'A TIME FOR PRIESTS': SESSION 7 - 'ONGOING PRIESTLY FORMATION'

Ongoing formation and ongoing care.


To have a living, organic understanding of ourselves as men and human beings. We are living, growing, called to become more perfect in love. We are plants in God’s garden, called to bear fruit. John 15: the vine and the branches.

‘So for anyone in Christ, there is a new creation’ (2 Cor. 5:17). The intimate relationship between ourselves and Christ can never be a static relationship.

We must avoid being functionaries. The importance of striving, not going stale, not getting into a rut:


‘IN YOUR SIGHT WE OFFER THIS MAN FOR ORDINATION; SUPPORT HIM WITH YOUR UNFAILING LOVE’ - Rite of Ordination:


In this talk, we consider ways in which God supports us with his unfailing love.

‘In his turn, each priest must feel he is encouraged, with the word and with the example of his Bishop and his confreres in the priesthood, to assume responsibility for his own formation, since he is the first formator of himself’. Directory for the Ministry and the Life of Priests, 98.

‘Ongoing formation is a right-duty of the priest and imparting it is a right-duty of the Church’. Directory of the Ministry and Life of Priests, 90.

‘It is essential that the priest ‘have the right balance of heart and mind, reason and feeling, body and soul and to be humanly integrated’. Pope Benedict XVI, Letter to Seminarians, 18th Oct. 2010.

Conversion as becoming the best version of ourselves that we can be (Matthew Kelly)


God does not call the qualified but qualifies the called. Growing in faith, hope and love. Becoming more perfect in love all the time, throughout our lives. Staying fresh.

How do we stay fresh?


Professional demands of in-service akin to other professions.

A changing world, cultural shifts, increasing secularism. In this changing world, we priests need to know how to meet the challenges that constantly present themselves.

The human, the spiritual, the intellectual and the pastoral shape of ongoing formation for priests.


Ongoing Human formation:

Looking after our health. Leading a balanced, integrated life. Improving our capacity to relate and communicate. Listening, awareness. Self-knowledge, rest and holidays. Finding things that give us life and exploring new possibilities in accordance with our capacities and our age. Being a priest means being a bridge and man of communion to facilitate an encounter with Christ (cf. PDV 43). Journaling, Growth in virtue. Essential is spiritual direction and the availability of counselling. Good friends are honest friends. Sexual awareness and affective maturity. Ongoing integration of our sexuality into our fundamental orientation towards God and our identity as priests. Seminary is about formation for celibacy. Priesthood is about ongoing formation in celibacy.

We are works of art in progress.

Our personal and ecclesial rationale for celibacy needs to be revisited regularly. We must continue to claim our celibate choice as an act of love for God and his Church: to take ownership of it as my choice. The way of life where I am happiest.

Update our skills for healthy celibate living, e.g. the maintenance of proper professional boundaries, appropriate use of the internet and our smart phones.

Interest in arts and sciences, politics, sociology, drama and culture. To have an interest in these things and engage with them.


Ongoing Spiritual Formation:

Keeping before us the priority of the spiritual. We are men of faith. We are men of God. If that goes everything else falls with it. Ongoing spiritual formation as learning ‘to live in holy, familiar and attentive union with the Father, through his Son Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit’ PDV 8.

Finding a good spiritual director: the importance of ongoing accompaniment and the regular reception of mercy in the sacrament of mercy. Being good penitents in order to be confessors.

The Liturgy of the hours, the sanctification of time, a healthy devotional life. Friday Fasting, Devotion to Mary, Eucharistic spirituality

Days of formation for clergy, good theology books, journals, blogs and websites, the lives of the saints. The annual diocesan retreat.

Daily prayer times, Eucharist, adoration, rosary, meditation on the Word of God, stations of the cross on Fridays and during Lent.

Jesus Caritas groups, Focolare, Lectio Divina groups.

To have discipline and order to our spiritual lives.


Ongoing Intellectual Formation:

Faith seeking understanding that is motivated and driven by a love for the people we serve. Example of the Fathers of the Church: pastors who were theologians. Return to our roots in the Church. To engage with the great philosophical and theologian tradition in the Church.

The essential life of the mind. To love God with all our hearts, souls and minds’. Opportunities for suitable and interested priests to engage in further study. Book clubs. Sharing of good articles we find.

Philosophy: C.S. Lewis, Paul Murray OP, Peter Kreeft, Bishop Robert Barron’s ‘WORD ON FIRE’, Alister McGrath. Themes that are of great relevance in the cultural debates. Themes of scientific progress. Creative Apologetics: www.strangenotions.com


Ongoing Pastoral formation:

Catechesis, marriage and the family: Amoris laetitia, Fratelli Tutti, vocations, the sacraments, liturgy. Specific Areas. For example in advance of pressing issues in society, e.g. in Ireland, the pro-Life issue, the homeless crisis, climate justice, responses to COVID-19.

Sensitivity towards the hopes and problems of our people, especially in solidarity with the poor. Dialogue, participation and co-responsibility.

Continuing to upgrade on management skills and institutional leadership skills.

‘Christianity is a religion with a big dream. It is a dream that became a reality in Jesus Christ. The Catholic imagination allows us to dream big.

To strive to become the best possible version of ourselves.

Conclusion:

‘Consider your dignity, since God has in mercy has given you the great distinction of having to dispense the fire of divine charity, the body and blood of Christ crucified. Just think! Not even the angels have such dignity! See how God has put his word into the vessel of your soul. You know very well that when you speak in the person of Christ, you have the authority to consecrate that wonderful sacrament. So you must carry this word with an immense fire of love, with spiritual and bodily purity, and with a peaceable heart, dispelling all hatred and animosity from your soul’.

St Catherine of Siena, Letter to Pietro, Priest of Semignano, The Letters, Vol 1, p. 276.

‘O Christian, remember your dignity!’ Pope St Leo the Great.

‘O priest remember your dignity!’

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