Aparecida 317: Emotional Maturity

The presumption is that seminary candidates aren’t or might not be emotionally mature. One question: are seminaries really the ideal place for developing such maturity? Granted, all of us have some growing up to do. A healthy and integrated person is always finding room for improvement, if not a deeper sense of sin and contrition. Sounds like something more suitable for a people in their thirties rather than teens.

317. We recognize the effort of those who are charted with formation in seminaries. Their witness and preparation are decisive for accompanying seminarians toward an emotional maturity that will make them suitable for embracing priestly celibacy and able to live in communion with their brothers in the priestly vocation; in this sense, the courses established for those in charge of formation are an effective means of aiding their mission. (In this regard the synod fathers exhort bishops to “assign the most suitable priests to this work, after preparing them with specific training for this delicate mission” EAm 40; Congregation for Catholic Education, Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis, 31-36; ID., Guidelines on the preparation of those in charge of formation in seminaries, n. 65-71; OT 5.)


For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Aparecida 316: The Special Setting of Seminaries and Houses of Formation

The Aparecida bishops tout the value of those who form priests and religious. But the true marker of their value is the welcome they provide to lay people and the extent they are involved in the formation of baptized disciples.

The third bullet point is a value, but I would question the qualifier “periodically.” All aspects of the Church, individuals and communities, parishes, dioceses, special organizations and groups–should be oriented to the mission of Christ. Our day-to-day tasks: means to that end.


316. Seminaries and houses of formation are no doubt a special setting, the school and home for the formation of disciples and missionaries. The initial formation time is a stage where future priests share life following the example of the apostolic community around the Risen Christ:

  • they pray together, celebrate the same liturgy culminating in the Eucharist;
  • from the Word of God they receive the teachings that gradually illuminate their minds and shape their hearts for exercising fraternal charity and justice;
  • and they periodically provide pastoral services to different communities, thereby preparing to live a solid spirituality in communion with Christ the Shepherd and in docility to the action of the Spirit, becoming a personal and attractive sign of Christ in the world, according to the path of holiness proper to the priestly ministry.(Cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis 60; OT 4; Congregation for the Clergy, Directory for the ministry and life of priests, n. 4)


For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Mediation and Possible Gnosticism

A pseudonymous commenter offered this:

“The general rule today is for Mass to be said “facing the people.” While this seems to be “pastoral,” in fact it is a circumstance of great theological significance. In the traditional Mass, both the priest and people face the altar, where the priest, on behalf of the people, offers the sacrifice. The fact that the priest stands between the people and the altar visibly shows the priest’s role as a mediator between the people and God. We can call this the “face the altar” orientation.

I might agree there is theological significance, but the impact more addresses the Catholic indulgence for appealing to the senses: what we see, hear, touch, etc., in our worship and devotional life. The truth is that we accurately say “the priest’s back is to the people,” because it is. Our long history finds movements among the Catholic laity for a religious observance that is more “in touch” and not just an exercise in ceremony or reason.

There are times when a priest is a mediator between people and God. The obvious question: is the Mass the best time for this? I ask the question from a sense of the Catholic impulse to be more engaged at liturgy. We’ve moved on from a time in which hundreds of Catholics gathered for Mass, each on their own wavelength: presiding, reading, rosary, personal prayers, singing in choir, etc..

This orientation in what we do causes a slow shift in what we believe, from sacrifice to meal, and causes a loss of faith in the Mass as a sacrifice.

The reality of the Mass as a sacrifice is not a matter of faith, but of fact. Either it is or it isn’t.

The fact that this loss of faith is encouraged by the priest facing the people makes the New Mass a threat to our Faith and hence offensive to God.

This is dangerous territory, the presumption that liturgical change is “offensive to God.” The implication is possibly gnostic, that a smaller group of Catholics has a more faithful and authentic bead on worship and that the rest of the world: thousands of bishops plus ministers and laity have it all wrong.

The threat to our Faith is very real, (you can’t continue to do something and believe the opposite) and continued attendance at the New Mass can make us lose our Faith in the Mass as a sacrifice and even in the Real Presence just as faith in these things has already been lost by millions of Catholics.”

Loss of belief in the Real Presence has never quite been proven. For all we know, belief was low before Vatican II, before it was polled. We assume one-hundred percent compliance because that is what some of us saw.

I don’t think earnest arguments like those of my commenter are to be taken likely. Or ignored. But they do need to be gently confronted within the bounds of Catholic unity, morality and ethics, and to seek a deeper understanding of what God asks of us.

