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					                                  THE THEOLOGY OF VOCATIONS

              AND THE ECCLESIAL DIMENSION OF PRIESTLY VOCATIONS

Summary

This article studies the theological foundation of the vocation to the priesthood that underlines the
pastoral work for vocations. This will be done with reference to the theology of communion which
answers the demands coming from today’s society.

Sommario

Questo articolo studia le fondamenta telogiche della vocazione al sacerdozio ministeriale che serve
per avviare la pastorale delle vocazioni. Verrà in rilievo la teologia della comunione che risponde
alle richieste provenienti dalla cultura di oggi.



Bibliografia: Rev. Francis Bonnici ha studiato presso l’Università di Malta seguendo una laurea in
belle arti (filosofia, italiano e inglese) e la licenzia in teolgia. L’autore ha svolto una pastorale
vocazionale lungo un arco di 31 anni nella diocesi di Malta. Nel 1990 Rev. Bonnici era invitato da
Giovanni Paolo II a partecipare al Sinodo dei Vescovi sulla Formazione dei sacerdoti nelle
circostanze attuali e pure ha pronunciato un discorso sulla sua esperienza nel campo vocazionale.
Nel 2003, Rev. Bonnici era chiamato dalla santa Sede per dirigere l’ufficio della Pontificia Opera
perle Vocazioni presso la Congregazione per l’Educazione Cattolica. Rev. Bonnici è l’autore di
Age and methods of pastoral work for vocations, in Seminarium Anno XXXVI / 1, 1996, 91-106.
The Institution of the Seminary of Malta and the publication of Ubi primum 1703-1740, in
Seminarium Anno XLIII/1-2, 2003, 329-352. …….(The story of the Seminary of Malta), Malta
2003.


1.   The Theology of vocation

1.1 The Church reflects the Mystery of the Trinity

The Church has been defined by the Second Vatican Council as the people of God that is gathered
in the unity of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.1 Reflecting the mystery of the Holy
Trinity, the Church is a mystery of vocation which bears in it the mystery of the Father who calls all
to sanctify His name and to do his will;2 it guards in it the mystery of the Son who is called by the
Father and sent to announce to all the Kingdom of God and calls everyone to follow him;3 and it is
the deposit of the Holy Spirit who consecrates for mission those whom the Father calls through his
Son, Jesus Christ.

1
  See SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 4.
2
  See JOHN PAUL II, Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Pastores dabo vobis (25 March 1992) 35.
3
  See ibid.
        Since the Church knows its origin to the Trinity, its life is a communion like the Trinity and
it is directed to live in the Trinity for all eternity. 4 Because the Church is an Icon of the Trinity, the
local Church lives a fertile compenetration of unity and diversity. 5 The Church is therefore the
People of God that is totally charismatic and all ministerial, the true body of Jesus Christ, enriched
with the gifts of the Spirit in all its members and in which everyone is called to make use of for the
good of others the gift which one received in the spirit of communion and service for the building
up of all the Body in Charity (see Eph 4,15). But this variety of charisms is an expression of the
unity of the whole of the ecclesial community.6

        It is within the communion of the Church that the members of the Church or the baptized
persons live their Christian vocation to become holy by participating in the life of the Church:
listening to the Word of God and living it, taking part in the sacraments of salvation and exercising
themselves in giving their lives for others and fulfilling the will of God for them while they live on
earth. Because the Church is a living reflection of the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity it is first and
foremost the people of God whose life is described by Jesus himself when He said: ‘‘Where two or
three are gathered in my name, I am in their midst.’’7 The binding force of this communion in the
life of the Church is the commandment of love: ‘‘Love one another as I have loved you.’’ 8 And
Jesus gave an example of this love when He chose to die on the cross for the sake of all men. ‘‘A
man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.’’9



1.2 The Church is a mysterium vocationis

The theology of vocation and in particular the vocation to the priesthood together with the pastoral
work for vocations can be explained only by the mystery of the Church as mysterium vocationis.
The post-synodal apostolic exhortation Pastores dabo vobis pinpoints four important elements that
are the foundation stones of the pastoral work of vocations to the priesthood.

