By Fr. Alexander Ezechukwu, OCD
Knowing Who You Are in Christ
If you join a religious community such as our own Discalced Carmelite Friars, you will go through our formation process.
What does this mean?
In short, this involves an education in the Catholic faith as well as in our Carmelite Order, and in the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. And let’s not forget the growth of your own spiritual life.
In formation, special emphasis is given to the new members of a community as they progress through the stages of novitiate, temporary profession and permanent profession.
Thus, a man is fully incorporated into our community. His life is shaped according to our charism and spirituality.
Similar to Getting a Job
This is akin in the secular world to someone getting hired and going through the orientation process. However, with a religious community, it involves the whole person – their spiritual, psychological, and intellectual growth.
You didn’t think that we would just cut you loose as soon as you entered, did you?
No, we all need ongoing formation.
Here is what Pope St. John Paul II said about formation:
“The primary objective of the formation process is to prepare people for the total consecration of themselves to God in the following of Christ, at the service of the Church's mission. To say ‘yes’ to the Lord's call by taking personal responsibility for maturing in one's vocation is the inescapable duty of all who have been called. One's whole life must be open to the action of the Holy Spirit, travelling the road of formation with generosity, and accepting in faith the means of grace offered by the Lord and the Church."
- St. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata. N. 65
The Vatican congregation that deals with religious and consecrated persons has pointed out the importance of formation for new members (called candidates):
“The formation of candidates, which has as its immediate end that of introducing them to religious life and making them aware of its specific character within the Church, will primarily aim at assisting men and women religious realize their unity of life in Christ through the Spirit, by means of the harmonious fusion of its spiritual, apostolic, doctrinal, and practical elements.”
- Directives on Formation in Religious Institutes, No. 1
My Own Formation
I can remember my own formation with classes as a novice. It included classroom instruction, prayers and adapting to the routine of daily life with the other friars. And then after my profession it continued with ongoing education, an annual retreat, conferences and other activities.
For me, formation has strengthened my identity as a Catholic man, a Carmelite friar, and as a priest.
I think that formation for religious communities is a lot more involved than what lay persons in general receive. I don’t mean to brag, but this is one of the advantages of joining a religious community like the Discalced Carmelites.
In short, I can say that the Discalced Carmelites take care of its friars. Because we have to give the best to those we serve, we are given the best spiritual, intellectual and cultural preparation for our ministries. I had the privilege of attending some of the best institutions in the world for my training in the Bible - The Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
I also had the opportunity to visit many countries and encounter many cultures as I had to learn a few languages for my studies - Italian, Spanish, French, German and Hebrew. This was made possible because Carmelites are all over the world. In fact, we often joke, “Join the Carmelites and tour the world!” And the best part of it all is that I’ve learnt so much from those I’ve encountered on my travels and my perspective on life is much broader.
You might say that we as humans need to know, and be reminded of our calling as consecrated persons, as Carmelites, and as members of the Body of Christ.
Formation is what makes us whole.
“At the origin of the religious consecration there is a call of God for which there is no explanation apart from the love which he bears for the person whom he calls. This love is absolutely gratuitous, personal, and unique. It embraces the person to the extent that one no longer pertains to oneself, but to Christ. It thus reflects the character of an alliance. The glance which Jesus turned towards the rich young man has this characteristic: ‘Looking on him, he loved him’ (Mk 10:21).”
- Directives on Formation in Religious Institutes, No. 8
A Contemplative Calling – the Carmelite Friars
If you’re a single Catholic man age 18 to 35, have you thought about becoming a religious friar? Maybe God is calling you to a Carmelite vocation in our Anglo-Irish Province in the UK!
Contact me, Fr. Alex, Carmelite Encounter Director, at +44 (0)7477 673932, email@example.com
Check Out the Discalced Carmelites:
Why not test your call to the Carmelite Friars of the Anglo-Irish Province?
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