THE LECTURE PORTION OF THE SPIRITUAL FORMATION
1. HOW THE SEMINARIANS WILL LEARN ALL THE COMMANDS OF
CHRIST AND HOW TO OBEY THEM
the First Year of Theology, they will learn the commands of Christ as
found in the Gospel of Mark. Lessons will be based on the three readings of
the Sunday masses of Year B; or, if this is too taxing for the professor,
at least the Sunday Gospels of Year B. It is good to start with the Gospel
of Mark because this Gospel is for beginners. Matthew is for the more
In Second Year Theology,
they will learn the commands of Christ as found in the Gospel of Matthew.
Lessons can be based either on the three readings that are usually
connected to each other in theme; but the Sunday Gospel would be good
enough. This is Year A.
Note: We will not study
the Gospels line-by-line. This is possible and better, but it would be too
taxing for both professor and seminarian. They can return to this later on
in a more leisurely manner during the ongoing follow-up program on
spirituality for ordained priests.
In Third Year Theology,
the seminarians will study the commands of Christ as found in the Gospel of
Luke. The lectures can be based either on the three readings of the Sunday
Masses or merely on the Gospel reading. This is Year C.
In Fourth Year Theology
(this can be adjusted where there is no Fourth Year Theology by starting
the first year program with philosophy), the seminarians will study the
commands of Christ as found in St. John. Unfortunately, there is no Year D,
in which case the lectures can be selective. The Apocalypse shall be
included to teach the seminarians how to read the sign of the times.
Commentaries to be Used
We shall use the Catena
Aurea of St. Thomas of Aquinas. This work is simply a compilation
of short, selected commentaries of the Fathers of every sentence of the New
Testament. St. Thomas, in fact, never included any of his own
interpretation. The Catena Aurea, not the Summa, was the most
powerful, single weapon of renewal during his times. It could be the one
and most powerful weapon in the renewal of our seminaries.
But for a more thorough
explanation of each sentence of the New Testament, we could go directly to
the sources of St. Thomas. These are: St. John Chrysostom (the most
prolific of them all), St. Theophylact (the simplest commentator), St.
Augustine, St. Ambrose, St. Caesarius of Arles, and St. Maximus the Confessor.
Unfortunately, most of St. Thomas' sources have not yet been translated
into English. Since the Fathers and Doctors of the Church merely
interpreted the commands of Christ, all of them can be used, depending on
the leisure of the professors. For professors who have little time to
prepare, the commentary of Blessed Theophylact will be sufficient.
To enhance further the sharpness
of mind of the seminarians, hand-in-hand with a good course in
spirituality, we suggest that the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas be
used for Dogmatic Theology. If this is not possible, it will diminish the
sharpness of mind needed to understand the spiritual life. Knowledge of the
spiritual life is INFUSED. It cannot exist with erroneous doctrines
advantage of this curriculum is that the seminarian, if he learns well and
practices in his life what he had learned, can most proficiently explain to
the people the Sunday Readings of the Mass in their parishes. He will have
his notes and the printed matters to take along with him after ordination.
This is renewal: that what the priests have learned from the seminary
trickles down to the people. And when they become Bishops, it may trickle
down to their priests.
Nexus: We have been
discussing about spirituality as required for all Christians, lay, priests
and bishops. We shall now discuss the added spirituality required of
priests, though laymen can rise up to this level.
2. SPECIFIC SPIRITUALITY FOR PRIESTS
During the last two years of
Theology, probably Third and Fourth Year Theology, we shall add a
course specializing on the spirituality of priests.
In Third Year Theology,
the seminarians will study the spirituality required of priests based on
the writings of St. John Chrysostom and St. Ambrose, both entitled "On
the Priesthood." This course is lengthy; it will require one whole
In Fourth Year Theology,
the seminarians will study the spirituality needed to perform their
Pastoral Work effectively based on St. Gregory the Great's "Pastoral
Care," a highly ascetico-psychological work on how to handle all kinds
of souls. This course is lengthy, too, and can take one year.
Note: Depending on
the professor and the time allotted to this program, lectures on
spirituality and the spirituality of priests may be held at least once a
week or at most twice a week.
Keep in mind St. Vincent de
Paul's saying: "Christ's teaching will never let us down while worldly
wisdom always will" (Common Rules or Constitutions of the Congregation
of the Missions).
