(From the paper presented to the 66thmeeting of Superior Generals in Rome in 2006 by Fr. Edward Mercieca S.J., tittled, “Present Challenges: Ways and Means that Superiors and Governing bodies of Religious Congregations may undertake”.)
The young adult:
From the search for an apostolic religious identity – to work done with love and peace.
After years of formation there comes a time for the first apostolic responsibilities. Frequently one feels empty handed: What to do? How can one begin and how can one go ahead? How can one honour his commitments in a proper way? Apostolate attracts, at last one is exercising fully his service to the world. However, indeed, it is disconcerting because one’s work does not always result in affective repercussions, team work has a cost; collaborating with the laity is a desired goal but it is not an easy task. Also it is disturbing not to know how to balance the apostolate, community life, prayer and rest. Work facilitates growth but it also shows one’s limitations: low self-esteem, complexes as well as problems in relating to others. Difficulties arise when one has to accept one’s talents and use them to serve others without entering into competition with others. Even at this adult age, one is still seeking to be a protagonist, to concentrate on appearances or on the approval of others. Deep down the young adult is searching for his own apostolic identity. Who am I now, working apostolically?
Middle years of formation: (post novitiate)
From realism of love and work – to definitive commitment.
(There is a great variety of modalities of this phase in religious congregations: in duration, types of communities’ insertion, studies and apostolic commitments. Still we believe that the core infernal experience of growing toward definitive commitment is true of all religious formation at this stage).
Time, studies, knowing the religious institution with its traditions better, and the social reality where members of that religious family live and work, are not enough though, to make personal limitations disappear. Some tendencies – especially those that have to do with the affective-emotional type -, tend to surface again even if the young religious himself and superiors considered this to be a finished-business. It hurts to see limitations in other religious, in the congregation itself and in the Church. At the same time the young religious after novitiate, discovers and develops new talents, receives academic and professional training, and trusts experience on a deeper level. All this makes the young religious “student” more of a “person”: he gains deeper self-acceptance and self-esteem, and is better pre-pared to express himself and to do personal discernment in decisions.
(Formative tips for the stages of postulancy and novitiate presented in in the meeting of superior Generals in Rome in 2006 by Fr. EDWARD MERCIECA, S.J)
From the learning of a new style of Life – to an affective reorientation of Life in faith with Christ
Soon a novice will understand that this is a new and different style of Life. This is a new culture – in religious life – which touches all dimensions of life and which at first makes one feel rather lost: language, habits, daily rhythms, and personal relationships, all invite to a new perception of realities and a proper conduct that follows. Little by little one discovers the “ideal way” of reacting to work, rest and prayer. Many attitudes and conduct which one day will be personalized and assimilated, are at this very first phase of religious life rather in an external imitation stage, where “what will they say?” and “how do they perceive me?” are important questions. Daily living and time impregnate that “familial ecology”, fruit of the congregation’s charism. A new/different value system is being integrated by the novice, followed by a set of behaviours and a way of proceeding typical of religious. The young person’s sensitivity to stimuli and impatience, make the postulant/novice sometimes rather uncomfortable.
(Here are some useful tips on formation presented by Fr. Edward Mercieca SJ to the Meeting of Superiors General (USG) in his paper tittled “Present Challenges: Ways and Means that Superiors and Governing bodies of religious congregations may undertake” – Rome in 2006.)
Some points which cannot be considered completely acquired:
- The human person develops, grows and commits in every stage of life and in its totality: mind-heart-body; past-present-future.
- The way that relationships develop (quality, mode) with ourselves, with others and with our surroundings, is in direct relationship with the quality and the way we relate to God.
- Religious persons do not constitute a separate and distinct species from the rest of humanity; potential crises are present throughout our life journey.
- All that forms us as persons – intelligence, affectivity, body, language, history, etc. – is God’s grace. Stages of life, so much intimately related to our spiritual Life and our commitment, are God’s graces.
- In religious life one may become broken during times of crisis; brokenness caused by crises of losses and separations, brokenness due to crises coming from the charism/tradition of the congregation itself, brokenness caused by certain renunciations which one would have desired and chosen before.
- In each vital phase of life there occurs a crisis-growth experience; this is lived healthily in a cycle of confusion- pain- mature love. In religious Life these stages of life have their own specific characteristics even if deep down we share these experiences with others.
- Each person/religious in our case makes his own “reading” of the process. (more…)
“…having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end”
The formator has a key role in accompanying the young Claretians in their growth into conformity with Christ (Cf. CC 77; 68; PI 30). The spirit of Jesus is at work through the formators (GPF 107). The primary requisite of a formator is his own intimacy and conformity with Christ, the evangelizer. In order to grow in the qualities expected of a formator (GPF 108; PI 30), he has to gaze at and learn from the supreme formator, Jesus, whom he represents. All academic qualifications and other formative preparations will become effective only when backed by the credible life witness of the formator.
Gazing at Him….we learn to be human, Christian and Claretian.
Jesus’ as a formandus in Nazareth
“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man” (Lk.2.52)
The goal of Claretian formation is evidently following the Jesus of the Gospels, to grow in union and conformity with Him (GPF 12). All processes of formation aim at assisting the young formandi to realize their unity of life in Christ through the Spirit (PI 1). Our formandi grow through a process of progressive identification with the sentiments of Jesus and appropriation of his vision of life. Therefore, at the outset of our formative itinerary, we look at Jesus’ own story of formation in order to grow in Him. It is in his humanity that the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us”, raising our human nature to its heights and rendering God’s glory visible (Jn 1.14). in order that his story continue in us, our human nature has to be formed into his “image and likeness” (Gen.1.26). We consider our formative processes successful in the measure that our formandi are assisted to reach this goal. Jesus grew up amidst a difficult socio-political context, akin to that of many of our formandi.