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The heart of the Institute for Priestly Formation comes from the heart of the Church herself.

On October 28, 1965 the Second Vatican Council released a “Decree on Priestly Training” (Optatam Totius). The document outlined the Council’s vision for seminary formation and dealt with a variety of issues, including spiritual formation. There, the Council fathers wrote that priests and seminarians should be formed in such a way that they “might learn to live in an intimate and unceasing union with the Father through His Son Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.” (Optatam Totius, no. 8)

The US Bishops, in the most recent fifth edition of the Program for Priestly Formation echo the Council fathers as they say “the basic principle of spiritual formation is contained” in the Church’s call for priests and seminarians to live in “an intimate and unceasing union” with God. (Program for Priestly Formation, 5th edition, no. 107)

How does “intimate and unceasing union with God,” happen? Pope Benedict XVI sheds light on this when he says, “A priest must really be a man of God, he must know God intimately and know him in communion with Christ and so we must live this communion. Our being, our life and our heart must be fixed in God, in this point from which we must not stir.” Essentially, Pope Benedict XVI is urging priests and seminarians to fall in love with God. In fact, the Holy Father specifically describes seminary formation in this way: “The seminarian experiences the beauty of that call in a moment of grace which could be defined as ‘falling in love.’”

Nothing is more powerful than falling in love – and staying in love. The Second Vatican Council fathers knew this. Blessed John Paul II knew this. Pope Benedict XVI knows this. And, Father Pedro Arrupe, S.J. knew this. Father Arrupe was the keynote speaker at the 1976 bicentennial Eucharistic Congress. Father Arrupe’s comments echoed the Second Vatican Council fathers’ decree to fall in love. After Father Arrupe’s inspiring speech a skeptic naysayer raised his hand and commented, “Falling in love. That’s great, but give me something practical.” Without skipping a beat, Father Arrupe quickly responded:

“Nothing is more practical than
 finding God,
falling in Love 
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
 what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, who you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love,
stay in love,
and it will decide everything.”

The Institute for Priestly Formation aims to help priests and seminarians live in “intimate and unceasing union with God.” We do this convinced that “nothing is more practical than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way.” If men “fall in love and stay in love, it will decide everything.” Thus, everything we do at IPF is geared to help priests and seminarians fall in love, stay in love, so that their love for God decides everything.

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