The life and mission of any congregation to a great extent depend on the formation of its members. And the theme of formation was one of the privileged subjects of focus of our congregation of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Claretian Missionaries, throughout its history. The Directory (1987) of the Claretians puts the objective of formation as follows: “The fundamental objective of formation is to promote growth in union and conformity with Christ according to the Claretian Charism in a responsible and creative manner” (n. 156). And in 1994 the congregation presented to its members the General Plan of Formation to assist “at fostering the vocational growth and maturity of those who feel called to share our missionary life in the Church.” And the General Government of the congregation also invited all the major organisms of the congregation to draw their own Provincial Plans of Formation based on the General Plan of Formation in line with the specific context and demands of each province. The General Plan of Formation presents the theological, ecclesial and Claretian foundations of formation. Then each stage of formation is elaborated separately focusing on the context, requirements, objectives and means, and agents of formation. The objectives focus on three aspects: human, Christian and Claretian. This plan also invites the formators to maintain a developmental vision of the human person and apply it in the process of formation. But in these plans there is no specific guidelines given in this direction. So my interest is to approach the stages of formation from a developmental perspective. I also restrict myself to the Indian context so as to make use of the reflections in a practical way.
1. The need for a Developmental Perspective in Formation
In the recent years the need to have a solid Human Formation of the candidates for priesthood is stressed very much by the Church. At this point I would elaborate a few points stressed by the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope John Paul II written in 1992 after the Bishops’ Synod on Priestly Formation entitled Pastores Dabo Vobis [‘I Will Give You Shepherds after my own heart’ Jer. 3:15]. This rich document draws not only on the work of the Synod Fathers but also on all the other documents on priestly formation which have been published as a result of the Vatican Council. PDV has been viewed as distinctly innovative and as promoting human development in priestly formation. It has encouraged those charged with the formation of future priests to use the insights of secular sciences, particularly those given by developmental psychology, in the holistic formation of the candidates. This document has emphasised that human formation does not end with the time of formation a person spends in the seminary. It asserts that human formation is to be considered as a sine qua non on which the priest will base the whole of his developing life as stage and age appropriate transitions are encountered. The human formation of priestly life is viewed as the bedrock to which all other formative experiences [PDV 43] are attached in an integrative manner. The document is not only concerned with the initial phase of formation but also with on-going formation and issues which pertain to various stages of life and ministry. When this document is read in conjunction with Vita Consecrata, a papal document of considerable importance which followed a Synod on Consecrated Life, the implications for formation are considerable.
2. Human Development
Developmental theorists provide a comprehensive picture of the development of the personality, from the earliest moments of life to the time when death becomes an imminent factor. They have described the process of a human being who is developing simultaneously both intra-psychically and interpersonally; their work presents a developmental picture which is congruent with the observable experiences of behaviours of the human person. The development which takes place in the making of a person is clearly outlined in stages, some of which are more critical than others. The complete process is dynamic, evolutionary and creative. These theories accept the complexity of the human person, all are concerned with the development of persons and all recognise that there are stages that are to be traversed in order to reach the next.
Sigmund Freud conceived of these as a psycho-sexual process of development, attached to bodily zones. While much of Freud’s conceptualisation was deduced from psychopathological conditions, it was his disciples and dissidents who conceived of a healthy conflict-free ego which enabled growth, adaptation and development. The ego psychologists and the object relations theorists, focused not only on the individual’s intra-psychic relationship but also on his or her relationship with other people. Erikson’s work on the developmental stages went beyond Freud’s adolescent stage into those of early, middle and late adulthood and provided an evolution of the corporate findings of other theorists. But these theories fail to acknowledge the ultimate questions implicit in these empirical observations. There is another difficulty with these theories is that they consider development and maturity in terms of natural values, psycho-biological impulses, and social adaptation. The approach is valid but incomplete, since it excludes from the question any possibility of an authentically religious dimension. So I would situate the whole question of development within the concept of Mystery and the Parameters of development which gives a holistic view.
2.1. An Integral Approach to Development
The Transcendent approach is an integral approach. This approach situates development in the light of the “mystery” of the human person. This approach has a sound anthropological horizon which can accommodate both the transcendent aspect of human existence and the empirical data provided by the above mentioned theories.
2.1.1. The Self as Mystery
When we hear the word “Mystery” the meaning which comes to our mind is of something vague, obscure, and unintelligible. But here it is used in a positive sense of a glimpse into a reality whose full meaning cannot be grasped here and now because it transcends the immediate capacity of senses and intellect. Fr.Imoda enables us to discover this element of mystery from some areas of human experience: life as a journey, laughter and play, the thirst for knowledge, sorrow and pain, solitude, the restlessness of the human heart. He further points out that the sense of mystery is normally experienced at the relatively preconscious level of awareness, but there are moments in the life of every individual when mystery breaks through the daily circumstances of life in ways that can be surprising or even profoundly disturbing.
Human mystery is grounded in the existential fact that man simultaneously inhibits two different “worlds” that represent diverse spheres of meaning: the world of desire and the world of limits. And the person experiences necessarily a tension between these two worlds which have contrasting characteristics. The world of desire includes imagination and inquiry or questioning without any fixed limits. The human spirit has the capacity to transform everything possible. In the case of imagination and desire there are no necessary limits because there is no need to choose. We can imagine or desire anything we want. In order to be a possible object of desire something has to be represented as good. The world of desires broadens as time passes. On the other hand the world of limits has different characteristics. The truth is that man lives in a world of limits. There are certain things that one cannot change, like one’s sex, the particular family into which one is born, mental and physical structure, etc. And they must be accepted. Although the limits may not be always inflexible, they impose restrictions on the fulfilment of possible desires. As life goes by one is encroached more and more by these limits. The very notion of limit and desire imply an inherent tension, and the way each individual deals with this tension has far-reaching consequences for personal development. For some the events of daily life are seen as opportunities for confronting the mystery of self, and for others the same events are perceived as a threat, provoking anxiety and fear, heightening defenses. The first response is adaptive; the second is regressive, and effectively reduces the “mystery” of the self to a series of “problems.”
