen to it as it really is, it brings us into contact with God himself, God speaking to us. It brings us into contact with Christ, the Word of God, the truth, who is at the same time both the way and the life (cf. Jn. 14:6). It is a matter of reading the “scriptures” by listening to the “words,” “the word” of God, as the Council reminds us: “The sacred Scriptures contain the word of God, and because they are inspired, are truly the word of God.”[138] The Council also states: “By this revelation, then, the invisible God (cf. Col. 1:15; 1 Tm. 1:7), from the fullness of his love, addresses people as his friends (cf. Ex. 33:11; Jn. 15:14-15), and moves among them (cf. Bar. 3:38), in order to invite and receive them into his own company.[139]

Supponunt sane omnia haec ut ad Dei Verbum accedat homo, idque exaudiat, ut divinum est Verbum; tum Deum ipsum invenire fas erit, hominem alloquentem; sed invenietur et Christus, Dei Verbum, idemque Veritas, quae simul et Via est et Vita.307 Leguntur scilicet «scriptu- rae» et exaudiuntur «verba», Dei nempe «Verbum», ut Concilium commeminit: «Sacrae autem scripturae Verbum Dei continent, et, quia inspiratae, vere Verbum Dei sunt».308 Atque idem subsequitur Concilium: «Hac itaque revelatione Deus invisibilis 309 ex abundantia caritatis suae homines tanquam amicos alloquitur 310 et cum eis conversatur,311 ut eos ad societatem secum invitet in eamque suscipiat».312

A loving knowledge of the word of God and a prayerful familiarity with it are specifically important for the prophetic ministry of the priest. They are a fundamental condition for such a ministry to be carried out suitably, especially if we bear in mind the “new evangelization” which the Church today is called to undertake. The Council tells us: “All clerics, particularly priests of Christ and others who, as deacons or catechists, are officially engaged in the ministry of the word, should immerse themselves in the Scriptures by constant sacred reading and diligent study. For it must not happen that anyone becomes ‘an empty preacher of the word of God to others, not being a hearer of the word of God in his own heart’ (St. Augustine, Sermon 179, 1: PL 8:966).”[140]

Notitia ergo haec, per amorem quaesita, et familiaritas, per orationem cum Dei Verbo obtenta, peculiarem induunt significationem pro presbyterorum prophetico ministerio; cuius utraque condicio insuperabilis fere exstat, sine qua adimpleri vix poterit ministerium, in contextu praesertim «novae evangelizationis» ad quam hodie Ecclesia advocatur. Recte igitur Concilium admonet: «Clericos omnes, imprimis Christi sacerdotes ceterosque qui ut diaconi vel catechiste ministerio verbi legitime instant, assidua lectione sacra atque exquisito studio in Scripturis haerere necesse est, ne quis eorum fiat “Verbi Dei inanis forinsecus praedicator, qui non est intus auditor” 313».314

The first and fundamental manner of responding to the word is prayer, which is without any doubt a primary value and demand of spiritual formation. Prayer should lead candidates for the priesthood to get to know and have experience of the genuine meaning of Christian prayer, as a living and personal meeting with the Father through the only - begotten Son under the action of the Spirit, a dialogue that becomes a sharing in the filial conversation between Jesus and the Father. One aspect of the priest’s mission, and certainly by no means a secondary aspect, is that he is to be a “teacher of prayer.” However, the priest will only be able to train others in this school of Jesus at prayer if he himself has been trained in it and continues to receive its formation. This is what people ask of the priest: “The priest is The man of God, the one who belongs to God and makes people think about God. When the letter to the Hebrews speaks of Christ it presents him as ‘merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God’ (Heb. 2:17).... Christians expect to find in the priest not only a man who welcomes them, who listens to them gladly and shows a real interest in them, but also and above all a man who will help them to turn to God, to rise up to him. And so the priest needs to be trained to have a deep intimacy with God. Those who are preparing for the priesthood should realize that their whole priestly life will have value inasmuch as they are able to give themselves to Christ and through Christ to the Father.”[141]

Prima ergo ac praecipua forma responsionis ad Verbum reponitur in oratione, quae eo ipso constituit valorem et primariam exigentiam in quavis formatione spirituali. Haec autem, si adaequata sit, eo candidatos sacerdotii perducere tenetur, ut experimento noverint verum christianae orationis sensum, in eo demum inveniendum ut sit occursus vivus et personalis cum Patre, per Unigenitum Filium, sub actione Spiritus, id est, ut instauret dialogum qui inseratur in id filiale colloquium quod Iesus cum Patre apertum perpetuo habet. Neque secundarii ordinis in sacerdotis missione habeatur ut ipse sit quoque «ad orationem educator»; quod munus, alios scilicet ad scholam orationis formandi, tum tantum sustinere valebit cum ipse et ad orationem institutus sit et in schola Iesu auditor esse perseveret. Atque haec a sacerdotibus homines expostulant: «Est enim sacerdos, Dei homo; is nempe qui ad Deum pertinet et a quo, ut Deum cogitemus, impellimur. Cum Epistola ad Hebraeos de Christo loquitur, Is ita describitur tanquam “misericors et fidelis pontifex in his, quae sunt ad Deum” 315 ... Recte igitur exspectant christifi deles reperturos se in sacerdote esse non eum tantum qui ipsos excipiat, benevolenter exaudiat, testimonio comitatis hortetur, sed hominem praesertim qui ipsos ad Deum adducat, ipsorumque oculos ad Ipsum convertat. Necesse proinde est ut sacerdos ita formetur ut intimioris cum Deo colloquii capax exsistat. Id ergo noverint qui sese ad sacerdotium parant, plenitudinem sacerdotalis vitae nunquam se impleturos nisi se totos Christo, et per Christum, Ipsi demum Patri, in donum tradiderint».316

A necessary training in prayer in a context of noise and agitation like that of our society is an education in the deep human meaning and religious value of silence as the spiritual atmosphere vital for perceiving God’s presence and for allowing oneself to be won over by it (cf. 1 Kgs. 19:11ff.).

Necessaria ad orationem paedagogica via, in contextu agitatione et rumore inquinato veluti hac in nostra aetate, est formatio ad altam humanam significationem adque «silentii cultum». Silentium enim spiritualem quandam secumfert atmosphaeram, quae necessaria praedicatur ad praesentem Deum persentiendum et ad sese Ipsi tradendum.317

48. The high point of Christian prayer is the Eucharist, which in its turn is to be seen as the “summit and source” of the sacraments and the Liturgy of the Hours. A totally necessary aspect of the formation of every Christian, and in particular of every priest, is liturgical formation, in the full sense of becoming inserted in a living way in the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ, who died and rose again, and is present and active in the Church’s sacraments. Communion with God, which is the hinge on which the whole of the spiritual life turns, is the gift and fruit of the sacraments. At the same time it is a task and responsibility which the sacraments entrust to the freedom of the believer, so that one may live this same communion in the decisions, choices, attitudes and actions of daily existence. In this sense, the “grace” which “renews” Christian living is the grace of Jesus Christ, who died and rose again, and continues to pour out his holy and sanctifying Spirit in the sacraments. In the same way, the “new law” which should guide and govern the life of the Christian is written by the sacraments in the “new heart.” And it is a law of charity toward God and humanity, as a response and prolonging of the charity of God toward humanity signified and communicated by the sacraments. It is thus possible to understand at once the value of a “full, conscious and active participation”[142] in sacramental celebrations for the gift and task of that “pastoral charity” which is the soul of the priestly ministry.

48. Orationis christianae culmen Eucharistia occupat, quae vicissim sese proponit tanquam sacramentorum et Liturgiae Horarum culmen et fontem. Est proinde educatio quaedam liturgica, pro institutione christiana cuiusvis etiam christifidelis sed maxime pro sacerdote, plane necessaria, idque eo sensu ut per eam plena et vitalis insertio obtineatur in paschale Christi morientis et resurgentis mysterium, quod Eumdem praesentem et operantem exhibet in Ecclesiae sacramentis. Communio enim cum Deo, totius vitae spiritualis fulcrum, sacramentorum fructus est et donum: sed pariter munus evadit atque responsalitas quam sacramenta ipsa tradunt libertati credentis, qui proinde impellitur ad eamdem communionem vivendam in optionibus, placitis, habitibus, actionibus vitae suae quotidianae. In eo sensu «gratia» quae novam reddit christianam vitam, est gratia Christi morientis et resurgentis, quam per sacramenta eius Spiritus, sanctus et sanctificator, effundere perseverat: unde «nova lex», quae ducere ac normis instruere christianam vitam debet, inscribitur per sacramenta in «corde novo». Estque caritatis lex erga Deum et fratres quasi responsio et protractio caritatis Dei erga homines, prout in sacramentis significatur et perficitur. Valor ergo huius plenae, consciae et actuosae participationis318 in celebratione sacramentorum fa- cile percipitur propter donum et munus «caritatis pastoralis», quae velut anima est ministerii sacerdotalis.

This applies above all to sharing in the Eucharist, the memorial of the sacrificial death of Christ and of his glorious resurrection, the “sacrament of piety, sign of unity, bond of charity, [143]the paschal banquet “in which Christ is received, the soul is filled with grace and we are given a pledge of the glory that is to be ours.”[144] For priests, as ministers of sacred things, are first and foremost ministers of the sacrifice of the Mass:[145] The role is utterly irreplaceable, because without the priest there can be no eucharistic offering.

Id valere vel maxime dicendum est in Eucharistia, quae memoria est Christi sacrificalis mortis et gloriosae resurrectionis, itemque «pietatis sacramentum, unitatis signum, caritatis vinculum»;319 paschale item convivium «in quo Christus sumitur, mens impletur gratia et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur»,320 Iamvero sacerdotes, cum sacrarum rerum administri sint, id praesertim exercent in Missae sacrificio:321 quorum, ut scimus, locum nemo occupare potest, cum nulla possit oblatio eucharistica nisi per sacerdotem Deo praesentari.

This explains the essential importance of the Eucharist for the priest’s life and ministry and, as a result, in the spiritual formation of candidates for the priesthood. To be utterly frank and clear, I would like to say once again: “It is fitting that seminarians take part every day in the eucharistic celebration, in such a way that afterward they will take up as a rule of their priestly life this daily celebration. They should, moreover, be trained to consider the eucharistic celebration as the essential moment of their day, in which they will take an active part and at which they will never be satisfied with a merely habitual attendance. Finally, candidates to the priesthood will be trained to share in the intimate dispositions which the Eucharist fosters: gratitude for heavenly benefits received, because the Eucharist is thanksgiving; an attitude of self - offering, which will impel them to unite the offering of themselves to the eucharistic offering of Christ; charity nourished by a sacrament which is a sign of unity and sharing; the yearning to contemplate and bow in adoration before Christ, who is really present under the eucharistic species.”[146]

Elucet hinc singulare Eucharistiae momentum pro vita et ministerio sacerdotali, et consequenter pro loco quo ea ponenda sit in formatione spirituali candidatorum sacerdotii. Sinite Nos id magna cum simplicitate et concreto utentes sermone, hic iterare: «Conveniens omnino est ut seminaristae accedere quotidie assuescant celebrationi eucharisticae, ita ut deinceps velut iussum sibi habeant eum qui vitae sacerdotalis mos tantummodo est, missam quotidie celebrandi. Assuescant etiam celebrationem eucharisticam considerare velut praecipuum diei momentum, cuius proinde active participes sint, nullo modo consuetudinem sequentes. Quod autem praecipuum in educatione est, candidati sacerdotii condiciones quae ad Eucharistiam proprie requiruntur perquirant: gratitudinem scilicet, quandoquidem Eucharistia est “gratiarum actio”, imprimis Deo exhibeant pro beneficiis superne acceptis; dein habitum afferant oblativum, eo animos inclinantem ut cum oblatione eucharistica Christi, etiam propria personalis oblatio praesentetur. Colant item caritatem, quae per sacramentum nutritur et per id ad unitatem et ad rerum communicationem perducit. Desiderium denique contemplationis et orationis foveant, cum sub specie eucharistica doceamur Christum realiter adesse».322

It is necessary and very urgent to rediscover within spiritual formation the beauty and joy of the sacrament of penance. In a culture which - through renewed and more subtle forms of self justification - runs the fatal risk of losing the “sense of sin” and, as a result, the consoling joy of the plea for forgiveness (cf. Ps. 51:14) and of meeting God who is “rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4), it is vital to educate future priests to have the virtue of penance, which the Church wisely nourishes in her celebrations and in the seasons of the liturgical year, and which finds its fullness in the sacrament of reconciliation. From it flow the sense of asceticism and interior discipline, a spirit of sacrifice and self - denial, the acceptance of hard work and of the cross. These are elements of the spiritual life which often prove to be particularly arduous for many candidates for the priesthood who have grown up in relatively comfortable and affluent circumstances and have been made less inclined and open to these very elements by the models of behavior and ideals transmitted by the mass media; but this also happens in countries where the conditions of life are poorer and young people live in more austere situations. For this reason, but above all in order to put into practice the “radical self - giving” proper to the priest following the example of Christ the good shepherd, the synod fathers wrote: “It is necessary to inculcate the meaning of the cross, which is at the heart of the paschal mystery. Through this identification with Christ crucified, as a slave, the world can rediscover the value of austerity, of suffering and also of martyrdom within the present culture, which is imbued with secularism, greed and hedonism.”[147]

Omittenda nullatenus est, immo vehementius extollenda, invitatio, quandoquidem de formatione spirituali agitur, ad denuo animadvertendum quantum pulchritudinis et gaudii secum ferat Paenitentiae sacramentum. In ea cultura hodierna, quae per renovatas et subtiliores auto-iustificationis formas, in eo iam est ut ipsum «peccati sensum» fataliter perdat, et consequenter nesciat quantum gaudii et consolationis sit in expetitae indulgentiae assecutione 323 et in occursu cum Deo, qui «dives est in misericordia» 324 urgens adest necessitas instituendi eos qui sacerdotes futuri sunt ad Paenitentiae virtutem, quam sapienter docere pergit Ecclesia per anni liturgici celebrationes et tempora, et quae plenitudinem sui obtinet in reconciliationis sacramento. Hinc manant asceseos vel interioris disciplinae sensus, sacrificii et abnegationis spiritus, laboris et crucis acceptatio. Quae omnia summi cuiusdam pretii elementa sunt pro vita spirituali, licet saepe appareant veluti ardua obstacula iis candidatis ad sacerdotium qui, cum inter vitae commoditates adoleverint, eo ipso longius abierant etiam a comprehensione horum valorum, a quibus aliunde adeo recedunt exempla ipsa et somnia quae per communicationis media vulgantur, etiam in iis mundi plagis ubi vitae paupertas viget et austeritas experimento vivitur etiam inter iuvenes. Ob haec omnia, sed maxime ut ad Christi Boni Pastoris exemplum candidati etiam «radicaliorem sui donationem» exsequantur, quippe quae sacerdotum insigne sit. Patres synodales scripserunt: «Hodiernae culturae saecularistae, in voluptatem, cupiditatem habendi et hedonismum propellenti, Presbyter respondere debet; et ideo opus est ei ad hunc finem consequendum cum imo et salvifico sensu crucis, quae in medio Paschalis mysterii est, efformari. Propter hanc identificationem sacerdotis cum Christo crucifixo, quatenus servo, mundus austeritatis, doloris et etiam martyrii valorem reperire potest in hodierna cultura saecularismo cupiditate et hedonismo imbuta».325

49. Spiritual formation also involves seeking Christ in people.

49. Secum etiam spiritualis efformatio fert ut addiscat presbyter Christum in hominibus quaerere.

The spiritual life is, indeed, an interior life, a life of intimacy with God, a life of prayer and contemplation. But this very meeting with God and with his fatherly love for everyone brings us face to face with the need to meet our neighbor, to give ourselves to others, to serve in a humble and disinterested fashion, following the example which Jesus has proposed to everyone as a program of life when he washed the feet of the apostles: “I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (Jn. 13:15).

Est quidem vita spiritualis aliquid quod interius latet, quod intimitatem cum Deo insequitur, vita scilicet orationis et contemplationis. At hic potissimum cum Deo occursus, et inventio quod illius amor sit Patris erga omnes amor, secum exigentiam ferunt, eamque minime abiciendam, proximum conveniendi seseque in aliorum bonum donandi, idque in eo humili ac liberali servitio exhibendo, quod Iesus christifidelibus omnibus tanquam vitae programma tradidit cum discipulorum suorum pedes lavit: «Exemplum enim dedi vobis, ut, quemadmodum ego feci vobis, et vos faciatis».326

Formation which aims at giving oneself generously and freely, which is something helped also by the communal structure which preparation to the priesthood normally takes, is a necessary condition for one who is called to be a manifestation and image of the good shepherd, who gives life (cf. Jn. 10:11, 15). From this point of view, spiritual formation has and should develop its own inherent pastoral and charitable dimension, and can profitably make use of a proper devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, one that is both strong and tender. This is a point made by the synod fathers: “When we speak of forming future priests in the spirituality of the heart of the Lord, we mean they should lead lives that are a response to the love and affection of Christ the priest and good shepherd: to his love for the Father in the Holy Spirit, and to his love toward men that was so great as to lead him to give his life in sacrifice for them.”[148]

Haec efformatio ad liberale atque gratuitum sui donum, cum foveatur per ipsam formam vitae communitariae prout ea de more instruitur pro candidatis sacerdotii parandis, condicio evadit iis potissimum qui velut epiphania et imago esse decreverunt Boni Pastoris, vitam pro ovibus suis ponentis.327 Sub hac luce, formatio spiritualis, quae dilatare in sese tenetur eam quam habet intrinsecam dimensionem pastoralem vel caritativam, poterit in eum finem utiliter iuvari per adaequatam, id est fortem sed teneram, devotionem erga Christi Cor, ut opportune innuerunt ipsi Synodales Patres: «Sacerdotes futuros in spiritualitate Cordis Domini efformare comportaret vitam ducere concinentem amori et affectui Christi Sacerdotis vel Boni Pastoris: amori Eius erga Patrem in Spiritu Sancto, amori Eius erga homines usque ad vitam suam in immolatione donandam».328

The priest is, therefore, a man of charity and is called to educate others according to Christ’s example and the new commandment of brotherly love (cf. Jn. 15 :12). But this demands that he allow himself to be constantly trained by the Spirit in the charity of Christ. In this sense preparation for the priesthood must necessarily involve a proper training in charity and particularly in the preferential love for the “poor” in whom our faith discovers Jesus (cf. Mt. 25:40) and a merciful love for sinners.

Sacerdos itaque, «homo caritatis» est, et talis est formandus ut educare alios valeat ad Christi imitationem et ad Eius fraterni amoris mandatum.329 Sed id ipsum in sese refundit, ut scilicet continuo se Spiritui credat in Christi dilectionem educandum. Hinc apparet praeparationem ad sacerdotium non posse non secum ferre formationem ad caritatem, ad eam quam hodie «peculiarem et praeferentem amorem pauperiorum» dicimus, in quibus nempe, Iesu praesentiam 330 Eiusque misericordem erga peccatores benevolentiam fides detegit.

In the general context of charity - which consists in the loving gift of oneself - is to be found, in the program of spiritual formation of the future priest, education in obedience, celibacy and poverty.[149] The Council offers this invitation: “Students must clearly understand that it is not their lot in life to lord it over others and enjoy honors, but to devote themselves completely to the service of God and the pastoral ministry. With special care they should be trained in priestly obedience, poverty and a spirit of self - denial, that they may accustom themselves to living in conformity with the crucified Christ and to, give up willingly even those things which are lawful, but not expedient.”[150]

In hac amplioris caritatis via, quae in donum sui per amorem ducit, proximiorem locum invenit, in formatione spirituali sacerdotis, educatio ad oboedientiam, ad caelibatum, ad paupertatem.331 Quem locum ita Concilium prospiciebat cum candidatos hisce verbis invitabat: «Clarissime intellegant alumni, se non dominatui nec honoribus destinari, sed totos servitio Dei et pastorali ministerio mancipari. Peculiari sollicitudine in sacerdotali oboedientia, in pauperis vitae ratione, et in sui abnegandi spiritu ita excolantur, ut etiam ea quae licita sunt sed non expediunt, prompte abdicare et Christo crucifixo se conformare assuescant».332

50. The spiritual formation of one who is called to live celibacy should pay particular attention to preparing the future priest so that he may know, appreciate, love and live celibacy according to its true nature and according to its real purposes, that is, for evangelical, spiritual and pastoral motives. The virtue of chastity is a premise for this preparation and is its content. It colors all human relations and leads “to experiencing and showing...a sincere, human, fraternal and personal love, one that is capable of sacrifice, following Christ’s example, a love for all and for each person.”[151]

50. Formatio ergo spiritualis illorum qui ad vivendum caelibatum vocantur peculiarem attentionem praestet necesse est ut eos doceat illum novisse, aestimare, amare et vivere prout sua natura est, et propter veros suos fines, scilicet ob rationes tantummodo evangelicas, spirituales, pastorales. In quarum praeparatione primo loco ponenda est castitatis virtus, ea scilicet quae dignitatem tribuit humanis relationibus atque adducit «ad experiendum amorem sincerum, humanum, fraternum, personalem atque immolatum in exemplum Christi erga omnes ac singulos, praesertim vero pauperes, afflictos, aequales».333

The celibacy of priests brings with it certain characteristics thanks to which they “renounce marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt. 19:12) and hold fast to their Lord with that undivided love which is profoundly in harmony with the new covenant; they bear witness to the resurrection in a future life (cf. Lk. 20:36) and obtain the most useful assistance toward the constant exercise of that perfect charity by which they can become all things to all men in their priestly ministry.”[152] And so priestly celibacy should not be considered just as a legal norm or as a totally external condition for admission to ordination, but rather as a value that is profoundly connected with ordination, whereby a man takes on the likeness of Jesus Christ, the good shepherd and spouse of the Church, and therefore as a choice of a greater and undivided love for Christ and his Church, as a full and joyful availability in his heart for the pastoral ministry. Celibacy is to be considered as a special grace, as a gift, for “not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given” (Mt. 1911). Certainly it is a grace which does not dispense with, but counts most definitely on, a conscious and free response on the part of the receiver. This charism of the Spirit also brings with it the grace for the receiver to remain faithful to it for all his life and be able to carry out generously and joyfully its concomitant commitments. Formation in priestly celibacy should also include helping people to be aware of the “precious gift of God,”[153] which will lead to prayer and to vigilance in guarding the gift from anything which could put it under threat.

Sacerdotalis quidem caelibatus castitatem denotat quibusdam peculiaritatibus propter quas presbyteri «societati coniugali propter Regnum caelorum 334 renuntiantes, Domino adhaerent amore indiviso novo Foederi intime congruente, futuri saeculi resurrectioni testimonium exhibente;335 et aptissimum consequuntur auxilium ad eam perfectam caritatem continuo exercendam, qua in ministerio sacerdotali omnia omnibus fieri valeant».336 Quare presbyteralis caelibatus considerandus haud venit velut norma dumtaxat iuridica vel exterior quaedam condicio qua quis ad Ordinem suscipiendum admittatur, sed ut valor profunde connexus cum sacra Ordinatione qua presbyter ad Christum, bonum Pastorem et Ecclesiae Sponsum, erit configurandus, scilicet velut optio maioris cuiusdam atque indivisibilis amoris erga Christum eiusque Ecclesiam, in plena et alacri cordis disponibilitate pro ministerio pastorali. Habendus ergo caelibatus est specialis gratia, donum: «non omnes capiunt verbum istud, sed quibus datum est».337 Est ergo caelibatus gratia quaedam, quae eamdem suscipientem non excipit, sed potius singulari ab eo rigore, conscientem et liberam responsionem exigit. Atque huiusmodi spiritus charisma sufficientem secum fert gratiam per quam, iis qui caelibatum amplexi sunt, eius obligationibus fideles per totam vitam perseverant, et alacriter ac benevolenter onera eidem connexa sustinent. In formatione proinde ad presbyteralem caelibatum tutanda imprimis erit conscientia de «pretioso Dei dono recepto»,338 quae presbyterum ad orationem perducat et ad invigilandum ne ullis insidiis tantum donum pessumdetur.

Through his celibate life, the priest will be able to fulfill better his ministry on behalf of the People of God. In particular, as he witnesses to the evangelical value of virginity, he will be able to aid Christian spouses to live fully the “great sacrament” of the love of Christ the bridegroom for his spouse the Church, just as his own faithfulness to celibacy will help them to be faithful to each other as husband and wife.[154]

Sacerdos itaque, in caelibatu vivens, totus vacare potest ministerio suo in Dei populo adimplendo. Peculiariter autem, dum virginitatis valori evangelico testimonium praebet, christianos coniuges sustentare non desinet ut plenius «magnum sacramentum» vivant quod signum est Christi Sponsi amoris erga Sponsam Ecclesiam, unde presbyteri fidelitas erga caelibatum adiutorio etiam esse valeat ipsorum coniugum fidelitati.339

The importance of a careful preparation for priestly celibacy, especially in the social and cultural situations that we see today, led the synod fathers to make a series of requests which have a permanent value, as the wisdom of our mother the Church confirms. I authoritatively set them down again as criteria to be followed in formation for chastity in celibacy: “Let the bishops together with the rectors and spiritual directors of the seminaries establish principles, offer criteria and give assistance for discernment in this matter.

