2014-Apostolic Letter to the Consecrated-Year of CL



Dear Brothers and Sisters in Consecrated Life,

I am writing to you as the Successor of Peter, to whom the Lord entrusted the task of confirming his brothers and sisters in faith (cf. Lk 22:32). But I am also writing to you as a brother who, like yourselves, is consecrated to God.

Together let us thank the Father, who called us to follow Jesus by fully embracing the Gospel and serving the Church, and poured into our hearts the Holy Spirit, the source of our joy and our witness to God’s love and mercy before the world.

In response to requests from many of you and from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, I decided to proclaim a Year of Consecrated Life on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, which speaks of religious in its sixth chapter, and of the Decree Perfectae Caritatis on the renewal of religious life. The Year will begin on 30 November 2014, the First Sunday of Advent, and conclude with the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple on 2 February 2016.

After consultation with the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, I have chosen as the aims of this Year the same ones which Saint John Paul II proposed to the whole Church at the beginning of the third millennium, reiterating, in a certain sense, what he had earlier written in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata: “You have not only a glorious history to remember and to recount, but also a great history still to be accomplished! Look to the future, where the Spirit is sending you in order to do even greater things” (No. 110).


1. The first of these aims is to look to the past with gratitude. All our Institutes are heir to a history rich in charisms. At their origins we see the hand of God who, in his Spirit, calls certain individuals to follow Christ more closely, to translate the Gospel into a particular way of life, to read the signs of the times with the eyes of faith and to respond creatively to the needs of the Church. This initial experience then matured and developed, engaging new members in new geographic and cultural contexts, and giving rise to new ways of exercising the charism, new initiatives and expressions of apostolic charity. Like the seed which becomes a tree, each Institute grew and stretched out its branches.

During this Year, it would be appropriate for each charismatic family to reflect on its origins and history, in order to thank God who grants the Church a variety of gifts which embellish her and equip her for every good work (cf. Lumen Gentium, 12).

Recounting our history is essential for preserving our identity, for strengthening our unity as a family and our common sense of belonging. More than an exercise in archaeology or the cultivation of mere nostalgia, it calls for following in the footsteps of past generations in order to grasp the high ideals, and the vision and values which inspired them, beginning with the founders and foundresses and the first communities. In this way we come to see how the charism has been lived over the years, the creativity it has sparked, the difficulties it encountered and the concrete ways those difficulties were surmounted. We may also encounter cases of inconsistency, the result of human weakness and even at times a neglect of some essential aspects of the charism. Yet everything proves instructive and, taken as a whole, acts as a summons to conversion. To tell our story is to praise God and to thank him for all his gifts.

In a particular way we give thanks to God for these fifty years which followed the Second Vatican Council. The Council represented a “breath” of the Holy Spirit upon the whole Church. In consequence, consecrated life undertook a fruitful journey of renewal which, for all its lights and shadows, has been a time of grace, marked by the presence of the Spirit.

May this Year of Consecrated Life also be an occasion for confessing humbly, with immense confidence in the God who is Love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8), our own weakness and, in it, to experience the Lord’s merciful love. May this Year likewise be an occasion for bearing vigorous and joyful witness before the world to the holiness and vitality present in so many of those called to follow Jesus in the consecrated life.

2. This Year also calls us to live the present with passion. Grateful remembrance of the past leads us, as we listen attentively to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church today, to implement ever more fully the essential aspects of our consecrated life.

From the beginnings of monasticism to the “new communities” of our own time, every form of consecrated life has been born of the Spirit’s call to follow Jesus as the Gospel teaches (cf. Perfectae Caritatis, 2). For the various founders and foundresses, the Gospel was the absolute rule, whereas every other rule was meant merely to be an expression of the Gospel and a means of living the Gospel to the full. For them, the ideal was Christ; they sought to be interiorly united to him and thus to be able to say with Saint Paul: “For to me to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21). Their vows were intended as a concrete expression of this passionate love.

The question we have to ask ourselves during this Year is if and how we too are open to being challenged by the Gospel; whether the Gospel is truly the “manual” for our daily living and the decisions we are called to make. The Gospel is demanding: it demands to be lived radically and sincerely. It is not enough to read it (even though the reading and study of Scripture is essential), nor is it enough to meditate on it (which we do joyfully each day). Jesus asks us to practice it, to put his words into effect in our lives.

Once again, we have to ask ourselves: Is Jesus really our first and only love, as we promised he would be when we professed our vows? Only if he is, will we be empowered to love, in truth and mercy, every person who crosses our path. For we will have learned from Jesus the meaning and practice of love. We will be able to love because we have his own heart.

Our founders and foundresses shared in Jesus’ own compassion when he saw the crowds who were like sheep without a shepherd. Like Jesus, who compassionately spoke his gracious word, healed the sick, gave bread to the hungry and offered his own life in sacrifice, so our founders and foundresses sought in different ways to be the service of all those to whom the Spirit sent them. They did so by their prayers of intercession, their preaching of the Gospel, their works of catechesis, education, their service to the poor and the infirm… The creativity of charity is boundless; it is able to find countless new ways of bringing the newness of the Gospel to every culture and every corner of society.

The Year of Consecrated Life challenges us to examine our fidelity to the mission entrusted to us. Are our ministries, our works and our presence consonant with what the Spirit asked of our founders and foundresses? Are they suitable for carrying out today, in society and the Church, those same ministries and works? Do we have the same passion for our people, are we close to them to the point of sharing in their joys and sorrows, thus truly understanding their needs and helping to respond to them? “The same generosity and self-sacrifice which guided your founders – Saint John Paul II once said – must now inspire you, their spiritual children, to keep alive the charismswhich, by the power of the same Spirit who awakened them, are constantly being enriched and adapted, while losing none of their unique character. It is up to you to place those charisms at the service of the Church and to work for the coming of Christ’s Kingdom in its fullness”.[1]

Recalling our origins sheds light on yet another aspect of consecrated life. Our founders and foundresses were attracted by the unity of the Apostles with Christ and by the fellowship which marked the first community in Jerusalem. In establishing their own communities, each of them sought to replicate those models of evangelical iving, to be of one heart and one soul, and to rejoice in the Lord’s presence (cf. Perfectae Caritatis, 15).

Living the present with passion means becoming “experts in communion”,“witnesses and architects of the ‘plan for unity’ which is the crowning point of human history in God’s design”.[2] In a polarized society, where different cultures experience difficulty in living alongside one another, where the powerless encounter oppression, where inequality abounds, we are called to offer a concrete model of community which, by acknowledging the dignity of each person and sharing our respective gifts, makes it possible to live as brothers and sisters.

So, be men and women of communion! Have the courage to be present in the midst of conflict and tension, as a credible sign of the presence of the Spirit who inspires in human hearts a passion for all to be one (cf. Jn17:21). Live the mysticism of encounter, which entails “the ability to hear, to listen to other people; the ability to seek together ways and means”.[3] Live in the light of the loving relationship of the three divine Persons (cf. 1 Jn 4:8), the model for all interpersonal relationships.

3. To embrace the future with hope should be the third aim of this Year. We all know the difficulties which the various forms of consecrated life are currently experiencing: decreasing vocations and aging members, particularly in the Western world; economic problems stemming from the global financial crisis; issues of internationalization and globalization; the threats posed by relativism and a sense of isolation and social irrelevance… But it is precisely amid these uncertainties, which we share with so many of our contemporaries, that we are called to practice the virtue of hope, the fruit of our faith in the Lord of history, who continues to tell us: “Be not afraid… for I am with you” (Jer 1:8).

This hope is not based on statistics or accomplishments, but on the One in whom we have put our trust (cf. 2Tim 1:2), the One for whom “nothing is impossible” (Lk 1:37). This is the hope which does not disappoint; it is the hope which enables consecrated life to keep writing its great history well into the future. It is to that future that we must always look, conscious that the Holy Spirit spurs us on so that he can still do great things with us.

So do not yield to the temptation to see things in terms of numbers and efficiency, and even less to trust in your own strength. In scanning the horizons of your lives and the present moment, be watchful and alert. Together with Benedict XVI, I urge you not to “join the ranks of the prophets of doom who proclaim the end or meaninglessness of the consecrated life in the Church in our day; rather, clothe yourselves in Jesus Christ and put on the armour of light – as Saint Paul urged (cf. Rom 13:11-14) – keeping awake and watchful”.[4] Let us constantly set out anew, with trust in the Lord.

I would especially like to say a word to those of you who are young. You are the present, since you are already taking active part in the lives of your Institutes, offering all the freshness and generosity of your “yes”. At the same time you are the future, for soon you will be called to take on roles of leadership in the life, formation, service and mission of your communities. This Year should see you actively engaged in dialogue with the previous generation. In fraternal communion you will be enriched by their experiences and wisdom, while at the same time inspiring them, by your own energy and enthusiasm, to recapture their original idealism. In this way the entire community can join in finding new ways of living the Gospel and responding more effectively to the need for witness and proclamation.

I am also happy to know that you will have the opportunity during this Year to meet with other young religious from different Institutes. May such encounters become a regular means of fostering communion, mutual support, and unity.


What in particular do I expect from this Year of grace for consecrated life?

1. That the old saying will always be true: “Where there are religious, there is joy”. We are called to know and show that God is able to fill our hearts to the brim with happiness; that we need not seek our happiness elsewhere; that the authentic fraternity found in our communities increases our joy; and that our total self-giving in service to the Church, to families and young people, to the elderly and the poor, brings us life-long personal fulfilment.

None of us should be dour, discontented and dissatisfied, for “a gloomy disciple is a disciple of gloom”. Like everyone else, we have our troubles, our dark nights of the soul, our disappointments and infirmities, our experience of slowing down as we grow older. But in all these things we should be able to discover “perfect joy”. For it is here that we learn to recognize the face of Christ, who became like us in all things, and to rejoice in the knowledge that we are being conformed to him who, out of love of us, did not refuse the sufferings of the cross.

In a society which exalts the cult of efficiency, fitness and success, one which ignores the poor and dismisses “losers”, we can witness by our lives to the truth of the words of Scripture: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10).

We can apply to the consecrated life the words of Benedict XVI which I cited in the Apostolic ExhortationEvangelii Gaudium: “It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but byattraction” (No. 14). The consecrated life will not flourish as a result of brilliant vocation programs, but because the young people we meet find us attractive, because they see us as men and women who are happy! Similarly, the apostolic effectiveness of consecrated life does not depend on the efficiency of its methods. It depends on the eloquence of your lives, lives which radiate the joy and beauty of living the Gospel and following Christ to the full.

As I said to the members of ecclesial movements on the Vigil of Pentecost last year: “Fundamentally, the strength of the Church is living by the Gospel and bearing witness to our faith. The Church is the salt of the earth; she is the light of the world. She is called to make present in society the leaven of the Kingdom of God and she does this primarily by her witness, her witness of brotherly love, of solidarity and of sharing with others” (18 May 2013).

2. I am counting on you “to wake up the world”, since the distinctive sign of consecrated life is prophecy. As I told the Superiors General: “Radical evangelical living is not only for religious: it is demanded of everyone. But religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way.” This is the priority that is needed right now: “to be prophets who witness to how Jesus lived on this earth… a religious must never abandon prophecy” (29 November 2013).

Prophets receive from God the ability to scrutinize the times in which they live and to interpret events: they are like sentinels who keep watch in the night and sense the coming of the dawn (cf. Is 21:11-12). Prophets know God and they know the men and women who are their brothers and sisters. They are able to discern and denounce the evil of sin and injustice. Because they are free, they are beholden to no one but God, and they have no interest other than God. Prophets tend to be on the side of the poor and the powerless, for they know that God himself is on their side.

So I trust that, rather than living in some utopia, you will find ways to create “alternate spaces”, where the Gospel approach of self-giving, fraternity, embracing differences, and love of one another can thrive. Monasteries, communities, centres of spirituality, schools, hospitals, family shelters – all these are places which the charity and creativity born of your charisms have brought into being, and with constant creativity must continue to bring into being. They should increasingly be the leaven for a society inspired by the Gospel, a “city on a hill”, which testifies to the truth and the power of Jesus’ words.

At times, like Elijah and Jonah, you may feel the temptation to flee, to abandon the task of being a prophet because it is too demanding, wearisome or apparently fruitless. But prophets know that they are never alone. As he did with Jeremiah, so God encourages us: “Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer1:8).

3. Men and women religious, like all other consecrated persons, have been called, as I mentioned, “experts in communion”. So I am hoping that the “spirituality of communion”, so emphasized by Saint John Paul II, will become a reality and that you will be in the forefront of responding to “the great challenge facing us” in this new millennium: “to make the Church the home and the school of communion.”[5] I am sure that in this Year you will make every effort to make the ideal of fraternity pursued by your founders and foundresses expand everywhere, like concentric circles.

Communion is lived first and foremost within the respective communities of each Institute. To this end, I would ask you to think about my frequent comments about criticism, gossip, envy, jealousy, hostility as ways of acting which have no place in our houses. This being the case, the path of charity open before us is almost infinite, since it entails mutual acceptance and concern, practicing a communion of goods both material and spiritual, fraternal correction and respect for those who are weak … it is the “mystique of living together” which makes our life “a sacred pilgrimage”.[6] We need to ask ourselves about the way we relate to persons from different cultures, as our communities become increasingly international. How can we enable each member to say freely what he or she thinks, to be accepted with his or her particular gifts, and to become fully co-responsible?

I also hope for a growth in communion between the members of different Institutes. Might this Year be an occasion for us to step out more courageously from the confines of our respective Institutes and to work together, at the local and global levels, on projects involving formation, evangelization, and social action? This would make for a more effective prophetic witness. Communion and the encounter between different charisms and vocations can open up a path of hope. No one contributes to the future in isolation, by his or her efforts alone, but by seeing himself or herself as part of a true communion which is constantly open to encounter, dialogue, attentive listening and mutual assistance. Such a communion inoculates us from the disease of self-absorption.

Consecrated men and women are also called to true synergy with all other vocations in the Church, beginning with priests and the lay faithful, in order to “spread the spirituality of communion, first of all in their internal life and then in the ecclesial community, and even beyond its boundaries”.[7]

4. I also expect from you what I have asked all the members of the Church: to come out of yourselves and go forth to the existential peripheries. “Go into all the world”; these were the last words which Jesus spoke to his followers and which he continues to address to us (cf. Mk 16:15). A whole world awaits us: men and women who have lost all hope, families in difficulty, abandoned children, young people without a future, the elderly, sick and abandoned, those who are rich in the world’s goods but impoverished within, men and women looking for a purpose in life, thirsting for the divine…

Don’t be closed in on yourselves, don’t be stifled by petty squabbles, don’t remain a hostage to your own problems. These will be resolved if you go forth and help others to resolve their own problems, and proclaim the Good News. You will find life by giving life, hope by giving hope, love by giving love.

