As widely reported by the Catholic press, the bishops of the United States received the official confirmation from the Holy See for the new Program for Priestly Formation (PPF). Although the text remains in draft form, media outlets report that U.S. seminaries must initiate a new “propaedeutic year” before a man begins formal philosophical study.
In the Vatican’s official norms on priestly formation, from which the new PPF receives its principles, the Congregation for the Clergy notes that the experience of recent decades has revealed the need to dedicate a period of time to preparation which provides men with a solid basis for the spiritual life and a greater self-awareness for personal growth. During this time, men will engage in a deeper participation in the sacramental life, the Liturgy of the Hours, familiarity with the Word of God, and silence and spiritual reading. Interestingly, the Congregation for the Clergy notes that men must begin their preparation by studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church in order to learn the basics of Christian doctrine.
Decades ago, the culture which gave birth to priestly vocations – largely the result of dedication of religious sisters in Catholic parochial schools – imbued young people with a distinctly Catholic ethos. In many ways, today’s ambient culture is antagonistic toward basic Christian values, which makes preparation for priestly life more arduous. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit continues to lead men to answer the mysterious, life-giving call of a priestly vocation. This new “propaedeutic year” required by law will certainly aid the preparation and formation of men as they grow in virtue and holiness toward priestly ordination.
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