2.1.2. Development as Mystery
The above understanding of the Self as mystery makes it easy to place the human development within the same anthropological horizon. Margaret Mahler captures the mystery of development in her distinction between biological and psychological birth: “the former is a dramatic and readily observable, well-circumvent event; the latter, a slowly unfolding intra-psychic process.” So development is truly an event filled with the mystery. We can say that it is development that, to a great extent, holds the key to the mystery of human life yet, paradoxically, it also provokes some deeply disturbing questions: Why so many human lives marked more by different forms of developmental failure than by the fullness of life? Why does human development seem to involve so much internal struggle and even resistance? Why does the process of becoming oneself seem to require such a high price?
At the heart of the mystery lies the fact that development can bring about the actualization of countless potentials and possibilities inherent in the personality, and yet a successful outcome to the process of development can be neither assumed nor assured. It makes that point clear that the struggle for human development does not always reach a positive conclusion. And it is the responsibility of the human person, to the extent he or she is the author of his or her own destiny, to work out the “mystery” of development. With this understanding it becomes easier to present the definition of development.
Development: may be defined as the acquisition of new structures, or change from one structure to another (where structure – or dynamic pattern – means the fundamental rule determining relations between various elements). Such acquisition or change is activated in reply to some tension arising from the transformations carried out by continuing differentiation and integration. The complexity of human development is due to the fact that the different structures express a human reality which simultaneously inhibits somatic, psychic (affective, cognitive, interpersonal), and spiritual planes.”
2.1.3. Developmental Parameters
Fr.Imoda tries to explain and interpret the complexities of the developmental process with the three parameters. According to him a parameter is a theoretical construct which can be defined as a constant within which there is variability. The construct usefully reflects the stability and flux that are characteristic of human life. Let me now briefly present the three parameters.
126.96.36.199. The first parameter: Otherness, Individual and Environment
The first parameter is based on the polarity between self and other. The notion of other must be understood analogically since the other assumes different shapes and embodies different meanings during the course of development. The ontological foundation of otherness is the contingency of human existence which, paradoxically, is the expression both of limit and infinity. Because humanity does not contain within itself sufficient reason for its own existence, human beings instinctively seek meaning and realization beyond the self, in others, and ultimately in the divine other. And this “otherness can never be eliminated from the human experience without eliminating its very reality.” The effort one makes to cope with this tension of otherness, in every step and in every moment of life, leads to development. This recurs constantly and irreducibly. And the task of establishing and sustaining mature interdependent relationships implies a life-long effort to cope with the tension of otherness or alterity.
188.8.131.52. The second parameter: Temporality; Past and Future
The second parameter is based on the polarity of past and future, and considers the significance of time in human development. It is related to the corporeal aspect of the person, which is limited in space and time. This implies the influence of the past and future in the life of the person. Without a past there is no future and vice versa. Fr.Imoda explains this interplay of past and future in the present of the person in the following words: “If the present of each one is like a summary of his entire past, that which he embraces naturally in the conscious and subconscious area, it is also the expectation of what is not yet, of a future that is in some way part of the present since it does not yet exist.” The conflicting demands arising from past and future inevitably provoke tensions that demand a response from the person. Confronted by these tensions, individuals tend to develop habitual response patterns which carry important consequences for personal development. One thing is certain, the past, by its very nature, can never be eliminated; it can, however, be appropriated in the light of future possibilities which, together with past conditionings, challenge the individual to claim active responsibility for his personal destiny.
184.108.40.206. The third parameter: Structure, Process, Stages
The third parameter is based on the polarity between structure and process, stability and change, being and becoming, and finds psychological expression in the theories of staged development. Stages are connected on the one hand with the ontological and anthropological reality of man’s mystery and on the other hand with the empirical observation of complex human reality. The process of development creates an inescapable tension between the developed self and the developing self, between the “self as transcended” and the “self as transcending”. The many theories of developmental stages attempt to explain and hold together the radical unity of the person together with the “how” of development. The third parameter of staged development combines both of the previous parameters by adding greater concreteness and specificity to otherness and temporality. There are different ways in which these experiences can be retained and thus kept present: as biological-physical traces, as images, or as memories recorded through explicit conceptual language. We need to be aware, at this juncture, of the danger of trying to construct a totally exhaustive and all-embracing theory of developmental stages, because by doing so we would finish by reducing the mystery of the person to a problem.
As a way of concluding the discussion on the parameters, we can say that “the person is always one, while the parameters taken together help us to discern the particular modalities which the mystery takes on in the ‘here and now’.”