3. SOME POINTERS
Let us set down some pointers to
remember with regard to the commands of Christ:
1) There are many commands of
Christ. We must learn them all, but just as important is how to obey them.
There must be no guesswork… otherwise there is no obedience. Knowledge of
the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church will minimize, if not
totally remove, guesswork.
2) In teaching the seminarians
the commands of Christ, it is important to enunciate the command clearly,
interpret it clearly and demonstrate how it is to be obeyed. This is not
like merely telling them to bake a cake but also showing them how to
bake a cake.
3) Note that the commands of Christ
have an order that is to be observed. For instance, first you must
"love God," then "your neighbor." We cannot invert the
order. If we love our neighbor first before we love God, then that is lust.
Another example is that we must first "Deny ourselves" before we
can "take up the cross and follow Christ." We cannot follow
Christ without denying ourselves and taking up our crosses. The same thing
goes with poverty, chastity and obedience. We cannot become chaste unless
we first have the spirit of poverty. The idea that diocesan priests are
exempted from poverty makes them unable to keep chastity and, much more so,
4) The commands of Christ are stated
in general terms.
The commands of Christ in the
Gospels can be studied either in their specific forms or in their
summarized form. It is good to learn both; the summarized form is easy to
remember but we must learn the specific ones to fully understand the
Examples of summarized form
that embodies all the commands of Christ:
"Deny yourself, take up your
cross and follow Me" (Luke 9:23).
"Blessed are the poor in
spirit," the lowest degree of holiness. The Beatitudes progress to the
different higher degrees of holiness. Remember that we cannot become
peacemakers unless we are first poor in spirit (Matt. 5:3).
"Love God. And love your
neighbor" (Matt. 22:37-39).
"Learn from me - meekness
and humility" (Matt. 11:29).
"Seek first the kingdom of
God… and all the rest shall be added" (Matt.6:33).
Examples of specific forms:
"When someone strikes you on
one cheek, offer the other also" (Luke 6:25).
"If someone asks you to walk
one mile, walk two miles" (Matt. 5: 41). The corporal and spiritual
works of mercy would fall under this category.
"Take no thought on what you
are going to eat or drink or wherewith to be clothed… Do not be anxious
what you shall eat or drink..." (Matt. 6, 25 -31). Christ repeats this
same command twice in the same paragraph to show its importance. Parish
priests engage too much in earning to secure their future; what they are
going to eat, medicines, etc. thus inadvertently making them endure slavery
of the evil one rather than serving God. They do not believe God would
provide these things if they seek God's kingdom of holiness first. Of
course, nobody in the world will obey this command. But it still has to be
taught to and obeyed by the seminarian because it is a command of Christ.
The above commands, being
expressed in general are difficult to understand and, therefore, to
execute. Just to say "go south" does not really show me where the
mall is. Because the commands are stated in general terms in the Gospels,
they are few… less than a hundred. The Apostles, on the other hand, because
they were teaching more mature communities, broke down Christ's commands
into several more specific commands for our better understanding. Then the
Fathers and the Doctors of the Church went further and broke it into more
specific commands. All of these are teachings of Christ of which St. John
the Evangelist said: "if the teachings of Christ were put down in
books, the world cannot contain it." Maybe that is an exaggeration;
but it could fill up a good size library. That is how detailed the commands
of Christ are. Yet many know nothing about them!
It is like Christ gave us the
knowledge of how a car engine works. The Apostles taught us how the
carburetor and combustion engine work. The Fathers went inside the
carburetor and taught us how the float, nozzles and gas chamber work. Now,
if we put all those commands together, it could really fill up a whole
LET ME ILLUSTRATE:
Christ gave us the command: To love
God and neighbor.
St. Paul breaks it down into 13
commands and, with perfect pedagogy, presents what are the acts of love and
what are not. He writes: love is patient, kind. It envies not, deals not
perversely, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, seeks not its own, is not provoked
to anger. It thinks of no evil, bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Then, one of the Fathers, like
St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr, writes a long treatise on what we must do
to be patient in our work: "The Advantage of Patience" (PL.
The professors must show
that the treatise of St Cyprian on patience is the way to practice the
"patience" stated by St. Paul; which St. Paul, in turn, described
as one of the elements of "Love of God and neighbor." So merely
to be patient is not yet love of God because we still lack the other 12
characteristics of love mentioned by St. Paul.
