Human Formation of Our Formees

(Sardarji gets up in the morning, gets ready to go to work in the office. After getting ready meticulously and in an up to date manner, he comes out with the brief case, goes straight to the tree in front of the house, climbs it and sits on a branch. The wife calls the neighbours and explains his strange behavior that was never before. The neighbours ask him why he does this. The sardarji answers, “Oye, don’t you know I have been promoted as the branch manager from today?”

Introduction: In his interview to the Bombay Catholic Sabha, the Superior General of the Christian Brothers, Bro. Philip Pinto, said this: Religious life as we know it, is over or dying across the world. I am more than ever convinced of it. In some parts of the world kit is hust over. There is absolutely no one joining. You can look at it in two ways. You can say God is in charge of what is happening in the world or he is not fully in charge. In the first case you should also believe that what is happening in Religious life is also part of God’s plan. But I would say this is God working among us(Bombay Catholic Sabha, Kalina Wed. Jan.12, 2011, through internet).

What is Human Formation?

Human involves the whole person and includes in some way the person’ affective, intellectual, moral, communitarian, cultural and spiritual aspects though at times it is taken to mean affective maturity (Gratian Carlo, 2007) Human relates to ‘flesh’ as St. Paul would said, “who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord”(rom.7:24-25). Here the understanding is limited to weak and yet open to the growth and transformation jto the point of becoming assimilated in God through the divine embrace, like the rays of the sun in the sun and waters of the fountain in the fountain. What is truly human is open to the divine embrace and transformation and what is divine is ever ready with open arms to embrace humanity!

Pastores Dabo Vobis No. 43 speaks of human formation as the basis of all Priestly formation. The whole work of formation will be deprived of its necessary foundation if it lacked a suitable human formation….. A priest should be able to know the depths of the human heart, to perceive difficulties and problems, to make meeting and dialogue easy, to create trust and cooperation, to express serene and objective judgments…… They need to be educated to love the truth, to be loyal, to respect every person, to have a sense of justice, to be true to their word, to be genuinely compassionate, to be men of integrity and especially, to be balanced in judgment and behaviour… Of special importance is the capacity to relate to others. This is truly fundamental for a person who is called to be responsible for a community and to be a ‘man of communion’. (In your case you have two communities: one is the community of religious men and the other is the community of the faithful in the parish) So you are to form your candidates to be the leaders of both the communities. This demands that the priest not be arrogant, or quarrelsome, but affable, hospitable, sincere in his words and heart, prudent and discreet, generous and ready to serve, capable of opening himself to clear and brotherly relationships and of encouraging the same in others, and wuick to understand, forgive and console.  

Various Aspects of Human Formation:

  • Affective maturity: Candiate’s true affective maturity consists in the harmonious integration of his capacity to love and his need to be loved with his own state in life. It encompasses his entire capacity for interpersonal relationships. It implies the orientation of all his affections and, as far as possible, all his sentiment, towards the ideal he has chosen for himself.

Ordinarily, the experience of total and exclusive love becomes the best catalyst for affective maturity…. Affectivity matures under the warming rays of true personal love. The affectivity of a man called to live only for God will mature if it grows in the light of a total and exclusive love for God (Marciel L.C., Integral Formation of Catholic Priests, St. Pauls, New York, 1999).

In the late eighties the Sociological Department of JDV surveyed 6000 lay people and the findings tell us that only 12% of the lay people feel that the priests are courteous in their dealings while 88% feel that the priests do not know how to deal with others. According to Fr. Maria Anthony the problems in relationships can be classified as withdrawal except for some routine works and over dependence, either attachment to certain families or to one’s own family members.

Pastores Dabo Vobis: Affective maturity presupposes an awareness that love has a centreal role in human life. In view of the commitment to celibacy, affective maturity should bring to human relationships of serene friendship and deep brotherliness a stong, lively and personal love for Jesus Christ. As the Synod fathers have written, “a love for Christ, which overflows into a dedication to everyone, is of the greatest importance in developing affective maturity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFFECTIVE MATURITY

GOD

                           COSMOS                 RELATEDNESS                     OTHERS    

                                                                                                

 

SELF

 

 

                 AFFECTIVE                          COGNITIVE                           PHYSIOLOGICAL

                 Emotions                                 Thoughts                                   Bodiliy Health

                 Feelings                                   Intellect                                     Exercise, Rest

                                                                   Will                                         Relaxation, timely

                                                                                                                    preventive care  

 

 

                                           INTEGRAL HOLISTIC GROWTH

 

Affective Process is multidimensional that involves the interplay of feelings, emotions, cognitions, physiological arousals and facial expressions. Emotions are reservoir of energy that can be channeled and utilized for the growth and development and give a self-direction to life (Misra Girishwar, Psychology in India, 1999).      

