Seminarian Formation


#1

Hello!

I'm blessed to be the "spiritual mother" of a young man studying for the diocesan priesthood in a country outside the U.S. I love him like a son, & try to support his vocation any way I can. Recently he's begun getting spiritual direction from a priest of the Prelature of Opus Dei, with the intent of becoming a priest of the Society of the Holy Cross upon ordination. (He & I are both Cooperators.) I was thrilled at this--Opus Dei priests are as solid as they come. However, his new spiritual director told him to "avoid all unnecessary contact with women," even older, "grandma types" like myself. My friend said we are all considered potential sources of scandal, a risk to a seminarian's celibate state of life. Hence he has broken off contact with everyone but male friends. I understand the need for a certain level of "detachment" in seminarian formation, in order to achieve unity with Jesus Christ. But this seems kind of extreme! Is there anybody out there familiar with Opus Dei formation who can tell me whether this is a permanent injunction, or simply a temporary stage of the formation process? Thank you very much! I appreciate any all/comments!


#2

Welcome to CAF, Cricket! :wave:

That does seem a bit extreme, but I would assume it has more to do with that particular spiritual director than with Opus Dei as a whole. I would certainly encourage you to keep praying for the young man even if you can't communicate with him directly at the moment.

I know it's probably a small consolation, but obedience is part of being a priest. So at least the young man is taking that responsibility seriously, even if the decision he is obeying doesn't make sense to him or us.

You might try bringing up to the director that your interaction with the young man is not "unnecessary contact" and thus should be just fine. :p I would assume this is just a temporary phase. Unless he plans on being a hermit priest, he is going to have to interact with women and it would be better for him to learn to do so appropriately during his formation than to cut him off and expect him to pick it up after ordination.

But the spiritual director could also have a very good reason for requiring this from this particular seminarian. Maybe he is struggling with some personal issue that you would not be privy to and this was what his director recommended to him at this time in order to overcome that specific thing.

So it could be a lot of different things.


#3

Firstly, well done for being such a caring 'Mama Adoptiva". I have one of those myself, as it happens (my real Mama having passed away 12 years ago). You are, I am sure, a source of joy to him every bit as much as he is a source of joy to you.

However, in the interests of perspective, these are my thoughts... it is possible that he has reached a stage in his 'human formation development' that means that he needs to detach himself from someone who is a 'particular friend' (even if non-sexual) so that he can learn to give of himself to others in an equal way.

I know that you are smarting at the sense that you should be considered a potential source of scandal... Without, by ANY means, impugning your motives, it is possible that other priests have felt 'smothered' by other women or 'monopolised' by them and want to 'wean' him off you (even if that actually turns out to by unwarranted). I have seen it happen with my own eyes, as it happens, with a priest of my acquaintance who was, sadly, driven to near-distraction by the overwhelming attentions of ladies of 'a certain age'. I gather that that sort of thing is quite common.

I do know that some Seminary formators try to guide putative priests towards a situation where they can lean on each other for support and guidance. We, on the outside, might perceive that as a form of rejection whereas they perceive it as honing the familial brotherhood of priests.

My instinct here is that it's a very old-fashioned way of doing things. Proper human formation teaches healthy functioning adult relationships between the priest and members of his flock whatever gender they are. Personally speaking, I'd probably react rather badly against this if I were ordered to cease contact with my own 'Mama Adoptiva'. I'd probably view it as an unjust and unreasonable request and make the decision about what to do with regard to following the order in the light of my own conscience, but that does rather presume that I would have freedom of communication.

I don't envy you your position. Sadly I'd say that there's very little you can do about it. Just try to follow, if you can, your seminarian friend's progress from a distance. Pray for his welfare. If he's a truly loving and loveable (proto) priest, he'll remember you when he's ordained and you'll be able to renew contact then, in an honourable and respectable way, of course!


#4

[quote="Cricket17, post:1, topic:224782"]
Hello!

I'm blessed to be the "spiritual mother" of a young man studying for the diocesan priesthood in a country outside the U.S. I love him like a son, & try to support his vocation any way I can. Recently he's begun getting spiritual direction from a priest of the Prelature of Opus Dei, with the intent of becoming a priest of the Society of the Holy Cross upon ordination. (He & I are both Cooperators.) I was thrilled at this--Opus Dei priests are as solid as they come. However, his new spiritual director told him to "avoid all unnecessary contact with women," even older, "grandma types" like myself. My friend said we are all considered potential sources of scandal, a risk to a seminarian's celibate state of life. Hence he has broken off contact with everyone but male friends. I understand the need for a certain level of "detachment" in seminarian formation, in order to achieve unity with Jesus Christ. But this seems kind of extreme! Is there anybody out there familiar with Opus Dei formation who can tell me whether this is a permanent injunction, or simply a temporary stage of the formation process? Thank you very much! I appreciate any all/comments!

[/quote]

I don't know much about the Society of the Holy Cross, but are they even Catholic? I thought they were associated with the Church of England. What his spiritual director told you sounds like some right-wing ideology. I'd pray for him and his spiritual director's mindset altogether.


#5

Hi, Cricket17! Welcome to CAF.

I've been an Opus Dei cooperator for about 30 years, so you and I have a bit in common. You've been given some very good reasons for the advice to detach from you, so I won't venture a guess on my own. However, if you go to a priest of the Work for confession, you could certainly ask him, or ask the person in charge of your circle. God asks for many sacrifices from those who love Him, and this is one being asked of you. It may be painful, but if you take it with a good spirit, it will benefit both you and the young man.

Betsy


#6

Thanks & God bless all who responded so generously & (dare I say?) lovingly to my question. Balm for the soul. One doesn't hear a lot about it, but I've come to see true spiritual motherhood is a vocation all by itself, with its own set of responsibilities--and rights.


#7

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.