Be reminded that the
commands of Christ, as detailed by the apostles and the Fathers of the
Church, are Christ's teachings handed down to the apostles and Fathers
through oral tradition. They merely wrote it down without adding or
subtracting from it.
Tip of the Iceberg. With
this program on spiritual formation, the seminarian will learn the commands
of Christ, not from the entire Gospels but only from the Sunday Readings.
This is crippled knowledge. It is an advantage if the second reading, the
Apostolic Epistles of Sunday Mass, be included but this again is not the
entire Apostolic writings but portions only. The two readings will be
explained using the Fathers but this is also a portion only. We have a
portion of the Gospel, a portion of the Apostolic writings and a portion of
the Fathers. That is just the tip of the iceberg. But then that is all that
can be done during the seminary training. So the seminarian, upon
ordination, must know that he does not know the greater bulk of the
commands and teachings of Christ. So the importance of an on-going program
that will continue the trend set in the seminary.
This is the rationale behind
religious orders. Their training is for life because there is so much to
learn. But they, too, have stopped learning after ordination, that is, if
they ever learned the commands of Christ before ordination. We really have
a crisis in our hands.
Herein are some commands of
Christ as written down by the apostles in their Apostolic Epistles.
"Do not model yourselves on
the behavior of the world around you… this is the only way to discover the
will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the
perfect thing to do" (Rom. 12, 1-2).
"Accept and submit to the
word which has been planted in you and can save your souls. But you must do
what the word tells you and not just listen to it and deceive yourselves.
Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this: coming to
the help of orphans and widows when they need it and keeping oneself
uncontaminated by the world" (James 1:17-18,21-22, 27).
"If anyone thinks of himself
as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word… then he must learn to be a fool
before he really can be wise. Why? Because the wisdom of this world is
foolishness to God… God is not convinced by the arguments of the wise. So
there is nothing to boast about in anything human" (1Cor. 3:18-23).
"Let your thought be on heavenly
things, not on the things that are on the earth… that is why you must kill
everything in you that belongs only to earthly life… fornication… and
especially greed which is the same as worshipping a false god" (Col.
"Never have grudges against
others, or lose your temper, or raise your voice to anybody, or call each
other names… " (Eph. 4:30, 5:2).
"Keep away from any of the
brothers who refuse to work or to live according to the tradition we passed
on to you" (2 Thes. 3:6-10, 16-18).
"We urge you brothers, to go
on making even greater progress and to make it a point of living quietly,
attending to your own business and earning your living" (1 The.
For examples of commands of
Christ written down by the Fathers, consult sample lesson below.
5) The last command of
Christ in the Gospel, which can only be obeyed if we have obeyed all the
previous commands, is: "Love one another as I have loved you"
(John 15:12). We don't think anyone can claim to this degree of love. This
is the aim of the spiritual life - Love of God and love of neighbor as
Christ loved us - CHARITY.
6) Our seminaries and parishes
are built on sand. Those who DO NOT OBEY the commands for
whatever reason (like ignorance) are like houses built on sand. Unless our
seminarians learn and obey these, the commands of Christ, our seminaries
will be built on sand, the seminarians' spiritual life will be built on
sand and the faith of those they will serve will also be built on sand.
Living in this spiritually stormy sea, all of them will have a big fall.
"But everyone who hears these words (My commands) of mine and does not
put them into practice (does not obey them) is like a foolish man who built
his house on sand." "Therefore, everyone who hears these words of
mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on
the rock" (Matt. 7:24-26).
The fact of the matter is that our
seminaries, like most seminaries and religious houses in the world, are
built on sand, not only because they do not obey the commands of Christ
(for religious, this means the rule of their founders) but more so because
they never learned the commands of Christ.
7) PROMISES that come
along with obedience to the commands of Christ:
a. Knowledge and wisdom: "I
will teach you all things" (Jn. 14:26).
b. Solutions to all personal
problems, like chastity, loneliness, doubts; and having all needs:
"Seek first the kingdom of God and His justice and all the rest shall
be added to you" (Matt. 6:33).
c. Peace of mind and soul:
"I give you peace which the world cannot receive" (Jn. 14:27).
d. Perfect love of God and
neighbor: " ' …thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole soul,
and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength.' This is the first
commandment. And the second is like it, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as
thyself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." (Mk.