I ask you to work concretely in welcoming refugees, drawing near to the poor, and finding creative ways to catechize, to proclaim the Gospel and to teach others how to pray. Consequently, I would hope that structures can be streamlined, large religious houses repurposed for works which better respond to the present demands of evangelization and charity, and apostolates adjusted to new needs.

5. I expect that each form of consecrated life will question what it is that God and people today are asking of them.

Monasteries and groups which are primarily contemplative could meet or otherwise engage in an exchange of experiences on the life of prayer, on ways of deepening communion with the entire Church, on supporting persecuted Christians, and welcoming and assisting those seeking a deeper spiritual life or requiring moral or material support.

The same can be done by Institutes dedicated to works of charity, teaching and cultural advancement, to preaching the Gospel or to carrying out specific pastoral ministries. It could also be done by Secular Institutes, whose members are found at almost every level of society. The creativity of the Spirit has generated ways of life and activities so diverse that they cannot be easily categorized or fit into ready-made templates. So I cannot address each and every charismatic configuration. Yet during this Year no one can feel excused from seriously examining his or her presence in the Church’s life and from responding to the new demands constantly being made on us, to the cry of the poor.

Only by such concern for the needs of the world, and by docility to the promptings of the Spirit, will this Year of Consecrated Life become an authentic kairos, a time rich in God’s grace, a time of transformation.


1. In this letter, I wish to speak not only to consecrated persons, but also to the laity, who share with them the same ideals, spirit and mission. Some Religious Institutes have a long tradition in this regard, while the experience of others is more recent. Indeed, around each religious family, every Society of Apostolic Life and every Secular Institute, there is a larger family, a “charismatic family”, which includes a number of Institutes which identify with the same charism, and especially lay faithful who feel called, precisely as lay persons, to share in the same charismatic reality.

I urge you, as laity, to live this Year for Consecrated Life as a grace which can make you more aware of the gift you yourselves have received. Celebrate it with your entire “family”, so that you can grow and respond together to the promptings of the Spirit in society today. On some occasions when consecrated men and women from different Institutes come together, arrange to be present yourselves so as to give expression to the one gift of God. In this way you will come to know the experiences of other charismatic families and other lay groups, and thus have an opportunity for mutual enrichment and support.

2. The Year for Consecrated Life concerns not only consecrated persons, but the entire Church. Consequently, I ask the whole Christian people to be increasingly aware of the gift which is the presence of our many consecrated men and women, heirs of the great saints who have written the history of Christianity. What would the Church be without Saint Benedict and Saint Basil, without Saint Augustine and Saint Bernard, without Saint Francis and Saint Dominic, Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Angelica Merici and Saint Vincent de Paul. The list could go on and on, up to Saint John Bosco and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. As Blessed Paul VI pointed out: “Without this concrete sign there would be a danger that the charity which animates the entire Church would grow cold, that the salvific paradox of the Gospel would be blunted, and that the “salt” of faith would lose its savour in a world undergoing secularization” (Evangelica Testificatio, 3).

So I invite every Christian community to experience this Year above all as a moment of thanksgiving to the Lord and grateful remembrance for all the gifts we continue to receive, thanks to the sanctity of founders and foundresses, and from the fidelity to their charism shown by so many consecrated men and women. I ask all of you to draw close to these men and women, to rejoice with them, to share their difficulties and to assist them, to whatever degree possible, in their ministries and works, for the latter are, in the end, those of the entire Church. Let them know the affection and the warmth which the entire Christian people feels for them.

3. In this letter I do not hesitate to address a word to the consecrated men and women and to the members of fraternities and communities who belong to Churches of traditions other than the Catholic tradition. Monasticism is part of the heritage of the undivided Church, and is still very much alive in both the Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church. The monastic tradition, and other later experiences from the time when the Church in the West was still united, have inspired analogous initiatives in the Ecclesial Communities of the reformed tradition. These have continued to give birth to further expressions of fraternal community and service.

The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life has planned a number of initiatives to facilitate encounters between members of different expressions of consecrated and fraternal life in the various Churches. I warmly encourage such meetings as a means of increasing mutual understanding, respect and reciprocal cooperation, so that the ecumenism of the consecrated life can prove helpful for the greater journey towards the unity of all the Churches.

4. Nor can we forget that the phenomenon of monasticism and of other expressions of religious fraternity is present in all the great religions. There are instances, some long-standing, of inter-monastic dialogue involving the Catholic Church and certain of the great religious traditions. I trust that the Year of Consecrated Life will be an opportunity to review the progress made, to make consecrated persons aware of this dialogue, and to consider what further steps can be taken towards greater mutual understanding and greater cooperation in the many common areas of service to human life.

Journeying together always brings enrichment, and can open new paths to relationships between peoples and cultures, which nowadays appear so difficult.

5. Finally, in a special way, I address my brother bishops. May this Year be an opportunity to accept institutes of consecrated life, readily and joyfully, as a spiritual capital which contributes to the good of the whole body of Christ (cf. Lumen Gentium, 43), and not simply that of the individual religious families. “Consecrated life is a gift to the Church, it is born of the Church, it grows in the Church, and it is entirely directed to the Church”.[8] For this reason, precisely as a gift to the Church, it is not an isolated or marginal reality, but deeply a part of her. It is at the heart of the Church, a decisive element of her mission, inasmuch as it expresses the deepest nature of the Christian vocation and the yearning of the Church as the Bride for union with her sole Spouse. Thus, “it belongs… absolutely to the life and holiness” of the Church (ibid., 44).

In the light of this, I ask you, the Pastors of the particular Churches, to show special concern for promoting within your communities the different charisms, whether long-standing or recent. I ask you to do this by your support and encouragement, your assistance in discernment, and your tender and loving closeness to those situations of suffering and weakness in which some consecrated men or women may find themselves. Above all, do this by instructing the People of God in the value of consecrated life, so that its beauty and holiness may shine forth in the Church.

I entrust this Year of Consecrated Life to Mary, the Virgin of listening and contemplation, the first disciple of her beloved Son. Let us look to her, the highly -beloved daughter of the Father, endowed with every gift of grace, as the unsurpassed model for all those who follow Christ in love of God and service to their neighbour.

Lastly, I join all of you in gratitude for the gifts of grace and light with which the Lord graciously wills to enrich us, and I accompany you with my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 21 November 2014, Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Pope Francis

[1] Apostolic Letter to the Religious of Latin America on the occasion of the Fifth Centenary of the Evangelization of the New World Los caminos del Evangelio (29 June 1990), 26.

[2]SACRED CONGREGATION FOR RELIGIOUS AND SECULAR INSTITUTES, Religious and Human Promotion (12 August 1980), 24: L’Osservatore Romano, Suppl., 12 November 1980, pp. I-VIII.

[3] Address to Rectors and Students of the Pontifical Colleges and Residences of Rome (2 May 2014).

[4] POPE BENEDICT XVI, Homily for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord(2 February 2013).

[5] Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001), 43.

[6]Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 87

[7] JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata (25 March 1996), 51.

[8] BISHOP J.M. BERGOGLIO, Intervention at the Synod on the Consecrated Life and its Mission in the Church and in the World, XVI General Congregation, 13 October 1994.

Papal Addresses on World Day of Consecrated Life

Papal Addresses on World Day of Consecrated Life

world day of vc

19th World Dayof Conseratd LIfe -Homily (February 2, 2015)

18th World Day of Consecrated Life  –Homily (February 2, 2014)

17th World Day of Consecrated Life  –Homily (February 2, 2013)

16th World Day of Consecrated Life- Homily (February 2, 2012)

15th World Day of Consecrated Life  –Homily (February 2, 2011)

14th World Day of Consecrated Life –Homily (February 2, 2010)

13th World Day of Consecrated Life: Address  at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Celebration (February 2, 2009)

12th World Day of Consecrated Life: Address  at the conclusion of the Eucharistic (February 2, 2008)

11th World Day of Consecrated Life: Address  at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Celebration (February 2, 2007)

10th World Day of Consecrated Life –Homily (February 2, 2006)

8th World day of Consecrated Life – Homily (February 2, 2004)

7th World day of Consecrated Life- Homily (February 1, 2003)

6th World day of Consecrated Life-Homily (February 2, 2002)

5th World Day of Consecrated Life- Homily (February 2, 2001)

Jubilee of Consecrated Life- Homily (February 2, 2000)

3rd World Day of Consecrated Life- Homily (February 2, 1999)

2nd World Day of Consecrated Life – Homily (February 2, 1998)

1st World Day of Consecrated Life- Homily (February 2, 1997)

World Day of Consecrated Life – Message of the Holy Father John Paul II (January 6, 1996)

1994-1995-Papal Audiences on Consecrated Life

1994-1995: John Paul II-Papal Audiences on Consecrated Life

Pope John Paul II gave his Wednesday catechesis on consecrated life from September 28, 1994 to March 29, 1995. Here are the themes and the link to the Vatican site.

  1. Religious Intensely Live Their Baptismal Vows – September 28, 1994.
  2. The Spirit Continues Giving New Charisms – October 5, 1994
  3. Jesus’ Will Is the Origin of Consecrated Life – October 12, 1994.
  4. Prayer Is the Answer to the Vocation Shortage – October 19, 1994.
  5. Consecrated Life Is Rooted in Baptism – October 26, 1994.
  6. Gospel Counsels Are a Way of Perfection – November 9, 1994.
  7. Chastity for the Sake of the Kingdom – November 16, 1994.
  8. A Witness to Spousal Love for the Church – November 23-1994.
  9. How Blest Are the Poor in Spirit! – November 30, 1994.
  10. Religious Offer Their Own Wills to God – December 7, 1994.
  11. Common Life Is Modeled on the Early Church – December 14, 1994.
  12. Prayer Is the One Thing Necessary – January 4, 1995.
  13. Religious Serve the Growth of God’s Reign – January 11, 1995.
  14. A Witness to the World’s True Destiny – February 8, 1995.
  15. Religious Life Can Greatly Assist Priests – February 15, 1995.
  16. The Role of Lay Religious in the Church – February 22, 1995.
  17. Women Religious Faithfully Serve Christ – March 15, 1995.
  18. The Holy Spirit Is the Soul of Community Life – March 22, 1995.
  19. Mary Shows the Nobility of Virginity – March 29, 1995.

1993- Catechism of the Catholic Church

Catechism of the Catholic Church onconsecrated life

To read the document from the Vatican site Click here

914 “The state of life which is constituted by the profession of the evangelical counsels, while not entering into the hierarchical structure of the Church, belongs undeniably to her life and holiness.”453

Evangelical counsels, consecrated life

915 Christ proposes the evangelical counsels, in their great variety, to every disciple. the perfection of charity, to which all the faithful are called, entails for those who freely follow the call to consecrated life the obligation of practicing chastity in celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, poverty and obedience. It is the profession of these counsels, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, that characterizes the life consecrated to God.454

916 The religious state is thus one way of experiencing a “more intimate” consecration, rooted in Baptism and dedicated totally to God.455 In the consecrated life, Christ’s faithful, moved by the Holy Spirit, propose to follow Christ more nearly, to give themselves to God who is loved above all and, pursuing the perfection of charity in the service of the Kingdom, to signify and proclaim in the Church the glory of the world to come.456

One great tree, with many branches

917 “From the God-given seed of the counsels a wonderful and wide-spreading tree has grown up in the field of the Lord, branching out into various forms of the religious life lived in solitude or in community. Different religious families have come into existence in which spiritual resources are multiplied for the progress in holiness of their members and for the good of the entire Body of Christ.”457

918 From the very beginning of the Church there were men and women who set out to follow Christ with greater liberty, and to imitate him more closely, by practicing the evangelical counsels. They led lives dedicated to God, each in his own way. Many of them, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, became hermits or founded religious families. These the Church, by virtue of her authority, gladly accepted and approved.458

919 Bishops will always strive to discern new gifts of consecrated life granted to the Church by the Holy Spirit; the approval of new forms of consecrated life is reserved to the Apostolic See.459

The eremitic life

920 Without always professing the three evangelical counsels publicly, hermits “devote their life to the praise of God and salvation of the world through a stricter separation from the world, the silence of solitude and assiduous prayer and penance.”460

921 They manifest to everyone the interior aspect of the mystery of the Church, that is, personal intimacy with Christ. Hidden from the eyes of men, the life of the hermit is a silent preaching of the Lord, to whom he has surrendered his life simply because he is everything to him. Here is a particular call to find in the desert, in the thick of spiritual battle, the glory of the Crucified One.

Consecrated virgins

922 From apostolic times Christian virgins, called by the Lord to cling only to him with greater freedom of heart, body, and spirit, have decided with the Church’s approval to live in a state of virginity “for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.”461

923 “Virgins who, committed to the holy plan of following Christ more closely, are consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite, are betrothed mystically to Christ, the Son of God, and are dedicated to the service of the Church.”462 By this solemn rite (Consecratio virginum), the virgin is “constituted . . . a sacred person, a transcendent sign of the Church’s love for Christ, and an eschatological image of this heavenly Bride of Christ and of the life to come.”463

924 “As with other forms of consecrated life,” the order of virgins establishes the woman living in the world (or the nun) in prayer, penance, service of her brethren, and apostolic activity, according to the state of life and spiritual gifts given to her.464 Consecrated virgins can form themselves into associations to observe their commitment more faithfully.465

Religious life

925 Religious life was born in the East during the first centuries of Christianity. Lived within institutes canonically erected by the Church, it is distinguished from other forms of consecrated life by its liturgical character, public profession of the evangelical counsels, fraternal life led in common, and witness given to the union of Christ with the Church.466

926 Religious life derives from the mystery of the Church. It is a gift she has received from her Lord, a gift she offers as a stable way of life to the faithful called by God to profess the counsels. Thus, the Church can both show forth Christ and acknowledge herself to be the Savior’s bride. Religious life in its various forms is called to signify the very charity of God in the language of our time.

