Friday, 11 December 2009

The Voice of... Pope Leo XIII (Part IV)

On 6th January, 1886, Pope Leo XIII promulgated his Encyclical Iampridem to the Archbishops and Bishops of Prussia concerning the state of the Church in Germany:

"7. The priestly order, heir of such a sublime ministry, renews itself from age to age without changing. Those who are called to this order must thus follow by their sincerity of doctrine and innocence of life, in the footsteps of the first sowers of the faith, whom Christ Himself chose. The right and duty to teach young people whom God calls to become His ministers and the dispensers of His mysteries falls to the bishops alone. The people are to take their religious training from those to whom it was said, "teach all nations." If this is so, how much greater is the obligation imposed on bishops to give the nourishment of sound doctrine as they see fit to these ministers, who will be the salt of the earth and will take the place of Jesus Christ among men? This duty is not the only one incumbent on the bishops; in addition, they must look after the welfare of the seminarians. They should initiate them quickly into the practices of a firm piety, a piety whose absence would leave them unworthy of the priesthood and incapable of fulfilling its duties."

"8. You know very well from theory and practice the difficulties and prolonged labors which this instruction of seminarians requires. Those who have chosen God as their inheritance should show themselves to the Christian people as living models of virtue and self restraint, according to the teaching of the Prince of the Apostles. Under the authority of the bishops and the instruction of appointed teachers, they should learn to dominate their passions, to despise the things of this world, and to seek heavenly goods. Fortified by heavenly thoughts and inflamed by heavenly love, they will remain chaste and pure amidst the corruption of this world. They must also become quickly accustomed to constantly and fearlessly explaining and defending Catholic truth, which the world despises and pursues with an implacable hatred. The times demand a vigorous struggle to preserve the cause of the Church. What could we expect, then, if our ministers were not prepared long in advance by religious training and love to faithfully support their bishops, to listen to their words, and to endure boldly the harshest difficulties for the name of Jesus Christ? Seminaries and other institutions of sacred learning give the seminarians, far from the bustle of daily concerns, the qualities required to fulfill the apostolic ministry properly. Their education also teaches them to endure joyously all the inconveniences of life and all those types of work necessary to save souls. Under the vigilance and protection of the bishops and the priests delegated by them by virtue of their long experience in sacred studies, the students will learn to equitably measure their strengths and to recognize what they are capable of. The pastors can test the abilities and character of each one, in order to judge wisely who is worthy of the honor of the priesthood and to dissuade those who are unworthy. But what salutary fruits can be obtained if the pastors do not have full liberty to remove obstacles and to use the means appropriate to that end? On this subject, since your nation counts among its distinctions the glory of the military, We can draw an analogy. Would the heads of government permit young men placed in military institutions to have any other teachers than those who excel in this art? Do we not choose appropriate military men to teach army discipline, the use of arms, and the military spirit?"

"9. The Church's concern for its seminaries is therefore easy to understand. From the earliest years of the Church, the popes and the Catholic bishops took special care to establish centers for candidates to the priesthood. Here, either by themselves or with the help of suitable teachers (sometimes taken from the priests of the cathedral church), they taught the humanities, theology, and above all the conduct suitable to their vocation. The houses which the bishops and monks opened to receive clerics are celebrated up to this day. Among them shines the memory of the Lateran Patriarchate; from here, as from a fortress of wisdom and virtue, illustrious popes and bishops appeared, men remarkable for their holiness and for their teaching. The careful and diligent teaching of clerics seemed very important and necessary even from the beginning of the sixth century. The Council of Toledo, speaking about "those whom their parents forced to enter the clerical state as children," commands "that after having received tonsure or being ordained lector, they must be educated in the Church under the vigilance of the bishop." Thus we see why we must strive to organize and govern the seminaries of your dioceses according to the rules established by the fathers of the Council of Trent. That is also why in the previous agreements between the popes and the secular authorities from different periods, the Apostolic See -- especially watched over the preservation of seminaries and reserved to the bishops the right to govern them, to the exclusion of all other powers. Among other documents, we have a clear example in the apostolic letter beginning "De salute animarum." Pius VII published this encyclical on July 18, 1821, after reaching an agreement with the king of Prussia concerning a new delimitation of dioceses."

"10. Therefore, may the bishops have the full and entire right to train in the seminaries the peaceful army of Jesus Christ. May they be free to choose officials according to their own judgment for the clerical hierarchy, and may they place priests in various posts to fulfill their pastoral duties without obstacles."

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