        First of all, the exhortation enunciates that ‘‘every Christian vocation is based on the
gratuitous election coming from the part of the Father (see Eph 1, 3-5) and man owes his existence
to the creative love of the Father who calls man to life and to share in the life of God because he is
created ‘‘in the image and likeness of God’’ (Gen 1, 26). In response to the gratuitous love of the



4
  See ibid.
5
  See BRUNO FORTE, La Chiesa icona della Trinità, Brescia 1984, 7.
6
  See BRUNO FORTE, La Chiesa della Trinità, Milano 1995, 292.
7
  See Mt 18, 20.
8
  See Jn 15, 12.
9
  See Jn 15, 13.
Father, man returns this love to the Father and to his neighbours and he discovers his vocation to
love and to live in communion.10

        Secondly, Pastores dabo vobis affirms the principle that ‘‘the Christian vocation is a gift of
God - but it never comes independently from the Church; it passes always in the Church and
through the Church’’ (see Lumen gentium 9).11 It is through Baptism that man is introduced by God
Himself ‘‘into the holiness of the Children of God’’12 and God also gives him the strength to give
‘‘a responsible reply in the building up of a filial relationship with the Father and a fraternal
relationship with the great family of the children of God’’.13

        Thirdly, John Paul II says in the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis that the Church
is constitutively vocation and as such the Church is the generator and the educator of vocations. But
the Church is the Body of Christ who is called and sent by the Father to bring God, as Father, close
to men and women to reveal His face and His name to them.14 The Church fulfils her vocation to
mankind by preaching the Word of God, celebrating the sacraments and serving in charity. Not only
are vocations derived from the Church but they are also aimed at serving the Church and help it
grow as the Kingdom of God on earth.15

        Fourthly, Pastores dabo vobis says that ‘‘what is said of every Christian vocation can be
said for the particular vocation to the priesthood’’.16 This vocation of some members of the Church
to be priests is a call made by the Church through the sacrament of Orders so that some members of
the Church put themselves at the service of the People of God with a particular belonging and
configuration to Jesus Christ and with His authority to act in the name and person of Him who is the
Head and Pastor of the Church. The document New vocations for a New Europe 17 says that ‘‘those
who were first to be called in the Gospel will not be left alone, Jesus assures them of the enduring
company of the Spirit’’.18 The document explains that the Holy Spirit drives all Christians to a life
of holiness and to discover their vocation in the Church and follow it.



1.3 New priests for the service of the Christian community


10
   See Pastores dabo vobis, 35.
11
   See ibid.
12
   See ibid.
13
   See ibid.
14
   See Jn 17, 6.
15
   See JOHN PAUL II, Pastores dabo vobis, 35.
16
   See ibid.
17
   CONGREGATION FOR CATHOLIC EDUCATION ET ALII, New vocations for a new Europe, Vatican City 1997. Final
    Document of the Congress on Vocations to the Priesthood and to the Consecrated life in Europe that was held in
    Rome from the 5 to the 7 May 1997.
18
   See ibid, 18.
The Church strongly believes that vocations to the priesthood will always be forthcoming in the
Church because vocations to the priesthood are a gift of God to his Church. ‘‘God will not allow his
Church to lack ministers if the worthy are promoted and those who are less suited to the ministry
are guided with fatherly kindness and in due time to adopt another calling.’’ 19 It was Jesus himself
who commanded his disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.20
The Apostles realized the intention of Christ that ‘‘the people whom He chose and acquired by his
blood (see Acts 20, 28) should always and until the end of the world have its own priests for fear
Christians would ever be like sheep that have no shepherd’’,21 and the Apostles under the guidance
of the Holy Spirit considered it their duty to choose ministers who should be able to teach others
also (see 1 Tim 2, 2).

        The New Testament clearly shows that the twelve Apostles not only laid their hands on
‘‘seven men of reputation’’22 to take care of the poor in the Christian community, but they also
ordained their closest collaborators to continue the salvific mission of Christ. Paul wrote to Timothy
and told him: ‘‘that is why I am reminding you now to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you
when I laid my hands on you’’.23

        In the beginning of the twentieth century, vocation circles in France spoke of the mystical
element infused by the Holy Spirit and felt in the depth of the soul making the recipient profoundly
certain that God had called him to the priesthood or the religious life. According to the Attraction
theory, the Bishop should respect this attraction and ordain priests those who were attracted to the
priesthood.24

