nUR report of Pope Paul's remarks on preserving
vocations has caused not a little consternation. Youths desiring to be priests, he said, should be protected from worldly corruption by being sent to seminaries as soon as they express their aspiration to holy orders.
It must be clear that the Pope who is moving heaven and earth to modernise the Church is not falling prey to a latter day Jansenism. Perhaps we may venture on an interpretation, and make one or two practical suggestions.
Clearly, if a youth's sense of direction is clearly defined from the start as he grows to full and vigorous manhood. he will be more likely to take the temptations of the world and the flesh in his stride. And a sense of direction can be particularly well defined and nurtured in a powerhouse of prayer and dedicated living.
The danger is that he may forget that Christ has consecrated the world and become its King; has wrested it from Satan whom He Himself described as its Prince. The young aspirant must never fail to throw himself into the divine adventure in which providence works itself out in human history and science.
Withdrawal to a seminary may tend to teach him a quasiManichaean contempt for ordinary human living. and even develop a pent up neurosis likely to explode in later years when the protective scaffolding is removed.
How, then, do we secure the protection urged by Pope Paul while at the same time enabling the young priest to work for the identification of the world with the society of Christ's mystical body—an aim also very close to the heart of Paul VI?
A hint might be drawn from sonic experiments in North America, where certain seminaries are being run almost as boarding houses. Within the seminary, there is spiritual formation. But the seminarians pursue a good deal of their study in universities and colleges outside the sphere of the Church, "commuting" from seminary to lecture room every day.
In Western Europe, other experiments have been tried. whereby seminarians, during their period of philosophical and theological studies, go out into the parishes to help in the pastoral work, and sometimes even work in factories. Even in junior seminaries, this could be done on the basis of Y.C.W. activity.
One of the incidental advantages of this process is that the habit of chastity becomes more positive. is more deliberately chosen, and the seminarian conies to terms with it in the very heart of the fire. In this delicate matter, there is a good deal to be said for grasping the nettle.
A priest, after all, has ,got to live on terms of love with the men and women of the world; the difference is that he must do this without wanting to devour anybody. He must be part of us all, yet interiorly apart, unafraid of worldly contacts, able to sacramentalise them. The training for this process cannot. it may be thought, be carried through entirely in isolation.
But seminary training needs to include far more positive spiritual formation than it often does at present; its academic standards, particularly in science, must not fall short of university level; and a constant dialogue with the secular centres of learning will offer a marvellous cross-fertilisation, bringing the priest and the world ever more closely together in Christ.
Christ the Jew
rEARS that ecumenical excesses may gloss over all-important
differences are not without an element of common sense, There are truths which Catholics hold and others do not, and on which we cannot compromise. There is no point in raising false hopes which lead to bitter disappointment. And the Catholic Church cannot abdicate her uniqueness.
But what is now emerging from the Vatican Council and the ecumenical dialogue is nothing new. These are old things, now being faced point blank, given a depth and precision they lacked before. The unfolding, throughout time, of the deposit of faith has now reached a dramatic stage. The Church is not shifting her ground; she is re-educating her children in the mind of the early Christian community.
Le Milieu Divin is the full flowering of Paul and Ignatius. The pontificates of John and Paul have their roots in the encyclicals of Pius XII, especially in Mediator Dei and Mystic! Corporis Christi. Nor is there any real contradiction between conversion and what we nowadays call convergence.
The day of aggressive proselytism is done. The Catholic is te make converts by being himself, not by imposing on others. If the truth of Christ radiates through our love, it will do its own evangelising.
With the competitive tension of apologetics out of the way, Catholics and others can jointly search the scriptures, discover an unsuspectedly fertile common ground, and realise together that many difficulties are more formal than substantial.
Catholics arc learning that God is not to be sewn up in tight. juridical formulas. Protestants, who once saw the Mass as a parody, can sense that it simply gives dynamic and dramatic incarnation to the concepts, so dear to them, of the Word of God and the Eucharistic Cup.
No man can un-baptise himself. This reassertion of truth has brought home to us the fundamental connection between nonCatholic Christians and the Mystical Body, always glimpsed, now faced in the fullness of its promise.
* * *
Going beyond the Christian world, Catholics everywhere this week will rejoice, in the depths of their being. that the Council Fathers are leading us to a new love and reverence for our Jewish brethren. For every Catholic is a Semite.
The human nature of Our Lord, and His Church, are rooted in the seed of Abraham. For us. the New Law is the fulfilment of the Old, not its contradiction. The New Testament is not to be understood. save in the context of the Covenant which God concluded with Abraham and his people.
It was that Covenant, hymned throughout the Christian centuries in the liturgy of the Easter Vigil, which. as we see it. Christ came to perfect through Himself. Without the Pasch, there is no Eucharist. There is no clearer importance of the urgent relevance of lay participation in a living liturgy. When we lost our sense of the Easter Vigil, the door was flung wide open to anti-Semitism.
In grieving and atoning for our sins in this regard, in opening our hearts with a new love for the Jewish people to whom we owe so much, we can freely rejoice that the imputation of guilt for the crucifixion to every Jew can now be finally scotched.
Much misunderstanding stems from our emphasis on the negative aspect of the Pharisee tradition. Though some of their number failed, and the Talmud itself distinguished between the good and the bad among them, there is a very different side to the story.
The Pharisees were descendants of the Hasidim. the Pious, who upheld the revealed religion against the Syrian invader and the worldly politics of the Maccabees; who responded to the prophets' call to a more interior, spiritualised religion; who taught that there is nothing greater than the kiddush hashem, the sanctification of God's name; who many times died for their faith.
For them, the will of God had become for ever incarnate in the Law, and it was, paradoxically. because of this that they found it hard to hear the claims of Our Lord. But all that was best in the Pharisees is at work in the Jewish communities to this day, in their family spirit, in their social sense, in the purity of their aspirations.
On that note, we pledge to them our love, our respect, and our repentance. We cannot disguise, of course, that we pray for them to acknowledge the crucified Messiah. But it is through living with them the life of study and service that the ultimate convergence will be reached. The next stage is for Catholics and Jews to work together on the social front, where a vast field of activity awaits us.