Momentum ergo et subtilitas huiusce formationis ad caelibatum presbyteralem in hisce hodiernis adiunctis socio-culturalibus, synodales Patres induxerunt ut quaedam prospicerent, quae ceterum iamdiu per sapientis Matris Ecclesiae vigilantiam usui valida comprobata fuerant. Quae cum auctoritate huc denuo afferuntur, velut criteria in formatione castitatis ad caelibatum adhibenda: «Episcopi una cum rectoribus seminariorum et directoribus spiritualibus principia statuant, criteria praebeant et auxilia adstruant ad discernendum in hac materia.

Of the greatest importance for formation for chastity in celibacy are the bishop’s concern and fraternal life among priests.

Sollicitudo Episcopi et vita fraterna inter sacerdotes pro formatione ad castitatem in caelibato summi momenti sunt.

In the seminary, that is, in the program of formation, celibacy should be presented clearly, without any ambiguities and in a positive fashion. The seminarian should have a sufficient degree of psychological and sexual maturity as well as an assiduous and authentic life of prayer, and he should put himself under the direction of a spiritual father. The spiritual director should help the seminarian so that he himself reaches a mature and free decision, which is built on esteem for priestly friendship and self - discipline, as well as on the acceptance of solitude and on a physically and psychologically sound personal state.

In seminario, in eius nempe programmate formationis, caelibatus debet clare praesentari, sine ulla ambiguitate et modo positivo. Seminarista gradum maturitatis psychicae et sexualis necnon vitam orationis assiduam et sanam habere debet, seque sub directione cuiusdam patris spiritualis collocare. Director spiritualis seminaristam adiuvare debet ut ipse ad maturam et liberam decisionem perveniat, quae in aestimatione amicitiae sacerdotalis et autodisciplinae necnon acceptatione solitudinis fundetur atque in recto statu personali physico et psychologico.

Therefore, seminarians should have a good knowledge of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, of the encyclical Sacerdotalis Coelibatus and the Instruction for Formation in Priestly Celibacy published by the Congregation for Catholic Education in 1974. In order that the seminarian may be able to embrace priestly celibacy for the kingdom of heaven with a free decision, he needs to know the Christian and truly human nature and purpose of sexuality in marriage and in celibacy. It is necessary also to instruct and educate the lay faithful regarding the evangelical, spiritual and pastoral reasons proper to priestly celibacy so that they will help priests with their friendship, understanding and cooperation.”[155]

Ad hoc seminaristae bene cognoscant doctrinam Concilii Vaticani II necnon Encyclicam “Sacerdotalis Caelibatus”, et Instructionem pro formatione ad caelibatum sacerdotalem a Congregatione pro Institutione Catholica anno 1974 editam.Ut seminarista libera decisione caelibatum sacerdotalem propter Regnum Caelorum amplecti possit, necesse est ipsum intellegere quae sint indoles christiana et vere humana necnon finis sexualitatis in matrimonio et in caelibatu. Necesse est etiam instruere christifideles circa causas evangelicas spirituales et pastorales ad caelibatum sacerdotalem pertinentes et eos educare ut adiuvent presbyteros amicitia, comprehensione et collaboratione».340

Intellectual Formation: Understanding the Faith

 

51. Intellectual formation has its own characteristics, but it is also deeply connected with, and indeed can be seen as a necessary expression of, both human and spiritual formation: It is a fundamental demand of the human intelligence by which one “participates in the light of God’s mind” and seeks to acquire a wisdom which in turn opens to and is directed toward knowing and adhering to God.[156]

51. Formatio intellectualis, licet suam habeat peculiaritatem, sic cum formatione humana et spirituali connectitur, ut earum necessaria significatio fiat: sese enim ita fingit tanquam necessariam intellectus postulationem, per quam homo «divinae mentis lumen participat» 341 et eam proinde sapientiam adipisci conatur quae vicissim vias detegat ad Deum vere inveniendum Eique plene adhaerendum.

The intellectual formation of candidates for the priesthood finds its specific justification in the very nature of the ordained ministry, and the challenge of the “new evangelization” to which our Lord is calling the Church on the threshold of the third millennium shows just how important this formation is. “If we expect every Christian,” the synod fathers write, “to be prepared to make a defense of the faith and to account for the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Pt. 3:15), then all the more should candidates for the priesthood and priests have diligent care of the quality of their intellectual formation in their education and pastoral activity. For the salvation of their brothers and sisters they should seek an ever deeper knowledge of the divine mysteries.”[157] The present situation is heavily marked by religious indifference, by a widespread mistrust regarding the real capacity of reason lo reach objective and universal truth, and by fresh problems and questions brought up by scientific and technological discoveries. It strongly demands a high level of intellectual formation, such as will enable priests to proclaim, in a context like this, the changeless Gospel of Christ and to make it credible to the legitimate demands of human reason. Moreover, there is the present phenomenon of pluralism, which is very marked in the field not only of human society but also of the community of the Church herself. It demands special attention to critical discernment: It is a further reason showing the need for an extremely rigorous intellectual formation.

Formatio intellectualis candidatorum sacerdotii rationem sui peculiarem reponit in ipsa natura ministerii ordinati, suamque hodiernam urgentiam exhibet pro contentione «novae cuiusdam evangelizationis» ad quam Dominus Ecclesiam suam provocat adventante tertio millennio. «Si iam omnis christianus paratus esse debet ad defensionem fidei et spei quae in nobis vivit,342 multo magis candidati sacerdotii et presbyteri diligentem curam habeant de valore formationis intellectualis in educatione et in navitate pastorali, quia propter salutem fratrum sororumque semper profundiorem cognitionem mysteriorum divinorum quaerere debent».343 Hodiernarum autem rerum condicio, graviter per indifferentiam religiosam sauciata, et simul per fiduciae crisim erga veram rationis capacitatem veritatem obiectivam et universalem assequendi, immo, per nova illa problemata et subtiliores quaestiones quas secum ferunt inventa scientifica et technologica nuperrime increbrescentia, excellentius exigit vel profundius formationis intellectualis exemplar, quo etiam sacerdotes capaciores fiant immutabile Christi Evangelium etiam in huiusmodi rerum contextu nuntiandi, idemque credibile exhibendi adversus legitimas humanae rationis exigentias. His illud adiungatur quod ex eo phaenomeno quod hodie pluralismus dicitur provenit; qui pluralismus, quem homines hodierni non in civili dumtaxat sed etiam in ecclesiali consortione impensius in dies persentiunt, peculiarem expostulare videtur criticae discretionis aptitudinem: eaque difficultas nova fit causa cur exigentior in dies formatio intellectualis sit perspicienda.

These “pastoral” reasons for intellectual formation reconfirm what has been said above concerning the unity of the educational process in its diverse aspects. The commitment to study, which takes up no small part of the time of those preparing for the priesthood, is not in fact an external and secondary dimension of their human, Christian, spiritual and vocational growth. In reality, through study, especially the study of theology, the future priest assents to the word of God, grows in his spiritual life and prepares himself to fulfill his pastoral ministry. This is the many sided and unifying scope of the theological study indicated by the Council [158] and reproposed by the synod’ s Instrumentum Laboris: “To be pastorally effective, intellectual formation is to be integrated with a spirituality marked by a personal experience of God. In this way a purely abstract approach to knowledge is overcome in favor of that intelligence of heart which knows how ‘to look beyond,’ and then is in a position to communicate the mystery of God to the people.”[159]

Hic autem aspectus «pastoralis» formationis intellectualis ea confirmat ac roborat, quae superius innuebantur de unitate totius processus educationis, cum is adeo multa in unum debeat complecti. Unde studendi alacritas, quae maior portio est vitae illius qui sese ad sacerdotium comparat, nullatenus censenda est exterior quaedam vel secundaria pars maturationis humanae, christianae, spiritualis et vocationalis; re vera, per studium, theologiae praesertim, futurus sacerdos, adhaeret Verbo Dei, incrementa quotidie affert vitae suae spirituali, aptior in dies fit ad pastorale munus suscipiendum. Atque is est multiplex et unius conspectus finis quem studiis theologicis Concilium assignat,344 prout deinceps in huius Synodi Instrumento laboris receptus fuerat: «Haec autem intellectualis formatio, ut pro rei pastoralis exigentiis vere efficax evadat, coniungenda est cum eo itinere spirituali in quo personalis Dei fiat experientia: scilicet ut candidati non sola notionum scientia ditentur, sed eum tingant cordium intuitum, ut Dei mysterium ipsi primo “videre” valeant, dein communicare inter fratres sciant».345

52. A crucial stage of intellectual formation is the study of philosophy, which leads to a deeper understanding and interpretation of the person, and of the person’s freedom and relationships with the world and with God. A proper philosophical training is vital, not only because of the links between the great philosophical questions and the mysteries of salvation which are studied in theology under the guidance of the higher light of faith,[160] but also vis - a - vis an extremely widespread cultural situation which emphasizes subjectivism as a criterion and measure of truth: Only a sound philosophy can help candidates for the priesthood to develop a reflective awareness of the fundamental relationship that exists between the human spirit and truth, that truth which is revealed to us fully in Jesus Christ. Nor must one underestimate the importance of philosophy as a guarantee of that “certainty of truth” which is the only firm basis for a total giving of oneself to Jesus and to the Church. It is not difficult to see that some very specific questions, such as that concerning the priest’s identity and his apostolic and missionary commitment, are closely linked to the question about the nature of truth, which is anything but an abstract question: If we are not certain about the truth, how can we put our whole life on the line, how can we have the strength to challenge others’ way of living?

52. Peculiare quoddam intellectualis formationis momentum reponitur quoque in philosophiae studio, quod eo perducit ut profundior adquiratur comprehensio atque interpretatio personae hominis, eius libertatis, eius cum mundo et Deo rationis. Philosophia ergo apparet res instantis cuiusdam necessitatis, nec solum ob vinculum quod intercedit inter argumenta philosophica et salutis mysterium, in cuius quaestionis studium scientia theologica incumbit sub superiore luce fidei,346 sed etiam urgente eo statu culturali hodie ubique propemodum imperante, qui «subiectivismum» velut veritatis criterium et mensuram extollit: una dumtaxat rectaque philosophia iuvare valet petitores sacerdotii ad reflexam adquirendam conscientiam rationis intercedentis inter humanum animum et veritatem: quae nobis veritas nusquam plene nisi in Christo revelatur. Nec minoris pretii habenda philosophia est in tutanda «veritatis certitudine», in qua una niti potest totalis ac personalis sui donatio, per quam presbyter sese Iesu et Ecclesiae tradit. Nam facile quilibet intellegit cur concretissimae quaedam quaestiones, v.g. quae vera sit identitas presbyteri et ipsius missionis apostolicae ac missionariae, profundius nectantur cum minime abstracta alia interrogatione, quid scilicet ipsa veritas sit: nisi enim certitudo de veritate adsit, quis vitam suam in certamen ultimum adducat, vel valeat aliorum vitas vere exquirere?

Philosophy greatly helps the candidate to enrich his intellectual formation in the “cult of truth,” namely, in a kind of loving veneration the truth, which leads one to recognize that the truth is not created or measured by man but is given to man as a gift by the supreme truth, God; that, albeit in a limited way and often with difficulty, human reason can reach objective and universal truth, even that relating to God and the radical meaning of existence; and that faith itself cannot do without reason and the effort of “thinking through” its contents, as that great mind Augustine bore witness: “I wished to see with my mind what I have believed, and I have argued and labored greatly.”[161]

Philosophia haud parvo est auxilio in formatione intellectuali candidati augenda «cultu veritatis», quadam videlicet amanti veneratione veritatis, quae efficit ut veritatem homines dispiciant non veluti rem ab homine creatam et ad mensuram perductam, sed homini dono datam a Deo, qui est Ipse summa Veritas; et ipsam humanam rationem, licet difficulter saepe limitibus adstrictam, veritatem obiectivam et universalem nancisci posse, illam saltem quae ad Deum respicit et radicalem propriae existentiae sensum; neque fidem posse rationem et laborem «ratiocinandi» circa sui ipsius ambitum neglegere, ut egregie testata est acutissima divi Augustini mens: «Desideravi intellectu videre quod credidi, et multum disputavi et laboravi».347

For a deeper understanding of man and the phenomena and lines of development of society, in relation to a pastoral ministry which is as “incarnate” as possible, the so - called “human sciences” can be of considerable use, sciences such as sociology, psychology, education, economics and politics, and the science of social communication. Also in the precise field of the positive or descriptive sciences, these can help the future priest prolong the living “contemporaneousness” of Christ. As Paul VI once said, “Christ became the contemporary of some men and spoke their language. Our faithfulness to him demands that this contemporaneousness should be maintained.”[162]

Iuvare item magnopere poterunt, ad profundiorem hominis comprehensionem habendam ac phaenomenorum et processuum, per quae hominum societas evolvitur, illae quae dicuntur «scientiae de homine», quarum auxilio ministerium pastorale melius et quam maxime «incarnatum» exerceri poterit; tales sunt sociologia, psychologia, oeconomicae ac politicae scientiae, necnon scientia communicationis socialis. Quae omnes, in eo saltem ambitu quem scientiae positivae vel descriptivae replere natae sunt, valde eum qui futurus erit sacerdos iuvabunt in dilatanda ea temporum convenientia, qua Christus Ipse vivere voluit. «Christus enim — ut aliquando Paulus VI edixit — aetate coniunxit se cum concretis hominibus, neque eorum sermone loqui recusavit. Quivis ergo animus desideret Ei fidelis esse, ut huiusmodi temporum convenientia ad homines nostri temporis protrahatur».348

53. The intellectual formation of the future priest is based and built above all on the study of sacred doctrine, of theology The value and genuineness of this theological formation depend on maintaining a scrupulous respect for the nature of theology. The synod fathers summarized this as follows: “True theology proceeds from the faith and aims at leading to the faith.[163] This is the conception of theology which has always been put forward by the Church and, specifically, by her magisterium. This is the line followed by the great theologians who have enriched the Church’s thinking down the ages. St. Thomas is extremely clear when he affirms that the faith is as it were the habitus of theology, that is, its permanent principle of operation,[164] and that the whole of theology is ordered to nourishing the faith.[165]

53. Formatio autem intellectualis eius qui sacerdos futurus est, fundamentum naturale ac praecipuum habet in sacra doctrina, id est in theologia. Huiusce vero valor et authenticitas pendet potissimum a scrupulosa reverentia naturae ipsius theologiae, quam compendio ita synodales Patres descripserunt: «Vera theologia ex fide venit et ad fidem ducere intendit».349 Atque ea est ac semper fuit ratio quam Ecclesia, et eius nominatim Magisterium, constanter servari voluit. Eandemque secuti sunt ii praegrandes theologi qui Ecclesiae depositum nunquam per saecula ditare omiserunt. Quorum divus Thomas apertissime asserit fidem esse veluti theologiae habitum, id est permanens operandi principium,350 et theologiam totam ad fidem nutriendam ordinari.351

The theologian is therefore, first and foremost, a believer, a person of faith. But the theologian is a believer who asks himself questions about his own faith (fides quaerens intellectum), with the aim of reaching a deeper understanding of the faith itself. The two aspects (of faith and mature reflection) are intimately connected, intertwined: Their intimate coordination and interpenetration are what make for true theology and as a result decide the contents, modalities and spirit according to which the sacred doctrine (sacra doctrinal) is elaborated and studied.

Est proinde theologus vir credens, id est fide nutritus homo; sed is credens, qui sese etiam de fide interrogat (fidem quaerens intellectum), ut eandem scilicet profundius intellegat. Unde uterque aspectus, et fides et eiusdem matura commentatio, penitus inter sese connectuntur; in hac intima utriusque coordinatione et mutua penetratione reponenda est vera theologiae natura, in qua decernitur tum de eiusdem deposito, tum de modis ac de spiritu quibus sacra doctrina elaboratur et inspicitur.

Moreover, since the faith, which is the point of departure and the point of arrival of theology, brings about a personal relationship between the believer and Jesus Christ in the Church, theology also has intrinsic Christological and ecclesial connotations, which the candidate to the priesthood should take up consciously, not only because of what they imply for his personal life but also inasmuch as they affect his pastoral ministry. If our faith truly welcomes the word of God, it will lead to a radical “yes” on the part of the believer to Jesus Christ, who is the full and definitive Word of God to the world (cf. Heb. 1:1ff.). As a result, theological reflection is centered on adherence to Jesus Christ, the wisdom of God: Mature reflection has to be described as a sharing in the “thinking” of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 2:16) in the human form of a science (scientia fidei): At the same time, faith inserts believers in the Church and makes them partake in the life of the Church as a community of faith. Hence theology has an ecclesial dimension, because it is a mature reflection on the faith of the Church by the theologian who is a member of the Church.[166]

Sicuti fides, in quam theologia exitum simul et adventum habet, personalem credentis rationem aperit cum Christo, in Ecclesia, ita et theologia intrinsecas secum fert notas christologicas et ecclesiales, quas petitor sacerdotii scienter assumat necesse est, non modo ob ea quibus vita ipsius implicatur, sed etiam ob ea quae eius pastorale ministerium attingunt. Si Dei Verbi acceptatio est fides, eo ipso convertitur in credentis radicale responsum Christo Iesu datum, qui Verbum Dei est plenum ac definitivum mundo traditum.352 Consequitur ut reflexio theologica nullibi centrum sui reperire possit nisi in Christo Iesu Dei Sapientia: itemque consequitur ut ipsa maturior commentatio habenda sit velut participatio cogitationis Christi 353 eadem ratione ac nascuntur humanae aliae scientiae (scientia fidei). Unoque tempore fides credentem ad Ecclesiam applicat atque eius vitae efficit participem, cum sit Ecclesia «communitas fidei». Unde sequitur habere theologiam veram dimensionem ecclesialem, quippe quae sit matura circa Ecclesiae fidem meditatio a theologo edita, prout est Ecclesiae membrum.354

These Christological and ecclesial dimensions which are connatural to theology, while they help candidates for the priesthood grow in scientific precision, will also help them develop a great and living love for Jesus Christ and for his Church. This love will both nourish their spiritual life and guide them to carry out their ministry with a generous spirit. This was what the Second Vatican Council had in mind when it called for a revision of ecclesiastical studies, with a view to “a more effective coordination of philosophy and theology so that they supplement one another in reveling to the minds of the students with ever - increasing clarity the mystery of Christ, which affects the whole course of human history, exercises an unceasing influence on the Church and operates mainly through the ministry of the priest.”[167]

Hi christologici ac ecclesiales prospectus, qui suapte natura ad theologiam pertinent, vocatos ad sacerdotium iuvant tum ut scientificam laborandi rationem sibi familiarem reddant, tum praesertim ut maiorem in dies dilectionem excitent erga Christum et eius Ecclesiam; per quem amorem, dum ipsorum vita spiritualis abunde nutritur, vis quoque et alacritas confertur ipsorum ministerio. Ea in votis erant Concilii Vaticani II, cum, studia ecclesiastica aptius recognoscere volens, sic de varietate disciplinarum philosophicarum et theologicarum edixerat: «Disciplinae philosophicae ac theologicae aptius componantur et concordi ratione conspirent ad alumnorum mentibus magis magisque aperiendum mysterium Christi, quod totam generis humani historiam afficit, in Ecclesiam iugiter influit et ministerio sacerdotali praecipue operatur».355

Intellectual formation in theology and formation in the spiritual life, in particular the life of prayer, meet and strengthen each other, without detracting in any way from the soundness of research or from the spiritual tenor of prayer. St. Bonaventure reminds us: “Let no one think that it is enough for him to read if he lacks devotion, or to engage in speculation without spiritual Joy, or to be active if he has no piety, or to have knowledge without charity, or intelligence without humility, or study without God’s grace, or to expect to know himself if he is lacking the infused wisdom of God.”[168]

Formatio intellectus theologica et vita spiritualis, peculiariter orandi consuetudo, inter se optime conveniunt seseque mutuo adiuvant, cum nec ardori studiorum obstent, nec orationis saporem et gustum atterant. Probe a divo Bonaventura admonemur: «Ne quis forte credat quod sibi sufficiat lectio sine unctione, speculatio sine devotione, investigatio sine admiratione, circumspectio sine exsultatione, industria sine pietate, scientia sine caritate, intellegentia sine humilitate, studium absque divina gratia, speculum absque sapientia divinitus inspirata».356

54. Theological formation is both complex and demanding. It should lead the candidate for the priesthood to a complete and unified vision of the truths which God has revealed in Jesus Christ and of the Church’s experience of faith. Hence the need both to know “all” the Christian truths, without arbitrarily selecting among them, and to know them in an orderly fashion. This means the candidate needs to be helped to build a synthesis which will be the result of the contributions of the different theological disciplines, the specific nature of which acquires genuine value only in their profound coordination.

54. Implexum sane hoc laboriosissimum opus est formationem theologicam ad amussim instruere. Vocatus ad sacerdotium sic ducendus est, ut ampliorem ac unius conspectus visionem nanciscatur de veritatibus a Deo in Christo Iesu revelatis itemque de plena et integra fidei experientia, quam vivit Ecclesia; at hinc exsurgit difficultas: qua ratione dignosci possint christianae veritates «omnes», congruenti praesertim visione, nulla earum ad arbitrium neglecta. Petitor sacerdotii ita erit adiuvandus, ut synthesim conficiat in quam diversarum disciplinarum theologicarum summa quaeque vergat, cum nulla earum certum verumque valorem nanciscatur, nisi profundius singulae ad invicem ordinentur.

In reflecting maturely upon the faith, theology moves in two directions. The first is that of the study of the word of God: the word set down in holy writ, celebrated and lived in the living tradition of the Church, and authoritatively interpreted by the Church’s magisterium. Hence the importance of studying sacred Scripture “which should be the soul, as it were, of all theological [169] the Fathers of the Church, the liturgy, the history of the Church and the teachings of the magisterium. The second direction is that of the human person, who converses with God: the person who is called “to believe,” “to live,” “to communicate” to others the Christian faith and outlook. Hence the study of dogmatic and moral theology, of spiritual theology, of canon law and of pastoral theology.

In fide diligenter consideranda in duas partes se movet scientia theologica. Prior pertinet ad inquisitionem Verbi Dei; Verbi scilicet in Sacro Libro scripti, quod vivax Ecclesiae Traditio celebrat et Magisterium Ecclesiae cum auctoritate interpretatur. Hinc est studium Sacrae Scripturae, «quae universae theologiae velut anima esse debet»;357 dein cognitio Patrum Ecclesiae et librorum liturgicorum, historiae Ecclesiae eiusque praeceptorum. Alterum autem est iter hominis, qui cum Deo interloquitur; qui homo ad «credendum» invitatur et ad «vivendum», ad «communicandum» cum aliis fidem vel christianum «ethos»: hinc studia theologiae dogmaticae, theologiae moralis, theologiae spiritualis, iuris canonici atque theologiae pastoralis.

Because of its relationship to the believer, theology is led to pay particular attention both to the fundamental and permanent question of the relationship between faith and reason and to a number of requirements more closely related to the social and cultural situation of today. In regard to the first we have the study of fundamental theology, whose object is the fact of Christian revelation and its transmission in the Church. In regard to the second we have disciplines which have been and are being developed as responses to problems strongly felt nowadays. This is true of the study of the Church’s social doctrine which “belongs to the field...of theology and, in particular, of moral theology”[170] and is to be counted among the “essential components” of the “new evangelization,” of which it is an instrument.[171] This is likewise true of the study of missiology, ecumenism, Judaism, Islam and other religions.

Respectus autem credentis hominis efficit ut scientia theologica praecipue inspiciat sive necessitudines permanentes inter fidem et rationem intercedentes sive necessitates quasdam rerum socialium et culturalium, prout eae hodie volvuntur. Priori rei operam dat «theologia fundamentalis», quam dicunt, cuius obiectum est factum ipsum Revelationis christianae eiusque in Ecclesia transmissio. Ad alteram rem spectant illae disciplinae, quae, ut responsum darent urgentioribus mentis humanae quaestionibus, ampliorem de singulis tractationem excitarunt; eius modi est studium doctrinae socialis Ecclesiae, quod «quodammodo pertinet... ad theologiam, peculiariter ad theologiam moralem»,358 et habendum est inter «essentialia elementa» sic dictae «novae evangelizationis», nam socialem magisterii virtutem praebent cuiusdam instrumenti ad evangelizandum».359 Atque idem fac repetas de inquirendi ratione, in missionem, in oecumenismum, in Iudaismum, in Islam, et in ceteras religiones non christianas.