2.1.4. Conflicts on our Developmental Journey
The reflections done so far brought out one point very clear that the human being is not merely driven by instincts, but equipped with free will and capable to transcend himself. So a self that is transcended (actual self) and a self that is transcending (ideal self) can be distinguished. The tension between these two “selfs” is the basic force of human development. Development is more than external change and mere growth, but dialectical. Therefore conflicts on this developmental journey are inevitable. “Each stage in a sense opposes, in a sense incorporates, and above all transmutes the previous one.” One of the most famous stage models, Erikson’s psycho-social one, sees the nucleus of each stage in a “basic crisis”: basic trust – basic mistrust, autonomy – shame, doubt, initiative – guilt … Breger lists the following core conflicts, which repeatedly appear in every human life: “dependence – independence, security – anxiety, aggression and its control, love – hate, sensual pleasure and its renunciation; excitement – boredom.” The crucial point is how the person deals with these – inevitable – conflicts. “The perennial conflicts of human life involve growth and change, but they can also lead to psychological disturbance.” Conflict can provoke development itself, but “may also be dysfunctional, even pathological; it can be disturbance, hindrance, and a block to development.” Two general ways by which the developing individual resolves conflicts, can be distinguished: dissociation and integration.
3. Formation: A Developmental Perspective
In the initial pages of this paper I have explained why a developmental approach to formation is taken up. Now is the time to look at the candidates from their existential situation as they go through each stage of formation. But before dealing with each stage of formation I would elaborate on the developmental stage in which the candidates find themselves. In the Indian context one would normally begin one’s formation between the ages of 15 to 17 and get ordained by the age of 28 to 30. So they would fall within the stages between later adolescence to early adulthood. So I explain these stages in their different aspects first and then present some pointers for the formators in different stages of formation.
Adolescence is characterized by profound biological, psychological, and social developmental changes. It is considered to be one of the stormiest times in the life cycle. It is commonly divided into three periods: early (ages 11 to 14), middle (ages 14 to 17), and late (ages 17 to 20). These divisions are arbitrary; growth and development occur along a continuum that varies from person to person. “Traditionally the adolescent has been characterized as idealistic, unstable, rebellious, uncertain, loving, dependent, conforming, and, above all, as sexually confused.” The biological onset of adolescence is signalled by rapid acceleration of skeletal growth and the beginning of physical sexual development. The psychological onset is characterized by acceleration of cognitive development and consolidation of personality formation. Socially, adolescence is a period of intensified preparation for the coming role of young adulthood. With this brief introduction on the period of adolescence I would continue to elaborate various aspects involved in the developmental process of the adolescents: psycho-social, emotional, psychosexual, cognitive, moral and spiritual.
3.1.1. Psycho-social development of Adolescents
Erikson identifies the critical conflict of adolescence as one between identity and role diffusion. Ego identity denotes an inner cohesion that enables the individual to make a commitment to values and work roles that best fit his unique combination of needs and talents. The basic personal task at this stage is to develop a stable sense of self in the context of conflict and social influences. Distancing from parents is a normal part of adolescence. In order to leave home, adolescents have to make their parents unattractive. The peer group is the vehicle by which adolescents achieve this distancing. They are sensitive to the opinions of their peers and constantly compare themselves with others. Any deviation, real or imagined, can lead to feelings of inferiority, low self-esteem, and loss of confidence. Group rule becomes very important for them. The adolescent needs acceptance and love, independence, security, sex identity, self-identity, and experience; but he also needs participation, approval, achievement, and conformity. These needs indicate why the peer group is so important to the adolescent: he is rescued from his rebellious independence by the acceptance and the conformity afforded by his peers. The number-one worry on adolescents’ minds is career: What kind of work will I do? Where will I spend my energy? How will I take care of myself? What am I going to be when I grow up? They feel pressured by peers, parents, teachers, and counsellors, as well as by unconscious forces in attempting to decide on a vocation. They need to feel independent, autonomous, and content with their vocational choices. To a great extent, the development of personal identity, at this stage, is synonymous with career development. As adolescents begin to feel independent of their families and as families support and encourage their emerging maturity, the questions “Who am I?” and “Where am I going?” begin to be answered.
3.1.2. Emotional Development
The adolescent is living between two worlds, childhood and adulthood. So he experiences some sort of ambivalence, which is the swinging back and forth between these two worlds. Ambivalence also refers to the emotional upheavals and mood swings that are part of adolescence. Anna Freud expresses well this ambivalence when she says, “it is normal for an adolescent to abhor his parents’ presence one day and desire heart-to-heart talks with them the next day.” Another characteristic of adolescence is that it has always been a lonely time. No matter how many peer group friends he has, he feels an emptiness inside. Because of the newly emerged ability to think abstractedly, the future becomes a problem for him. As a young person contemplates the future, he experiences a sense of absence. The newly emerging cognitive structure also allows him to reflect on himself. So he becomes very much self-conscious. Self-consciousness is enhanced by the emergence of secondary sex characteristics. The newly experienced sexual feelings are powerful, and he feels awkward, embarrassed and strange about the bodily changes. To achieve, to succeed, and to be admired by members of the peer group is a desire of all adolescents. Some feel hopeless or even depressed when they fail or reach any place other than the first. Adolescents also use a lot of ridicules and ‘put-downs’. ‘Put-downs’ are words or body language used to hurt, embarrass, belittle, tease, or rag someone and make him/her feel bad. Calling names that are racist, casteist or sexist is often used as ‘put-downs’. They use these ‘put-downs’ to exert negative pressure on individuals. They are also used on a weaker or a quieter member of the group to derive pleasure and power. But these emotional upheavals need to be handled. It would be possible only when the adolescents can develop some sort of emotional intimacy. According to Len Sperry “emotional intimacy involves communicating and sharing both positive and negative feelings with another, usually a close friend or friends. Needless to say, such sharing is not without considerable risk of being teased, criticized, or having very personal information broadcast to others. Adolescents who have not had a best friend in childhood are somewhat at a disadvantage and may not even attempt such sharing.”
