Workshops for teachers, spring training for Baseball players, ongoing courses for professionals, coaching, reviewing, updating, cutting away the dead branches and debris—life demands constant labor to improve, upgrade, and perfect.
Even more important must be the constant labor at ongoing formation for followers of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All of us are a work in progress, an incomplete project, a task that can always be improved.
It is not uncommon for me to meet adults who received a poor catechetical formation at their First Communion, and ever since that day they have had no other spiritual formation until they decided to get married. Upon which they must comply to do a six hour formation class to prepare them for the Sacrament of Marriage, to prepare them to be faithful and loving spouses, to prepare them to be the best of parents. Obviously the church encourages a more complete formation program for its children.
Therefore, here are some practical and concrete steps that we can take to implement an ongoing program of “Permanent Formation”.
1. Spiritual Readings
Good books should be your best friends. They are always available, ready to be opened and read, and when put down they do not get angry, and if not visited for a long period of time they do not become resentful. With the consultation and advice of a good Spiritual Director, formulate a good spiritual reading list.
Fr. Thomas Dubay stated that busy people only have time to read the best of books. St Teresa of Avila would not admit women into the Carmelite order who could not read; the reason being, the saint knew how much wonderful and inspiring and educational material could be acquired by good reading! Establish your own library of good catholic books!
2. Spiritual Direction
St. John of the Cross put it bluntly: “He who has himself as a directee has a dummy as a follower.” It is like the blind leading the blind. We all have blind spots that we cannot see, but to others they glare like the noonday sun.
Spiritual direction serves to help us to encounter God in our lives, to arrive at self-knowledge, to detect our major spiritual roadblocks, and finally to seek out and find God’s will in our lives. St. Teresa of Avila would have never carried through with the reform of the Carmelites without spiritual direction.
St. Faustina Kowalska would have failed miserably to make known the treasures of Divine Mercy without the able assistance of Blessed Michael Sopocko. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque never would have found acceptance of the famous apparitions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, had it not been for the timely appearance on the scene of the Jesuit, St. Claude de la Colombiere. Divine light often radiates through the human prism of the Spiritual Director!
3. Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius
God raised up St. Ignatius to rescue a world in spiritual decline and spiritual battle. He wrote thousands of letters and anointed with gems of practical counsel and wisdom. The Holy Spirit inspired him to compose the Rules for Spiritual Discernment, the spiritual masterpiece that has proved to be a precious jewel in spirituality to help us to discern the motions or movements of the good spirit and open our hearts to receive and follow them. At the same time, the rules teach us to detect the “Bad vibes” of the enemy so as to reject them quickly, vigorously and constantly so as to arrive at victory and receive one day the crown of glory. Finally, God inspired St. Ignatius to compose the Spiritual Exercises. By doing the Spiritual Exercises and living out this divinely inspired program of spirituality one ascends from a mediocre, confused, apathetic spiritual life, to a vibrant, growing, dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ the King, a life-long pursuit of sanctity of life and an authentic witness to the world of holiness.
4. Sharing the Faith
Personal faith is not lost by sharing it with others. On the contrary, by sharing your faith with others it results in a mutual, double process of enrichment. The one who listens is enlightened and inspired by the spiritual treasure shared and you who give are enriched for giving. Pray for and look for opportunities to share your faith with others. Nobody can give what he does not have! The more spiritual treasures we have, then the more we can give to others.
5. Electronic Media
We live in a world with rapid progress, especially in the realm of the Mass media and the electronic media. The mass media, like any other tool can be used for evil or for good. As for us, we will use it as a means for our own sanctification! When using the internet, find good good Catholic websites—know them, save them and log in to them; this can be a great source of permanent formation! Youtube sermons and other videos—a short spiritual message, maybe only a minute or two—can enlighten us with an insight to console us and shed light on our path the whole day. Podcasts! These can be listened to at home, while cooking or cleaning, on the road on the way to work or in the quiet of one’s room before retiring for the night! Blogs! Tap in to short but “meaty” spiritual topics, which might be on prayer, some virtue you need to practice, some heresy that must be understood and resisted, or some Marian reflection to lift up your mind and heart to “The Mystical Rose” who always points to Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Her last words recorded were “Do whatever He tells you!”
In conclusion, we are on a spiritual journey to heaven. Ongoing Spiritual formation must be taken seriously. Many distractions can detour us from the purpose of our life, which is to praise God, reverence God, serve God and to save our soul for all eternity!
Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was and He responded: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with your entire mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Lk. 10: 27). Final prayer to pursue ongoing formation:
Lord, help me to take seriously my permanent spiritual formation so that I may be a worthy instrument in your hands to save many souls for time and all eternity! Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, pray for me!