A Non-Academic Spirituality Year for Seminarians. It’s About Monday (2nd of 2 Parts)

In my previous article, I introduced the idea of the “Spirituality Year.” US Bishops are revisiting the guidelines about the year. The previous document that set the framework and expectations of American seminary programs was The Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests. It was published in 2001. The US Bishop’s Conference and Rome have discussed new guidelines since 2016. The length of the year, the content, and the timing of the Spirituality Year have been under intense discussion.

In a recent article, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone spoke about the “Spirituality Year.” He wishes it to be a component of priestly formation for seminarians in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Cordileone is the latest American bishop to introduce the idea into his Archdiocese.

As the archbishop pointed out, the situation in the world, and in the church, have changed since 2001. There are challenges today that former seminarians never experienced. Quoting the archbishop: “Many of our vocations come from difficult backgrounds. There are broken families. There are addiction issues in the family. Of course, then there is everything that is out there on the internet now which people grow up with. There’s all this in the culture. This militates against a good formation in the faith, and a solid formation in virtue growing up. All of that is out there. Many of our students arrive as victims of that, and they have human needs we have to address.”

One new component of the year is a “technology fast.” I have spoken with seminarians about this. They are finding this incredibly hard. Other components include a regular time of manual labor. This would be balanced with scheduled times for rest and relaxation.

This all leads to a model of healthy humanity - and this is a key point that I found! This is not a religion thing. This is not a seminary thing. This is how we understand how humanity works. It concerns the development of a deep interior life - leading to good habits - which develop a life of virtue. This type of “life formation” cannot just be for future priests and religious sisters. In the past, one could assume some kind of a religious foundation would be “caught“ by children. This would be intertwined with healthy lifestyle habits. Cordileone clearly states that for the last 30 years this is no longer the case.

This is not just about church stuff. Yet, church stuff counts. Human stuff counts. Prayer and work count. “Ora et Labora” is the motto of the Order of St. Benedict. The monks attempted to teach people how to live this integrated life. It was one of the reasons his order was so popular and successful. 1,600 years later, nothing has changed. God cares about this stuff. God wants to partner with us.

What’s the challenge today? If you take this seriously, people will think you’re crazy - much like Moses and Noah. Tell people, “No, I can’t go to that. That’s my prayer hour.” Say, “No my child is not going to play this Sunday. That time is reserved for Mass.” Tell your boss that you’re leaving work early to do some manual labor to help a poor family, and you may be admired. Do it on a regular basis and you’ll probably be called into HR.

I once heard a Pastor talk about the motto of their church: “We’re about Monday.” The idea is that God is about the rest of the week. And it is not just about “men in black.”

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