927 All religious, whether exempt or not, take their place among the collaborators of the diocesan bishop in his pastoral duty.467 From the outset of the work of evangelization, the missionary “planting” and expansion of the Church require the presence of the religious life in all its forms.468 “History witnesses to the outstanding service rendered by religious families in the propagation of the faith and in the formation of new Churches: from the ancient monastic institutions to the medieval orders, all the way to the more recent congregations.”469

Secular institutes

928 “A secular institute is an institute of consecrated life in which the Christian faithful living in the world strive for the perfection of charity and work for the sanctification of the world especially from within.”470

929 By a “life perfectly and entirely consecrated to [such] sanctification,” the members of these institutes share in the Church’s task of evangelization, “in the world and from within the world,” where their presence acts as “leaven in the world.”471 “Their witness of a Christian life” aims “to order temporal things according to God and inform the world with the power of the gospel.” They commit themselves to the evangelical counsels by sacred bonds and observe among themselves the communion and fellowship appropriate to their “particular secular way of life.”472

Societies of apostolic life

930 Alongside the different forms of consecrated life are “societies of apostolic life whose members without religious vows pursue the particular apostolic purpose of their society, and lead a life as brothers or sisters in common according to a particular manner of life, strive for the perfection of charity through the observance of the constitutions. Among these there are societies in which the members embrace the evangelical counsels” according to their constitutions.473

Consecration and mission: proclaiming the King who is corning

931 Already dedicated to him through Baptism, the person who surrenders himself to the God he loves above all else thereby consecrates himself more intimately to God’s service and to the good of the Church. By this state of life consecrated to God, the Church manifests Christ and shows us how the Holy Spirit acts so wonderfully in her. and so the first mission of those who profess the evangelical counsels is to live out their consecration. Moreover, “since members of institutes of consecrated life dedicate themselves through their consecration to the service of the Church they are obliged in a special manner to engage in missionary work, in accord with the character of the institute.”474

932 In the Church, which is like the sacrament – the sign and instrument – of God’s own life, the consecrated life is seen as a special sign of the mystery of redemption. To follow and imitate Christ more nearly and to manifest more clearly his self-emptying is to be more deeply present to one’s contemporaries, in the heart of Christ. For those who are on this “narrower” path encourage their brethren by their example, and bear striking witness “that the world cannot be transfigured and offered to God without the spirit of the beatitudes.”475

933 Whether their witness is public, as in the religious state, or less public, or even secret, Christ’s coming remains for all those consecrated both the origin and rising sun of their life:

For the People of God has here no lasting city, . . . [and this state] reveals more clearly to all believers the heavenly goods which are already present in this age, witnessing to the new and eternal life which we have acquired through the redemptive work of Christ and preluding our future resurrection and the glory of the heavenly kingdom.476

453 LG 44 # 4.
454 Cf. LG 42-43; PC 1.
455 Cf. PC 5.
456 Cf.  CIC, can. 573.
457 LG 43.
458 PC 1.
459 Cf.  CIC, can. 605.
460  CIC, can. 603 # 1.
461  Mt 19:12; cf.  l Cor 7:34-36.
462  CIC, can. 604 # 1.
463 Ordo Consecrationis Virginum, Praenotanda 1.
464 Cf. CIC, can. 604 # 1; OCV Praenotanda 2.
465 Cf. CIC, can. 604 # 2.
466 Cf.  CIC, cann. 607;  573; UR 15.
467 Cf. CD 33-35;  CIC, can. 591.
468 Cf. AG 18; 40.
469 John Paul II, RMiss 69.
470  CIC, can. 710.
471 Pius XII, Provida Mater; cf. PC 11.
472 Cf. CIC, can. 713 # 2.
473 Cf. CIC, can. 731 ## 1 and 2.
474  CIC, can. 783.; cf. RM 69
475 LG 31 # 2.
476 LG 44 # 3.

1974- Formaiton in Priestly Celibacy

Sacred Congregation for Education

Guidelines on Formation in Priestly Celibacy,


1. Nature and purposes of these guidelines:

This document does not present “directives” so much as a general orientation about formation for priestly celibacy, perennially valid no matter what the social conditions might be, but which needs an educator’s skill to be put into practice. This is a response to the desire expressed in the encyclical letter “On Priestly Celibacy” that appropriate instructions be issued to help those who have the serious responsibility of preparing future priests for a life of sacerdotal celibacy.[1]

These guidelines arise from the present-day conditions of the church and have as their purpose the forming of candidates for the priesthood in sacred celibacy, freely accepted as a gift from the Holy Spirit. This, however, is not intended to derogate in any way from the different situation in the life and educational approach of the Eastern rites of the church.

Holy celibacy is a “precious gift” which God freely gives to those whom he calls. Those so called, however, have the duty to foster the most favorable conditions so that this gift might bear its fruit.[2] It is the educator’s task, therefore, to cultivate in his students an appreciation for the for the gift of celibacy, a disposition for its acceptance, a recognition of its presence, and its practice.

2. The specific reason for these guidelines:

Sex education, whether as a preparation for marriage or for celibacy, is a difficult and delicate matter, especially in the social and cultural climate of today. This is particularly the case regarding complete formation of those who are preparing for a life consecrated to God. As the recent document of the 1971 Synod of Bishops emphasizes, “in today’s world celibacy is threatened from all sides by special , difficulties, which, nonetheless, priests have experienced in various other times through the centuries,” Indeed, “it must be recognized that celibacy, as a gift from God, cannot be kept unless the candidate is properly prepared for it.”[3]

Training men for a consecrated single life is an inescapable duty which falls upon all educators: the community of the family, of the parish, and of the seminary. In large measure, , these bear the responsibility to form candidates for the priestly life.

The problem of formation for a celibate life is considered here mainly from the natural aspect in accordance with the principles of , education. It must be constantly borne in mind, however, that such a problem cannot be resolved simply on the natural level, even with the best dispositions on the part of the candidates and the greatest care on the part of educators. Grace is a fundamental and necessary element in this formation—as sacred scripture emphatically states. (Ps. 126; Mk. 4, 26-29; 10, 27; Lk. 1, 37; in. IS, 5; I Cor. 3, 6; Gal. 5, 22-23; Phil. 4, 13). It is, moreover, equally essential to maintain the faithful observance of “the ascetical norms which have been tested by the experience of the church and which are by no means less necessary in today’s world.”[4]

Young students must be convinced of the necessity of a very special asceticism in their lives, one that is far more demanding than what is required of the ordinary faithful and which is special to those aspiring to the priesthood.[5]

From their seminary days they must learn to recognize above everything the need to cultivate with all their hearts the grace which binds them to Christ, and seek to deepen their understanding of this mystery of sanctification. They must acquire an ever-increasing sense of the mystery of the church and realize that otherwise their state of life will almost certainly begin to appear, even to them, inconsistent and absurd.[6]

3. Reasons for up-dating:

The problem under discussion has always existed. But it has acquired a special urgency and a greater importance in our day on account of a number of factors and causes among which the following deserve special mention:

  • in the unfolding of salvation history, priestly celibacy is lived in accordance with new ways of thinking. It must be a witness to salvation offered to men according to their present-day spiritual needs;
  • the human sciences—education, psychology and sociology—are in a continual state of development; they are ever searching for new methods, theoretical and practicah[7]
  • seminarians themselves manifest a new psychological sensitivity, tending to reject the bonds of convention and wanting to walk in the human order like other men. They extol freedom of choice and open-ended commitment to the ideal of the gospel.

In the face of this, it is the duty of educators to be always up-to-date themselves. They must also read the signs of the times in the secular and Christian world of today.

All human institutions which proclaim lasting values and which are not merely expressions of some relative truth must undergo periodical updating. Priestly values, precisely because they are permanent and imperishable, must be considered in the context of a pilgrim church moving towards the Risen Lord. These values must be expressed in a way that is suited to the present age. Indeed educators must proclaim a love for the eternal meaning of the priesthood, but in a manner adapted to our times.

4. Adaptation to the situation of the local Churches:

Formation in celibacy must be adapted not only to differing civilizations and historical periods, but also to the conditions of the local churches. Since these can differ considerably from one to another, their members’ psychological and sociological outlooks will differ accordingly and they will bear witness to the gospel in different ways. Seminary training must, therefore, reflect the kind of education which is suited to local church life, always, of course, in accordance with the norms established by the bishops’ conferences. Priestly celibacy, like the priesthood itself, is a consecration to God on behalf of the people whom priests are sent to serve.[8]

These guidelines, which apply to today, are not intended to usurp the responsibility of the local church to educate its priests. On the contrary, local churches have a duty to re­examine their spiritual needs, their ecclesiastical life-style and the efficiency of the local seminaries to provide a solid education and a witness in the world of today. Indeed, each single presbyterate ought to discover God’s plan by studying present day problems in the light of God’s word.[9]

5. Adaptation to the individual:

This This document presents a number of suggestions for training to a life of celibacy. Although it is divided into sections, it would be a mistake to suppose that they can be taken separately without reference to the development of the single theme of the whole work. It is also I important to remember that despite great bio-1 psychological and socio-cultural differences I among individual seminarians, the fact remains that problems about sex are substantially identical for all human beings, regardless of their state of life.

The universal character of this matter indicates that there can be some general guidelines for it. It is necessary, of course, that these guidelines be put into practice and when I doing so that effort be made to find the best way ‘ to apply them to the needs of the individuals being trained. It is the individual who is to be directed towards and selected for the priesthood, and a constant search needs to be made for the best means of doing so even when one is dealing with a variety of persons with characteristics in the normal range of human behavior, but particularly when one also has the duty to recognize those who are truly atypical or possess deviant personalities.

These guidelines are written with the training of normal men in mind, since candidates for the priesthood ought to be normal. In cases of more or less abnormal persons, a more specialized kind of work has to be undertaken, but of course, that kind of student must be clearly told that the priestly life is not for him.



6. States of authentic Christian Life

Matrimony and celibacy are two states of life which are authentically Christian. Both are ways of following the Christian vocation, a vocation that is expressed in its fullness in the totality of the church.”[10]

Celibacy for the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 19, 12) is a gift that Jesus Christ gave to his church. It is not a charism that belongs essentially or exclusively to the priesthood. It is not the unique vocation of a priest. It can be seen in the church lived in a variety of ways by groups of persons called to the practice of the evangelical counsels.

Celibacy constitutes a sign which completes the total picture of the other evangelical counsels. Insofar as it is chosen for the kingdom of heaven, it implies fundamentally the gospel virtues of poverty and obedience. In fact, these are intimately connected with one another, and complementary to each other, and they signify a life which is perfectly evangelical in nature.


7. Meaning of the sacrament of Holy Orders

The sacraments of baptism and holy orders enable Christians to share, through the paschal mystery of our Lord, in the priesthood of Christ. Holy orders is a participation in the “capital” function of Christ the priest. It confers the ministerial priesthood which is different, not only in degree, but in essence from the common priesthood bestowed by baptism.[11] It makes priests to be “ministers” that is, representatives of Christ as head of the church and partakers of the authority by which Christ himself causes his body to grow and sanctifies and governs it.[12]

Presbyters “by virtue of the unction of the Holy Spirit, are marked with a special character by which they resemble Christ the priest?”[13] As other Christs and with the love of Christ, they are sent to save the People of God; they are called to direct men, through the ecclesial community founded on God’s word in the Eucharist, to an ever deeper and larger life in the Spirit of Christ, which brings them progressively closer to living like those who have risen in the Lord, always witnessing to his resurrection.

“The choice of priestly celi­bacy does not interfere with the normal development of a person’s emotional life, but, on the con­trary, it presupposes it. A celi­bate is called to express his abil­ity to love in a special way.”

8. The priesthood and the evangelical virtues:

The evangelical virtues are at the same Lime both imperatives and graces of priestly …consecration. A candidate for the priesthood, Py his consecration to Christ the priest, assumes its° the gospel’s commitment connected with it, prolonging the very mission of Christ and ‘caring witness to hint by an evangelical life.

The ministerial priesthood demands a special kind of love, which is called pastoral charity by which a priest endeavors to give his entire life for the salvation of others. The ministerial priesthood requires this so that love :an be offered to others. The evangelical counsels are precisely to be of service in this pastoral charity.

If it is true that every Christian is consecrated to God in Christ and to the service if his brothers, it is no less true that consecration to God in the priesthood demands in even more generous and complete dedication. It is precisely in the practice of the evangelical virtues that one finds an adequate response to the ideal of priestly perfection.

9. Specific nature of celibacy

Celibacy has a clearly positive value in hat it makes one totally available for the exercise of the priestly ministry. It means consecration to God with an undivided heart. It ; a sign which testifies to an almost paradoxical love for the kingdom of heaven.

Speaking of celibacy, the synod cited above states: “priestly celibacy harmonizes fully with the calling to follow Christ and also with the unconditioned response of the called, who assumes the duty of pastoral service.” The same document underlines the fact that “if celibacy is lived in the spirit of the gospel, in prayer, vigilance, poverty, joy, the shunning of honours and in fraternal love, it becomes a sign which cannot long remain hidden; on the contrary, it will effectively proclaim Christ to the human race, even in our time.”[14]

Celibacy transcends the natural order. It involves a total personal commitment. It cannot I be maintained except with God’s grace. More than a mere law of the church, celibacy must be understood as a “qualification” which receives added value because it is publicly offered in the presence of the whole church. Celibacy is an offering, an oblation, a real and true sacrifice publicly given, not merely the giving up of the sacrament of marriage, for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. “The seminarian must understand this form of life not as something imposed from without, but rather as an expression of his own free giving, which, in turn, is accepted and ratified by the church in the person of the bishop.”[15]

10. Celibacy and the apostolate:

It is a fact that Jesus Christ placed before all his disciples very strict requirements in order that they might be his followers. But he demanded even more from those whom he called to follow him as his apostles. Peter, Andrew, James, and John left everything to follow Christ (Mk. 1, 16-20). Jesus himself praised celibacy embraced for the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 19, 12). The apostle Paul, who personally lived this evangelical radicalism, considered celibacy a divine gift through which, with an undivided heart, one could better dedicate oneself to the Lord.

Through celibacy, the availability of the ministers of the church is reinforced, their power to bear witness is increased, and they preserve the freedom to oppose every oppression. The celibate shares wondrously in the “kenosis,” which was the chosen way of Christ in his paschal mystery.