3.1.3. Psycho-sexual Development
Central to any programme in human formation is the question of psychosexual maturity. If a celibate person is to live a happy and productive life then their psychosexual development must have reached a significant degree of maturation and integration, otherwise it will become a source of discomfort and even dysfunction. According to Michael E.Cavanagh healthy psychosexual development includes four dimensions: cognitive, emotional, social and moral. They are explained in the following table:
Perceiving one’s body, gender, and growth-producing sexual behaviour as well as that of the opposite sex with a positive attitude.
Feeling comfortable, confident, and competent with one’s body and sexuality, and that of the opposite sexes’.
Relating with persons of the same and opposite sex in a healthy way.
With the emergence of secondary sex characteristics, a powerful new energy becomes present in the adolescent’s body. They naturally explore their sexuality. In early adolescence, the random, generally disconnected sexual thoughts and feelings of childhood begin to weave themselves into thematic fantasies. In these fantasies, adolescents imagine themselves to be in sexual and romantic situations with real or imagined people. These fantasies enable the adolescents to integrate emotions and intellect with genital sexuality and lead them towards socially oriented sexuality. Many boys will experience their first nocturnal emission in early adolescence. This experience may be confusing or pleasurable and may include sexual fantasies.
Middle adolescence is a time of being highly distracted and absorbed by sexuality and sexually related physical changes. They masturbate with more frequency and intensity than any other phase. They are preoccupied with sex-related issues, such as sexually oriented books, magazines or T.V. programs, and with clothes, music, dates, and dances. Homosexual experiences, usually transient, may also occur in middle adolescence. Many adolescents need reassurance about the normality of an isolated homosexual experience and confirmation that it does not indicate a permanent homosexual orientation. During late adolescence, boys and girls spend increasingly more time together and sometimes even engage in sexual acts like kissing, petting etc. Sexual relating during this phase is primarily experimental, self-centered, and mixed with other needs and emotions. They need education and guidance to integrate their sexuality into celibate way of life.
3.1.4. Cognitive Development
The adolescent, in Piaget’s view, is a builder of systems and theories. Although the concrete operations of the child are systematic, they are focused on isolated problems. The child does not integrate solutions into general theories, nor does the child abstract common principles. In contrast, the adolescent, freed from the here and now limitations of the concrete, exploits the systematic qualities of operational thinking. As formal operations emerge, the adolescent begins to locate the real within the possible, not merely in the empirical. This new cognitive power allows the adolescent to live not only in the present, but also in a hypothetical world full of plans for the future, social as well as individual. Another manifestation of this new cognitive structure is idealization. Adolescents are dreamers. Adolescents attach themselves to idols: movie stars, sports personals, politicians, etc. Teenagers are naturally religious, and adolescence is the time of greatest religious readiness. Adolescent idealization can also be directed toward a cult or a cause – positive or negative. Many adolescents show remarkable creativity, which they express in writing, music, art, and poetry. But they are also egocentric in their thinking. They are naturally paranoid. A casual glace is interpreted as a scathing evaluative judgment. The acute self-consciousness of adolescence results from the belief that “everyone is looking at me.” If the adolescent is shame-based, his self-consciousness is painfully intensified. The usual complaint of adolescents is: “No one has ever suffered like me”, “No one understands me”, “No one loves me”, “No one has ever to put up with parents like mine.”
3.1.5. Moral Development
With the stirring of the new power of reasoning, and of the critical and idealistic thinking that comes with it, a new level of moral understanding also becomes possible. Kohlberg considers this to be the beginning of what he calls conventional moral reasoning, meaning that we learn to think of right and wrong, good and bad, in more general terms guided by more sophisticated norms on which everyone (i.e. “society”) can be expected to agree. This is the developmental point when maintaining the expectations and rules of family, group, and nation is seen as good in itself. At the early adolescent’s moral Stage 3, right behaviour means pleasing or helping others – seeking their approval by being a “nice” girl or a “good” boy. Good intentions and conformity to social stereotypes of the good person become important. Preoccupation with one’s own interests gives way to shared feelings, expectations, and agreements. The adolescent at this stage may indeed go through a rebellious phase in which he/she challenges and resists the authority of people and institutions to which he/she belongs. Peer pressure can reinforce this, making one habitually critical and distrustful of most if not all authority figures – parents, teachers, church, and politicians-and drawing him/her into acts of defiance, petty or more serious, of their claims to authority.
The older, Stage 4, adolescent assumes the social perspective of the system that defines roles and rules, viewing interpersonal relations in terms of their place in the social system. In this perspective, good behaviour means not only doing one’s duty and respecting authority, but also working to maintain the social order for its own sake.
3.1.6. Psycho-spiritual Development
In the tradition of Piaget and Kohlberg, Flower has identified a sequence of stages which characterize different phases in the development of faith. According to Flower faith is not so much the dogmatic content of a religion, but rather the attitude of the subject. And so his views are limited. But I found the views developed by William F. Kraft on Psycho-spiritual development to be more balanced and opt here. Spiritual experiences, in his view, “incorporate qualities of mystery, paradox, transcendence, unity, dependence, wonder, compassion, joy, salvation, creative suffering, faith, hope, and always love, the paramount dynamic of spirituality.” According to him within each state of spiritual growth, three interrelated processes occur: transition, crisis, and implementation. The transitional phase refers to the initial change from one stage of development to another. It leads to the more dramatic crisis phase, incorporating a radical re-evaluation of life’s meaning. The crisis phase is followed by the implementation phase, a relatively more settled time, when we live out the resolution of our crisis.
