This is the fourth essay on the subject of priestly formation.
In the past three essays I have concentrated on the job of the seminary in the formation of our clergy, in this essay I would like to focus on the role of the family and of the local parish community in the formation of future clergy.
Any formation begins in the home. The parents are the first teachers of their children and as such they need to be informed of the faith so they can pass it along to their children. Does the family pray before meals at the table? Back up, does the family even sit at table anymore to even have time of prayer? Doo parents and children read the Scriptures and pray together, do the parents attend church with their children or do they simply drop them off? Do parents participate in the Sacramental life of the parish? By this do they partake of Eucharist and Confession more than once or twice a year? If parents are the first teachers of their children what are we teaching them?
All of this presupposes that the parents understand their faith. Based on the comments I have read on the various social networks and on these very pages, I draw the conclusion that we have done a very poor job of teaching the faithful what the church teaches. We hold to an ancient faith that does not compromise on her positions based on opinion polls. It is difficult to be an Orthodox Christian in this world that teaches us we have to be accepting of everything. There exists confusion in the some of the pews. I have seen things written by my fellow clergy that make me wonder about their own spirituality let alone what they are teaching their faithful.
The future priest should be called out of the community. The man should feel a call from God and that call should be verified by the local community but if that community is not spiritually mature this becomes a problem. As much as we need priests in the church today, not every man that feels he is called should be ordained. Graduation from seminary should not be the only qualification.
The potential candidate for the priesthood should be a man who is currently meeting with a spiritual father that is known to his bishop. He should avail himself of the Sacrament of confession on a regular basis, I would suggest monthly at a minimum, and he should be someone who receives the Eucharist also on a regular basis. And he should have a love for the church and all she believes in. He needs to be a man of deep prayer.
There is a lot of pressure on the local community but healthy communities will help produce healthy priests that will in turn produce healthy communities.