  • Emotional Maturity: Gradual development from a state of taking to a state of giving and sharing. It is a steady development from natural impulses and responses of human nature to the principle of loving one’s neighbor as himself (Herbert W. Armstrong).

Etymology of emotion: E-Motion: Energy in Motion

Development of negative emotion and its consequences:

Frustration                            

Limited parental interaction

                                                                                           EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS

Parental depression

Child abuse

Lesser the discipline –greater the ego defense in frustrating situations.

Poor family climate – leads to distress.

High family support – reduces anxiety and depression

TOWARDS   GROWTH   IN   EMOTIONAL MATURITY

 

Are we all emotionally matured? A question difficult to answer as the growth in emotional maturity takes place gradually with life experiences. However, the following are some of the symptoms that can be noticed by us as well as others who live and work with us.

 

  1. Ability to experience and understand our own deepest feelings and needs
  1. Ability to express these feelings and needs in appropriate manner and in constructive way
  1. Ability to act on or react to life circumstances with intelligence, sound judgment and wisdom
  1. Ability to recognize the feelings and needs of others and empathize with them
  1. Ability to delay the immediate satisfaction of our own needs, so that we may attend to other more pressing needs
  1. Ability to love and allow others to love us
  1. Ability ;to adapt flexibly and creative to life’s changing circumstances and conditions
  1. Ability to channel our emotional energy, both positive and negative in a constructive manner
  1. Ability to be responsible and accountable for our own actions in life
  1. Ability to relate comfortable and feely with others
  1. Ability to terminate a relationship when it is not growth producing
  1. Ability to tap the source of our emotions
  1. Ability to let go the desire of satisfying emotional neds as and when needed
  1. Ability to face the strong emotions of others with minimum disturbance within
  1. Ability to contain an emotion appropriately especially when it turns out to be negative

 

Effective Handling of Anger, Fear and Sexual Feelings is the need of the hour. Exalted and perfectionist ideals presented to the seminarians and the controlled environment of seminaries lead them to suppress their anger and other emotions considered inappropriate. Candidates to the priesthood, especially those lacking self confidence, often tend to be highly controlled in the expert in the expression of anger since it is seen as not in keeping with priestly ideals. They also learn to take a passive and obliging stance toward those in authority in an effort to create favourable images of themselves. As a result they accumulate unexpressed resentment which leads them to act out sexually with more compliant younger people and vulnerable women. In my opinion a positive attitude towards these feelings need to be cultivated among the formees so that they do not repress these feelings within themselves but learn to sublimate them for the cause of the mission they have dedicated their lives for.

  • Integrated Sexuality & Celibacy: the mission of the priest demands that a priest should have an integrated personality as they have to be reliable guides and good pastors to the people they are called to serve. They need to help people cope with their sexual problems and live their sexuality integrated with their Christian faith. It is important that the seminary rectors and formators are themselves well integrated sexually and have also the knowledge and skills to guide those who come under their charge. This calls for working through their own hang-ups around sexuality and also receiving some training in human relationships and helping skills (Parapully J., Human Formation of Priests, 2007).

Being listened to with respect and sensitivity can be very healing and comforting. Non-judgmental listening calls for hearing the story without the lens of the categories jof morality and sin, so that the helper can be truly in touch with the inner world and his experience/feelings as they are.

Sexual behavior and conflicts around such behavior often have roots in more fundamental problems related to self-concept and self-identity. Sexual behavior is often employed to overcome feelings of inadequacy and inferiority complex or to express hostility, resentment, aggression or domination or to meet needs for affection or affiliation. Current problems around sexuality are often rooted in and forged by early life experiences. Helpers themselves must be comfortable with sexuality. It is important that they develop healthy attitudes toward their own sexuality and the sexual dimension of life.

