Friday, 18 December 2009

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

On 14th September, 1886, Pope Leo XIII issued his Encyclical Pergrata to the Bishops of Portugal concerning the state of the Church in Portugal:

"12. But there are some significant things which your diligence must cure one by one. The first matter is the shortage of priests caused by an insufficiency of seminaries. As a result neither the Christian instruction of the faithful nor the administration of the sacraments has received proper care. Now, however, by the blessing of divine Providence each diocese has its own seminary; where the seminaries have not yet been restored, We hope that they will be shortly. Here then is the means of supplying a body of priests, provided the learning of the candidates is such as reason demands. We entrust this matter to you, as We respect your prudence and wisdom. However lest you should lack Our advice in this matter, consider as addressed to yourselves what We have prescribed a short time ago to the bishops of Hungary:"

13. "In the education of clerics two elements are essential: learning for the development of the mind and virtue for the perfection of the soul. To the humanistic curriculum by which youths are educated must be added sacred and canonical studies. Care must be taken that their content is sound, entirely pure, and in full harmony with the documents of the Church; today especially the style must be forceful and eloquent, so that he may be able to exhort . . . and to refute those who contradict. -- Holiness of life without which knowledge puffs up and does not edify, consists not only in good and honorable habits, but also in that body of sacerdotal virtues which makes good priests exemplars of Jesus Christ the eternal High Priest.... In these institutions take care that the men appointed as teachers be men of sound doctrine and good morals, men to whom you can entrust a matter of such great importance. Choose rectors and spiritual directors who are outstanding for prudence, counsel, and experience. The common life and discipline should be so arranged by your authority that the students will never offend against piety; furthermore there should be an abundance of all aids which nourish piety, so that the seminarians may make daily progress in acquiring the virtues proper to the sacerdotal state.""

"14. Moreover your vigilance for your priests must be great and even singular, so that the smaller the number of workers, the greater their zeal in cultivating the vineyard of the Lord. The words of the Gospel, the harvest is indeed great, seem to apply literally to you, since the people of Portugal have always loved religious instruction; they receive it eagerly when they perceive in the priests, their teachers, the embellishments of virtue and the reputation for learning. It is marvelous how fruitful the future work of the clergy will be in instructing the people, but especially the youth, when that work is crowned with dignity and zeal. Good example is the best means of cultivating in men the love of virtue. For this reason let all priests take care not only that nothing is noted in them which is at variance with their office and the rules of their state, but also that the holiness of their lives and morals may shine forth, like a lamp on a lampstand, giving light to all in the house."

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