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A focus on vocations to the priesthood – The Church and Vocations – Spiritual Formation

By Fr. Hien Nguyen

1.3 Spiritual Formation

Spiritual formation is about falling in love with Jesus. It is a developing of the relationship with each of the Person of the Blessed Trinity and from this source of love reaches out and dispenses it to others. It is a formation of spiritual communion vertically with God and horizontally with fellowmen. The “students may learn to live in intimate and unceasing union with the [Trinity]. Those who are to take on the likeness of Christ the Priest by sacred ordination should form the habit of drawing close to him as friends in every detail of their lives. They should live his paschal mystery in such a way that they will know how to initiate into it the people committed to their charge.”
Young candidates need to develop a life of prayer that will help to sustain them in the life of the priesthood and their ministries. They need to learn how to pray using many different methods through their struggles and consolations not only to know Jesus better personally, but to gain the ability to guide and direct others in prayer. He is the master of prayer. The Church gives guidelines in four directives to help form the candidates spiritually: Christ the Word of God; The Word of the Cross: the Redemptive Sacrifice; The Word of the Cross: Spiritual Sacrifices; and The Word Made Flesh in the Womb of the Virgin Mary.

Word of God
It is important for the candidates to establish interior silence. This means that they have the ability to discern God’s will and others, to dialogue with God and others, to be in communion with others. It is the silent heart that is not being distracted by conflicts, hatred, and sins; a heart that is available to interact with God and others. St. Ignatius promoted this method in his Spiritual Exercises to have this silent and peace of heart to discern God’s will.
“For just as taking a walk, journeying on foot, and running are bodily exercises, so we call Spiritual Exercises every way of preparing and disposing the soul to rid itself of all inordinate attachments, and, after their removal, of seeking and finding the will of God in the disposition of our life for the salvation of our soul.”
The aim for the candidates is “to bring about a meeting with Christ, to foster interior intimacy and a real dialogue with Him.” To achieve this, they require exposing and mastering themselves the art of prayer. They learn to pray with others through the Liturgy of the Hours and other prayers of the Church. They have to spare some time to read and meditate on Scriptures and books of the Saints (lectio divina). In this way the Word of God infiltrates his whole person and becomes flesh in his activities.