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Part Two of "The Seminary as Nazareth: Formation in a School of Prayer" | Deacon James Keating, Ph.D. | Ignatius Insight | Part One
How Can the Seminarian Approach Joseph?
In a March 2009 homily, Pope Benedict XVI said:
Joseph agreed to be part of the
great events God was beginning to bring about in the womb of his spouse. He
took Mary into his home. He welcomed the mystery that was in Mary and the
mystery that was Mary herself.... Joseph teaches us that it is possible to love
He then defined what this healing means later in the homily:
In contemplating Joseph, [we]
come to experience healing from emotional wounds, if only [we] embrace the plan
that God has begun to bring about in those close to [us], just as Joseph entered into the
work of redemption through Mary and as a result of what God had already done in
... Joseph was caught up at every
moment by the mystery of the Incarnation. Not only physically, but in his heart as well, Joseph
reveals to us the secret of a humanity which dwells in the presence of mystery
and is open to that mystery at every moment of everyday life. In Joseph, faith is not separated
from action. His faith had a decisive effect on his actions. Paradoxically, it
was by acting, by carrying out his responsibilities, that he stepped aside and
left God free to act, placing no obstacles in his way. 
If the seminarian can learn to "dwell" in the presence of
Mystery and relate all that he is thinking, feeling and desiring to that loving
mystery of God he will be healed of that which drags at his soul, and fetters
his hope of holiness. Joseph stands close to the seminarian as one who knows
the intimate call to spousal chastity in service to the mystery of Christ's own
vocation. He intercedes for the future priest to trust in Mary, to let her
guide him to all that is good about nuptial self-donation. Joseph is ready to
ask Christ to gift the seminarian with the graces and virtues of Christ's own
Joseph will also counsel the seminarian on his participation in the renewal of
creation, his vocation as an eschatological sign. The seminarian should invite
Joseph to pray for him to welcome within his own body the coming of the "new
age", the age that orders all love through the lens of God's spousal love for
his people. Joseph wants to tutor the seminarian in this truth, "God wants to
renew everything from within the family."  As patriarch, Joseph passes on
to the seminarian a love of authority, an authority that flows from and is
sustained by, his love of Mary and God.  Joseph is for the seminarian an
advocate for true fatherhood, a paternity that flows from his own love of his
spouse. This paternal love is always fruitful as it shares in God's own love for
all those He has created.
Here is what Joseph teaches the seminarian to:
welcome the mystery that is Mary
These characteristics of Joseph, alone, are sufficient to
ponder as content for seminary formation. But, of course there is more.
love your bride without possessing
live in the presence of mystery
and be open to this mystery at every moment. Seek to be docile to the truths
inherent in the mystery of your own vocation
not separate faith from everyday
life. Place no obstacles in God's way, so God can act through your ministry.
What Is the Gift that Mary Brings?
Every aspect of priestly formation can be referred to Mary,
the human being who responded better than any other to God's call. Mary became
both the servant and the disciple of the Word to the point of conceiving, in
her heart and in her flesh, the Word made man, so as to give him to mankind.
Mary was called to educate the one eternal priest, who became docile and
subject to her motherly authority. 
And, Pope John Paul II adds,
It is [the priest's] task to
proclaim Christ her Son. And who can better communicate to you the truth about
him than his mother? It is your task to nourish men's hearts with Christ. And
who can make you more aware of what you are doing than she who nourished Him?
Mary communicates to the seminarian the truth about her Son.
The most absolute truth she speaks is: "Do whatever He tells you" (Jn. 2:5).
She knew Him so well that it was at her word that the public ministry began,
"They have no more wine" (Jn. 2:3). She did not ask for wine; she simply
informed Him of the truth: the human race is depleted and they need the joy and
the healing of the Spirit. The seminarian seeks out Mary to converse about his
own mission, his own appropriation of the truth of Jesus' identity and mission.
Here her mystery looms large in the academic study and teaching of theology.
She is the one who internalizes the Word, and then lets the intimacy the Word's
presence compel her to mission (Lk. 1:39).
The seminarian also approaches her to receive the mystery of
woman, to have her tutor him like she tutored Joseph in the ways of a startling
and surprising nuptial life: spousal self donation to the church as a sign of
Christ's own gift. As then Joseph Ratzinger noted, "Mary's motherhood becomes
theologically significant as the ultimate personal concretization of Church.
...She is the Church in person and as a person. She is the personal
concretization of the Church."  If this is so then the seminarian needs to
receive from her the satisfaction of his deepest desire to be "for woman." She
will instruct him to know, like Joseph, that God's Spirit is ready to console
and elevate the affections and intellect in a way that "indicates another kind of closeness in marriage. The spiritual closeness
arising from marital union and the interpersonal contact between man and woman
have their definitive origin in the Spirit, the Giver of Life (cf. John 6:63).
Joseph, in obedience to the Spirit, found in
the Spirit the source of love, the conjugal love that he experienced as a man."  Joseph grew in
his reception of his deepest identity: spouse of Mary, the New Eve, and the Church.
