Is it necessary to enter seminary in order to become a priest?
“Come away by yourselves to a lonely place.” (Mk 6, 31)
To become a priest is to follow of Christ and to conform one’s life to his. It is to make like the apostles which have followed Christ during three years, before having been sent out on a mission in the entire world. Following the apostles, it is a matter of accepting to be put aside by the Christ in order to be formed, and this is the sense of the phrase of Christ to his apostles: “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place.” (Mk 6, 31). It is to this call of Christ which the seminary intends to reply: it is a place where one puts oneself aside in order to get to know him better and let oneself be transformed by him. In this way, the formation at the seminary is structured around four pillars which reflect the heart of this research: the spiritual, intellectual, human (and fraternal) and pastoral.
During five years of studies in the intellectual formation, the seminarian learns to better know God, Christ and the Church; he searches God with his reason and his heart, in the Scripture and through the philosophy and the theology.
The studies are accompanied by the spiritual formation; the most important formation, for it is there that the relation of friendship with Christ is formed. The spiritual life permits to know and understand him better by living with him. This is what the seminarian learns by the liturgical and personal prayer in order to always give more place for God. The principal author of the formation is thus the Holy Spirit; he comes to conform our heart to the heart of Christ.
Finally, by the human and fraternal formation, the vocation is verified by means of the fraternal charity and by taking charge of, everyone at his level, responsibilities of the daily life. Our life must not be disincarnated, and that is why the formation takes place also in the most simple dimensions of the daily life, by the contact with those who shares our life every day.
Additionally, the formation includes a pastoral dimension which permits, during the summer vacancies or during the year of parish internship after the philosophy cycle, to keep alive the desire to announce the good news to the world. In fact, the seminary is not an end in itself, but a period of preparation in order to be sent out on the mission of the salvation of souls.
The answer is therefore clear: yes, it is necessary to enter seminary in order to become a priest. The vocation to the priesthood is first of all a desire which encourages a will to be purified like the gold is tested by the fire (Cf. 1 Pi 1, 7) in order to become better instruments of Christ at the service of his mission.