12:30-31); and "If you love me, keep my commandments. And I will ask
the Father and He will give you another Advocate to dwell with you
forever... " (Jn. 14:15-16).
4. SAMPLE LECTURE
Below is an outlined
sample of a lecture on how the commands of Christ can be taught based on
the Sundays Gospel and using the Fathers to interpret how to obey them.
The Gospel of the Feast of Corpus Christi
(Luke 9: 11-17)
1. Christ heard that Herod had John the Baptist beheaded, so He leaves for
a dessert place in Bethsaida.
Bede the Venerable comments: Jesus did not leave for fear of His life for
His time had not yet come, but to prevent Herod from committing two
murders, one of John and the other would be Christ. Christ waited for the
proper time of His suffering.
John Chrysostom adds: Indeed Christ left to prevent someone from further
sinning: but He had a superior motive and that is to perform the miracle of
the multiplication of the bread.
of Christ through His example: if your presence will cause someone to sin
and there is nothing holy that you can do there, then leave and go
somewhere else where you can do something good.
2. The behavior of the multitude delighted Christ and
as a reward He taught them, performed miracles and fed them.
Cyril comments: Christ was pleased with the multitude's behavior.
John Chrysostom: Christ was pleased because they left their homes, the
cities, and in their enthusiasm did not bring food or drink to go to the
desert place. They willingly underwent great discomforts to listen to
Christ because they delighted in His teachings.
of Christ: If you wish to delight Christ so that He will teach you His
doctrines and show you miracles in your lives and feed you, you must also
be willing to undergo great discomforts to learn His teachings.
3. The Gospel says that Christ told the crowd to sit
down before feeding them.
Blessed Theophylact comments: Our Lord teaches us that when we entertain
anyone, we ought to make him sit down at meal, and partake of every
Command of Christ shown by His example: to win over our guests to God, make
them sit down, feel comfortable and feed them.
4. Then Christ
blessed the bread and broke it.
St. Cyril comments: that before eating, we must bless the food with a
Command of Christ shown by His example: say graces before meals.
5. He commanded His disciples to distribute the 5
loaves and 2 fishes to feed the multitude that made up 5 thousand men plus
women and children.
John Chrysostom: Christ had His disciples distribute the 5 loaves and 2
fishes that they may show obedience to Him and see the consequent result.
They fed the multitude and had 12 baskets in excess.
of Christ shown by His command to His disciples: even if you have little,
like 5 loaves and 2 fishes, still share them with those in need and you
will have an abundance in return.
how in a short Sunday Gospel of 17 verses we can extricate five commands of
Needless to say, all the
teachers, the Rector, spiritual director and seminary staff must be of one
heart and mind with these commands, otherwise there will be many conflicts,
persecution and betrayal as often happens when some obey the commands of
Christ and some don't.
Nexus: The commands of
Christ will be learned from a Liturgical Setting; i.e. we will study the
commands of Christ as presented in the Liturgy of the Mass. In this way the
seminarians are spiritually prepared for the Sunday Liturgy.
5. A COMPENDIUM
Teaching the commands of Christ
based on the Gospel and Apostolic Epistles and interpreted by the Fathers
of the Church is a course that INCLUDES: Liturgy, Scriptures,
Exegesis, Apologetics, Ascetical Theology, Moral Theology and Dogma in
ONE UNIFIED SUBJECT. The other subjects will be redundant but can be
maintained in the meantime.
Note: A qualified
professor is one who knows the commands of Christ and has obeyed the
commands of Christ. It is like saying the professor must have some degree
of holiness. A good student is one who learns the commands of Christ and
obeys them. A student who cannot learn and, worse, cannot obey, will never
make a good priest, a good seminarian or even a good Christian. The best
vocation recruiter is a good priest.
Psychological Testing vs. Seminary Life
A seminary that lives the
fullness of the spiritual life is the best screening instrument; it will
bring out those qualified for the priesthood and point out those who would
be a shame. It is superior and more reliable than all the psychological
tests used today. Psychological tests cannot test the spiritual
preparedness of a soul. These tests can only surmise what is natural and
with no great certainty at that.
