Friday, 7 May 2010

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

On 18th September, 1899, Pope Leo XIII issued his Encyclical Letter Paternae to the Archbishops and Bishops of Brazil on the Education of the Clergy:

"1. We rejoice that the fruit of Our paternal concern for your nation has been great, due especially to your efforts. Clinging to Our instructions in the apostolic letter which We gave on July 2, 1894, you have labored to arouse piety in the laity and to revive the old discipline in the clergy. Nor are We ignorant of how great an effort you expended to preserve the safety and rights of the religious societies which have come forth from the old religious communities of your region in order to recall them to their pristine glory. Clerics from Europe are profitably associated with these societies. The noble ardor of these European brothers was not inhibited by the long voyage, nor by the inclemency of the weather, nor by the difference in customs. In addition, many groups founded recently were summoned by your zeal to establish or to govern colleges, to engage in missions, or to perform other functions of the priestly ministry for which the number of your clergy scarcely sufficed. It must be a great consolation to you that your seminaries have increased in number and have been improved.

"2. These happy beginnings and the progress realized up to now inspire Us to hope that the time is not far away when your hierarchy, already enlarged by Us, will respond with greater growth. We base Our hope on your proven zeal and your well-known diligence and on the Brazilian people themselves, who are inclined to piety both by character and by custom.

"3. However, there are some things which are so important for the progress of the Catholic religion that it does not suffice to mention them only once; they demand to be recalled and recommended often. Such is the concern for establishing seminaries, to the condition of which the future fortunes of the Church are intimately joined. Therefore, in setting up their discipline, that which some bishops have already performed should be your highest priority: that the aspirants to the priesthood should live in special houses called "seminaries" with their own rules and laws. The houses for young people destined for civil life, can be called episcopal colleges. Experience indicates that mixed seminaries do not respond effectively to the plan and the wisdom of the Church. This common life with the laity is the principal reason clerics abandon their vocation. We should accustom future clerics from an early age to bear the yoke of the Lord, to find time for spiritual exercises, to be devoted to their sacred duties, and to conform themselves to the example of the priestly life. Therefore, they should be protected from dangers, separated from everything worldly, and educated according to the rules set forth by Saint Charles Borromeo just as We see accomplished in the major seminaries of Europe.

"4. In order to avoid dangers, vacations in the country should be provided for these students, but they should not return to their homes. Many bad examples lie in wait for the unwary, especially in settlements where the families of workers are crowded together. Thus, these young men, inclined toward youthful desires, may be either turned away from their undertaking or they, as future priests, may become a stumbling block to the people. We recommend this system to you which has already been tried with good results by several bishops. We ask that you improve the protection of the young clergy in the future by a law commonly agreed upon."

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