        In 1909, Joseph Lahitton wrote the book entitled La vocation sacerdotale, and another one
which he called Deux Conceptions Divergentes de la vocation sacerdotale.25 Lahitton did not agree
with the Attraction Theory; according to Lahitton such an interior attraction did not at least
ordinarily or necessarily constitute a divine vocation. On the other hand rebutting the Attraction
Theory, Lahitton gave the impression that there was no need for the internal grace for the priesthood
and that an external grace only was needed, that is, the call from the Church.26




19
   See PIUS XI, Encyclical letter Ad Catholici sacerdotii (20 December 1935) and quoted by VATICAN COUNCIL II,
    Decree On Priestly Formation, 6.
20
   See Mt 9, 32.
21
   See VATICAN COUNCIL II, Decree on the Life and Ministry of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, 11.
22
   See Acts 6, 3.
23
   See 2 Tim 1, 6
24
   See PAUL GALEA, Is-Sejhat ghas-sacerdozju u ghall-hajja religjuza f’taghlim San Tumas ta’ Akwinu, Rabat/Malta
    1986, 82. See also ANDRÈ GODIN, Vocation, in Dictionnaire de Spiritualitè, 16, Paris 1994, 1081-1167.
25
   See ibid.
26
   See ibid, 83.
           P. Hurtaud     reacted to the opinion of Joseph Lahitton with the book La vocation au
sacerdoce.27 He showed that the vocatio divina was necessary for a vocation to the priesthood;
while the suitability of the candidate did not give him the right to be ordained priest. Hurtaud said
that the interior call reflected the divine call.

           In the introduction to the book Notre Sacerdoce by Mgr Pierre Verillot, Cardinal Raphael
Merry del Val referred to the theory of Lahitton;28 he wrote that in his works on priestly vocation,
Joseph Lahitton maintained that the priestly vocation did not formally designate simply the
dispositions of the individual, nor even the direct call from God of which he might be conscious, in
his soul. It referred rather to the canonical and official call of the Bishop, who in the name of the
Church, summoned the candidate whose intentions and capabilities he had tested, to receive Holy
Orders for the service of the Church

           Cardinal Merry del Val referred to the controversy that was aroused with reference to this
matter and he also pointed out to the official pronouncement that was made by the Holy See on the
doctrinal issue in a letter from the Cardinal Secretary of State to the Bishop of Aire. The Holy See
had made its pronouncement in favour of the theory of Lahitton after Pope Pius X made a
commission of three Cardinals to investigate the writings of Joseph Lahitton. The Cardinals came to
the conclusion that there was nothing wrong in what Lahitton had said and they praised him on
three points especially when he said:

       a. that nobody had the right for ordination before the free election of the Bishop;

       b. that the call to the priesthood is an invitation by the Holy Spirit.

       c. that the person who was to be called by the bishop to be ordained priest shows with his good
           life that there is good hope that he will be able to fulfil his priestly duties properly.29

           On the 26 June 1912 Pope Pius X approved what the Cardinals said and Cardinal Merry del
Val informed the Bishop of Aire about the matter. The Cardinal also wrote to Lahitton on 7 June
1913 and praised him for the second edition of the book and told him that the Pope was happy with
the author for having once more rendered such a service to the Church for the cause of pure
doctrine.


1.4 The exterior call and the interior call
St Thomas Aquinas distinguished the ‘‘exterior’’ call from the ‘‘interior’’ call. Aquinas gave the
call of Simon and Andrew as an example of the ‘‘exterior’’ call. But, according to St. Thomas the

