Thursday, June 11, 2009

Seminaries: the generation gap?

Thanks to Fr Ray Blake for noticing this address by Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès, the former bishop of Angers. He is now Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, which oversees Seminary formation, as well as being Vice President of the Pontifical Work for Ecclesiastical Vocations and a member of The Commission for the Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood.

The address was given to rectors of pontifical seminaries and concerned priestly formation in a secular world.. It makes for stirring reading.

.... in fact, we have experienced or even fostered an extremely powerful self-secularization in most of the Western Churches.
The examples are many. Believers are ready to exert themselves in the service of peace, justice, and humanitarian causes, but do they believe in eternal life? Our Churches have carried out an immense effort to renew catechesis, but does not this catechesis itself tend to overlook the ultimate realities? For the most part, our Churches have embarked upon the ethical debates of the moment, at the urging of public opinion, but how much do they talk about sin, grace, and the divinized life? Our Churches have successfully deployed massive resources in order to improve the participation of the faithful in the liturgy, but has not the liturgy for the most part lost the sense of the sacred? Can anyone deny that our generation, possibly without realizing it, dreamed of a "Church of the pure," a faith purified of any religious manifestation, warning against any manifestation of popular devotion like processions, pilgrimages, etc.?
I enjoyed this bit:
Will the educators continue to cling to criteria of admission and selection that date back to their own time, but no longer correspond to the aspirations of the young? I was told the story of a French seminary in which adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament had been banned for a good twenty years or so, because it was seen as too devotional: the new seminarians had to struggle for a number of years to have it reinstated, while some of the professors preferred to resign in the face of something that they judged as a "return to the past"; by giving in to the requests of the younger men, they had the impression that they were renouncing what they had fought for their entire lives.

1 comment:

English Pastor said...

This is an excelent address by the Archbishop and I would advise that everbody read it. There is within it a clear recognition of (1) the failure of catechesis in the last few decades; (2) the dissonance between the older generation of priests and laity and the younger generation (the older having embraced secualrisation in the belief that it constituted openess to the world but thereby losing the sense of "sin, grace, and the divinised life"), and (3) the "loss of the sense of the sacred" in the liturgy. If only the seminary rectors would take this on board. Sadly, I suspect that they are spiritually more akin to many of the older-generation who mistook secularism for engagement with the world, a mistake perhaps easily made in that such secualrisation seemed to hold to many aspects of faith, encouraging people to the "service of peace, justice and humanitarian causes, but do they believe in eternal life?". It is a striking address.