Mention of The Gift of The Priestly Vocation in this section refers to the more user friendly title of the document produced by the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome in 2016: Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis - The Fundamentals of Priestly Formation. In some places in this section it may simply be referred to as The Ratio.
The intellectual formation at St John’s is framed in the context of faith seeking understanding. Intellectual formation happens all the time: whenever a person thinks, talks to others, or learns from others. It takes place in reading Scripture, the Divine Office, spiritual reading, and meditation. This is why St John’s encourages a culture of on-going learning. Following closely the requirements of The Ratio, the academic programme gives a solid competence in philosophy and theology, as well as a more general educational preparation. Intellectual formation enables the Seminarian and future priest to proclaim the Gospel message to people today in a way that is credible and that can be understood more clearly. It enables him to dialogue with the world, and to uphold the truth of faith by the light of reason. Intellectual formation serves pastoral ministry and impacts on the Seminarian’s human and spiritual formation. It helps him listen more profoundly to the Word, and to the ecclesial community, so that he can learn how to read the signs of the times. It asks for conversion of mind and heart, for discipleship, and for the Seminarian to conform himself ever more closely to Christ.
Following the requirement of The Ratio the academic programme is divided into two years of philosophy followed by three years of theology.
In the philosophy cycle, Seminarians study the history of philosophy from ancient to modern times, political philosophy, logic, epistemology and metaphysics. The study of philosophical ethics, cosmology, evolution, religion, natural theology and theological anthropology is designed to enable the Seminarian to understand and dialogue with people who may not share the same faith tradition but who are nevertheless seeking wisdom. Since conversation with others is important, the philosophy cycle includes study of the roots of Christianity especially in our society and culture, and the rise of Islam. Study of the wisdom of the early church fathers and of Thomas Aquinas contributes to this dialogue. Aesthetics, the philosophy of art, ensures that the human person is considered in all aspects including the spiritual and transcendent. Since Scripture is fundamental to the programme, Seminarians also study the synoptic gospels, John’s gospel, and the Wisdom books of the Old Testament. Additionally, there is the opportunity to study Latin and Greek.
In the three year theology cycle Seminarians take further studies in Scripture, covering the Johannine and Pauline corpus, Catholic Epistles, Hebrews, Psalms and Canticles, the Historical Books of the Old Testament and Prophets. The fundamentals of theology, Revelation, Christology and Trinitarian theology, Ecclesiology, Mariology and Theological Anthropology ensure that Seminarians have a solid grounding in the faith. Central to priestly life are the Sacraments and the Liturgy which are studied in their theological, historical, spiritual, traditional and canonical aspects. Particular attention is given to the Eucharist, Holy Orders and Penance and Anointing. Canon Law is studied in depth, alongside the history and theology of Marriage. Church History from early Christianity to modern times, ecumenism, interfaith studies and personal and social ethics with bioethics, complete the academic programme.
St John’s is associated with the Theological and Philosophical faculties of Mater Ecclesiae College, and with St Mary’s University – Twickenham. On successful completion of their formal academic studies, Seminarians will be eligible for two degrees – the Pontifical STB and the civil BA.