predesk

To Progress and Grow in Him

Dear Brothers:

Greetings!

The recently held XXV General Chapter declares among others the following:

“To progress and grow as disciples, called by the Master to be with Him, and to be sent as witnesses and messengers, until we are transformed as was our Father Founder throughout the course of his life (MS no. 75).”

As indicated, this number refers directly to formation. In the next six years the efforts of the Congregation in this area is geared towards this direction.

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Joy, a Guiding Star of Formation Process

light of lifeMy novice master Fr. Franz Dirnberger used to ask us frequently, “ Are you happy?”, expecting the response of a “yes” from the young novices. For him an unhappy novice was a paradox and it was an indicator that an unhappy novice was not meant for this form of life, unless he worked out his difficulties and returned to the “natural joy” of consecrated life.

Absence of joy in everyday life or presence of pervading sadness in a Claretian speaks loudly about his vocational integrity. Consecrated life is a free response to the loving call of the Lord heard in the interior of a person. Often one may find it difficult to hear the call amidst so many of the sounds are furies trumpeting within him and he may find himself pulled and pushed by the many attractions they promise. Unless one learns to enter into the zone of interior silence, it is easy to get confused and get lost in the cacophony composed by the conflicting calls. Cultivation of inner silence and practice of meditation and Lectio Divina are important ways to recognize the voice of the Lord and recover the joy of life.

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The Change that Changes Everything

the changeLooking at the formation programs which aim at promoting change and transformation, a formator may wonder what is that change which changes everything in a person. In other words, what is that change which, if it does not happen, there is no real change in a person even if one advances in age and accumulate academic degrees. Only very few formees are naturally tuned to benefit from the formation programs and grow towards higher levels of transcendence. It is after initial formation when life offers serious challenges that some religious go through the process of "breaking and building", the Pasqual mystery of dying to the old and rising to new life. Such a change often begins to happen in people at crucial moments of their lives. It can be through an encounter with a person, an escape from an accident, an illness, a failure, an experience of betrayal….

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The Center of Formation in our Formation Centers

creationAs we are learning to make sense of the prophetic act of Pope Benedict XVI in his resignation and his onward journey as a fellow pilgrim in contemplation, prayer and study, I would like to take one of his constantly repeated affirmations as central axis for our formation process. The Pope repeatedly said, "being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction… since God has first loved us" (Deus Caritas Est 1).   He has reiterated it again in his Lenten message.

Read more...

The Center of Formation in our Formation Centers

creationAs we are learning to make sense of the prophetic act of Pope Benedict XVI in his resignation and his onward journey as a fellow pilgrim in contemplation, prayer and study, I would like to take one of his constantly repeated affirmations as central axis for our formation process. The Pope repeatedly said, "being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction… since God has first loved us" (Deus Caritas Est 1).   He has reiterated it again in his Lenten message.

Since the last General Chapter we have been emphasizing the need for a transformative formation which, by the end of initial formation, should effect greater maturity in a formee at all levels of his personality in keeping with his identity as a disciple of Christ. The central factor of this transformation is his encounter with the risen Lord that would open up new horizons in his life. This is why all formation programs need to be evaluated in terms of how they help such an encounter. At times the level of maturity arrived by many formees by the end of their initial formation is quite disappointing. The level of maturity is manifested in the way a young missionary deals with the trials and challenges of his everyday life and remain faithful to his "first love" . The experience of being first loved by God and the consequent opening of new horizons and direction in one's life is at the center of the choice of religious life. Although an aspirant may begin his formative journey with mundane motives, the formative programs and the climate in the formation house will have to assist the formee to clarify and purify his motives and help the formee to face the reality of his faith experience and his personal encounter with Christ. This factor should not be ignored in the wake of academic performance or success in developing various talents. The priorities exercised in everyday life of a formation house marks the direction of formation process. An example of a non formative climate is a situation of a formation house where neither formators nor formees give importance to personal prayer and meditation and over look them in favour of frequently occurring "urgent" activities.

Another important component of Christian vocation (and much more for vocation to consecrated life) is ego transcendence. Though early part of formation needs to affirm a solid ego formation in order to transcend it at the service of truth and charity as one grows, often the "power" and "status" of ecclesiastical orders seem to hold the formee a prisoner of his vulnerable "ego ". No wonder we meet several "managers " of parishes or social projects among clergy than servants of the people of God .

For me the resignation of the Pope was another important Christian message in action: that power and authority is for service and the capacity for service determines the continuation in office. It requires humility and authenticity to serve with all ones resources when entrusted with an office and happily cede the office when such an act serves the office better.

A Transformative formation prepares people to assume leadership and responsibilities as opportunities of service. It is sad to see when formation is taken as the magic process that leads to "elevated status" of the humans to holy priesthood rather than as an unfolding of one's call to conformity with Christ, the evangelizer, an authentic transformation of the whole person into the likeness of Christ who loved us and gave himself for us. Humble service is the natural flow of Christian Faith. Radical commitment is the fruit of the faith experience of a missionary. The Year of Faith offers us the opportunity to nurture our Faith, our encounter with the person of Christ, which is at the core of formative process.

Mathew Vattamattam

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