Are there “recipes” for getting good priests? Here's a masterful recipe worthy of the best “restaurants” in the world.
1. A pre-selected young man. He does not need to be the best of all.
2. A suitable space where the young man can “marinate” for the necessary time.
3. A team of high-quality “chefs.” Intelligent and virtuous (more virtuous than intelligent).
4. Salt (of the Lord) to taste, so he can flavor the world.
5. A good dose of philosophical and theological studies.
6. Bible and prayer in large quantities. The more, the better.
7. Leave the final touch to the Holy Spirit.
First, the Lord takes the pre-selected young man and invites him to become a fisher of men. Here, the spiritual guidance of his pastor or a priest friend is very important. Regardless of the fear he may have, he will enter a long process of “marinating” that can last eight years or more. This time is given in a space that is both sufficiently comfortable and serious so that the young man can discern with the help of a specialized team of national and international chefs who have prepared themselves in Italian cuisine or in the cuisine of the host country. The native chefs know exactly what springs from their own soil and can work wonders with what the Lord has put under their stewardship.
In the team of chefs, there is always a head chef – let’s call him the Rector – who has been put in place by the order of his superior. He is responsible for making sure everything is done according to the will of the Head Chef; the ingredients must be of good quality so that the product is appreciated by everyone and pleasing to those who will come.
Begin by placing the young man in the marinator (seminary). It is important to salt him from the beginning and not wait until the end of the preparation. If the salting is left for the end, the young man could end up being a priest with an excellent presentation but no taste, the kind that people say is not particularly flavorful even though it looks attractive on the plate. Let’s leave the salting to the Lord’s taste; he knows how much each one needs. If the chefs throw in the salt, there is a danger that they will go too far and leave the dish unpalatable and dangerous because it produces hypertension.
In advance, start by removing anything that might interfere with the recipe for the main ingredient. Remove nerves (so that he will be cautious but not cowardly), remove excess fat (so that he will not be a heavy burden on peers and the community), and remember that in order to be an excellent priest, he needs to be an excellent human being. While marinating, it is critical to add a good amount of literature and philosophy studies. Skipping this part of the recipe can result in a very dangerous fundamentalist, one of those types who claim to know the place where Adam’s umbilical cord is kept. Meanwhile, base his studies on a suitable spiritual foundation. This is the part that the Lord can spice up best: the more intimacy with him, the more excellent the taste will be in the final result.
After the philosophical formation process, it is necessary to remove him from the ordinary marinade and pass him to a new container (it is dangerous to skip this step because the product can decompose otherwise). He is then placed in a parish community, which tastes the dish and says how the recipe is turning out. The end customer can also say beforehand how he feels that this is all turning out and can give his opinion to those who are involved in the preparation process. The community’s opinion is necessary to take into account.
Returning him to the marinator and giving him the final touches are very important, as the product must be digestible and not produce intoxication.
The final part of the recipe is a good deal of theology and Holy Scripture: the young man must not only know the Bible, but have the flavor of the Bible. Above all, he must have the flavor of God. Those who try him should find the sweet taste of Jesus within him. Add a good dose of love for Mary and the Church. A priest who claims to love God but disrespects his Church, his superiors, and everything he said he believed in when he started out is harmful. Finally, introduce him to the superior who shall, if he is deemed suitable, put the essence of the whole process in him: he will lay his hands on him and ask God to give him the gift of the Holy Spirit to establish and configure him in the image of Christ.
To all the guests at the table, I recommend the careful handling of the dish. Never tell him he is the best dish ever served at your table, for he might believe it and lose his original flavor. When you have to remove him from the table, do not compare him with the next dish; each product has its special flavor. The touch of God doesn’t let anyone know what the other tastes like, although everyone should taste like the Lord.