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Priestly Chastity

by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza

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  • Description:
    Talk by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza on priestly chastity which appeared on the Clerus website dated November 26, 2011.
  • Publisher & Date:
    Clerus, November 26, 2011

Dear brother priests, dear seminarians,

I am especially pleased to be with you today on the occasion of the regional Day for Piemontese Seminarians, and I thank you for your kind invitation. The topic you proposed to me [priestly chastity] is particularly timely and I believe it should occupy an important place in every formation course for the ministerial priesthood, since affective education is never separated, and is, in fact, inseparable, from the other areas of priestly formation: intellectual, spiritual, and pastoral. I will develop my reflections along two fundamental lines and I will try to draw some conclusions from this analysis.

The present situation

It would be nothing less than imprudent to approach the important subject of affective formation without considering the real revolution that has taken place in western society, and, by a sort of lethal contagion, throughout the world, from the 1970s until now. The separation of the unitive aspect of sexuality from the procreative, which reduced one of the most anthropologically significant acts to its merely instinctive dimension, has yielded devastating consequences, not only on the moral plane—which would already be exceptionally serious—but, over the course of the decades, also on the psycho-anthropological plane.

It is unthinkable to address the topic of affective formation in the seminary without starting from the lucid awareness that, without choosing it, all those born after the 1970s and 1980s have grown up in a pan-sexualized and hyper-eroticized cultural climate. In this climate the powerful forces of the world have sought to bend the freedom of persons to various unworthy interests, and have spared no measures, including subliminal messages instilled from the earliest ages, even in some children’s cartoons, to achieve the “destructuralization” of the psycho-affective dimension of the human personality, and by so doing to subject man to his instincts. To what could be called the post-1970s sexual revolution we must add the omnipresence of the communications media, especially television and more recently the internet. These have imported into every household, or better said, into every room and place, images never seen in earlier times, which remain impressed in the memory, fantasy, and even the subconscious of persons from the tenderest ages, and which are found to act in an uncontrolled and uncontrollable way.

If original sin always rendered the psycho-sexual dimension of the human person particularly fragile, these recent significant changes have produced in it a veritable upheaval, acting no longer only in the private sphere of personal temptation, but becoming generalized customs and even shared culture, to the point that any other sort of behavior now appears “weird” to popular opinion. This situation, which could appear at first “apocalyptic,” describes in reality not so much a moral attitude as the real cultural situation in which even those who hear the call to celibacy and the priestly ministry are deeply immersed and from which, in the end, they originate.

In such a sociocultural context it is, unfortunately, necessary to recognize what I would describe as the trivialization of affectivity in general, and of sexuality in particular. Let me explain. The artificial uncoupling of the unitive and procreative aspects of sexuality has irremediably reduced the broad sphere of affectivity to the simple exercise of genitality. This has robbed sexuality of the definitive context that is proper to it and, in so doing has diminished its importance and decisively rendered it banal. This becomes evident especially in the superficiality with which certain acts or gestures are often performed—acts which by their nature would presuppose a maturity and definitiveness that in the great majority of cases doesn’t exist. And this happens without the least remorse of conscience. It is no mystery that in such an environment some young people live a full exercise of genitality with the same nonchalance entailed in offering a handshake!

It is obvious that in such a cultural milieu seminary formators must carry out an attentive discernment. They are called to distinguish clearly between those who come from a traditionally Christian formation that has been consciously embraced along with a correct understanding of affectivity and sexuality, and those who, on the contrary, come from a worldly situation in which they have been totally immersed, in which case it is unimaginable even with the help of Grace that they suddenly adopt radically different attitudes.

This judgment does not necessarily imply the creation of differentiated formative tracks. Nor does it suppose the impossibility of reaching the state of equilibrium required by the commitment to celibacy prior to ordination. It does, however, certainly require a radical, progressive assumption of awareness on the part of both seminarians and their formators, together with a good dose of humble realism and a serious, committed program. Here it isn’t a question only of overcoming vices and acquiring virtues, but of fighting and overcoming in themselves an anthropological structure received from and constantly reproposed by the dominant culture. It is important to be truly free! A situation of osmosis occurs vis-à-vis the dominant culture and if one isn’t watchful, one ends up being anesthetized through a sort of worldly IV, drip-by-drip.

Such a disoriented and disorienting environment has consequences not only in the psycho-sexual sphere, but assails the entire relational core of the person. Growing up in a hyper-eroticized environment in which one almost unconsciously breathes a disordered sexuality has consequences on a person’s daily activity and his ordinary relationships.

