II. Charism and Formation
4. An identity in formation
We cannot separate the discourse on formation from the discourse on identity. In fact, charismatic identity exists only as identity-in-formation, that is, as a process of personal and communal identification. Formation exists only in function of an identity to be recognized and developed.
5. The Teresian reform as a path of formation [C 5, 9]
Teresa’s reform was first and foremost a journey of formation to re-learn to live the Carmelite vocation based on a new experience of union with God. Her writings, particularly the Way of Perfection, were born as instruments of formation for a certain way of living our relationship with God, with ourselves, and with our companions on the journey. Similarly, the return to the sources of the charism called for by the Second Vatican Council should
also be undertaken with a view to a re-formation, to re-learning to live religious life as Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross taught us. In fact, we must recognize that despite the path taken by the Order since the Council, especially in terms of theoretical reflection, we are still searching for a form of life that is fully faithful to Teresa’s original intuitions and adequate to the times and places in which we live.
6. Integral formation [C 108] The response to our call introduces us to an experience of life that has its own specific characteristics and has already been
developed, lived, and transmitted by other persons who make up the religious family of the Teresian Carmel. For those who are called, a path of assimilation and human, evangelical, spiritual, and intellectual maturation opens up. The future of our vocation depends on this commitment and each one, in responding to the call, assumes personal responsibility for working on his or her own formation.
7. The community as space for formation [C 109]
A good formation can never be the task of an individual alone, but of a cohesive community with a specific style of fraternity, committed to “freeing each other from illusion” (L 16:7). The concrete identity of a group can be recognized precisely in the quality of its collective work of formation regarding itself, as well as to new members. Living in community day after day “forms” us, that is, it accustoms us to thinking, judging and acting in one way rather than another.
8. Every community is formative [C 129]
Formation is not only relegated to houses of initial formation. All our communities are called to be formative structures, capable of stimulating and accompanying the development of persons and giving them a new identity. Every community must be a reality that encourages people to grow, to become more mature, more prayerful, more fraternal, more loving of God, and more concerned for the good of his people. Certainly, there are no ideal or perfect communities, but a religious community exists only insofar as it is in search of and on the way to the fullness of its Carmelite vocation. If it loses sight of this goal, it will inevitably turn into something else.
9. Always in formation [C 126]
It is a question, therefore, of knowing that we are inhabited by a dynamic identity which grows and develops. Once it has been assumed, it is constantly safeguarded and updated as a response to changes in the context in which we live and to the signs of the times. The whole life of a Carmelite becomes a journey without rest, knowing that when we do not move forward, we remain stationary, and that whoever does not increase, decreases (cf. 7M 4:9). Above all, we are invited to live in an attitude of constant willingness to learn and grow with a true docibilitas which opens us to permanent updating. This applies to individuals, to each community, and to the entire Order. In this formation process, the progressive integration of the vows into our Carmelite religious life becomes fundamental. The vows are not an acquired and static state of life, but values to be assimilated and cultivated day by day. In this way, the lived experience of the vows contributes decisively to the process of ongoing formation.
10. Intellectual preparation [C 90, 101, 125]
In addition to the experience of God in prayer, a fundamental dimension of formation, of which Saint Teresa was well aware, is the serious and in-depth study of theology and spirituality, as well as of those human sciences which help us to know ourselves better and the world in which we live. To be able to offer qualified service to the Church and to humanity, none of us can do without an accurate and always up-to-date preparation. The Order needs to
intensify research and study, especially on our Saints, in dialogue with contemporary thought. Only in this way will we be able to continue to present in a meaningful way the richness of the spirituality of the Teresian Carmel.