Human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation are to be understood in a unified and integrated sense. They are neither discrete nor layered dimensions of diaconal existence, but interrelated aspects of a human response to God’s transforming grace. Accordingly, in the Permanent Diaconal Formation Program, all members of the formation community are simultaneously engaged in all four dimensions of diaconal formation.
Human formation uncovers the foundation of the other three. For spiritual formation it fosters development of the virtues and personal qualities that grace perfects in building on nature. For intellectual formation it fosters development of the human qualities of perceptiveness, analysis, and good judgment as a basis for conducting theological study. For pastoral formation it fosters development of the skills, the character, and the commitment that enable the candidate to exercise a service-minded ministry.
Spiritual formation imparts a form to the other three. For human formation, it both assumes and fosters development of a basic relational capacity with God and with others. For intellectual formation it provides opportunities for a loving experience of the mysteries that theology investigates. For pastoral formation it presses candidates to an ever more affective and effective pastoral charity.
Intellectual formation yields an understanding of the other three. For human formation it fosters development of human intelligence as a perfection of the self and as a service to the community of faith. For spiritual formation it deepens and broadens the candidate’s spiritual life by affording content, criteria, and historic witnesses to spiritual growth. For pastoral formation it engenders a comprehensive understanding of the mystery of faith, as well as the skills to engage in an evangelization of culture.
Pastoral formation synthesizes an expression of the other three. For human formation it allows candidates to begin to experience themselves as points of connection between God and his people. For spiritual formation it expresses the spiritual fruitfulness of the ministry, which both demands and furthers a vital union with Christ. For intellectual formation it provides the experience of a ministerial context that allows reality-testing and raises further questions for inquiry.
The point of integration must necessarily be the candidate himself. The Permanent Diaconal Formation Program is designed to ordain a man of character, holiness, pastoral understanding, and pastoral effectiveness—an ardent but gentle servant-leader. Aspirants begin the program already blessed in these qualities. The extent to which they harmonize these qualities and bring them to maturity depends on their own resolve and their cooperation with grace.