Saturday, January 3, 2009

Psych Document Part II

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I did. Though it sure was funny celebrating Christmas with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and watching people set off massive fireworks over the pensione where I was staying on New Year's Eve.

Anyways I thought I would continue a reflection on the next part of the document on the use of psychology in the admission and formation of seminarians. I'm trying to read a bigger chunk otherwise I might be at this forever. That's nice if I had nothing else to talk about but I think I do have other things to say. :)

I think I will just quote a few points in the next section.

"The priestly ministry, understood and lived as a conformation to Christ, Bridegroom and Good Shepherd, requires certain abilities as well as moral and theological virtues, which are supported by a human and psychic – and particularly affective – equilibrium, so as to allow the subject to be adequately predisposed for giving of himself in the celibate life, in a way that is truly free in his relations with the faithful."

"The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis treats of the various dimensions of priestly formation...Before the text deals with the spiritual dimension – “an extremely important element of a priest's education” 7it underlines that the human dimension is the foundation of all formation. The document lists a series of human virtues and relational abilities that are required of the priest, so that his personality may be “a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ the Redeemer of humanity.” These virtues and qualities range from the personality's general equilibrium to the ability to bear the weight of pastoral responsibilities, from a deep knowledge of the human spirit to a sense of justice and loyalty."

This is all the more pertinent today when there seem to be so many developmental problems. Candidates for the priesthood come out of a culture of broken families, destructive views of sexuality, limited understandings of relationships, and on and on. The idea that the human dimension of the candidate is most important can be seen as well in realizing that God's grace works with our nature - not against it. So we need to be well formed as men before we can be well formed as priests. If we lack what it means to be men, we will never be good priests. Because God's grace cannot work against our nature. Priests are called to be sacrificial and disciplined in their pursuit of holiness and saving souls. But the candidate must first be sacrificial in his relationships with others and disciplined with his own life. Obviously these two stages are not mutually exclusive but to enter the seminary there is an expectation that a candidate has a certain level of human maturity.

And I like the last part most especially. The candidate must have the qualities that make him able to manifest Christ to others and not become a barrier to faith. What are those qualities?

"Some of these qualities merit particular attention: the positive and stable sense of one's masculine identity, and the capacity to form relations in a mature way with individuals and groups of people; a solid sense of belonging, which is the basis of future communion with the presbyterium and of a responsible collaboration in the ministry of the bishop; the freedom to be enthused by great ideals and a coherence in realizing them in everyday action; the courage to take decisions and to stay faithful to them; a knowledge of oneself, of one's talents and limitations, so as to integrate them within a self-esteem before God; the capacity to correct oneself; the appreciation for beauty in the sense of “splendor of the truth” as well as the art of recognizing it; the trust that is born from an esteem of the other person and that leads to acceptance; the capacity of the candidate to integrate his sexuality in accordance with the Christian vision, including in consideration of the obligation of celibacy."

That's a lot of things. :) One of the one's to highlight especially today is a good understanding of masculine identity. I remember encountering that on a seminary application and wondering what to put. It's hard to think of what is really means to be a man today. There are all the false notions of masculinity like using women, having power, money, and the like. But the reality is that masculinity is rooted in sacrifice, protection and care for a woman and her dignity. Man, in similar ways to woman, is made to go outside himself.

The document offers hope because the reality is that it is God's grace that will convert one's heart to be a well-formed man and a well-formed priest. I think it's amazing to realize the importance that is now placed on the human formation of the priest. I've seen this in action in my own formation and I thank God I am in the seminary today where I receive so much human formation as well as from the other pillars of formation (spiritual, pastoral, and academic). I can't imagine my vocation without them. AMDG.

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