Though beginners at spiritual life, adolescents begin to experience life in trans-rational, paradoxical, and mysterious ways. The formal, everyday religious education children receive is important for their later development. Children with little or no religious orientation may find themselves diffused in adolescence with nothing much to hold onto. The usual physical and psychosocial changes the adolescent experiences during the transitional period usher in the first explicit crisis of spiritual growth. Generally they feel bored with life and experience life as meaningless. Anger and cynicism, apathy and irritability abound. They become critical about the authority figures especially parents and teachers. In this context the adolescents first experience the absence of authentic spiritual meaning. Nothing is clear for them and everything is in a flux. As we have seen earlier, this is also the time they search for their identity. If everything goes well they emerge from this crisis period and move towards a new terrain where they begin life projects of freedom, commitment, responsibility, compassion, and love. Instead of primarily centered on themselves as in childhood, adolescents now begin to orient themselves towards realities that exist beyond themselves, realities that make a crucial impact on living and dying. With excitement and trepidation they continue their spiritual journey.
At this stage the role of parents, teachers and especially the clergy and religious becomes very crucial. They should make the effort to foster adolescents’ spiritual growth by offering structures and exercises that engender growth, for the way adolescents are treated during this time highly influences later stages of development. Clear and explicit guidelines within which adolescence can seek freedom to be themselves should be consistently presented.
3.2. Early Adulthood
The last developmental phase the seminarian goes through during his formation program is young adulthood which carries him through his novitiate, college and theology years. This period extends from the end of adolescence to the mid-thirties. Early adulthood is the time of peak physical abilities (e.g. strength, speed, agility, fertility), the assumption of major social roles, and the evolution of an adult self and life structure. The successful passage into adulthood depends on satisfactory resolution of childhood and adolescent crises. The 20s are spent, for the most part, exploring options for occupation and marriage or alternative relationships, and making commitments in various areas. In this period the tasks are enormous as they are exhilarating: to shape a Dream, that vision of ourselves which will generate energy, aliveness and hope. To prepare for a lifework. To form the capacity for intimacy.
3.2.1. Psychosocial development
This period, unlike adolescence, is marked by a clearer sense of self or identity. The young adult also experiences oneself as independent. In Erikson’s life-cycle perspective of sequential crises, young adulthood is characterized by the tension between intimacy and isolation. In this stage, young adults are ready to unite their identity with others. They seek relationships of intimacy, partnerships, and affiliations and to develop the ethical strength to abide by such commitments, even though they may call for significant sacrifices and compromises. This stage involves also the acquisition of a vocation, selection of a life mate, and integration of self into the social-cultural structure and dynamics of the society in which the person is to function. There is a realistic sense of self and others in the here and now. Unlike the adolescents, the adults involve themselves in less experimentation at all levels including relationships.
3.2.2. Emotional development
Young adulthood is a period characterized by increased independence from family of origin, a search for emotional intimacy, and an increase in new roles. This is also an age with the potential for high levels of stress and distress due to increase in roles. If the person has suffered trauma or deprivation during the earlier stages, unless there has been healing, the ego abilities will not be strong, and the person may experience difficulties in the emotional area. This may express itself in excessive fear, anxiety, shame, guilt, lack of self-esteem and poor self-confidence, rigidity, compulsions, addictions, poor relationships, etc. Not negotiating the developmental crisis of intimacy can lead to a state of isolation. Persons may become withdrawn, and depressed.
3.2.3. Psycho-sexual development
Throughout this stage, the individual has the opportunity to further develop sexual maturity. Biologically the young adult begins to engage a sexual lifestyle, i.e., celibacy, commitment to marriage, or promiscuity. It is during this stage people become psychosexually more confident, altruistic, and integrated.
According to Michael E. Cavanagh the stage of adult sexuality has two phases: phase of psychosexual mutuality and psychosexual integration. At the Psychosexual Mutuality phase there is a passage from viewing heterosexual relationships as instruments of attaining affirmation and gratification to viewing them as opportunities to express and share care, trust, and affection. They learn to strike a balance between intimacy and vulnerability, self-centeredness and self-denial, affection and possessiveness, reality and romance. They learn to be sensitive, tender, and compassionate; to be a source of support and joy. But this phase is not an easy passage. Many young adults also experience a certain fixation at this stage. This fixation is due to the lack of overall psychosocial competencies necessary to complete these developmental learning successfully. Adults who are fixated relate to others superficially and find it hard when it comes to deeper relationships and commitments.
Young adults arrive at the next phase of Psychosexual Integration approximately at the age of 30. This is the time the psychosexual needs gradually assume their place among other, equally important values. Depending on a person’s life commitment the psychosexual needs share priorities. It is this psychosexual integration which beautifies the life choices of people, such as marriage, priesthood or religious life. Sexual dysfunction at this stage typically includes problems with sexual desire or sexual performance. It can include the full range of hypersexual behaviours as well as hypo sexual ones.
3.2.4. Cognitive development
In Piaget’s view specifically adult knowing is achieved only when formal operations are complemented by concrete experience of the work world. Only then does adolescent egocentrism surrender to realistic judgment. The systematic and reflective power of formal operations remains, but now always in dialectic tension with the conflicting realities of the complex context of concrete social experience. This experience enables adult knowing to recognize the relativity of every context, and this relativity, in turn, brings the totalistic logic of flighty adolescent thought back down to earth. Finally, in its fullness, adult knowing overcomes the idealistic adolescent’s demand for certitude with a realistic appreciation of the relativity and probability inherent in the search for genuine understanding. Environmental factors too play a central role in cognitive changes in adulthood. Educated adults who live and work in stimulating environments, and who maintain a social network, typically show little overall cognitive decline until very late in life. But physical health could also influence cognitive performance to an extent.