Friendship with him, in contemplative prayer, will result in similar growth in
the seminarian. Joseph consented to a life lived in virtuous continence but he
"had to do so in dependence upon Mary."  In contemplative prayer
the seminarian will learn from Joseph to depend upon "the woman" to teach
him how to embrace her (Mary, the Church) in loving service rather than physical
intercourse. This is analogous to a husband learning from his wife how best to love her
within the patterns of marriage defined by natural family planning. In loving
Mary in accord with God's will Joseph "found in the Spirit the source of love, the
conjugal love that he experienced as a man." Can this truth about Joseph become
the centerpiece of all priestly formation on chaste spousal love?
Here is what Mary teaches the seminarian:
Mary educates the seminarian in the
processes of internalizing the Word
Mary communicates to the seminarian
the truth of who her Son is
Mary gifts the seminarian with the
truth about woman, and his own spousal gift of self-donation to the Church.
The love of God, of Mary, and of Joseph is real. Their love
is affecting the seminarian even now. The saints are living. We all note these
statements as true discursively, but in the rush of pragmatism and productivity
that is the hallmark of Western culture we can forget that Mary, Joseph and
Jesus' love for one another is still pulsating dynamically between them.
Christ wants to gather his priests within this source of formation to prepare them for a
life of hosting the truth about man and God, the mystery of mankind approached
through the mystery of Christ. Such a host, such a victim priest needs to be
communing with those who have this mystery at the heart of their being: The
Holy Family. If the seminarian is courageous enough he can be drawn into their
love for another and know this mystery himself. Receiving this nuptial-
familial love he will be sent, like the Beloved Son, to change water into wine
and wine into the very life of Christ. "Oh, how I would like to become a child
once again and start my studies over in this humble and sublime school of
 Pope John Paul II, Pastores
Dabo Vobis, 57 (1992).
 Paul VI, Visit to the
Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth (January 5, 1964).
 United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops, Program of Priestly Formation (5th edition, 2006), n. 137
 Documents of
Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes: "... man, who is the only creature
on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through
a sincere gift of himself" (n. 24).
 "And in that day,
says the Lord, you will call me, 'my husband', and no longer will you call me,
'my Baal'.... And I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you to me in
righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth
you to me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord" (Hos. 2:16,
19-20). "Yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your
youth, and I will establish with you an everlasting covenant" (Ez. 16:60).
"For your Maker is your husband.... For a brief moment I forsook you, but
with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing wrath for a moment I
hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,
says the Lord, your Redeemer" (Isa. 54:5, 7-8). "You shall be called My
delight is in her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and
your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a virgin, your Builder
shall marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your
God rejoice over you" (Isa. 62:4-5).
 "In the words of
the Council, the communion of persons is, in a certain sense, deduced from the
mystery of the Trinitarian 'We', and therefore "conjugal communion' also refers
to this mystery. Marc Cardinal Ouellet, Divine Likeness: Toward a
Trinitarian Anthropology of the Family,
(Mich: Eerdmans, 2006), p. 34
 Pope John Paul II, Pastores
Dabo Vobis, n. 26
 See, Pope John Paul
II, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body (Boston: Pauline, 2006), 78:5.
 In the Institute
for Priestly Formation we have come
to see the priestly identity as encompassing four realities: good shepherd,
spiritual father, chaste spouse, spiritual physician. See John Paul II, Pastores
Dabo Vobis (1992) where these
identities are noted, especially n. 3 (shepherd and spouse), n. 60 (spiritual
physician), and for spiritual father we go to Scripture, particularly the
writings of St. Paul, "I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved
sons I warn you. For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, you do
not have many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the
Gospel" (1 Cor 4:14-15).
See also PDV where John
Paul II refers to the priest having spousal qualities: "The gift of self, which
is the source and synthesis of pastoral charity, is directed toward the Church.
This was true of Christ who 'loved the Church and gave himself up for her'
(Eph. 5:25), and the same must be true for the priest. With pastoral charity,
which distinguishes the exercise of the priestly ministry as an amoris
officium,....[W]ith this concrete
spirituality he becomes capable of loving the universal Church and that part of
it entrusted to him with the deep love of a husband for his wife." (Pastores
Dabo Vobis n. 23).
 See, Program of
Priestly Formation, n. 25
 Program of Priestly Formation, n. 15. See Also, Angelo Cardinal
Scolo, The Nuptial Mystery (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 335-336.
 The formation staff seeks to teach seminarians what to
do with their pain, their wounds, and their "poverty." Such poverty is to be
related to the love held for them in the Holy Family. Pain cannot be run from
or hidden it must be shared and entrusted to those who trust God, and have
entrusted themselves to Him.
 Program of Priestly Formation, n.115
 See Karen Dwyer and Edward Hogan, "Assessment of Spiritual
Formation for Diocesan Seminarians" Seminary Journal (Winter 2008, 37-41), for a method and discussion
about measuring objective spiritual growth.
