Friday 4 July 2014

Formation - Zattoni and Gillini

Errico Castoldi sent me a great article by Mariateresa Zattoni and Gilberto Gillini, "La formazione ai due sacramenti ordinati alla salvezza altrui: uno sguardo alle direttrici di fondo," La Rivista del Clero Italiano (5 May 2014) 383-400. The authors are described as "consulenti relazionali e pedagogisti della famiglia, docenti emeriti di 'Strumenti relationali per il Family Help' a Pontificium Institutum Johannes Paulus II per Studi su Matrimonio e Famiglia e già membri della Consulta Nazionale CEI per la Famiglia in qualità di esperti."

Interesting, first of all, and quite new to me, is the way the authors find deep similarities between formation to matrimony and formation to religious and priestly life.

A quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 1534) provides an explanation of the title of the article: "Two other sacraments, Holy Orders and Matrimony, are directed towards the salvation of others; if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so. They confer a particular mission in the Church and serve to build up the People of God."

The article deals explicitly with the content of the formative journey, and it soon becomes evident that the authors are speaking from a great deal of experience in dealing with people, both married couples and religious / priests / seminarians. 

The second page already gives a helpful summary. "We think that formation of a young person to consecrated life or to married life must help him to:
WEST: 'leave father and mother,' monitoring his journey of detachment which never happens once for all;
NORTH: bring into focus the fundamental values on which his life is based, and prepare him to find motivations for this foundation not only for himself but also for others;
EAST: bring into focus the fundamental aspect that favours healthy relationships - the capacity to think positively of the behaviour of others, even when they differ from one's own, and to appreciate the totality of the values that derive from it;
SOUTH: bring into focus the body of disvalues to which he is drawn, and which will always be present in his life."

WEST: formation and transgression

1. The first transgression is the ability to break oneself from parental relationships. This is provocative, but I found it deeply sane and healthy. It is the task of becoming adult, taking a distance from father and mother, finding one's own identity. "There are adults - parents and educators - who do not even suspect that, in order to get on with his life (and not out of mere caprice or in order to make the parents suffer) the young person in formation must transgress...." The twelve year old Jesus in the Temple is a great example here (Lk 2:49)

2. The second is getting rid of the desire for approval.

3. The third is refusing to play 'Lorenzo the Great'. Stop thinking you have to be in control of everything in the family, mediating, balancing, assigning praise and blame, giving advice... They can manage very well without you.

NORTH: the formation compass

Kurt Lewin, the father of modern social psychology: There is nothing as practical as a good theory. [Very Lonerganian.] Jerome Bruner: every discipline must aim at understanding as deeply as possible the principles that constitute the very structure of the discipline. A good theory gives us the best possibility of synthesis in the face of the complexity of life. For Christian formation, the foundation is clearly the Word and the theological-ecclesial reflection that situates the Word in life [theology as mediating between revelation and culture]. [An extremely clear declaration of the place of Christian revelation in the task of Christian formation.]

1. The love of the Father for all his creatures. The Father loves everyone [the errant husband or wife or priest, the formator or parish priest who gives me trouble, the seminarian or formee who I just cannot understand].

2. The lightness of the yoke (Mt 11:28-30). This conviction challenges the Freudian assumption that civilization is the source only of duties and of the 'sacrifice of drives,' and so that civilization leads to the 'discontent' of modern man. (the liberation of drives has, in fact, not led in any significant way to happiness.) It also challenges a certain kind of theology that believes in suffering in itself as a sacrifice pleasing to God.

3. Only the Father liberates us from evil (we do not save ourselves). We need to recognize realisitically and humbly that evil exists, both in the sense of our personal inclination to evil, and in the sense of an Evil One who wants to destroy our faith. The two sacraments of matrimony and holy orders are both continually exposed to the evil of the loss of love, the loss of faith-fidelity. (see Mt 24:12) The Evil One tries all the time to separate us from God. Thus, for example, when all seems to be going well, we lose our head for someone.... Or, on the other hand, when faced with failure, suffering, death, we easily blame God and feel ourselves innocent. Or when we think we need signs. Jesus prays for us: Simon, Simon, Satan wanted to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your fail might not fail...

EAST: emphasizing the positive.

SOUTH: living with original sin.

Recognizing one's irrational beliefs. Albert Ellis, the father of cognitive psychology, provides us with the concept of Irrational Beliefs: however good our formation, there remains an attraction towards the negative, an attraction which hinders us from enjoying the messianic peace that the Lord wants to give.

Our irrational beliefs are not produced only by the subject, but also by the world in which the subject lives. And irrational beliefs are challenged and changed not only with the help of a therapist, but also through the friendly and welcoming contact with another, with one's neighbour/s, especially when these are "meek and humble of heart."

Irrational beliefs are logical traps. A tendency to generalize is one of these; another is the tendency to see everything as a catastrophe (every little problem becomes magnified into a huge one)

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