By Fr. Hien Nguyen
More so than ever in this contemporary world, with the advancement of technology, the increase of modern spirituality, the growth of new age philosophy, the influence of sceptics, the prominent attitude of religious indifference, etc. force the need of the faithful “to be prepared to make a defense of the faith and to account for the hope that is in us, then all the more should candidates for the priesthood and priests have diligent care of the quality of their intellectual formation in their education and pastoral activity. For the salvation of their brothers and sisters they should seek an ever deeper knowledge of the divine mysteries.” Candidates are asked to deepen their faith through the profundity of intellectual knowledge in order to be effective ministers of the faith. They are to become the hearers of the Word, preacher, teachers, followers of Christ, defenders of the Church, deeply rooted in the traditions of the Church, ministers of the sacraments, promoters of marriage and family, moral teachers and guides, advocates of justice and peace, and bearers of God’s love to those who have not known or have not fully known Him.
To help the candidates of the priesthood be able to transmit the faith, the minimum requirement of the intellectual Formation is six years: 2 or 4 years of Philosophy, and 4 years of Theology. The crucial stage and the foundation of this formation is the study of philosophy that “leads to a deeper understanding and interpretation of the person and of the person’s freedom and relationships with the world and with God.” It helps them to distinguish the truth and reality in relation to the person. They are able to differentiate subjective and objective realities and mature beyond self to reach out to others. In Theology, the candidates are not only challenging themselves to have the personal faith in God but also to reach deeper into the understanding of the faith itself through the learning of Sacra Doctrina and Traditions.