Earlier this week, I promised to discuss what I remember about the way the concept of priesthood was treated in my seminary formation program ten years ago. I’ll base my discussion around ten quotes from the Program of Priestly Formation (fourth edition). They are all drawn from the section of the PPF that is titled “Doctrinal Understanding of the Ministerial Priesthood.” If I were involved in the apostolic visitation, I would pay special attention to these ten passages when examining seminary formation programs.
A clear doctrinal understanding of the priesthood is necessary in order to chart the course of a consistent education and to foster a secure priestly identity…. From many points of view, clear priestly identity and sound priestly formation are necessary correlates (PPF, 10).
The uniqueness of the priestly role in the Church calls for specialized programs of learning and formation. Because of the important emphasis placed upon personal and spiritual formation, diocesan seminarians are usually educated in a seminary community whose clear focus is priestly formation. (PPF, 12)
[The disciples] were to minister in a special way to those with whom they were united in the body of Christ, a body in which “all members have not the same function” (Romans 12:3; Presbyterorum Ordinis, 2). Thus while all the baptized participate in the priesthood of Christ, some are called and ordained to minister to all of the faithful. In the sacrament of orders, priests are especially configured to Christ to act in his person as head and pastor of the Church and in the name of the whole people of God (Lumen Gentium, 10; Presbyterorum Ordinis, 2; cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 15). (PPF, 30)
Although the reality of priestly ministry emanated from Christ, its differentiation and precise naming occurred in successive generations of the Christian community under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. (PPF, 31)
“Though they differ essentially and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are nonetheless ordered one to another; each in its own proper way shares in the one priesthood of Christ.” (Lumen Gentium, 10) (PPF, 32)
“The ministry of the priest is entirely on behalf of the Church; it aims at promoting the exercise of the common priesthood of the entire people of God.” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 16) (PPF, 32)
Ordained priests remain sacramentally related to Christ and to his Church for life with a character that perdures into eternity. (PPF, 34)
Although committed to a great diversity of individual ministries, priests are united in the common goal of building up the body of Christ through ordained priestly service. (PPF, 35)
From the waters of baptism and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, priests and laity share a sacramental origin and a common purpose as disciples of Christ. These bonds imply a continuing relationship of collaboration and mutual respect. (PPF, 39)
When Christians gather in [Christ’s] name, he is in their midst. (Matthew 18:20; cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7) Christ the high priest is present in a special way in priests themselves as well as in their ministry. For this reason, ministry will have a profound effect on personal priestly life, becoming the path that priests follow as they seek to become holy themselves. (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 12) (PPF, 42)