SEMINARIES IN THE SEVENTIES
HE document issued from the Vatican this week by the Congregation for Catholic Education could hardly have come at a more 2opportune moment. It deals with matters pertaming to priestly training in a manner that is wise and. as far as it goes, reassuring.
E The document in question is no hastily! improvised affair to meet any alleged crisis I over celibacy for the clergy. Nor is it by any
means solely concerned, despite an impression t given by the secular press, with sex education I for seminarians.
: It is a balanced and comprehensive 15,000 word blueprint for modern seminary life, re
; • suiting from more than two years of special : research and investigation. The call for such a
• survey was, indeed, one of the few concrete = initiatives to emerge from the 1967 Synod of t Bishops in Rome.
: Seminary life has, for many years, been :12 strictly governed by Canon Law, and dealt 2 with from time to time by official and/or 2 Papal pronouncements. The latter, spiritually : encouraging though they might have been, in; variably lacked candid and explicit reference t to the intimate problems and stresses which
affect virtually all seminarians.
= • The depth of understanding and imaginative
• sympathy exhibited in this new document is thus a cause for satisfaction. Young men are now envisaged as being "gradually invited and
! led to experience" that spirit of self-sacrifice inspired by Our Lord's love for all, but especially the poor and underprivileged.
: "In this way," the document goes on, "they ; will overcome the loneliness of their hearts." ; The phrase is bound to strike a lively chord :e -= with all priests and seminarians, few of whom ; have not experienced such loneliness, often in an acute form, at one time or another.
The new document is above all practical and constructive in its approach. Those pledging . themselves to lifelong celibacy will now do so 2 with greater awareness of what their obliga
tion entails. They will thus be able to judge 1 more clearly whether both the celibate life : and the priestly life is for them.
As a background to all this, the need for greater maturity, spiritual, sexual, intellectual and psychological, is particularly recognised. Equally welcome is the underlying assumption that higher educational standards, general broadening of outlook, less rigorous discipline, and freer social and family contacts during the period of training and preparation, are the safeguards rather than the enemies of faithfulness and orthodoxy.
Greater understanding is, by the same token, implied in the case of those who, even after some years in the seminary, conscientiously feel that they can serve God better in some other capacity. Their lives will have been spiritually, and in other ways, enriched as a preparation for their alternative "vocation" as Catholic laymen.
The Church is thus coming to terms with the numerical decline in aspirants for ordination. Quality not quantity is the target for the future.
The role of laymen, as auxiliaries, will therefore be correspondingly enlarged and enhanced, not in terms of words and wishful thinking, but in terms of action and collaboration. Deeper meaning than ever can be read, by all concerned, into Christ's words, "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you."