We consider Formation of the Heart an essential aspect of MSC ongoing formation.1Formation of The Heart. APIA Formators Conference, Kensington, NSW, Australia. 15 Sept, 2018. 2(Valladolid Documents, World Conference of MSC Formators. July, 1992 #7, 10.2).
Formation of the Heart touches the whole of our lives as MSC religious. However, let us highlight in this preamble two significant incidences that point to the absolute need for all Missionaries of the Sacred Heart to grow in integrity. We all know how important it is that our actual behaviour gives witness to the Charism and Spirituality we profess shapes our lives.
Firstly, we want to acknowledge the importance of living obedience. Our formation in the Heart of Christ reminds us that we are called not to live for ourselves but for the mission of the Father’s love. Jesus gave his own life so that we might come to know the depth with which we are loved by God. Furthermore, our living of this same self-giving love, is lived in a communal context, rather than as individuals or groups of individuals. Formation of the Heart beckons us to live a communal discernment, so that our decisions are made in service of the mission of God.
Secondly, we acknowledge that a Formation of the Heart requires of us a profound willingness to engage with the current realities regarding the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults in our Congregation and the church. Our strong sense of compassion and the implementation of integrity in our own sexuality is an obligation for us.
We also acknowledge the significance of our privileged position in society. The standard of living we have in our houses is one many people could never dream of having. We recognise as MSC the moral obligation we have to become deeply reflective of the inequality between what we have and what others around us do not have. It is part of our Formation of the Heart to grow this awareness so that it leads to empathy and pro-active engagement with the poor and needy of our world.3(Valladolid Documents, World Conference of MSC Formators. July, 1992 #12)
Formation of the Heart speaks to the underpinning orientation of MSC ongoing formation found in Heart Spirituality. The elements promote growth in specific interior dispositions which we recognise as essential to any ongoing formation in this deeper listening and subsequent emergence;
Formation of the Heart begins with discernment which is central to the MSC experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola 4Contemporary Reading of the Spiritual Exercises. D. Flemming, S.J. I.J.S., St. Louis, 1976given as a directed (rather than preached) retreat5(Valladolid Documents, World Conference of MSC Formators. July, 1992 #9.1.4, Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola as directed, not preached, retreat.) in the Novitiate and again maybe later in life. The Spiritual Exercises provide formation in the discernment of Spirits, the discernment of God’s Will, and formation in an Ecclesial Disposition.6A Church of Passion and Hope. The Formation of an Ecclesial Disposition from Ignatius Loyola to Pope Francis and the New Evangelization. Gill Goulding, C.J. Bloomsbury, London, 2016 They assist in the crucial task of discerning motives, both conscious and unconscious. Discernment promotes awareness of blindness to the capacities and capabilities within the person’s self-perception.
There has been a strong call from the Church for us to be a discerning people. The skills in discernment we learn in initial formation and reinforced in ongoing formation are skills meant for life. Gaudette et Exsultate says;
“Discernment is necessary not only at extraordinary times, when we need to resolve grave problems and make crucial decisions. It is a means of spiritual combat for helping us to follow the Lord more faithfully. We need it at all times, to help us recognize God’s timetable, lest we fail to heed the promptings of his grace and disregard his invitation to grow. Often discernment is exercised in small and apparently irrelevant things, since greatness of spirit is manifested in simple everyday realities.”Gaudete Et Exsultate. the Call to Holiness in Today’s World. Pope Francis. 19 March, 2018. #.169
Discernment is first, about listening, not decision-making. We listen to the deep ‘movements’ within own hearts unconditionally and compassionately, without judgment, we let them be what they are. Discernment is listening to the voice of God within oneself and within God’s people, listening to the voices of the past, hurts, resentments, joyful memories, that may arise, so that I can distinguish them from the presence of God.
We acknowledge the necessity of silence, of time and space for deep listening to take place, time to allow freedom to speak, for hope to be shared, for one’s reality to be acknowledged, and space to grow that creates interior personal freedom to respond maturely to life.7CS #80S. The purpose of the pre-novitiate is to help the candidates make a free and deliberate choice between the different Christian states of life, and to allow the community to assess the motives and readiness of the candidates for religious life. Flexibility of programs in ongoing formation provides the space to accommodate individual journeys.
Discernment, while personal, is never private and disconnected from the collective, but finds its context within the community – MSC Society and the Church. Discernment needs openness and honesty and requires us to drop our personal agenda so that we are not defended with judgement, cynicism or fear. Being open to God’s guidance, requires a personal shift from ‘ego-driven’ direction to seeking God’s Will within the community. From an ‘ego-system’ to and ‘eco-system’.8Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies. Otto Scharmer. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2013. While, we remember that God works within the human person,9Valladolid #2.1 the desires of the Congregation and Church are included in the context of the any mission discernment.10Communal Wisdom. A way of discerning for a pilgrim church. Brian Gallagher msc. Coventry Press. Victoria. 2018 In the discernment process we should not overlook our motto; “May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be everywhere loved, forever”, rather than narrowing the focus to one’s own personal vision.