3.2.5. Moral Development
According to Erikson, what distinguishes adulthood from adolescence is an ethical orientation. As he sees moral development, the moral learning of childhood is succeeded by the ideological experimentation of adolescence, which in turn finally submits to the realistic demands of adult experience, resulting in an ethical orientation. Kohlberg, on the other hand, speaks of the need for the young adults to overcome the Stage 4½ – relativism and move positively toward principled moral reasoning. To do this the critical reflective thought of the adolescents must be complemented by the twofold experience of specifically adult responsibility: the experience of making more or less irreversible decisions for one’s own life and for the welfare of others. In our society, this usually, but not always, means being financially independent on the one hand, and being a parent on the other. Through such experience the adolescent’s abstract, idealistic thinking is transformed into the contextual and dialectical thinking of the realistic adult.
Conformity to moral rules and social expectations are more radically questioned in young adulthood. Becoming acutely aware of individual rights and values, young adults may develop a more authentic morality and realize the final stage of cognitive moral development – one Kohlberg calls the “universal ethical principles level.” Some remain fixated at the level of conventional morality, and others adopt relativistic and self serving systems of beliefs.
3.2.6. Psycho-spiritual Development
Psycho-spiritual development at this stage implies a movement from the childish impulse to control God by prayer and works and the attempt of the adolescent mind to control Him by speculation and understanding to an adult commitment to faith. The energy expended in the emotional need to control God must be now transformed into trust; the intellectual obsession with reducing God to one’s categories of thought must now give way to the act of faith.
Let us again turn back to the views of William F. Craft to situate the developmental process. According to him the transitional phase from the adolescent years to young adulthood brings in newly a crisis situation. This crisis usually occurs between the ages of nineteen and twenty two. Being thrown back on themselves, young adults once again take stock of life. Unlike adolescents, however, young adults re-evaluate the values coming primarily from within themselves. Commitment is radically questioned; many young adults wonder if a permanent commitment is necessary or even possible. Loneliness is a dominant feature of this crisis of young adulthood. On cold and quiet nights, they ask themselves how they can give to and receive from another. Their silent pleas for intimacy seem to go unheard, and they earn for the healing presence of another person. They realize that without love, life becomes uninteresting and meaningless. Many a times most of the young adults find it hard to accept this reality of crisis as part of the spiritual journey. At times, young adults may wonder if they will ever have anything or anyone to hold onto. They may feel sick and tired of painful loss, changes, emptiness, and absence. The paradoxical challenge is to hold onto themselves while emptying themselves for something greater.
Many young adults, during this phase, become quiet critical of religious institutions, practices, and people. They are especially sensitive to phoniness, double standards, and ready-made solutions. In rebelling against meaningless religious structures, some foster a humanistic stand rather than a spiritual one, stating that life can be authentically meaningful without a transcendent God. Actually, young adults want to be touched by religion, and they seek the experiential rather than the theoretical. They desire to be fulfilled with love rather than with ideas. To run from the crisis phase fosters unauthentic living, making an integral spiritual life an unlikely possibility. If the crisis of young adulthood is travelled in authentic way, the period of implementation during the twenties leads to a meaningful and mature life-style.
Young adults should be encouraged incorporate structures that encourage spiritual growth and to be vigilant in promoting authentic love. Rather than focus mainly on comfort and success, their challenge is to grow deeper in love.
4. Claretian Formation in the Indian Context
At the world level and the national level, we are at a stage of radical changes. The new millennium, to which we have stepped in, despite having its roots in the past, seeks to do away with many time-honoured values and customs and bring about new sets of values. The changes are visible in all walks of life. And so formation has to take into consideration the point of departure of the formees as much as the point of arrival. It is presumptuous to claim to comprehend the formees in no time in their totality with their ways of thinking and feeling. Forming a person to pursue the vocational values with constancy and commitment requires a deeper understanding of the person in his concrete realities of life. It also demands from the formators a patient accompaniment of the formees in their journey through their struggles and failures to greater stability and enthusiasm in their commitment. The formators are to be knowledgeable of the existential realities of the formees and skilful in the task of accompaniment to discern together with them what God is calling them for. Here in this section, therefore, I would like to elaborate the Indian context in which the formation of the Claretian Missionaries is carried out.
4.1. The Context of Formation
4.1.1. Social Context
We are living in an era of advancements in media and communication. And these advancements have brought in a proliferation of ideals and views and lifestyles from all over the world to every nook and corner of the world. In spite of its manifold blessings it has also brought in a lot of change in social values and cultural interests. India is a land of great traditions, cultures, and customs. But there are also efforts to break the socio-cultural plurality of India. And these changes are also reflected in the life of the formees. The change from large and joint-families to small and nuclear families have also brought about changes in the expectations and values of the formees. The culture of seeking immediate satisfaction and consequently less capacity for postponement of gratification, difficulty with frustration tolerance, consumerist tendencies, etc. are the visible signs of changing family patterns. As a result we often find candidates with traumatic experiences and brokenness, which greatly limit their effective freedom in internalizing the religious and priestly values. Another aspect to be carefully taken note of is the age-old problem of the stratification of the society on the basis of caste. The formators need to be abreast with these social changes and enable the formees to transcend the negative aspects of these social contexts.
