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Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 1548 quotes Pius XII’s encyclical Mediator Dei when the Church states, “It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person his minister truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi).” A priest’s soul is ontologically configured to Jesus Christ on the day of his ordination. “This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis.”

The aim of seminary formation is assist the seminarian in subjectively receiving the objective grace available at his ordination. In other words, as the priest will “act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi)” he should also live in Christ at all times. To be Christ, the seminarian must appropriate the fullness of who Christ is.

The Institute for Priestly Formation has articulated five essential identities of Jesus and thus five essential benchmark identities of the diocesan priest.

Beloved Son. “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)

Chaste Spouse. “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” (Matthew 9:15)

Spiritual Father. “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9)

Spiritual Physician. “When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.” (Mark 1:32-34 

Good Shepherd. “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)

The Institute for Priestly Formation’s sponsorship of this ongoing series of symposia provides a forum for research, reflection and publication about the essential benchmark identities of the diocesan priest.

The 2012 Symposium will further develop aspects of the spirituality and identity of the diocesan priest suggested by the image of the Beloved Son.

In Gratitude we recognize the gracious sponsorship of the Esseff Family Foundation. The 2012 Symposium has been entrusted to the intercession and patronage of Saint Louis, King of France.