The foundation and center of all human formation is Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. In his fully developed humanity, he was truly free and with complete freedom gave himself totally for the salvation of the world.
Pastores dabo vobis, no. 5, expresses the Christological foundation of human formation: “The Letter to the Hebrews clearly affirms the ‘human character’ of God’s minister: he comes from the human community and is at its service, imitating Jesus Christ ‘who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin’ (Heb 4:15).”
The basic principle of human formation is to be found in Pastores dabo vobis, no. 43: the human personality of the priest is to be a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ the Redeemer of the human race. As the humanity of the Word made flesh was the instrumentum salutis, so the humanity of the priest is instrumental in mediating the redemptive gifts of Christ to people today. As Pastores dabo vobis also emphasizes, human formation is the “necessary foundation” of priestly formation.
The human formation of candidates for the priesthood aims to prepare them to be apt instruments of Christ’s grace. It does so by fostering the growth of a man who can be described in these ways:
• A free person: a person who is free to be who he is in God’s design, someone who does not—in contrast to the popular culture— conceive or pursue freedom as the expansion of options or as individual autonomy detached from others
• A person of solid moral character with a finely developed moral conscience, a man open to and capable of conversion: a man who demonstrates the human virtues of prudence, fortitude, temperance, justice, humility, constancy, sincerity, patience, good manners, truthfulness, and keeping keeping his word, and who also manifests growth in the practice of these virtues.
• A prudent and discerning man: someone who demonstrates a “capacity for critical observation so that [he] can discern true and false values, since this is an essential requirement for establishing a constructive dialogue with the world of today”.
• A man of communion: a person who has real and deep relational capacities, someone who can enter into genuine dialogue and friendship, a person of true empathy who can understand and know other persons, a person open to others and available to them with a generosity of spirit. The man of communion is capable of making a gift of himself and of receiving the gift of others. This, in fact, requires the full possession of oneself. This life should be one of inner joy and inner peace—signs of self-possession and generosity.
• A good communicator: someone who listens well, is articulate, and has the skills of effective communication, someone capable of public speaking
• A person of affective maturity: someone whose life of feelings is in balance and integrated into thought and values; in other words, a man of feelings who is not driven by them but freely lives his life enriched by them; this might be especially evidenced in his ability to live well with authority and in his ability to take direction from another, and to exercise authority well among his peers, as well as an ability to deal productively with conflict and stress.
• A man who respects, cares for, and has vigilance over his body: a person who pays appropriate attention to his physical well-being, so that he has the energy and strength to accomplish the tasks entrusted to him and the self-knowledge to face temptation and resist it effectively.
• A man who relates well with others, free of overt prejudice and willing to work with people of diverse cultural backgrounds: a man capable of wholesome relations with women and men as relatives, friends, colleagues, staff members, and teachers, and as encountered in areas of apostolic work.
• A good steward of material possessions: someone who is able to live a simple style of life and able to “avoid whatever has a semblance of vanity”; someone who has the right attitude toward the goods of this world, since his “portion and inheritance” is the Lord; someone who is generous in making charitable contributions and sustaining the poor.
• A man who can take on the role of a public person: someone both secure in himself and convinced of his responsibility who is able to live not just as a private citizen but as a public person in service of the Gospel and representing the Church.