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From a correct understanding and a correct practice of the Eucharistic celebration everything pastoral depends, through which we will never do enough to understand more deeply or to celebrate better this mystery of faith. Eucharistia e Chiesa, Queriniana, Brescia , 9 italics in the citation are mine.

Out of this concern comes the plan in the book AA. Brouard edd. It is hefty volume in the Italian version, pages which pulls together a huge amount of material that is very heterogeneous in methodologies, approaches and results. Eight-one editors from five continents, an expression of various ecclesial traditions, present in summary the results of their specific research. Consequently, it is a text which, thanks to its multidisciplinary approach, attempts to present the various aspects of the Eucharistic mystery in the most complete way possible.

Eucharist and the Formation of the Clergy

This is also an encyclopedic work of pages which presents the various parts of the Ordo Missae by furnishing a systematic and virtually complete bibliography of specific monographs. However, when we move from the question of law to the question of fact, things change notably. The way in which the Eucharist is celebrated in seminaries depends on certain variables or contingencies, such as the composition of the seminary community, the number, age, origin and social class of the seminarians, whether the formators are homogeneous or heterogeneous, the kinds of educational methods, etc.

Also, some of these factors are stable and always present, even if they are not there consciously or reflexively in the teachers or formators. The form of the Eucharistic celebration and the style of presiding depend on how the priest interprets himself and his proper role. It is worthwhile adding that, just as a priest understands his being in relationship to his mission to be developed, from the concrete ways in which he relates to the world and to culture in general, so does the image of the Church depend on what he wants to promote and the type of celebration that he wants to live out.

Clearly, the various ways of celebrating correspond to the various models of priesthood. I now move to sketch in broad strokes the various figures or models of priesthood from Trent and from Vatican II, the various ways of living and celebrating the Eucharist linked to various visions of the Church, various formation models and the resulting spiritualities. This encounter allows us more easily to gather up the new elements proposed by the Second Vatican Council and to lay down the foundations for overcoming the tridentine model. Of course, it produced much fruit for the Church in the age of Christendom, but it needs now to be radically reconsidered to correspond to modern times.

When the council Fathers met at Trent, they had to confront issues concerning sacerdotal functioning.


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They were conditioned by the great task of reacting to the criticisms in the thought of the Reformation. The Reformers had attacked, among other points, the very idea of priesthood and sacrifice. From the denial of the sacrificial aspects of the Mass, they derived the rejection of the dimension and function of the priest in the very celebration of Mass. As a result, they put into opposition a sacramental vision of the priesthood with a ministerial, or diaconal, vision.

For the description of this model in reaction to the Reformation, I refer to the results of the study of the theme by Luigi Mezzadri in A lode della gloria. The council Fathers reacted under the inspiration of the thought of Thomas Aquinas and joined indissolubly Eucharistic priesthood and sacrifice.

On the one hand, there came about an important clarification and the fixing of doctrine; but on the other, they failed to draw up a complete vision of the problem, unleashed from the demands of polemics. There are two important points in the argumentation: 1 — In the New Testament, to a visible and exterior priesthood is joined the power of consecrating the body and blood of the Lord and of forgiving sins; 2 — Orders is a sacrament instituted by Christ himself which imparts a character.

Holy Orders is therefore not just a simple office but a sacrament; it is received by means of consecration and anointing and cannot be the object of any rethinking, since it changes ontologically the person who receives it, producing permanent effects. The pastor should know the people committed to his care, and he should nourish them with the Word, the sacraments, and his personal example, and he should love them in their weakest members. To accomplish this, he has to live in the place where he exercises his ministry, give a homily during Sunday Mass, teach catechism, and pray the Liturgy of the Hours for the people confided to him.

An income from a patrimony was a sufficient canonical title for ordination; afterwards, the priest could leave without exercising any pastoral ministry, and so could avoid ever preaching or hearing confessions, but limited himself only to the celebration of the Eucharist.

In substance, the image of the priest from Trent is one of a man of the sacred, concerned with the salvation of souls and his own sanctification. Without a doubt the council laid the foundations for a reform of the clergy, but it happened only thanks to the activity of certain great personalities who joined ecclesiastical reform to spiritual renewal.

In the Church there can be no genuine reform without spiritual renewal. It is impossibile to present here the complete sacerdotal movement in the post-Trent period, other than to list its most qualified exponents: For Italy, St. The figure of the tridentine priest in spiritual literature found its legitimacy in the theological vision inspired by the corpus of writings of Pseudo-Dionysius. In this perspective, the priest is the man of worship. He has a sacral idea of his function, and interprets priesthood as mediation.