 See, Father John Cihak, "St. John Vianney's Pastoral
Plan" (Ignatius Insight, June 2009), for an insightful essay on the
relationship between holiness and lay conversion and mission.
Also we note this from John Paul II: "An essential
characteristic of missionary spirituality is intimate communion with Christ.
....The universal call to holiness is closely linked to the universal call to
mission. ...The missionary must be a contemplative in action...the future of mission
depends ...on contemplation. The missionary is a witness to the experience of
God." (Redemptoris Missio, n 91).
And John Paul II again: "...it would be wrong to think that
ordinary Christians can be content with a shallow prayer that is unable to fill
their whole life. Especially in the face of the many trials to which today's
world subjects faith, they would be not only mediocre Christians but
"Christians at risk". They would run the insidious risk of seeing
their faith progressively undermined, and would perhaps end up succumbing to
the allure of "substitutes", accepting alternative religious
proposals and even indulging in far-fetched superstitions. It is therefore
essential that education in prayer should become in some way a key-point of all pastoral planning"
(Novo Millennio ineunte, n. 34).
 Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Divine Likeness p.35
 "Spiritual childhood...means that we acknowledge our nothingness;
that we expect everything from the good Lord, as a child expects everything
from its father; it means to worry about nothing...it means that we must not be
discouraged by our faults, for children fall frequently." St. Therese of
Lisieux as quoted in F. Jamart, The Complete Spiritual Doctrine of St.
Therese of Lisieux (NY: Alba House,
 The seminarian's theological imagination is not to be
defined by academics, a course of studies to be completed in four years. His
spiritual-theological imagination is ordered by his communion with Christ and
the saints. The seminary is to promote and protect this imagination as its staff and structures of
daily living (horarium) facilitate the knowledge necessary to receive love from the living God
and His saints. Academics only deepen a man's love of such communion with the
Trinity. Since a seminarian's identity is not exclusively "student" all studies
are to be sublated into his emerging identity as a priest. No seminary reduces
a seminarian's identity to "student" as a policy, this reduction happens as a result
of a disproportionate weight given to academics in the minds of some students
and faculty. Giving academics such weight is, as it were, a default mode of
existence for most American seminarians. To study the mysteries of Christ on
the way to possessing an intellectual competency in theology is a necessity of
the highest order, but the mysteries themselves open the seminarian to want
competency, they summon him to wisdom---the eventual triumph of love being
integrated with knowing the truth. See, James Keating, Resting on the Heart
of Christ: The Vocation and Spirituality of the Seminary Theologian (Omaha: IPF Publications, 2009).
 For example see especially chapters 1-4 in Pastores Dabo Vobis; Cardinal Avery Dulles, The Priestly Office (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 1997); Jean Galot,
of the Priesthood (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005).
 Homily of Pope Benedict XVI; First Vespers of the
Solemnity of St. Joseph, Basilica of Marie Reine Des Apotres Yaounde (March
 Marie Dominique-Philippe, OP, The Mystery of Joseph (Bethesda: Zaccheus Press, 2009), 80.
 Ibid, 81.
 PDV, 82.
 Pope John Paul II, Holy Thursday Letter to Priests (1979), n. 11.
 Hans Urs von Balthasar and Joseph Ratzinger, Mary: The Church at
the Source (San Francisco: Ignatius 2005), 30.
 John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos (1989), no. 19.
 Marc Ouellet, Divine Likeness (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 118.
Related Ignatius Insight Articles and Excerpts:
Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI Proclaiming a Year for Priests on the 150th Anniversary
of the "Dies Natalis" of the Curé of Ars
Surrendering to the Healing Power of Christ's Own Chastity | Dn. James Keating, Ph.D.
St. John Vianney's Pastoral Plan | Fr. John Cihak
The Blessed Virgin Mary's Role in the Celibate Priest's
Spousal and Paternal Love | Fr. John Cihak
The Priest as Man, Husband, and Father | Fr. John Cihak
Holy Christians Guarantee Holy Priests | Bishop Fulton J. Sheen
Priest as Pastor, Servant and Shepherd | Fr. James McCarthy
The Religion of Jesus | Blessed Columba
Marmion | From Christ, The Ideal
of the Priest
Why Preaching | Peter John Cameron, O.P.
Satan and the Saint | The Feast Day of St. John Vianney | Carl E. Olson
The Ingredient for Priestly Vocations |
Rev. Jacek Stefanski
Becoming a Man of God | An interview with Fr. Larry Richards
The Year for Priests and Its
Patron | Sandra Miesel
Rev. Mr. James Keating, Ph.D., is Director of Theological Formation at the Institute
of Priestly Formation at Creighton University, Omaha. Before joining the staff of the IPF Deacon Keating taught
moral and spiritual theology for 13 years in the School of Theology at the
Pontifical College Josephinum in Ohio. He has given over 400 workshops,
retreats and days of reflection on the Catholic spiritual/moral life. In the
field of his professional research, the interpenetration of the spiritual and
moral life, Deacon Keating has authored or edited ten books and dozens of
essays for theological journals.
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