A Summorum Pontificum entity within a diocesan or inter-diocesan seminary
Making room to the “creative minority” of the Usus antiquior

Par P. Laurent-Marie Pocquet du Haut-Jussé, sjm

Français, italiano

In recent years, the inter-diocesan seminaries of Lille and Bordeaux have closed down and the Holy See, via the Congregation for the Clergy, seems to want to encourage the gathering of seminarians from different dioceses in structures capable of nurturing a true community life and a formation given by competent and experienced professors. But, the risk is that seminarians of the local Churches might find themselves far from the communities they would serve and, also, that it might diminish the authority of the diocesan bishop who is still the top person in charge of pastoral care for vocations and in charge of the formation of his clergy. Canons 232 and 264 of the 1983 Code of canonical law shows how much the diocesan bishop has a responsibility that is proper and inalienable.

In any case, the new Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis, which dates 8 December 2016, which still has not been adapted to French diocese (under the form of a Ratio nationalis), gives the general ideas of the spiritual, doctrinal, pastoral formation of the candidates to diocesan priesthood. The document insists particularly, in addition to the scientific and academic requirements, on the necessary emotional, relational, and spiritual balance of the future priests to become all together disciples of Christ and missionaries for the Church.

More and more the candidates have heard the call to the vocation within the family setting and within the communities belonging to the extraordinary form of the Roman rite. Many then are joining institutes or societies celebrating this form and with apostolates serving these faithful and having their own house of formation. But some of these candidates also desire to embrace a “classic” pastoral ministry serving parishes, families, school chaplaincies, lay associations, while at the same time staying faithful to the grace received in the traditional liturgy they intend to celebrate exclusively. They have also experienced that it is not an obstacle but on the contrary a support tool in the evangelization of contemporary society.

What is at stake is also for the bishops to avoid keeping in a ghetto the faithful attached to the extraordinary form. Indeed, these will find for themselves priests, works, institutions, schools, lay associations, vocations, seminaries… Moreover, it is in line with the spirit of the 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum which encourages to include the extraordinary form within the parish setting. But for this to be reality, some seminarians need to be trained for this particular “preferential” ministry though not exclusive.

One can thus imagine that within a diocesan or inter-diocesan seminary there could be room for this ecclesial reality which certainly constitutes a “creative minority”, to borrow words from pope emeritus Benedict XVI.

Four concrete propositions can be made:

a) Liturgical life at the seminary

It seems obvious that the seminarians attracted by this particular spirituality must be able to enjoy at least part of the sung or recited office according to the usus antiquior: for example vespers and compline. We would also think desirable that one in two masses be celebrated according to the extraordinary form. If the superiors don’t deem possible the celebration for only one group in the seminary, they could choose to alternate ordinary form in the vernacular, ordinary form in Latin and extraordinary form, for everyone at the seminary.

The liturgical formation should go more in depth and be continued during the full years of study at the seminary, with in mind a practical formation to the ceremonial and to the rubrics of the celebration of all the sacraments and sacramentals.

b) Doctrinal formation

What should be the norm for all seminaries in regards to the content of the formation is now rarely met, except in Ecclesia Dei seminaries or houses of formation. There should be then a desire to apply the different directives, as they were up to 2013 that is in a perspective clearly “restorationist”, as given by the Congregation for Catholic Education in the time that it was responsible for the formation in seminaries (in regards to the teaching of philosophy, theological formation, study of Church Fathers, spirituality, Marian theology, propædeutics, most documents being only available in Italian on the Holy See website!).

It is important to insist on the place to be given to saint Thomas. If a small historic and theological introduction is very useful, it would be desirable to acquaint seminarians with the method of saint Thomas throughout the study in the text itself. In this regard, a study under supervision could be quite beneficial along with courses following a lecture format. This is a good method, working together to solve the doctrinal and practical issues of the time.

