Wednesday 16 November 2016

Formation as ongoing

When we say "formation" we tend to think of initial formation. But our Constitutions - written way back in 1986 - are suprising, because by "formation" they intend what we usually think of as ongoing formation - with the proviso that such "ongoing formation" covers the whole of life, and includes "initial formation" as one of the moments.

Formation, in our Constitutions, is our daily and ongoing response to the call of God which is not an event in the past but an ongoing reality. Every day God calls me, and every day I respond, and that is formation.

The key word in C 98, entitled "The formative experience," is "learning by experience" - fare esperienza, in Italian. Formation is a question of "learning by experience the values of the Salesian vocation." Such learning is done in the light of Christ and the gospel, read through the eyes of Don Bosco. It is, as C 119 specifies, not different from discernment: listening to the voice of the Spirit in the events of daily life, whether good or bad. And it is connected to C 95, "Life as Prayer."

How to do formation in this sense?

A basic skill is attending: paying attention. Lonergan would talk about the first transcendental precept: Be attentive.

A related skill is processing. A formator who knows how to process, is one who attends and helps the formee attend to his experience, without haste to come to conclusions and to make judgments. He helps him explore the complexity of experience and of feelings, to go to the roots of this experience and feeelings, to take responsibility for one's part in them, to see whether one desires to change, and only then to work out lines of action.

All this from the point of view of faith and charism.

This is done in personal spiritual accompaniment.

It is also done in group spiritual accompaniment. We have just returned from the Philippines, where in our theologate at Paranaque, we found our young salesians engaged in group spiritual accompaniment, in groups of 5. (They were initiated into this by Fr Danny Torres, SDB.)

It can be and should be done in pastoral accompaniment, which is not so much reporting "what happened" but rather "what happened to me." Raymond Callo was talking about the training in hospital ministry: they make you process your experience. "What happened to you when the patient rejected you, told you to get out, slammed the door in your face?"

The aim to be become men with the attitude of discernment: with the ability to pay attention to the voice of the Spirit in the events of daily life.


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