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In May 2006 Pope Benedict XVI addressed the clergy of Warsaw, “The faithful expect only one thing from priests: that they be specialists in promoting the encounter between man and God. The priest is not asked to be an expert in economics, construction, or politics. He is expected to be an expert in the spiritual life.”
In the Joy of the Gospel (#266), Pope Francis observes, “It is impossible to persevere in a fervent evangelization unless we are convinced from personal experience that it is not the same thing to have known Jesus as not to have known him, not the same thing to walk with him as to walk blindly, not the same thing to hear his word as not to know it, and not the same thing to contemplate him, to worship him, to find our peace in him, as not to.
A true missionary, who never ceases to be a disciple, knows that Jesus walks with him, speaks to him, breathes with him, works with him. He senses Jesus alive with him in the midst of the missionary enterprise.”
The Institute for Priestly Formation offers the Spiritual Direction Training Program for diocesan priests to deepen the priest’s personal rootedness in communion with Christ and to equip the priest to be able to nurture this communion with the Lord in the lives of others through contemplative spiritual direction. The program shares foundational tools for personal prayer in the Ignatian tradition, including praying with Scripture and discernment of spirits. The program also strengthens priestly identity as active communion with Christ in the midst of priestly ministry. Finally, the program imparts a contemplative method for accompanying others in their faith life so that they too might grow in love and service of the Lord.
Dedicated to a retreat-like atmosphere, the Spiritual Direction Training Program includes seminar style presentations, small group practicum sessions to apply what is presented, communal celebration of the liturgy, time for personal prayer, and individual spiritual direction. Each year of the program includes a weeklong silent directed retreat for participants. Participants gather for weeklong sessions three times a year for three years.
The Goals of the Spiritual Direction Training Program are: