Some folks have written about prayer as being spiritual training; and about formation as being spiritual training… akin to athletic training it must go on and on regularly, day after day, week after week, year after year… in order not to get spiritually flaccid.
But I think the hardest part of the priestly training is the mercy marathon that you have to prepare your heart for.
What I mean is this… many priests have high personal standards (are finicky perfectionists) but God does not call us to be finicky perfectionists who inflict that on other people… it is MERCY he desires not sacrifice.
So part of the ongoing training of every priest is to keep stretching your heart, so that it doesn’t go hard around the edges and get judgemental and finicky, unforgiving and unmerciful… all of which are habits that it could fall into whilst we are seriously trying to live holy lives (no really, don’t laugh!)
So on and on, God reveals to us situations where judgements must be made but made with mercy, and generous hearts… where forgiveness must be ever on our minds and the opportunities for repentance always held out with an open hand…
Come to think about it, there’s something to that image… a heart overflowing, and hands held out open, whilst all the while ready to forgive… I suppose realistically it’s a long walk up a steep hill rather than a marathon run.