Following the call of the 2016 Ratio Fundamentalis Institutiois Sacerdotalis, for a “propaedeutic stage” as “necessary and mandatory” (Introduction, §3), the Spiritual Year of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary is a preparatory phase of formation for seminarians intended to precede core philosophical studies. The Spiritual Year offers formation intentionally in a smaller community setting to provide “a solid basis for the spiritual life and to nurture a greater self-awareness for personal growth” (Ratio, #59).
Key goals of the Spiritual Year include the opportunity for the seminarian to enter deeply into solitude so as to solidify his self-knowledge of his vocational calling, and to profoundly affect the seminarian’s interiority with the heart of Christ.
Utilizing all dimensions of priestly formation—human, intellectual, pastoral, and spiritual—this one-year program strives for a life-experience which will allow the seminarian to “find God in all things” such that the stillness of the year—freed from academic grades—will foster a monasticism of the heart to remain with the candidate through ordination and priestly life.
Enrollment is limited.
To learn more, download the information booklet or contact Fr. Frank Giuffre, Director of the Spiritual Year program at email@example.com.
1Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis – The Gift of Priestly Vocation. Vatican City: L’Osservatore Romano, 8 December 2016
Core Courses: Scripture, Catechism, Spirituality and Spiritual Classics
Courses are assessed pass/fail through classroom participation and one synthetic essay per semester to gauge the student’s ability to integrate coursework with prayer.
Since spiritual formation is a “personal union with Christ, which is born of, and nourished in a particular way by prolonged, silent prayer,” a holy hour with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament occurs each morning, with a weekly group lectio divina discussion. (Ratio, #102)
The celebration of the Mass occurs in the middle of the day as a reminder of its centrality. The Hours of Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer are prayed in common. Conferences on the Blessed Mother aim to allow the seminarian to realize Mary’s role in forming a priestly heart after her Son. The rosary and stations of the cross are prayed regularly in community. A pilgrimage is made in both the Fall and Spring semesters.
- Seminarians are prepared for both preached and directed retreats. The year culminates with a 30-day Ignatian Exercises retreat.
- The seminarian is required to have a regular spiritual director, meeting frequently to process personal prayer and relationship with God.
- As a means of separating from the noise of the world, the Spiritual Year includes a media fast. Phones, television, computers, popular media and all other electronic devices are not used Monday through Friday. All day Saturday the media fast is lifted. On Sundays, a modified media fast is practiced.
Emphasizing the need for a “sufficiently broad knowledge and doctrine of the faith,” (Ratio #156) and that “relationship with the Word of God holds a prominent place” (Ratio, #103), the core courses of Scripture, Catechism, and Spirituality & Spiritual Classics, meet once every week. A central assignment is a complete reading of both the Bible and the Catechism. Short classes are offered in the following areas:
- Methods of Prayer
- Ignatian Discernment
- Priestly identity
- Liturgy of the Hours
- Theology of the Body
- Christian Anthropology
- Marian Conferences
- Communication Skills
- Vatican II Documents
As a way of cultivating “missionary zeal,” and “practicing his spiritual fatherhood fruitfully,” each seminarian embarks on a month-long immersion program which begins the second semester (Ratio, #33). Seminarians are assigned in pairs to travel simply, with few belongings to serve the poor. This experience provides a concrete shedding away from materiality which can so easily mask the interior. In addition, during the normal course of the year, one afternoon per week is spent in field education.
Solid human formation requires all those characteristics that enable the candidate to be a “man of communion,” who has a “basic human and spiritual serenity” (Ratio, #41). The Spiritual Year promotes being a gift to others through communal living in a distinct house. Seminarians experience opportunities for genuine Christian etiquette, courtesy, and the need to accept the responsibility of maintaining good order, and cleanliness. Various human formation talks include the following: community living, recreation & leisure, communication techniques, the role of silence in our lives, and Christian manhood with Saint Joseph as a model.
Through both a regular work hour and house job, each seminarian is afforded the opportunity to serve the community, working with different Spiritual Year seminarians on a rotating basis, which is one way “meant to overcome all kinds of individualism, and to foster the sincere gift of self” (Ratio, #63).
Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary offers the opportunity for seminarians to grow through counseling. Seminarians are free to receive accompaniment in their formation by approaching the resident priest-counselor in the internal forum. Each seminarian is accompanied by a formation advisor in the external forum.
Pattern of Life
The daily schedule (see below along with the General Calendar) for the Spiritual Year is focused on providing ample time for prayer and active reflection. Interior time is the opportunity for the seminarians to choose among studying, reading, prayer and constructive communal conversation.
- Afternoons will always include time for recreation.
- Evenings will vary from a communal movie (Sunday evenings), to group lectio divina, to recreation time.
- No workshops take place on Saturdays. This is a day for “recreation.” The seminarian is free after morning Mass for the whole day until the evening, with the goal of spending this leisure day in a productive way for human growth.
- On Wednesdays, the Spiritual Year seminarians will join the greater Saint Charles Seminary community for Mass and dinner.
- Fridays are communal adventure days. Communal activities range from a shrine visit, to a museum, to a picnic, to a nature hike. Opportunities to experience both history and the arts are also included in the Friday outings throughout the year.
Eucharistic adoration through the night happens from Saturday night into Sunday morning, whereby the seminarian receives one hour to enter into the hopeful expectation of the Resurrection each week in deep communion with the Blessed Mother.