Pontiff Cites 2 Keys for Priestly Formation

Invites Seminarians to Value Gift of Vocation

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ROME, FEB. 5, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says silence and community life are two key elements in the formation of seminarians.



The Pope said this when he visited Rome's Major Pontifical Seminary on Friday, telling the seminarians that "the gift of being adopted sons of God has illuminated your life.”

The papal visit marked the vigil of Our Lady of Trust, the seminary’s patron. The Holy Father celebrated first vespers and then had dinner with the community.

He invited the seminarians to journey "with a soul open to truth and transparency,” to answer in a humble way to the Lord’s call, freeing themselves “from the danger of seeing their vocation as a merely personal project.”

“It is the Holy Spirit who makes you aware of this profound reality and causes you to love it. All of this cannot but awaken a great confidence, because the gift that is given is surprising, it stupefies and fills one with deep joy,” the Pontiff said.

Marvelous adventure

Benedict XVI then addressed the parents of the seminarians, probably the “most surprised,” he said, “about what has happened to their sons.” Inviting them to look to Mary, who asked many questions about her Son, the Pope reminded the fathers and mothers that their sons’ adventure is “a marvelous one.”

“In fact," he added, "even if it can seem that the life of the priest does not draw the interest of the majority of people, in reality it is the most interesting and most necessary adventure for the world -- the adventure of showing and making present the fullness of life to which all aspire. It is a very demanding adventure; and it could not be otherwise, because the priest is called to imitate Jesus, who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life for the ransom of many.”

The Holy Father then underscored two aspects that characterize formation for the priesthood, namely, silence and communion.

“First of all, the years in the seminary bring a certain detachment from common life, a certain ‘desert,' so the Lord can speak to your heart. His voice, in fact, is not loud, but quiet. It is the voice of silence. To hear it, a climate of silence is necessary," he affirmed.

In regard to life in community, the Pope recalled that the apostles came together, following Jesus: "Your communion is not limited to the present, but regards the future too. The pastoral activity that awaits you must see you acting in unity as one body, in an order, that of the presbyters, who, with the bishop, care for the Christian community. Love this ‘family life,' which is for you an anticipation of that ‘sacramental fraternity’ that must characterize every diocesan presbyterate.”

Sanctity

Emphasizing, finally, “that sanctity is the secret of the true success of the sacerdotal ministry,” Benedict XVI invited the seminarians to entrust this desire and daily commitment to Mary, Mother of Trust.

The Pope then received the greeting of the rector of the seminary, Monsignor Giovanni Tani, who thanked the Holy Father for his visit, a gesture, he said, that “makes our trust grow.”

"Trust is another way of saying ‘hope’; at the very least the one word forcefully brings the other to mind," the rector said. "In this respect, reading your encyclical letter ‘Spe Salvi,' we discover the possibility of giving theological and cultural depth to this word ‘trust' that is so familiar. (…) It expresses above all a way of living and witnessing to the beauty of life with God.”

At the close of the encounter, the Pope addressed some spontaneous remarks to the seminarians, emphasizing the necessity of communicating the great gift of the faith to others. Even those who do not believe, he said, “are searching. They too want to live well, they too have the thirst to find the right road but do not find it.” Thus “in the depths of the heart” of every human being “there is this thirst for God.”

“So,” he concluded, “even with all the contradictions, resistance and opposition, the thirst for God is there and we have the beautiful vocation to help, to give light. This is our adventure.”