By Fr. Hien Nguyen
It is important for the candidates to reserve a special place in their hearts for the Blessed Virgin Mary. Each in his own way through the tradition of the Church should develop the devotion to Our Mother. Her fidelity to the call of God is an example to all Christian especially those who are prepared for the priesthood. “Obviously, the mystery of the Virgin cannot be lived out except in an inner climate of simplicity and abandonment, which has nothing to do with sweet sentimentality and superficial outpouring of feelings. Contact with the Blessed Virgin can only lead to greater contact with Christ and His cross.”
The faithful will make remarks that they can tell if their priest prays or not, by the way he says Mass, the way he preaches, and the way he treats his parishioners. When he does not have an authentic personal relationship with Christ, it is noticeable by the people he ministers to. People and the Church want holy priests and Spiritual Formation is about forming holy priests.
1.5 Pastoral Formation
To simply put, the priesthood is the means and instrument that leads people closer to Jesus and His salvation. The priest is the sacrament or sign of the Charity of Christ in his ministry with the people he serves. Therefore it is important that “the whole formation imparted to candidates for the priesthood aims at preparing them to enter into communion with the charity of Christ the good shepherd.” Objectively, the candidates are formed after the example of Jesus the teacher, the priest, and the pastor. The formation should emphasize and include the elements of proclaiming the Word, celebrating the sacraments, reaching out as ad intra and ad extra, building the community of faith, working with the poor and the needy, having the apostolic zeal, learning to be a pastor in a parish, etc. During the years in the seminary, there should be different programs organized for the candidates to participate and learn specific pastoral skill. Some of the pastoral experiences could be: teaching Catechism to children, youth and adults; hospital and nursing home visitations; Youth and young adult ministry; prison, street ministries etc. When the candidate is in the deaconate program, he can be assigned to a local parish to preach, baptize, and witness marriages. However, the pastoral formation should not “reduce to a mere apprenticeship, aiming to make the candidate familiar with some pastoral techniques…but seek really and truly to initiate the candidate into the sensitivity of being a shepherd,” with the sentiments of Christ, the priest.