The true drama, then, in this context is constituted by the fact that even the subjects themselves, who are victims of this general psycho-affective drift (whether they are aware of it or not), live a radical dissatisfaction brought about solely by the discord between what the human person was created for, with the attendant deep significance on his affectivity, and what they actually live.

The heart of man is made for definitiveness. Whatever the vocation to which God has called him, virginal or spousal, it is solely definitiveness that will bring about his real fulfillment. As the image and likeness of God, who is infinite love, man realizes that among his elementary needs figure truth, freedom, beauty, justice, love and, as a synthesis of all of them—though today so poorly understood, despite people’s tentative searches and even pretenses to attainment—happiness! Everyone perceives that the satisfaction of these needs requires, and even assumes, totality. No one would calmly accept being “a little bit” just, or “a little bit” free. Everyone demands that these universal anthropological needs be met fully, both experientially and chronologically. This plenitude is what we mean with the term “definitiveness.” Sacred Scripture teaches us to resist “steadfast in the faith” the one who “like a roaring lion prowls about seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8-9), even when such an experience was that of our “old man.” The sometimes extreme frailty of marriage unions and the inability of so many young people to assume definitive commitments are rooted in the same stuff as difficulties in living an ordered affectivity and maturing in the peaceful acceptance of the vocation to virginity. If in every age perfect continence for the Kingdom of Heaven and celibacy have been difficult due to the frailty of human nature, paradoxically in our age it seems particularly arduous, since the media communicate an aggressive pan-sexualism, able to distort one’s very perception of the affective, sexual and relational spheres.

Affective formation for consecrated celibacy

How can one imagine an effective formation program for candidates to the priesthood who come from such a cultural environment? Where to begin and what course to set in order to avoid—as far as humanly possible—errors that could turn out to be dramatically fatal for the future priest? After a methodological premise, I will articulate this second point of my paper, which is the central matter of the topic assigned to me, in three sub-points, which are dynamically integrated with each other, but which, for the sake of pedagogical effectiveness, I prefer to distinguish and only afterward to show their intimate relationship. We will consider, then, the following dimensions: 1. purification of the memory, 2. education of the present affective situation and, finally, 3. the prayerful awaiting for the gift of the priesthood and for the corresponding grace of state that comes from it and is so essential for living consecrated chastity. Everything said up till now reminds us, if it were still necessary, of the importance of formation of the affections and the radical serenity with which this formation must be undertaken.

It is intolerable for the matter of the affections to be dealt with only tangentially and superficially during the period of formation. In the most rigorous respect for the needed and canonically recognized distinction between the internal and external forum, it is necessary that the affective dimension be addressed explicitly with the seminary superiors and, if this doesn’t happen spontaneously, by the seminary superiors themselves. Certainly this implies that the superiors themselves be affectively mature persons, at peace with themselves and with their own psycho-affective sphere, not frustrated and therefore, at least not tending to project on others their own unresolved issues. It is necessary that they have integrated their own possible psycho-affective problems in order to accompany others along this path toward maturity. Therefore it is necessary that the choice of formation personnel be carefully pondered and take into account not only the theological and pastoral competencies of candidates but also, and perhaps especially, their psycho-affective maturity and the general harmonic balance of their personality.

While recognizing the indispensable role of personal responsibility in the formation period it is always essential to maintain the distinction between educators and students, between those to whom the formation of future priests has been entrusted by the bishop and the candidates themselves. Every error in this area could bear serious consequences, not least of which is the ineffectiveness of the educational process itself.

Purification of the memory

I mentioned earlier the need to distinguish between those candidates who come from a motivated Christian formation and presumably were educated in the real meaning of human affectivity, and those who were immersed in the world with its affective and sexual customs, experienced a conversion, heard a calling and came knocking at the door of the seminary. Both groups, however, need to undertake a true and comprehensive purification of the memory, both from a spiritual point of view and from a moral and psychological standpoint.