55. Theological formation nowadays should pay attention to certain problems which not infrequently raise difficulties, tensions and confusion within the life of the Church. One can think of the relationship between statements issued by the magisterium and theological discussion, a relationship which does not always take the shape it ought to have, that is, within a framework of cooperation.

55. Formatio theologica nostrae aetatis cavere debet problematibus quibusdam, quae non raro difficultates, tensionem, confusionem in interiore Ecclesiae vita suscitant. Cogitari potest ratio inter Magisterii placita et dissertationes theologicas quae non semper videtur qualis esse deberet per concordiam et collaborationem utriusque partis.

It is indeed true that the living magisterium of the Church and theology, while having different gifts and functions, ultimately have the same goal: preserving the People of God in the truth which sets free and thereby making them ‘a light to the nations.’ This service to the ecclesial community brings the theologian and the magisterium into a mutual relationship. The latter authentically teaches the doctrine of the apostles. And, befitting from the work of theologians, it refutes objections to and distortions of the faith, and promotes, with the authority received from Jesus Christ, new and deeper comprehension, clarification and application of revealed doctrine. Theology - for its part - gains, by way of reflection, an ever deeper understanding of the word of God found in the Scripture and handed on faithfully by the Church’s living tradition under the guidance of the magisterium. Theology strives to clarify the teaching of revelation with regard to reason and gives it finally an organic and systematic form.”[172] When, for a number of reasons, this cooperation is lacking, one needs to avoid misunderstandings and confusion, and to know how to distinguish carefully “the common teaching of the Church from the opinions of theologians and from tendencies which quickly pass (the so - called trends) There is no “parallel” magisterium, for the one magisterium is that of Peter and the apostles, the pope and the bishops.[171]

Re vera «vivum Ecclesiae Magisterium et theologia, licet dona et munera habeant diversa, eosdem ultimatim habent fines; ut scilicet Dei Populum in veritate, quae liberos facit, conservet, et ita velut “nationum lux” fiat. Hoc autem erga ecclesialem communitatem ministerium theologicum, quodammodo cum Magisterio in mutuam relationem committit, et Magisterii est authentice Apostolorum doctrinam impertire et, adhibitis laboris theologici placitis vel opinionibus, obiectiones vel fidei deformitates removere, immo, per auctoritatem a Iesu receptam, nova quaedam e profundo eruere placita, quae tamen conformia cum doctrina revelata sint, quam vel magis explicitam reddat, vel concreta ratione ad novitates applicet. Theologiae vero officium et munus est, ratione quadam reflexa, in profunditatem Verbi Dei perseveranter inquirere, prout id in Scriptura servatur et per Ecclesiae Traditionem, ductu Magisterii, transmittitur; eiusdemque est doctrinam revelatam ita pertractare ut, adversus rationis conamina, forma magis in dies congruens et systematica perseveret».360 Quoties vero quavis de causa huiusmodi consociata opera corruit, cavendum est ne ullum genus aequivocationis vel confusionis scateat, cum accurate ab omnibus distinguenda sit «doctrina communis Ecclesiae ab opinionibus theologorum vel a quibusdam tendentiis cito transeuntibus (quas “modas” dicere consuevimus)».361 Nullum enim in Ecclesia exstitit «parallelum» Magisterium, quando unum illud prostat, Petri et Apostolorum, Summi Pontificis et Episcoporum.362

Another problem, which is experienced especially when seminary studies are entrusted to academic institutions, is that of the relationship between high scientific standards in theology and its pastoral aim. This raises the issue of the pastoral nature of theology. It is a question, really, of two characteristics of theology and how it is to be taught, which are not only not opposed to each other, but which work together, from different angles, in favor of a more complete “understanding of the faith.” In fact the pastoral nature of theology does not mean that it should be less doctrinal or that it should be completely stripped of its scientific nature. It means, rather, that it enables future priests to proclaim the Gospel message through the cultural modes of their age and to direct pastoral action according to an authentic theological vision. Hence, on the one hand, a respectful study of the genuine scientific quality of the individual disciplines of theology will help provide a more complete and deeper training of the pastor of souls as a teacher of faith; and, on the other hand, an appropriate awareness that there is a pastoral goal in view will help The serious and scientific study of theology be more formative for future priests.

Alia apparet quaestio, quae quidem magis animadvertitur ubi institutio tironum Seminariorum Universitatibus studiorum concreditur; respicit ad rationes inter theologiae rigorem doctrinalem et horum studiorum destinationem pastoralem; ideoque agitur de pastorali natura ipsius theologiae. Nam binae hae sunt qualitates theologiae eiusque institutionis, quae componi possunt, quamvis aliud sit theologia, aliud autem ratio paedagogica eiusdem tuendae; neque in conflictum vocandae sunt, sed concorditer conspirare debent, diversis licet lineamentis, ad «fidei intellegentiam». Cum dicimus theologiam esse debere pastoralem, non propterea asserimus ipsam minore doctrinarum onere esse complendam, neque rationem et methodum doctrinalem esse recusandam; id tantum a magistris postulatur, ut futuri sacerdotes aptiores formentur ad evangelicum praeconium nuntiandum pro culturalibus cuiusque temporis ac loci condicionibus, ita ut ipsa actio apostolica collineata melius appareat cum congruenti visione theologica. Hinc igitur studia ad severiores scientiae normas cuiusque disciplinae theologicae ita aptabuntur, ut animarum pastori suppeditent plenam ac profundam formationem, magistro fidei necessariam; hinc vero aequa sentiendi vis erga metam eorum studiorum providebit, ut, qui presbyteri sunt futuri, formatrice ratione amplectantur studia quae doctrinali sint methodo perficienda.

A further problem that is strongly felt these days is the demand for the evangelization of cultures and the inculturation of the message of faith. An eminently pastoral problem, this should enter more broadly and carefully into the formation of the candidates to the priesthood: In the present circumstances in which, in a number of regions of the world, the Christian religion is considered as something foreign to cultures (be they ancient or modern), it is very important that in the whole intellectual and human formation the dimension of inculturation be seen as necessary and essential.”[175] But this means we need a genuine theology, inspired by the Catholic principles on inculturation. These principles are linked with the mystery of the incarnation of the word of God and with Christian anthropology, and thus illumine the authentic meaning of inculturation. In the face of all the different and at times contrasting cultures present in the various parts of the world, inculturation seeks to obey Christ’s command to preach the Gospel to all nations even unto the ends of the earth. Such obedience does not signify either syncretism or a simple adaptation of the announcement of the Gospel, but rather the fact that the Gospel penetrates the very life of cultures, becomes incarnate in them, overcoming those cultural elements that are incompatible with the faith and Christian living, and raising their values to the mystery of salvation which comes from Christ.[176] The problem of inculturation can have a particularly great interest when the candidates to the priesthood are themselves coming from indigenous cultures. In that case, they will need to find suitable ways of formation, both to overcome the danger of being less demanding and to strengthen their weaker education in human, Christian and priestly virtues, and also to make proper use of the good and genuine elements of their own cultures and traditions.[177]

Alia praeterea quaestio ponitur in necessitate, hodie fortiter a multis percepta, de «evangelizandis culturis» vel, aliis verbis, de «incultura- tione praeconii fidei». Quaestio est praesertim ordinis pastoralis, quae magis in dies animadvertenda est in formandis petitoribus sacerdotii: «In hodiernis adiunctis, in quibus, variis in regionibus mundi, religio christiana quid alienum culturis sive antiquis sive modernis consideratur, magni est momenti ut in tota formatione intellectuali et humana, inculturationis dimensio tanquam necessaria et essentialis habeatur».363 Id vero primum requirit certam veramque theologiam, quae scilicet sanis perfundatur Ecclesiae principiis de inculturatione. Quae principia, cum mysterio incarnationis Verbi Dei nec non christianae anthropologiae coniungantur, illuminare quoque valent veram inculturationis notionem; haec enim adversus diversitatem, vel etiam aliquando oppositionem culturarum in variis mundi plagis vigentium, vertenda ultimatim est in obtemperationem mandato Christi Domini seu de Evangelio omnibus gentibus nuntiando, usque ad ultimos terrarum fines. Huiusmodi autem oboedientia nec ad syncretismum ducit, nec consistere potest in quavis aptatione nuntii evangelici, sed eo ducat necesse est, ut Evangelium, vitali quadam ratione in eas culturas penetrando, in ipsis velut «incarnatum» inhaereat, elementa culturalia abiciendo quae cum fide vel cum vita christiana cohaerere haud possint, et contra, eatenus valores assumendo ac elevando, ut ad Salutis Mysterium quod a Christo provenit accedant.364 Haec autem inculturationis quaestio maius pondus sibi habere potest quoties vocati ipsi ad sacerdotium ab autochthonibus culturis illis forte proveniant; quibus proinde reperiendae erunt novae quaedam formationis viae, per quas duplex vitetur obstaculum: ne scilicet iis minores necessitates exhibeantur neque ita valores humani, christiani, sacerdotales quodammodo minoris pretii fiant; aliunde ne certi valores, quos propria cultura ac traditio continet, indebite per incuriam neglegantur.365

56. Following the teaching and the indications of the Second Vatican Council and their application in the Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis, the Church decided upon a vast updating of the teaching of the philosophical and especially theological disciplines in seminaries. This updating, which in some cases still needs amendments and developments, has on the whole helped to make the education available a more effective medium for intellectual formation. In this respect “the synod fathers have confirmed once again, frequently and clearly, the need - indeed the urgency - to put the basic study plan both the general one which applies to the Church worldwide, and those of the individual nations or episcopal conferences) into effect in seminaries and in houses of formation.”[178]

56. Ex quo exsecutioni mandari coepta sunt Concilii Vaticani II doctrina et placita, iisque addita deinceps sunt indicationes quaedam applicationis in Ratione fundamentali institutionis sacerdotalis collectae, animadvertere fas est in Ecclesia latiorem renovationem in tradendis in Seminariis disciplinis philosophicis et theologicis. Quae renovatio, etsi quaedam remanent aut emendanda aut rectius evolvenda, non parum contulisse visa est ad meliora reddenda illa quae in ambitu formationis intellectualis obtenta fuerint. Atque de his «Patres synodales saepe et claris verbis denuo affirmaverunt necessitatem immo urgentiam in praxim deducendi in seminariis et domibus formationis rationem fundamentalem studiorum sive universalem sive cuiusque nationis seu Conferentiae episcopalis».366

It is necessary to oppose firmly the tendency to play down the seriousness of studies and the commitment to them. This tendency is showing itself in certain spheres of the Church, also as a consequence of the insufficient and defective basic education of students beginning the philosophical and theological curriculum. The very situation of the Church today demands increasingly that teachers be truly able to face the complexity of the times and that they be in a position to face competently, with clarity and deep reasoning, the questions about meaning which are put by the people of today, questions which can only receive full and definitive reply in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Omnino necesse est ut firmiter ea contineatur tendentia ad rigorem laxandum nonnullarum normarum de studiis, quae in aliquibus ecclesialibus institutis manifestatur, tanquam consectarium carentis cuiusdam praeparationis praecipuae, vel tanquam vitia quae magis in dies comperiuntur in iis qui curriculum philosophicum et theologicum aggredi coeperint. Atque eadem hodierna implexior rerum condicio suadere videtur ut soli ii magistri designentur, qui huic temporum implicationi pares habeantur, et qui peritia, perspicuitate atque arguendi profunditate eas obire valeant interrogationes quas secum hodiernus homo trahit, pro quibus haud dubium est nonnisi in Christi Iesu Evangelio responsionem plenam atque decretoriam inveniri.

 

 

Pastoral Formation: Communion With the Charity of Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd

 

57. The whole formation imparted to candidates for the priesthood aims at preparing them to enter into communion with the charity of Christ the good shepherd. Hence their formation in its different aspects must have a fundamentally pastoral character. The Council’s decree Optatam Totius states so clearly when speaking of major seminaries; “The whole training of the students should have as its object to make them true shepherds of souls after the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, teacher, priest and shepherd. Hence, they should be trained for the ministry of he word so that they may gain an ever - increasing understanding of the revealed word of God, making it their own by meditation and giving it expression in their speech and in their lives. They should be trained for the ministry of worship and sanctification so that by prayer and the celebration of the sacred liturgical functions they may carry on the work of salvation through the eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments. They should be trained to undertake the ministry of the shepherd, that they may know how to represent Christ to humanity, Christ who ‘did not come to have service done to him but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for the lives of many ‘ (Mk. 10:45; Jn. 1 3:12-17), and that they may win over many by becoming the servants of all (1 Cor. 9:19).”[179] The Council text insists upon the coordination of the different aspects of human, spiritual and intellectual formation

57. Diuturna iuvenum, qui ad sacerdotium vocantur, formatio eo tendit ut illi, qua possunt ratione, Christi Boni Pastoris caritatem participare addiscant. Huiusmodi ergo formatio, magis quam alii omnes aspectus, hunc praecipuum habeat necesse est, characterem quem dicimus pastoralem. Id perspicue declaratum est per Concilii decretum «Optatam Totius», quod de Seminariis maioribus sic edixit: «In eis integra alumnorum institutio eo tendere debet ut ad exemplar Domini Iesu Christi, Magistri, Sacerdotis et Pastoris, veri animarum pastores ipsi formentur; praeparentur ergo ad ministerium Verbi: ut verbum Dei revelatum semper melius intellegant, id meditantes possideant, lingua et moribus exprimant; ad ministerium cultus et sanctificationis: ut, orantes et sacras liturgiae celebrationes peragentes, opus salutis per Sacrificium Eucharisticum et Sacramenta exerceant; ad ministerium pastoris: ut sciant repraesentare hominibus Christum, qui non venit ut sibi ministraretur, sed ut ministraret et daret animam suam redemptionem pro multis,367 et ut, omnium facti servi, plures lucrifaciant 368».369

. At the same time it stresses that they are all directed to a specific pastoral end. This pastoral aim ensures that the human, spiritual and intellectual formation has certain precise content and characteristics; it also unifies and gives specificity to the whole formation of future priests.

Idemque Concilii decretum insistit in commendanda coniunctione quae vigeat oportet inter varios formationis aspectus: humanum, spiritualem, intellectualem; iis haud exceptis, quae ad propositum pastorale proprie pertinent. Ita finis pastoralis humanam et spiritalem formationem quibusdam instruit propriisque notis, quemadmodum unam facit et definitam institutionem eorum qui futuri sunt sacerdotes.

Like all other branches of formation, pastoral formation develops by means of mature reflection and practical application, and it is rooted in a spirit, which is the hinge of all and the force which stimulates it and makes it develop.

Formatio igitur pastoralis, sicut quaevis alia formatio enodatur per deliberationem plenam et activam applicationem, penitusque in spiritu insidet, qui omnium cardo et vis est, in progressionem impellens.

It needs to be studied therefore as the true and genuine theological discipline that it is; pastoral or practical theology. It is a scientific reflection on the Church as she is built up daily, by the power of the Spirit, in history; on the Church as the “universal sacrament of salvation,”[180] as a living sign and instrument of the salvation wrought by Christ through the word, the sacraments and the service of charity. Pastoral theology is not just an art. Nor is it a set of exhortations, experiences and methods. It is theological in its own right, because it receives from the faith the principles and criteria for the pastoral action of the Church in history, a Church that each day “begets” the Church herself, to quote the felicitous expression of the Venerable Bede: “Nam et Ecclesia quotidie gignit Ecclesiam.”[181] Among these principles and criteria, one that is specially important is that of the evangelical discernment of the socio - cultural and ecclesial situation in which the particular pastoral action has to be carried out.

Requiritur igitur studium verae certaeque disciplinae theologicae, seu Theologiae pastoralis vel practicae, quae docta esse debet consideratio Ecclesiae, prout cotidie per Spiritus vim intra historiam aedificatur; Ecclesiae itaque prout est «universale salutis sacramentum»,370 prout est signum et vivum instrumentum salutis in Christo Iesu, in Verbo, in Sacramento, in Caritatis ministerio. Non enim pastoralis navitas quaedam est ars vel congeries exhortationum, experientiarum, methodorum; suam habet theologicam dignitatem, quia a fide recipit principia atque agendi criteria, in actione pastorali Ecclesiae, decurrente saeculorum historia: illius videlicet Ecclesiae quae seipsam cotidie gignit, iuxta felicem elocutionem Sancti Bedae Venerabilis: «Ecclesia gignit quotidie Ecclesiam».371 Atque inter huiusmodi principia et criteria, praesertim illud responsum est, summi quidem momenti, quod evangelicum exercet discrimen rerum condicionis socialis et culturalis et ecclesialis, intra quam navitas pastoralis evolvitur.

The study of pastoral theology should throw light upon its practical application through involvement in certain pastoral services which the candidates to the priesthood should carry out, with a necessary progression and always in harmony with their other educational commitments. It is a question of pastoral “experiences,” which can come together in a real program of “pastoral training,” which can last a considerable amount of time and the usefulness of which will itself need to be checked in an orderly manner.

Studium autem theologiae pastoralis illuminare debet applicationem operativam, studiose adhibitis nonnullis ministeriis pastoralibus, quae vocati ad sacerdotium praestare debent per necessarios gradus, congruenter cum aliis muneribus formationis: loquimur de «experimentis» pastoralibus, quae confluere possunt in verum ac certum «tirocinium pastorale» per certum tempus extendendum et me- thodice accuratae aestimationi submittendum.

Pastoral study and action direct one to an inner source, which the work of formation will take care to guard and make good use of: This is the ever - deeper communion with the pastoral charity of Jesus, which - just as it was the principle and driving force of his salvific action - likewise, thanks to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of orders, should constitute the principle d driving force of the priestly ministry. It is a question of a type of formation meant not only to ensure scientific, pastoral competence and practical skill, but also and especially a way of being in communion with the very sentiments and behavior of Christ the good shepherd: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5).

Studium vero et pastoralis navitas remittunt ad interiorem fontem, quem ars educandi custodiendum et laudandum curabit: qui fons est communio in dies profundior cum caritate pastorali ipsius Iesu, quae, sicut principium exstitit ac vis totius operis eius salvifici, ita virtute Spiritus Sancti, qui in sacramento Ordinis effunditur, oportet constituat principium et vim ministerii presbyteralis. Haec est formatio, cuius non solum est suppeditare doctam artem pastoralem agendique peritiam, sed etiam, et quidem in primis confirmare et incrementis augere rationem illam qua vivit, coniunctim cum iisdem optionibus et placitis, quae Christus, bonus Pastor, amplexus est: «Hoc sentite in vobis, quod et in Christo Iesu».372

58. And so pastoral formation certainly cannot be reduced to a mere apprenticeship, aiming to make the candidate familiar with some pastoral techniques. The seminary which educates must seek really and truly to initiate the candidate into the sensitivity of being a shepherd, in the conscious and mature assumption of his responsibilities, in the interior habit of evaluating problems and establishing priorities and looking for solutions on the basis of honest motivations of faith and according to the theological demands inherent in pastoral work.

58. Si ita formatio pastoralis intellegitur, nequit profecto redigi ad tirocinii cuiusdam modum, quasi presbytero sufficiat familiarem sibi fecisse aliquam praxim pastoralem. Quod pro Seminario hic de educatione proponitur, veram suscipit initiationem ad pastoris sentiendi rationem, ita ut conscie et mature sua tueatur officia, discat etiam problemata perpendere, priora recte aestimare, idonea instrumenta et vias seligere; eaque omnia, perspectis fidei argumentis et theologicis necessitatibus ordinis etiam pastoralis.

Thanks to an initial and gradual experience of ministry, future priests will be able to be inserted into the living pastoral tradition of their particular church. They will learn to open the horizon of their mind and heart to the missionary dimension of the Church’s life. They will get practice in some initial forms of cooperation with one another and with the priests alongside whom they will be sent to work. These priests have a considerably important role, in union with the seminary program, in showing the candidates how they should go about pastoral work.

Sacerdotii candidati ipsi inseri poterunt in vivam traditionem pastoralem suae ipsorum Ecclesiae particularis per primum ministerii usum, quem gradatim sibi comparaverint, iique discent latiore ubique mente problemata metiri, ita ut prae oculis dimensionem missionariam totius vitae ecclesialis indesinenter habeant, seque exerceant in primis nonnullis formis consociatae operae inter se et etiam in adiuvandis sacerdotibus, quibus initio saltem destinati fuerint, quorum quidem est, coniunctim cum propositis Seminarii, gravem docere artem pastoralem.

When it comes to choosing places and services in which candidates can obtain their pastoral experience, the parish should be given particular importance[182] for it is a living cell of local and specialized pastoral work in which they will find themselves faced with the kind of problems they will meet in their future ministry. The synod fathers have proposed a number of concrete examples such as visits to the sick; caring for immigrants, refugees and nomads; and various social works which can be expressions of charitable zeal. Specifically, they write: “The priest must be a witness of the charity of Christ himself who ‘went about doing good’ (Acts 10:38). He must also be a visible sign of the solicitude of the Church who is mother and teacher. And given that man today is affected by so many hardships, especially those who are sunk in inhuman poverty, blind violence and unjust power, it is necessary that the man of God who is to be equipped for every good work (cf. 2 Tm. 3:17) should defend the rights and dignity of man. Nevertheless, he should be careful not to adopt false ideologies, nor should he forget, as he strives to promote its perfecting, that the only redemption of the world is that effected by the cross of Christ.”[183]

In seligendis locis et ministeriis aptis ad opus pastorale exercendum, cura peculiaris agenda erit de paroecia,373 quae prima veluti cellula vitalis est experimentorum quae «sectorialia» et specialia appellare solemus, in qua presbyteri primo occurrent peculiaribus futuri ministerii problematibus. Quorum synodales Patres concreta exempla praebuerunt, ut, v.g., aegrotorum imprimis visitationes, migrantium et exsulum necnon nomadum curam: caritatis studium, quod transfertur in multiplex opus sociale. Singillatim ii scripserunt: «Necesse est enim Presbyterum testem fieri caritatis ipsius Christi, qui pertransiit benefaciendo;374 presbyter etiam fieri debet signum visibile sollicitudinis Ecclesiae, quae Mater et Magistra est. Homo hodie tantis aerumnis affectus, praesertim is qui in sic dicto Tertio Mundo invenitur, paupertate inhumana, violentia caeca et iniusto mancipio obrutus est: oportet ideo quod vir Dei, ad omne opus bonum instructus,375 iura et dignitatem vindicet; caveat autem ne falsis ideologiis adhaereat, nec dum promovere intendit gloriam, obliviscatur mundum redemptum esse sola Christi cruce».376

These and other pastoral activities will teach the future priest to live out as a “service” his own mission of “authority” in the community, setting aside all attitudes of superiority or of exercising a power if it is not simply that which is justified by pastoral charity.

Harum et aliarum navitatum pastoralium cumulus gradatim efficit, ut qui futurus erit sacerdos vivat suam, «famulatus» instar, missionem «auctoritatis» in communitate, recedens ab omni iactantia, vel ab usu etiam potestatis, quippe qui nonnisi caritate pastorali iugiter probetur.

If the training is to be suitable, the different experiences which candidates for the priesthood have should assume a clear “ministerial” character and should be intimately linked with all the demands that befit preparation to the priesthood and (certainly not neglecting their studies) in relation to the services of the proclamation of the word, of worship and of leadership. These services can become a specific way of experiencing the ministries of lector, acolyte and deacon.

Ut congruens habeatur formatio, pernecesse est memoratorum sacerdotii petitorum variae experientiae sint omnino «ministeriales», intime scilicet cohaereant cum reliquis necessitatibus, quae institutionis presbyteralis sunt propriae, quaeque, nullo detrimento studiis illato, respiciunt ad ministerium nuntiandi Verbi et observandi cultus necnon munus praesidendi. Quae omnia contineri possunt concretis ministeriis Lectoris, Acolythi et Diaconi propriis.

59. Since pastoral action is destined by its very nature to enliven the Church, which is essentially “mystery,” “communion” and “mission,” pastoral formation should be aware of and should live these ecclesial aspects in the exercise of the ministry.

59. Quandoquidem pastoralis navitas suapte natura eo destinatur ut foveat Ecclesiam, quae essentialiter «mysterium» est, necnon «communio», et «missio», omnes hae Ecclesiae dimensiones erunt in exercendo ministerio agnoscendae et in vitam vertendae.

Of fundamental importance is awareness that the Church is a “mystery,” that is, a divine work, fruit of the Spirit of Christ, an effective sign of grace, the prescience of the Trinity in the Christian community. This awareness, while never lessening the pastor’s genuine sense of responsibility, will convince him that the Church grows thanks to the gratuitous work of the Spirit and that his service - thanks to the very grace of God that is entrusted to the free responsibility of man - is the Gospel service of the “unworthy servant” (cf. Lk. 17:10).

