The spiritually integrated priestly formation offered at Cardinal Muench Seminary is guided especially by Magisterial documents Optatam totius of the Second Vatican Council, Pope John Paul II’s Pastores dabo vobis, and the fifth edition of the Program of Priestly Formation [PPF] of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops. Since “spiritual formation is . . . the center around which all other aspects are integrated” (PPF, n. 115), priestly formation at Cardinal Muench Seminary focuses upon the authentic integration of the human person in grace. The seminarian’s deeply personal relationship with the Persons of the Trinity forges a personal unity in all aspects of his life. By rooting his life in the contemplative encounter with the Lord, the seminarian is enabled to interiorize in an appropriate way the formation imparted to him.
Being a spiritually integrated person is the fruit of the encounter between the mystery of man and the ever-greater mystery of the Triune God. Spiritual integration is, as St. Paul proclaims, “Christ living in me”. (Gal. 2:20) A spiritually integrated person subjectively interiorizes in a unified way the many gifts of objective truth, love, and beauty. Such a person experiences everything in his life in terms of his relationship with God, discovers his true identity in God as flowing from that relationship, and chooses freely in charity his authentic mission in life to which God has called him. By freely cooperating with the action of the Holy Spirit, the human, the intellectual, and the social (pastoral) dimensions of the human person are unified.
In order to lead the seminarian ever more deeply into spiritual integration, he is drawn into the interior life by means of contemplative methods of prayer, study, and service to others. He is invited to open himself to Jesus Christ who wills to live His filial active receptivity in him. As Christ received everything from His Father, so does the seminarian receive his whole life from God. This is perfectly modeled in Mary, the Mother of God, who humbly sought to receive all from God.
What is the gift God gives to the seminarian? He gives him the gift of his vocation: the vocation to manhood, the vocation to discipleship, the vocation to the priesthood. These three distinct calls are experienced as a unified reality in the seminarian. That is why one can speak of the three layers of a priestly vocation: human, Christian, and priestly.
Authentic priestly formation must be based upon the ideal of the spiritually integrated person living out his vocation from God. This formation presupposes that each of the areas specified in Pastores dabo vobis and the Program for Priestly Formation, namely the spiritual, human, intellectual, and pastoral, are present at every moment of priestly formation. Presenting them together at every moment emphasizes the vital unity that they must have in the person of the seminarian and future priest.
The backbone and most fundamental part of priestly formation at Cardinal Muench Seminary is Vocational Formation. It concerns the spiritually integrated maturation of the seminarian in each of the layers of his priestly vocation. Rooted in his intimate relationship with the Trinity, the seminarian is assisted to discover his true identity and to choose his mission to live the natural and supernatural virtues. He is challenged to set clear benchmarks as his formational goals during the year which serve as the standard for annual evaluations.
This formation is further developed by Academic Formation. Seminarians are expected to acquire a solid base of knowledge in various disciplines as preparation for their future theological studies. They are also instructed in a contemplative approach to studies so as to more fully integrate their intellectual life within their vocational journey.
Formation in Service completes the whole by providing experiences through which the seminarian develops pastoral charity, the soul of the apostolate.
The end goal of spiritually integrated priestly formation is that the future priest would live from his heart, the Heart of Christ.
The seminarians are introduced to time-honored practices of the spiritual life. These practices are presented with a view to inviting them into an ever-deepening interior participation in the mystery of intimacy with God. This is accomplished by an emphasis upon the contemplative approach to both individual and communal prayer.
Given special emphasis is the privileged encounter with Sacred Scripture through the practice of lectio divina. By helping the seminarians to develop a personal practice of this graced hearing of the Word of God, it is hoped that the relational dimension of his vocation will be grounded first and foremost in the most important relationship, namely with the Three Persons of the Triune God. Lectio divina is encouraged daily and is held twice a month in common.
Seminarians find a place of solitude during
fall retreat at Red Willow Camp, August 2008
Because the daily celebration of the Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of the spiritual life, seminarians are formed to receive contemplatively this mystery of God’s salvific presence and action. The Liturgy of the Hours is celebrated in the same way, and Eucharistic Adoration is held daily to deepen this active receptivity before the Triune God. Because the Blessed Virgin Mary formed the Heart of Jesus the High Priest, the seminarians are invited to enter into an intimate relationship with Mary their Mother, and to be formed by her maternal love.
Throughout the year there are opportunities for the seminarians to deepen their spiritual life, such as retreats and monthly days of recollection. In addition, every seminarian is required to have a spiritual director, with whom he meets on a regular basis. A confessor is available at scheduled times during the week.