27
     See ibid.
28
     See ibid.
external call is not enough. It needs another call, the ‘‘vocatio interior’’ so that the person called can
respond to the call of God. The ‘‘vocatio interior’’ which God imparts to man and with which He
enlightens the mind of man and moves his heart to respond to the call is expressed by St. Thomas
as ‘‘interior instinctus Dei invitantis’’.30
         According to St. Thomas, the ‘‘interior’’ call is not limited only to the call to embrace the
faith, but it is necessary for man to have the interior call to do what is good and to practise the
virtues. The ‘‘interior’’ call is also necessary to embrace the married state and to take up a
profession but not just to earn a living, but to serve one's neighbour and give help to anyone who is
in need. It is understandable that the call to serve God by adhering to the duties of the priesthood
and to embrace the religious state is also called vocation.
         A whole series of papal teaching in the twentieth century especially that of Pope Pius XI
emphasised the need for the ‘‘interior’’ call. In the Apostolic letter Officiorum omnium (1 August
1922),31 Pius XI wrote about the need of prayer to ask for the call to the priesthood. Thus the Pope
showed that the calls from God are not the fruit of the pure deliberation of the mind, but the fruit of
prayer. In the Encyclical Rerum Ecclesiae (28 February 1926),32 Pius XI said that when young
people, clerics or priests who are called by God want to go to work in the missions, they should be
allowed to go to evangelise even if the Bishops lacked priests in their own dioceses. While in the
Encyclical Mens Nostra (29 December 1929)33 the same Pope spoke about the usefulness of
spiritual retreats where the participants not only find the help to live according to the will of God,
but, not rarely, they listen to the voice of God in their hearts calling them to the sacred ministry and
to the apostolate. In the Apostolic letter Ad Catholici sacerdotii (20 December 1935) Pius XI said
first there is the call of God and then the hierarchy gives the mandate.34 As a corollary to this
teaching, the Pope also said that those who are not called by God should not be allowed to enter the
Seminary. And another point made by Pius XI was that those who help, labour and encourage the
call to the priesthood are helped to do so by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
         Pius XI taught that the vocation to the priesthood and the consecrated life are calls from God
which have in them the divine and the ecclesiastical elements at the same time. Regarding the
former element the Pope said that the call of God to embrace the consecrated life or the priesthood
was so necessary that if it were lacking it should be said that the building had no foundation.



29
   See ibid.
30
   See Summa Theologiae, II-II q.a. 9. ad 3.
31
   See AAS 14 (1922) 449.
32
   See AAS 18 (1926) 70.
33
   See AAS 21 (1929) 70.
34
   See PAUL GALEA, 78.
         This position of Pius XI supports his previous pronouncement in the Apostolic Constitution
Ad Catholici Sacerdotii (20 December 1935) where the Pope said that ‘‘the existence of a vocation
is proved not so much by an inner call of conscience and a sensible feeling of attraction which may
sometimes not be there at all - as by a right intention in the aspirant to the priesthood, joined to
those qualities of mind and body which makes him fit…the man who wants to be a priest for a
noble motive of giving himself to the service of God and the salvation of souls and at the same time
possesses solid piety, proved chastity and has or is trying to acquire sufficient knowledge, as we
have already explained, that man is clearly called to the priestly state.’’35 The aspirant to the
priesthood should possess the required dispositions such as physical and psychological fitness and
the right intention. These subjective dispositions can be considered as effects and signs of the
interior divine call prior to the invitation of the superior and therefore he can be called by the
ecclesiastical authority.


2 The Pastoral work for vocations
2.1 The response to the call to the priesthood
God calls man because He has a plan for him. In the letter to the Romans, Paul said, ‘‘we know that
by turning everything to their own good God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those
that he has called according to his purpose’’.36 Taking into consideration that all men are called to
be saved and to be holy,37 all particular vocations are inscribed in the interior of a general vocation
of all the People of God; all particular consecrations are written in the heart of a universal
consecration which is constitutive of the People of God. Christians respond to this call of God
‘‘each in his own way’’.38 But they receive from the Holy Spirit the charisms or spiritual gifts
which are useful for the renewal and development of the Church.
        The theology of the People of God and the promotion of the laity by the Second Vatican
Council has brought forward the charismatic dimension of the Church and many Christians are
taking up their responsibilities in the Church. First and foremost they live a true Christian life
everywhere they live. The Second Vatican Council spelled out the whole vocation of man when it
said that ‘‘the world which the Council has in mind is the whole human family which in the whole
Christian vision has been created and is sustained by the love of its Maker and which has been freed
from the slavery of sin by Christ’’.39



