Yearly updating PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 18 February 2016 13:59



It’s a yearly affair for me. Aside from the annual closed retreat, I attend a seminar for priests which gives me time to rest from a hectic schedule of pastoral work and at the same time, to learn more things about priestly spirit and ministry.

After 25 years of priesthood, I get more convinced that this business of ongoing formation is an endless, lifelong necessity. No matter how experienced one is in the ministry, there will always be new things to learn, new challenges, new trials, etc., to deal with. One does not only need regular updating, but also and more importantly, regular renewals and conversions.

At least in my case, I am aware that a kind of spiritual aging also occurs with the passage of time. And this has to be handled properly. Besides, the priestly seminar enables one to meet new faces with different experiences and insights that they can share. There’s a kind of broadening and deepening of knowledge that takes place and gives one a pleasant sensation.

Review classes on the different aspects of priestly life and ministry, from dogmatic to moral to biblical to pastoral, are always welcome. They reinforce, replenish and purify the stock of knowledge that I have been accumulating since my seminary days.

This time, I get to appreciate better the finer points of the theological and spiritual insights of the Church fathers, doctors and theologians. Then, those “casus conscientiae” or case studies of moral problems, like drug and internet addiction, marital and family problems, work-related issues, psycho-emotional problems, etc., are now most relevant.

This is not to mention the need to know more about recent Church magisterial documents and other recent papal pronouncements that are most interesting. In the seminar that I recently attended, I learned a lot about the current Church pastoral thrust on mercy and compassion, and the spiritual accompaniment that priests should provide to people in different circumstances.

What I gathered from the seminar is that God is so good and so merciful that there is no sin nor problem, no matter how ugly and complicated, that does not have any solution or at least get a merciful attention from God, and therefore also from the Church, especially through the clergy.

I just hope that the need for spiritual direction and confession be felt more widely by the people, including the priests themselves who need to have their spiritual life in order to be more effective in guiding the others spiritually.

I also got a drift of the changing mentalities of people nowadays, especially among what they regard as the millenials. I belong to a much older generation, and it’s important that I somehow get to be familiar with some general characteristics of the current culture.

This business of being “all things to all men,” as St. Paul recommended, is getting to be more challenging. There is great need to be most delicate in tackling spiritual and moral issues with young people nowadays, because one should learn not to be or at least to appear as condescending, judgmental, dismissive, etc.

The problems and issues nowadays are different from the ones of my generation. Or better said, they are actually the same at bottom, but different in their manifestations and expressions. A lot of adjustments and tweaking in attitudes and skills are needed.

I am sure that all these are for the better. God’s providence never fails, and we just have to be most discerning as to what God in the Holy Spirit is prompting us. That’s why, I also appeal to those in my generation to be very flexible, with eagerness to adapt to new phenomena, obviously with due prudence.

This is actually a great occasion to deepen one’s humility and to learn to trust more in God’s words and grace, and in the Church. In this way, we can put ourselves in a better position to be taken up by God’s wisdom and his most powerful, if mysterious, ways.

This is actually a great occasion to grow in one’s spiritual life which would involve a growth in holiness as well as his sense of sinfulness. This, I believe, is the essence of holiness—the endless pursuit of love and goodness that would always have to tackle with the seemingly endless possibilities of human evil and malice.

Holiness is the playing out of the conquest of love and goodness over sin and evil, as what St. Paul once said: “Where sin has abounded, God’s mercy has abounded even more.”

This is our lifelong drama, for which we need regular updating, renewal and conversions.