For a Christian, the goal of the virtuous life is union with God. Our Lord told us that Heaven is to know God and Jesus Christ whom he sent. By using the virtues to perfect our ability to know, we are preparing our soul to know God in Heaven. This path of human formation through human virtue is a stepping stone to intellectual formation where we can perfect our ability to know.
The USCCB defines intellectual formation as “…a fundamental demand of man’s intelligence by which he ‘participates in the light of God’s mind’ and seeks to acquire a wisdom which in turn opens to and is directed towards knowing and adhering to God.”
The proper intellectual formation should then lead one to a life of prayer, which creates an interdependence between human, intellectual, and spiritual formation. “Human formation is linked to spiritual formation by the Incarnate Word and by the fact that grace builds on nature and perfects nature. Human formation is linked to intellectual formation by the cultivation of the human functions of perception, analysis, and judgment. It also contributes to intellectual formation by enabling seminarians to pursue theology as a response to the questions of the human condition. Human formation is finally linked to pastoral formation, which enables a priest to connect with and care for others with his human personality. Conversely, pastoral formation sharpens his human skills and empathic capacities.”
While pastoral formation is a unique path for seminarians and priests, we are each of us called to continually develop through human maturity, intellectual understanding, and spiritual depth. The virtuous life is the stepping stone which allows us to properly order our faculties and turn our mind to spiritual realities and a deeper prayer life. The seminary handbook states, “Since the first task of intellectual formation is to acquire a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ – Who is Wisdom Himself and the fullness of God’s revelation to man – it is necessary that intellectual formation be animated by a life of prayer.” Virtue should lead us to learning, and learning should lead us to prayer.
As we travel through this holy week, the most intense pinnacle of the Liturgical Year, let us move beyond the human formation of our Lenten resolution. How has this sacrifice brought us closer to God? Has living without this bodily comfort taught us about God’s presence and mercy in our life? Has this physical change prepared us to enter into the most Sacred Mystery of the Triduum?
Take Action this Week:
- Set aside time for silent prayer and reflection this week, especially on Good Friday.
- Read a Gospel account of The Passion on your own, taking the time to reflect and know God through the sacred word.
- Look at your Lenten resolution through a new lens. It may be the same action that you’ve been doing for the past six weeks, but how are you doing it differently, or are you changed because of it?