Who are my people to whom I am sent?
A formator’s Quest
As we grow in our vocational life, we will certainly experience the joy of the Gospel which fills our hearts as the fruit of God’s intimacy with us in Christ. It is the experience that makes our missionary life meaningful and exciting even amidst a hostile environment. The litmus test of true experience of God is our closeness to people’s lives and it itself is a source of greater joy (Evangelium Gaudium, 268). Passion for Jesus and passion for his people are two sides of the same coin. Jesus takes us from the midst of the people and he sends us to his people (ibid).
Many Formators may consider themselves “caught up” in their formation ministry and “away” from people’s lives. Some of them may compensate through their closeness to some friendly families and the pleasant “treats” received occasionally. Some gifted formators may be on constant “mission” responding to ever increasing requests for retreats, conferences from the “people of God” while their formees remain at home like “sheep without a shepherd”. Some tend to act as a “hired servant” and assume an un-reflected role as a “warden” of a youth hostel and wait for a transfer to start ministry among “the people”. We may also occasionally come across a formator who will be easily found among “his people” and amidst “his mission”, but rarely to be found in the midst of the formees.
It is important to ask the question who are the people of God in the mission of the formators for whom they are called to lay down their lives.
One formator who used to hunt for “missions” outside the formation house narrated his change of outlook when he asked the question who were God’s people in his mission. He dropped most of his programs outside and began to spend time with the formees. He discovered that the formees are the “people” entrusted to his pastoral care of accompaniment.
As a formator have you felt yourself to be away from the “people of God”?. It is worth reflecting on this question and pray over it: “who are the people who occupy the prime place in your life”? Are the formees on the priority list in your heart? Can you say that your fomees are the most important people in your life as a formator and do you consider it worth laying down your life for them, though they are only a few? How do you, as a formator, make sense of the call of Pope Francis to be evangelizers who “enter into the fabric of society, sharing the lives of all, listening to their concerns,helping them materially and spiritually in their needs, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep; arm in arm withothers, committed to building a new world?” (EG 269).
We learn the art of being evangelizers by learning from Jesus’ style of formation. In the short span of Jesus’ ministry, he spend most of his time with his disciples, instructing them, affirming them, correcting them and leading them by example. The disciples occupied much of Jesus’ time and energy. He took them to the Father in prayer and taught them to pray to the Father. With them Jesus was also deeply present to the people in their joy and suffering, their celebration and mourning. We observe different circles of relationship in the life of Jesus without excluding anyone from his relational ambit and at the same time gearing every relationship towards fulfilling his mission. It is here that we find the key to find equilibrium among the various relationships and commitments the formators are blessed with.
The people of God in the circle of your world
Formators are called to share their resources as priests and competent spiritual animators with the Christian community, other formation houses, institutes of higher learning and communities of consecrated men and women. They are all people of God who seek your assistance. Here is a map presented by a formator which explains his way of categorizing the people of God in his life.This map shows how he places different groups of people in his mission. It would be helpful for you to explore who are the people of God whom you serve at the moment and draw your own map to express how they are related to your life and mission.
Formators practices to keep themselves connected to the formees daily.
Here is a collection of practices that expresses how some formators maintain their relationship with their formees, the primary recipients of their mission. You are invited to have a look at how well you are spiritually and emotionally connected to your formees and organize your time and space for them.
- “I start the day after getting up thanking the Lord for the gift of life and the day and offer my formees to God’s care. My formees come first in the list of the people I pray for. My parents used to pray for the family as soon as they get up”.
- “It is in the daily mass I remember my formees. When I offer the bread and wine, I imagine my formees along with the bread that they too may share the transformative process. Even if I am not in the formation house, this practice keeps me connected daily with them”.
- “I make it a point to be present for common prayers and meals with the formees. I do not take up ministries that keep me long time away from the house.”
- “I try to be present with the formees and join them for manual work and games. It is this practice that helps me to gain their confidence and closeness as persons.”
- “I hold my formees with great love and concern. They are our future. I take time to pray and reflect before taking any serious decision that affects them”.
- “I am present to the formees by being aware of their programs and whereabouts. It is like being a parent concerned about the children without being intrusive.”
- “I communicate to them through my words and actions that I am more of a co-sojourner in their formative journey than a judge and my role is to help them achieve the growth required to move to the next stage of formation. This helps them to be close to me, trust me and be open to me so that the formation process is more transparent and collaborative.”
What are your important insights after reading this reflection?
What would you add more as your contribution to the theme of “people of God in the life of the formators”?
What are some of your own practices in relation to the formees which express their priority in your mission?
– Mathew Vattamattam cmf