Good discernment needs the support of experienced persons with this capability, such as good spiritual directors who are themselves engaged in discernment.
We all need accompaniment. In formation of the heart, accompaniment includes spiritual direction, ministry supervision and mentoring for those in first five years. Regular accompaniment is a priority11Valladolid #2.1.2 in a formation of the heart, essential at the many levels of our lives and ministry; spiritual, human, professional, prophetic, directional, ecological.
Accompaniment is a journeying with, a companioning, a walking together, an engagement in story-telling.
Accompaniment is about making space for people to grow, creating an interior personal freedom to respond maturely to life and its demands.
Accompaniment is a non-judgemental process of listening and empathising, and for MSC a going into the Heart of Christ. Good accompaniment enables us to sense we are fully accepted and that we have a sense of God’s love for us, promoting in us an awareness of ourselves, of others, and of God, that enables us to accept and affirm the realities we become aware of.
Accompaniment should promote listening to and reflecting back our hopes and desires in the light of the hope and desires of the Congregation.
It must build trusting relationships, using a flexible, personal, relational approach that leads to openness. It promotes growth in faith that enables living the culture of the Gospel.
Cultural influences such as, a hierarchy world-view or respect for elders, on openness in accompaniment need to be acknowledged and integrated.12c.f., Valladolid #13, “spirit of family” and on “mutual forgiveness” In situations of differing ethnic or national backgrounds there needs to be an attentiveness in accompaniment practice to cultures other than one’s own.
Discovery of Self
Formation of the heart includes the art of self-discovery. We seek to know more about ourselves in the hope we become more and more accepting of our whole self, with all its light and shade.13CS #80 facilitate human and spiritual growth. Self discovery takes into account the importance of integrating our family history and contemporary situations. As we come to know ourselves more, we grow in a greater tolerance and acceptance of other people. We see our projections on to others for what they are – our projections – and when we remove the filters of our own perceptions or look past them, we see the reality that is another person’s life. People are generally easier to love when they cease to be a coat-hook for our own personal baggage.
All formation is about transcending one’s self. For this to happen our openness and cooperation are required. The participation in periodic ministerial and personal accompaniment, such as spiritual direction, provides an objectivity that casts light on who we are and what fixations we get stuck in. It goes without saying that part of our commitment to our healthy living of religious life means making time for annual retreat, regular spiritual direction, times for silent reflection, and the use of journaling or other such techniques.
The 2017 Chapter recommendations14Documents of the General Chapter 2017. Recommendations on ongoing formation contained a special focus on offering formation for healing. Everyone gets hurt, wounds are a part of life, the loss of people we love, dreams we didn’t live, attachments we have, are ever present among our members. Sometimes we must go back to past times, especially regarding family and childhood and bring healing to situations that have left painful scars that continue to influence our lives. The process of self-discovery helps us articulate our inner feelings and emotions. In a supportive and healing context we can find the healing we need. Self-discovery when it is at its best supports the growth of our self-confidence and our capacity to be the love of God for his people.
Self-discovery in issues of sexuality, orientation, and each member’s capacity to live religious life and community in a conscientious manner with integrity are extremely important. Sexuality and spirituality are deeply connected. Sexuality is a gift from God. Ongoing formation needs to encourage the development and integration of the whole person, united with God.
Documents of the General Chapter 2017. Recommendations
Documents of the General Chapter 2011. Statements.
Gaudete Et Exsultate. the Call to Holiness in Today’s World. Pope Francis. 19 March, 2018.
MSC Constitutions & Statutes. Rome, 2005.
Valladolid Documents, World Conference of MSC Formators. July, 1992
- 1Formation of The Heart. APIA Formators Conference, Kensington, NSW, Australia. 15 Sept, 2018
- 2(Valladolid Documents, World Conference of MSC Formators. July, 1992 #7, 10.2)
- 3(Valladolid Documents, World Conference of MSC Formators. July, 1992 #12)
- 4Contemporary Reading of the Spiritual Exercises. D. Flemming, S.J. I.J.S., St. Louis, 1976
- 5(Valladolid Documents, World Conference of MSC Formators. July, 1992 #9.1.4, Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola as directed, not preached, retreat.)
- 6A Church of Passion and Hope. The Formation of an Ecclesial Disposition from Ignatius Loyola to Pope Francis and the New Evangelization. Gill Goulding, C.J. Bloomsbury, London, 2016
- 7CS #80S. The purpose of the pre-novitiate is to help the candidates make a free and deliberate choice between the different Christian states of life, and to allow the community to assess the motives and readiness of the candidates for religious life.
- 8Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies. Otto Scharmer. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2013.
- 9Valladolid #2.1
- 10Communal Wisdom. A way of discerning for a pilgrim church. Brian Gallagher msc. Coventry Press. Victoria. 2018
- 11Valladolid #2.1.2
- 12c.f., Valladolid #13, “spirit of family” and on “mutual forgiveness”
- 13CS #80 facilitate human and spiritual growth.
- 14Documents of the General Chapter 2017. Recommendations