Who Should Take These Courses

1. Those who want the solid food of doctrine and not just milk (See 1 Cor 3:1-3), i.e. those who want to deepen their understanding of the mysteries of faith.

"Scripture gives everyone the necessary nourishment. Nevertheless [Augustine] calls “spiritual” Christians to exercise in order to understand the words of Christ more profoundly, in order to receive not only ‘milk’ but also the ‘solid food’ of doctrine (cf. I Cor 3:1-3). Believers thus progress in understanding their faith. This progress fulfills the very will of God who calls men to see Him: God does not want us to be nourished by milk only, rather He wants us to be able to take solid food also, by understanding. This is an exigency inherent in faith, the characteristic of an ‘adult’ faith which strives to know.

And for this reason, God has permitted heresies. An understanding of the faith protects believers from false doctrines of the heretics. In fact, those who have a weak and ‘unexercised’ spirit [or mind] are supported by the ‘milk of the faith,’ but they risk being seduced by the corporeal images of God which the heretics propose.

But other believers, accustomed to solid food, have understanding as well, thanks to their ‘exercised’ soul [or mind], and they are better able to resist heretical doctrines. In a word, God permits heresies for the exercise and strengthening of believers in their faith.”

Gilles, Emery, O.P., “Trinitarian Theology as Spiritual Exercise in Augustine and Aquinas,” 15-16 in Aquinas the Augustinian edited by Dauphinais, David, and Levering.

2. Those who love God deeply and thirst for knowing Him who their hearts love.

“A priest [and, one might add, a Catholic] should be a man who is in love with God. When someone is genuinely in love, one always desires to know the other person better. One is not bored with whatever one is learning about the other. On the contrary, there is a constant fascination and interest in knowing even more.” (237)

“As Anselm would say, God is id quo maius cogitari nequit [that than which nothing greater can be thought]. There is always more to him than what you know of him. Within a loving relationship with God, one is always in constant awe. One cannot get tired of him. And surprisingly, he never gets tired of us, despite our sinfulness and worthiness…. Don’t you want to get to know God further? Don’t you want to teach others about him? (237)

“But whoever loves is never content with a superficial knowledge of the beloved. Whoever loves wants to intimately understand the beloved. One wants to enjoy his very presence.” (264)

Fr. Angel Perez-Lopez, Priestly Formation in the Human Virtues: Volume II: The Priest as a Man of Temperance, 237 and 264.

3. Those who are responsible for teaching the faith (parents, high school teachers, grade school teachers, directors of religious education at parishes, youth ministers, etc.).

“To teach well, especially those who have a limited educational background, one needs to know the subject matter in greater depth. Hence, to teach well, one needs to have an in-depth knowledge, and to do so, one needs to study.” 

Fr. Angel Perez-Lopez, Priestly Formation in the Human Virtues: Volume II: The Priest as a Man of Temperance, 237-238.

Fr. Perez-Lopez notes two basic steps of teaching that are rather difficult.

Step 1: A teacher needs to identify the most basic principles of reason and faith from which to start so that he can reach the needed conclusion. This means that the teacher needs to clearly see where the conclusion finds its roots, that is, in which principles the students already know. This is how one can meet the student where he is at or genuinely teach because to teach requires helping the student go from what he does already know.

Step 2: Then the teacher has to lead the student – gradually – from the principles to the conclusion.

As a result of the difficulty in doing these things well “more study is required to be able to teach at a non-academic level.”[i]

Everyone, then, who teaches (priests, school teachers, parents) should follow Aquinas’s advice:

“Every teacher is obliged to possess the means of feeding spiritually the people who come to him. And since no man possesses of himself the resources to feed them, he must acquire them elsewhere by his labor, study, and persistent prayer.” Commentary on John, cap. 6, lect. 1, no. 849.

[i] Fr. Angel Perez-Lopez, Priestly Formation in the Human Virtues: Volume II: The Priest as a Man of Temperance, 239.

4. Priests whose office includes teaching the truth about God and safeguarding the one true Catholic faith. (See #3 above and St. Francis de Sales)

Knowing the truth is genuinely pastoral (whether for priests, parents, or teachers) since it is the truth that allows one to guide others well. If love is willing the good of another, and doing what one can to bring it about, then we cannot genuinely love others without knowing the truth about what is good for them. And so we can definitely be motivated to know the truth out of love. And in fact a love for God, for ourselves, and for others should motivate us to develop our intellects.

5. Those who want to become holy and so want to better know God and how to attain deeper union with God.

“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Romans 12:2

6. Those who want to be able to defend the faith or to share it with others.

"But in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” 1 Peter 3:15

7. Those who love the truth and want to be wise.

"For since it is the part of a wise man to arrange and to judge, and since lesser matters should be judged in the light of some higher principle, he is said to be wise in any one order who considers the highest principle in that order: thus in the order of building, he who plans the form of the house is called wise and architect, in opposition to the inferior laborers who trim the wood and make ready the stones: As a wise architect, I have laid the foundation (1 Cor 3:10). Again, in the order of all human life, the prudent man is called wise, inasmuch as he directs his acts to a fitting end: Wisdom is prudence to a man (Prov 10: 23). Therefore he who considers absolutely the highest cause of the whole universe, namely God, is most of all called wise. Hence wisdom is said to be the knowledge of divine things, as Augustine says (De Trin. xii, 14)."

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae I, q. 1, a. 6.