Aparecida 280: Four Dimensions of Formation

280. Formation encompasses diverse dimensions that must be integrated harmoniously throughout the formation process, namely the human and communal, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral missionary dimensions.

Here, the Aparecida bishops outline how mentors address the practical aspect of treating human beings as part of the formation process. First, how does a person achieve healing and balance in the realm of psychology?

a) The Human and Communal Dimension. It tends to accompany formation processes that lead to taking on one’s own history and healing it, so as to become capable of living as Christians in a pluralistic world, with balance, strength, serenity, and inner freedom. It entails developing personalities that mature in contact with reality and are open to Mystery.

Next, there’s an attuning of a person’s gifts and charisms (both the natural and supernatural abilities) and the development of a spirituality that sustains the individual. For those in a religious order, that means the development of the charisms of the founder and members. For lay people, it can be more difficult to pick through the various flavors of spirituality proposed by saints, founders, and mystics.

b) The Spiritual Dimension. This is the formative dimension that grounds Christian existence in the experience of God made manifest in Jesus, and leads it by the Spirit over the paths of a deep maturation. Through the various charisms, the person is rooted in the journey of life and service proposed by Christ, with a personal style. It makes it possible to pursue wholeheartedly by faith, like the Virgin Mary, the joyful, luminous, sorrowful, and glorious paths of one’s Lord and Teacher.

There’s education:

c) The Intellectual Dimension. The encounter with Christ, Word made Flesh, empowers the dynamism of reason which seeks the meaning of reality and opens up to Mystery. It is expressed in serious reflection, constantly updated through study, which opens intelligence to truth with the light of faith. It also trains for discernment, critical judgment, and dialogue on the overall situation and the culture. It particularly assures well grounded biblical and theological knowledge, and knowledge of the human sciences, in order to acquire the necessary competence for the sake of the ecclesial services required and so as to be suitably present in secular life.

There’s training for particular tasks in ministry; I’d interpret this as more of the particular apprenticeship in discipleship ministry:

d) The Pastoral and Missionary Dimension. An authentic Christian journey fills the heart with joy and hope and moves believers to proclaim Christ continually in their life and their environment. It projects toward the mission of forming missionary disciples at the service of the world. It trains for proposing appealing projects and styles of Christian life, with organic actions and fraternal collaboration with all members of the community. It helps combine evangelization and pedagogy, communicating life and offering pastoral itineraries in accordance with the Christian maturity, age, and other conditions proper to persons or groups. It fosters the responsibility of lay people in the world for building the Kingdom of God. It arouses continual concern for those who have distanced and for those who are oblivious to the Lord in their lives.

It wasn’t until recently that human beings have had a science behind the first of these dimensions. That’s not to say that formators were running clueless before the twentieth century–certainly psychology remains deeply misunderstood in some quarters today–the Church and its agents still make mistakes here. The hope is that those formed for discipleship are not only well-formed morally, but also have a basic orientation to personal health and joyful service. In sum, this must be supported by a prayer life of substance, ongoing permanent catechesis, as well as practical techniques needed to be fruitful and effective amongst real people.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in 2007 Aparecida document, bishops, evangelization and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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