The Importance of Philosophical Studies in Priestly and Religious Formation
Claretian Ashram, College of Philosophy organized a National Seminar on “The Importance of Philosophical Education in Priestly and Religious Formation” on the occasion of her Silver Jubilee on 7th and 8th of February 2014. On 7th evening the seminar was solemnly inaugurated Rev. Dr Saju Chackalackal cmi, the President of Dharmaram Vidhya Kshetram Bangalore, at a formal public function at 6.30pm in the presence of a whopping 200 participants. Dr Augustine Mundiath, the Rector and President of Claretian Ashram, welcomed the Chief Guest, the speakers, the moderators and all the participants. There were 6 prominent speakers from renowned institutes across the county. The participants, who were brothers of both Darsana and Clartetian Ashram and sisters especially those in formations from the neighbouring communities of different congregations, registered their attendance from 6.00pm onwards for the seminar.
Rev. Dr Saju Chackalackal cmi, the chief guest, in his keynote address spoke on “The Spirit o Philosophy: A Call for a Transformed Life.” He pointed out that the modern world has lost its philosophical rigour and thus philosophy has lost its charm. He said that anyone who never had a philosophy in life has never existed as a human, for to be is to be a philosopher. Philosophy initiates an inquiry of oneself, others, the world and God. It calls for a systematic and critical thinking. A transformed life is the need of the hour and that is possible if and only if we are ready to critically evaluate both our view of live and our way of life. He emphasised that philosophy must first help us to think for ourselves and thus can help us to save us from the tyranny of traditions and customs. Fr Mathew Njayarkulam cmf honoured the speaker with a shawl and gave the Jubilee Memento after the address and Q&A. Fr Jis Pettayil cmf, the Convener, formally thanked the Chief Guest and the Speakers and the participants and wished all the best for the next day. The inaugural session was concluded with a Marian hymn and dinner.
On the second day, the seminar began with a short prayer song at 9.00 and Fr Jis Pettayil, the Convener, presented the proceedings of the seminar and some general information was given to the participants. In all 5 papers were presented. Each of the speakers was given 45 minutes for the presentation and 15 minutes for the Q&A. The moderator introduced the speaker and moderated the sessions at the end of which he initiated the honouring of the speaker as well.
Dr Johnson Puthenpurackal OFM Cap was the first one to present the paper on “Formation as an Enabling Process: A Philosophical Reflection.” Dr Wislon Edattukaran CMI moderated the session. This paper was result of a collective thinking as to what formation is which is based on what formation has been, and in view of what it has to be. He pointed out that the traditional notion of formation in which the formator is depicted as a potter and the formees as clay has to be rethought. In this type of formation, the formator dictates and controls the formees. The clay (formee) has to remain passive in this process. He quoted Plato who said, “Though the land is good, you cannot have good crops without proper cultivation.” Thus he concluded that the role of a formator is not to make the formees what he wants them to be, rather he has to enable the formees to be what they are and what they should be. What one should be is contained in what one is. It is by the accompanying presence of the formators that they enable the formees to form themselves. When the enabling by the formators and the decision by the formees meet together, there takes place the event of formation.
The second speaker was Dr Ashley Miranda SDB who spoke on “The Teaching of the Church on the Study of Philosophy as a Preparation for Ministry.” His presentation was based mainly on 1.) The Encyclical Fides et Ratio by Pope John Paul II, 2.) The Decree on the Reform of Ecclesiastical Studies of Philosophy, and 3.) The discourse of Pope Francis on the need for reform in our approach to Ministry as Priests and religious. Dr Ashely said that the study of philosophy must not only provide the formees insights into different aspects of human life, but it should also humanize them. Philosophical studies must seek to link the questions dealt with the truths of faith and morals. Philosophy may challenge one’s faith, but in the long run, it must serve to deepen faith, because reason is built up and perfected by faith. He quoted the words of Pope Francis saying, “Seminarians must take steps to ensure that they do not become armchair philosophers who are totally disinterested, detached and indifferent to the troubles, anxieties and worries of the ordinary people.” The paper was moderated by Rev Sr. Ann Mary CMC.
The paper presented next was “God-Talk: Sense and Non-sense” by Dr Kurian Kachappilly CMI and Sr Arpita SJB moderated the session. Dr Kurian spoke of the sense and non-sense involved in our God-talk. He quoted the Bible, Nietzsche, Clifford, Pascal, Kant …et al. to construct the God-talk. For Nietzsche, God is dead; Clifford in his The Ethics of Belief says “It is wrong always, everywhere and for anyone to believe anything on insufficient reasons.” Thus he says that there is no sufficient reason for us to believe in God. According to Pascal, belief is a matter of our heart as he says, “Heart has a reason which reason doesn’t understand/know.” Dr Kurian pointed out that faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth. We have to take a middle path between faith and reason. He concluded the presentation with the words of Pope Francis, “Let us think with our hearts and feel with our heads.”
After the lunch break at 2.15 pm the afternoon session began with Dr Maria Anto CMC presenting her paper on the “Philosophical and Theological Nuances of Religious Consecration.” Fr George Mattam CMF moderated the session. Dr Maria argued that contemporary society with its developments, movements and ideologies challenges religious life. She pointed out that religious consecration is a divine drama, an act of God. It is an after effect of the expression of human willingness to belong entirely to the Divine. Philosophically speaking, man gives his consent to belong to the Ultimate and then God takes up the lead to consecrate him. To live a vowed life is to choose, to risk, to let go, and to touch the deep down, hard core realities of all that means to be human.
The last paper presented was by Dr James Kannanthanam CMF. He spoke on “The Appreciative Inquiry as an Emerging Paradigm in Formation.” Dr George Kulangara CMI moderated the presentation. Dr James started with quoting William James who said, “The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” Appreciative Inquiry is a psychological approach which basically believes in the positive potentials of people. Each person is a mystery and Dr James pointed out that what we usually do in formation is that we inquire about the defects and problems of the formees. The time has come for us to change our view on formation. Formation is a discovery of the positive possibilities in formees. According to him Appreciative Inquiry approach will help the formator to appreciate the best of the formee’s present and past. There are four stages in this approach, viz., Discovery, Dream, Design, and Destiny. In the first stage the formator engages the formees to discover the most important/striking live-giving experiences of their past and present life. In the second stage, the formators help the formees to come up with the ideal image of a future they dream. In the third stage, the formators help the formees to make proper choices and commit to meaningful actions which lead to their desired end. In the final stage, the formator acknowledges and celebrates the accomplishments that the formees are making in moving towards or actually realizing the dream.
All the presentations were very systematic and highly informative and the speakers conveyed and clarified with great conviction their arguments. The seminar was very lively as the participants engaged in serious deliberations in the Q&A after each presentation. At the end of the day, Fr Jis Pettayil cmf, the Convener of the National Seminar, summed up all the presentations in his concluding remark and invited all the speakers on the dais. Fr Manu Parayanickal cmf thanked the speakers, moderators and the participants for the wonderful response. The National Seminar came to an end by 4.30pm with Claretian Anthem.
Sr. Serene Maria MSMI