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A Program of Spiritual Formation for Candidates to the Priesthood

The Lay Monastic Community of Caryana


 
 
 

 

 


A PROGRAM OF SPIRITUAL
FORMATION FOR CANDIDATES
TO THE PRIESTHOOD


 

 


PART TWO

THE SEMINARY

II.    WHAT ARE THE COMMANDS OF CHRIST?

        These are NOT the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament. These are the perfected or improved version of the Ten Commandments, promulgated by Christ, and He referred to these as "My commands".


       "If you wish to enter into life, keep My commandments." (Mt 19:17)

       "If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love." (Jn 15:10)

        Note that Christ uses the words "word", "commands" and "teachings" inter-changeably.

       "He who does not love Me will not obey My teachings." (Jn 14:24)

       "If you love Me, you will obey what I command." (Jn 14:15)

       "Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me." (Jn 14:21)

       And the apostles referred to these as "His commandments".
       

       "Knowledge of Him is to keep His commandments." (1 Jn 2:3)

       "He who keeps His commandments remains in Him." (1 Jn 3:24)

Difference between the Old and New Testament Commands

       Notice the difference between the Old and New Testament commands from the words of Christ Himself. In the Gospel of Matthew (5:38-42), Christ said: "You have learned how it was said: 'eye for eye and tooth for tooth' (in the Old Testament). But I say this to you (in the New Testament): offer the wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away."

       "You have learned how it was said: 'You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy' (Old Testament). But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:43-48).

       The first and easiest command of Christ is "Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart" or "poor in spirit." This is the first Beatitude. The next commands would be "to be pure in heart," "to mourn," "to be meek," "to hunger," "to be merciful," etc. The Beatitudes are a summary of the different commands of Christ showing the different levels of spiritual maturity. The highest command of Christ taught during the Last Supper is "to love one another as I have loved you."

       The first and easy commands can be described as small acts of love of God and neighbor. The higher commands are greater acts of love of God and neighbor.

       The commands of Christ are not complex or complicated or high-sounding. They are not the stuff theologians engage in. The commands of Christ are simple, practical and easy to learn. But "it is spiritual wisdom and not the wisdom of this age," says St. Paul (1 Cor. 2:6).

       How can a man say that he believes in Christ, if he does not do what Christ commanded him to do? St. Cyprian

       In effect, the commands of Christ are steps to follow in the footsteps of Christ, "to walk as He walked." The seminarian learns this that he may develop the supernatural (not mere natural) virtues of Christ… thinking, feeling, reasoning, talking and acting like Christ. This is the aim of the seminary, first to plant the seed of holiness; then to make it gradually grow through obedience to the commands of Christ so that, hopefully, by the time the seminarians are ordained, there are buds that might eventually bloom into the flower of holiness. Thus the word "seminary" - a place where the seeds of holiness are planted and cultivated.



A. HIDDEN LIFE

       1. Scriptural Basis for the "Hidden Life" - the Model for Seminary Life

          The first part of the seminarian's training is based on what Christ said: "Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart," which summarizes all the commands of Christ in the New Testament. Almost the whole of the Old, but most specially the New, Testament enumerates commands that will make us humble and meek. It is, in fact, the only thing Christ wants us to learn, from which all other knowledge and wisdom would come, for "wisdom is given to the humble." Having learned how to be humble, the priest may now fulfill the apostolic commission given by Christ to the Church: "to teach all that I have commanded and how to observe them," …which is for all to be humble and meek.

       2. If we must do the work of Christ, we must do it His way. So the aim of a seminary is to replicate the Hidden Life of Christ: wherewith we grow in holiness, grace and wisdom, by obeying the commands of Christ found in the things He SAID and DID, thus developing the virtues Christ had taught us to learn… humility and meekness.

HOWEVER, TAKE NOTICE:

       There are two commands involved in the Hidden Life of Christ: to do good and avoid evil; "Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil." (1 Thes. 5 :21-22) Christ, of course, did not have to avoid evil, but nevertheless He wanted to show us how to do it. The New Testament enumerates the evil we must avoid and the good we must do. Avoiding evil prevents us from going to hell; doing good is what brings us to heaven

       i) Avoiding evil is the more arduous task. In the spiritual life, it consists of overcoming the movements of our passions, namely, gluttony, lust, avarice, anger, listlessness, vainglory, and pride through a process of asceticism that must be incorporated into the seminary way of life. Listlessness or restlessness among priests, according to Cardinal Ratzinger ("The Ratzinger Report," Chapter 4) is the cause of the crisis in the Church. When one is restless, it means he has all the vices.

       In the curriculum, the seminarians will learn what these passions are, how they move, how the devil uses them to tempt us and what are the spiritual medications to cure them. The medications must be taken during seminary training, otherwise the priests will go to the world slaves of these passions or, as we say, with their fallen nature intact. In this part of the curriculum we shall use the writings of the so-called Dessert Fathers, particularly St. John Climacus and St. John Cassian. The Dessert Fathers specialized in overcoming the passions.

       ii) Doing good will consist in one's actual practice of good works towards his co-seminarians. If he is unable to love his co-seminarians in this ideal situation, he won't be able to love anyone outside.

       Good works starts with the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Then, they progress to the following.

       The seminarian must…

a) be heroically patient with each other's faults;
b) be kind to all in thought, gestures and words;
c) never show or even feel jealousy or envy towards each other;
d) banish all thoughts of being hurt from their mind;
e) always search for the truth in all things, suspending judgment until the truth is known; and
f) learn never to complain or argue but to bear everything - persecution, injustices, neglect, illnesses, sufferings.


       This is CHARITY, which St. Paul described thus: "Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous, it does not put on airs..." (1 Cor. 13:4-8)

       After living the hidden life wherewith the seminarian learns and obeys the commands of Christ, he may now continue the work Christ commissioned His church: to teach the commands and how to obey them.



B. THE APOSTOLATE

       The Apostolate is expressed in the Apostolic Commission (Skipping the first two commands, "to go to all nations" and "baptizing them in the name of the Father"), it is:


a) Teaching them all My commands;
b) Teaching them how to observe them; and
c) Like good shepherds, feeding the sheep by actually guiding them in the obedience Christ's commands.


       This is the reason why Christ instituted His Church; this is the main work of the Church.

       The Apostolate is for implementing the Apostolic Commission. The Apostolate or active works is only sanctifying if meant to feed or improve the spiritual life. If there is no interior life to nourish, the Apostolate is useless and benefits no one. In fact, it undermines whatever is left of the interior or spiritual life.

       The Hidden or Interior Life, as we have seen, consists of CHARITY. And the Apostolate is CHARITY IN ACTION. What is the use of action if there is no charity that will motivate the action?

       In the Apostolate, the priest is to care for the souls of others. The first act of almsgiving is to take care of one's own soul first, so that you can take care of the souls of others later. He who does not care for his own soul shown by a bad way of life in the seminary will not care for the souls of others. "Non se ami cum Christi reputabat nisi animasfoveret quasi ille redemit." (St. Bonaventure, Life of St. Francis, C. IX).

       Dom J. B. Chautard, OCSO in his Soul of the Apostolate described a priest who said: "My self-sacrifice is what ruined me." His apostolate sipped away his spiritual life rather than strengthened it. In this curriculum, the seminarian will learn how to make his Apostolate strengthen, instead of destroy, his spiritual life.

 

 

 

 

(updated 01-02-02)



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