It is impossible to purify the memory without “remembering.” While avoiding the risk of getting bogged down in the morass of memories with their corresponding emotional reactions, an honest narration of one’s personal affective history is necessary, at least in the internal forum. This will allow the candidate to present his affective history to God, with all its beauty and shortcomings, with its fruitfulness and its falls, with its sporadic and accidental mistakes or reiterated, structural limitations. To “remember” means to cultivate a healthy realism without which no genuine path of healing is possible! To “remember” means allowing someone else to know, at least one’s superior in the internal forum—the spiritual director—one’s personal history. This will permit him to draw together as many elements as possible of the candidate’s path in order to help him to adopt a truly effective spiritual program, that is, to accompany the candidate toward a sufficient integration of his affective dimension and toward fidelity in his commitment to celibacy. Dear friends, rather than glossing over critical aspects of one’s personal affective experiences, it is better to speak about them with someone, even someone outside the seminary, for example with the so-called extraordinary confessors or a priest that you trust. If necessary, these counselors can help address these concerns, whereas sweeping them under the rug can only call into question one’s purity of intention.

Purification of the memory, which has an important initial stage during the time of seminary formation, but which lasts throughout one’s entire earthly existence, requires and in a sense implies a radical humility. In his Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius of Loyola teaches us the art of the discernment of spirits, which is intimately connected to the purification of the memory. Each of us can observe how the frailty of our human nature and the limits of our memory can allow images and memories to remain, even in an obstinate way. Even when submitted to the “power of the keys” and under divine Mercy, and thus destroyed by God, these memories can continue to insinuate themselves into the spiritual life, sometimes in an aggressive fashion.

Contemporary culture tends literally to “stuff” young people with images, and thus with “memories,” which in other times would have been unthinkable. It’s enough to walk around the streets of any city, without even mentioning television or internet, to be subjected to a veritable lynching by images. From the experience of studying the sad causes of dispensations from priestly duties, it seems evident to me that a person can see more in a half hour of bad use of internet than he would have run into in an entire lifetime in the past! If candidates to the priesthood come from this type of experience, it is indispensable that they choose and are assisted in carrying out a truly radical break, just to be able to imagine the possibility of faithfulness to priestly celibacy. All the memories not purified and all the bad habits not overcome during the formation period will come back to roost, causing serious problems of psycho-affective balance and sometimes tragic spiritual, moral and psychological situations.

Purification of the memory could seem to be an impossible project, but we know, dear friends, that nothing is impossible for God! In this regard, the essential work of this purification, carried out and firmly pursued with human intelligence, freedom and willpower, is perfected by supernatural grace, which comes to us especially through an intense spiritual and sacramental life. What could seem impossible to our eyes is made possible by God’s constant and effective intervention. If he is capable of raising up sons of Abraham from stones, he can forge balanced, integrated, chaste men, reconciled with the memory of their own past, even in this time which is so disoriented and disorienting from a psycho-affective standpoint.

Education of present affective experience

The apostolic exhortation “Pastores Dabo Vobis” asserts: “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” (no. 44). With an extraordinarily realistic language, in a sense “new” to pontifical documents, Blessed John Paul II left us an edifice of affective education for celibacy. The inclinations of affectivity and the urgings of the passions are not removed or modified by the charism of celibacy, which—as the text affirms—remain intact! It is therefore necessary to educate one’s affective state, both as regards one’s inclinations and as regards one’s urges, to keep from imagining a future priesthood radically different from one’s present seminary life, from the psycho-affective and sexual standpoint. We must understand, then, that the important time of seminary is given to us also to work on our psycho-affective harmony, in order to integrate our inclinations and urges and to choose and sharpen those “weapons” that are necessary for battle, which lasts throughout our lifetime. Awareness that the charism of celibacy is a supernatural gift of the Spirit forces us to recognize the absolute primacy of grace in this endeavor.

If it is necessary to recognize and prudently employ the contributions of the human sciences, especially psychology, with the understanding that we’re talking about a truly Christian conception of the human person, we must nevertheless acknowledge the many errors committed in this area in recent decades.

At times tasks have been delegated to the human sciences that were the competence of formators, who are essential mediators of God’s mysterious, supernatural action. It seemed that psychology was a cure-all for everything that ailed candidates to the priesthood, and thus was applied, sometimes indiscriminately, to all, without the necessary distinction between so-called physiological neuroses—which we all have—and those pathological neuroses that require clinical intervention. It was believed that evangelical values, including celibacy, could be internalized not through a personal, fascinating, life-giving encounter with Christ—which is obvious—but through processes of destructuring the personality and a presumed, but never achieved, restructuring of the same, including the above-mentioned values.

The causes of dispensation of the duties attending holy orders, including celibacy, testify to the tragic errors of the abuse or misuse of the human sciences in formation for the ministerial priesthood. Only when used with the correct criteria and in the correct situations, do these human sciences prove to be beneficial.

