Celibacy is a counter-cultural, prophetic sign of the kingdom of God breaking into human society. It is an indispensable sign of the permanent and eternal love of Christ for his people. It is a sign of commitment and an expression of the priest’s pastoral love in the person of Christ. In the Gospel, Christ speaks of men and women being called to and accepting the charism of celibacy and virginity for the sake of the kingdom (Mt. 19:12). Saint Paul speaks of its excellence (1 Cor. 7:32-35).
The celibate is called to express a type of relationship which speaks of the parenthood of God in whom there is no stranger and in whom everyone becomes brother or sister. The celibate also participates in the generative nature of life in a spiritual sense through generating Christ in others and bringing them closer to salvation. These thoughts on celibacy imply, of course, a healthy sexuality. Celibacy requires a mature shaping of sexuality toward these goals and not a repression of sexuality in order to be ordained. During time in the seminary, the seminarian pays attention to the development of his sexuality and seeks out the necessary means to grow in a healthy, mature understanding and appreciation of both marriage and celibacy. The seminarian seeks to foster healthy relationships within the seminary and outside. For the celibate, relationships should always become more inclusive and less exclusive. This is a sign of a healthy understanding of sexuality as a celibate.
Chastity in all its forms is a further sign of a healthy and mature sexuality. Chastity in thought, word and action should be fostered at all times in order to grow in Christ. Developing a mature and healthy understanding of sexuality and a positive understanding of celibacy strengthens the seminarian’s ability to love all people with a pastoral love in imitation of Christ the Good Shepherd.
Simplicity of Life
Poverty in the Gospel sense is not a matter of having less or living in a way that is undignified for children of God (Mt. 6:19ff). Rather it is another means to freedom, leading to the greater love to which God calls ministers for the sake of the kingdom of God on earth. Poverty also remains a counter-cultural, prophetic sign to which the whole Church is called, witnessing to the proper use of the world’s material goods and for their proper distribution among all peoples in the world. Poverty expressed by a simple lifestyle renders our preaching credible, in favor of the poor. During this time in the seminary, each seminarian seriously examines his use of material goods and the value he places on them in his life (Mt. 6:19-25). In doing so, the promise of Jesus of the hundredfold (Mk. 10:28-31) is remembered and experienced.
Many dioceses have stewardship programs asking the people to give and share their time, talent and treasure. The seminary is sustained by the generosity of the people of the dioceses. Simplicity of life is seen in the responsible stewardship for the care of seminary property through weekly work order, generosity in volunteering for community activities, concern for not wasting food in signing up or out for evening or week-end meals.
Jesus was obedient to death, death on a cross (Phil.2:8) and in fact learned obedience through what he suffered (Heb. 5:8). A mature obedience in freedom is required of all who wish to serve in the name of Christ (Rom. 13:1-5). This obedience finds its foundation in a deep love of God and of the Church. It is imperative that a seminarian comes to experience the freedom that obedience offers as a fruitful means of serving all. The seminarian’s relationship with the authorities in the seminary and those of his diocese will be the means for learning to live obedience. A fruitful ministry in the priesthood is closely grafted into the unity in love that a priest shows his bishop and his fellow priests.
The priest is one who not only offers the sacrifice of the Lord ritually in the Eucharist, but is one who, with all the baptized, must offer himself as a living sacrifice to God the Father for the good of the Church and all those he will serve (Phil. 2:17). Above all, when a seminarian places this spirit of love in everything he does – prayer, studies, field education, community activities, the practice of poverty, chastity and obedience (1 Peter 4:8) – he learns to grow deeper in love with the Lord, and learns to grow in a more generous, committed love through service to those to whom he will be sent.
Commitment to Social Justice
Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appears to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel (Justice in the World, 1971 Synod of Bishops, n.6). During his time in the seminary the seminarian should become informed, concerned and active in the particular social issues of his diocese, nation and the world itself.
There are opportunities to express social concerns through field education social ministries and also in sharing time, talent and treasure for helping others at Thanksgiving with food baskets and at Christmas with gifts for children. Some seminarians have become involved in some of the issues facing the Church in our nation, such as Pro Life Advocacy. The World Mission Committee has also given some seminarians an opportunity for first hand experience of people in economically deprived areas of the world.