The National Catholic Reporter is a modernist fishwrap and hotbed of dissent, but it has a real treasure on its staff in the person of John Allen. Mr. Allen concisely described the key to understanding our current Holy Father's vision:
Here it is in a nutshell: Benedict’s top priority is internal, directed at the inner life of the Catholic Church. His aim is to restore a strong sense of traditional Catholic identity, in order to inoculate the church against infection by radical secularism. That’s not just a personal hobbyhorse of this pope, but rather the culmination of 50 years of mounting concern inside Catholicism that the church has gone too far in accommodating the ways and means of the secular world. Today, this wave of “evangelical Catholic” energy is the most important policy-setting force in the church.
As a result, when Benedict XVI says or does things that affect Judaism, the key is often to understand that he’s not really talking to Jews but to other Catholics.
Thus, Benedict’s decision to revive the old Latin Mass, including that infamous prayer for the conversion of Jews, was certainly not crafted as a statement about Judaism. Instead, Benedict sees the old Mass as a classic carrier of Catholic identity, an antidote to any tendency to secularize the church’s worship. Likewise, Benedict did not lift the excommunications of four traditionalist bishops, including one who believes the Nazis didn’t use gas chambers, to endorse their troubled history with antisemitism. Rather, he did so because the traditionalists act as a leaven in the church, fostering appreciation for the Catholic past — even if their ideas on some matters lie far from the pope’s own thinking.
The Holy Father's declaring this the Year of the Priest is part of his overall strategy of revitalizing Catholic identity. We've seen a blurring of the distinction between the ordained priesthood and the priesthood of all the faithful over the past forty years. The priest is not superior to the laity, but he is nonetheless different from the lay person at the very center of his being. As the seminarian approaches candidacy for Holy Orders and his diaconate ordination, he needs to pray hard and meditate on that priestly identity. He has not been ordained yet, but he should have internalized his vocation and future identity as an alter Christus. As my adviser put it, "If you make it to candidacy and you still haven't resolved the questions that ought to be resolved at the college or pre-theology level, then you have cheated yourself and holy Mother Church."
I have a long way to go before candidacy, let alone, God willing, priesthood. But at the same time, a seminarian is not just another lay man attending Secular U where we rock and roll all night and party every day. The seminary is where you need to form the habits that will be with you throughout your priesthood, above all a solid spiritual life with much personal prayer. That's not to say the seminary is not also a place of continuing discernment. No matter what God wills for you, you must allow Him to work in your life, above all through prayer and regular spiritual direction. I've seen it in our fourth year men - they grew in their time in the seminary. They became more and more secure in the faith that this is what God wills for them. You can see it yourself. I've met many seminarians of whom I thought, "He'll make an awesome priest." It might be you some day.