Today, I’m asked to respond to: What do you think is the most important part of a priest’s seminary training?
My friend John’s reaction to this question was, “You haven’t been in formation for 25 years. Everything is so different now, what can you know about it?” With that caveat in firmly in mind, here I go…
All of it is important, of course, but where to give primacy? Given the sexual abuse crisis, serious argument could be made for anything that develops psycho-sexual maturity. [One of the things that Jesuit formation leaders now evaluate is the ability to work for, and with, women. Women colleagues are routinely asked to write “letters of recommendation” for Jesuits as they move from one stage of formation to another.]
The dire state of preaching in many of our parishes suggests that homelitics should be highly emphasized. The general level of banality leads me to believe that some priests have never really encountered Scripture or know how to relate its key messages to our real lives.
Unless I had diocesan Pastor friends, I would never have thought that learning about finance and business operations was important, but young priests suddenly find themselves in charge of huge parishes with a large staff, a school and heaven knows what else and yet they have had no administrative preparation at all. No wonder some of them become overwhelmed, turn to liquor (or whatever) and hide away from everyone.
But learning how to pray, I think, has to be the top priority. If someone has a rich and ongoing relationship with the Lord and is truly trying to listen to the Spirit in his life, then – no matter how deficient he may be in other areas – his heart (and soul) will be in the right place. People can tell… and are willing to be very supportive.
It worked for St. Jean Vianney, the Cure of Ars, why wouldn’t it work for the rest of us?