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Uncut Diamonds: The Gift of Priestly Vocation

The gift of the priestly vocation, placed by God in the hearts of some men, obliges the Church to propose to them a serious journey of formation. As Pope Francis recalled on the occasion of his address to the Plenary of the Congregation for the Clergy (3 October 2014): “It means guarding and fostering vocations, that they may bear mature fruit. They are ‘uncut diamonds’, to be formed both patiently and carefully, respecting the conscience of the individual, so that they may shine among the People of God” [Pope Francis, Address to the Plenary of the Congregation for Clergy (3 October 2014): L’Osservatore Romano, 226 (4 October 2014), 8]. 

On 19 March 1985, the Congregation for Catholic Education, then competent in this matter, proceeded to amend the Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis promulgated on 6 January 1970 [cf. Congregation for Catholic Education, Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis (6 January 1970): AAS 62 (1970), 321-384], above all by updating the footnotes in light of the promulgation of the Code of Canon Law (25 January 1983). Since then, there have been numerous contributions on the theme of the formation of future priests, both on the part of the Universal Church and on the part of the Conferences of Bishops and individual particular Churches.

It is necessary above all to recall the Magisterium of the Pontiffs who have guided the Church in this time: Pope St. John Paul II, to whom we owe the ground-breaking Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (25 March 1992); Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, author of the Apostolic Letter ‘motu proprio’ Ministrorum Institutio (16 January 2013); and Pope Francis, whose encouragement and suggestions gave rise to the present document "The Gift of the Priestly Vocation", which is presented in full text in this issue of the Boletín Eclesiástico de Filipinas.

When a person receives the gift of the priestly vocation and enters the seminary, he thereby submits himself to the serious task of formation. Rough Diamonds are formed by tremendous pressure and intense heat. It is amazing to know how black carbon deposits could become precious gems far beneath the earth ready to be discovered. Those discerning their vocation are ready to offer themselves to God's will, and are willing to be formed, or to be 'polished' so to speak. The quality of a 'polished' diamond is determined by the 4Cs: Color actually means lack of color because a perfect one has no hue, like a drop of pure water. This may signify one's motivation and influences; Clarity refers to the absence of inclusions and blemishes. This may also refer to the clarity of one's intention; Carat Weight measures a diamond’s apparent size. This may speak of how one values his vocation; and a diamond’s Cut

Pope Francis regarded seminarians discerning their vocation as 'uncut diamonds'. Cut is the most complex to execute and most technically difficult to analyze because through careful cutting using a sharp implement, a trained diamond cutter could remove the impurities in order to unleash its 'fire' or the ability to transmit light and sparkle so intensely. We often think of a diamond’s cut as shape (i.e. round, heart, oval, marquise, pear), but a diamond’s cut grade is really about how well a diamond’s facets interact with light (fire). Precise artistry and workmanship are required to fashion a gemstone so its proportions, symmetry and polish deliver the magnificent return of light only possible in a diamond. In this regard, patience and care are required on the part of the Church and her formators. It is the mission of the Church “to care for the birth, discernment and fostering of vocations, particularly those to the priesthood” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 33). 

Diamonds are cut and polished not only to make them look nicer and neatly shaped. Diamonds cut with better proportions have more brilliance. Seminary formation could be like a diamond’s cut, crucial not only to the gem’s final beauty, but also in its value. Unlike diamonds, a candidate's imperfections have value to his vocation because by offering such flaws at the very beginning and throughout his formation, one could realize his crucial formation as 'uncut diamond': "to be formed both patiently and carefully, respecting [his] conscience, so that [he] may shine among the people of God." The diamond’s Cut unleashes its light, and in one's vocation that Light is dependent on the the fifth C, who is Christ.

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