Implanted in priestly life, even though not absolutely necessary either for the priesthood or the exercise of the priesthood, celibacy is most fitting because it sheds lustre on the nature of the priesthood and it enhances the work of the priesthood itself. It eminently actualizes that consecration to God, conformity to Christ, and’ dedication to the church which are the characteristics proper to the priesthood. It expresses the ideal which the priestly character is supposed to convey.

11. Celibacy viewed eschatologically

Celibacy brings into focus and gives impetus to priestly love. It enables a priest to perfect this love and, in a very real way, to anticipate the future life of love with the Risen Christ to which the eyes of a priest must be turned.[16]

By celibacy, embraced and lived for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, a priest answers the call to imitate Christ. He anticipates the world to come, already present through faith and charity. Consecrated celibacy constitutes a sign of eschatological hope, a prophetic sign of the future reality when all men, united in Jesus by his Spirit, will live only to glorify the Father.

Every Christian has a duty to be united with the love of Christ and to bear witness to this love. Thus, every Christian life is permeated with an eschatological character, from martyrdom to the religious life, from the priesthood to the married state. Strictly speaking, celibacy does not, therefore, confer an eschatological character on the priesthood. The priest already has this himself, just as Christians in all other states and vocations possess it in themselves, in their own special way.[17] But, priestly celibacy harmonizes with the eschatological aspect of the priesthood, and in certain ways, reinforces this aspect and enables the priest to be very fully immersed in the perfect love of the Risen Christ.[18]


12. Problems of priestly celibacy.

Today the question is asked whether a priest could not remain a good priest without remaining celibate. However one looks at it—whether from the natural or the Christian point of view—the choice of priestly celibacy seems to imply the sacrifice of sumething good. For instance, it is possible to suppose that marriage, in certain places, might facilitate an interest in priestly vocations and even, for some priests, might mean a better balanced emotional Life. However, such reasoning would not be able to take away the fact that celibacy, in itself, is more appropriate to the mission of the priest and that this sacrifice can be transformed into redemptive love.

There is no state of life or vocation that does not imply the sacrifice of something good. This is not only because vocations are lived by created human beings, but also because they come from an outpouring of the grace of the Easter mystery of our Lord.

Whether it is appropriate to link celibacy with the priestly office or to allow the two to be separated in some limited way is not simply a matter of disciplinary choice. It is a pastoral decision of the church’s government based not solely on reasons of faith, nor on the results of sociological research, but on a mixture of both.[19]In any analysis of the values of the priesthood, these two elements are codetermining factors, that is, a living faith and a studied reflection on the experience of priests.

13. Reasons for celibacy

The church has deep reasons for demanding celibacy of her priests. They are founded on the priest’s imitation of Christ, on his role as representative of Christ, head and leader of the community, on his availability for service which is indispensable for the constant building up of the church.[20] The church is not prompted by reasons of “ritualistic purity” nor by the concept that only through celibacy is holiness possible.

Among the historical reasons adduced to justify a priest’s celibacy there may be some which are no longer valid with the passing of time, but this should not cause the rejection of the connection between celibacy and the priesthood. This connection is a living reality in the church. It is experience that is linked not so much to this or that argument as to the fundamental fact and reality of Christianity itself, which is the person of Jesus Christ, at the same time virgin and priest.[21]

The church has never set out celibacy as simply an external, impersonal element, but as an integral part of a priest’s life and ministry. It always originates as a gift given from above, a gift which pervades a priestly vocation, becoming an essential and qualifying component of it.

14. Relationship between celibacy and the priesthood:

The relationship between celibacy and the priesthood appears all the more clear as one considers the christological, ecclesiological, and eschatological aspects of celibacy. This is why the Second Vatican Council speaks of a manifold fitness (multimodant convenientiam) when referring to the consecration and mission of the priest within the framework of the mystery of Christ and the church.[22] The 1971 Synod of Bishops re-affirmed the existing law of celibacy “by reason of the intimate and manifold fitness between the office of pastor and the celibate life.”[23]

A priest is a representative of the person of Christ. By his ordination he is deputed to build up the People of God through his ministry of word and eucharist and to show forth brotherly love in a unique and sacramental manner. Equally in both these ways he contributes to the cause of the building of the kingdom.

The invitation of Jesus to the apostles to leave everything enabled them to be more available for the coming of the kingdom. But it did more. It also offered them the opportunity of entering the apostolic communion where they could experience deep and enriching interpersonal relationships.

Priestly celibacy is a communion in the celibacy of Christ. The newness of the. Catholic priesthood is an intimate sharing in the very newness of Christ.[24] It is a vision of faith that has consequently governed the development of arguments in favor of sacred celibacy in its christological, ecclesiological and eschatological meaning.[25]

A priest, who really shares in the one and only priesthood of our Redeemer, finds in him “an immediate model and a supreme ideal.” Such a high ideal is obviously capable of inspiring heroism and even the most difficult undertakings.[26] Hence, there arises a desire in those exercising the priesthood to reproduce the same conditions and outlook of life as Christ experienced, in order to effect the closest possible imitation of him.[27]

15. Modern difficulties with clerical celibacy:

Priestly celibacy does not enjoy the esteem of modern society.[28] Ideas today are in a process of radical revision. Society does not stress the stability of vocation, but rather the opposite. This situation is especially responsible for producing a celibacy crisis. According to one opinion, celibacy interferes to some degree with the priest’s mission to the poor and downtrodden. The priest should want to be part of the human struggle, without privileges, exemptions, or limitations. He should want to share in the basic human experiences (work, insecurity, housing, love, culture, recreation, etc.). Most of all he should feel strongly drawn to human love.

“Looked at from today’s point of view, the celibate must obvious­ly be a person who is allowed to develop to human emotional maturity while preserving a life of con­tinence as an expression of apos­tolic love.”

Apart from the fact that today it is not easily understood, priestly celibacy is especially difficult for those who feel their autonomy is restricted or their rights are being ignored. In these situations, a person instinctively seeks, as a form of compensation, a supplemental dose of affection, even though it is forbidden.

Indeed, a search for compensatory affection may be made easy by the simple Fact that women, with whom a priest establishes a relationship by reason of his ministry, are inclined to confide in him precisely because his celibate state encourages trust. At times women might seek in him masculine support. Furthermore, in today’s widely promiscuous environment, the problem is made more acute because of provocative fashions and the widespread use of the means of social communication (press, cinema, radio, television),[29] dangers to which the chastity of candidates for the priesthood is also exposed.

16. Presuppositions for training for celibacy:

Looked at from today’s point of view, the celibate must obviously be a person 1 who is allowed to develop to human emotional maturity while preserving a life of continence as an expression of apostolic love.[30] Continence, when it is not inspired i interiorly by apostolic love, is not the continence of the gospel. For the consecrated person who has chosen celibacy in order to live and communicate ecclesial charity in the most heartfelt and unique way possible, continence without apostolic love is a contradiction.

A celibate person who is emotionally and spiritually mature does not feel himself hemmed in by canonical legislation extrinsic to his life. Nor does such a celibate see the necessary precautions, which he ‘ must always take, as something imposed on him from outside.

Celibate chastity is not some kind of taxation that has to be paid to the Lord, but rather a gift that one receives from his mercy. A person entering this state of life must not see himself so much taking on a burden as rather receiving a liberating grace.

The purpose of seminary formation is to form a responsible and mature man into a faithful and perfect priest. Modern conditions in the world, socially negative as they are, do not make becoming mature and responsible an easy task. This places an increasing personal burden on the candidates for the priesthood themselves, since the duty of fully bringing their vocations to realization rests basically on them.



17. Threefold structure of seminary training:

An enlightened training for priestly celibacy will take into account all the aims of seminary formation. Woven into this general pattern of formation will be the specific elements necessary for a training in priestly celibacy. It is precisely these elements which are the object of these guidelines.

Seminary training must have as its aim the forming of men into shepherds of souls, after the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, teacher, priest, and pastor.[31] Such an educational purpose presupposes and implies that the students will be at the same time formed as men, as Christians, and as priests.[32] Therefore, plans for priestly formation should have three aims, answering the need to form personalities which are integrally human, Christian, and priestly.

Educational planning must always show a full and balanced regard for the relationships among these three levels of formation, never giving more attention to one than to another, neither separating Christian formation from the human, nor priestly formation from Christian.

Essential distinctions, to be harmonized in unity, must be kept clear in this threefold structure of training—human, Christian, priestly. So too their complementarity and interaction: indeed, if training for manhood is a pre-condition for living a Christian life, grace is the dynamic force for the realization of a full humanity.


18. Concept of human maturity:

The specific matter of priestly celibacy is associated with the basic :problem of the emotional maturity of the candidate. It is part of the wider and essential problem of psychological and moral maturity. Human maturity, as shown by a mature personality, is a harmony of elements and an integration of tendencies and values.

As modem psychologists correctly observe, maturity is not one single quality; it has many facets, each of which can be developed in various ways, and must be carefully considered when determining the criteria by which maturity is judged. Maturity, then, is a global condition qualified, by a typical mode of being, and by a style which, while it escapes objective measurement, manifests itself in its own special way.

Maturity is a complex reality which cannot be easily or fully defined. In general, however, one can judge as mature a man who has brought to reality his vocation as a man; in other words, a person who has acquired a ready and habitual capacity to act freely; a man who has integrated his developed human potential with habits of virtue; a man who has acquired an easy and habitual emotional self-control by integrating his emotional drives and placing them at the service of his reason; a man who enjoys community living because of his willingness to give himself to serve others; one who devotes himself to his profession steadily and calmly; one whose conduct obviously follows his conscience; a man who uses freedom to explore, investigate, and develop; who can mold events and bring them to future fruition; finally, a man who has succeeded in bringing all his specifically human possibilities and potentialities to their due development.

19. Human maturity in education:

Educating a man means promoting his “growth” in various primary areas (physical, intellectual, moral, social, religious) and in certain secondary areas (artistic training, vocational training—in the sense of professional education, training fo a certain role in human society), but in such a way that the whole complex work of education be so coordinated as to result in a unified whole of the biopsycho-social personality of each person in his own proper and particular individuality.

What makes a man educated is his ability freely, consciously, and responsibly to will “the good” with the fullness of his psychological and spiritual personality. This is the kind of human maturity which the Council presented as the purpose of education. To be educated to this degree is the inalienable right of every man.[33] This is all the more applicable when one is dealing with the formation of students in a seminary. This is because God calls real men and if there are no men, there can be no call.[34]

Seminary formation must allow the candidates to develop as men in such a way that their religious training will not replace their human formation, but rather will gradually penetrate and purify it.

20. Human emotional maturity:

Maturity must be acquired in all its aspects, including, naturally and above all, emotional maturity. Indeed the role of the emotions must be considered a fundamental element in the building of the personality. For this element is one of the major contributory processes in personality-integration, in the unfolding of emotional and sexual relationships, finding responsible fulfilment in work or a profession, and in cultivating friendly social contacts. Precisely because the emotions are looked at as basic to a person, emotional maturity can be held to be an indispensable requirement for the best functioning of a personality.

Considered as a part of psychic life, the emotions are variously understood: either as the complex of internal and external reactions to satisfaction, or as the ability to show feelings, or as the ability to love, or as the potential for a man to form attachments.

A well integrated person knows how to make his reason rule his emotional nature, while the less adjusted a person is, the more his emotions will dominate his rational nature. Therefore, an educational program that aims to form a well-developed personality must above all help the students to acquire the ability to balance their emotions.

Deeply connected with the emotional factor is the problem of adaptation, which consists in facing one’s problems calmly, accepting responsibility for them, and working out solutions for the difficulties encountered. Inability to adapt, on the other hand, carries with it a domination by negative emotions, hostility factors, a feeling of dependence, social inadequacy, and, at the same time, the pressure of unresolved problems.

21. Man’s sexual maturity:

When referring to emotions, the “sexual dimension” is especially important. The existence of a close link between emotions and sexuality and their interdependence in the wholeness of a personality cannot be denied, even though these two things are diversely understood. In order to talk about a person as mature, his sexual instinct must have overcome two immature tendencies, narcissism and homosexuality, and must have arrived at heterosexuality. This is the first step in sexual development, but a second step is also necessary, namely “love” must be seen as gift and not a form of selfishness.

The consequence of this development is sexual conduct on a level that can be properly called “human,” whereby a person gains self-knowledge with self-esteem, and acquires a new concept of himself.

“Sexual maturity represents a vital step in the attainment of psychological adulthood. Hence, it is necessary to give a proper place to sex in the total picture of a personality in the process of formation.”

Sexuality must be considered as a determining factor in the maturing of the personality. Sexual maturity represents a vital step in the attainment of psychological

adulthood. Hence, it is necessary to give a proper place to sex in the total picture of a personality in the process of formation.

A mature sexuality, with the characteristics here underlined, cannot be attained without conflict or without sacrifice and difficulty. A maturing person must always struggle because at every moment he has to make a choice: what need, that is, should he satisfy along one or other line of his potentialities.

22. Integrated sexuality:

To adequately judge what is “well­ adjusted sexuality” remains a most difficult problem. Sex should be looked on as one of the human values, not as something negative or frustrating for an individual’s development. The intrinsic worth of sex must be seen and accepted as having a proper place in the scale of values, a place that is important as an “element of expression” and as “an integrating factor.”

Sexual maturity entails not only accepting sex as part of the totality of. human values, but also seeing it as giving a possibility for “offering,” that is, a capacity for giving pure love, altruistic love. When such a capacity is sufficiently acquired, an •individual becomes capable of spontaneous contacts, emotion control scandal self-c commitment of his free will. This giving­ aspect of sex involves a feeling of being “one for another.” Therefore, self-giving is not entirely separate from receiving. Sex introduces into life an aspect of relationship and, therefore, the capability of both giving and receiving, a disposition to accept love that is offered in order to let oneself be fully possessed.

23. Human self-control:

In order to make full use of his potential, an individual must gain self­ control. What he must control are the ‘ continuing changes that go on within him, as they go on in everyone, that is, his desires, impulses, thoughts and habits. Self­control really means self-discipline: imposing order on mental activity and ‘ external behavior in such a way as to produce joy, happiness, and well-being.

The dynamic structuring of a person is marked by conflicts and tensions. He only reaches his full maturity by a gradual and progressive combination of contrasting forces. There is tension between a person’s ideals and his drives, and it is exactly in this area that self-control is required if one wants to attain stability, adaptation, and success.