35
   See PIUS lX, Ad Catholici sacerdotii: AAS 28 (1936) 41.
36
   See Rom 8, 28.
37
   See Lumen gentium, 39.
38
   See ibid, 11.
39
   See VATICAN COUNCIL II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes (7 Dec 1965) 2.
        Since it is the whole Church: families, parishes, lay associations and schools, priests and
Bishops who should animate and promote vocations to the priesthood,40 only when Christians who
live up to the ideals of the Gospel can listen to the call of God to serve their brothers in the
ministerial priesthood. Like the Covenant between God and man which brings God’s salvation to
man, and man responds to the love of God, by living the Ten Commandments                        and the
commandment of love, so the vocation to the priesthood has a dialogical structure. If God is the
subject who calls, some Christians are asked to exercise their free will and answer the call of God to
serve the Christian community in the priesthood. ‘‘From this you know that now, if you obey my
voice and hold fast to my covenant, you of all nations shall be my very own for all the earth is mine,
I will count you a kingdom of priests, a consecrated nation.’’41
        There are many Christians today who live the Gospel in their daily lives and they are the
Christians of the third millennium. But the Church will always find some of these Christians who
are suitable because they have the right intention and full liberty to be approved and to be called
and consecrated with ‘‘the seal of the Holy Spirit to the worship of God and the service of the
Church’’.42
        There is no strict obligation for one to answer the call to the priesthood or the religious life.
‘‘God made man from the beginning and left him in the hands of his own counsel.’’ 43 St Thomas
Aquinas explained these words from Scripture and said that man is different from the other
creatures which are ‘‘determinate ad unum’’.44 Man has free will and although this does not mean
that man can do what he likes, but he is not forced by the necessity of nature.45
        John Paul II describing the story of every priestly vocation and of every Christian vocation
says that this is the story of the unspeakable dialogue between God and man: the love of God who
calls and the free will of man who answers God in love.46 Both elements: love of God and man’s
free will, are seen in the Gospel of Mark: ‘‘And going up into the mountain, he called unto him
whom he would himself; and they came to him.’’47 The pattern of vocation as an interplay between
the free decision of Jesus who calls and the Apostles’ response by following Jesus is a pattern that
can be found in the prophets, the Apostles, priests, religious, lay people and every person. 48 John
Paul II affirms that every vocation is a gift of divine grace and never a right of man, never a human
promotion and never a personal project. However answering the call of God is ‘‘the highest


40
   See Optatam totius, 2.
41
   See Exodus 19, 5-6.
42
   See Lumen gentium, 2.
43
   See Si 15, 14.
44
   See Summa Theologiae, II-II q.108, a.4.
45
   See ibid.
46
   See JOHN PAUL II, Pastores dabo vobis, 30.
47
   See Mk 3, 13.
possible honour of the freedom of man because he adheres himself to the call of God and puts his
trusts in Him’’.49 In so doing ‘‘the will of man is placed to its highest peak: that of oblation,
generosity, sacrifice’’50 on the example of Jesus Christ first, then Mary and all those who follow
Jesus faithfully.


2.2 The Church: the medium of vocations
The Second Vatican Council put the duty of fostering vocations on the whole Christian community
and it has indicated to the Christian community that it can carry out its duty by living a full
Christian life. The greatest contribution is made by the families which are animated by a spirit of
faith, charity and piety and which provide as it were a first seminary and by parishes in whose
abundant life the young people themselves take an active part. Teachers and all who are in any way
involved in the education of boys and young men – and this applies especially to Catholic societies
– should endeavour to train young men entrusted to them to recognize a divine vocation and to
follow it willingly.51
        Bishops and priests have the duty in their own way to foster vocations and to help, as
fathers, those who in their judgement have been called to God’s service. ‘‘All priests are to make it
their cherished object to make clear to people the excellence and necessity of the priesthood.’’52
        This active collaboration by all God’s people in the task of fostering vocations is a response
to the action of Divine Providence which endows with appropriate qualities and helps with divine
grace those who have been chosen by God to share in the hierarchical priesthood of Christ. It is
therefore within the communion of the Church that God may call some of its members to serve the
Christian community and to build up the Church and to increase the Kingdom of God in the
world.53
        But it is the Church which discerns each and every vocation to serve the Christian
community and it is her responsibility to appoint those members who have received this gift from
God.54 The Church also provides all the necessary means through her ecclesial structures to help
those who are called to serve the Church to grow in their faith in Christ and to reach the necessary
human, Christian and spiritual maturity that is necessary to cultivate this vocation to serve the
Church. Therefore vocation is not the concern of the individual alone, but it is also the Church that