4.1.2. Political and Economical Context
Ever since the independence, India has witnessed a democratic political system and freedom of expression. A democratic way of decision making and planning is very much in the mentality of every Indian, whether in politics or in religious life, autocratic and authoritarian ways are not appreciated or tolerated. The Indian politics is affected by many evils such as erosion of authentic political values and vision, rampant corruption, lack of stability. Disillusioned with all parties people seem to opt for change of government at every election.
The economical situation is conspicuous for contrasting positions between affluence and abject poverty with the vast majority falling to the pole of poverty. So formation programs should aim at siding with the poor and participating in their struggles of emancipation. Exposure to the hard realities of the weaker and marginalized sections of the society should be part of the formation projects during the seminary years.
The youngsters compared to the earlier generation have many more ambitious opportunities to look for in life. The research shows that the vocations are coming more and more from rural than urban areas and economically weaker sections than the upper classes. While affirming that we do not differentiate on the basis of caste, class and race and that God works in every one in His own mysterious ways, the above findings do necessitate greater attention to the underlying motivations of the candidates and greater in-depth formation that proper religious values are received and internalized.
4.1.3. Religious Context
India has given birth to many a great world religion and welcomed others with great tolerance. There are also hundreds of tribal religions and practices in India. Developing an attitude of appreciation of the richness of these religions and faiths and capacity for entering into dialogue with them are essential for the missionaries.
In the recent past among some sections of Hindus there is a feeling of threat to their religion through conversions. It has resulted in the growth of fundamentalism and planned resistance to the mission activities. Growing intolerance and even persecutions have become great challenges that missionaries face today. In this context the spirit of tolerance and respect should be shown not only to other religions but also to the different Christian denominations and sects. The divisions and contentions among the different churches and denominations are scandalous and become a counter-witness.
4.1.4. Ecclesial Context
The Church in India, though a minority, has been an influential presence especially through her educational and humanitarian activities. At the same time the Indian Church has also created an impression of affluence with her huge institutions. Often the schools and other institutions, originally meant to be charitable mission activities, turned into economical projects catering mainly to the upper classes.
The Church is also inadvertently stamped with the image of imitating western cultures. In this context the formation should foster inculturation and create better appreciation of the traditions of the land. The Indian values of interiority, God- experience through the means of silence and contemplation, bhajans, Yoga etc., should become integral part of the formation program from the very beginning.
India has cradled three rites among the Catholics: Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara. The Claretians are open to all of them. Instead of entering into unrewarding discussions and litigations on the diversities and injustices, one should foster appreciation of the great riches in each rite, overlook historical injustices, if any, and search for means of collaboration for the greater glory of God.
4.1.5. Claretian Context
The Claretians in India are a young branch of the congregation compared to many other organisms elsewhere. There are 3 provinces and a dependant delegation in India. As young the provinces have vigour and strength. The average age of the Claretian in India presently is 34. The images of the founder, co-founders, martyrs of the congregation, and other luminaries should find important place in the formation. Creating interest in reading and propagating Claretian literature – writings of the founder, chapter documents, letters of the generals, involving in activities specific to Claretian charism, being open to the universal mission of the Congregation, being in touch with Claretians all over the world etc., would foster the Claretian spirit among the members of the provinces in India. Formation should lay special emphasis on the growth of the formees in Claretian spirituality and genuine interest for missions.
4.2. Stages of Formation
In this section I would describe each stage of formation and give a few pointers for the formators. The importance of these stages lies in the implication that the objectives of these stages are achieved in cooperation with grace. They should give a wholesome challenge for the individual and offer opportunities for discernment about the suitability of the individual for the consecrated life.
4.2.1. Minor Seminary
In India the aspirants to the congregation enter into what is called Minor Seminaries. The minor seminary is an educational as well as religious institution erected in order to help adolescents and young men who show some signs of a Claretian vocation with an opportunity to explore it and to arrive at a free and responsible decision concerning it.
Most of the minor seminarians are in their late adolescence (15-18). So the formators need to keep the stage of their development in mind while implementing the plan of formation. In this stage the main concern of the adolescent is to form a stable sense of self. So the formators need to be sensitive to the struggles the adolescent goes through as he tries to gain a self-identity, sex-identity and even the identity as a child of God. Another area the formators needs to be attentive is the emotional upheavals and the mood swings, especially loneliness and anger, the adolescent goes through. Understanding, patient listening and guidance are very important from the part of the formators. In the area of sexuality they experience sexual fantasies, masturbation and occasional homosexual behaviours. They need guidance to integrate their sexuality into the way of life they have chosen. They need to be encouraged, and appropriate atmosphere created to develop their intellectual curiosity. They should be encouraged to participate in manual work and games. With regard to spiritual growth, they need to be guided to appreciate silence, some structures which would foster learning of a method of prayer, both personal and communitarian.
The stage of Postulancy includes the studies of Philosophy and Graduation which spans three years. The final year is specially designated as the stage of immediate preparation for the novitiate. This is time to impart competent philosophical training and also to have a firm intellectual, psychological and spiritual foundation for the entry into the novitiate. This is also a period of discernment to see whether the candidate has achieved an appropriate level of maturity to enter into novitiate. The formators should see that there is sufficient intelligence, capacity to take initiatives, progress in affective maturity, regularity in spiritual exercises, growth in the spiritual life and ability to live in community.
4.2.3. Novitiate: Initiation into Religious life
The General plan of Formation of the congregation lays down very clearly the nature and aim of the novitiate in the following words,
The novitiate is a time of integral initiation into following Christ the Evangelizer, according to the Claretian charism, with a view to incorporation into the Congregation, by means of religious profession. It is aimed at enabling the novices to have a better knowledge of the call of God as set forth in the Congregation, to experience its way of life, to conform their mind and heart with its evangelizing spirit, and at the same time to test their intention and fitness for it.