Self-control does not mean a static quality or a colorless stability in one’s social and personal behavior. One can note rather in the human psyche an impulse toward self-improvement. It is a tendency which, through conscious action and personal effort, goes beyond merely spontaneous development or simple biological growth. Men do not only grow and develop but, since they think and are free, they also make progress. This interior drive that generates progress is nothing other than the actualization of man’s ever-fresh potentialities. The process of making a personality whole is done by repeatedly satisfying some drives and not satisfying others. In other words, it is brought about by channeling both the drives and activated potentialities of an individual. In man’s very dynamism there is implicit a practice of asceticism—but one of an eminently positive kind.


24. The Christian dimension in education:

Christian education—to which a Christian as a child of God through baptism has a right—ought to help a person become mature not only in a human way, but principally in a Christian sense. Christian maturity comes about by a gradual growth in the faith, by the adoration of God as Father–especially through participation in the liturgy—by growing more perfect in Christ, and by contributing to the building up of his mystical body.

A Christian, even though he is already living in Christ, can never feel adequately transformed in his Spirit. He has continually to complete the work of creation-redemption within himself as well as in other men and in all earthly things. Nevertheless, one can affirm that there does exist something called Christian maturity.

Seminary training, then, must bring maturity to the Christian personality of the students.[35] The education given in seminaries must primarily envisage unity, that is, what is common, and only after that, differentiation.[36] Hallowing this line, the training in seminaries should not be completely different from the normal education of the Christian. In fact there are not two types of education, but one basic type. This is the education of a Christian man, which at a later stage is differentiated between the distinct vocation of the lay person and that of the priest.

25. Maturity as a requirement of the Christian life:

Even prior to its requirement for the priestly state, human maturity is an elementary requirement for a Christian life. The history of priests who have defected is often that of men somehow lacking: of personalities without unity or integration where one would look in vain for maturity and balance.

Christianity certainly should be seen in its transcendental dimension, but it can also be viewed in its capacity for human advancement. This is especially true today when there is a particular sensitivity about everything that concerns the development of mankind.

Psychological and emotional maturity is the goat of the many social and personal efforts being made for the complete development of man. It can be viewed as the premise of a rich supernatural development. This is the kind of maturity that Saint Paul exhorted the Ephesians to acquire so that they might arrive at the dimension of “the perfect man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself” (Eph. 4, 13)

The invitation to develop a fully human personality, although always present in the documents of the Magisterium, has recently taken on a particular urgency because of the progress of human science.[37]

26. Emotional maturity of the Christian

Emotional maturity receives enormous help from a Christian education. Indeed, insofar as the conditioning of the emotions is concerned, attention should not only be paid to natural factors, but also to the emotional repercussions resulting from sharing through baptism in the very life of Jesus Christ, being under the influence of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and hearing the word of the Lord.

A Christian lives in the Catholic ‘ Church, which is essentially a “brotherhood ‘ and a union of love,” a communion of life, charity, and truth.”[38] So sharing in the extensive social life of the church, he finds ways wide open to love in his encounter with God and with his brothers.

Living in union with God and his neighbor, a Christian will find the kind of peace and security that endures, despite 1 possible disturbances that come from struggling with his lower nature. The fact is that a Christian life does not eliminate the spontaneous reactions of nature, nor does it destroy neurotic inclinations acquired in childhood or deriving from a mistaken or an incomplete type of religious upbringing.

In this connection, it is good to mention that Christian training can help a great deal towards a man’s positive acceptance of himself for what he really is, with his complex make-up, capacities, weaknesses, and lack of talent. Accepting oneself is an essential prerequisite for the personal maturing process at all levels. When, instead of’ such positive -self­acceptance, there is the phenomenon called regression, one frequently sees abnormal behavior with compensatory overtones.

27. The sexual maturity of a Christian

Christian pedagogy, in accordance with God’s revelation, has its own proper perspective and evaluation of sex. Christianity sees sex as part of God’s creation, a reality which does not have the body alone as its object, but involves the entire human being, a reality which has a determining role in the way a man matures, both physically and morally and, therefore, in the way a man develops in his resemblance to God. It sees sex as a reality which is actualized in personal encounter. Precisely because of this mutual person to person encounter, human sexual relationships are fundamentally different from animal mating.

In Christian education, love means the ability to open one’s self to the needs of one’s neighbor. It means conquering every form of selfishness. It means self-giving to others for the sake of others. Finally, it means active participation in the life of the community. Christian education holds that this kind of authentic love, which is the vocation of all men, can be lived both in matrimony and in celibacy.

Sexual fulfillment achieved in marriage is not necessary for the emotional formation of the human personality; nor will marriage in itself bring about harmonious development of the emotions. On the other hand, man is capable of sublimating his sexuality and finding fulfillment in non-sexual emotional relationships.

The virtue that governs the use of sex is chastity. This is a natural virtue; but in a Christian it acquires a supernatural dimension. Christian chastity leads to sanctity inasmuch as it is part of the supernatural order. The workings of the theological virtues give a new and higher significance to chastity and even change its very nature.[39] It becomes a gift from God with a power that enables the will not so much to suppress sexual desires as to integrate the sex drive into the entirety of the Christian personality.

28. Christian self-control:

Dominating control over sensual passion is demanded for a real spiritual life in Christ (1 Cor. 1, 23). To suffer together with Jesus means to mortify one’s passions for the purpose of being mystically united to Christ crucified. It is impossible to yield to concupiscence and at the same time lead the life of the Spirit (Rom. 8, 13; 1 Cor. 6, 9; FT& 5, 5).

The aster mystery, which, through baptism, is at the root of Christian life, expresses in the truest and most vital way the basic dynamism of Christian existence. This mystery effectively brings together the basic requirements of a person both as human and as Christian, namely a self­affirmation in the very act of giving oneself to God and to neighbor.

In the present plan of salvation, the paschal mystery offers a theological and psychological basis for the kind of asceticism which alone seems capable of re-establishing the original harmony in man. The way of life revealed to us by the Easter mystery inseparably unites “renunciation” of some kinds of conduct with genuine “offering” of self, just as the death and resurrection of Jesus are theologically inseparable.

Urged on by love, which grows stronger not weaker with effort, a Christian practices asceticism without even adverting to its existence, and renounces things often without realizing it, because he feels the powerful attraction of a higher ideal.


29. Formation from a pastoral viewpoint:

The fundamental feature of a priestly personality, according to the Second Vatican Council, is that of a shepherd of souls, on the model of Jesus Christ, teacher, •priest, and pastor.[40] As a pastor, the priest must possess the charism of supporting and guiding the Christian community; he must build up the Catholic Church.

The principal purpose of seminary formation is to train true pastors of souls.[41] Pastoral formation is not to be only a separate aspect or part of formation; it should characterize priestly formation as such; should inspire and penetrate everything that has to do with the personal formation of candidates for the priesthood.

Everything in seminary formation ought to converge with complete harmony towards the goal of forming priest-pastors.[42] This means that all the elements that make up the structure and function of a seminary have to be thought out and effectively geared toward the attainment of this goal. 1 Educators have to keep before their eyes, besides their specialized activity and its aim, th& pastoral formation of the seminarians.

30. Human and Christian maturity in priests:

A priestly vocation demands human and Christian maturity so that the answer to this divine call may be an answer based on faith, and so that the seminarian may be • able to understand the sense of a vocation from God, and realize what it demands.

The specific maturity of the priest’ must be sought in what differentiates him from the ordinary Christian, that is to say in • his unique relationship with the body of Christ present in the holy eucharist as the principle and source of the ecclesial community of salvation and its saving mission. The priest is a “man of God taken from among men.” His spirituality oscillates between these two poles, God and mankind. The relation between these two terms of reference is not one of alternatives, either God or men, but rather one of unity, both God and men. To be closely united to mankind a priest has to be deeply united with God first

During his time of formation, a seminarist must pass from pre-adolescent immaturity to adult maturity, from an ordinary Christian life to a mature Christian life. In other words, he must learn to live, in a profoundly intense way, a life of faith, hope, and charity in Christ Finally, he must advance to the level of priestly maturity, a more intimate sharing in the teaching, sanctifying and ruling mission of Christ the priest. Sacerdotal maturity includes and strengthens human and Christian maturity, but at the same time, it goes beyond these, permeating all the human and Christian elements in him, including, therefore, his emotional, sexual and active life.

31. Emotional maturity in the priest:

The choice of priestly celibacy does not interfere with the normal development of a person’s emotional life, but, on the contrary, it presupposes it. A celibate is called to express his ability to love in a special way. Having grown up in human and divine love, a priest can responsibly decide the manner in which he will, for his whole life, form his emotional relationships.

Celibacy chosen “for the sake of the kindgom of heaven” is the celibacy proper to the priest. It is falling in love. It is possible only for someone who has integrated it into his spiritual life. It is a matter of choosing exclusively, perpetually, and completely the unique and supreme love of Christ for the purpose of more deeply sharing his lot by the resplendent and heroic logic of a singular and unlimited love for Christ the Lord and for his church.[43]

By virtue of his celibacy, a priest becomes more totally a man of God. He lets himself be more completely taken over by Christ, and lives only for him. Virginal love invites him to possess God in a fuller way, to reflect him and give him to others in his fullness.

The love that a priest has for others must he essentially pastoral in aim. Externally it should be shown by a warm-heartedness which is indispensable in disposing people to accept the spiritual support a priest offers them.

A priest can form true and profound friendships. These are particularly useful to his emotional development when they are fostered within the priestly fraternity.[44]

32. Sexual maturity in the priest:

Celibacy, as a personal option made for a higher good, even one completely on the natural level, can result in a fully mature and integrated personality. This can be even more true when celibacy is chosen for the kingdom of heaven, as can be seen in the lives of many saints and faithful, who dedicate themselves in a celibate life to the service of God and man, promoting human and Christian progress:[45]

The exclusive nature of a candidate’s choice of priestly celibacy, when he becomes a special possession of God, determines also his duties and particular dedication to the love of God in Christ. One who chooses virginity in virtue of his determination to give himself exclusively to sharing in the priesthood of Christ is obliged to grow in love of God and his neighbor. If he does not progress in this love, he is not following his vocation.

There is something sublime in the qualities roused in a man’s heart by natural fatherhood: an altruistic spirit, the assumption of heavy responsibilities, a capacity for love and a dedication enough to make any sacrifice, daily bearing of life’s burdens and difficulties, prudent care for the future, etc. However, all this is equally true of spiritual paternity. Moreover, spiritual fatherhood, not being confined to the natural order, is even more responsible and heroic.

For this reason, celibacy is not for everyone. Celibacy requires a special vocation front the Lord. Throughout the whole of life, it is never without risk and danger, since something can always occur to take the heart out of a man’s universal and pastoral fatherhood and his exclusive dedication to Christ.

33. Self-control of the priest:

Continuous self-control implies constant effort. This is necessary not only to acquire emotional maturity, but also for persevering in it. Ongoing self-control impedes regression from emotional adulthood once this is attained. It is an irreplaceable factor in the practice of human, Christian, and priestly chastity, which should always be able to check any new or unforeseen resurgence of emotional stimulation.[46]

In the Christian view of continuous and progressive ; self-control, priestly celibacy appears as a lifelong offering to our Lord. To be consecrated in holy celibacy is not simply a single action made once at ordination. It is rather something that has to be renewed again and again, in the constant vigilance ‘a priest must exercise when faced with human attraction and the emotions and passion of affection and love.

Just as with natural human love, the fullness of love which is involved in celibacy requires the daily practice of glad self- , renunciation. This is the only way to conquer’ the difficulties that, with the passage of time,’ can come from boredom or from the weakness of the flesh.

A priest should always find an incentive’ for self-control in the thought that the personal sacrifice demanded by his celibacy is serving] the whole church. His sacrifice underlines the’ spiritual dimension that must mark all love’ worthy of the name and it merits grace for’ Christian families.[47]

Party III (Guidelines for Semina ry Formation) and Part IV (Function of Educational Seminary) are not available

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Holy Thursday, April 11, 1974.

 You will find the full document in Italian: Click here

[1] Cf. Paul VI, Enc. Letter, Sacerdota lis caellbatus, 24 June 1967: 44.5 59 (1967), p. 682, n. 61.

[2] Cf, Vat. Coon. Il, Deer. Optatarn (otitis, n. 10; Deer. Presbyterorum ordinis, n. 16; Deer. Perfectae caritatis, n. 12; Paul VI, Apost. Exhort. Evangelica testificatio, 29 June 1971: 4,43 63 (1971), p. 505, n. IS; Synod Doc., 30 Nov. 1971, De sacerdotio ministeriali, part a., I, n. 4, d.: AAS, 63 (1971), p. 917.

[3]Synrrod Doc., 30 Nov. 1971, De sacerdotio ministerial, loc. cit., p. 917.

[4]Cf. Vat. Corm, IL, Deer. Presbyterorum ordinis, n. 16.

[5]Cf. Paul VI, Enc. Letter, Sacerdota lis caellbatus, p. 684 ff., n. 70.

[6]Cf. Paul VI, Erte. Letter, Saceniotalis caelibatus, p. 687, n. 75.

[7]Cf. Vat. Court. II, Past. Coast. Gaudium et spes, n. 1; Vat. Coon. II, Decl. Gravissinuon educationis, n. I; Paul VI, Enc. Letter, Sacerdotalis caelibatus, loc. cit., p.681, n. 61.

[8]Cf. Vat. Coun. It, Deer. Optatam roam, n. 1.

[9] Cf. Vat, Conn, II, Deer. Presbyterorum ordinis, n. 16.

[10]Cf. Paul VI, Enc. Letter, Sacerdotalis caelibatta, loc. cit., p. 665, n. 20.

[11]Cf. Vat, Coon. IL Dog. Coast. Lumen gentium, n. gentium, n. 10.

[12]Cf. Vat. Coun. IL Deer. Presbyterorum ordinis, n. 2.

[13]Vat. Coon. II, Deer. Presbyterorum ordinis, n. 2. Cf. Vat. COun, II, Dog. COILS!. Lumen gentiwn, n. 28; Paul VI. Enc. Letter, Sacerdotalis caelibatus, loc. cit., p. 664, rt. 19 ff.

[14]Synod Doc., 30 Nov. 1971, De sacerdotio ministering toc, cit., p. 915.

[15] Synod Doc., 30 Nov. 1971, De sacerdotio ministeriali, loc. cit., p. 916.