Hoc autem potissimum conscientia pro certo habet Ecclesiam esse «mysterium», opus scilicet divinum, Spiritus Christi fructum, efficax gratiae signum, Trinitatem in christiana communitate praesentem: quae conscientia, haudquaquam remissura officii sensum, qui proprius pastoris est, ei potius persuadebit incrementa Ecclesiae gratis a Spiritu dari propriumque pastoris ministerium — quod ex Dei gratia est libero atque responsali homini concreditum — idem illud esse evangelicum «servi inutilis» famulatum.377

Awareness of the Church as “communion” will prepare the candidate for the priesthood to carry out his pastoral work with a community spirit, in heartfelt cooperation with the different members of the Church: priests and bishop, diocesan and religious priests, priests and lay people. Such a cooperation presupposes a knowledge and appreciation of the different gifts and charisms, of the diverse vocations and responsibilities which the Spirit offers and entrusts to the members of Christ’s body. It demands a living and precise consciousness of one’s own identity in the Church and of the identity of others. It demands mutual trust, patience, gentleness and the capacity for understanding and expectation. It finds its roots above all in a love for the Church that is deeper than love for self and the group or groups one may belong to. It is particularly important to prepare future priests for cooperation with the laity. The Council says: “They should be willing to listen to lay people, give brotherly consideration to their wishes and recognize their experience and competence in the different fields of human activity. In this way they will be able to recognize with them the signs of the times.”[184] The recent synod too has insisted upon pastoral solicitude for the laity: “The student should become capable of proposing and introducing the lay faithful, the young especially, to the different vocations (marriage, social services, apostolate, ministries and other responsibilities in pastoral activity, the consecrated life, involvement in political and social leadership, scientific research, teaching). Above all it is necessary that he be able to teach and support the laity in their vocation to be present in and to transform the world with the light of the Gospel, by recognizing this task of theirs and showing respect for it.”[185]

Deinde conscium sibi esse Ecclesiae communionis candidatum aptum reddet ad navitatem communitatis exercendam, opera concorditer consociata cum aliis Ecclesiae operariis: episcopum cum presbyteris, sacerdotes dioecesanos cum religiosis, presbyteros cum laicis. At huiusmodi consociatio operae postulat notitiam et aestimationem diversorum donorum et charismatum, variarum vocationum et plurium officiorum, quae Spiritus offert et tradit Christi Corporis membris; exigit praeterea ut vivum atque perfectum habeat sensum suae identitatis atque aliorum in Ecclesia; indiget tandem mutua fiducia, patientia, comitate et habilitate ad intellegendum et exspectandum quid magis aliis placuerit. Eademque residet in Ecclesiae amore, qui vehementior sit quibuslibet aliis dilectionibus, sui ipsius imprimis vel sui coetus suaeque consociationis. Peculiaris denique momenti est praeparatio futurorum sacerdotum ad operam cum laicis consociandam, ita ut, iuxta Concilii monitum, «libenter audiant laicos, eorum desideria fraterne considerantes, eorumque experientiam et competentiam in diversis campis humanae actionis agnoscentes, ut simul cum ipsis signa temporum recognoscere queant».378 Etiam recentior Synodi Ordinarii Coetus sollicitudinem erga laicorum pastoralem navitatem sic exhibuit: «Alumnus capax efficiatur oportet ut christifidelibus laicis, praesertim iuvenibus, diversas vocationes (ad matrimonium, ad servitia aliis praestanda, ad apostolatum, ad ministeria et responsalitates in actione pastorali assumenda, ad vitam consecratam, ad rem politicam et socialem ducendam, ad investigandas scientias, ad docendum) sciat proponere, et ad ineundas allicere. Praesertim oportet illum valere laicos eorum vocationem ad mundum luce Evangelii perfundendum et transformandum docere, munus eorum agnoscentem eisque reservantem».379

Lastly, awareness of the Church as a “missionary” communion will help the candidate; for the priesthood to love and live the essential missionary dimension of the Church and her different pastoral activities. He should be open and available to all the possibilities offered today for the proclamation of the Gospel, not forgetting the valuable service which can and should be given by the media.[186] He should prepare himself for a ministry which may mean in practice that his readiness to follow the indications of the Holy Spirit and of his bishop will lead him to be sent to preach the Gospel even beyond the frontiers of his own country.[187]

Tandem conscientia Ecclesiae, prout communio «missionaria» est, vocatum ad sacerdotium eo ducet, ut amare ac vivere velit necessariam dimensionem missionalem Ecclesiae et certarum eiusdem navitatum pastoralium; ut sese scilicet apertum atque promptum exhibeat innumeris illis opportunitatibus quae Evangelio nuntiando ubique panduntur, non neglectis neve oblivioni datis iis occasionibus quae reperiri facillime poterunt in communicationis socialis instrumentis;380 ut tandem promptus atque interne paratus perseveret ad ea quae per Spiritum requirantur, et forte per episcopum, ut ad Evangelium ultra suae nationis terminos praedicandum mittatur.381

II. The Setting of Priestly Formation

II. De sacerdotalis formationis locis

The Major Seminary - A Formation Community

 

60. The need for the major seminary - and by analogy for the religious house - for the formation of candidates for priesthood, was affirmed with authority by the Second Vatican Council [188] and has been reaffirmed by the synod as follows: “The institution of the major seminary, as the best place for formation, is to be certainly reaffirmed as the normal place, in the material sense as well, for a community and hierarchical life, indeed as the proper home for the formation of candidates for the priesthood, with superiors who are truly dedicated to this service. This institution has produced many good results down the ages and continues to do so all over the world.”[189]

60. Seminarii maioris necessitas — et similis religiosae Domus — sacerdotii candidatos formandos, quam sua ipsius auctoritate Concilium Vaticanum II affirmandam censuit,382 rursus his verbis a Synodo est confirmata: «Institutio Seminarii maioris, sicut optimus formationis locus, certe iterum affirmanda est tamquam normale spatium, etiam materiale, vitae communitariae et hierarchicae, domus quidem propria pro formatione candidatorum sacerdotii, cum moderatoribus vere muneri dicatis. Haec institutio plurimos fructus in decursu saeculorum attulit et affert toto orbe».383

The seminary can be seen as a place and a period in life. But it is above all an educational community in progress: It is a community established by the bishop to offer to those called by the Lord to serve as apostles the possibility of re - living the experience of formation which our Lord provided for the Twelve. In fact, the Gospels present a prolonged and intimate sharing of life with Jesus as a necessary premise for the apostolic ministry. Such an experience demands of the Twelve the practice of detachment in a particularly clear and specific fashion, a detachment that in some way is demanded of all the disciples, a detachment from their roots, from their usual work, from their nearest and dearest (cf. Mk. 1:16-20; 10:28; Lk. 9:23, 57-62; 14:25-27). On several occasions we have referred to the Marcan tradition which stresses the deep link that unites the apostles to Christ and to one another: Before being sent out to preach and to heal, they are called “to be with him” (Mk. 3:14).

Seminarium quidem ut certum tempus certumque spatium apparet; sed praesertim se exhibet tanquam institutoriam communitatem progredientem: est enim communitas ab episcopo instituta, ut omnibus illis, qui sint a Domino vocati sicut Apostoli ad serviendum, facultatem conferre valeat illam repetendi institutoriam experientiam, quam Dominus Apostolis reservavit. Intima cum Iesu longa vitae consuetudo ex ipsis Evangeliis profertur tamquam praevia condicio ad apostolicum ministerium exercendum. Haec enim consuetudo a Duodecim exposcit, ut speciali cura clare et manifeste sese prorsus abducere velint sive ab originis locis sive a consueto labore, immo et a carissimis affectibus, quod quadam ratione omnibus discipulis proponitur.384 De Marci quidem traditione, quae in luce ponit illud cordis vinculum, quo Apostoli cum Christo coniunguntur et inter se, iam saepius locuti sumus: priusquam enim Dominus mitteret eos ad praedicandum et ad infirmitates sanandas, «vocavit eos ad se».385

In its deepest identity the seminary is called to be, in its own way, a continuation in the Church of the apostolic community gathered about Jesus, listening to his word, proceeding toward the Easter experience, awaiting the gift of the Spirit for the mission. Such an identity constitutes the normative ideal which stimulates the seminary in the many diverse forms and varied aspects which it assumes historically as a human institution, to find a concrete realization, faithful to the Gospel values from which it takes its inspiration and able to respond to the situations and needs of the times.

Natura igitur Seminarii est quasi quaedam in Ecclesia prosecutio apostolicae communitatis circa ipsum Iesum instantis, eius verbum audientis, paschalem versus experientiam progredientis, Spiritus donum pro missione expectantis. Talis natura tanquam perfectum exemplar exstat praescriptivum quod urget Seminarium inter diversas formas innumerasque vicissitudines quas, in quantum institutio est humana, historiae memorandas tradit ut se ipsum perficiat, erga illos evangelicos valores fidele, quibus adhaeret, et aptum ad respondendum temporum necessitatibus et condicionibus.

The seminary is, in itself, an original experience of the Church’s life. In it the bishop is present through the ministry of the rector and the service of co - responsibility and communion fostered by him with the other teachers, for the sake of the pastoral and apostolic growth of the students. The various members of the seminary community, gathered by the Spirit into a single brotherhood, cooperate, each according to his own gift in the growth of all in faith and charity so that they may prepare suitably for the priesthood and so prolong in the Church and in history the saving presence of Jesus Christ, the good shepherd.

Seminarium per se ipsum singularem ipsius Ecclesiae vitae experientiam exprimit: in eo enim Episcopus per rectoris ministerium praesens fit perque aliorum educatorum commune atque responsale servitium, ab ipso episcopo assidue animandum, ut discipuli ad congruam pastoralis atque apostolicae formationis maturitatem iugiter perveniant. Singula denique communitatis membra, in Seminario a Spiritu in fraterna unitate congregata, cooperantur unumquodque secundum suum ipsius donum, ut omnia in fide et caritate crescant seque ad sacerdotium suscipiendum digne et apte parent, et hinc ad producendam in Ecclesia et in historiae decursu salvificam Christi, boni Pastoris, praesentiam.

The human point of view, the major seminary should strive to become “a community built on deep friendship and charity so that it can be considered a true family living in joy.”[190] As a Christian institution, the seminary should become - as the synod fathers continue - an “ecclesial community,” a “community of the disciples of the Lord in which the one same liturgy (which imbues life with a spirit of prayer) is celebrated; a community molded daily in the reading and meditation of the word of God and with the sacrament of the Eucharist, and in the practice of fraternal charity and justice; a community in which, as its life and the life each of its members progresses, there shine forth the Spirit of Christ and love for the Church.”[191] This ecclesial aspect of the seminary is confirmed and concretized by the fathers when they add: “As an ecclesial community, be it diocesan or interdiocesan, or even religious, the seminary should nourish the meaning of communion between the candidates and their bishop and presbyterate, in such a way that they share in their hopes and anxieties and learn to extend this openness to the needs of the universal Church.”[192]

Pro sua humana specie Seminarium maius eo tendere debet ut fiat «communitas vinculata profunda amicitia et caritate ita ut considerari possit vera familia quae cum gaudio vitam ducit».386 Deinde sub christiano aspectu Seminarium sese conformare debet, ut docent synodales Patres, ad similitudinem «communitatis Ecclesialis»; fieri videlicet debet tanquam «communitas discipulorum Domini in qua eadem Liturgia celebratur — spiritus orationis in vitam ducitur —, formata quotidie in lectione et meditatione Dei verbi et Eucharistico Sacramento et in exercitio caritatis fraternae et iustitiae, in qua nempe in progressu vitae communitariae atque in praxi uniuscuiusque suorum membrorum, Spiritus Christi et amor erga Ecclesiam elucet».387 Ad ecclesialem denique vitam, Seminarii funditus propriam, confirmandam atque valide ad praxim deducendam, hoc synodales Patres docent: «Ut communitas ecclesialis, sive dioecesana sive interdioecesana, sive etiam religiosa, foveat sensum communionis candidatorum cum eorum Episcopo et Presbyterio, ita ut partem habeant in eorum spe et angoribus et sciant hanc aperturam ad necessitates Ecclesiae universae extendere».388

It is essential for the formation of candidates for the priesthood and the pastoral ministry, which by its very nature is ecclesial, that the seminary should be experienced not as something external and superficial, or simply a place in which to live and study, but in an interior and profound way. It should be experienced as a community, a specifically ecclesial community, a community that relives the experience of the group of Twelve who were united to Jesus.[193]

Ad formationem ergo assequendam candidatorum sacerdotii ministeriique pastoralis, quod est suapte natura ecclesiale, necesse omnino est, ut Seminarium non extrinseco modo nec levi sentiatur quasi habitationis studiorumque locus tantummodo, sed interiore et alto, tanquam communitas proprie ecclesialis, communitas scilicet quae experientiam renovat coetus Duodecim coniunctorum cum Iesu.389

61. The seminary is, therefore, an educational ecclesial community, indeed a particular educating community. And it is the specific goal which determines its physiognomy: the vocational accompanying of future priests, and therefore discernment of a vocation; the help to respond to it and the preparation to receive the sacrament of orders with its own graces and responsibilities, by which the priest is configured to Jesus Christ head and shepherd and is enabled and committed to share the mission of salvation in the church and in the world.

61. Seminarium est, igitur, quaedam institutoria communitas ecclesialis, immo peculiaris communitas educans. Ipse enim peculiaris finis naturalem eius figuram statuit: munus scilicet futurorum sacerdotum vocationes naviter sequendi, et inde aequum de singulis vocationibus iudicium ferendi, simulque necessarium praestandi auxilium, ut vocationi respondere valeant, necnon debitam praeparationem suppeditandi, ut ad sacramentum Ordinis suscipiendum accedere possint gratiarum propriis donis ditati suorumque officiorum conscii, quibus sacerdos Iesu Ecclesiae Capiti atque Pastori configuratur et informatur atque astringitur ad salvificam eius missionem in Ecclesia et in mundo communicandam.

Inasmuch as it is an educating community, the seminary and its entire life - in all its different expressions - is committed to formation, the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation of future priests. Although this formation has many aspects in common with the human and Christian formation of all the members of the Church, it has, nevertheless, contents, modalities and characteristics which relate specifically to the aim of preparation for the priesthood.

Integra Seminarii vita, qua communitas educans, in suis diversis ac plurimis formis, ad humanam, spiritualem, intellectualem et pastoralem futurorum presbyterorum formationem contendit: quae formatio, quamvis permulta habeat communia cum humana et christiana formatione omnium propria Ecclesiae membrorum, habet tamen res, formas, proprietates quae ex ipso persequendo fine originem ducunt, id est ex sacerdotali institutione.

The content and form of the educational work require that the seminary should have a precise program, a program of life characterized by its being organized and unified, by its being in harmony or correspondence with one aim which justifies the existence of the seminary: preparation of future priests.

Argumenta autem et formae muneris institutorii postulant ut Seminarium suam habeat rationem ordinatam, quoddam videlicet vivendi programma, quod authenticam sui naturam vere exprimere valeat, sive pro organica unitate, sive pro syntonia seu cohaerentia cum solo fine, qui ipsam probat Seminarii existentiam, futuros scilicet instituendi presbyteros.

In this regard, the synod fathers write: “As an educational community, (the seminary) should follow a clearly defined program which will have, as a characteristic, a unity of leadership expressed in the figure of the rector and his cooperators, a consistency in the ordering of life, formational activity and the fundamental demands of community life, which also involves the essential aspects of the task of formation. This program should be at the service of the specific finality which alone justify the existence of the seminary, and it should do so without hesitation or ambiguity. That aim is the formation of future priests, pastors of the Church.”[194]

Hac enim significatione synodales Patres scribunt: «Ut communitas educativa servire debet programmati clare definito quod, tanquam notam peculiarem, unitatem habeat directionis manifestatam in rectoris et cooperatorum figura, in cohaerentia ordinationis vitae et activitatis formativae et exigentiarum fundamentalium vitae communitariae quae etiam complectatur aspectus fundamentales officii formativi. Quod programma servire debet, sine haesitatione neque indeterminatione, finalitati specificae quae sola iustificat eius exsistentiam: formationi nempe futurorum presbyterorum, Ecclesiae pastorum».390

And in order to ensure that the programming is truly apt and effective, the fundamental outlines of the program will have to be translated into more concrete details, with the help of particular norms that are aimed at regulating community life, establishing certain precise instruments and timetables.

Exinde, ut ratio vere idonea sit atque efficax, oportet generalia lineamenta proposita traducantur ad singulas normas, quae ad communem vitam ordinandam magis spectent, quaedam instrumenta praescribendo certosque temporis rhythmos definiendo.

A further aspect is to be stressed here: The educational work is by its nature an accompanying of specific individual persons who are proceeding to a choice of and commitment to precise ideals of life. For this very reason, the work of education should be able to bring together into a harmonious whole a clear statement of the goal to be achieved, the requirement that candidates proceed seriously toward the goal, and third, attention to the “journeyer,” that is, the individual person who is embarked on this adventure, and therefore attention to a series of situations, problems, difficulties and different rates of progress and growth. This requires a wise flexibility. And this does not mean compromising, either as regards values or as regards the conscious and free commitment of the candidates. What it does mean is a true love and a sincere respect for the person who, in conditions which are very personal, is proceeding toward the priesthood. This applies not only to individual candidates, but also to the diverse social and cultural contexts in which seminaries exist and to the different life histories which they have. In this sense the educational work requires continual renewal. The synod fathers have brought this out forcefully also when speaking about the structure of seminaries: “Without questioning the validity of the classical forms of seminaries, the synod desires that the work of consultation of the episcopal conferences on the present - day needs of formation should proceed as is established in the decree Optatam Totius (no. 1), and in the 1967 synod. The rationes of the different nations or rites should be revised where opportune whether on the occasion of requests made by the episcopal conferences or in relation to apostolic visitations of the seminaries of different countries, in order to bring into them diverse forms of formation that have proved successful, as well as to respond to the needs of people with so - called indigenous cultures, the needs of the vocations of adult men and the needs of vocations for the missions, etc.”[195]

Sed et alius aspectus hic est notandus: opus educandi, suapte natura, quaedam est personarum historicarum prosecutio, quae ad optionem procedunt illius vitae formae, cui adhaerere cupiunt. Hac quidem de causa necesse est, ut educandi opus convenienter conciliet clarum propositum ad finem perveniendi, exhortationem studiose ad eundem finem procedendi simul ac attentam curam in «viatorem», seu in verum subiectum huic incepto intentum, id est in vicissitudinum et problematum ac difficultatum seriem, ideoque condicionum, problematum, difficultatum, rhythmorum itineris et auctus. Hoc sane sapientem exigit agilitatem ingenii animique lenitatem, quae ne minimum quidem de moralibus bonis deque ullius conscientiae ac libertatis obligationibus quandam ostendunt compromissi significationem, sed verum amorem et obsequium erga iter facientem ad sacerdotium ipsius spectatis condicionibus propriis. Sed hoc non ad singulam tantum personam, sed etiam sive ad sociales et culturales diversos contextus, inter quos Seminaria vitam agunt, et diversam eorum historiam respicit. Hoc autem sensu institutorium opus continuam renovandi actionem exigit; quod synodales quoque Patres lucide animadverterunt, praesertim pro Seminarii conformatione: «Probata validitate formarum classicarum Seminarii, Synodus desiderat ut labor consultationis Conferentiarum Episcopalium de necessitatibus hodiernis formationis prosequatur sicut statutum est in Decreto “Optatam Totius”391 et in Synodo anni 1967. Recognoscantur opportune Rationes pro singulis nationibus vel ritibus tum occasione petitionum a Conferentiis episcopalibus factarum, tum in visitationibus apostolicis in Seminaria diversarum nationum, ad integrandas in illas diversas formas formationis probatas quae respondere debent necessitatibus populorum culturae sic dictae indigenae, vocationum virorum adultorum, vocationum ad missiones, etc.».392

62. The purpose and specific educational form of the major seminary demand that candidates for the priesthood have a certain prior preparation before entering it. Such preparation, at least until a few decades ago, did not create particular problems. In those days most candidates to the priesthood came from minor seminaries, and the Christian life of the community offered all, in general, a suitable Christian instruction and education.

62. Finis educandi et peculiaris configuratio Seminarii maioris postulat ut vocati ad sacerdotium eo accedant praevia quadam adhibita praeparatione. Huiusmodi autem praeparatio graviora problemata minime ponebat, usque saltem aliquod abhinc decennium, illis scilicet anteactis temporibus cum candidati sacerdotii ex minoribus Seminariis plerumque proveniebant et ipsa christiana ecclesialium communitatum vita sat congrua christianae doctrinae atque institutionis adiumenta omnibus communiter facileque praebebat.

The situation in many places has changed. There is a considerable discrepancy between - on the one hand - the style of life and basic preparation of boys, adolescents and young men, even when they are Christians and at times have been involved in Church life, and - on the other hand - the style of life of the seminary with its formational demands.

Rerum condiciones multorum locorum commutatae sunt; magna enim datur discrepantia inter, ex una parte, vivendi rationem et primigeniam puerorum, adulescentium, iuvenum praeparationem — quamvis christiani sint iidemque ipsius interdum Ecclesialis vitae sincere et plene participantes fiant — ex altera autem parte peculiare Seminarii genus vivendi eiusdemque formandi necessitates.

In this context, together with the synod fathers I ask that there be a sufficient period of preparation prior to seminary formation: “It is a good thing that there be a period of human, Christian, intellectual and spiritual preparation for the candidates to the major seminary. These candidates should, however, have certain qualities: a right intention, a sufficient degree of human maturity, a sufficiently broad knowledge of the doctrine of the faith, some introduction into the methods of prayer and behavior in conformity with Christian tradition. They should also have attitudes proper to their regions, through which they can express their effort to find God and the faith (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, no. 48).”[196]

In hoc rerum contextu in communione cum synodalibus Patribus expostulandum Nobis videtur, ut certum temporis spatium ad peridoneam efficiendam praeparationem statuatur, quae Seminarii formationem praecedat: «Utile videtur haberi periodus praeparationis humanae, christianae, intellectualis et spiritualis pro candidatis Seminarii maioris. Hi vero candidati aptas peculiaritates habere debent: rectam nempe intentionem, gradum sufficientem maturitatis humanae, cognitionem sat amplam doctrinae fidei, quandam introductionem in orationis methodos atque mores traditioni christianae conformes. Habitudines etiam habeant proprias suarum regionum, per quas exprimitur conatus inveniendi Deum et fidem».393

The “sufficiently broad knowledge of the doctrine of the faith” which the synod fathers mention is a primary condition for theology. It simply is not possible to develop an “intelligentia fidei” (an understanding of he faith), if the content of the “fides” is not known. Such a gap can be filled more easily when the forthcoming Universal Catechism appears.

«Sat ampla cognitio doctrinae fidei de qua synodales Patres loquuntur, ante theologiam postulatur: evolvi, enim, nequit intellegentia fidei, si quod in ipsa fide continetur prorsus ignoratur. Huiusmodi autem lacunam proxima Catechismi universalis editio facilius explere poterit.

While there is increasing consensus regarding the need for preparation prior to the major seminary, there are different ideas as to what such preparation should contain and what its characteristics should be: Should it be directed mainly to spiritual formation to discern the vocation or to intellectual and cultural formation? On the other hand, we cannot overlook the many and deep diversities that exist, not only among the individual candidates but also in the different regions and countries. This implies the need for a period of study and experimentation in order to define as clearly and suitably as possible the different elements of this prior preparation or “propaedeutic period”: the duration, place, form, subject matter of this period, all of which will have to be coordinated with the subsequent years of formation offered by the seminary.

Dum, igitur, commune fit iudicium de huius praeparationis necessitate priusquam Seminarii maioris initium fiat, diversa quaedam exoritur aestimatio sive de eius intima praestantia sive de eius peculiaribus notis de praevalenti scilicet fine assequendo, utrum formationis spiritualis, pro radicitus discernenda vocatione, an formationis intellectualis et culturalis. Ceterum multae et profundae diversitates, non solum pro singulis candidatis, sed etiam pro variis regionibus et civitatibus exstant, quae non sunt omnino praetereundae. Hoc sane hortatur, ut et meditandi et probandi temporis adhuc spatium habeatur, quo haec praevia praeparatio — seu, ut vocant, periodus propedeutica — aptius ac expressius definiri possit pro suorum elementorum varietate: tempus, locus et forma sunt specialia themata huius periodi, quae, tamen, cum subsequentibus formationis annis in Seminario componenda est.