Gender Identity Confusion Prenatal biochemical and hormonal imbalances have a part to play in gender identity formation. Parental upbringing of a child who was not expected to be born with the particular expected gender. As a result the child is made to talk, walk, dress, behave like the child expected. Sometimes male formees in seminaries or formation houses are found with feeble voices, delicate appearance, with low self-esteem.

Boundary Violations in Religious or Priestly Circles: This is prevalent even in the major seminary circles. Adolescent girls, religious women have been abused. Attention to be given to help the candidates to deal with their sexual feelings. Sexual awareness training programs are very necessary.

 

Grim picture of formation in our formation houses:

  • Lack of proper selection of candidates
  • Lack of proper motivation
  • Peer group pressure
  • Large size of groups in the seminaries(individual attention impossible) and too small group in a formation house (Formator feels frustrated after being qualified)
  • Location of the formation houses away from the people
  • There are also many from nuclear families.
  • Formators are academically trained but have not gone through the formation process of self, hence lack needed skills
  • Many formators are not formators. They are professors
  • Fear: Formees throughout the formation are concerned about their report
  • Psychic woundedness. Many come from poor family background, alchoholic,
  • Lack of adequate language skills
  • Changed scenario of the society, e generation seeking readymade instant solutions for the problems they have
  • Lack of role models in the formation houses

 

ARE YOU A FORMATOR OR   INFORMATOR ?

The truth is you are only a so-journeyer with your formee. The one and only person to whom this title suits is the HOLY SPIRIT. Hence as a so-journeyer you are called to accompany the formee for a limited period of time. It is God who moulds both you and your formee. So check out the following qualities growing in you as you enable a faith journey to take place in the life of your formee:

  1. Conviction of and Commitment to your own growth –       physical, intellectual, social, emotional and spiritual
  1. Development of your potential – resourcefulness, will and basic intelligence
  2. Working on your values and beliefs – formulating, reformulating, challenging
  3. Widening your knowledge through – reading, sharing, discussing, reflecting, expanding
  1. Good common sense – holistic view of growth, not afraid of human emotions, integrating theory and practice, exploring the pattern of your behavior from time to time, good sense of humour
  1. Recognition of messages – verbal, non-verbal, needs, defenses, listening to what the formee is not saying
  1. Practical person – appreciating all things, positive non-judgmental attitude, trusting, respecting, integrating, being to the point, non-defensive, spontaneous, honest with self, imaginative, gentle
  1. Active, attentive listener – empathetic, unafraid of self disclosure, action oriented, challenging the formee caringly
  1. Other centered – formee is important, formee’s growth is important, builds professional intimacy, knows one’s boundaries, helps to explore the world of experience, feeling and behavior
  2. Prayerful, faith-oriented – Growing in unconditional faith in God, committed to personal prayer, unconditional trust and relationship with Him

 

Giving Helpful Feedback to Those in Formation: There is no doubt that good communication patterns are the heartbeat of human relationships. Hence the manner in which feedback is done is crucial.

Feedback not Correction: As all know the Johari window. It indicates, among other things that there are aspects of ourselves known to others but not to us. It suggests that every human being needs some form of feedback or reflecting back from others in order to grow. Formation programs seek to provide such feedback regularly for those in training for the priestly and religious life. How this is done is important. First in importance is to have deep respect for people. Second is attentive listening. The purpose of the feedback given to persons in formation is to foster in them an awareness that will help them to truly internalize Christ’s values.

Formators need to be fully aware of that purpose. In addition, they need to be in touch with their own motives for giving the feedback. A variety of motives may be operating. Here are some:

1. Care, concern, and love

2. Respect

3. Empathy

4. Intimidation, to instill fear

5. A sense of ‘duty’

6. A sense of superiority (“I know it all” or “I know better”)

7. A sense of power.

Feedback achieves its aim when it comes from motives 1,2 and 3 above. It does not achieve its aim if it comes from any motive from 4,5,6,7. Our manner of giving feedback ought to be modeled on the values of Christ and it should illustrate them. The capacity to offer and receive good feedback greatly enhances relationships. It helps people care for one another( Chinyeaka C. Ezeani).

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