The gift of the charism of celibacy flourishes, is progressively embraced and matures to the point of defining the psychological personality of the priest only in an intimate, prolonged, real and interpersonal relationship with Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ! Only prayerful intimacy with the Lord and a progressive identification with his life, his words, his thoughts— “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2,5) – allow a person to embrace and live celibacy, not as an element foreign to the person, to be borne as a burden, but as a personal redefinition, born of an encounter with Christ and of the transformation and new life that such an encounter generates. Celibacy is, par excellence, that new horizon that perhaps we never imagined before, and which the encounter with Christ has radically unveiled. Moreover, as we have all experienced, an extraordinary flourishing of what is human mysteriously but truly accompanies the priestly vocation. What would our humanity be without Christ, without the vocation that He gave us? Along with the call to priestly ministry, the Lord allows our humanity to flourish, be purified and burgeon in unexpected and extraordinary ways, progressively enabling it to definitively embrace this extraordinary charism and live it as a supreme witness to Christ in the day-to-day reality of priestly ministry.

Even in the dramatic time of shameful scandals, against which it is necessary to act with all our strength, both in formation and through reparatory penance and prayer as well as from the serious disciplinary and penal aspects, the world does not attack our “social” action or our works of charity. It is our witness of chastity for the Kingdom of Heaven and its attendant training that the world cannot tolerate.

If monastic life is always rich in fascination, let us never forget, dear friends, that, paradoxically, the witness of a diocesan priest who is immersed in his time and in his society can be even more striking. We are not monks separated from the world, to be observed with sentimentalism; we are men fully inserted into our time, “in” the world but not “of” the world. With our choice of celibacy we bear witness that God exists, that He calls men to Himself, that He can give meaning to an entire existence, and that it is worth spending our entire lives for Him!

Divine intimacy, a fundamental condition of celibacy formation, is cultivated above all—as I was saying—in prayer, in which we must be totally immersed; “Conversatio nostra in Coelis est”; whereas on earth we fret, but without accomplishing anything! Forming a radical fidelity to daily Mass, the Divine Office, Eucharistic adoration, mental prayer (also daily), the holy Rosary, through which we daily entrust our own priesthood to Mary, is the “bare minimum” if we are to hope to live celibacy. A priest who doesn’t pray, who doesn’t realize the urgency of celebrating the Eucharist each day, overcoming the groundless theories of “fasting from the Eucharist” and the scandalous “days off,” in which priests seem to be exempted from their relationship with Christ as well—how sad for a priest to be liberated from Christ!—will find great difficulty living his celibacy with serenity and effectiveness. During seminary training it is essential to form oneself in these indispensable dimensions of priestly life. Seminarians must ask for supernatural grace so that these practices be not only good and virtuous habits, but a true psycho-anthropological-spiritual structure defining their personal identity. The priest not only celebrates holy Mass, he also finds his identity in it, since Mass becomes progressively and truly his life, and he “is” the Mass he celebrates! In this clearly supernatural dimension, for which one must be educated, every thought, every word, and, evidently, every action in disaccord with the greatness of one’s vocation should be avoided, certainly, for their sinfulness, but also—and I would say especially—because of the unhappiness they generate in their total incongruence with the truth, both of the priesthood and of the ministerial actions that the priest carries out.

The human sciences can provide valid assistance in understanding, at least in general terms the fundamental dynamics of the psyche and human affectivity. A good psychologist may be able to recognize the problems that exist and may offer invaluable help, but he certainly cannot resolve them. Only Christ saves man in his fullness!

Two more elements seem essential to me in affective education: one’s relations with the world and the role of intellectual formation.

As regards relations with the world—already extensively treated in the first point of this address—one sees all too clearly that in seminary training there is far too much naïveté in this area. If in the 1950s and 1960s there was a need, at least for some, to open themselves more to the world, or at least to reveal to the world the full beauty of Christianity in a new and comprehensible way, today we find ourselves immersed in the exact opposite problem: that of being completely immersed in the world.

I believe that in our present circumstances it is simply impossible to embark on a serious and committed path of formation in perfect chastity for the Kingdom of Heaven if one is incapable of a radical break from the world, which is, above and before all a break with its mentality. Yet it is only in this way that one can serve society. Can a seminarian have the same identical attitudes as when he was a member of the parish youth group or when he was a college student? Can he, during his times of pastoral work in parishes, frequent the same places with the same attitudes?