In this sense I take up and propose to the Congregation for Catholic Education a request expressed by the synod fathers: “The synod asks that the Congregation for Catholic Education gather all the information on experiments of such initial formation that have been done or are being done. At a suitable time, the congregation is requested to communicate its findings on this matter to the episcopal conferences.”[197]

Hoc igitur sensu compositam a synodalibus Patribus postulationem sumimus et denuo Congregationi de Institutione Catholica proponimus: «Synodus exoptat ut Congregatio de Institutione Catholica omnes informationes colligere possit circa incepta transacta et praesentia. Tempore opportuno, ipsa Congregatio Conferentiis episcopalibus informationes hac in materia communicet».394

The Minor Seminary and Other Forms of Fostering Vocations

 

63. As long experience shows, a priestly vocation tends to show itself in the preadolescent years or in the earliest years of youth. Even in people who decide to enter the seminary later on it is not infrequent to find that God’s call had been perceived much earlier. The Church’s history gives constant witness of calls which the Lord directs to people of tender age. St. Thomas, for example, explains Jesus’ special love for St. John the Apostle “because of his tender age” and draws the following conclusion: “This explains that God loves in a special way those who give themselves to his service from their earliest youth.”[198]

63. Large probata experientia docet sacerdotalem vocationem primum suum habere sese saepius revelandi momentum ipsa iam pueritia volvente vel iuventute ineunte: immo vel in quibusdam eorum, qui maturiore aetate in Seminarium ingredi decernunt, rarum non est, ut agnoscatur Dei vocationem valde anterioribus periodis iam praesentem fuisse. Ipsa Ecclesiae historia velut perenne vocationum testimonium exstat, quas iam tenerae aetati Dominus effuse concedere voluit. Sanctus Thomas, exempli gratia, Iesu dilectionem in Ioannem apostolum explanat dicens: «Ob tenellam aetatem»; et hanc conclusionem inducit: «Hoc nos certiores facit de ratione qua Deus peculiari modo diligat eos qui ab ineunte aetate eius famulati se dedant».395

The Church looks after these seeds of vocations sown in the hearts of children by means of the institution of minor seminaries, providing a careful though preliminary discernment and accompaniment.

De his igitur vocationis germinibus in puerorum cordibus seminatis Ecclesia sollertem curam adhibet per Seminariorum minorum institutionem, et initialem discretionem et observantiam.

In a number of parts of the world, these seminaries continue to carry out a valuable educational work, the aim of which is to protect and develop the seeds of a priestly vocation so that the students may more easily recognize it and be in a better position to respond to it. The educational goal of such seminaries tends to favor in a timely and gradual way the human, cultural and spiritual formation which will lead the young person to embark on the path of the major seminary with an adequate and solid foundation.

Haec autem Seminaria in multis orbis terrarum locis pretiosam educandi operam exsequi pergunt, spectantem ad sacerdotalis vocationis germina custodienda eademque fovenda, quo discipuli postea facilius eam agnoscere valeant fiantque aptiores ad eam sequendam. Illorum enim institutorium propositum contendit ad hoc, ut in tempore ac per gradus illi humanae, culturali et spirituali formationi favere possit, quae iuvenem ad vocationis ineundum iter inducat in Seminario maiore, iustis atque solidioribus fundamentis actis.

“To be prepared to follow Christ the Redeemer with generous souls and pure hearts”: This is the purpose of the minor seminary as indicated by the Council in the decree Optatam Totius, which thus outlines its educational aspect: The students “under the fatherly supervision of the superiors - the parents too playing their appropriate part - should lead lives suited to the age, mentality and development of young people. Their way of life should be fully in keeping with the standards of sound psychology and should include suitable experience of the ordinary affairs of daily life and contact with their own families.”[199]

«Ad Christum Redemptorem generoso animo et puro corde sequendum»: hoc est Seminarii minoris propositum, quod in Concilii decreto «Optatam Totius» legimus, ubi sic educandi aspectus describitur: discipuli «sub paterno superiorum moderamine, parentibus opportune cooperantibus, vitam ducant quae adulescentium aetati, spiritui et evolutioni conveniat et sanae psychologiae normis plene aptetur, congrua rerum humanarum experientia et consuetudine cum propria familia non praetermissis».396

The minor seminary can also be in the diocese a reference point for vocation work, with suitable forms of welcome and the offering of opportunities for information to adolescents who are looking into the possibility of a vocation or who, having already made up their mind to follow their vocation, have to delay entry into the seminary for various family or educational reasons.

Seminaria minora etiam sedes fieri possunt ad servitium Dioeceseos per opportunas formas receptionis et praebitionis occasionum monitoriarum pro iis pueris, qui de vocatione inquirunt vel qui, iam ad eam sequendam parati, ingressum in Seminarium differre obstringuntur ob familiaria vel scholarum adiuncta.

64. In those cases where it is not possible to run minor seminaries (which “in many regions seem necessary and very useful”), other “institutions” need to be provided, as for example vocational groups for adolescents and young people.[200] While they lack the quality of permanence, such groups can offer a systematic guide, in a community context, with which to check the existence and development of vocations. While such young people live at home and take part in the activities of the Christian community which helps them along the path of formation, they should not be left alone. They need a particular group or community to refer to and where they can find support to follow through the specific vocational journey which the gift of the Holy Spirit has initiated in them.

64. Si forte in Seminario minore — quod «multis in regionibus necessarium videtur atque admodum utile» — propositum hoc ad effectum nequeat adduci, providere oportet ut alia apparentur «instituta»,397 sicut, verbi gratia, esse possunt «vocationum fovendarum sodalitates sive pro adulescentibus sive pro iuvenibus». Huiusmodi vero sodalitates, quamvis permanentes esse nequeant, validum, tamen, in ipso communitatis contextu ordinatum ductum offerre valebunt ad vocationem agnoscendam et maturandam. Licet in familia vitam degant simulque christianam communitatem frequentent, quae iis vocationis viam persequentibus opportuna adiumenta suppeditare potest, tamen adulescentes isti ac iuvenes soli non sunt relinquendi. Proinde his omnino necesse est, ut specialis habeatur sodalitas vel communitas, quam adire possint cuique adniti, ut illud specificum vocationis itinerarium, quod Spiritus Sancti donum in iis incepit, explere valeant.

We should also mention the phenomenon of priestly vocations arising among people of adult age after some years of experience of lay life and professional involvement. This phenomenon, while not new in the Church’s history, at present appears with some novel features and with a certain frequency. It is not always possible and often it is not even convenient to invite adults to follow the educative itinerary of the major seminary. Rather, after a careful discernment of the genuineness of such vocations, what needs to be provided is some kind of specific program to accompany them with formation in order to ensure, bearing in mind all the suitable adaptations, that such persons receive the spiritual and intellectual formation they require. A suitable relationship with other candidates to the priesthood and periods spent in the community of the major seminary can be a way of guaranteeing that these vocations are fully inserted in the one presbyterate and are in intimate and heartfelt communion with it.[201]

Quod in Ecclesiae historia inde ab antiquis temporibus semper evenit, hoc, et notis quibusdam confortantis novitatis adiunctis et frequentius quoque hac nostra aetate evenire pergit: insigne scilicet illarum sacerdotalium vocationum donum, quae, adulta iam aetate, post plus minusve productam laicalis vitae vel professionalis officii experientiam, ad maturitatem perveniunt. Attamen nec semper possibile nec semper conveniens est adultos exhortari, ut illud educationis itinerarium sequantur, quod in Seminario maiore habetur. Providendum, igitur, potius est ut, de harum vocationum sinceritate attento animo examine exacto, specifica quaedam easdem vocationes sequendi forma instituatur, qua, aliquibus aptationibus peropportune allatis, necessaria sive spiritualis sive intellectualis formatio iis praestari possit.398 Mutuae denique relationes cum aliis sacerdotii candidatis, necnon periodicae praesentiae in Seminarii maioris communitate, de plena harum vocationum insertione in unicum presbyterium deque earum cum ipso intima atque fraterna communione spondere valebunt.

III. The Agents of Priestly Formation

III. De praecipuis sacerdotalis formationis auctoribus

The Church and the Bishop

 

65. Given that the formation of candidates for the priesthood belongs to the Church’s pastoral care of vocations, it must be said that the Church as such is the communal subject which has the grace and responsibility to accompany those whom the Lord calls to become his ministers in the priesthood.

65. Cum opus formandi sacerdotii candidatos ad Ecclesiae pastoralem vocationum actionem pertineat, sane dicendum est Ecclesiam, qua talem, communitarium esse subiectum, quod gratiam et auctoritatem habet illos omnes sequendi, quos Dominus ipse vocat, ut sui ministri in sacerdotio fiant.

In this sense the appreciation of the mystery of the Church helps us to establish more precisely the place and role which her different members have - be it individually or as members of a body - in the formation of candidates for the priesthood.

Hoc igitur sensu ipsa Ecclesiae mysterii meditatio auxilium praebet ad varia status munerumque genera aptius definienda, quae eius diversa membra, sive singulatim sive ut corporis membra, habere debent in candidatorum presbyteratus formatione ducenda.

The Church is by her very nature the “memorial” or “sacrament” of the presence and action of Jesus Christ in our midst and on our behalf. The call to the priesthood depends on his saving presence: not only the call, but also the accompanying so that the person called can recognize the Lord’s grace and respond to it freely and lovingly. It is the Spirit of Jesus that throws light on and gives strength to vocational discernment and the journey to the priesthood. So we can say that there cannot exist any genuine formational work for the priesthood without the influence of the Spirit of Christ. Everyone involved in the work of formation should be fully aware of this. How can we fail to appreciate this utterly gratuitous and completely effective “resource,” which has its own decisive “weight” in the effort to train people for the priesthood? How can we not rejoice when we consider the dignity of every human being involved in formation, who for the candidate to the priesthood becomes, as it were, the visible representative of Christ? If training for the priesthood is, as it should be, essentially the preparation of future “shepherds” in the likeness of Jesus Christ the good shepherd, who better than Jesus himself, through the outpouring of his Spirit, can give them and fully develop in them that pastoral charity which he himself lived to the point of total self - giving (cf. Jn. 15:13; 10:11) and which he wishes all priests to live in their turn?

Nam Ecclesia, suapte natura, «memoria» est et «sacramentum» ipsius Christi praesentiae eiusque actionis inter nos et ad nos; atque salvificae eiusdem praesentiae vocatio ad sacerdotium debetur: immo non solum vocatio debetur, sed ipsa quoque sequendi ratio, ita ut qui vocatur et Domini gratiam agnoscere et libertate atque amore ei respondere valeat. Ipse deinde Iesu Spiritus lucem fert virtutemque donat in vocatione decernenda inque huius itinerario sequendo. Conferri, igitur, nequit authenticum formandi opus ad sacerdotium, nisi Christi Spiritus influxu. Cuius rei plene conscius esse debet quisque hominum formator. Quis enim in hac re agnoscere nequeat tantum consistere «auxilium», penitus gratis datum atque summopere efficax, quod potissimum «pondus» habet in munere ad sacerdotium formationis explendo? Immo, quis non gaudeat coram cuiusque hominum formatoris dignitate, qua visibiliter quodam modo configuratur ipsius Christi vicarius pro candidato sacerdotii? Si opus, igitur, formandi ad sacerdotium essentialiter est futuri «pastoris» praeparatio secundum Iesu Christi, Pastoris boni, imaginem, quis aptius quam ipse Iesus, per sui Spiritus effusionem, conferre potest eandem illam pastoralem caritatem, ex qua ipse usque ad plenum sui donum vixit 399 et ex qua vult ut omnes quoque presbyteri similiter vivant?

The first representative of Christ in priestly formation is the bishop. What Mark the evangelist tells us, in the text we have already quoted more than once, can be applied to the bishop, to every bishop: “He called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him. And he appointed twelve to be with him, and to be sent out” (Mk. 3:13-14). The truth is that the interior call of the Spirit needs to be recognized as the authentic call of the bishop. Just as all can “go” to the bishop, because he is shepherd and father to all, his priests who share with him the one priesthood and ministry can do so in a special way: The bishop, the Council tell us should consider them and treat them as “brothers” and friends.”[202] By analogy the same can be said of those who are preparing for the priesthood. As for “being with him,” with the bishop, the bishop should make a point of visiting them often and in some way “being” with them as a way of giving significant expression to his responsibility for the formation of candidates for the priesthood.

Episcopus est primus, qui in sacerdotali agenda formatione Christum repraesentat. De episcopo, de quolibet episcopo, verba dici possunt, quae apud Marcum leguntur, quaeque saepe iam rettulimus: «Vocavit ad se quos voluit; et venerunt ad eum. Et fecit ut essent Duodecim cum illo; et ut mitteret...».400 Proinde interior Spiritus vocatio necesse est agnoscatur ut authentica episcopi vocatio. Si omnes adire episcopum possunt, quia Pastor est omniumque Pater, omnes quoque praesertim eius presbyteri, ex hoc quod una cum eo unum idemque sacerdotium et ministerium participant, eum adire possunt: Episcopus — hortatur Concilium — «ut fratres et amicos» suos habeat presbyteros.401 Quod eadem ratione de omnibus est dicendum, qui ad sacerdotium ineundum sese parant. Quod vero ad illud attinet «esse cum eo», cum episcopo, mire et egregie significatur episcopi auctoritatis momentum eiusque proprium illud officium respondendi de candidatorum sacerdotii formatione, saepius scilicet eos visitando et aliquo modo «cum iis manendo».

The presence of the bishop is especially valuable, not only because it helps the seminary community live its insertion in the particular church and its communion with the pastor who guides it, but also because verifies and encourages the pastoral purpose which is what specifies the entire formation of candidates for the priesthood. In particular, with his presence and by his sharing with candidates for the priesthood all that has to do with the pastoral progress of the particular church, the bishop offers a fundamental contribution to formation in the “sensus ecclesiae,” as a central spiritual and pastoral value in the exercise of the priestly ministry.

Episcopi praesentiae peculiaris consideratio tribuenda est non solum quia Seminarii communitati auxilium praebet, ut suam in Ecclesia particulari insertionem vivat suamque communionem cum Pastore, qui eam ducit, sed etiam quia finem ipsum pastoralem confirmat et vivificat qui primarium locum habet in integra ducenda candidatorum sacerdotii formatione. Praesertim, denique, sua praesentia suaque cum candidatis sacerdotii participatione eorum omnium operationum, quae ad pastorale Ecclesiae particularis itinerarium spectant, episcopus maximum confert auxilium ad «sensum Ecclesiae» maturandum, qui ut vere eximius spiritualis et pastoralis valor, velut quoddam centrum, constituit in ministerio sacerdotali exercendo.

The Seminary as an Educational Community

 

66. The educational community of the seminary is built round the various people involved in formation: the rector, the spiritual father or spiritual director, the superiors and professors. These people should feel profoundly united to the bishop, whom they represent in their different roles and in various ways. They should also maintain among themselves a frank and genuine communion. The unity of the educators not only helps the educational program to be put into practice properly, but also and above all it offers candidates for the priesthood a significant example and a practical introduction to that ecclesial communion which is a fundamental value of Christian living and of the pastoral ministry.

66. Seminarii institutoria communitas plurium formatorum evolvitur opera: directoris seu patris spiritualis, superiorum et professorum. Hi omnes se sentiant oportet funditus cum episcopo coniunctos, quem diversa ratione variisque modis repraesentant, simulque inter se sinceram ac benignam communionem foveant atque fraternam cooperationem: hic enim inter educatores unitatis spiritus non solum omnia educationis proposita ad iustum effectum facilius adducere potest, sed etiam, ac praesertim, candidatis sacerdotii prorsus significans exemplum praebet verumque initium ad illam participandam ecclesialem communionem, quae certum ac potissimum vitae christianae et pastoralis ministerii fundamentum constituit.

It is evident that much of the effectiveness of the training offered depends on the maturity and strength of personality of those entrusted with formation, both from the human and from the Gospel points of view. And so it is especially important both to select them carefully and to encourage them to become ever more suitable for carrying out the task entrusted to them. The synod fathers were very aware that the future of the preparation of candidates for the priesthood depends on the choice and formation of those entrusted with the work of formation, and so they describe at length the qualities sought for in them. Specifically they wrote: “The task of formation of candidates for the priesthood requires not only a certain special preparation of those to whom this work is entrusted, one that is professional, pedagogical, spiritual, human and theological, but also a spirit of communion and of cooperating together to carry out the program, so that the unity of the pastoral action of the seminary is always maintained under the leadership of the rector. The body of formation personnel should witness to a truly evangelical lifestyle and total dedication to the Lord. It should enjoy a certain stability, and its members as a rule should live in the seminary community. They should be intimately joined to the bishop, who is the first one responsible for the formation of the priests.”[203]

Manifestum est magnam formationis efficaciae partem a formatorum matura validaque persona exoriri sub aspectu cum humano tum evangelico. Propterea summi momenti est tam diligenter formatores seligere quam eos incitare, ut constanter fiant et instantius aptiores ad mandatum implendum. Proinde synodales Patres penitus conscii in formatorum selectione eorumque formatione plane consistere ipsam futuram praeparationem candidatorum sacerdotii, diutius commorati sunt in formatorum identitate accurate definienda. Haec autem specialiter scripserunt: «Labor formationis candidatorum sacerdotii certe exigit non solum quandam specialem formatorum praeparationem, vere technicam, paedagogicam, spiritualem, humanam et theologicam, sed etiam spiritum communionis et collaborationis in unitate pro programmate evolvendo, ut semper unitas salvetur in actione pastorali Seminarii sub ductu rectoris. Coetus formatorum testis sit vitae vere evangelicae et totalis Domino deditionis. Quadam stabilitate gaudeat et residentiam habitualem in communitate Seminarii habeat oportet. Cum Episcopo intimius coniungatur, uti primo formationis sacerdotum responsali».402

The bishops first of all should feel their grave responsibility for the formation of those who have been given the task of educating future priests. For this ministry, priests of exemplary life should be chosen, men with a number of qualities: “human and spiritual maturity, pastoral experience, professional competence, stability in their own vocation, a capacity to work with others, serious preparation in those human sciences (psychology especially) which relate to their office, a knowledge of how to work in groups.”[204]

Primi episcopi plenum suae responsalitatis sensum alere debent pro eorum formatione, qui futuros presbyteros educandi munus sumpturi sunt. Ad hoc vero adimplendum munus illi eligendi sunt sacerdotes, qui sobrietate vitae sint noti variisque praediti virtutibus: habere debent «maturitatem humanam et spiritualem, experientiam pastoralem, competentiam professionalem, stabilitatem in propria vocatione, capacitatem ad collaborationem, praeparationem doctrinalem in scientiis humanis (praesertim in psychologia) muneri correspondentem, et cognitionem modorum cooperandi in coetibus».403

While safeguarding the distinctions between internal and external forum, and maintaining a suitable freedom in the choice of confessors and the prudence and discretion which should be a feature of the ministry of the spiritual director, the priestly community of teachers should feel united in the responsibility of educating candidates for the priesthood. It is their duty, always with regard to the authoritative evaluation made by the bishop and the rector together, to foster and verify in the first place the suitability of the candidates in regard to their spiritual, human and intellectual endowments, above all in regard to their spirit of prayer, their deep assimilation of the doctrine of the faith, their capacity for true fraternity and the charism of celibacy.[205]

Servata inter forum internum et forum externum distinctione, simul et opportuna libertate confessorem deligendi et prudentia ac discretione, quae proprie ad ministerium directionis spiritualis spectant, tota presbyteralis educatorum communitas unanima consensione suam sumat responsalitatis partem in candidatos sacerdotii educandi munere. Ad eam enim ante omnia, servato tamen auctoritatis Episcopi et Rectoris iudicio, munus spectat candidatorum idoneitatem provehendi atque cognoscendi sive de spiritualibus, humanis et mentis eorum dotibus, sive praesertim de pietatis spiritu, de acquirenda fidei doctrina, de zelo pro sincera fraternitate fovenda deque caelibatus charismate.404

Bearing in mind (as the synod fathers have indeed done) the indications of the exhortation Christifideles Laici[206] and of the apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem, which stress the suitability of a healthy influence of lay spirituality and of the charism of femininity in every educational itinerary, it is worthwhile to involve, in ways that are prudent and adapted to the different cultural contexts, the cooperation also of lay faithful, both men and women, in the work of training future priests. They are to be selected with care, within the framework of Church laws and according to their particular charisms and proven competence. We can expect beneficial fruits from their cooperation, provided it is suitably coordinated and integrated in the primary educational responsibilities of those entrusted with the formation of future priests, fruits for a balanced growth of the sense of the Church and a more precise perception of what it is to be a priest on the part of the candidates to the priesthood.[207]

Praeterea, debita consideratione habita de monitis — de quibus etiam synodales Patres mentionem fecerunt — sive ex Adhortatione «Christifideles Laici» sive ex Epistula Apostolica «Mulieris Dignitatem» relatis,405 quae sani influxus utilitatem detegunt ex laicali spiritualitate et ex muliebri charismate in omni educationis itinerario, implicare opportunum videtur, debitis nempe prudentiae formis statutis et ad varios culturae contextus accommodatis, fidelium quoque laicorum, virorum et mulierum cooperationem in futurorum sacerdotum formatione efficienda. Accurate igitur sunt eligendi in Ecclesiae legum provincia et secundum eorum charismata atque probatas competentias. Ex eorum denique consociata opera, opportune coordinata et integrata ad primarias formatorum responsalitates sumendas in futurorum presbyterorum formatione exsequenda, beneficos fructus licet exspectare pro aequo Ecclesiae sensus incremento proque certiore suae uniuscuiusque sacerdotalis identitatis perceptione maturanda in ipsis candidatis presbyteratus.406

The Professors of Theology

 

67. Those who by their teaching of theology introduce future priests to sacred doctrine and accompany them in it have a particular educational responsibility. Experience teaches that they often have a greater influence on the development of the priest’s personality than other educators.

67. Omnes qui futuros sacerdotes in sacram doctrinam introducunt eosque sequuntur, peculiarem eos ipsos educandi responsalitatem sumunt, quam ex experientia, presbyterali evolvente persona, firmiorem novimus esse quam aliorum educatorum.

The responsibility of the teachers of theology will lead them, even before they consider the teaching relationship they are to establish with candidates for the priesthood, to look into the concept they themselves should have of the nature of theology and the priestly, ministry, and also of the spirit and style in which they should carry out their teaching of theology. In this sense the synod fathers have rightly affirmed that “the theologian must never forget that as a teacher he is not presenting his personal doctrines but opening to and communicating to others the understanding of the faith, in the last analysis in the name of the Lord and his Church. In such a way, the theologian, using all the methods and techniques provided by his science, carries out his task at the mandate of the Church and cooperates with the bishop in his task of teaching. Since theologians and bishops are at the service of the Church herself in promoting the faith, they should develop and foster trust in each other and, in this spirit, overcome tensions and conflicts (for fuller treatment, cf. Instruction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on The Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian).”[208]

Theologiam docentium responsalitas, potius quam doctrinales rationes respicere cum candidatis sacerdotii, notionem spectare debet, quae ab iisdem ipsis habenda est de theologiae natura deque sacerdotali ministerio, sicut de spiritu stiloque, prout ipsa theologicae doctrinae institutio postulat. Secundum hunc sensum Synodales Patres sic recte declaraverunt: «Theologus sibi conscius remanere debet, se docendo, non ex suis sumere sed intellectum fidei ultimatim nomine Domini et Ecclesiae aperire et communicare. Hoc modo theologus, non obstante usu omnium possibilitatum scientificarum, de mandato Ecclesiae suum munus exercet et cum Episcopo in munere docendi collaborat. Quia theologi et Episcopi in servitium eiusdem Ecclesiae ad fidem promovendam sunt, confidentiam reciprocam efformare et colere, et in hoc spiritu etiam tensiones et conflictus superare debent407».408

The teacher of theology, like any other teacher, should remain in communion and sincerely cooperate with all the other people who are involved in the formation of future priests and offer with scientific precision, generosity, humility and enthusiasm his own original and expert contribution, which is not simply the communication of doctrine - even though it be sacred doctrine - but is above all the presentation of the point of view which unifies, in the plan of God, all the different branches of human knowledge and the various expressions of life.

Qui theologiam docet, velut quivis alius educator, in communione manere et cooperari debet cum omnibus aliis personis in futuris sacerdotibus formandis deditis, simulque, scientifica probata ratione, generoso et humili et caritate flagranti animo singularem et qualificatam operam suam praestare debet, quae non tantum in quadam communicanda doctrina consistit — quamvis sit sacra doctrina — sed praesertim oblatio est prospectus in unum redigentis, diversas omnes humanas disciplinas variasque vitae expressiones.