Experience shows that the question of the salvation (which, still according to conciliar decrees on the formation of priests Optatam totius, must be presented with an introductory course, so to unify the over-whole ecclesiastic formation) and the in-depth study of the mystery of Christ must have a central place in the teaching dispensed at the seminary.

c) Spirituality and lifestyle

Education to a true asceticism is probably what is most lacking in the formation nowadays. I mean asceticism as a concrete requirement for a solid and rooted spiritual life and a clear perception of the very concrete difficulties that priests meet right at the beginning of their ministry. We could make an analogy with what is experienced (or should be experienced) in secular institutes: the fact of living a true consecration in the world without visible and material support (unlike religious who enjoy a communal life and a concrete organization of their life which, usually, ensures the priority given to the development of spiritual life) requires an initial formation extremely structuring.

Except that a secular institute always has its own spirituality, otherwise it could not exist. For Summorum Pontificum seminarians, it would be good to identify a few favored more general themes: spirituality of the mass and the liturgy; how to nourish ourselves of what we celebrate; Christ high priest and good shepherd; to be in the world without being of the world; Apostle today… Here, again, it is possible to borrow from the École française of spirituality as well as from the missionary renewal of the XIXth century and of the 30s-50s of the last century.

The promotion of a certain lifestyle must encourage the practice of ordinary virtues which sometimes are lacking on the part of the sacred ministers, what was already emphasized in its days in Optatam totius: politeness, cordiality, patience, goodness, magnanimity, simplicity, towards confreres as well as faithful. Additionally, they will be encouraged to adopt a true discipline in their life in regards to the use of social communication tools, favoring reading and reflection, and using parsimoniously radio, television and internet. Intellectual demands, rigor in discernment, spirit of discernment, capacity to evaluate in a critical fashion the various pastorals put in place for several decades, classic culture are the best arms against the invasion of affectivity, perception, subjectivism, finally infantilism, which are the ultimate stage, if I may say, of the voluntarism and the fascination that ideological differences, soft or hardcore, exercise in regular cycles, successively since the end of the sixties, on clerics and engaged lay people: the all politic, the all pedagogical; the all psychological, the all communication; the all coaching and management; the all environmental and sustainable development…

For Summorum Pontificum seminarians, the wearing of the ecclesiastic attire should be authorized permanently, including in apostolates as soon as the admission, and obligatory for all acts of worship and communal exercises of piety as soon as the first year of philosophy.

d) Pastoral formation

It is evident that our proposition will meet many objections, the main one being probably to contribute to a clerical vision of the priestly ministry. But, the moment has come also to ask ourselves if, in a world absolutely dechristianized and ignorant, the irruption of this type of priests, very far from the ecclesial structures all the more complicated that its leaders are getting older and older and more and more rare, does not represent a provocation, a call, a question, a query? We must then formed shepherds sufficiently free in regards to some of the ways of doing and organizing ecclesial life which in the medium term has accomplished nothing, not one more child in catechism, not one catechumen. Priests who would be elite soldiers of the new evangelization, rooted spiritually and doctrinally, structured as on the inside by the traditional liturgy, giving priority to contacts, whether they be with faithful or with those who are pastorally entrusted to them and to whom they will show the way to the Church, and through there, the path to Heaven.

P. Laurent-Marie Pocquet du Haut-Jussé, sjm

Jean-Jacques Olier: the reform of the priesthood through the Eucharist

One of the great master of what is called, since Henri Bremond, the École française of spirituality, Jean-Jacques Olier (1608-1657), parish priest of Saint Sulpice Church, in Paris, has been one of the most active architects, in France, of the reform wanted by the Council of Trent for priests and faithful. The priest must consume himself in adoration in front of the Eucharist. The term of his vocation is the Eucharist, from which he must nourish sacramentally and spiritually the faithful, to make them participants to the one praise of the Father, assumed by Jesus Christ. “It is this conviction on the vocation of the priest which made Olier one of the most efficacious reformer of the French clergy and, because of that, one of the educators of the Western spirituality of the XVIIth-XXth century – through Jean-Baptist de La Salle, Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, Father Libermann and Faber, Mgr Gay and Cardinal Mercier (Irénée Noye, article “Jean-Jacques Olier”, in Catholicisme, Letouzey et Ané, 1983, col. 61).”