PASSING BY a local seminary the other day, I noticed that an office for the director of human formation for the seminarians was being constructed. Apparently the bishops’ conference has indicated that this aspect of the seminarians’ formation be given serious attention.
I was, of course, very happy to learn about this. For quite some time now, I together with many others have worried about what appears to be a deterioration of the human tone of priests and seminarians.
Basic good manners and proper conduct seem to be missing, as we now see a few priests improperly dressed, lacking proper sense of where to be and to go, adapting adolescent speech and lifestyle, and a long disturbing etcetera.
This concern for human formation is, of course, necessary for everyone, not just for priests and seminarians. Human correctness as manifested in one’s external appearance and behavior can reveal what is inside one’s heart and soul.
One’s spiritual life and all other aspects of one’s life depend to a large extent on how well one lives this indispensable human aspect of his life. Our human condition is the basic ground on which all the other developments take place. We’ll always be human, never angels nor brutes.
Let’s remember that our supernatural calling is not meant to suppress our human condition, but rather to purify, enrich and elevate it. In fact, without this spiritual and supernatural dimension, our human condition simply degenerates.
How can one be expected to be prayerful and self-sacrificing if he is lazy, disorderly, still held captive by earthly allurements? How can one be socially attuned and pastorally effective if he is self-absorbed, narrow-minded, and tactless?
A town mayor once told me he mistook a priest for a houseboy in a town fiesta, simply because the priest dressed, talked and behaved like a houseboy.
Obviously that priest must have thought he scored high in following our Lord’s command to be truly humble by being a servant. But on the other hand, the priest should know there are basic rules that govern his public activity.
Lest I be accused of just dishing out my unsolicited opinion on this matter, I would like to transmit the relevant indication issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy.
In no. 75 of the “Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests,” the following is said:
“This human formation is extremely important in today’s world, as it always has been. The priest must never forget that he is a man chosen among men to be at the service of men.
“To sanctify himself and carry out his priestly mission, he must present himself with an abundance of human virtues which render him worthy of esteem by those around him.
“In particular he must practice goodness of heart, patience, kindness, strength of soul, love for justice, even-mindedness, truthfulness to his word, coherence in the duties freely assumed, etc.
“It is likewise important that human virtues be reflected in the priest’s social conduct, correctness in the various forms of human relations, friendships, courtesy, etc.”
We have to help one another in this area, profusely giving good example to the others, constantly giving reminders, making suggestions and even resorting to fraternal corrections.
In this regard, the lay faithful should not hesitate to help those in the clergy and in the religious state, by promptly giving those timely reminders, appropriate suggestions and necessary corrections.
I wish to reassure them that they will be doing a great service to the Church if they do these duties. Doing them will reduce useless gossiping, and never mean a lack of respect for priests, but rather genuine care for them.
A high standard of human tone should be established and kept, starting with the leaders and officials who ought to be the concrete models of human correctness. They should see to it that priests pass muster in this regard.
This does not mean that we lapse into showy, extravagant, and artificial ways, or rigid and invariable forms. Human correctness can always adapt to any circumstance, whether one is rich or poor, in public or alone, etc.