In the Apostolic Exhortation ‘I Will Give You Shepherds', which deals with the formation of the candidates for the priesthood, Pope John Paul II lists different areas of formation - the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral areas - as well as the setting and the persons responsible for such work. After talking extensively about the human and spiritual development that a young man preparing for ministry in the Church must have, the Pope says this about intellectual formation:
If we expect every Christian to be prepared to make a defense of the faith and to account for the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Peter 3:15), then all the more should candidates for the priesthood and priests have diligent care of the quality of their intellectual formation in their education and pastoral activity. For the salvation of their brothers and sisters they should seek an ever deeper knowledge of the divine mysteries. The present world is heavily marked by religious indifference, by a wide-spread mistrust regarding the real capacity of reason to reach objective and universal truth, and by fresh problems and questions brought up by scientific and technological discoveries. It strongly demands a high level of intellectual formation, such as will enable priests to proclaim, in a context like this, the legitimate demands of human reason. Moreover, the pluralism of society and the many cultures coming together demand special attention to critical discernment and the need for an extremely rigorous intellectual formation.
Here is the importance for candidates to the priesthood to study Theology for at least four years so that they may be well equipped to withstand the challenges to the faith and to let the truth of the Gospel penetrate every aspect of human behavior.
We wish all students returning to school, especially our eight men - Nony, Jun, Gerry, Jason, Wilbert, Ted, Larry and Jeffrey - a rich and fruitful year of learning as they prepare for a life of evangelization in the third millenium.