C. The journey of formation

14. An ongoing journey

Formation must be presented in such a way that individuals can understand and embrace it as a dynamic process which is to continue throughout their lives, and not merely as a way of attaining permanent membership in the Order.

The formative process can never be said to be completed: growth to human, spiritual, religious and Carmelite maturity progresses along with the unfolding of the lives of those who, having encountered Christ, answer his call and follow him in the Carmelite life, allowing themselves to be grasped and transformed by his love.

Therefore, formation should not be viewed as a way of accumulating a rich store of ideas and habits, or of adopting a rigid lifestyle. Rather, it should be viewed as a way of acquiring a capacity for discernment, flexibility and availability - qualities which enable us to constantly renew our lives and to constantly struggle to adhere radically to Christ according to the Carmelite way of life.

15. A personalised journey

Formation must be mindful of the individual, and must take into account the personal journey of each member. Formation programmes must help individuals to assimilate the values they have freely chosen - to assimilate them gradually and ever more deeply, according to the model of the "hierarchical spiral"(32) , in a climate of dialogue and respect. As a pedagogical principle, whenever we propose a value, we must simultaneously provide an opportunity to incarnate the value concretely in order to own it.

Values must be integrated, so that we may become capable of taking responsibility for our own lives, through free responses to God's invitation to transcend ourselves in love. From the start, the process of formation must teach individuals to gradually assume functions of service to the religious and ecclesial community.

16. Journeying towards freedom

Formation must help individuals to attain a freedom which allows them to go beyond themselves, their own interests, their own selfish egos and personal needs, so that they may open themselves to the action of the Spirit and to growth in the love of God, of the Church, of the Order and of others. Religious seek transcendence, not self-gratification; they live, in communion with their brothers and sisters, for certain values, not for roles; they strive to mirror faithfully the face of God, not to achieve high productivity. It is the essential nature of the evangelical counsels of obedience, poverty and chastity to activate and express this dynamic of personal liberation at every level.

This kind of freedom, conditioned as it is by physical, psychological, educational and social factors, cannot be taken for granted; it needs to be monitored and encouraged in its growth.

17. Journeying together

The process of formation has socio-cultural dimensions. We all come from particular social and ecclesial contexts; we join communities which include individuals of different backgrounds, ages, cultures, roles, and so forth; and we are sent into society as witnesses and evangelisers. We must therefore not only be converted to Christ and to the values of the Kingdom, but also be able to recognise and foster "the seeds of the Word"(33) that are already present in society, and to respond to the challenges they present; we must allow ourselves to be questioned, challenged and evangelised by society - never forgetting, however, to be prophetic voices and critical consciences. We must be builders of a new world, through justice and in peace.(34)

18. On the paths of Carmel

From the start, formation must be explicitly Carmelite. The Carmelite vocation and the Carmelite charism must be seen as potentially present in each candidate, as possibility and as gift, as a vocation to be built up and developed - not as external adjuncts, marginal to the individual's essential identity.

Formation aims to enable the individual to gradually identify with the Carmelite Order and develop a deep sense of belonging.

The process of identification is complex. It takes place in two ways:

a) through the acquisition of a sense of identity which gives a constant sense of personal wholeness, persisting over time and despite changing circumstances. This involves the capacity to acquire new attitudes and to adapt to new situations - always, however, in relation to a concrete set of values;

b) through identification with others, and especially with the Order, the Province and the community.

It is through this process of identification that our personal needs come face to face with our social needs in a dynamic encounter, as we experience the need to belong without renouncing our own essential identities.

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32 Each stage of formation absorbs the preceding stages and leads the individual towards a higher level of integration and interiorisation of the values.
33 Cf. AG, 11.
34 Cf. GS, 39.