OT 8: Spiritual Training of Priests

Optatam Totius begins a new chapter with section 8, entitled “The Careful Development Of The Spiritual Training.”

(It) should be closely connected with the doctrinal and pastoral, and, with the special help of the spiritual director, should be imparted in such a way that the students might learn to live in an intimate and unceasing union with the Father through His Son Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.

I’d say this would be appropriate for any baptized person.

Conformed to Christ the Priest through their sacred ordination they should be accustomed to adhere to Him as friends, in an intimate companionship, their whole life through.

Jesus as friend: haven’t some Catholics come under criticism for emphasizing this?

They should so live His paschal mystery themselves that they can initiate into it the flock committed to them.

The suffering, death, and resurrection; the celebration of the Easter Triduum: this is the core of the Christian spiritual experience.

They should be taught to seek Christ in the faithful meditation on God’s word, in the active participation in the sacred mysteries of the Church, especially in the Eucharist and in the divine office, in the bishop who sends them and in the people to whom they are sent, especially the poor, the children, the sick, the sinners and the unbelievers.

The manifold presences of Christ in the Church and the world, isn’t it?

They should love and venerate with a filial trust the most blessed Virgin Mary, who was given as mother to the disciple by Christ Jesus as He was dying on the cross.

Yes.

Those practices of piety that are commended by the long usage of the Church should be zealously cultivated; but care should be taken lest the spiritual formation consist in them alone or lest it develop only a religious affectation.

A priest’s spirituality is not a surface thing, something set apart from other duties. Indeed, OT 8 suggests a priest’s whole range of activities should be devoted to the spiritual life. And another list of ideals is given:

The students should learn to live according to the Gospel ideal, to be strengthened in faith, hope and charity, so that, in the exercise of these practices

  • they may acquire the spirit of prayer
  • learn to defend and strengthen their vocation
  • obtain an increase of other virtues
  • and grow in the zeal to gain all (people) for Christ.

Not a bad list at all; I think the Holy Spirit was certainly with the people who put together this section. Consider that a priest’s life is to be ordered to a deeper spirituality. A priest should see the vocation to orders as something worthy of defense (and I doubt the council bishops meant this in terms of apologetics). More than that, a vocation is seen not as a static gift from Christ, either you have it or you don’t. A vocation is something dynamic, an aspect of grace that requires human cooperation for its strengthening. OT 8 implies a seminarian already possesses appropriate virtues. These too must be strengthened and increased. Lastly, a priest is called to an evangelical mindset. This is a matter not merely of duty, but of personal zeal.

As always, comments from clergy and seminarians are especially welcome.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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