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Aparecida 315: Promoting Vocations

An assumption that we are hearing all those who are responding:

315. In view of the shortage of people responding to the vocation to the priesthood and consecrated life in many places in Latin America and the Caribbean, special care must urgently be given to promoting vocations, cultivating those environments propitious for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, with the certainty that Jesus is still calling disciples and missionaries to be with Him and to send them forth to preach the Kingdom of God. This Fifth Conference issues an urgent call to all Christians, and especially to youth, to be open to a possible call from God to the priesthood or to religious life; it reminds them that the Lord will give them the grace necessary to respond decisively and generously, despite the problems generated by a secularized culture centered on consumerism and pleasure. We invite families to recognize the blessing of a child called by God to this consecration and to support his or her decision and journey of vocational response. We encourage priests to give witness to a happy life, joy, enthusiasm, and holiness in the Lord’s service.


These thoughts are all well-considered, and there’s nothing as such wrong about them. It’s just what is missing: that unless the body of Catholic laity are themselves formed as disciples to go “forth to preach the Kingdom of God,” we will always be at a loss when it comes to leadership in the clergy and in vowed religious life. If the world’s Catholic billion were mostly solid disciples, I think commitments to particular ministries would find a wider openness among young people. It’s got to be baptism first, then the rest follows.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Baptism Anniversaries


I’ve blogged on this topic a number of times, since before Pope Francis has been speaking of it–which has been from his first year as pope. (I suspect it was a notion for him when he was a bishop and prior to that, most likely.)

One parish school with which I was associated made baptism anniversaries more of a focus than student birthdays. I hope they still do it, several administrations later.

In our family, my wife and I each came into Catholicism by personal intention, so those sacramental anniversaries are remembered, observed, and of great importance to us. The young miss was five when she was baptized. That anniversary is observed along with her birthday and Adoption Day.

When ordinary Catholics begin observing baptism as more than a vague parental memory of an infant’s event, then we might be making movement toward a more intentional  living of the Gospel. Baptism anniversaries can be marked in any number of ways:

  • the family goes to Mass
  • the family enjoys a special meal at home or out
  • presents aren’t inappropriate
  • neither would performing some act of service

It takes some imagination.

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Aparecida 314: Seminaries and Houses of Religious Formation

The Aparecida bishops devote seven paragraphs to the formation of missionary disciples in “seminaries and houses of religious formation.” The bishops include an active, evangelizing “lay state” with clergy and religious. They urge a focus of “vocations ministry” with young people. They also suggest prayer and promotion.

314 With regard to the formation of disciplines and missionaries of Christ, vocation ministry occupies a particular position. It carefully accompanies all those whom the Lord calls to serve the church in the priesthood, consecrated life, or the lay state. Vocations ministry, for which the entire people of God is responsible, begins in the family and continues in the Christian community. It should be directed at children, and especially youth to help them discover the meaning of life and the plan that God has for each individual, by accompanying them in their discernment process. Fully integrated into the realm of ordinary pastoral ministry, vocations promotion ministry is fruit of a solid joint pastoral ministry, in families, in the parish, in Catholic schools, and in other church institutions. Prayer for vocations must be intensified in various ways, thereby also helping create greater sensitivity and receptivity to the Lord; thus different vocation initiatives must be promoted and coordinated.(Cf. PDF 41; EA. 40) Vocations are God’s gift, and hence in each diocese, there must be special prayers to the “Lord of the harvest.”

While I wouldn’t argue against any of this, I would offer an important caution. I saw a video recently of a US bishop discussing missionary discipleship and his assertion that he does not ordain anyone to the clergy who is not already a disciple. I think there are individuals among active clerics–as there are among lay ecclesial ministers–who fall more into the category of “religious” or “social worker” than disciple. This isn’t a catastrophe, but it does indicate we Catholics have not fully grasped the importance of an underlying baptismal vocation as a needful preliminary to ministry and service.

If the Church were stronger in forming people as disciples, especially young people, I think our sense of a vocations “crisis” would fade away. Some have commented that a seeming “lack” of traditional vocations to priesthood and religious life is a sign from the Holy Spirit that lay people are stepping to the fore as needed in the Church to offer and share their spiritual gifts. This may not be totally accurate. I suspect we are all being strongly nudged to get on board with discipleship. If we don’t know what that means, today is a good day to begin to understand.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Aparecida 313: Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, Part 3

Regular communication is counselled, plus a dose of mutual respect:

313. In order to better benefit from the charisms and services of the ecclesial movements in the field of formation of lay people, we wish to respect their charisms and originality, seeking to have them more fully a part of the core structure which is present in the diocese. For its part, the diocesan community must welcome the spiritual and apostolic riches of the movements. Certainly, the movements should keep what makes them distinct, but within a deep unity with the particular church, not only in faith but in action. The more the wealth of charisms multiplies, the more the bishops are called to exercise pastoral discernment so as to foster the necessary integration of the movements into the life of the diocese, appreciating the wealth of their communal, formative, and missionary experience. A special welcome and appreciation should be afforded to those ecclesial movements that have already gone through examination and discernment by the Holy See, and are now regarded as gifts and goods for the universal Church.

Note the importance given to movements recognized by Rome. Not every movement has a universal stretch. Some are particular to regions within nations. What to do about these?

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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