[16]Cf. Vat, Coun. II, Deer. Optatam totius, n. 10; Deer. Presbyteronun ordinis, n.16

[17]Cf. Vat. Coun, IL Deer. Presbyterorum ordinis, n. 16; Paul VI, Enc. Letter, Sacerdotalis caelibatus, loc. Cit., p. 663, n.17.

[18] Cf. Vat. Coun. II, Decr. Optatam totius, n. 10; Paul VI, Enc. Letter, Sacerdotalis caelibatus, loc. cit., pp. 670 ff., nn. 33-34

[19] Cf. Vat. Coun. Ii, Dog. Const. Lumen gentium, n. 29; Paul VI, Enc. Letter, Sacerdotalis caelibatus, loc. cit., p. 674, n. 42.

[20] Cf. Vat. Coun. II, Decr. Presbyterorum ordinis, n. 16; Synod Doc., 30 Nov. 1971, De sacerdotio ministeriali, loc. Cit., p. 915.

[21]Cf. Vat. Coun. II, dog. Const. Lumen gentium, nn. 43, 46.

[22]Cf. Vat. Coun. II, Decr. Presbyterorum ordinis, n. 16.

[23] Synod Doc., 30 Nov. 1971, De sacerdotio ministeriali, loc. cit., p. 916.

[24] Cf. Paul Vi, Enc. Letter, Sacerdotalis caelibatus, loc. cit., p. 664, n. 19.

[25] Cf. Paul VI, Enc. Letter, Sacerdotalis caelibatus, loc. cit., pp. 663-670, nn. 17-34.

[26] Cf. Paul Vi, Enc. Letter, Sacerdotalis caelibatus, loc. cit., p. 664, n. 19. P. 666, n. 31.

[27] Cf. Paul VI, Enc. Letter, Sacerdotalis caelibatus, loc. cit., p. 665, n. 21.

[28] Cf. Paul VI, Enc. Letter, Sacerdotalis caelibatus, loc. cit., p. 657, n. 1.

[29]Cf. Vat. Coun. II, Decr. Optatam totius, n. 10.

[30]Cf. Vat. Coun. II, Decr. Optatam totius, nn. 10-11.

[31]Cf. Vat. Coun. II, Decr. Optatam totius, n. 4; Dog. Const. Lumen gentium, n. 28.

[32] Paul VI, in the Enc. Letter Sunvni Dei Yerbuna, 4 Nov. 1963: AAS 55 (1963), pp. 984 if. calls attention to “the necessity of the simultaneous formation of the man, the Christian and the priest” and affirms that “the formation of the man must go hand in hand with that of the Christian and the future priest.”

[33]Cf. Vat. Coun. II, Decl. Gravissimum educationis, n. 1.

[34]Cf. Vat. Coun. II, Decr. Optatam totius, n. 11.

[35]Cf. Vat. Coun, IL Deer. Osman todus, nn. 3,8, 11; S.C. for Cath. Ed., Ratio fundamentalis butitutionis sacenlotalis, Rome 1970. on. 48-58.

[36]Cf. Vat. Coun, IL Dog. Const. Lumen gentium, Chapt. II, III, IV.

[37]Cf. Vat. Court. Il, Dad . Gravissinuun educationis, mi. 1-2; Deer. Optatam Wilms, nn. 10-Il; Deer. Apostolicam actuositatent, n. 29; Deer. Perfectae cantons, n. 12; Paul VI, Enc. Letter, Populorwn progressio, 26 March 1967: AriS 59 (1967), p. 265, n. 16; S.C. for Cadi. Ed., Ratio fundarnentala, Foc. cit., 51.

[38]Vat. Coun. II, Dog. Const. Lumen gentium, n. 9.

[39]Cf. Summa theological, I-II, q. 63 a. 4.

[40]Cf. Vat. Coun. II, Dog. Const. Lumen gentium, n. 28; Decr. Presbyterorum ordinis, nn. 4-9.

[41]Cf. Vat. Coun. II, Decr. Optatam totius, n. 4.

[42]Cf. Vat. Coun. II, Decr. Optatam totius, nn. 8-20; S.C. for Cath. Ed., Rotio fundamentalis, loc. Cit., nn. 44-49.

[43]Cf. Paul VI, Enc. Letter, Sacerdotalis caelibatus, loc. cit., pp. 666 ff., nn. 24 ff.

[44]Cf. Vat. Coun. II, Decr. Presbyterorum ordinis, nn. 8, 14; Paul VI, Enc. Letter, Sacerdotalis caelibatus, loc. cit., pp. 688-689, nn. 79-81.

[45] Cf. Synod Doc., 30 Nov. 1971, De sacerdotio ministeriali, loc. cit., p. 915.

[46] Cf. Vat. Coun. II, Decr. Presbyterorum ordinis, n. 16; Paul VI, Enc. Letter, Sacerdotalis caelibatus, loc. cit., pp. 686-688, nn. 73, 77.

[47] Cf. Paul VI, Enc. Letter, Sacerdotalis caelibatus, loc. cit., p. 679, n. 57.

1879-Leo XIII- On Restoration of Christian Philosophy


Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII promulgated on August 4, 1879.

To the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, and Bishops of the Catholic World in Grace and Communion With the Apostolic See.

The only-begotten Son of the Eternal Father, who came on earth to bring salvation and the light of divine wisdom to men, conferred a great and wonderful blessing on the world when, about to ascend again into heaven, He commanded the Apostles to go and teach all nations,[1] and left the Church which He had founded to be the common and supreme teacher of the peoples. For men whom the truth had set free were to be preserved by the truth; nor would the fruits of heavenly doctrines by which salvation comes to men have long remained had not the Lord Christ appointed an unfailing teaching authority to train the minds to faith. And the Church built upon the promises of its own divine Author, whose charity it imitated, so faithfully followed out His commands that its constant aim and chief wish was this: to teach religion and contend forever against errors. To this end assuredly have tended the incessant labors of individual bishops; to this end also the published laws and decrees of councils, and especially the constant watchfulness of the Roman Pontiffs, to whom, as successors of the blessed Peter in the primacy of the Apostles, belongs the right and office of teaching and confirming their brethren in the faith. Since, then, according to the warning of the apostle, the minds of Christ’s faithful are apt to be deceived and the integrity of the faith to be corrupted among men by philosophy and vain deceit,[2] the supreme pastors of the Church have always thought it their duty to advance, by every means in their power, science truly so called, and at the same time to provide with special care that all studies should accord with the Catholic faith, especially philosophy, on which a right interpretation of the other sciences in great part depends. Indeed, venerable brethren, on this very subject among others, We briefly admonished you in Our first encyclical letter; but now, both by reason of the gravity of the subject and the condition of the time, we are again compelled to speak to you on the mode of taking up the study of philosophy which shall respond most fitly to the excellence of faith, and at the same time be consonant with the dignity of human science.

2. Whoso turns his attention to the bitter strifes of these days and seeks a reason for the troubles that vex public and private life must come to the conclusion that a fruitful cause of the evils which now afflict, as well as those which threaten, us lies in this: that false conclusions concerning divine and human things, which originated in the schools of philosophy, have now crept into all the orders of the State, and have been accepted by the common consent of the masses. For, since it is in the very nature of man to follow the guide of reason in his actions, if his intellect sins at all his will soon follows; and thus it happens that false opinions, whose seat is in the understanding, influence human actions and pervert them. Whereas, on the other hand, if men be of sound mind and take their stand on true and solid principles, there will result a vast amount of benefits for the public and private good. We do not, indeed, attribute such force and authority to philosophy as to esteem it equal to the task of combating and rooting out all errors; for, when the Christian religion was first constituted, it came upon earth to restore it to its primeval dignity by the admirable light of faith, diffused “not by persuasive words of human wisdom, but in the manifestation of spirit and of power”,[3] so also at the present time we look above all things to the powerful help of Almighty God to bring back to a right understanding the minds of man and dispel the darkness of error.[4] But the natural helps with which the grace of the divine wisdom, strongly and sweetly disposing all things, has supplied the human race are neither to be despised nor neglected, chief among which is evidently the right use of philosophy. For, not in vain did God set the light of reason in the human mind; and so far is the super-added light of faith from extinguishing or lessening the power of the intelligence that it completes it rather, and by adding to its strength renders it capable of greater things.

3. Therefore, Divine Providence itself requires that, in calling back the people to the paths of faith and salvation, advantage should be taken of human science also — an approved and wise practice which history testifies was observed by the most illustrious Fathers of the Church. They, indeed, were wont neither to belittle nor undervalue the part that reason had to play, as is summed up by the great Augustine when he attributes to this science “that by which the most wholesome faith is begotten . . . is nourished, defended, and made strong.”[5]

4. In the first place, philosophy, if rightly made use of by the wise, in a certain way tends to smooth and fortify the road to true faith, and to prepare the souls of its disciples for the fit reception of revelation; for which reason it is well called by ancient writers sometimes a steppingstone to the Christian faith,[6] sometimes the prelude and help of Christianity,[7] sometimes the Gospel teacher.[8] And, assuredly, the God of all goodness, in all that pertains to divine things, has not only manifested by the light of faith those truths which human intelligence could not attain of itself, but others, also, not altogether unattainable by reason, that by the help of divine authority they may be made known to all at once and without any admixture of error. Hence it is that certain truths which were either divinely proposed for belief, or were bound by the closest chains to the doctrine of faith, were discovered by pagan sages with nothing but their natural reason to guide them, were demonstrated and proved by becoming arguments. For, as the Apostle says, the invisible things of Him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made: His eternal power also and divinity;[9] and the Gentiles who have not the Law show, nevertheless, the work of the Law written in their hearts.[10] But it is most fitting to turn these truths, which have been discovered by the pagan sages even, to the use and purposes of revealed doctrine, in order to show that both human wisdom and the very testimony of our adversaries serve to support the Christian faith — a method which is not of recent introduction, but of established use, and has often been adopted by the holy Fathers of the Church. What is more, those venerable men, the witnesses and guardians of religious traditions, recognize a certain form and figure of this in the action of the Hebrews, who, when about to depart out of Egypt, were commanded to take with them the gold and silver vessels and precious robes of the Egyptians, that by a change of use the things might be dedicated to the service of the true God which had formerly been the instruments of ignoble and superstitious rites. Gregory of NeoCaesare[11] praises Origen expressly because, with singular dexterity, as one snatches weapons from the enemy, he turned to the defense of Christian wisdom and to the destruction of superstition many arguments drawn from the writings of the pagans. And both Gregory of Nazianzen[12] and Gregory of Nyssa[13] praise and commend a like mode of disputation in Basil the Great; while Jerome[14] especially commends it in Quadratus, a disciple of the Apostles, in Aristides, Justin, Irenaeus, and very many others. Augustine says: “Do we not see Cyprian, that mildest of doctors and most blessed of martyrs, going out of Egypt laden with gold and silver and vestments? And Lactantius, also and Victorinus, Optatus and Hilary? And, not to speak of the living, how many Greeks have done likewise?”[15] But if natural reason first sowed this rich field of doctrine before it was rendered fruitful by the power of Christ, it must assuredly become more prolific after the grace of the Savior has renewed and added to the native faculties of the human mind. And who does not see that a plain and easy road is opened up to faith by such a method of philosophic study?

5. But the advantage to be derived from such a school of philosophy is not to be confined within these limits. The foolishness of those men who “by these good things that are seen could not understand Him, that is, neither by attending to the works could have acknowledged who was the workman,”[16] is gravely reproved in the words of Divine Wisdom. In the first place, then, this great and noble fruit is gathered from human reason, that it demonstrates that God is; for the greatness of the beauty and of the creature the Creator of them may be seen so as to be known thereby.[17] Again, it shows God to excel in the height of all perfections, especially in infinite wisdom before which nothing lies hidden, and in absolute justice which no depraved affection could possibly shake; and that God, therefore, is not only true but truth itself, which can neither deceive nor be deceived. Whence it clearly follows that human reason finds the fullest faith and authority united in the word of God. In like manner, reason declares that the doctrine of the Gospel has even from its very beginning been made manifest by certain wonderful signs, the established proofs, as it were, of unshaken truth; and that all, therefore, who set faith in the Gospel do not believe rashly as though following cunningly devised fables,[18] but, by a most reasonable consent, subject their intelligence and judgment to an authority which is divine. And of no less importance is it that reason most clearly sets forth that the Church instituted by Christ (as laid down in the Vatican Council), on account of its wonderful spread, its marvelous sanctity, and its inexhaustible fecundity in all places, as well as of its Catholic unity and unshaken stability, is in itself a great and perpetual motive of belief and an irrefragable testimony of its own divine mission.[19]

6. Its solid foundations having been thus laid, a perpetual and varied service is further required of philosophy, in order that sacred theology may receive and assume the nature, form, and genius of a true science. For in this, the most noble of studies, it is of the greatest necessity to bind together, as it were, in one body the many and various parts of the heavenly doctrines, that, each being allotted to its own proper place and derived from its own proper principles, the whole may join together in a complete union; in order, in fine, that all and each part may be strengthened by its own and the others’ invincible arguments. Nor is that more accurate or fuller knowledge of the things that are believed, and somewhat more lucid understanding, as far as it can go, of the very mysteries of faith which Augustine and the other fathers commended and strove to reach, and which the Vatican Council itself[20] declared to be most fruitful, to be passed over in silence or belittled. Those will certainly more fully and more easily attain that knowledge and understanding who to integrity of life and love of faith join a mind rounded and finished by philosophic studies, as the same Vatican Council teaches that the knowledge of such sacred dogmas ought to be sought as well from analogy of the things that are naturally known as from the connection of those mysteries one with another and with the final end of man.[21]

7. Lastly, the duty of religiously defending the truths divinely delivered, and of resisting those who dare oppose them, pertains to philosophic pursuits. Wherefore, it is the glory of philosophy to be esteemed as the bulwark of faith and the strong defense of religion. As Clement of Alexandria testifies, the doctrine of the Savior is indeed perfect in itself and wanteth naught, since it is the power and wisdom of God. And the assistance of the Greek philosophy maketh not the truth more powerful; but, inasmuch as it weakens the contrary arguments of the sophists and repels the veiled attacks against the truth, it has been fitly called the hedge and fence of the vine.[22] For, as the enemies of the Catholic name, when about to attack religion, are in the habit of borrowing their weapons from the arguments of philosophers, so the defenders of sacred science draw many arguments from the store of philosophy which may serve to uphold revealed dogmas. Nor is the triumph of the Christian faith a small one in using human reason to repel powerfully and speedily the attacks of its adversaries by the hostile arms which human reason itself supplied. This species of religious strife St. Jerome, writing to Magnus, notices as having been adopted by the Apostle of the Gentiles himself; Paul, the leader of the Christian army and the invincible orator, battling for the cause of Christ, skillfully turns even a chance inscription into an argument for the faith; for he had learned from the true David to wrest the sword from the hands of the enemy and to cut off the head of the boastful Goliath with his own weapon.[23] Moreover, the Church herself not only urges, but even commands, Christian teachers to seek help from philosophy. For, the fifth Lateran Council, after it had decided that “every assertion contrary to the truth of revealed faith is altogether false, for the reason that it contradicts, however slightly, the truth,”[24] advises teachers of philosophy to pay close attention to the exposition of fallacious arguments; since, as Augustine testifies, “if reason is turned against the authority of sacred Scripture, no matter how specious it may seem, it errs in the likeness of truth; for true it cannot be.”[25]

8. But in order that philosophy may be bound equal to the gathering of those precious fruits which we have indicated, it behooves it above all things never to turn aside from that path which the Fathers have entered upon from a venerable antiquity, and which the Vatican Council solemnly and authoritatively approved. As it is evident that very many truths of the supernatural order which are far beyond the reach of the keenest intellect must be accepted, human reason, conscious of its own infirmity, dare not affect to itself too great powers, nor deny those truths, nor measure them by its own standard, nor interpret them at will; but receive them, rather, with a full and humble faith, and esteem it the highest honor to be allowed to wait upon heavenly doctrines like a handmaid and attendant, and by God’s goodness attain to them in any way whatsoever. But in the case of such doctrines as the human intelligence may perceive, it is equally just that philosophy should make use of its own method, principles, and arguments-not, indeed, in such fashion as to seem rashly to withdraw from the divine authority. But, since it is established that those things which become known by revelation have the force of certain truth, and that those things which war against faith war equally against right reason, the Catholic philosopher will know that he violates at once faith and the laws of reason if he accepts any conclusion which he understands to be opposed to revealed doctrine.

9. We know that there are some who, in their overestimate of the human faculties, maintain that as soon as man’s intellect becomes subject to divine authority it falls from its native dignity, and hampered by the yoke of this species of slavery, is much retarded and hindered in its progress toward the supreme truth and excellence. Such an idea is most false and deceptive, and its sole tendency is to induce foolish and ungrateful men willfully to repudiate the most sublime truths, and reject the divine gift of faith, from which the fountains of all good things flow out upon civil society. For the human mind, being confined within certain limits, and those narrow enough, is exposed to many errors and is ignorant of many things; whereas the Christian faith, reposing on the authority of God, is the unfailing mistress of truth, whom whoso followeth he will be neither enmeshed in the snares of error nor tossed hither and thither on the waves of fluctuating opinion. Those, therefore, who to the study of philosophy unite obedience to the Christian faith, are philosophizing in the best possible way; for the splendor of the divine truths, received into the mind, helps the understanding, and not only detracts in nowise from its dignity, but adds greatly to its nobility, keenness, and stability. For surely that is a worthy and most useful exercise of reason when men give their minds to disproving those things which are repugnant to faith and proving the things which conform to faith. In the first case they cut the ground from under the feet of error and expose the viciousness of the arguments on which error rests; while in the second case they make themselves masters of weighty reasons for the sound demonstration of truth and the satisfactory instruction of any reasonable person. Whoever denies that such study and practice tend to add to the resources and expand the faculties of the mind must necessarily and absurdly hold that the mind gains nothing from discriminating between the true and the false. Justly, therefore, does the Vatican Council commemorate in these words the great benefits which faith has conferred upon reason: Faith frees and saves reason from error, and endows it with manifold knowledge.[26] A wise man, therefore, would not accuse faith and look upon it as opposed to reason and natural truths, but would rather offer heartfelt thanks to God, and sincerely rejoice that, in the density of ignorance and in the flood-tide of error, holy faith, like a friendly star, shines down upon his path and points out to him the fair gate of truth beyond all danger of wandering.

10. If, venerable brethren, you open the history of philosophy, you will find all We have just said proved by experience. The philosophers of old who lacked the gift of faith, yet were esteemed so wise, fell into many appalling errors. You know how often among some truths they taught false and incongruous things; what vague and doubtful opinions they held concerning the nature of the Divinity, the first origin of things, the government of the world, the divine knowledge of the future, the cause and principle of evil, the ultimate end of man, the eternal beatitude, concerning virtue and vice, and other matters, a true and certain knowledge of which is most necessary to the human race; while, on the other hand, the early Fathers and Doctors of the Church, who well understood that, according to the divine plan, the restorer of human science is Christ, who is the power and the wisdom of God,[27] and in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,[28] took up and investigated the books of the ancient philosophers, and compared their teachings with the doctrines of revelation, and, carefully sifting them, they cherished what was true and wise in them and amended or rejected all else. For, as the all-seeing God against the cruelty of tyrants raised up mighty martyrs to the defense of the Church, men prodigal of their great lives, in like manner to false philosophers and heretics He opposed men of great wisdom, to defend, even by the aid of human reason, the treasure of revealed truths. Thus, from the very first ages of the Church, the Catholic doctrine has encountered a multitude of most bitter adversaries, who, deriding the Christian dogmas and institutions, maintained that there were many gods, that the material world never had a beginning or cause, and that the course of events was one of blind and fatal necessity, not regulated by the will of Divine Providence.

11. But the learned men whom We call apologists speedily encountered these teachers of foolish doctrine and, under the guidance of faith, found arguments in human wisdom also to prove that one God, who stands preeminent in every kind of perfection, is to be worshipped; that all things were created from nothing by His omnipotent power; that by His wisdom they flourish and serve each their own special purposes. Among these St. Justin Martyr claims the chief place. After having tried the most celebrated academies of the Greeks, he saw clearly, as he himself confesses, that he could only draw truths in their fullness from the doctrine of revelation. These he embraced with all the ardor of his soul, purged of calumny, courageously and fully defended before the Roman emperors, and reconciled with them not a few of the sayings of the Greek philosophers.

12. Quadratus, also, and Aristides, Hermias, and Athenagoras stood nobly forth in that time. Nor did Irenaeus, the invincible martyr and Bishop of Lyons, win less glory in the same cause when, forcibly refuting the perverse opinions of the Orientals, the work of the Gnostics, scattered broadcast over the territories of the Roman Empire, he explained (according to Jerome) the origin of each heresy and in what philosophic source it took its rise.[29] But who knows not the disputations of Clement of Alexandria, which the same Jerome thus honorably commemorates: “What is there in them that is not learned, and what that is not of the very heart of philosophy?”[30] He himself, indeed, with marvelous versatility treated of many things of the greatest utility for preparing a history of philosophy, for the exercise of the dialectic art, and for showing the agreement between reason and faith. After him came Origen, who graced the chair of the school of Alexandria, and was most learned in the teachings of the Greeks and Orientals. He published many volumes, involving great labor, which were wonderfully adapted to explain the divine writings and illustrate the sacred dogmas; which, though, as they now stand, not altogether free from error, contain nevertheless a wealth of knowledge tending to the growth and advance of natural truths. Tertullian opposes heretics with the authority of the sacred writings; with the philosophers he changes his fence and disputes philosophically; but so learnedly and accurately did he confute them that he made bold to say: “Neither in science nor in schooling are we equals, as you imagine.”[31] Arnobius, also, in his works against the pagans, and Lactantius in the divine Institutions especially, with equal eloquence and strength strenuously strive to move men to accept the dogmas and precepts of Catholic wisdom, not by philosophic juggling, after the fashion of the Academicians, but vanquishing them partly by their own arms, and partly by arguments drawn from the mutual contentions of the philosophers.[32] But the writings on the human soul, the divine attributes, and other questions of mighty moment which the great Athanasius and Chrysostom, the prince of orators, have left behind them are, by common consent, so supremely excellent that it seems scarcely anything could be added to their subtlety and fullness. And, not to cover too wide a range, we add to the number of the great men of whom mention has been made the names of Basil the Great and of the two Gregories, who, on going forth from Athens, that home of all learning, thoroughly equipped with all the harness of philosophy, turned the wealth of knowledge which each had gathered up in a course of zealous study to the work of refuting heretics and preparing Christians.

13. But Augustine would seem to have wrested the palm from all. Of a most powerful genius and thoroughly saturated with sacred and profane learning, with the loftiest faith and with equal knowledge, he combated most vigorously all the errors of his age. What topic of philosophy did he not investigate? What region of it did he not diligently explore, either in expounding the loftiest mysteries of the faith to the faithful, or defending them against the full onslaught of adversaries, or again when, in demolishing the fables of the Academicians or the Manichaeans, he laid the safe foundations and sure structure of human science, or followed up the reason, origin, and causes of the evils that afflict man? How subtly he reasoned on the angels, the soul, the human mind, the will and free choice, on religion and the life of the blessed, on time and eternity, and even on the very nature of changeable bodies. Afterwards, in the East, John Damascene, treading in the footsteps of Basil and of Gregory of Nazianzen, and in the West, Boethius and Anselm following the doctrines of Augustine, added largely to the patrimony of philosophy.

14. Later on, the doctors of the middle ages, who are called Scholastics, addressed themselves to a great work — that of diligently collecting, and sifting, and storing up, as it were, in one place, for the use and convenience of posterity the rich and fertile harvests of Christian learning scattered abroad in the voluminous works of the holy Fathers. And with regard, venerable brethren, to the origin, drift, and excellence of this scholastic learning, it may be well here to speak more fully in the words of one of the wisest of Our predecessors, Sixtus V: “By the divine favor of Him who alone gives the spirit of science, and wisdom, and understanding, and who though all ages, as there may be need, enriches His Church with new blessings and strengthens it with new safeguards, there was founded by Our fathers, men of eminent wisdom, the scholastic theology, which two glorious doctors in particular, the angelic St. Thomas and the seraphic St. Bonaventure, illustrious teachers of this faculty, . . . with surpassing genius, by unwearied diligence, and at the cost of long labors and vigils, set in order and beautified, and when skillfully arranged and clearly explained in a variety of ways, handed down to posterity.

15. “And, indeed, the knowledge and use of so salutary a science, which flows from the fertilizing founts of the sacred writings, the sovereign Pontiffs, the holy Fathers and the councils, must always be of the greatest assistance to the Church, whether with the view of really and soundly understanding and interpreting the Scriptures, or more safely and to better purpose reading and explaining the Fathers, or for exposing and refuting the various errors and heresies; and in these late days, when those dangerous times described by the Apostle are already upon us, when the blasphemers, the proud, and the seducers go from bad to worse, erring themselves and causing others to err, there is surely a very great need of confirming the dogmas of Catholic faith and confuting heresies.”

16. Although these words seem to bear reference solely to Scholastic theology, nevertheless they may plainly be accepted as equally true of philosophy and its praises. For, the noble endowments which make the Scholastic theology so formidable to the enemies of truth — to wit, as the same Pontiff adds, “that ready and close coherence of cause and effect, that order and array as of a disciplined army in battle, those clear definitions and distinctions, that strength of argument and those keen discussions, by which light is distinguished from darkness, the true from the false, expose and strip naked, as it were, the falsehoods of heretics wrapped around by a cloud of subterfuges and fallacies”[33] — those noble and admirable endowments, We say, are only to be found in a right use of that philosophy which the Scholastic teachers have been accustomed carefully and prudently to make use of even in theological disputations. Moreover, since it is the proper and special office of the Scholastic theologians to bind together by the fastest chain human and divine science, surely the theology in which they excelled would not have gained such honor and commendation among men if they had made use of a lame and imperfect or vain philosophy.

17. Among the Scholastic Doctors, the chief and master of all towers Thomas Aquinas, who, as Cajetan observes, because “he most venerated the ancient Doctors of the Church, in a certain way seems to have inherited the intellect of all.”[34] The doctrines of those illustrious men, like the scattered members of a body, Thomas collected together and cemented, distributed in wonderful order, and so increased with important additions that he is rightly and deservedly esteemed the special bulwark and glory of the Catholic faith. With his spirit at once humble and swift, his memory ready and tenacious, his life spotless throughout, a lover of truth for its own sake, richly endowed with human and divine science, like the sun he heated the world with the warmth of his virtues and filled it with the splendor of his teaching. Philosophy has no part which he did not touch finely at once and thoroughly; on the laws of reasoning, on God and incorporeal substances, on man and other sensible things, on human actions and their principles, he reasoned in such a manner that in him there is wanting neither a full array of questions, nor an apt disposal of the various parts, nor the best method of proceeding, nor soundness of principles or strength of argument, nor clearness and elegance of style, nor a facility for explaining what is abstruse.

18. Moreover, the Angelic Doctor pushed his philosophic inquiry into the reasons and principles of things, which because they are most comprehensive and contain in their bosom, so to say, the seeds of almost infinite truths, were to be unfolded in good time by later masters and with a goodly yield. And as he also used this philosophic method in the refutation of error, he won this title to distinction for himself: that, single-handed, he victoriously combated the errors of former times, and supplied invincible arms to put those to rout which might in after-times spring up. Again, clearly distinguishing, as is fitting, reason from faith, while happily associating the one with the other, he both preserved the rights and had regard for the dignity of each; so much so, indeed, that reason. borne on the wings of Thomas to its human height, can scarcely rise higher, while faith could scarcely expect more or stronger aids from reason than those which she has already obtained through Thomas.

19. For these reasons most learned men, in former ages especially, of the highest repute in theology and philosophy, after mastering with infinite pains the immortal works of Thomas, gave themselves up not so much to be instructed in his angelic wisdom as to be nourished upon it. It is known that nearly all the founders and lawgivers of the religious orders commanded their members to study and religiously adhere to the teachings of St. Thomas, fearful least any of them should swerve even in the slightest degree from the footsteps of so great a man. To say nothing of the family of St. Dominic, which rightly claims this great teacher for its own glory, the statutes of the Benedictines, the Carmelites, the Augustinians, the Society of Jesus, and many others all testify that they are bound by this law.

20. And, here, how pleasantly one’s thoughts fly back to those celebrated schools and universities which flourished of old in Europe — to Paris, Salamanca, Alcala, to Douay, Toulouse, and Louvain, to Padua and Bologna, to Naples and Coimbra, and to many another! All know how the fame of these seats of learning grew with their years, and that their judgment, often asked in matters of grave moment, held great weight everywhere. And we know how in those great homes of human wisdom, as in his own kingdom, Thomas reigned supreme; and that the minds of all, of teachers as well as of taught, rested in wonderful harmony under the shield and authority of the Angelic Doctor.