As a year set apart for deeper God-experience and understanding Claretian missionary vocation, it should form a basis for the Claretian style of life, interest in the common commitments and radical following of Christ. As the novices seriously evaluate their fervour and resourcefulness for Claretian way of life, the Congregation helps them to arrive at proper discernment by helping to examine their motivation and fitness.
In this stage of formation the novices will be approximately in the beginning of the stage of early adulthood. Intimacy would be a major concern to be taken note of by the formators. The formees need to be guided in developing healthy ways of living celibate intimacy by giving them guidance in the areas of relationships with both sexes, with a realistic appraisal of the demands of consecrated chastity. It is also the time to come to practical psychological terms with the lack of a “life partner” and offspring. Proper atmosphere should be created to enhance the aptitude of the novices for an internal, spiritual journey and inculcating the values of solitude, interiority and self-discipline. Personal accompaniment in an intensive way is essential to guide them in the process of discernment before their commitment to religious life through the first profession.
4.2.4. Stage of Development and Consolidation: First profession to Ordination
This stage of formation is the longest stage of initial formation as it runs from the first profession until perpetual profession (in the case of brothers), or until ordination. In the Indian context this stage consists of a period of Regency, where one is introduced into apostolic activities, and Theological studies.
In this stage the formees are supposed to continue the work began in the novitiate and become integrally deepened in all aspects of Claretian missionary life. From the developmental perspective his stage continues be the young adulthood. The intimacy questions may surface in a forceful way during the period of Regency where they have the opportunity to relate with people in the mission field. The question of identity may resurface during the course on theology due to the theological shift in the understanding of the person. In terms of community life, there should be a consistent ability to relate well with others, without over dependence or exaggerated independence. Following questions could guide the formators in the process of discernment: Do the individuals manifest the requisite flexibility of personality to continue to develop as human beings? Do they have the psychological strength to live the celibate life? Do they have the energy and skill to be effective leaders in ministry? Do their personal histories suggest that they will have enough psychic energy available for ministry?
As I conclude I can say that the committed involvement and accompaniment of the formators is very important for an integral formation of missionaries. A sound personal development program which allows for the psychological stages of development to be encountered leads to a richer life and ministry with greater apostolic effectiveness and personal satisfaction. It seeks to integrate all aspects of the development of personality while not giving any one dimension preference over the other and thus creating the possibility of imbalance and mal-formation. Such a program is perceived as requiring that all formation is ultimately securely integrated in the person and as such it gives a realistic base for what is to be the lifestyle of the young missionary as he comes to the end of his residential formation in the seminary and makes his commitment to a life of consecration and service to people.
BERGER, L., From Instinct to Identity , N.J., Pretice-Hall 1974.
BERNER & HILL (Ed.), Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology & Counseling, Michigan 1999.
BRADSHAW, J., Home Coming. Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child, New York
CAVANAGH, M.E., “The Impact of Psychosexual growth on Marriage and Religious life”
In Human Development Vol. 4, No. 3 (Fall 1983)
CLARETIAN MISSIONARIES, Formation of Missionaries. General Plan of Formation, Rome
CLARETIAN MISSIONARIES, Province of Bangalore, Provincial Plan of Formation,
CONNERS, Q.R., “Developmental Crises in Religious Formation” in Human Development,
Vol.11, No.1 (Spring 1990)
CONN, W.E., The Desiring Self, New York, Paulist Press (1998) W. F. KRAFT, “Spiritual
Growth in Adolescence & Adulthood” in Human Development, Vol. 4, No. 4
COSTELLO, T., Forming a Priestly Identity., Roma 2002.
GROESCHEL, B. J., Spiritual Passages. The Psychology of Spiritual Development, Bangalore,
HALL, S. et. all , Theories of Personality, 3rd Ed., New Delhi 1978.
IMODA F., (ed.), A Journey to Freedom, Peeters 2000.
________, Human Development. Psychology and Mystery, Peeters 1998.
KIELY, B., Psychology and Moral Theology, Rome, 1987.
LOEVINGER, J., “Theories of Ego Development”. In L.BERGER (Ed.) Clinical Cognitive
Psychology, N.J., Pretice-Hall 1969.
MAHLER, M., “On The First Three Subphases Of The Separation-Individuation Process”,
IJPsy., 53 (1972)
MURPHY, J., The Priest for the New Millennium an internet article
New Catholic Encyclopaedia Vol. 1 A to Azt
PARATHAZHAM, P. V., “Issues in Priestly Formation: A Question of Credibility” in
Vidyajyoti, Vol. 58 (1994)
SADOCK – SADOCK, Synopsis of Psychiatry, 9th ed. Baltimore 2002.
SPERRY, L., Sex, Priestly Ministry, and the Church, Minnesota 2003.
SHEEHY, G., Passages, New York 1977.
WEBER, A.L., Introduction to Psychology, New York 1991.
 J. MURPHY, The Priest for the New Millennium an internet article accessed on 25th February 2004 from http://ds.dial.pipex.com/wonersh/mag99jm.htm
 cf. Late Adolescence In an Internet Article accessed on 26th March, 2004, from http://www.gooddoctors-patients.com/phase/education/late-adl.htm.
 I feel that the spiritual element is left out in this explanation. Sexuality expresses one’s longing to be in communion and oneness with others. But one finds the fullness of this oneness only in God.