Discernment Needed

In a meeting with Polish Jesuits, Pope Francis worried that too many seminaries teach a rigid list of rules that make it difficult or impossible for priests to respond to the real-life situations of those who come to them seeking guidance. “Some priestly formation programs run the risk of educating in the light of overly clear and distinct ideas, and therefore to act within limits and criteria that are rigidly defined a priori, and that set aside concrete situations,” the pope said during a meeting with 28 Polish Jesuits in Krakow during World Youth Day on July 30. The pope asked the Jesuits to begin an outreach to diocesan seminaries and diocesan priests, sharing with them the prayerful and careful art of discernment as taught by St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. “The church today needs to grow in the ability of spiritual discernment,” the pope said. Without “the wisdom of discernment,” he said, “the seminarians, when they become priests, find themselves in difficulty in accompanying the life of so many young people and adults.”

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Richard Booth
1 year 10 months ago
I believe the Pope is right on point. I remember reading a comment in America some time ago, in which a priest stated he had learned about issues of childbirth from a British television show about midwives. I suggested something to the effect that he might learn about rape and abuse from watching "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit." His comment did not surprise me, but it somehow moved me to frustration at his inability to understand so many of the people he dedicated himself to serve. I also remember, from my seminary days, the priest who taught biology. He nervously told us to read the chapter on reproduction on our own. His personal fear was certainly masking something deeper. There is much to be covered in a seminary curriculum, but is it not possible to find some time to teach seminarians what real people actually go through in their daily lives? From my experience, I consider that our priest-teachers would not have known how to do that, but I was not aware of what I was missing at the time. Eventually, I left, sensing that the life would not be challenging enough and that the sacerdotal world to which I was long exposed was small indeed. So, I understand the priest's comments but come down on the side of Pope Francis for meaningful revision of seminary education. Discernment is needed in every domain of life, particularly in the service professions.

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