I’m not speaking here, dear friends, of becoming rigid and pietistic, incapable of authentic interpersonal relationships. It is a question rather of avoiding near occasions of sin and not repeatedly exposing one’s psyche, emotivity and body to situations that will inevitably make perfect continence for the Kingdom of Heaven more difficult.

The last aspect concerns the importance of theological formation, also as regards education for priestly celibacy. A healthy Christology, faithful to the revealed Word, Tradition and the uninterrupted Magisterium, should highlight the extraordinariness of Christ’s humanity and the beauty of being configured to Him—including his perfectly chaste humanity—by priestly ordination. An ecclesiology that does not wish to betray the truth cannot reduce priests to mere religious functionaries, but from a thoroughly supernatural perspective should recognize in them a mysterious and necessary mission that is essentially and not only by degree different from that of baptism, and in fact relates to the promotion of the mission of the baptized.

I am deeply convinced that a certain theological weakness, which has found its way into quite a few academic environments, also bears serious responsibility for priestly vocations which, lacking adequate reasons—as is to be expected—cannot resist the violent and persistent impact of the world.

In finishing this reflection on the education of the present affective life of seminarians I would like to underscore once more the absolute and incontrovertible primacy of grace in priestly formation. Let us look to divine mercy, given form and celebrated in the sacrament of Reconciliation and continually invoked. Mercy is the first “medicine” to heal the limitations of concupiscence and live, in a progressively more perfect way, continence for the Kingdom of Heaven. This continence is so closely tied to the priestly ministry that the Church chooses her priests only from among those who have received this charism. What seems impossible to human effort alone becomes experientially possible by grace, in which we must entrust ourselves continually and without limits.

Prayerful waiting for the gift of priesthood

The seminary community has its supreme model in the Upper Room of Jerusalem, in which the apostles, having experienced the Risen Christ and closely united to Him, live in prayerful expectation for the gift of the Spirit, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary. If the moment of priestly ordination is the outpouring of the Spirit, which enables its receivers to speak new languages, preach the Kingdom effectively, heal with sacramental power and carry out every other action of authentic ministry, then the seminary lives, nourishes itself, walks and grows as a true Upper Room. Just as in the Upper Room all the apostles had the experience of a personal relationship with Jesus and witnessed him risen, so every seminary should be a community of men who have experienced Jesus and whose lives were changed by that encounter; men who have experienced the Risen One and see the Church as God’s chosen people and his own Body, which now walks through time and history.

In his Rule, Saint Benedict, that giant of holiness and human wisdom, unhesitatingly invites to remove from the monastery whomever should enter for any reason other than the search for God. I think that the same clarity and firmness should be employed in discerning entry into and continuance in the community of the Upper Room that is the seminary.

Every limitation can be embraced, supported and borne with by the seminary community, which is, by its nature, a formative and transitional community, just as the apostles themselves did not remain forever in the Upper Room. The lack of right intention, however, and staying in the seminary for reasons other than that of seeking and serving God and his Church cannot be tolerated, because it blocks every authentic path of conversion and real formation. The community of the Upper Room, and thus the seminary, is a community of prayer. The priest is and must be a man of prayer! It is practically impossible for a seminary community without prayer at its center to fulfill its proper mission

Prayer is not an interruption of the things we need to do. We should say, rather, that we sometimes interrupt prayer in order to do other things, and even in those other works we must keep a spirit of prayer. The reform of the clergy, looked for by many, must necessarily spring from a radical rediscovery of the supernatural dimension of the ordained ministry and the primacy of a prayerful relationship with God. This primacy should be evident in the official prayer of the seminary: through fidelity to the liturgy as the Church determines it be celebrated and through the care behind every gesture and attitude, in which there should be nothing formalistic. The correct form, besides, assists in keeping and communicating its substance.

Along with the prayer of the Church, which comprises not only holy Mass and the Divine Office, but also Eucharistic adoration, the holy rosary, and every other exercise that upholds and nourishes the faith, the seminary community is called to educate future priests also in personal prayer, silence, meditation and spaces for real divine intimacy.

As an “education,” this cannot be left solely to personal responsibility or creativity. While respecting personal freedom, moments of silence and Eucharistic adoration should be proposed as part of the daily or weekly schedule. My personal experience has been that a daily hour of Eucharistic adoration in the formation program has extraordinary effects on the lives of seminarians. It creates a familiarity with the Lord that later on, in priestly ministry, sustains and nourishes a yearning to “be with Jesus,” encouraging our freedom to constantly seek out these moments.

