In every age of the Church’s history, new challenges to living and sharing the Gospel have confronted the faithful. Our time and place are no exception. Such challenges can appear daunting. They can cause us to grumble and even pine for simpler times. These attitudes get us nowhere. However, when we begin to see our challenges under the graced light of Divine Providence, we perceive them for what they are: an invitation from Christ to enter into His life more profoundly.
For every generation of His followers, the Lord raises up priests to guide and strengthen them so that they may persevere and flourish in their life of discipleship. Priests, therefore, must be keenly aware of the unique trials of the time and place that the Lord has given them to exercise their ministry. In order to equip their people to face these challenges, those who have heard Christ’s call to the priesthood must first be equipped themselves. All of what we do here at Saint John’s Seminary aims at equipping seminarians to equip others.
In order to help our seminarians better meet the needs of the faithful, the Holy See and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have added an introductory intensive year, the Propaedeutic Year, focused on spiritual and human growth to the program of priestly formation. Before diving into the realm of philosophical and theological study, men preparing for the priesthood must first come to know in a real and personal way the One from whom all wisdom flows. Prayer is the heart of the propaedeutic year. Turning so intently toward the Lord can’t help but shed light on who we are in His loving gaze. To know the Lord so deeply is also to know the human heart He desires to have as His home. This is the second focus of the year: growing in self-knowledge, integrity, and the capacity for friendship and communion that is so essential to the ministry and life of priests.
By spending their first year in priestly formation immersed in prayer and fraternity, our future priests will be even better equipped to help their people cut through the isolating distractions and anxieties that burden our society. They will be even better prepared to build up the next generation of Catholics to be a light to their unique time and place.