Saturday, December 6, 2008

Document on Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Seminarians

On October 30th of 2008, the Congregation for Catholic Education put out a document on psychology and seminary formation that has been in the works for years. The title is Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood. I think it's a valuable document so as I read along through it I will post different parts of the document.

This document shows at the very least a great care and concern for vocations to the priesthood and for seminarians as well. I know as a seminarian who has already gone through 2 psychological evaluations that these things are not always the most pleasurable experiences but nevertheless necessary. And it's interesting to know the role that the Church desires psychology to play within discernment and formation.

The first section comes largely from Pastores Dabo Vobis (well worth reading for discernment purposes) if I am correct. And it reiterates some key points that I think even today we largely forget.

“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 [...], a luminous and living reflection of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity.”

The Church, “begetter and formator of vocations”, has the duty of discerning a vocation and the suitability of candidates for the priestly ministry. In fact, “the interior call of the Spirit needs to be recognized as the authentic call of the bishop.”

In furthering this discernment, and throughout the entire process of formation for ministry, the Church is moved by two concerns: to safeguard the good of her own mission and, at the same time, the good of the candidates. In fact, like every Christian vocation, the vocation to the priesthood, along with a Christological dimension, has an essentially ecclesial dimension: “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.”

Therefore, the good of the Church and that of the candidate are not in opposition, but rather converge. Those responsible for formation work at harmonizing these two goods, by always considering both simultaneously in their interdependent dynamic. This is an essential aspect of the great responsibility they bear in their service to the Church and to individuals."

It's easy from the side of the seminarian or a man discerning his call to the priesthood to see it simply as him deciding whether God is calling him to the priesthood. And indeed, that is a huge part of discernment. But this second part, a part I did not really recognize in my own discernment, is this discernment that the Church must make of his suitability. This comes from the reality that the priesthood is never oriented to the oneself but always to the sake of the Church and the glory of God. We can never simply claim priesthood. It always comes as a gift.

Now I truly recognize this as a blessing. In fact, the Church is not simply watching out for herself but really for me. My vocation is only truly authentic when I know God is calling me to the priesthood and the Church believes this as well. It is a double confirmation. And this helps especially when there are doubts in discernment to see the wisdom and the advice of the Church that has helped men discerning this call for the last 2,000 years.

So that part was good. Next time I'll get into the meatier parts of the document.

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