48
   See JOHN PAUL II, Pastores dabo vobis, 30.
49
   See ibid.
50
   See ibid.
51
   See JOHN PAUL II, Optatam totius, 2.
52
   See Presbyterorum ordinis, 11.
53
   See JOHN PAUL II, Pastores dabo vobis, 35.
54
   See ibid.
takes part in the vocation as a medium through which God calls some of its members to become
priests.
           This new type of pastoral work for vocations or ‘‘the ecclesial dimension’’ was inspired by
the renewed ecclesiology of the second Vatican Council. The term ‘‘ecclesial dimension’’ was
proposed by Raymond Izaard when he outlined the different stages that the pastoral work for
vocations had gone through in the twentieth century. 55 By the ‘‘ecclesial dimension’’ what is meant
is ‘‘that all the body of the Church is interested in the pastoral work for vocations: the hierarchy, the
faithful and the institutions’’. Commenting on what Raymond Izaard said about the ‘‘ecclesial
dimension’’, Pietro Gianola expressed his view that ‘‘the ‘ecclesial dimension’ of the pastoral work
for vocations has brought the downfall of the recruiting of vocations in the 1960’s’’.56 ‘‘Now it is
no longer the time to fill the vacancies in the institutions of the Church such as the body of the
clergy and the religious orders and congregations; rather the ‘‘ecclesial dimension’’ of the pastoral
work for vocations to the priesthood expresses the very nature of the Church.’’57
           The lack of priestly vocations became a reality in the Church of the twentieth century. On
one part the problem was ‘‘created’’ by the Church itself especially when Pius XI in his Encyclical
Ad Catholici sacerdotii (20 December 1935) said that notwithstanding the regrettable shortage of
priests, due strictness should always be brought to be on the choice and testing of students who
want to become priests.58 Vocations to the priesthood continued to decrease in the middle of the
twentieth century and Pius XII, in his Apostolic Exhortation, Menti nostrae (23 September 1950)59
said that ‘‘both in Catholic countries and in the mission territories the number of priests was
insufficient to cope with the increasing demands’’.60 While John XXIII said that ‘‘the problem of
ecclesiastical and religious vocations is a daily worry with the Pope…vocations are the object of his
prayer and the ardent longing of his soul’’.61
           According to Yves Congar, when the Second Vatican Council gave more value to the
vocation of the laity62 to live a full Christian life it may have caused the decrease in the number of
vocations to the priesthood.63 When lay people found that they could live a holy life and that they
could work for the Kingdom of God by living their Christian vocation in the Church and in society,
they did not see the necessity to become priests or consecrated persons in Orders and

55
   See RAYMOND IZARD, Un Siecle de Pastorale des Vocations, in Vocations 224 (1963) 562.
56
   See PIETRO GIANOLA, as quoted in VITO MAGNO, Pastorale delle Vocazioni, Rome 1993, 39.
57
   See ibid.
58
   See AAS 28 (1936), 41.
59
   See AAS 42 (1950), 682.
60
   See ibid.
61
   See JOHN XXIII, Allocution to the First International Congress on Religious Vocations, 16 September 1961, in
    L’Osservatore Romano (17 December 1961) 1.
62
   See SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Apostolicam Actuositatem (18 November 1965) 1.
63
   See YVES CONGAR, Vocations sacerdotale et vocation Chrétienne, Seminarium, 7 (1967) 7.
Congregations.64 At the same time, according to Congar, proposing to live a full Christian life to all
the members of the Church, the Second Vatican Council found ‘‘a new and more efficient approach
to the notion of vocation which is usually applied to the ministerial priesthood’’.65
        With the introduction of the Chapter The People of God soon after The Mystery of the
Church, and before The Church is Hierarchical and The Laity in the Dogmnatic Constitution
Lumen gentium of the Second Vatican Council, the primacy of the ecclesial community was
restored. Bruno Forte says that ‘‘by the discovery of the communion perspective, the Second
Vatican Council has given priority to unity before that of distinction and the charismatic and the
ministerial variety in the Church are both based and nourished by the ecclesial mystery’’. 66