In particular, the formative effect of the teachers of theology will depend, above all, on whether they are “men of faith who are full of love for the Church, convinced that the one who really knows the Christian mystery is the Church as such and, therefore, that their task of teaching is really and truly an ecclesial ministry, men who have a richly developed pastoral sense which enables them to discern not only content but forms that are suitable for the exercise of their ministry. In particular, what is expected of the teachers is total fidelity to the magisterium; for they teach in the name of the Church, and because of this they are witnesses to the faith.[209]

Praeterea peculiaris formationis vis eiusque mira efficacia, quas theologiae magistri exercere valent, singulari modo pendent ex eo quod potissimum ipsi iidem magistri esse debent: «Viri fidei et pleni amore erga Ecclesiam, persuasi adaequatum subiectum christiani mysterii cognitionis unam exstare Ecclesiam; persuasi proinde eorum munus docendi authenticum ministerium ecclesiale esse, ac sensu pastorali praediti, ad discernendum, praeter contentus, etiam formas aptosque modos ad huiusmodi ministerii exercitium. In specie, omnimoda Magisterio fidelitas a docentibus exigitur. Illi enim nomine Ecclesiae docent, ideoque testes fidei sunt».409

Communities of Origin and Associations and Youth Movements

 

68. The communities from which the candidate for the priesthood comes continue, albeit with the necessary detachment which is involved by the choice of a vocation, to bear considerable influence on the formation of the future priest. They should therefore be aware of their specific share of responsibility.

68. Communitates ex quibus candidatus sacerdotii provenit, quamvis illa necessaria acta sit separatio, quam ipse vocationis delectus exigit, influxum non neglegendum exercere pergunt in futuri sacerdotis formationem; quare specificae suae responsalitatis partis bene consciae esse debent.

Let us mention first of all the family: Christian parents, as also brothers and sisters and the other members of the family, should never seek to call back the future priest within the narrow confines of a too human (if not worldly) logic, no matter how supported by sincere affection that logic may be (cf. Mk. 3 :20-21, 31-35). Instead, driven by the same desire “to fulfill the will of God,” they should accompany the formative journey with prayer, respect, the good example of the domestic virtues and spiritual and material help, especially in difficult moments. Experience teaches that, in so many cases, this multiple help has proved decisive for candidates for the priesthood. Even in the case of parents or relatives who are indifferent or opposed to the choice of a vocation, a clear and calm facing of the situation and the encouragement which derives from it can be a great help to the deeper and more determined maturing of a priestly vocation.

In primis familia memoranda est: parentes christiani, sicut etiam fratres et sorores ac omnia nuclei familiaris membra, cavere debent, ne futurus presbyter inter angustos inducatur limites illius nimis humanae logicae, quae, etsi non mundana, tamen sincero affectu sustineri videatur.410 Ipsi autem, eodem proposito animati «Dei voluntatem adimplendi», formationis itinerarium orationibus, debito respectu, recto virtutum domesticarum exemplo, spirituali et materiali auxilio, praesertim in difficilioribus adiunctis persequi scient. Multiplex enim hoc auxilium in plurimis casibus experientia docet praeponderans fuisse pro candidato sacerdotii. Dein si forte genitores et familiares indifferentes sese ostendant vel adversos vocationis delectui, comparatio quaedam clara et serena cum eorum positione et consequentes stimuli magno auxilio esse possunt, ut sacerdotalis vocatio consultius ac firmius maturet.

Closely linked with the families is the parish community. Both it and the family are connected in education in the faith. Often, afterward, the parish, with its specific pastoral care for young people and vocations, supplements the family’s role. Above all, inasmuch as it is the most immediate local expression of the mystery of the Church, the parish offers an original and especially valuable contribution to the formation of a future priest. The parish community should continue to feel that the young man on his way to the priesthood is a living part of itself; it should accompany him with its prayer, give him a cordial welcome during the holiday periods, respect and encourage him to form himself in his identity as a priest, and offer him suitable opportunities and strong encouragement to try out his vocation for the priestly mission.

In intima coniunctione cum familiis manet communitas paroecialis; et illae et haec sese complent in educationis ad fidem opus efficiendum; dein specifica pastorali actione pro educanda iuventute proque vocationibus suscitandis paroecia familiae munere saepe fungitur. Praesertim autem paroecia egregiam operam dat et singulariter pretiosam ad futuri sacerdotis formationem efficiendam. Paroecialis communitas constanter sentire debet, quasi vivam sui ipsius partem, quemvis iuvenem itinerarium ad sacerdotium persequentem eumque orationibus sequi, aperto corde feriarum temporibus accipere, semper vereri atque fovere dum in debitam suam presbyteralem identitatem formandam progreditur, opportunitates ei praebendo durosque quoque stimulos admovendo ut eius probetur vocatio ad missionem sacerdotalem.

Associations and youth movements, which are a sign and confirmation of the vitality which the Spirit guarantees to the Church, can and should contribute also to the formation of candidates for the priesthood, in particular of those who are the product of the Christian, spiritual and apostolic experience of these groups. Young people who have received their basic formation in such groups and look to them for their experience of the Church should not feel they are being asked to uproot themselves from their past or to break their links with the environment which has contributed to their decision to respond to their vocation, nor should they erase the characteristic traits of the spirituality which they have learned and lived there in all that they contain that is good, edifying and rich.[210] For them too, this environment from which they come continues to be a source of help and support on the path of formation toward the priesthood.

Consociationes iuvenumque motus etiam, ut signum illiusque vitalitatis certitudo, quam in Ecclesia Spiritus constanter infundit, operam praestare possunt et debent ad formationem candidatorum sacerdotii fovendam, praesertim pro iis qui ex christiana, spirituali et apostolica harum consociationum experientia proveniunt. Iuvenes igitur illi, qui primariam formationem in huiusmodi consociationibus receperunt quique ad easdem sese referre pergunt pro sua ipsorum Ecclesiae experientia, nullam obligationem omnino sentire, quasi per interiorem invitationem, debebunt sese e praeterito tempore eradicandi easque scindendi relationes cum ambitu, qui non parvo auxilio fuit eorum vocationis et initio et incremento, neque illas notas spiritualitatis proprias delere debent, quas illic didicerunt atque vixerunt, quidquid boni, quidquid aedificationis virtutumque copiae in ipsis fuerint.411 Pro illis quoque, igitur, ambitus hic originis fons auxilii pergit esse atque praesidium in ipso formationis itinerario ad sacerdotium peragendo.

The Spirit offers to many young people opportunities to be educated in the faith and to grow as Christians and as members of the Church through many kinds of groups, movements and associations inspired in different ways by the Gospel message. These should be felt and lived as a nourishing gift of a soul within the institution and at its service. A movement or a particular spirituality “is not an alternative structure to the institution. It is rather a source of a presence which constantly regenerates the existential and historical authenticity of the institution. The priest should therefore find within a movement the light and warmth which make him capable of fidelity to his bishop and which make him ready for the duties of the institution and mindful of ecclesiastical discipline, thus making the reality of his faith more fertile and his faithfulness more joyful.”[211]

Omnes educationum ad fidem et christiani et ecclesialis incrementi occasiones, quas Spiritus tam multis iuvenibus praebet in multiplicibus sodalitatum formis, motibus et consociationibus variae evangelicae inspirationis, magnopere expedit ut sic sentiantur ac vivantur quasi altricis animae donum intra ipsam institutionem, immo velut in huius servitium. Motus enim vel singularis spiritus animatio «non est altera structura alterna institutioni. Fons est contra cuiusdam praesentiae, quae usque renovat eiusdem sinceritatem essentialem et historicam. Quapropter invenire debet sacerdos in motu quodam lucem et calorem, unde habilis sit ad fidelitatem erga episcopum, promptus ad institutionis munera atque vigil ad ecclesiasticam disciplinam, sic ut vehementior sit impetus in fidem et fidelitatis gustatus».412

It is therefore necessary, in the new community of the seminary in which they are gathered by the bishop, that young people coming from associations and ecclesial movements should learn “respect for other spiritual paths and a spirit of dialogue and cooperation,” should take in genuinely and sincerely the indications for their training imparted by the bishop and the teachers in the seminary, abandoning themselves with real confidence to their guidance and assessments.”‘ Such an attitude will prepare and in some way anticipate a genuine priestly choice to serve the entire People of God in the fraternal communion of the presbyterate and in obedience to the bishop.

Omnes igitur iuvenes ex associationibus motibusque ecclesiasticis provenientes in nova Seminarii communitate, in qua sunt ab episcopo congregati, necesse est ut ediscant «obsequium erga alias spirituales vias simulque spiritum disputandi atque operandi», formationis praeceptis episcopi et Seminarii educatoribus fiducialiter atque benevole se referant seseque sincere et fidenter committant eorum ductui et iudicio.413 Hic enim agendi modus parat et quadam ratione anticipat genuinam presbyteralem electionem inserviendi Populo Dei in fraterna presbyterii communione et in oboedientia episcopo praestanda.

The fact that seminarians and diocesan priests take part in particular spiritualities or ecclesial groupings is indeed, in itself, a factor which helps growth and priestly fraternity. Such participation, however, should not be an obstacle, but rather a help to the ministry and spiritual life which are proper to the diocesan priest, who “will always remain the shepherd of all. Not only is he a ‘permanent’ shepherd, available to all, but he presides over the gathering of all so that all may find the welcome which they have a right to expect in the community and in the Eucharist that unites them, whatever be their religious sensibility or pastoral commitment.”[213]

Tam Seminarii alumnis quam presbyteris participatio specialium spiritus animationum secundum quasdam ecclesiales associationes certe per se ipsa est vera benefica vis interius crescendi ac sacerdotalem fraternitatem fovendi. Haec autem participatio impedimento esse non debet, sed auxilio ad ministerii vitaeque spiritualis exercitium agendum, quod proprium est dioecesani sacerdotis, qui «manet totius coetus semper pastor. Non modo est “permanens ipsum”, omnibus promptus, verum omnibus congregatis praesidet — nominatim est paroeciarum moderator — ut cunctis pateat aditus in communitate et Eucharistia, iure requisitus, unde inveniatur unitas, quicumque sit religiosus sensus et eorum pastorale studium».414

The Candidate Himself

 

69. Lastly, we must not forget that the candidate himself is a necessary and irreplaceable agent in his own formation: All formation, priestly formation included, is ultimately a self formation. No one can replace us in the responsible freedom that we have as individual persons.

69. Denique non est obliviscendum ipsum sacerdotii candidatum verum «primum auctorem» esse dicendum adeo necessarium, ut suffici omnino nequeat in suapte formatione ducenda: nam quodcumque educandi opus — illud quoque ad sacerdotium spectans — est, denique, sui ipsius educatio. Nemo enim nostri vicem praestare valet in illa respondendi libertate, qua una omnes nos pollemus.

And so the future priest also, and in the first place, must grow in his awareness that the agent par excellence of his formation is the Holy Spirit, who by the gift of a new heart configures and conforms him to Jesus Christ the good shepherd. In this way the candidate to the priesthood will affirm in the most radical way possible his freedom to welcome the molding action of the Spirit. But to welcome this action implies also, on the part of the candidate, a welcome for the human “mediating” forces which the Spirit employs. As a result, the actions of the different teachers become truly and fully effective only if the future priest offers his own convinced and heartfelt cooperation to this work of formation.

Profecto futurus quoque sacerdos, et quidem primus, crescere debet plene sciens «primum auctorem», per antonomasiam, suae formationis ipsum Spiritum Sanctum esse, qui novi cordis dono configurat Iesu Christo, Bono Pastori, eique assimilat: in hoc nempe sensu candidatus suam potissimam testabitur libertatem in accipienda Spiritus actione institutoria. Sed hanc recipere actionem significat etiam candidato sacerdotii esse «mediationes» recipiendas quibus utitur Spiritus. Proinde variorum educatorum actio vere et plene efficax tantummodo fit, cum futurus sacerdos sinceram ac benevolam cooperationem praestat.

CHAPTER VI

CAPUT VI

I REMIND YOU TO REKINDLE THE GIFT OF GOD
THAT IS WITHIN YOU

The Ongoing Formation of Priests

ADMONEO TE UT RESUSCITES DONATIONEM DEI QUAE EST IN TE
De permanenti sacerdotum formatione

Theological Reasons Behind Ongoing Formation

 

70. “I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you” (2 Tm. 1:6).

70. «Admoneo te ut resuscites donationem Dei, quae est in te».415

The words of St. Paul to Timothy can appropriately be applied to the ongoing formation to which all priests are called by virtue of the “gift of God” which they have received at their ordination. The passage helps us to grasp the full truth, the absolute uniqueness of the permanent formation of priests. Here we are also helped by another text of St. Paul, who once more writes to Timothy: “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the elders laid their hands upon you. Practice these duties, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tm. 4:14-16).

Apostoli verba ad Timotheum episcopum legitime applicari possunt ad illam permanentem formationem, ad quam efficiendam omnes sacerdotes sunt vocati, illius vi «donationis Dei», quam in ipsa sacra ordinatione receperunt. Ipsa nos introducunt ad integram veritatem capiendam atque ad peculiarem permanentem presbyterorum formationem perficiendam. Hac in re auxilio nobis venit locus ille Pauli, in quo sic Apostolus Timotheum monet: «Noli neglegere donationem, quae in te est, quae data est tibi per prophetiam cum impositione manuum presbyterii. Haec meditare, in his esto, ut profectus tuus manifestus sit omnibus. Attende tibi et doctrinae; insta in illis; hoc enim faciens et teipsum salvum facies et eos, qui te audiunt».416

Paul asks Timothy to “rekindle,” or stir into flame, the divine gift he has received, much as one might do with the embers of a fire, in the sense of welcoming it and living it out without ever losing or forgetting that “permanent novelty” which is characteristic of every gift from God, who makes all things new (cf. Rv. 21:5), and thus living it out in its unfading freshness and original beauty.

A Timotheo petit Apostolus, ut «resuscitet», id est ut refoveat, quasi ignem sub cinere, donationem Dei, eo consilio ut eam recipiat et vivat nec umquam amittat nec obliviscatur illam «permanentem novitatem», quae de quacumque Dei donatione dicitur, Illius scilicet, qui nova facit omnia,417 eandemque, igitur, perenniter florentem ac naturaliter pulcherrimam vivat.

But this “rekindling” is not only the outcome of a task entrusted to the personal responsibility of Timothy, nor only the result of his efforts to use his mind and will. It is also the effect of a dynamism of grace intrinsic to God’s gift. God himself, in other words, rekindles his own gift, so as better to release all the extraordinary riches of grace and responsibility contained in it.

Sed illud «resuscitare» non tantum est exitus cuiusdam muneris personali Timothei responsalitati concrediti, non tantum fructus alicuius promissionis in memoria viventis, in voluntate operantis, sed praesertim effectus est cuiusdam dynamismi gratiae ex Dei donatione emanantis: ipse, igitur Deus est, qui suam ipsius donationem resuscitat, quae omnes suas atque miras gratiae et responsalitatis divitias, in ea inclusas, elicere valet.

With the sacramental outpouring of the Holy Spirit who consecrates and sends forth, the priest is configured to the likeness of Jesus Christ, head and shepherd of the Church, and is sent forth to carry out a pastoral ministry. In this way the priest is marked permanently and indelibly in his inner being as a minister of Jesus and of the Church. He comes to share in a permanent and irreversible way of life and is entrusted with a pastoral ministry which, because it is rooted in his being and involves his entire life, is itself permanent. The sacrament of holy orders confers upon the priest sacramental grace which gives him a share not only in Jesus’ saving “power” and “ministry” but also in his pastoral “love.” At the same time it ensures that the priest can count on all the actual graces he needs, whenever they are necessary and useful for the worthy and perfect exercise of the ministry he has received.

Sacramentali dein Spiritus Sancti effusione, qui consecrat et mittit, presbyter Christo Iesu Ecclesiae Capiti et Pastori configuratur et ad pastorale ministerium explendum mittitur. Quare sacerdos, indelebili ac perpetuo signo penitus in sua ipsius natura signatur ut Iesu et Ecclesiae minister, isque permanenti atque irrevocabili vitae condicioni inseritur mandatumque recipit pastorale quod in eius natura insitum, totam eius existentiam implicat ipsumque permanens est. Sacramentum Ordinis gratiam sacramentalem sacerdoti affert, quae eum participem facit non solum «potestatis» atque salvifici Iesu «ministerii», sed etiam ipsius pastoralis «amoris»; eodem tempore in sacerdotem infundit omnes actuales gratias quae ei concedentur, quoties necessariae et utiles fuerint ad ministerium receptum digne ac perfecte explendum.

We thus see that the proper foundation and original motivation for ongoing formation is contained in the dynamism of the sacrament of holy orders.

Sic permanens formatio suum proprium fundamentum suamque genuinam causam in dynamismo sacramenti Ordinis invenit.

Certainly there are also purely human reasons which call for the priest to engage in ongoing formation. This formation is demanded by his own continuing personal growth. Every life is a constant path toward maturity, a maturity which cannot be attained except by constant formation. It is also demanded by the priestly ministry seen in a general way and taken in common with other professions, that is, as a service directed to others. There is no profession, job or work which does not require constant updating if it is to remain current and effective. The need to “keep pace” with the path of history is another human reason justifying ongoing formation.

Non desunt certe rationes quoque simpliciter humanae, quae sacerdotem movere valent ut permanentem suam formationem efficiat. Hoc enim postulatum proprium est uniuscuiusque progredientis in suam ipsius identitatem perficiendam: omnis vita quoddam est continuum itinerarium ad maturitatem; et haec per continuam formationem procedit. Necessitas quoque est sacerdotalis ministerii, etsi perspecti sive in sensu generali sive in sensu ceteris professionibus communi, ideoque velut in aliorum servitium: nulla autem exstat professio, nullum munus, nullus labor, qui certam ad hodiernas doctrinas adaequationem non postulet. Postulatum ergo «gradum servandi» cum historiae processu, quaedam est humana ratio, quae permanentem formationem defendit.

But these and other motivations are taken up and become even clearer by the theological motivations mentioned previously and which demand further reflection.

Sed istae aliaeque rationes sumi possunt atque explicari theologicis rationibus nuper memoratis, quae et ulterius explicari possunt.

The sacrament of holy orders, by its nature (common to all the sacraments) as a “sign” may be considered, and truly is, a word of God. It is a word of God which calls and sends forth. It is the strongest expression of the priest’s vocation and mission. By the sacrament of holy orders, God calls the candidate “to” the priesthood “coram ecclesia. “ The “come, follow me” of Jesus is proclaimed fully and definitively in the sacramental celebration of his Church. It is made manifest and communicated by the Church’s voice, which is heard in the words of the bishop who prays and imposes his hands. The priest then gives his response, in faith, to Jesus’ call. “I am coming, to follow you.” From this moment there begins that response which, as a fundamental choice, must be expressed anew and reaffirmed through the years of his priesthood in countless other responses, all of them rooted in and enlivened by that “yes” of holy orders.

Sacramentum Ordinis, ob «signi» naturam, quae est omnium propria sacramentorum, putari potest, sicut reapse est, Verbum Dei; est sane Dei Verbum, quod vocat et mittit; est summa significatio vocationis missionisque sacerdotis. Ordinis sacramento Deus coram Ecclesia candidatum vocat «ad» sacerdotium. Illud Iesu «veni et sequere me» plenam ac supremam professionem invenit in ipsa Ecclesiae sacramenti celebratione: tunc manifestatur et proclamatur per Ecclesiae vocem resonantem ex ore episcopi, qui precatur munusque imponit; atque sacerdos sic Iesu vocanti respondet: «Venio et sequar te». Exinde initium habet responsum illud, quod, utpote fundamentalis delectus, progredientibus sacerdotii annis constanter repetitur et confirmatur frequentissimis aliis responsis, quae omnia radicitus pollent atque vivificantur in illo «ita», quod ex ipso Ordine sacro sponte emanat.

In this sense one can speak of a vocation “within” the priesthood The fact is that God continues to call and send forth, revealing his saving plan in the historical development of the priest’s life and the life of the Church and of society. It is in this perspective that the meaning of ongoing formation emerges. Permanent formation is necessary in order to discern and follow this constant call or will of God. Thus the apostle Peter is called to follow Jesus even after the risen Lord has entrusted his flock to him: “Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.’ (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God .) And after this he said to him, ‘ Follow me. .. “‘ (Jn. 21 :17-19). Consequently there is a “follow me” which accompanies the apostle’s whole life and mission. It is a “follow me” in line with the call and demand of faithfulness unto death (cf. Jn. 21:22), a “follow me” which can signify a sequela Christi to the point of total self-giving in martyrdom.[214]

In hoc sensu licet loqui de vocatione «in» sacerdotio. Reapse Deus pergit vocare et mittere, ostendens salvificum suum consilium in historico processu ipsam sacerdotis ad vitam vicesque Ecclesiae ac societatis spectante. In hoc enim prospectu verus et proprius permanentis formationis sensus eminet: quae necessaria equidem est ad hanc continuam Dei vocationem, vel voluntatem discernendam atque sequendam. Sic Petrus apostolus ad Iesum sequendum vocatur, etiam postquam ipse Iesus resuscitatus gregem suum ei credidit: «Dicit ei “Pasce oves meas. Amen, amen dico tibi: Cum esses iunior, cingebas teipsum et ambulabas, ubi volebas; cum autem senueris, extendes manus tuas, et alius te cinget et ducet, quo non vis”. Hoc autem dixit significans qua morte clarificaturus esset Deum. Et hoc cum dixisset, dicit ei: “Sequere me”».418 Est igitur «sequere» quoddam, quod vitam et missionem apostoli comitatur; Est «sequere» nimirum quod vocationem et usque ad mortem fidelitatem contestatur,419 «sequere» quod Christi sequelam demonstrare potest una cum sui ipsius pleno dono in martyrio.420

 

 

The synod fathers explained the reason justifying the need for ongoing formation, while at the same time revealing its deep nature as “faithfulness” to the priestly ministry and as a “process of continual conversion.”[215]

Patres synodales rationem patefecerunt quae perennis formationis necessitatem comprobat, quaeque pariter eiusdem naturam ostendit, cum eam definiant «fidelitatem» sacerdotali ministerio et tanquam continuatae conversionis progressum.421

It is the Holy Spirit, poured out in the sacrament, who sustains the priest in this faithfulness and accompanies him and encourages him along this path of unending conversion. The gift of the Spirit does not take away the freedom of the priest. It calls on the priest to make use of his freedom in order to cooperate responsibly and accept permanent formation as a task entrusted to him. Thus permanent formation is a requirement of the priest’s own faithfulness to his ministry, to his very being. It is love for Jesus Christ and fidelity to oneself. But it is also an act of love for the People of God, at whose service the priest is placed. Indeed, an act of true and proper justice: The priest owes it to God’s people, whose fundamental “right” to receive the word of God, the sacraments and the service of charity, the original and irreplaceable content of the priest’s own pastoral ministry, he is called to acknowledge and foster. Ongoing formation is necessary to ensure that the priest can properly respond to this right of the People of God.

Spiritus Sanctus, cum sacramento effusus, ipse est qui presbyterum in hac fidelitate servanda sustinet eumque sequitur ac stimulat ad continuae conversionis itinerarium perficiendum. Spiritus Sancti donum non exonerat, sed sacerdotis libertatem animat ad responsalem cooperationem dandam atque permanentem formationem sumendam tanquam sibi concreditum munus. Itaque formatio permanens declaratio est et postulatum fidei sacerdotis propriae erga ministerium suum, immo erga suam ipsius naturam. Est igitur amor in Iesum Christum et cohaerentia secum ipso. Sed est etiam testimonium amoris erga populum Dei, in cuius servitium sacerdos est constitutus. Immo testimonium verae et propriae iustitiae: ille enim debitor est erga Populum Dei, cum vocatus sit ad agnoscendum simulque promovendum eius ius, fundamentale «ius», per quod ei debentur, scilicet destinantur, Verbum Dei, Sacramenta et Caritatis servitium, quae sunt elementa essentialia — quaeque abalienari nequeunt — ad pastoralia sacerdotis ministeria perficienda. Necessaria igitur est formatio permanens, ut huic Dei Populi iuri congruenter sacerdos respondere valeat.

The heart and form of the priest’s ongoing formation is pastoral charity: The Holy Spirit, who infuses pastoral charity, introduces and accompanies the priest to an ever deeper knowledge of the mystery of Christ, which is unfathomable in its richness (cf. Eph. 3;14ff.) and, in turn, to a knowledge of the mystery of Christian priesthood. Pastoral charity itself impels the priest to an ever deeper knowledge of the hopes, the needs, the problems, the sensibilities of the people to whom he ministers, taken in their specific situations, as individuals, in their families, in society and in history.

Anima et forma permanentis formationis sacerdotis est caritas pastoralis: Spiritus Sanctus enim est, qui pastoralem caritatem infundit, qui sacerdotem introducit eumque ad altius in dies agnoscendum Christi mysterium conducit, quod in suis divitiis explorari nequit omnino,422 et, idcirco, ad christianum quoque agnoscendum mysterium. Eadem pastoralis caritas sacerdotem movet ad instantius percipiendas exspectationes, necessitates, difficultates, motiones omnes eorum, quibus ministerium suum destinatur, in quibuscumque versantur condicionibus, sive ad personam pertinentibus, ad familiam, adque societatem.

