SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2014
SPIRITUAL FORMATION – THE HALLMARK OF THE PRIESTHOOD (2)
To be pastorally effective, intellectual formation is to be integrated with a spirituality marked by a personal experience of God. In this way, a purely abstract approach to knowledge is overcome in favour of that intelligence of heart, which knows how ‘to look beyond’ and then is in a position to communicate the mystery of God to the people.
We cannot pretend that the world is changing and in the spiritual formation of priests, we should reflect this. Priests face the dilemma of remaining true to the traditions of the Church, while also being engaged with the world of today. Therefore, the development of the intellect is necessary. It is recommended that they should take interest in the study of liberal arts and do more studies in theology in order to sharpen their intellect. It is a pity that most pastors don’t see the need to update themselves regularly. If priests must be relevant in this age, they should not give up updating themselves.
The Church of Nigeria, (Anglican Communion) under the leadership of the Primate, Most Revd. Nicolas D. Okoh, should be commended for the way the leadership of the church is laying a new emphasis on the theological formation of its pastors. A time was, when the church was content with short courses even in the field of theology. But now, there is a new wave that guarantees serious incursion into intellectual formation of the pastors. In fact, it is to the credit of the Primate and bishops of the Church of Nigeria that scholarships are now available to pastors in different fields of theology to read up to doctorate level. This new challenge is coming to ensure that the ‘pulpit’ would continue to be higher than ‘the pew’ at least in matters of faith.
Each time we reflect about the reformation and reformers in the church, we hardly can forget such persons as Martin Luther, John Wycliffe, John Huss and Desiderious Erasmus among others. These men, by their outstanding preparation and knowledge, were able to have impact, particularly through their studies and writings. By 1517, Martin Luther had become a Professor of Theology at the new University of Wittenberg in Germany. Of course, the role he played at the reformation was not unconnected to his intellectual sagacity. No wonder at the time of his ex-communication by Rome, he refused to recant and rather ended by saying: “Unless I am proved wrong by scripture or by evident reason, then I am a prisoner in conscience of the Word of God. I cannot retract and I will not retract. To go against the conscience is neither safe nor right. God help me. Amen.” Such is required of priests that are well formed to know when to listen to the voice of men and when to listen to the voice of God. It is important to take note, because at the end of the day, God is supreme to human traditions.
It is to be appreciated even in the time of Paul that intellectual formation played a great role to the cause of the gospel. Then, we saw the influence of logic and reasoning in Jewish thought and religion. But Paul was able to weather through due to his preparations at the feet of Gameliah and by his subsequent call by Jesus Himself on the road to Damascus. We cannot deny in Christian religion the great impact of the writings of Paul. It was both a product of intellect and solid spiritual formation.
How can a man of God with a low intellect cope in this digital age? Or how can he communicate the truth of the gospel effectively in an urbanised Church? Of course, the Church has gone digital and we must ensure we are not pushed out of business by this.