2.3 A rediscovered Ecclesiology and a new pastoral way for vocations
It is within the context of this rediscovered Ecclesiolgy that the universal priesthood of the faithful
comes to light. This common priesthood is based on the regeneration and anointing of the faithful
by the Holy Spirit in Baptism. The baptized person is a Christianus – a man or woman who
through the baptismal regeneration is incorporated in Christ.67 Thanks to this consecration, all the
baptized persons are the Church, they are all participants of all the riches and responsibilities of the
Church. They are also called to offer themselves as living victims to God and at the same time they
are called to holiness.
        The Second Vatican Council discovered this charismatic dimension of all the People of God
who are able to open themselves to the Holy Spirit who endows them with gifts and services which
they use for the benefit of the Church. But this Charismatic dimension is by no means opposed to
the ministerial dimension and not at all opposed to the unity of the Church. The novelty of the
Second Vatican Council is a question of differentiation of the two dimensions of the Church: the
Charismatic and the Ministerial. Before Second Vatican Council II the People of God was divided
in three categories: clergy – religious – lay people; but Vatican II removed this trimony by
differentiating in the structure of the Church between hierarchy and lay people and in the structures
of the Church which embrace the different states of redeemed existence.68
        In the structure of the Church the differentiation between the hierarchy and the lay people
can be termed the distinction between the priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood.
This differentiation is ‘‘in essentia et non gradu tantum’’. 69 However, the common priesthood and


64
   See ibid.
65
   See ibid.
66
   See BRUNO FORTE, La Chiesa della Trinita`, Brescia 1995, 299.
67
   See ibid.
68
   See ibid, 301.
69
   See Lumen gentium, 10.
the ministerial priesthood are ordered to one another70 which can be seen clearly in the area of the
vocation and formation of priests. The Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis (1970) says
that ‘‘from the common priesthood of the faithful some members of the body of the Church are
assimilated to Christ the Head and elevated to the service of Christ, the Teacher, Priest and
King’’.71 Although these members of the Church become ordained priests ‘‘still they are disciples
of Christ along with the other faithful’’72 and ‘‘in the common with all those that were reborn in the
font of Baptism, they are brothers among brothers as members of the same Body of Christ who are
all commanded to build the Church’’.73
       As a document which is in perfect unison with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, the
Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis affirms that ‘‘the vocation to the priesthood is
inserted in the wider atmosphere of the Christian vocation with its roots in the sacrament of
Baptism’’.74 In fact, this vocation to the priesthood manifests itself in different ages of the human
life of the Christian; that is when the adolescent, the young man or the man of a mature age are
living faithfully and participating in the common priesthood.75               The Ratio Fundamentalis
Institutionis Sacerdotalis mentions in a special way ‘‘children in whom, as in a seedbed, often the
vocation to the priesthood appears joined to special piety, an ardent love for God and neighbour, in
a tendency for the apostolate’’.76 Beginning from an early age, but also as they are growing up,
young Christians can consider the great spiritual needs of the faithful in the Church and of so many
other people who are not members of the Church. Then listening to the voice of the Lord which
invites all and one to have recourse to prayer, they obey the command of the Lord who said, ‘‘The
harvest indeed is great, but the labourers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest that he send
labourers to his vineyard’’.77
       The way in which the pastoral work for vocations changed its course from how it was
carried out before the Second Vatican Council and after Vatican II, is reflected in the Code of
Canon Law. The Code of Canon Law (1917) placed canons 1352-1355 concerning the promotion
and preparation of the candidates to the priesthood in Book III, part IV which dealt with the
Ecclesiastical Magisterium. The pre-Conciliar attitude of the Church towards vocations to the
priesthood saw those who wished to devote themselves to ecclesiastical ministries as ‘‘boys who
when they show signs of a priestly vocation should be shielded from the contamination of the


70
   See ibid.
71
   See SACRED CONGREGATION FOR CATHOLIC EDUCATION, Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis, Roma
    1970, 3.
72
   See ibid.
73
   See ibid.
74
   See ibid, 5.
75
   See ibid, 7.
76
   See ibid, parag. 3, fn. 22.
world, trained in piety, educated in humanities and sciences and helped in their vocation to the
priesthood’’.78 Those who help boys and young people in their vocation to the priesthood are all
priests and especially pastors.79 To achieve their purpose of saving vocations and addressing them
towards the priesthood with the proper formation, the 1917 Code of Canon Law ordered that in
every diocese the Bishop should erect two seminaries: a minor seminary in which boys may follow
a general course of studies and a major seminary for the study of Philosophy and Theology. 80
        The revision committee of the Code of Canon Law did not judge the section De Magistero
Ecclesiastico appropriate for treating the vocation to the priesthood and the formation of the clerics;
it reasoned that there was more to the training of persons for ordained ministry than their doctrinal
education.81 In the Code of Canon Law (1983), the themes on the pastoral work for vocations and
the formation of clerics are found in canons 232-264 and they are placed in Book II which deals
with the people of God.82 This is not just a break through in the pastoral work for vocations but a
paradigm change because it caters for a Christian life lived fully according to the demands of the
Gospel prior to the call to the priesthood by boys and young people ‘‘who are deputed to the sacred
ministries’’83 and not simply ‘‘who wish to devote themselves to ecclesiastical ministries’’.84 The
Code of Canon Law which is inspired by the Second Vatican Council Decree Optatam totius 85 puts
the responsibility to foster priestly vocations not only on the pastors and priests of the Church but
on the whole Christian community which includes the Bishops, priests and pastors and educators. It
is the whole Christian community that embraces all the various environments of the family, the
school, the parish, the associations and the spiritual movements wherein the young and older people
live their Christian life, that is the recipient of the vocations that come from God because the
Christian community itself is the ‘‘Ecclesia, the assembly of those called’’.86
        Canons 228-230 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law speak of the ‘‘the lay people who are
found to be suitable and capable of being admitted by the sacred pastors to those ecclesiastical
offices which, in accordance with the provisions of law, they can discharge’’. 87 The Church wants
to share its authority and functions with the lay people because they are the Church and the Church
considers it her duty and her proper and exclusive right to train those who are deputed to sacred

77
   See Lk 10, 2; Mt 9, 38.
78
   See Code of Canon Law 1917 subsequently quoted CIC 1917, 1352.
79
   See ibid.
80
   See CIC 1917, 1354.
81
   See PAUL L. GODEN Title III Sacred Ministries or clerics Chapter 1 The Formation (cc. 232-264), in The Code of
  Canon Law – A Text and commentary edited by JAMES A. CORIDEN-THOMAS J. GREEN – DONALD E. HEINTSCHEL,
  London 1985, 174-177.
82
   See ibid.
83
   See Code of Canon Law 1983 subsequently quoted CIC 1983, 232.
84
   See CIC 1917, 1352.
85
   See CIC 1983, 232.
86
   See JOHN PAUL II, Pastores dabo vobis, 34.
ministries.88 This is not a crescendo or an upgrading of the laity but a community that is all-
attentive to God ‘‘to respond to the action of Divine Providence which endows with appropriate
qualities and helps with divine grace those who have been chosen by God to share in the
hierarchical Priesthood of Christ’’.89
        Unlike the pre-Conciliar period when it was obligatory that every diocese should have a
minor and a major seminary,90 the Code of Canon Law does not impose the obligation on Bishops
to establish a minor seminary91; however if such a minor seminary or a similar institution is
established it should aim to give a secondary education which includes humanities and sciences as
other young men receive in their country and which is necessary prior to the study of Philosophy
and Theology or tertiary education.92 Besides, the formation that is given in the minor seminary or a
similar institution should be based on the Christian life and the spiritual life that is provided by the
Church.93
        The ordering of the priesthood of the faithful to the ministerial priesthood and vice versa
manifests the unity of the Church with Divine Providence ‘‘which endows with the necessary
qualities and helps with grace those who are chosen by God for the hierarchical priesthood of
Christ’’.94 At the same time ‘‘the cooperation of priests, lay people and religious leads to the
formulation of an organic plan for an integral pastoral work for vocations in the diocese and in the
Church at large. Those vocations to the ministerial priesthood which mature within the priesthood
of the faithful are in turn ‘‘entrusted to the legitimate authorities of the Church which calls the
candidates who aspire to such a great office with the right intention and the full liberty, after having
recognized and proved their suitability and to consecrate them with the seal of the Holy Spirit for
the worship of God and the service of the Church’’.95
        In this area of vocations to the priesthood, ‘‘the unity of ecclesial communion, charism and
institution come from the same Spirit to make one Body of Christ’’. 96 According to Bruno Forte the
term community/charisms-ministries reflects the refinding of the Ecclesiology of communion of the
Second Vatican Council. The Spirit works on all the Body of Christ arousing in it the multiplicity of
charisms-ministries to serve the growth of the Christian community.



87
   See CIC 1983, 232.
88
   See ibid.
89
   See Optatam totius, 2.
90
   See CIC 1917, 1354.
91
   See CIC 1983, 237.
92
   See ibid, 234.
93
   See CIC 1983, 234.
94
   See Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis, 8.
95
   See ibid 8.
96
   See FORTE, 307.

				
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