Prayerful waiting for the gift of priesthood orients one’s entire prayer life. Prayer doesn’t happen independently of the vocation one has received, but rather as a part of it, and a seminarian can place himself in the presence of the Lord and almost have a foretaste of the sweetness of the priestly ministry. Anticipating the celebration of holy Mass and the administration of divine mercy, one experiences that divine intimacy that with priestly ordination becomes ontological. You are all called to prepare yourselves interiorly for this. From a human point of view, nothing is improvised and from a divine perspective nothing happens ahead of time. In this sense we must also overcome those fears—which also date back to the 1970s—of an excessive “closeness” to the things of God. We need to wake up—history has moved forward! If today there is a real problem to be considered it is fragility and priestly identity that, in part because of theological fluctuations, is not sufficiently well defined and only rarely coincides with the psychological identity of the candidate.

The model for priests, Saint Jean-Marie Vianney, whom we have gotten to know better thanks to the Year for Priests, is exemplary precisely because of his total identification with his ministry. This is a necessary condition for apostolic fruitfulness, but also for interior peace, serenity, and above all a sense of personal fulfillment for priests at the service of God, the Church, and mankind.

Conclusions

At the end of this long reflection, we can draw out a few conclusions that, while not definitive, can provide some orientation for affective formation in the seminary. For the sake of simplicity and clarity, I will address them as bullet points.

1. A thematic memory of one’s psycho-affective and sexual experience constitutes a fundamental element for a truly fruitful path of formation. It allows for a vigilant and constructively critical awareness of the problematic cultural situation of our day, in which objective knowledge has given way to the most arbitrary subjectivism and its consequent relativism.

2. It is necessary to recognize the absolute primacy of grace in affective formation, without which a truly chaste life is unthinkable. This primacy is acknowledged and lived in the primacy given to the spiritual dimension of life, made up of prayer and the sacramental life and of the progressive psychological identification with a priestly personality.

3. The seminary community should find its proper balance between missionary aspirations—which shouldn’t transform it into a centrifugal community—and, as with the Upper Room at Jerusalem, its centering on the person of Jesus, together with Mary, awaiting the gift of the Spirit for the mission, and never closed in on itself.

4. From the beginning of seminary, one should seek to identify with the priestly ministry that in time will be conferred, since this identification fosters a correct orientation of affective formation. Unlike earlier times, today a seminarian is the most juridically fragile person in the entire ecclesial body. He is not a cleric until the diaconate—to safeguard his freedom—and yet he lives all the duties of discipline and obedience proper to the clerical state. This juridical weakness should not give way to a situation of uncertainty, as if the seminarian were not already living in a prospective way a determined state of life, committed at least to witnessing to Christ with the life of formation and surrender of his life in perfect continence for the Kingdom of Heaven.

5. Theological formation also plays a fundamental role in formation of the affections. It must avoid getting lost amid theological trends and remain faithful to what is laid out in Sapientia Christiana, namely, the study of Sacred Scripture, the bi-millennial Tradition of the Church, and the uninterrupted Magisterium as the indispensable core of the institutional cycle. Avoiding theological relativism and proposing certain doctrine contributes in a determinative way to configuring a stable priestly personality and to a motivated affective formation.

A proper hermeneutic of the texts of the Second Vatican Council—a reform within continuity, as indicated by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI—is an indispensable factor in a peaceful and authentic ecclesial growth. It is able to overcome and nip in the bud motives for antagonism (all of which are worldly and political) between “progressives” and “conservatives,” which have brought and continue to bring such contagion to the body of the Church.

6. The seminarian of today will be the priest of tomorrow! If it is true that from the day of priestly ordination onward one learns to be and to live as a priest, it is also true that, especially as regards affective formation, nothing can be improvised. It is more prudent and morally required to wait a little longer to request priestly ordination rather than move forward without having resolved fundamental questions of one’s affectivity. In this area, as in the doctrinal sphere, proven maturity is required and not merely the absence of impediments. I entrust these reflections to the Blessed Virgin Mary, most tender Mother of priests, in the sure hope that looking to her, sublime example of mature affectivity and capable of authentic, deep and fruitful love in perfect chastity, we can travel the splendid road of the priesthood that makes us, by a special title, her sons.

© Clerus

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