SJV Responds to Holy Father’s Plea; Hosts Conference Series Lead by Fr. Timothy Gallagher O.M.V.

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Fr. Timothy Gallagher O.M.V. teaches seminarians the art of proper spiritual discernment.

In a private interview held during World Youth Day in Krakow during the summer, Pope Francis stressed the importance of equipping future priests with the skill of proper spiritual discernment during their respective programs of priestly formation. This emphasis on the integral nature of preparing seminarians to accurately discern the will of God within every aspect of life, which can be found at the center of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s masterful work of the Spiritual Exercises, has existed as a prioritized area of formation within the overall program of priestly formation at Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, CO.

In the Fall of 2015, Father Timothy M. Gallagher, O.M.V. was officially appointed the St. Ignatius of Loyola Chair for Spiritual Formation at SJV. Fr. Gallagher was ordained in 1979 as a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, a religious community dedicated to retreats and spiritual formation according to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Fr. Gallagher has authored seven books on the spiritual teaching of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a biography of Venerable Bruno Lanteri, and a book on the Liturgy of the Hours. He obtained his doctorate in 1983 from the Pontifical Gregorian University, assisted in formation work for twelve years, served two terms as provincial in his community, dedicated many years to extensive work in spiritual direction and teaching, and is frequently invited to speak on EWTN about the spiritual life.

This year, seminarians at Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary have the distinct privilege of attending a series of conferences lead by Fr. Gallagher that began on Wednesday, September 21st in order to correctly learn the real-world application of seeking and finding God’s will in the disposition of their everyday lives in order to make sound and good choices. This training will not only help these future priests with their own decision-making skills, especially when related to important matters, but it will also provide vital knowledge and insight into their future roles as shepherds where they will serve and accompany the lay faithful throughout their various journeys of faith.

Seminarians will seek to develop the necessary skills required to provide the Church with helpful and loving guidance that respects law and doctrine completely, yet also remains flexible and impactful by seeking to avoid the pitfalls of simplistic assessments and rigid, unhelpful support.

The commencement of these conferences arrives after the interview from Pope Francis that was originally recorded and published by La Civiltà Cattolica in Rome with excellent commentary from Catholic Voices. Pope Francis specifically requests that Church leaders work with seminarians in this crucial area of spiritual discernment:

Above all, give them what you have received from the Exercises: the wisdom of discernment. The Church today needs to grow in the ability of spiritual discernment. Some priestly formation programs run the risk of educating in the light of overly clear and distinct ideas, and therefore to act within limits and criteria that are rigidly defined a priori, and that set aside concrete situations: “you must do this, you must not do this.” And then the seminarians, when they become priests, find themselves in difficulty in accompanying the life of so many young people and adults. Because many are asking: “can you do this or can you not?” That’s all. And many people leave the confessional disappointed. Not because the priest is bad, but because the priest doesn’t have the ability to discern situations, to accompany them in authentic discernment. They don’t have the needed formation.

In direct partnership with Fr. Gallagher and his world-class knowledge of the topics and intricacies found within the Discernment of Spirits, Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary hopes to establish a culture of balanced formation that honors this important plea of Pope Francis by accompanying and supporting seminarians in a genuine way during their years spent learning and growing at seminary. SJV hopes to teach seminarians to discern situations prayerfully and properly in order to prepare them for future ministry filled with supreme empathy and generosity of heart.

The centrality of SJV’s pillar of formation continues to be founded upon the Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola in order to mold future priests into champions of prayer, connectivity, love, and self-awareness by anchoring their spiritual discernment on the actualization of the will of God throughout every step. After all, when speaking about St. Ignatius and how important his words are to the lives of future priests, the Holy Father concludes:

What he has written is bold, it is truly bold, but discernment is precisely this! We need to form future priests not to general and abstract ideas, which are clear and distinct, but to this keen discernment of spirits so that they can help people in their concrete life. We need to truly understand this: in life not all is black on white or white on black. No! The shades of grey prevail in life. We must them teach to discern in this grey area.

 

 

-Authored by Brian Lawrence Pavey

 

 


“About.” Fr. Timothy M. Gallagher, O.M.V. Accessed September 22, 2016. http://www.frtimothygallagher.org/.
“Civiltà Cattolica.” Civiltà Cattolica. Accessed September 22, 2016. http://www.laciviltacattolica.it/it/.
“Pope Urges Jesuits to Teach Discernment in Seminaries to Counter Rigidity.” Catholic Voices Comment 2016. Accessed September 22, 2016. https://cvcomment.org/2016/08/26/pope-urges-jesuits-to-teach-discernment-in-seminaries-to-counter-rigidity/.
“Pope Francis Visits Jesuit House in Krakow.” Vatican Radio. Accessed September 22, 2016. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/07/30/pope_francis_visits_jesuit_house_in_krakow/1248170.
“There’s Something about Seminaries.” Association of Catholic Priests. Accessed September 22, 2016. http://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/2016/08/theres-something-about-seminaries/.