Priests are called to be worthy spiritual fathers to the souls entrusted to their care. Years of seminary formation ideally forge them into faithful, generous, healthy priests, ready to serve the needs of the Church. But priests are not immune to the busyness, pressures, and distractions of a life of ministry. Over time, the lessons from their formation can fade into the background.

Forming Fathers: Seminary Wisdom for Every Priest seeks to remind priests of the lessons so greatly needed to fulfill their calling faithfully. Originally delivered by Fr. Carter Griffin as talks to seminarians, this series of short, inspiring vignettes can help rekindle a priest’s first love and awaken the aspirations that brought him into the seminary in the first place. Much of what is contained in these pages is also applicable to Catholic laymen, themselves called to the virtues of Christian manhood, the responsibilities of discipleship, and the dignity of spiritual fatherhood.

Fr. Griffin covers such central topics as the life of prayer, offering Holy Mass well, the importance of priestly friendships, and the need for fortitude. He addresses challenging issues, such as chaste celibacy, loving the Church, and living material simplicity, with simple truth. Priests may benefit most, however, from some of the themes that might have been overlooked in their seminary days: the importance of courtesy, the vital role of order and daily exposure to beauty, the virtue of magnanimity and its impact on priestly happiness, and exercising priestly leadership.


Father Carter Griffin is a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington. A graduate of Princeton University and a former line officer in the United States Navy, he obtained his doctorate in theology from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. After serving at St. Peter’s parish on Capitol Hill, in 2011 he was assigned to the newly-established St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington, DC, where he now serves as Rector. He is the author of Why Celibacy?: Reclaiming the Fatherhood of the Priest and Cross-Examined: Catholic Responses to the World’s Questions, published by Emmaus Road Publishing.


Bishop James F. Checchio

“The Church needs good and holy priests! Since grace builds on nature, priestly formation requires virtuous men who can be conformed to Jesus the High Priest. Fr. Griffin, in Forming Fathers: Seminary Wisdom for Every Priest, lays out a realistic plan for any young man called to the priesthood to focus on his gifts and human formation and then complement them through grace, prayers, and the development of virtuous habits to become a generous, faith-filled priest of Jesus Christ. Father Griffin uses his own experience and his years in seminary formation work to share his wisdom for the road to the priesthood or for a review of life for ongoing priestly formation. Forming Fathers is an invaluable tool for seminarians and for priests who wish to renew the ideals that first brought them to the seminary. This book gives good practical advice wisely in line with the new Ratio Fundamentalis approved by Pope Francis which now guides formation for the priesthood.”

Most Rev. James F. Checchio
Bishop of Metuchen Former Rector, Pontifical North American College


Bishop Andrew Cozzens

“In his meditations on fatherhood for priests, Fr. Griffin shares profound riches from the tradition that combine knowledge of virtue, the spiritual life, and the saints in a way that is beautifully presented. This book can help to rekindle the desire for self-gift that first motivated our priestly call and the deeper insight to teach us how to live the fatherhood that Jesus modeled and which our Church and our world so desperately need from priests. Every man longs to be a father. The Church and the world are longing for the fatherhood of God to be present through them.”

Most Rev. Andrew Cozzens
Bishop of Crookston President, Seminary Formation Council


Fr. Paul Scalia

“All authentic reform requires going back to the basics, returning to our origin. ‘Look to the rock from which you were hewn,’ Isaiah proclaims. So also, the renewal of the priesthood so desperately needed today. It is not found in something new but in a return to fundamentals and a deeper commitment to them. Drawing on his years in seminary formation and the experience of his own priesthood, Father Griffin places before us anew—and in a winning manner—those truths, principles, and practices that are now and always have been the source of renewal. As an instrument of renewal, Forming Fathers is must reading not only for seminarians but for priests of any age.”

Fr. Paul Scalia
Episcopal Vicar for Clergy, Diocese of Arlington


Sr. Mary Patrice Ahearn

“In my work as a clinical psychologist with seminarians, it is evident that our culture presents them with many hurdles to overcome in order to be well prepared for the priesthood. Their chastity is challenged and a narrative of ‘toxic masculinity’ has influenced them to almost be ashamed of being men. Fr. Griffin has written a book that addresses these hurdles directly and helps to form and guide young men to develop virtues and to become true gentlemen. He refers to the great minds of the Church, literature, military leaders and heroes, men and women saints and everyday experiences that illustrate masculine virtue and holiness in an attractive and achievable way. This book is not only for seminarians and priests, it is a must read for anyone who works with seminarians or simply needs to rejuvenate their spiritual life.”

Sr. Mary Patrice Ahearn, RSM, PsyD
Training Director of the IPS Center Assistant Professor, Divine Mercy University


Fr. Thomas Berg

“We have here an instant classic for the formation of future Catholic priests. The two chapters on chastity alone are worth the price of the book, but it packs so much more. Each chapter is replete with the perennial wisdom of successful seminary formation. Yet each page is informed as well by more recent proven best practices in light of the enormous contemporary challenges faced by priests today. Fr. Griffin writes in an easily readable and relatable style, with humor, kindness—as well as a much-needed candor. Anchored in an authentic Catholic anthropology, psychology, and spirituality, this book will stand the test of time, and will contribute enormously to the successful preparation of men for the priesthood for generations to come.”

Fr. Thomas Berg, PhD
Professor of Moral Theology and Director of Seminarian Admission St. Joseph’s Seminary (Dunwoodie)


Dcn. James Keating

“Within these pages a priest can find a veritable ongoing formation program. The very program which Pope Francis has called for within his promulgated documents on seminary formation. No priest ends his formation upon ordination. The insights, stories, and faith expressed in these pages establishes a concrete place toward which a priest can turn in order to respond to Francis’ call. To have a rector like Fr. Griffin leading the formation of future priests can only give both priests (and dads!) great hope that future clerics will be true men, mature men, men who give themselves away in service because they made themselves available to be loved by God in seminary formation. Share this book with every priest you know.”

Dcn. James Keating, PhD
Professor of Spiritual Theology, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, St. Louis Author of Configured to Christ: On Spiritual Direction and Clergy Formation


Susan M. Timoney

Forming Fathers: Seminary Wisdom for Every Priest is a book that needs to be on every pastoral formator’s shelf. Priests will be good leaders to the extent that they understand what it means to be a spiritual father who has a passion and courage for loving God and saving souls. In a brother’s voice, Fr. Carter Griffin reminds priests that the disciplines of seminary formation are the foundation for the exercise of fruitful leadership and ministry marked by joy.”

Susan M. Timoney, STD
Associate Professor of Practice, Pastoral Studies The Catholic University of America


Fr. Brett Brannen

“Stellar! Fr. Carter Griffin has done it again. He has written a second book which should be required reading for every seminarian! Forming Fathers: Seminary Wisdom for Every Priest is filled with solid spiritual guidance, crucial theological truths made understandable, and invaluable practical wisdom to help a man navigate the difficult waters of seminary formation and priestly life. This book is a true vademecum for every priest!”

Fr. Brett Brannen
Director of Spiritual Formation, Pontifical College Josephinum Author of To Save a Thousand Souls

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Forming Fathers: Seminary Wisdom for Every Priest