Spiritual Formation, is a "formation of the heart" (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Charitas Est, n. 31) of a future priest, one which takes place within the seminary community and its liturgical life, in dialogue with a spiritual director and confessors, in intimate personal prayer and through pastoral service.
Each day begins at 6:45am praying of the Morning Prayer of the church (Lauds), followed by a period of silent meditation and then morning mass. The Evening Prayer of the church (Vespers) is prayed at 6:10pm each day, followed by Night Prayer (Compline) from 9:30pm. Eucharist Adoration is also offered, in addition to a communal rosary.
The rosary is recited in the seminary Chapel on most days. The seminary has a fine Lady Chapel with a beautiful icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. This becomes a focus each night, when the community ends the day by singing a hymn to Our Lady. The community observers additional Marian devotions in May and October, months especially dedicated to the Blessed Mother. Community recitation of the Rosary is obligatory in First Year and encouraged thereafter.
Sunday is usually celebrated in the College. The day begins at 9:00am with the Office of Readings (Matins) and Morning Prayer. Solemn Mass at 11:30am follows and at 6:00pm there is a Holy Hour in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, with Evening Prayer and Benediction.
de verbo groups
Sunday concludes with seminarians gathering in their De Verbo groups. These comprise seven or eight seminarians each, and together a passage of scripture is read (usually the following Sunday’s Gospel) in addition to a homeletic reflection. After a period of personal reflective silence, each offer their thoughts and personal intentions based on their own and their brother seminarian’s thoughts. The group’s offer an opportunity for the participants to develop articulating their own faith and listening to others. The Night Prayer of the Church is then prayed together.
Regular and frequent confession is an important part of a seminarian’s life. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is available most days during morning meditation in the chapel. Many seminarians choose to celebrate the Sacrament with their spiritual directors, or at nearby churches. Each year, we have a Second Rite of Reconciliation, with visiting priests in the Lenten season.
Spiritual direction is a private meeting between the seminarian and a priest. Here, the priest assists and guides the seminarian to direct his life according to and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There is strict confidentiality about ones spiritual direction, with it being treated like the sacrament of reconciliation; the priest may not tell anyone what he hears. The only inquiry made is whether or not a student is regularly seeing his director. From time to time, the Rector may need to inform a director about the progress of a seminarian, but that communication is one way.
He teaches the seminarian method’s of prayer including meditation and contemplative prayer and other spiritual exercises. Each student is free after 2nd year to seek their own personal spiritual director, in consultation with the rector. The spiritual directors meet annually at the College for discussion. This is to keep the directors informed and to seek general advice from them about the spiritual formation program.
On various occasions each year, seminarians attend conferences, recollection days and retreats, with all observing a week long annual retreat. These are usually organized according to year level groups and are held at locations away from the College. Moreover, in the first week of the new year, first year seminarians are engaged in an orientation retreat, offsite. With the exception of 5th and 6th year seminarians, the rest of the seminary participates in a three day retreat at the College. Melbourne students also observe a week of recollection in Holy Week. Students from country dioceses generally spend Holy Week at their home cathedral. In the 5th year the full 30 day Ignatian Spiritual Exercises are offered.
(Adapted from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Program for Priestly Formation 2015)