21. But, furthermore, Our predecessors in the Roman pontificate have celebrated the wisdom of Thomas Aquinas by exceptional tributes of praise and the most ample testimonials. Clement VI in the bull “In Ordine;” Nicholas V in his brief to the friars of the Order of Preachers, 1451; Benedict XIII in the bull “Pretiosus,” and others bear witness that the universal Church borrows luster from his admirable teaching; while St. Pius V declares in the bull “Mirabilis” that heresies, confounded and convicted by the same teaching, were dissipated, and the whole world daily freed from fatal errors; others, such as Clement XII in the bull “Verbo Dei,” affirm that most fruitful blessings have spread abroad from his writings over the whole Church, and that he is worthy of the honor which is bestowed on the greatest Doctors of the Church, on Gregory and Ambrose, Augustine and Jerome; while others have not hesitated to propose St. Thomas for the exemplar and master of the universities and great centers of learning whom they may follow with unfaltering feet. On which point the words of Blessed Urban V to the University of Toulouse are worthy of recall: “It is our will, which We hereby enjoin upon you, that ye follow the teaching of Blessed Thomas as the true and Catholic doctrine and that ye labor with all your force to profit by the same.”[35] Innocent XII, followed the example of Urban in the case of the University of Louvain, in the letter in the form of a brief addressed to that university on February 6, 1694, and Benedict XIV in the letter in the form of a brief addressed on August 26, 1752, to the Dionysian College in Granada; while to these judgments of great Pontiffs on Thomas Aquinas comes the crowning testimony of Innocent VI: “His teaching above that of others, the canonical writings alone excepted, enjoys such a precision of language, an order of matters, a truth of conclusions, that those who hold to it are never found swerving from the path of truth, and he who dare assail it will always be suspected of error.”[36]

22. The ecumenical councils, also, where blossoms the flower of all earthly wisdom, have always been careful to hold Thomas Aquinas in singular honor. In the Councils of Lyons, Vienna, Florence, and the Vatican one might almost say that Thomas took part and presided over the deliberations and decrees of the Fathers, contending against the errors of the Greeks, of heretics and rationalists, with invincible force and with the happiest results. But the chief and special glory of Thomas, one which he has shared with none of the Catholic Doctors, is that the Fathers of Trent made it part of the order of conclave to lay upon the altar, together with sacred Scripture and the decrees of the supreme Pontiffs, the “Summa” of Thomas Aquinas, whence to seek counsel, reason, and inspiration.

23. A last triumph was reserved for this incomparable man — namely, to compel the homage, praise, and admiration of even the very enemies of the Catholic name. For it has come to light that there were not lacking among the leaders of heretical sects some who openly declared that, if the teaching of Thomas Aquinas were only taken away, they could easily battle with all Catholic teachers, gain the victory, and abolish the Church.[37] A vain hope, indeed, but no vain testimony.

24. Therefore, venerable brethren, as often as We contemplate the good, the force, and the singular advantages to be derived from his philosophic discipline which Our Fathers so dearly loved. We think it hazardous that its special honor should not always and everywhere remain, especially when it is established that daily experience, and the judgment of the greatest men, and, to crown all, the voice of the Church, have favored the Scholastic philosophy. Moreover, to the old teaching a novel system of philosophy has succeeded here and there, in which We fail to perceive those desirable and wholesome fruits which the Church and civil society itself would prefer. For it pleased the struggling innovators of the sixteenth century to philosophize without any respect for faith, the power of inventing in accordance with his own pleasure and bent being asked and given in turn by each one. Hence, it was natural that systems of philosophy multiplied beyond measure, and conclusions differing and clashing one with another arose about those matters even which are the most important in human knowledge. From a mass of conclusions men often come to wavering and doubt; and who knows not how easily the mind slips from doubt to error? But, as men are apt to follow the lead given them, this new pursuit seems to have caught the souls of certain Catholic philosophers, who, throwing aside the patrimony of ancient wisdom, chose rather to build up a new edifice than to strengthen and complete the old by aid of the new — illadvisedly, in sooth, and not without detriment to the sciences. For, a multiform system of this kind, which depends on the authority and choice of any professor, has a foundation open to change, and consequently gives us a philosophy not firm, and stable, and robust like that of old, but tottering and feeble. And if, perchance, it sometimes finds itself scarcely equal to sustain the shock of its foes, it should recognize that the cause and the blame lie in itself. In saying this We have no intention of discountenancing the learned and able men who bring their industry and erudition, and, what is more, the wealth of new discoveries, to the service of philosophy; for, of course, We understand that this tends to the development of learning. But one should be very careful lest all or his chief labor be exhausted in these pursuits and in mere erudition. And the same thing is true of sacred theology, which, indeed, may be assisted and illustrated by all kinds of erudition, though it is absolutely necessary to approach it in the grave manner of the Scholastics, in order that, the forces of revelation and reason being united in it, it may continue to be “the invincible bulwark of the faith.”[38]

25. With wise forethought, therefore, not a few of the advocates of philosophic studies, when turning their minds recently to the practical reform of philosophy, aimed and aim at restoring the renowned teaching of Thomas Aquinas and winning it back to its ancient beauty.

26. We have learned with great joy that many members of your order, venerable brethren, have taken this plan to heart; and while We earnestly commend their efforts, We exhort them to hold fast to their purpose, and remind each and all of you that Our first and most cherished idea is that you should all furnish to studious youth a generous and copious supply of those purest streams of wisdom flowing inexhaustibly from the precious fountainhead of the Angelic Doctor.

27. Many are the reasons why We are so desirous of this. In the first place, then, since in the tempest that is on us the Christian faith is king constantly assailed by the machinations and craft of a certain false wisdom, all youths, but especially those who are the growing hope of the Church, should be nourished on the strong and robust food of doctrine, that so, mighty in strength and armed at all points, they may become habituated to advance the cause of religion with force and judgment, “being ready always, according to the apostolic counsel, to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you,”[39] and that they may be able to exhort in sound doctrine and to convince the gainsayers.[40] Many of those who, with minds alienated from the faith, hate Catholic institutions, claim reason as their sole mistress and guide. Now, We think that, apart from the supernatural help of God, nothing is better calculated to heal those minds and to bring them into favor with the Catholic faith than the solid doctrine of the Fathers and the Scholastics, who so clearly and forcibly demonstrate the firm foundations of the faith, its divine origin, its certain truth, the arguments that sustain it. the benefits it has conferred on the human race, and its perfect accord with reason, in a manner to satisfy completely minds open to persuasion, however unwilling and repugnant.

28. Domestic and civil society even, which, as all see, is exposed to great danger from this plague of perverse opinions, would certainly enjoy a far more peaceful and secure existence if a more wholesome doctrine were taught in the universities and high schools — one more in conformity with the teaching of the Church, such as is contained in the works of Thomas Aquinas.

29. For, the teachings of Thomas on the true meaning of liberty, which at this time is running into license, on the divine origin of all authority, on laws and their force, on the paternal and just rule of princes, on obedience to the higher powers, on mutual charity one toward another — on all of these and kindred subjects — have very great and invincible force to overturn those principles of the new order which are well known to be dangerous to the peaceful order of things and to public safety. In short, all studies ought to find hope of advancement and promise of assistance in this restoration of philosophic discipline which We have proposed. The arts were wont to draw from philosophy, as from a wise mistress, sound judgment and right method, and from it, also, their spirit, as from the common fount of life. When philosophy stood stainless in honor and wise in judgment, then, as facts and constant experience showed, the liberal arts flourished as never before or since; but, neglected and almost blotted out, they lay prone, since philosophy began to lean to error and join hands with folly. Nor will the physical sciences themselves, which are now in such great repute, and by the renown of so many inventions draw such universal admiration to themselves, suffer detriment, but find very great assistance in the restoration of the ancient philosophy. For, the investigation of facts and the contemplation of nature is not alone sufficient for their profitable exercise and advance; but, when facts have been established, it is necessary to rise and apply ourselves to the study of the nature of corporeal things, to inquire into the laws which govern them and the principles whence their order and varied unity and mutual attraction in diversity arise. To such investigations it is wonderful what force and light and aid the Scholastic philosophy, if judiciously taught would bring.

30. And here it is well to note that our philosophy can only by the grossest injustice be accused of being opposed to the advance and development of natural science. For, when the Scholastics, following the opinion of the holy Fathers, always held in anthropology that the human intelligence is only led to the knowledge of things without body and matter by things sensible, they well understood that nothing was of greater use to the philosopher than diligently to search into the mysteries of nature and to be earnest and constant in the study of physical things. And this they confirmed by their own example; for St. Thomas, Blessed Albertus Magnus, and other leaders of the Scholastics were never so wholly rapt in the study of philosophy as not to give large attention to the knowledge of natural things; and, indeed, the number of their sayings and writings on these subjects, which recent professors approve of and admit to harmonize with truth, is by no means small. Moreover, in this very age many illustrious professors of the physical sciences openly testify that between certain and accepted conclusions of modern physics and the philosophic principles of the schools there is no conflict worthy of the name.

31. While, therefore, We hold that every word of wisdom, every useful thing by whomsoever discovered or planned, ought to be received with a willing and grateful mind, We exhort you, venerable brethren, in all earnestness to restore the golden wisdom of St. Thomas, and to spread it far and wide for the defense and beauty of the Catholic faith, for the good of society, and for the advantage of all the sciences. The wisdom of St. Thomas, We say; for if anything is taken up with too great subtlety by the Scholastic doctors, or too carelessly stated — if there be anything that ill agrees with the discoveries of a later age, or, in a word, improbable in whatever way — it does not enter Our mind to propose that for imitation to Our age. Let carefully selected teachers endeavor to implant the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas in the minds of students, and set forth clearly his solidity and excellence over others. Let the universities already founded or to be founded by you illustrate and defend this doctrine, and use it for the refutation of prevailing errors. But, lest the false for the true or the corrupt for the pure be drunk in, be ye watchful that the doctrine of Thomas be drawn from his own fountains, or at least from those rivulets which, derived from the very fount, have thus far flowed, according to the established agreement of learned men, pure and clear; be careful to guard the minds of youth from those which are said to flow thence, but in reality are gathered from strange and unwholesome streams.

32. But well do We know that vain will be Our efforts unless, venerable brethren, He helps Our common cause who, in the words of divine Scripture, is called the God of all knowledge;[41] by which we are also admonished that “every best gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights”,[42] and again: “If any of you want wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men abundantly, and upbraideth not: and it shall be given him.”[43]

33. Therefore in this also let us follow the example of the Angelic Doctor, who never gave himself to reading or writing without first begging the blessing of God, who modestly confessed that whatever he knew he had acquired not so much by his own study and labor as by the divine gift; and therefore let us all, in humble and united prayer, beseech God to send forth the spirit of knowledge and of understanding to the children of the Church and open their senses for the understanding of wisdom. And that we may receive fuller fruits of the divine goodness, offer up to God the most efficacious patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is called the seat of wisdom; having at the same time as advocates St. Joseph, the most chaste spouse of the Virgin, and Peter and Paul, the chiefs of the Apostles, whose truth renewed the earth which had fallen under the impure blight of error, filling it with the light of heavenly wisdom.

34. In fine, relying on the divine assistance and confiding in your pastoral zeal, most lovingly We bestow on all of you, venerable brethren, on all the clergy and the flocks committed to your charge, the apostolic benediction as a pledge of heavenly gifts and a token of Our special esteem.

Given at St. Peter’s, in Rome, the fourth day of August, 1879, the second year of our pontificate.


1. Matt. 28: 19.

2. Col. 2:8.

3. I Cor. 2:4.

4. See “Inscrutabili Dei consilio,” 78:113.

5. “De Trinitate,” 14, 1, 3 (PL 42, 1037); quoted by Thomas Aquinas, “Summa theologiae,” 1, 1, 2.

6. Clement of Alexandria, “Stromata,” 1, 16 (PG 8, 795); 7, 3 (PG 9, 426).

7. Origen, “Epistola ad Gregorium” (PG 11, 87-91).

8. Clement of Alexandria, “Stromata,” 1,5 (PG 8, 718-719).

9. Rom. 1:20.

10. Rom. 2:14-15.

11. Gregory of Neo-Caesarea (also called Gregory Thaumaturgus that is “the miracle worker”), “In Origenem oratio panegyrica,” 6 (PG 10, 1093A).

12. Carm., 1, lamb. 3 (PG 37, 1045A-1047A).

13. “Vita Moysis” (PG 44, 359).

14. “Epistola ad Magnum,” 4 (PL 22, 667). Quadratus, Justin Irenaeus, are counted among the early Christian apologists, who devoted their works to the defense of Christian truth against the pagans.

15. “De doctrina christiana,” 1, 2, 40 (PL 34, 63).

16. Wisd. 13:1.

17. Wisd. 13:5.

18. 2 Peter 1:16.

19. “Const. Dogm, de fid. Cath.,” c. 3.

20. “Const. cit.,” c. 4.

21. Loc. at.

22. “Stromata,” 1, 20 (PG 8, 818).

23. “Epistola ad Magnum,” 2 (PL 22, 666).

24. Bulla “Apostolici regiminis.”

25. “Epistola 147, ad Marcellinum,” 7 (PL 33, 589).

26. “Const. Dogm. de fid. Cath.,” c. 4.

27. I Cor. 1:24.

28. Col. 2:3.

29. “Epistola ad Magnum,” 4 (PL 22, 667).

30. Loc. cit.

31. Tertullian, “Apologet.,” 46 (PL 1, 573).

32. Lactantius, “Div. Inst.,” 7, 7 (PL 6, 759).

33. Bulla “Triumphantis,” an. 1588.

34. Cajetan’s commentary on “Sum. theol.,” IIa — IIae 148, 9. Art. 4; Leonine edit., Vol. 10, p. 174, n. 6.

35. “Constitutio 5a, data die 3 Aug. 1368,” ad Cancell. Univ. Tolos.

36. “Sermo de S. Thoma.”

37. Bucer.

38. Sixtus V, Bulla “Triumphantis.”

39. I Peter 3:15.

40. Titus 1:9.

41. I Kings 2:3.

42. James 1: 17.

43. James 1:5.

Document taken from papal encyclicals.net