The spiritual formation of every priest is the core which unifies and gives life to his being a priest and his acting as a priest. The program of Spiritual Formation helps the seminarian live in communion with God as a deep communion with the totality of the paschal mystery. [PDV 45] The seminary has a team of spiritual directors – priests with experience and training in the art of spiritual direction – who serve as guides and mentors for the seminarians and seminary community. Each seminarian chooses a spiritual director from among the members of this team and meets with him every two weeks. The Spiritual Directors have written a Spiritual Life Formation Handbook which is distributed at the start of each school year and outlines the expectations and hopes for the spiritual life of each seminarian.
Spiritual formation “should be conducted in such a way that the students may learn to live in intimate and unceasing union with God the Father through his Son Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. 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. They should be taught to seek Christ in faithful meditation on the Word of God and in active participation in the sacred mysteries of the church, especially the Eucharist and the Divine Office, to seek him in the bishop by whom they are sent and in the people to whom they are sent, especially the poor, little children, the weak, sinners and unbelievers. With the confidence of sons they should live and reverence the most Blessed Virgin Mary, who was given as a mother to the disciple of Jesus Christ as he was dying on the cross.” [Optatam Totius, 20]
Prayer is an act of faith and charity which brings the person who prays to be with the One whom we know loves us (St. Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection). During time in the seminary, the way of Christian prayer should be sought, learned and cultivated. Christ will remain at the center of the seminarian’s life and ministry through a persevering prayer life giving glory to God (Jn. 14:12-13).
Prayer requires familiarity with God’s Word and will be enriched to the degree that it is nourished with the Word. Suitable preparation and disposition for hearing God’s Word at the Eucharist, the Liturgy of the Hours and in personal prayer in private are nurtured through reading, study, meditation and putting the Word into practice by living it.
Prayer requires an interior silence. Interior silence is the ability to listen at a deeper level. It is an abandonment of self to God, thus seeking everything from God (Matt. 6:33). Seminarians cultivate this interior silence by giving themselves to times of silence on a daily and consistent basis.
Prayer requires an exterior silence. It is the responsibility of the seminary community to help create an atmosphere of silence and reflection at appropriate times of the day and during days of recollection and retreats.
Prayer becomes more an attitude and outlook than a method or system to follow; however, most people will find it necessary to learn to pray through following a particular way of prayer and meditation. A seminarian should develop this during his seminary years.
An essential element of spiritual formation is the prayerful and meditated reading of the word of God (lectio divina). (PDV #47) Lectio Divina as a method of listening, meditating, praying and contemplating the Word of God is a helpful way in which God forms us in the knowledge, love and following of Jesus as disciples. Each seminarian is encouraged to develop this intimate relationship with Jesus through this meditative and contemplative method.