All this constitutes the object of ongoing formation, understood as a conscious and free decision to live out the dynamism of pastoral charity and of the Holy Spirit who is its first source and constant nourishment. In this sense ongoing formation is an intrinsic requirement of the gift and sacramental ministry received; and it proves necessary in every age. It is particularly urgent today, not only because of rapid changes in the social and cultural conditions of individuals and peoples among whom priestly ministry is exercised, but also because of that “new evangelization” which constitutes the essential and pressing task of the Church at the end of the second millennium.

Ad haec omnia formatio permanens contendit, percepta sicut prudens ac liberum ipsiusque propositum, quo ipse expleatur dynamismus pastoralis caritatis ipsiusque Spiritus Sancti, qui eius primus est fons atque perenne alimentum. Propterea in hoc sensu formatio permanens est vera exigentia in dono ipso innata et in recepto sacramentali ministerio semperque, omni tempore, necessaria manet. Attamen, hodierna aetate permulto urgentior esse videtur, non solum propter velociores rerum socialium et culturalium commutationes sive hominum sive populorum, apud quos presbyterale ministerium exercetur, sed etiam propter illam «novam evangelizationem», quae constituit ingenitum illud Ecclesiae munus, quod dilationem absolute non patitur, hoc secundo ad finem volvente millennio.

Different Dimensions of Ongoing Formation

 

71. The ongoing formation of priests, whether diocesan or religious, is the natural and absolutely necessary continuation of the process of building priestly personality which began and developed in the seminary or the religious house with the training program which aimed at ordination.

71. Perennis sacerdotum institutio, sive dioecesanorum sive religiosorum, continuatio est naturalis atque omnino necessaria illius cultus, qui ad presbyteri personam spectat, quique in Seminario vel in religiosa domu incohavit et ibidem incrementum cepit una cum formativa institutione ordinationis respectu

It is particularly important to be aware of and to respect the intrinsic link between formation before ordination to the priesthood and formation after ordination. Should there be a break in continuity, or worse a complete difference between these two phases of formation, there would be serious and immediate repercussions on pastoral work and fraternal communion among priests, especially those in different age groups. Ongoing formation is not a repetition of the formation acquired in the seminary, simply reviewed or expanded with new and practical suggestions. Ongoing formation involves relatively new content and especially methods; it develops as a harmonious and vital process which - rooted in the formation received in the seminary - calls for adaptations, updating and modifications, but without sharp breaks in continuity.

Magni momenti est animadvertere servareque intrinsecum nexum qui exstat inter utramque institutionem, ante scilicet et post ordinationem. Si namque inconstantia esset immo discrepantia has duas inter rationes institutionis gravia consectaria statim evenirent, quae ad pastoralem actionem respicerent atque fraternam communionem inter presbyteros, inter illos nominatim qui aetate distinguuntur. Perennis autem institutio, iteratio non est institutionis, quae in Seminario adquiritur, quae deinde recognoscitur et augetur, novis additis explicativis argumentis. Ipsa enim novis evolvitur rebus potissimumque rationibus quodammodo novis, veluti nempe unum quiddam, quod progrediens — radices in seminaristica institutione ponens — accommodationem quamdam expostulat, hodiernae aetati conformationem et immutationem, absque tamen cessatione vel intermissione.

On the other hand, long - term preparation for ongoing formation should take place in the major seminary, where encouragement needs to be given to future priests to look forward to it, seeing its necessity, its advantages and the spirit in which it should be undertaken, and appropriate conditions for its realization need to be ensured.

. At contra inde a Seminario maiore permanentem institutionem parare oportet, et animum studiumque futurorum presbyterorum eidem accommodare, per ipsius necessitatis demonstrationem, utilitatis et spiritus, condicionibus perficiendae rei inductis.

By the very fact that ongoing formation is a continuation of the formation received in the seminary, its aim cannot be the inculcation of a purely “professional” approach, which could be acquired by learning a few new pastoral techniques. Instead its aim must be that of promoting a general and integral process of constant growth, deepening each of the aspects of formation human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral - as well as ensuring their active and harmonious integration, based on pastoral charity and in reference to it.

Quandoquidem autem perennis institutio continuatio est illius quae in Seminario efficitur, eiusdem propositum non concluditur in habitu quodam, ut ita dicamus, professionali, adeptis novis artibus pastoralibus aliquibus. Habenda potius est ipsa generalis et universalis continuati cultus progressus usque servatus, tum per uniuscuiusque partis inquisitionem formationis — humanae, spiritualis, intellectualis et pastoralis — tum per vestigationem eiusdem interioris ac vividi nexus peculiaris, initio a pastorali caritate capto illiusque respectu habito.

72. Fuller development is first required in the human aspect of priestly formation. Through his daily contact with people, his sharing ill their daily lives, the priest needs to develop and sharpen his human sensitivity so as to understand more clearly their needs, respond to their demands, perceive their unvoiced questions and share the hopes and expectations, the joys and burdens which are part of life: Thus he will be able to meet and enter into dialogue with all people. In particular, through coming to know and share, through making his own the human experience Or suffering in its many different manifestations, from poverty to illness, from rejection to ignorance, loneliness and material or moral poverty, the priest can cultivate his own humanity and make it all the more genuine and clearly apparent by his increasingly ardent love for his fellow men and women.

72. Prima quaedam exploratio humanam rationem respicit sacerdotalis formationis. Cotidie inter homines versans eorumque vitam singulis diebus experiens, adolescere debet sacerdos et humanum sensum acuere, unde facultatem consequatur necessitates intellegendi et postulata excipiendi, rogata percipiendi tacita, spem et exspectationes communicandi aeque ac laetas laboriosasque res in vita communi degenda; omnes conveniendi et cum omnibus colloquendi. Cognoscens praesertim et participans, partem scilicet capiens, humanam doloris experientiam cuiusque modi, sive ex paupertate oritur vel valetudine, sive ex desertione vel inscitia, solitudine, rerum indigentia animive, suam ipsius humanitatem locupletat sacerdos eandemque veriorem reddit et nitidiorem, per crescentem ac vehementiorem hominis amorem.

In this task of bringing his human formation to maturity, the priest receives special assistance from the grace of Jesus Christ. The charity of the good shepherd was revealed not only by his gift of salvation to mankind, but also by his desire to share our life: Thus, the Word who became “flesh” (cf. Jn. 1:14) desired to know joy and suffering, to experience weariness, to share feelings, to console sadness. Living as a man among and with men, Jesus Christ offers the most complete, genuine and perfect expression of what it means to be human. We see him celebrating at the wedding feast of Cana, a friend’s family, moved by the hungry crowd who follow him, giving sick or even dead children back to their parents, weeping for the death of Lazarus, and so on.

Suum humanum cultum complens sacerdos, peculiare adiumentum excipit ex Christi Iesu gratia: Boni Pastoris enim caritas non modo salutis hominum dono manifestata est, verum eorumdem vitae participatione, cuius Verbum, quod «caro» factum est,423 laetitiam et aegritudines cognovit, cuius labores participavit, animi affectiones, cuius tandem aerumnas est solatus. Homo inter homines et cum hominibus vivens, Christus Iesus extremam, certissimam perfectissimamque humanitatis formam exhibuit: Eundem namque Canae nuptias celebrantem reperimus, amicorum domum invisentem, animi commotione affectum in turbam quae eum sequebatur, filios parentibus reddentem aegrotos mortuosve, Lazari discessum dolentem...

The People of God should be able to say about the priest, who has increasingly matured in human sensitivity, something similar to what we read about Jesus in the letter to the Hebrews: “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning” (Heb. 4:15).

Dum Dei populus sacerdotem conspicit maiorem assecutum humanum sensum, idem dicere debet quod ad Hebraeos epistula de Iesu dicit: «Non enim habemus pontificem, qui non possit compati infirmitatibus nostris, tentatum autem per omnia secundum similitudinem absque peccato».424

The formation of the priest in its spiritual dimension is required by the new Gospel life to which he has been called in a specific way by the Holy Spirit, poured out in the sacrament of holy orders. The Spirit, by consecrating the priest and configuring him to Jesus Christ, head and shepherd, creates a bond which, located in the priest’s very being, demands to be assimilated and lived out in a personal, free and conscious way through an ever richer communion of life and love and an ever broader and more radical sharing in the feelings and attitudes of Jesus Christ. In this bond between the Lord Jesus and the priest, an ontological and psychological bond, a sacramental and moral bond, is the foundation and likewise the power for that “life according to the Spirit” and that “radicalism of the Gospel” to which every priest is called today and which is fostered by ongoing formation in its spiritual aspect. This formation proves necessary also for the priestly ministry to be genuine and spiritually fruitful. “Are you exercising the care of souls?” St. Charles Borromeo once asked in a talk to priests. And he went on to say: “Do not thereby neglect yourself. Do not give yourself to others to such an extent that nothing is left of yourself for yourself. You should certainly keep in mind the souls whose pastor you are, but without forgetting yourself. My brothers, do not forget that there is nothing so necessary to all churchmen that the meditation which precedes, accompanies and follows all our actions: I will sing, says the prophet, and I will meditate (cf. Ps. 100:1). If you administer the sacraments, my brother, meditate upon what you are doing. If you celebrate Mass, meditate on what you are offering. If you recite the psalms in choir, meditate to whom and of what you are speaking. If you are guiding souls, meditate in whose blood they have been cleansed. And let all be done among you in charity (1 Cor. 16:14). Thus we will be able to overcome the difficulties we meet, countless as they are, each day. In any event, this is what is demanded of us by the task entrusted to us. If we act thus, we will find the strength to give birth to Christ in ourselves and in others.”[216]

Presbyteri institutio pro spirituali ratione ex vita nova et evangelica eruitur ad quam ipse peculiariter a Spiritu Sancto vocatur, qui in Ordinis sacramento effusus est. Spiritus dum sacerdotem consecrat dumque eum Christo Iesu Capiti et Pastori conformat, vinculum inducit quoddam, quod in ipso sacerdote insitum ut penitus teneatur expostulat et personaliter vivatur, scienter scilicet et libere, per vitae dilectionisque communionem magis ac magis divitem atque amplam radicalemque sensuum Christi Iesu eiusdemque habitus per participationem. Hoc cum Christo in sacerdotis vinculo, quod est ontologicum et psycologicum, sacramentale et morale, fundamentum exstat eodemque tempore vis in illam «vitam secundum Spiritum» et «radicalismum evangelicum» ad quem quisque sacerdos vocatur, cuique perennis formatio favet, quoad spiritualem rationem. Haec institutio omnino est necessaria etiam quod ad ministerium sacerdotale attinet, ad eius veram naturam ac spiritualem fecunditatem. «Habesne curam animarum?», secum quaerebat S. Carolus Borromeo. Ita respondebat idem in sermone ad sacerdotes: «Noli propter hoc curam de te ipso neglegere, neve te usque eo aliis dedas ut nihil tui tibi supersit. Oportet certe ob oculos animarum recordationem, quarum es pastor, habeas, at noli tui ipsius oblivisci. Intellegite, fratres, nihil esse tam necessarium omnibus ecclesiasticis hominibus quam meditationem quae antecedit, comitatur ac nostras actiones subsequitur: cantabo, dicit propheta, et meditabor.425 Si sacramenta ministras, frater, meditare quod agis. Si Missam celebras, meditare quod offers. Si psalmos in choro cantas, meditare cui et qua de re loquaris. Si animas moderaris, meditare quo sanguine ablutae sint, et «omnia vestra in caritate fiant».426 Sic supergredi poterimus difficultates, et innumeras quidem, in quas quotidie inciderimus. Ceterum hoc requirit nobis demandatum officium. Si ita fecerimus Christum gignere valemus in nobis aliisque».427

The priest’s prayer life in particular needs to be continually “reformed.” Experience teaches that in prayer one cannot live off past gains. Every day we need not only to renew our external fidelity to times of prayer, especially those devoted to the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours and those left to personal choice and not reinforced by fixed times of liturgical service, but also to strive constantly for the experience of a genuine personal encounter with Jesus, a trusting dialogue with the Father and a deep experience of the Spirit.

Vita nominatim religiosa continenter est «reformanda» in sacerdote. Usus enim docet in precatione ex praeterito vivere eum non posse: quotidie oportet non modo fidelitatem externam tempori precationis vindicare, illi praesertim tempori celebrationi Liturgiae Horarum destinato atque illi quod quisque libere eligit, extra officia et sacrae liturgiae horarium, verum etiam et praesertim continuatam inquisitionem repetere unde omnino personaliter Iesus conveniatur, fidens cum Patre colloquium instituatur, Spiritus alta experientia agatur.

What the apostle Paul says of all Christians, that they must attain “to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13), can be applied specifically to priests, who are called to the perfection of charity and therefore to holiness, even more so because their pastoral ministry itself demands that they be living models for all the faithful.

Quod vero Paulus apostolus de omnibus credentibus asseverat, pervenire scilicet omnes debere «in virum perfectum, in mensuram aetatis plenitudinis Christi»,428 id peculiariter de sacerdotibus dici potest, qui ad caritatis perfectionem vocantur, et idcirco ad sanctitatem, quandoquidem ministerium ipsum pastorale eos esse etiam vult exemplaria viventia omnium fidelium.

The intellectual dimension of formation likewise needs to be continually fostered through the priest’s entire life, especially by a commitment to study and a serious and disciplined familiarity with modern culture. As one who shares in the prophetic mission of Jesus and is part of the mystery of the Church, the teacher of truth, the priest is called to reveal to others, in Jesus Christ, the true face of God, and as a result the true face of humanity.”[217] This demands that the priest himself seek God’s face and contemplate it with loving veneration (cf. Ps. 26:7; 41:2). Only thus will he be able to make others know him. In particular, continuing theological study is necessary if the priest is to faithfully carry out the ministry of the word, proclaiming it clearly and without ambiguity, distinguishing it from mere human opinions, no matter how renowned and widespread these might be. Thus he will be able to stand at the service of the People of God, helping them to give an account, to all who ask, of their Christian hope (cf. 1 Pt. 3:15). Furthermore, the priest “in applying himself conscientiously and diligently to theological study is in a position to assimilate the genuine richness of the Church in a sure and personal way. Therefore, he can faithfully discharge the mission which is incumbent on him when responding to difficulties about authentic Catholic doctrine and overcome the inclination, both in himself and others, which leads to dissent and negative attitudes toward the magisterium and sacred tradition.”[218]

Intellectualis ratio institutionis poscit ut ipsa continuetur altiusque per totum sacerdotale curriculum intellegatur, studio potissimum iuvante et recentioribus rebus accommodato cultu, qui sit solidus et accuratus. Missionis Iesu propheticae particeps, et mysterio Ecclesiae veritatis Magistrae insertus, sacerdos vocatur ad Dei vultum hominibus revelandum in Christo Iesu.429 Sed hoc poscit ut sacerdos ipse hunc vultum requirat eundemque veneranter et amanter contempletur:430 hoc tantummodo modo potest ipse eundem ceteris demonstrare. Theologicae vestigationis continuatio cumprimis est necessaria, ut Verbi ministerium adimplere possit sacerdos, id quidem non confuse nuntians vel ambigue, id denique a prorsus humanis opinionibus distinguens quamvis celebratis et pervulgatis. Sic ipse revera Dei Populo inservire potest, et eum iuvare, ut rationes requirentibus de christiana spe ostendat.431 Deinde «sacerdos dum prudenter et constanter theologicae inquisitioni studet, certe et personaliter sinceras ecclesiales divitias nancisci potest. Missionem idcirco explere potest, quae ab eo requirit ut verae doctrinae catholicae difficultatibus respondeatur atque sua alienaque inclinatio superetur quae ad negantem Magisterium et Traditionem habitum fert».432

The pastoral aspect of ongoing formation is well expressed by the words of the apostle Peter: “As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pt. 4:10). If he is to live daily according to the graces he has received, the priest must be ever more open to accepting the pastoral charity of Jesus Christ granted him by Christ’s Spirit in the sacrament he has received. Just as all the Lord’s activity was the fruit and sign of pastoral charity, so should the priest’s ministerial activity be. Pastoral charity is a gift, but it is likewise a task, a grace and a responsibility to which we must be faithful. We have, therefore, to welcome it and live out its dynamism even to its most radical demands. This pastoral charity, as has been said, impels the priest and stimulates him to become ever better acquainted with the real situation of the men and women to whom he is sent, to discern the call of the Spirit in the historical circumstances in which he finds himself and to seek the most suitable methods and the most useful forms for carrying out his ministry today. Thus pastoral charity encourages and sustains the priest’s human efforts for pastoral activity that is relevant, credible and effective. But this demands some kind of permanent pastoral formation.

Perennis institutionis pastoralis ratio pulchre Petri apostoli verbis significatur: «Unusquisque, sicut accepit donationem, in alterutrum illam administrantes sicut boni dispensatores multiformis gratiae Dei».433 Ut quotidie secundum gratiam acceptam vivat, oportet sacerdos magis magisque alacer sit animo atque ideo Christi pastoralem caritatem accipiat, quam Spiritus sacramento suscepto tribuit. Quemadmodum Domini omnis actio fructus fuit pariter ac signum caritatis pastoralis, sic ministerialis sacerdotis opera oportet sit. Caritatis pastoralis est ipsa donum itemque munus, gratia et responsalitas, cui necesse est esse fideles: ea est profecto recipienda eiusque vis usque ad extrema consectaria. Haec ipsa pastoralis caritas, ut supra diximus, sacerdotem compellit concitatque, ut veram hominum condicionem melius usque cognoscat, ad quos mittitur, ut in historicis adiunctis in quibus versatur Spiritus rogatus dignoscat, ut denique aptiores rationes formasque utiliores conquirat ad ministerium hodie exercendum. Sic pastoralis caritas movet ac humana sacerdotis conamina sustentat, unde pastoralis actuositas sit recens, credibilis et efficax. Sed id stabilem pastoralem institutionem requirit.

The path toward maturity does not simply demand that the priest deepen the different aspects of his formation. It also demands above all that he be able to combine ever more harmoniously all these aspects, gradually achieving their inner unity. This will be made possible by pastoral charity. Indeed, pastoral charity not only coordinates and unifies the diverse aspects, but it makes them more specific, marking them out as aspects of the formation of the priest as such, that is, of the priest as a clear and living image, a minister of Jesus the good shepherd.

Maturitatis iter non modo postulat ut sacerdos funditus perscrutari pergat suae institutionis diversa elementa, sed poscit etiam et potissimum quidem ut ipse haec principia plus plusque coagmentare valeat, gradatim pertingens, interiorem unitatem: quam pastoralis caritas praestabit. Haec namque non modo diversa elementa componit nectitque, sed eadem definit ac tanquam institutionis sacerdotis ut talis rationes denotat, sacerdotis scilicet, veluti perspicuitatis, vivae imaginis, Iesu Boni Pastoris ministri.

Ongoing formation helps the priest to overcome the temptation to reduce his ministry to an activism which becomes an end in itself, to the provision of impersonal services, even if these are spiritual or sacred, or to a businesslike function which he carries out for the Church. Only ongoing formation enables the priest to safeguard with vigilant love the “mystery” which he bears within his heart for the good of the Church and of mankind.

Perennis institutio sacerdotem iuvat ut tentationem superet, ne ministerium ad immodicam actuositatem per se ipsam conquisitam constringat, ad impersonalem rerum quandam exhibitionem, quamvis spiritualium sacrarumve, neve ad officiosum munus pro ecclesiastica administratione. Perennis solummodo institutio sacerdotem iuvat ut vigili cum amore «mysterium» custodiat, quod pro Ecclesiae humanitatisque bono in se fert.

The Profound Meaning of Ongoing Formation

 

73 The different and complementary dimensions of ongoing formation help us to grasp its profound meaning. Ongoing formation helps the priest to be and act as a priest in the spirit and style of Jesus the good shepherd.

73. Perennis formationis diversae et inter se connexae rationes nos iuvant ut altum earum sensum percipiamus: ipsa vero sacerdotem iuvat ut sit sacerdos idemque sacerdotem agat ad Iesu Boni Pastoris spiritum ac morem.

Truth needs to be put into practice! St. James tells us as much: “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Jas. 1:22). Priests are called to “live the truth” of their being, that is to live “in love” (cf. Eph. 4:15) their identity and ministry in the Church and for the Church. They are called to become ever more aware of the gift of God and to live it out constantly. This is the invitation Paul makes to Timothy: “Guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit which dwells within us” (2 Tm. 1:14).

Veritas est facienda! Ita nos admonet S. Iacobus: «Estote autem factores verbi et non auditores tantum fallentes vosmetipsos».434 Sacerdotes vocati sunt ad «faciendam veritatem» suae existentiae, ad vivendam scilicet «in caritate» 435 suam identitatem et ministerium in Ecclesia ac pro Ecclesia. Ii porro ad conscientiam habendam provocantur vividiorem de Dei dono, id usque reminiscantur. Haec est ad Timotheum Pauli invitatio: «Bonum depositum custodi per Spiritum Sanctum, qui habitat in nobis».436

In the ecclesiological context which we have recalled more than once, we can consider the profound meaning of ongoing priestly formation in relation to the priest’s presence and activity in the Church as mysterium, communio et missio.

In ecclesiologico ambitu, quem compluries memoravimus, altus perennis institutionis sacerdotis sensus percipi potest prout hic est et agit in Ecclesia, quae est mysterium, communio et missio.

Within the Church as “mystery” the priest is called, by his ongoing formation, to safeguard and develop in faith his awareness of the total and marvelous truth of his being: He is a minister of Christ and steward of the mysteries of God (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1). Paul expressly asks Christians to consider him in this way. But even before that, he himself lives in the awareness of the sublime gift he has received from the Lord. This should be the case with every priest, if he wishes to remain true to his being. But this is possible only in faith, only by looking at things through the eyes of Christ.

Intra Ecclesiam «mysterium» vocatur sacerdos, per permanentem institutionem, ad servandam et explicandam in fide integrae et sui ipsius mirabilis veritatis conscientiam: ipse est minister Christi et dispensator mysteriorum Dei.437 Paulus palam christianos rogat ut secundum hanc identitatem ab iis habeatur; sed ipse primus, de mirifico dono a Domino accepto sibi est conscius. Ita quisque sacerdos debet esse, si in veritate suae essentiae manere vult. Sed hoc tantummodo in fide fieri potest, hoc tantummodo intuitu oculisque Christi.

In this sense it can be said that ongoing formation has as its aim that the priest become a believer and ever more of one: that he grow in understanding of who he truly is, seeing things with the eyes of Christ. The priest must safeguard this truth with grateful and joyful love. He must renew his faith when he exercises his priestly ministry; he must feel himself a minister of Christ, a sacrament of the love of God for mankind, every time that he is the means and the living instrument for conferring God’s grace upon men and women. He must recognize this same truth in his fellow priests, for this is the basis of his respect and love for other priests.

Hac spectata ratione, perennem institutionem autumari potest efficere ut sacerdos sit credens et talis magis magisque fiat: ipse semper in sua veritate se contueatur, per Christi oculos. Ei autem haec veritas grato laetoque amore servanda est. Fidem deinde renovare debet, cum ministerium suum sacerdotale explet. Oportet ministrum Christi se existimet, Dei dilectionis sacramentum in homines, quotiescumque instrumentum vivum est et trames Dei gratiae hominibus datae. Hanc quidem veritatem in fratribus agnoscere debet: hoc est aestimationis et amoris in ceteros sacerdotes principium.

74. Ongoing formation helps priests, within the Church as “communion,” to deepen their awareness that their ministry is ultimately aimed at gathering together the family of God as a brotherhood inspired by charity and to lead it to the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit.[219]

74. Formatio perennis sacerdotem adiuvat, in Ecclesia «commu- nione» ad conscientiam maturandam suum ministerium esse postremo constitutum ad congregandam Dei familiam tanquam fraternitatem caritate animatam et ad eandem adducendam per Christum in Spiritu Sancto ad Patrem.438

The priest should grow in awareness of the deep communion uniting him to the People of God: He is not only “in the forefront of” the Church, but above all “in” the Church. He is a brother among brothers. By baptism, which marks him with the dignity and freedom of the children of God in the only begotten Son, the priest is a member of the one body of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:16). His consciousness of this communion leads to a need to awaken and deepen co - responsibility in the one common mission of salvation, with a prompt and heartfelt esteem for all the charisms and tasks which the Spirit gives believers for the building up of the Church. It is above all in the exercise of the pastoral ministry, directed by its very nature to the good of the People of God, that the priest must live and give witness to his profound communion with all. As Pope Paul VI wrote: “We must become brothers to all at the very same time as we wish to be their shepherds, fathers and teachers. The climate of dialogue is friendship. Indeed it is service.”[220]

Debet sacerdos crescere in conscientia arctae communionis qua cum Dei populo coniungitur: se videlicet non esse «coram» Ecclesia, sed praesertim «in» Ecclesia: esse fratrem inter fratres. Per baptismum sacerdos, dignitate insignitus ac filiorum Dei libertate, est eiusdem et unici corporis Christi membrum.439 Huius communionis conscientia ducit ad necessitatem suscitandi atque augendi corresponsalitatem in communi et unico munere salutis per promptam ac humanam adhibitionem omnium charismatum et officiorum exsecutionem quae Spiritus Sanctus credentibus praebet ad Ecclesiam aedificandam. Praecipue ministerium pastorale explendo, natura ad bonum Populi Dei ordinatum, sacerdos colere debet et suam arctam communionem cum omnibus testari, sicut Paulus VI scripsit: «Opus est ut ea re, quod hominum pastores, patres et magistri esse cupimus, idcirco fratres agamus. Colloquium enim cum amicitia, tum vero adhibita officia maximopere alunt».440

More specifically, the priest is called to deepen his awareness of being a member of the particular church in which he is incardinated, joined by a bond that is juridical, spiritual and pastoral. This awareness presupposes a particular love for his own church and it makes that love grow. This is truly the living and permanent goal of the pastoral charity which should accompany the life of the priest and lead him to share in the history or life experience of this same particular church, in its riches and in its weaknesses, in its difficulties and in its hopes, working in it for its growth. And thus to feel himself both enriched by the particular church and actively involved in building it up, carrying on - as an individual and together with other priests - that pastoral involvement typical of his brother priests who have gone before him. A necessary requirement of this pastoral charity toward one’s own particular church and its future ministry is the concern which the priest should have to find, so to speak, someone to replace him in the priesthood.

