In order to create a true community of disciples of the Lord, priests and bishops must prepare lay people with solid catechesis and train future priests to be holy and see their vocation as more than just a ‘career’, Pope John Paul II told a group of Filipino bishops today.
“One of the major contributions the Church can make in guaranteeing a solid preparation of the laity is to ensure that seminaries and religious houses are training future priests to be dedicated disciples of the Word and Sacrament,” he said.
The Filipino Bishops from the Provinces of Caceres, Capiz, Cebu, Jaro and Palo met in Rome this past week for their Ad Limia visit. This was the second of three groups of bishops from the Philippines who are making a pilgrimage to the Vatican.
Training future priests is “a complex process that begins with the proper selection of candidates,” said the pope. “In this regard, I recommend that you and your priests actively search for good, pious and well-balanced young men for the priesthood and challenge them to be not afraid ‘to put out into the deep’ for a catch of inestimable value,” he said.
He also spoke of the four necessary components in forming a “good and holy priest “, namely: human, intellectual, pastoral and spiritual formation.
Referring to all Catholics, the pope said that “being a disciple of the Lord is not a whimsical decision but is instead a serious, loving response to a personal invitation.
“In fact, it is only through this authentic discipleship, based on loving solidarity, that the Philippines can begin to resolve the worrisome dichotomy between faith and life which plagues so many modern societies,” he said.
Despite the rich Christian heritage of the Philippines, “there still exist certain contradictions among Christians and in Filipino society at large,” said the pontiff. “These incongruities can only be rectified by your being fully opened to Christ’s spirit, going into the world and transforming it into a culture of justice and peace.”
The pope said that one of the ways to bring about this transformation is for the priests and bishops to ensure that the laity has at its disposal programs of spirituality and catechesis.
The pope also encouraged the Filipino bishops in their commitment to support and assist priests through ongoing formation. Such formation should promote “the priestly virtues of charity, prayer, chastity and faithful celebration of the liturgy, practices unappreciated or even rejected by modern culture and its media,” added the pope.
“Today’s clergy must be careful not to adopt the secular view of the priesthood as a ‘profession’, a ‘career’ and a means of earning a living. Rather, the clergy must see the priesthood as a vocation to selfless, loving service, embracing wholeheartedly the ‘esteemed gift of celibacy’ and all that this involves,” he said.
“Celibacy is to be regarded as an integral part of the priest’s exterior and interior life, and not just as a long-standing ideal, which is to be respected,” he emphasized.
“Sadly, the lifestyle of some clergy has been a countersign to the spirit of the evangelical counsels which should be a part of the spirituality of every priest,” he continued. “The scandalous behavior of a few has undermined the credibility of many. I wish you to know that I am aware of the sensitive way in which you have attempted to address this issue, and I encourage you not to lose hope.”