Passion to Learn and the Multicultural Reality

Passion to Learn and the Multicultural Reality

Although religious congregations had been living in multicultural communities for centuries, intercultural living has only recently been given serious thought and the attention it deserves. Partly, it may be because we, the religious, had always accepted living in multicultural communities as a given in religious life and therefore isn’t something that needed further consideration. Mainly, however, it is because intercultural living challenges our values and demands major changes in our behaviors.

In this reflection, I would like to dwell on the drive to learn, an essential component of living in a multicultural reality. People’s learning preferences are as diverse as their personalities.  What is essential is not so much the how but the desire and commitment to learn. By being open and committed to learning, we become more understanding, open, and accepting of, attitudes that are important in cultivating intercultural living.

There are many things to learn and one among these is that there is no such thing as inferior and dominant culture even if many among us continue to box and rank people according to cultural identity. Diversity should help us come to terms to the reality that the world is made richer in more ways than one by the coming together of people from various backgrounds.  Insisting on uniformity and conformity is an insult to the complexity of human life and God’s grandeur. All culture and people are in one way or the other both givers and receivers at the same time.

This brings us to the idea of the sacredness of each culture. Each one is sacred because each culture is formed in a particular context, environment, and historical background to form its own worldview. Cultures are created in a social reality that is distinctly unique from all others. There is no point in comparing; they only deserve the respect that is due them.

Moreover, there are more to culture than economic development. Culture is far more complex and encompassing than economy. It is about a people and life itself and all its intricacies. In the end, what matters most is how one’s culture brings us closer to each other, leads us to celebrate our diversities, and drives us to be better human beings to one another and to the world.

All these things will only bring change, a new perspective, and conversion in one’s life if s/he is ready to learn. Otherwise, embracing what is new, celebrating diversities, and conversion will remain a mere ideal that’s easy to proclaim but difficult to embody.

Pasión por aprender y la realidad multicultural

Pasión por aprender y la realidad multicultural

A pesar de que las Congregaciones religiosas han vivido en comunidades multiculturales durante siglos, ha sido hasta hace poco tiempo que a la vida intercultural se la ha prestado la atención que merece. En parte, puede deberse a que nosotros, los religiosos, siempre hemos aceptado vivir en comunidades multiculturales como algo dado en la vida religiosa y, por lo tanto, no como algo que necesite una mayor consideración. Sin embargo, es importante fijarnos en ella porque la vida intercultural desafía nuestros valores y exige cambios importantes en nuestros comportamientos.

En esta reflexión, me gustaría hacer hincapié en el impulso para aprender, un componente esencial de la vida en una realidad multicultural. Las preferencias de aprendizaje de las personas son tan diversas como sus personalidades. Lo esencial no es tanto el cómo sino el deseo y el compromiso de aprender. Al ser personas abiertas y comprometidas con el aprendizaje, llegamos a mostrarnos más comprensivos, abiertos y a aceptar las actitudes imprescindible para cultivar la vida intercultural.

Todavía hay muchas cosas que no acabamos de aprender y una de ellas es que no existe una cultura inferior y una dominante, incluso cuando muchos de nosotros continuamos encajonando y clasificando a las personas según su identidad cultural. La diversidad debería ayudarnos a aceptar la realidad de que el mundo se enriquece en más de un sentido al unir a personas de diversos orígenes. Insistir en la uniformidad y la conformidad es un insulto a la complejidad de la vida humana y la grandeza de Dios. Todas las culturas y las personas son, de una forma u otra, donantes y receptores al mismo tiempo.

Esto nos lleva a la idea de lo sagrado de cada cultura. Cada una es sagrada porque cada cultura se forma en un contexto, ambiente y antecedentes históricos particulares que conforman su propia cosmovisión. Las culturas se crean en una realidad social que es distintamente única de todas las demás. No tiene sentido compararlas; en cambio, debemos respetarlas por lo que representan.

Además, hay más en la cultura que el llamado desarrollo económico. La cultura es mucho más compleja y abarcativa que la economía. Se trata de un pueblo, su vida misma y todas sus complejidades. Al final, lo que más importa es cómo la propia cultura nos acerca, nos lleva a celebrar nuestras diversidades y nos impulsa a ser mejores seres humanos entre nosotros y para el resto del mundo.

Todas estas cosas solo producirán cambio, una nueva perspectiva y una auténtica conversión en la vida personal si nos disponemos a aprender. De lo contrario, abrazar lo nuevo, celebrar las diversidades y la conversión seguirá siendo un mero ideal que es fácil de proclamar pero difícil de encarnar.

Religious Formation and Discernment

Religious Formation and Discernment

We live in a world where day-to-day life consists in making choices from a wide range of choices, which only a few decades ago seemed unimaginable. Technology, particularly the internet and social media, offers seemingly endless options to even the most mundane of choices we need to make. We search in Google for restaurants in a particular location and all of a sudden we can’t make up our minds on where to eat.  Gone were the days when people would take a single route to a particular location. With the availability of applications like Google Maps and Waze, one is offered several options based on traffic flow and the nearest public transportation available.

That life is about making choices is a fact that can’t be argued. Even the decision not to act on something is still a choice. Everything is a choice. What defines us is how we make choices and the kind of choices we make.

This is the world and reality of many of our formands as they enter religious formation. They enter religious life after sifting through the many choices available to them, or sometimes given the very limited choices they have in their current life circumstances. Still they make a choice to enter. But making choices does not end as they become postulants. In fact, religious formation, in its truest sense, prepares the ground in which a more in-depth decision-making, through what we know as discernment process, will take place. Through human and spiritual formation programs that help them explore their psychological needs and their deeply held values and aspirations, we help them to move into a Christ-oriented discernment process as they move from stage to stage. Rather than staying on because of the expectations of others, or because of the perceived lack of better options outside of religious life, or because of the social status that religious life affords them, they are accompanied in the formation program so that they are able to listen to the movements of the Spirit in their life.  The goal of religious formation should be able to help them to follow the models offered in the Scripture in making decisions based on the will of God rather than their own personal comfort and wants. When they can truly say, “Be it done unto me according to Your Word,” no matter the decision they make, I think we can say that we have done our work well in initial religious formation.