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A Program of Spiritual Formation for Candidates to the Priesthood

The Lay Monastic Community of Caryana










Nexus: "What must I do?" Matt. 19:16. ?

        When the young rich man approached Christ, his question was: "What must I DO to have eternal life" rather than "What must I believe in." In discussing this topic, instead of defining what is a seminary it would be more practical to ask "what do we do in the seminary" and later on "what do we do when we leave the seminary."

      Dressing Room. The seminary is like a dressing room where the seminarian puts on Christ. The different clothing, socks, drawers, shirts, etc. are the commands of Christ, obedience to which bestows on us the virtues of Christ, thus making us Christ-like. But when the seminarian enters the dressing room, he is like a child. He cannot dress up by himself. The seminary staff should help him dress up. Then later on he may dress up by himself. But what if the seminary staff does not know the commands of Christ?

      While dressing up is taught in the Diocesan Seminaries, the perfection of dressing up is the goal of religious seminaries.

      School of Holiness. In the seminary we must produce saints who will become priests and not priests who will eventually become saints, because that will never happen. St. Basil wrote: If we cannot become saints in an ideal atmosphere (like in the seminary), how can we become saints in a not-so-ideal place like the world?

      Nursery for Seeds. The seminary is a nursery where candidates with hardly any training in the spiritual life from their earliest age have to be cultivated and planted with seeds. The seeds are the words of Christ (or the commands of Christ), and the cultivation is the ascetical exercises necessary to change the rocky soil into fertile soil.

      A Bird's Cage. The seminarians are like birds with crippled wings (fallen nature). They cannot fly. They are always on the ground and easy victims to predators (the evil one) like cats. We have to immobilize their wings with a splint; and for their own protection keep them in a bird's cage until they can fly. The splint and the bird's cage are seminary life that will limit their freedom, somehow, until they can use it freely and safely.

      In summary, seminary training consists primarily in the training of the will: "Love God with... all your will... " St. Thomas calls this "vis unitiva." It is the only thing we do in seminaries, monasteries and convents, for that matter... to achieve union with the Will of Christ who said: "My Will is to do the Will of My Father in heaven." To conform our will with Christ is to conform our will with the Will of the Father in heaven. It is "Regimen animarum," the Art of Arts.


      There were two stages in the life of Christ; His HIDDEN and His PUBLIC life. The seminary life corresponds to the hidden life of Christ and the apostolate corresponds to the public life of Christ. In the seminary we must learn and do what Christ taught and did during His hidden life. It does not mean that just because we are ordained priest we are ready for the apostolate; we would not be ready if we do not live our hidden lives well. The apostolate consists in sharing with others the graces and wisdom acquired during the hidden life.

      Christ's teaching may again be divided into two, corresponding to the two stages of His life; the lesson He wants us to learn that corresponds to His hidden life is expressed in the command: "Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart" (Matt. 11:29).

      The lesson He wants us to learn corresponding to His public life is this:

a) Go to all nations,
b) baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy spirit,
c) teaching them all that I have commanded you
d) and how to observe them.

      Since a and b have been largely accomplished, we shall concentrate on the last two, c and d.

      There are two commands corresponding to the two stages in the life of Christ. One is "keep my commandments." The other is "teach all my commandments." Obviously we cannot teach unless we first keep the commands of Christ.

      And again there are two stages in the spiritual life: the "narrow way" which is for beginners and the way wherein the "burden is light and the yoke sweet" which is for those more mature.

      Since Christ, acting like the perfect teacher that He is, did first what He was to teach later, we too who must do the work of Christ must do first what we are to teach later on. There must be no exception to this rule since Christ did not exempt Himself.

      The problem is that both in religious houses and seminaries the topic "meek and humble of heart" is not well taught, while the Apostolic Commission to "teach ALL the commands of Christ and HOW to observe them" is hardly taught. So we are ordaining priests who are unable to continue the work of the Church as stated by Christ Himself in His Apostolic Commission.

      Note: Since seminary life corresponds to the hidden life of Christ, let us concentrate on this way of life which is called by different names: Evangelical Life, life of repentance, spiritual life or spirituality, life of prayer, fasting and good works and interior life.

Spiritual Life Defined

      Let us state from the beginning that all spiritualities - Augustinian, Benedictine, Jesuit, Carmelite, Camaldolese, Columban, Sodality of Mary, Catholic Action, Opus Dei - are all one and the same identical spirituality. There are not many ways to holiness. There is only one, and that is "the following of Christ".

      Spirituality, for the purposes of this paper, may be described as the state of those souls who have dedicated themselves to a Christian Life which is, at the same time, out of the common but accessible to all and in substance obligatory to all.

      It is putting on Christ; "I live, now not I, but Christ in me" (Gal. 2:20). The seminarian's life must be the manifestation of the life of Christ in him. If Christ's way of life is not in him, he will have nothing to manifest in his apostolate.

      Spiritual life is not so much the graces that God generously gives man as in Baptism. It is the ACTIVITY of a soul striving against its natural inclinations, to regulate them so that from henceforth all movements in one's soul may be directed towards the following of Christ.

      There are two movements in this ACTIVITY: first, withdrawal from all that is opposed to the supernatural life in created things, "aversio a creatura" (St. Ignatius of Loyola calls it "agendo contra," i.e., acting against natural inclinations to force oneself to imitate Christ in His love for sufferings and humiliations. "I came not to do My will… ", Jo. 6:38); and secondly, the soul tends upwards towards God, "conversio Deum". We shall reflect on both of these in the curriculum momentarily.





(updated 01-02-02))

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