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A Program of Spiritual Formation for Candidates to the Priesthood

The Lay Monastic Community of Caryana










1. This is the only time the seminarian will have the occasion to learn and live the Gospel in full and in an ideal atmosphere. In the world, he will never have this luxury. Every force in the world will work to make him go against what he had learned. If he does not acquire a strong spiritual life now, he will never have a chance later. "Spirituality must be given in the seminary. It will be more difficult when they are out" (Formation in Seminaries, L 'Osservatore Romano, April 21, 1980).

2. Like the apostles before the Ascension, the seminarians could easily forget everything they have learned. It has happened to the best of men. They will find themselves using worldly-wise solutions instead. But when these fail, as they surely will, they can always go back to their seminary days where they have learned the real solutions. If they cannot recall this, at least, they know where and in what books on spirituality these could be found.

3. Without this intense training in spirituality to look back to, they would despair and be destroyed in the world. Thus, St. John, in the Apocalypse, in rebuking Christian communities that had gone astray, encouraged them to look back to their former charity wherewith they excelled.


The Success of the Program Depends on the Kind of Soil


          In spite of this program, success is not guaranteed. Judas, after all, had the best seminary training. Much depends on the kind of soil the seminarian's soul is. Though the very commands of Christ teach us how to fertilize the soil, more often than not the seminarians do nothing about it and remain stony soil or wayside soil or hard soil... in these kinds of soil the seed of the Word of God can never grow and prosper.


        Having learned from the Golden Age of Europe when the Catholic Religion united Europe into the Holy Roman Empire, the Bourbon of France, wanting to keep France powerful and united, realized that that strength would have to come from its Catholicism. The Church TODAY should do no less.

        The problem was that though the Catho1ic Church in the 17th century was powerful and wealthy, the Church was nominal Catholic. And so the attempt to renew the Church was on a Church that was anything but strong. The long spiritual decline that had been going on had weakened the structure, and reversal of the trend could only come with a long-term and violent spiritual renewal.

        The Council of Trent in 1564 had promulgated decrees for reform, but like all councils the decrees remained dead and unheeded. Since the structure had weakened, reform had to begin from the bottom. Suddenly there arose in France the flowering of mystical vitality and spiritual creativity. A small group of bishops, priests, nobility, religious and laity adapted the formative influences of the old Catholic Tradition. The most powerful influence is the importance of the living testimony of Scriptures and teachings of the Church Fathers. This was accentuated by lay monastic communities, like the Devotio Moderna (which even today is the most powerful religious force in the Scandinavian countries). Devotio Moderna is known to us through the book Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis.

        As during that time, today, we must get used to the idea that, as in all renewals, the battle must be waged from bishop to bishop, diocese by diocese, seminary by seminary, priest by priest, religious order by religious order, house by house, street by street, person by person. There is no other way.

        Like all reforms, reform must be in the heads and in its members. It must trickle down from the bishops to the priests and laity. As the Tridentine Reformers would say: "A diocese is only as holy as its bishop, a parish is only as good as its parish priest." 

For a reform or renewal to take place, we must be convinced that there is a problem, that there is a need for reform and that the reform must start in lives of seminarians, priests and bishops. And this means that these clerics must receive a good spiritual training. According to the Tridentine Reform Ecclesiology, the foundation of the reform must start with its bishops and priests.

        The Council of Trent decreed the establishment of seminaries to cure the state of the priests who were spiritually unprepared and morally deficient to perform their pastoral duties worthily. What they lacked they could not give their parishioners. It was the main reason why half of Europe was lost to Protestantism; due to their ignorance of Catholicism, they were already Protestants at heart.

        "Oplatam Totius Ecclesiae Renovationem," on the decree on priestly training, reiterated that the Fathers of the Synod are just pursuing the work begun by the Council of Trent III the renewal of the program for the formation of priests.

        The method of "re-evangelization", a word often used today, consists in this: if Church doctrine were presented to people in all its purity by zealous and holy priests, the sheer force of the truth could not help but convert anybody. But because only a handful could do this in the 17th century, conversion was slow. The dismal state of affairs was worst in the countryside.

        At that time France was dotted with an astounding number of monasteries, abbeys, priories and convents for men and women belonging to the old monastic orders. But almost all had fallen away from the observance of their primitive rules. They even opposed the renewal, unwilling to give up their new, easy and indulgent way of life; and the reform had no effect on them. The Franciscans, however, had a reform with the establishment of the Capuchins.

        The renewal and reforms were taken up by lay communities, not religious in the canonical sense, who lived in communities guided by the teachings of the apostles and interpreted by the Fathers of the Church, like the Oratorians, the Sulpicians, the Eudist and the Lazarist that eventually evolved into the Vincentians. Lay women came together in community life with a fervent desire for personal holiness and the fulfilling of the Church's mission of charity.


(updated 01-02-02)

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