Magis proprie sacerdos vocatur ut conscientiam maturet se membrum esse Ecclesiae particularis cui est incardinatus, id est insertus vinculo iuridico simul et spirituali ac pastorali. Eiusmodi conscientia postulat et auget peculiarem in propriam Ecclesiam amorem. Haec, re ipsa, terminus est vivus ac perennis pastoralis caritatis, quae cum presbyteri vita est semper componenda quaeque eum ducit ad eiusdem huius particularis Ecclesiae historiam vel vitae experientiam participandam in eius divitiis ac fragilitatibus, in eius difficultatibus et exspectationibus; ad laborandum in ea et pro eius incremento. Debent igitur sentire se ditiores factos ab Ecclesia particulari et impigre adstrictos ad eius aedificationem tum quisque sacerdos tum ceteri, illam pastoralem navitatem producendo, quae propria fuit fratrum in sacerdotio, qui ante fuerunt. Ineluctabilis necessitas caritatis pastoralis erga propriam Ecclesiam particularem et eius futurum ministeriale est sollicitudo qua sacerdos invenire debet, ut ita dicamus, qui sibi in sacerdotio succedat.

The priest must grow in his awareness of the communion existing between the various particular churches, a communion rooted in their very being as churches which make present in various places Christ’s one universal Church. This awareness of the communion of the particular churches will foster an “exchange of gifts,” beginning with living and personal gifts, such as priests themselves. There should be a readiness, indeed a generous commitment, to provide for a fair distribution of clergy. [221] Among these particular churches, those should be kept in mind which, because they are “deprived of freedom, cannot have their own vocations,” as well as those “churches which have emerged recently from persecution and poor churches which have been given help already for many years and from many sources with great - hearted brotherliness and still receive help.[222]

Sacerdos maturare debet in conscientia communionis exsistentis inter diversas Ecclesias particulares, quae communio insita est in eo, quod Ecclesiae sunt, quae in loco personam gerunt unius et universalis Christi Ecclesiae. Huiusmodi communionis inter Ecclesias conscientia favebit «donorum commutationi», imprimis donorum vivorum ac personalium, qualia ipsi sacerdotes sunt. Hinc studium, quin immo alacris cura de adducenda ad effectum aequa cleri distributione.441 In his Ecclesiis particularibus memorandae sunt eae, quae «libertate carentes proprias non possunt habere vocationes», sicut etiam «Ecclesiae nuper ex persecutionibus venientes atque indigentes auxiliis, quae per longum tempus a multis magnanimiter et fraterne data sunt et continuo offeruntur».442

Within the ecclesial communion, the priest is called in particular to grow, thanks to his ongoing formation, in and with his own presbyterate in union with his bishop.

Intus in communitate ecclesiali, sacerdos praecipue vocatur ad crescendum, in sua veritate perenni, in suo presbyterio cumque suo presbyterio episcopo coniuncto.

The presbyterate, in the fullness of its truth, is a mysterium: It is in fact a supernatural reality because it is rooted in the sacrament of holy orders. This is its source and origin.

Presbyterium, in sua veritate plena, mysterium est; res est enim supernaturalis, quoniam in Ordinis sacramento positum est.

This is its “place” of birth and of its growth. Indeed, “priests by means of the sacrament of orders are tied with a personal and indissoluble bond to Christ the one priest. The sacrament of holy orders is conferred upon each of them as individuals, but they are inserted into the communion of the presbyterate united with the bishop (Lumen Gentium, 28; Presbyterorum Ordinis, 7 and 8).”[223]

Hoc eius fons est, eius origo; eius ortus et auctus «locus». Namque, «presbyteri per sacramentum Ordinis vinculo personali et indissolubili cum Christo unico sacerdote colligantur. Ordo eis ut singulis confertur, sed inserti sunt in communione presbyterii cum episcopo iuncti 443».444

This sacramental origin is reflected and continued in the sphere of priestly ministry: from mysterium to ministerium. “Unity among the priests with the bishop and among themselves is not something added from the outside to the nature of their service, but expresses its essence inasmuch as it is the care of Christ the priest for the people gathered in the unity of the Blessed Trinity.”[224] This unity among priests, lived in a spirit of pastoral charity, makes priests witnesses of Jesus Christ, who prayed to the Father” that they may all be one” (Jn. 17:21).

Haec sacramentalis origo apparet et extenditur in exercitio ministerii presbyteralis: a mysterio ad mysterium. «Presbyterorum unitas et cum episcopo et inter se non ab extra additur naturae eorum servitii propriae, sed exprimit eius essentiam quatenus est cura Christi Sacerdotis circa plebem ex unitate Sanctissimae Trinitatis adunatam».445 Haec sacerdotalis unitas, ex spiritu caritatis pastoralis explicata, sacerdotes facit Iesu Christi testes, qui Patrem est deprecatus ut «omnes unum sint».446

The presbyterate thus appears as a true family, as a fraternity whose ties do not arise from flesh and blood but from the grace of holy orders. This grace takes up and elevates the human and psychological bonds of affection and friendship, as well as the spiritual bonds which exist between priests. It is a grace that grows ever greater and finds expression in the most varied forms of mutual assistance, spiritual and material as well. Priestly fraternity excludes no one. However it can and should have its preferences, those of the Gospel, reserved for those who have greatest need of help and encouragement. This fraternity “takes special care of the young priests, maintains a kind and fraternal dialogue with those of the middle and older age groups, and with those who for whatever reasons are facing difficulties, as for those priests who have given up this way of life or are not following it at this time, this brotherhood does not forget them but follows them all the more with fraternal solicitude.”[225]

Facies igitur presbyterii, facies est verae familiae, fraternitatis, cuius vincula non ex carne et sanguine sunt, sed ex ordinis gratia: quae gratia sumit et tollit rationes humanas, psychologicas, affectiosas, amicabiles et spirituales inter sacerdotes; gratia, quae diffunditur, penetrat et ostenditur atque ad effectum deducitur multis mutui auxilii modis, non solum spiritualibus, verum etiam materialibus. Fraternitas presbyteralis neminem excludit, at suas potest ac debet habere propensiones: evangelicas, dicimus, in eos qui maiore auxilii vel hortationis necessitate laborant. «Haec fraternitas specialem habet curam de iuvenibus presbyteris, cordialem ac fraternum dialogum cum illis mediae et maioris aetatis, et erga illos qui una aliave ratione difficultates experiuntur; etiam sacerdotes qui ab hac forma vitae defecerunt, aut illam non sequuntur, non solum non derelinquit, sed fraterna sollicitudine ultra prosequitur».447

Religious clergy who live and work in a particular church also belong to the one presbyterate, albeit under a different title. Their presence is a source of enrichment for all priests. The different particular charisms which they live, while challenging all priests to grow in the understanding of the priesthood itself, help to encourage and promote ongoing priestly formation. The gift of religious life, in the framework of the diocese, when accompanied by genuine esteem and rightful respect for the particular features of each institute and each spiritual tradition, broadens the horizon of Christian witness and contributes in various ways to an enrichment of priestly spirituality, above all with regard to the proper relationship and interplay between the values of the particular church and those of the whole People of God. For their part, religious will be concerned to ensure a spirit of true ecclesial communion, a genuine participation in the progress of the diocese and the pastoral decisions of the bishop, generously putting their own charism at the service of building up everyone; in charity.[226]

Unici presbyterii pars sunt, titulo diverso, etiam presbyteri religiosi qui in Ecclesia particulari habitant et operantur. Eorum praesentia omnes locupletat sacerdotes variaque charismata, ex quibus vivunt, dum presbyteris adhortationi sunt ut crescant in cognitione ipsius sacerdotii, conferunt ad excitandam et prosequendam sacerdotum formationem permanentem. Vitae religiosae donum, in dioecesana compage si sincerae aestimationi coniungitur et iusta observantia proprietatum cuiusvis Instituti et cuiuslibet spiritualis consuetudinis, testimonii christiani fines dilatat et multimodis prodest spiritualitati sacerdotali locupletandae, praesertim quod pertinet ad rectam necessitudinem atque mutuam efficacitatem inter valores Ecclesiae particularis et Ecclesiae universitatis Populi Dei. Ipsi religiosi attenti erunt praestando spiritui verae communionis ecclesialis, liberali participationi itineris dioecesis et episcopi optionum, suum charisma libenter suppeditando aedificandis omnibus in caritate.448

 

 

 

 

SOLITUDE and LONELINESS

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, it is in the context of the Church as communion and in the context of the presbyterate that we can best discuss the problem of priestly loneliness treated by the synod fathers.

In contextu Ecclesiae communionis et presbyterii melius quaestio tractari potest de sacerdotis solitudine, in qua Patres synodales perseveraverunt.

There is a loneliness which all priests experience and which is completely normal. Est solitudo quidem, quae ad experientiam omnium pertinet et aliquid est omnino naturale;
But there is another loneliness which is the product of various difficulties and which in turn creates further difficulties. With regard to the latter,  sed est etiam solitudo, quae e variis oritur difficultatibus et alias vicissim gignit difficultates. Hoc sensu

“active participation in the diocesan presbyterate,

regular contact with the bishop

and with the other priests,

mutual cooperation,

common life or fraternal dealings between priests,

as also friendship and good relations with the lay faithful who are active in parish life

  «activa participatio in presbyterio dioecesano,
   regulares contactus cum episcopo
  et aliis sacerdotibus,
mutua collaboratio,
  vita communis vel fraterna inter sacerdotes,
   sicut etiam conviventia familiaris cum christifidelibus laicis activis in paroecia,
are very useful means to overcome the negative effects of loneliness which the priest can sometimes experience.”[227] media valde utilia sunt ad superandos effectus negativos solitudinis quos interdum sacerdos experiri potest».449

Loneliness does not however create only difficulties; it can also offer positive opportunities for the priestly life: “When it is accepted in a spirit of oblation and is seen as an opportunity for greater intimacy with Jesus Christ the Lord, solitude can be an opportunity for prayer and study, as also a help for sanctification and also for human growth.”[228]

At solitudo non solummodo difficultates parit, verum et efficaces praebet opportunitates sacerdotis vitae: «In spiritu oblationis accepta et quaesita in intimitate cum domino Iesu, solitudo etiam orationis et studii opportunitas ac simul sanctificationis et humani progressus adiumentum esse potest».450

It should be added that a certain type of solitude is a necessary element in ongoing formation. Jesus often went off alone to pray (cf. Mt. 14:23). The ability to handle a healthy solitude is indispensable for caring for one’s interior life. Here we are speaking of a solitude filled with the presence of the Lord who puts us in contact with the Father, in the light of the Spirit. In this regard, concern for silence and looking for places and times of “desert” are necessary for the priest’s permanent formation, whether in the intellectual, spiritual or pastoral areas. In this regard too, it can be said that those unable to have a positive experience of their own solitude are incapable of genuine and fraternal fellowship.

Ne dicamus aliquod solitudinis genus partem esse necessariam formationis perennis. Saepe Iesus secedebat ut solus oraret.451 Facultas bonam solitudinem sustinendi est ad vitae interioris curam condicio necessaria. De solitudine agitur Domini praesentia habitata, qui nos, in Spiritus lumine, cum Patre iungit. Sic intellecta, silentii cura et spatiorum temporumque «deserti» quaesitio formationi perenni necessariae sunt. Hoc item sensu qui suam solitudinem bene colere nescit, ad veram fraternamque communionem non aptus dicitur esse.

75. Ongoing formation aims at increasing the priest’s awareness of his share in the Church’s saving mission. In the Church’s “mission,” the priest’s permanent formation appears not only as a necessary condition but also as an indispensable means for constantly refocusing on the meaning of his mission and for ensuring that he is carrying it out with fidelity and generosity. By this formation, the priest is helped to become aware of the seriousness and yet the splendid grace of an obligation which cannot let him rest, so that, like Paul, he must be able to say: “If I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16) At the same time, he also becomes aware of a demand, whether explicit or implicit, which insistently comes from all those whom God is unceasingly calling to salvation.

75. Formatio perennis eo spectat, ut sacerdos magis conscius fiat se Ecclesiae munus salvificum communicare. In Ecclesia, qua «mu- nere», formatio perennis sacerdotis comprehenditur non solum sicut necessaria condicio, verum etiam sicut ratio minime praetermittenda, ut constanter de significatione recogitetur fidesque detur illam fideliter atque alacriter ad effectum adductum iri. Hac formatione sacerdos adiuvatur ad animadvertendum totum momentum, sed eodem tempore splendidam officii gratiam, quod non sinit eum esse tranquillum: sicut Paulus is posse dicere debet: «Si evangelizavero, non mihi est gloria; necessitas enim mihi incumbit. Vae enim mihi est, si non evangelizavero» 452 et simul postulationis, apertae aut tacitae vehementer proficientis ab hominibus, quos Deus sine intermissione ad salutem vocat.

Only a suitable ongoing formation will succeed in confirming the priest in the essential and decisive element in his ministry, namely his faithfulness. The apostle Paul writes: “It is required of stewards [of the mysteries of God] that they be found trustworthy” (1 Cor. 4:2). The priest must be faithful no matter how many and varied the difficulties he meets, even in the most uncomfortable situations or when he is understandably tired, expending all his available energy until the end of his life. Paul’s witness should be both an example and an incentive for every priest: “We put no obstacle,” he writes to the Christians at Corinth, “in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, watching, hunger; by purity, knowledge, forbearance, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Cor. 6:3-10).

Solum idonea formatio permanens potest sacerdotem sustinere in eo quod essentiale et decretorium est eius sacerdotio, in fidelitate videlicet, uti apostolus Paulus scribit: «Hic autem quaeritur inter dispensatores (mysteriorum Dei) ut fidelis quis inveniatur».453 Fidelis esse debet sacerdos, etsi varii generis difficultatibus offendit, vel condicionibus admodum importunis ac fatigationis, comprehensibilis sane, per omnes vires quae praesto sunt ei, et ad vitae usque finem. Pauli testimonium cuilibet sacerdoti exemplo esse debet et stimulo: «Nemini dantes ullam offensionem, ut non vituperetur ministerium nostrum, sed in omnibus exhibentes nosmetipsos sicut Dei ministros in multa patientia, in tribulationibus, in necessitatibus, in angustiis, in plagis, in carceribus, in seditionibus, in laboribus, in vigiliis, in ieiuniis, in castitate, in scientia, in longanimitate, in Spiritu Sancto, in caritate non ficta, in verbo veritatis, in virtute Dei; per arma iustitiae a dextris et sinistris, per gloriam et ignobilitatem, per infamiam et bonam famam; ut seductores et veraces, sicut qui ignoti et cogniti, quasi morientes, et ecce vivimus, ut castigati et non mortificati, quasi tristes, semper autem gaudentes, sicut egentes, multos autem locupletantes, tanquam nihil habentes et omnia possidentes».454

At Every Age and in All Conditions of Life

 

76. Permanent or ongoing formation, precisely because it is “permanent,” should always be a part of the priest’s life. In every phase and condition of his life, at every level of responsibility he has in the Church, he is undergoing formation. Clearly then, the possibilities for formation and the different kinds of formation are connected with the variety of ages, conditions of life and duties one finds among priests.

76. Formatio permanens, ob id ipsum quod «permanens» est, est semper sacerdotibus excolenda; omni igitur vitae tempore omnique in condicione, sicut et in omni gradu responsalitatis ecclesialis: secundum, ut par est, facultates ac proprietates, quae vitae condicionum et concreditorum munerum mutationi iunctae sunt.

Ongoing formation is a duty, in the first instance, for young priests. They should have frequent and systematic meetings which, while they continue the sound and serious formation they have received in the seminary, will gradually lead young priests to grasp and incarnate the unique wealth of God’s gift which is the priesthood and to express their capabilities and ministerial attitude, also through an ever more convinced and responsible insertion in the presbyterate, and therefore in communion and co - responsibility with all their brethren.

Formatio perennis seu permanens est imprimis iuvenibus sacerdotibus officium: ea illas habere debet assiduitatem et rationem congressionum quae, dum producunt gravitatem et soliditatem formationis in seminario acceptae, gradatim iuvenes ducunt ad intellegendas et colendas singulares divitias «doni» Dei — sacerdotii videlicet — et ad interpositionem certiorem ac magis consciam in dies in presbyterium, ideoque in communionem atque in corresponsalitatem cum omnibus fratribus in sacerdotio.

With priests who have just come out of the seminary, a certain sense of “having had enough is quite understandable when faced with new times of study and meeting. But the idea that priestly formation ends on the day one leaves the seminary is false and dangerous, and needs to be totally rejected.

Si comprehendi potest quidam «satietatis» sensus, quo iuvenis presbyter affici potest, vix e seminario egressus, prae novis studii et congressionis temporibus, est omnino opinio reicienda, tanquam falsa et periculosa, formationem presbyteralem concludi praesentia in seminario peracta.

Young priests who take part in meetings for ongoing formation will be able to help one another by exchanging experiences and reflecting on how to put into practice the ideals of the priesthood and of ministry which they have imbibed during their seminary years. At the same time, their active participation in the formational meetings of the presbyterate can be an example and stimulus to other priests who are ahead of them in years. They can thus show their love for all those making up the presbyterate and how much they care for their particular church, which needs well - formed priests.

Congressiones formationis permanentis communicantes iuvenes sacerdotes poterunt mutuum afferre auxilium invicem participantes experientias et cogitationes de exsecutione eius presbyteralis ac ministerialis exemplaris, quod in sucum et sanguinem converterunt per annos in seminario actos. Eodem tempore eorum actuosa participatio congressionum ad formationem presbyterii pertinentium, exemplo esse poterit et stimulo sacerdotibus senioribus, sicque suum testabuntur amorem erga totum presbyterium suumque Ecclesiae particularis studium, quae bene formatis sacerdotibus indiget.

In order to accompany the young priests in this first delicate phase of their life and ministry, it is very opportune, and perhaps even absolutely necessary nowadays, to create a suitable support structure, with appropriate guides and teachers. Here priests can find, in an organized way that continues through their first years of ministry, the help they need to make a good start in their priestly service. Through frequent and regular meetings - of sufficient duration and held within a community setting, if possible - they will be assured of having times for rest, prayer, reflection and fraternal exchange. It will then be easier for them, right from the beginning, to give a balanced approach, based on the Gospel, to their priestly life. And in those cases where individual local churches are not in a position to offer this service to their own young priests, it will be a good idea for neighboring churches to pool resources and draw up suitable programs.

Ad adiuvandos iuvenes sacerdotes hoc difficili vitae et ministerii sui momento peropportunum est, si non necessarium hodie, structuram munimenti ad hoc ipsum institutam creare, cum moderatoribus ac idoneis magistris, in qua possint invenire, modo congruenti et continuo, praesidia necessaria ad bene ineundum suum sacerdotale servitium. In congressionibus periodicis, satis longis et crebris, actis, si fieri potest, in loco communi, domicilii instar, utilia iis concedentur tempora quietis, deprecationis, meditationis et fraterni colloquii. Ita facilius ab initio poterunt vitam suam presbyteralem evangelice ordinare. Si vero singulae Ecclesiae particulares non poterunt hoc servitium suis iuvenibus sacerdotibus praebere, opportunum erit Ecclesias vicinas sese coniungere et una simul opes collocare et apta programmata elaborare.

77. Ongoing formation is a duty also for priests of middle age. They can face a number of risks precisely because of their age, as for example an exaggerated activism or a certain routine approach to the exercise of their ministry. As a result, the priest can be tempted to presume he can manage on his own, as if his own personal experience, which has seemed trustworthy to that point, needs no contact with anything or anyone else. Often enough, the older priest has a sort of interior fatigue which is dangerous. It can be a sign of a resigned disillusionment in the face of difficulties and failures. Such situations find an answer in ongoing formation, in a continued and balanced checking of oneself and one’s activity, constantly looking for motivation and aids which will enable one to carry on one’s mission. As a result the priest will maintain a vigilant spirit, ready to face the perennial yet ever new demands of salvation which people keep bringing to him as the “man of God.”

77. Formatio permanens officium quoque est presbyteris mediae aetatis. Reapse multiplicia sunt pericula, quibus possunt se offerre, ob ipsam aetatem, qualia sunt nimia navitas et quaedam in ministerii exercitio assuetudo. Hinc sacerdos temptatur sibi nimis confidere, ac si eius personalis experientia iam comprobata non amplius esset cum ulla re aut cum quoquam comparanda. Non raro sacerdos adultus quandam patitur interiorem lassitudinem noxiam, signum frustrationis paratae omnia perpeti ante difficultates et male gesta. Huiusmodi condicioni responsionem dant formatio permanens, continua et aequa recognitio sui suique agendi modi, constans quaesitio causarum et instrumentorum ad proprium munus exsequendum: ita sacerdos spiritum servabit vigilantem et paratum ad perennes et tamen semper novas postulationes salutis, quas quisque presbytero proponit, «homini Dei».

Ongoing formation should also involve those priests who by their advanced years can be called elderly and who in some churches make up the greater part of the presbyterate. The presbyterate should show them gratitude for the faithful service they have performed on behalf of Christ and his Church, and also practical solidarity to help them in their condition. Ongoing formation for these priests will not be a matter so much of study, updating and educational renewal, but rather a calm and reassuring confirmation of the part which they are still called upon to play in the presbyterate, not only inasmuch as they continue - perhaps in different ways - their pastoral ministry, but also because of the possibilities they themselves have, thanks to their experience of life and apostolate, of becoming effective teachers and trainers of other priests.

Permanens institutio eos quoque presbyteros implicare debet qui provecta iam aetate senes habentur, qui in nonnullis Ecclesiis maior sunt iam pars presbyterii. Idcirco gratus animus est iis referendus ob ministerium Christo et Ecclesiae praestitum iisque solidarietas est significanda, qui in talibus condicionibus versantur. Horum presbyterorum permanens formatio non expostulabit officium studiorum, recentioris doctrinae et cultus inquisitionis, sed sedatam remissamque confirmationem illius muneris, quod iisdem in presbyterio adhuc est sustinendum, non modo ut ministerium pastorale, quamvis diversis sub formis, continuetur, verum etiam vitae et apostolatus experti ut magistri et aliorum sacerdotum doctorum sustinere possint ipsi personam.

Also those priests who because of the burden of work or illness find themselves in a condition of physical weakness or moral fatigue can be helped by an on, going formation which will encourage them to keep up their service to the Church in a calm and sustained fashion, and not to isolate themselves either from the community or from the presbyterate. However, they should reduce their external activities and dedicate themselves to those pastoral contacts and that personal spirituality which can help them keep up their motivation and priestly joy. Ongoing formation will help such priests to keep alive the conviction - which they themselves have inculcated in the faithful - that they continue to be active members for the building up of the Church, especially by virtue of their union with the suffering Christ and with so many other brothers and sisters in the Church who are sharing in the Lord’s passion, reliving Paul’s spiritual experience when he said, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” (Col. 1:24).229

Sacerdotes quoque qui ob labores et valetudinem haud bonam in debilibus condicionibus versantur corporis animive perenni institutione iuvantur, unde iidem concitentur ad quietum acreque pro Ecclesia ministerium continuandum, ne se a communitate vel presbyterio seiungant, ad externam actionem minuendam, ut tantummodo eos actus peragant pastoralis necessitudinis et spiritualitatis personalis aptos ad rationes et sacerdotii laetitiam sustinendas. Permanens formatio adiuvabit eos ad vivam servandam conscientiam, quam ipsi fidelibus inculcaverunt, se scilicet pergere esse membra nava in Ecclesiae aedificatione, etiam et potissimum propter suam cum Christo patienti communionem aeque cum tot fratribus sororibusque qui in Ecclesia Passionem Domini participant, spiritalem Paul