Formation for Laity
Priests and religious have their own houses of formation that prepare them for their own vocations but the laity do not have such houses. The Thomistic Institute seeks remedy this problem and therefore to assist priests[i] in offering formation for the laity so that they may answer the universal call to holiness and become true disciples of Jesus Christ since “formation is not a privilege of a few, but a right and duty of all.”[ii] There is an organic connection between our spiritual life and the dogmas (see the Catechism). They depend on one another. We need our minds shaped by doctrine; we must have the habit of thoughtful prayer.
[i] “Priests therefore, as educators in the faith, must see to it either by themselves or through others that the faithful are led individually in the Holy Spirit to a development of their own vocation according to the Gospel, to a sincere and practical charity, and to that freedom with which Christ has made us free.” Presbyterorum Ordininis, 6.
[ii] John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, 63.
Giving the Faith in its Purity
The Institute believes if one presents doctrine clearly to someone who has faith, then that person will seek the light. The truth is naturally attractive to the faithful. We often condescend to the lay people who are under-educated theologically. Think about the engineer who has a seventh-grade theological education. They need the doctrine, even if not high scholastic treatise on it. On the other hand, people need heartfelt sympathy. We are sympathetic with the difficulties of life and we need to teach the difficult things because that’s what is good for the human person. No amount of sympathy will cure a sickness. We teach the tough things also to console the repentant – those who are living these difficult things.[i]
The goal of the Institute is to reclaim our Catholic heritage in all its fullness and glory. No watering down. No jettisoning the difficult things. No pandering to modern man. Just Catholic tradition and wisdom. Doing what God has called us to do. Watering down Church teaching does not attract anyone. And on the contrary when the truths of the faith are presented authentically, they are attractive and draw people in. People want serious theology and to be challenged pastorally.
[i] See Fr. Thomas Joseph White https://soundcloud.com/thomisticinstitute/fr-thomas-joseph-white-op-preaching-the-doctrine-of-the-faith-8916
Formation for Priests
The Thomistic Institute aims to provide formation for priests both in philosophical and theological wisdom as well as the practical knowledge necessary for offering spiritual guidance to people in the modern world.
Seminaries are only meant to be a beginning to introduce priests into a lifelong study of the truths of faith (Plan for Priestly Formation (PPF), 163). Ongoing formation will be conducted both (1) by deepening priests’ understanding of the Catholic tradition (both philosophically and theologically) with the guide of the wisdom of St. Thomas Aquinas and (2) by applying this tradition to the problems and issues that our culture faces and that priests themselves face in their everyday ministry.
Pope Benedict XVI:
In this year for priests, I ask seminarians and priests to esteem the spiritual value of study. The quality of the priestly ministry also depends on the quality of the generosity with which one applies oneself to the study of revealed truths.[i]
St. Francis de Sales:
I can say to you truthfully that there is no great difference between ignorance and malice, except that ignorance is to be feared even more, especially when you consider that, not only is it offensive in itself, but it also leads to contempt for the ecclesiastical state. For this reason, my very dear Brothers, I implore you to attend seriously to study, because knowledge, to a priest, is the eighth sacrament of the hierarchy of the Church. [Without it] a greater misfortune happens to the priest than when the Ark [of the Covenant] is found in the hands of men who were not Levites (cf. 1 Samuel 4:3-11)…. And now, since divine Providence, without showing any regard for my incapacity, has ordained me your Bishop, I exhort you to study everything that is good, so that, being learned and of good life, you would be irreproachable, and ready to respond to all those who question you in matters of the faith.[ii]
[i] Pope Benedict XVI (Feb 3, 2010 General audience). [ii] St. Francis de Sales, Exhortation to Clerics: That They Apply Themselves to Study (available here: http://hosted.desales.edu/files/salesian/PDF/ExortationstoClerics.pdf)