"Test the Spirit" (1
Jn. 4:1). And the best test is community life. A psychological test can
screen out someone spiritually qualified for the priesthood. The spiritual
life can only enhance one qualified for the priesthood. The way one obeys
and disobeys the commands of Christ is the best gauge of preparation for
the priesthood. Psychological testing may be used for other purposes but it
does not have the capability to gauge the spiritual qualification of a
person. St. John Vianney and St. Joseph Cupertino would have failed a
Gregorian chant, like the Divine
Office and the Mass, sanctifies those who sing it. That is the reason it is
used in the liturgy. The monks, more than others, realized the great
sanctifying influence of Gregorian chant and so widely used it in their
Divine Services. St. Dunstan of Canterbury and St. Hildegard of Bingen used
it extensively as an instrument for self-improvement for their monks and
nuns. Not only can Gregorian chant help in the quest for holiness, but it
can also be the gauge of a community's spirituality.
The beauty of Gregorian music
depends on the holy lives of the singers. St. Ambrose (Bk. I On Modesty)
wrote that the chant must be accompanied by a life of modesty. A person who
never goes beyond the due measure of speech or never makes an unbecoming
sound will sing the chant well. The chief act of modesty is silence.
The seminarians must be immersed
in the Gregorian melodies so that, when they leave the seminary, they can
distinguish between sacred and profane music. Most church music today,
though having religious words, are based on secular or profane modes and
rhythm and, therefore, not sacred. Though this could be used for the majority
of lay people, especially teenagers, it is not good enough for one called
to mediate between God and man.
When the chant is sung by minds
and hearts consecrated to God, then it is beautiful, uplifting, edifying…
and food for the soul. (St. Augustine, On Music)
Latin has always been considered
the language of the Church. Most of the teachings of Christ can better be
expressed in Latin. Though we do not propose an extensive course in Latin,
we do advise that the seminarians have, at least, a working knowledge of
Latin so he can understand the text of the Gregorian melodies and key
phrases of Latin in their classes.
Unlike Latin, other languages
like English easily decay into rapid vulgarization, constant changes, weird
and inconsistent pronunciations and weakening. On the other hand, Latin is
the easiest of all foreign languages to learn because it is the most clear
and logical, and many foreign words are rooted in it.
Pope John XXII in Vetera Sapientia noted that:
It was not without the design of
Divine Providence that the language, which for several centuries had
brought a great number of peoples together under the authority of the Roman
Empire, became the very language of the Apostolic See and passed on to posterity
to form a close bond of union between the Christian nations of Europe… For
the Latin language is by its very nature admirably suited to promote every
form of human culture among the people of any country; it arouses no
jealousy, it is equally acceptable to all nations, favors no factions, is
gracious and friendly to all alike.
While Latin is indeed crucial for
preserving and mastering the tradition of the Catholic Church, that is only
half the story. It is also most valuable in vouchsafing the development of
that tradition. The language of the Church must not only be ancient but
If the truths of the Catholic
Church were consigned to some or to many of the modern changeable
languages, among which none is of greater authority than the others, the
result would surely be, on the one hand, that the meaning of these various
versions would not be sufficiently indicated or sufficiently clear to be
understood by everyone; and, on the other, that there would be no common and
fixed norm by which the meaning of other versions could be determined.
Optatam Totius explicitly
requires seminarians, before undertaking theological studies, to acquire
"a knowledge of Latin which will enable them to understand and make
use of so many scientific resources and of the documents of the
Church." The New Code of Canon Law also decreed that "the program
of priestly formation is to provide that the students are not only taught
their native language accurately but are also well versed in Latin."
Only the Pontifical North American College in Rome and Mount St. Mary's
Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, seem to be following this directive on
It is important that practices based on the commands of Christ are observed
in the seminary even before they learn the commands. Because in this
matter, as St. Augustine states: obey that you may understand, i.e., the
seminarians must first put into practice the commands so that when they
study them it will be easier to understand them. It is like saying: do it
first then we shall explain why you have to do it. Fides quaerens
intellectus. Thus, slowly, seminary life takes a meaningful turn. It is
useless to study the commands of Christ if we do not obey them. The place
where we might obey the commands of Christ is in "community life"
in the seminary. The seminary could be the only and last place the
seminarians can learn and obey the commands of Christ. If they don't do it
now, they won't do it later.