He is and understands himself as a pontiff, a mediator between God and the community. Just as in the order of angels there are three levels of hierarchy, in which each hierarchy receives divine illumination from above and grants it to the lower levels, so also the ecclesiastical hierarchy is ordered as a kind of pyramid.

Through the angels, the bishop communicates with God, and through the bishop, they rain down on the lower grades the powers of order and sanctification. The priest inhabits a lower level than the bishop, but is always lifted above that of men. Because he is lifted above the order of men by the sacrament of Orders, the priest receives an indelible character which separates him from the community and lets him become a man set apart for divine worship.

Vatican II et le mouvement catéchétique

From this, there developed a complete priestly spirituality that insisted on his radical diversity from ordinary men, on separation, and on the duty of a greater sanctification. Struttura gerarchica del mondo secondo Ps. Dionigi Aeropagita, Vita e Pensiero, Milano ; orig. This strongly unifying character makes of this sacrament the necessary complement of all the others, which, without it, are incomplete.

Thus the Eucharist finds its center in the sacramental ceremonies.

Eucharist and the Formation of the Clergy | Vincentiana Novus

But since this union is impossible without the reduction of interior division, a person must have the form of the One to enter into communion with Him. In this way, the sacrament of union is radically opposed to sin and to the passions, the bases of multiplicity and division. In conformity with this vision there results an entire ascetical spirituality focusing on interior purification.

From this comes the insistence on going to confession before receiving communion and of deferring communion to attain the best possible spiritual conditions. Such praxis was promoted in the tridentine seminaries, so much so that, although the Eucharist was celebrated daily, communion was received only once a week. It took place during the solemn Missa cantata, after which there was another Mass of thanksgiving. Eucharistic piety lived more through the adoration of the real presence, which had the primary importance, than through the common participation in the sacrament.

La Congregazione della Missione nel Settecento. Out of this vision, in the course of the following centuries, various aspects emerged which have so weighed on the past as to block, even today, liturgical renewal. Worship became more and more clericalized, seen, for example, architecturally in the choir or sanctuary which became more and more separated from the main nave. Through grilles or chancels or balustrades which correspond to the oriental iconostasis the people were left with an occasional view of what was happening in the sacred precincts and were excluded from any possibility of participation.

A second aspect of the profound transformation of the liturgy, closely joined with the first, is the loss of the assembly. A throng of people gathered around the officiating priest, but they were only passively present and understood very little. Even the liturgical language, Latin, contributed in increasing the distance. In this way, the dynamism of the liturgy was lost along with the liturgical focus on altar, presiding and ambo.

The altar disappeared, since it developed into a support for a huge backdrop or a grandiose tabernacle. The seat disappeared since a priest presided over the Eucharist who was not part of the assembly. The ambo also disappeared, substituted by a pulpit for sermons, while the Word of God was read in a dead language in the area restricted to clerics. The relationship to God in the Eucharistic celebration came to assume a private or devotional character: it was the celebration of a sublime ritual which served to consecrate the Eucharistic species with which one was nourished less and less often for the people , and especially to be adored.

The tabernacle, placed in the center of the apse, became the main liturgical focus, and the nave was filled with many altars around which developed private pious practices. To these aspects of deformation clericalization of worship, loss of the assembly, private devotionalism there should be added the heavy rubricism which became the standard liturgical practice.

The Council of Trent granted the Roman Curia exclusive competence in legislating liturgical matters. This liturgical centralism, established by Pius V, was consolidated by Sextus V with the institution of the Sacred Congregation of Rites. To this was added the competence of officially interpreting the liturgical books and of watching over the exact execution of the rites.

In this way, moral and juridical problems took the upper hand over theological and pastoral ones. The concerns of the celebrant converged on having a technically perfect celebration, without formal and material errors, scrupulously respecting all the rubrics, and being faithful to all the juridical-sacramental prescriptions.

Almost completely absent, however, was attention to subjective conditions, to the reception of sacramental grace.


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  • There is no doubt that the Council intended to put forth a renewal of priestly life,[ Already on the level of terminology, the newness is clear. It was preferable to turn to the term presbyter, used in the patristic age, rather than sacerdos , used at Trent. This speaks a lot about the attempt to overcome a certain tradition. Chapter III of LG is, in the judgment of all the commentators, the least successful of the entire constitution, together with the section about religious life chap. For this reason, PO lacks a prophetic quality, while the norms for application do not confront in any depth the issue of the evangelical renewal of priestly life.

    The crisis which has weighed, and still weighs, on priestly life is also due to this lacuna, this lack of strong prophetic signs that the council was able to express on other topics.