THE VALUE OF FORMATION
Formation is another word for instruction. Formation (instruction) in a life of a Carmelite is on going. No matter how close we seem to get to Him, no matter how much we seem to love Him, we can always draw closer and love more in this our earthly life. Only in heaven will we realize the full measure of love and surrender.
But we can begin now, today. Instruction can be done in many ways. It can be as simple as turning each moment over to the Lord, which we all ought to do. Or it can be as complex as studying for the priesthood and eventually being ordained.
The OCDS has a specific program of formation. The program is designed to give instruction in the Rule of Life, in Scripture, and in the Catholic faith. The program is meant to be interactive, that is, the person in formation shares his or her thoughts and reflections with other, more experienced members who are already living the life. God has designed us to learn from one another so take advantage of the opportunity! Formators are compassionate, insightful, and encouraging.
Formal lessons will take 6 1/2 years, under normal conditions, to complete before you may make a life time promise to live this Rule of Life. The time of formal formation may be shortened or extended by the council with permission of the Provincial Delegate. It is important to take time to savor and embrace your formal formation in this holy lifestyle. Formation leads to a life decision which has eternal consequences. All those who pledge to live the Rule and follow the Constitutions and Statutes in the spirit in which they are written, receive the same guarantee which the Church gives to those who embrace any Church approved form of life and fidelity guarantees eternal life.
SIX STAGES OF FORMATION
The stages of formation help you wade gradually into this lifestyle, making small changes each month until, at the end of four years of formal formation, you are living the entire Rule. Thus, the effect is cumulative. What is done in each stage continues throughout a lifetime. The stages and materials needed for each stage are:
INQUIRER/VISITOR: Those discerning a call to living our Rule of Life. Materials needed: Bible and the book, Conversation with Christ. Length: In general, three months minimum, but may be extended as desired.
ASPIRANT: First stage of formal instruction. Twelve lessons which cover basic truths of the Catholic faith and the Rule as well as background about the order and its saints. Some elements of the Rule are implemented including at least 15 minutes daily of quiet prayer/meditation, and daily devotion to Mary. As much as possible, reconcile with others and engage in apostolate of choice and begin to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in union with clergy and religious throughout the world for Morning or Evening prayer. Materials needed: Bible, Rule, Constitutions, and Statutes, assigned reading materials, a binder/notebook and Christian Prayer. Length: Twelve months.
FIRST YEAR NOVICE/Candidate: Second stage of formal instruction. Twelve lessons continuing Implements over a year’s time the prayer portion of the Rule. Materials needed: CFP Handbook, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours), Bible, Rosary. Length: One year.
SECOND YEAR NOVICE: Third stage of formal instruction. Twelve lessons which implement over a year’s time the fasting and abstinence portions of the Rule. Materials needed: CFP Handbook, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours), Bible, Rosary. Length: One year.
THIRD YEAR NOVICE: Final stage of formal instruction. Twelve lessons which implement over a year’s time the clothing and simplicity portions of the Rule. Materials needed: CFP Handbook, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours), Bible, Rosary. Length: One year. Three additional lessons, which discuss the life of a pledged member, complete the novice formation.
PLEDGED: Promise to live the CFP Rule and Constitutions for life or for a year, in peace and communion with all others. Pledges, although binding promises to live the entire Rule and Constitutions, are not made under pain of sin. Pledged members will normally be active in existing chapters or circles of the Confraternity or will begin such local gatherings in their own parishes, if possible. Materials needed: Rosary, Bible, and a selected Church document or writing of a saint (member’s choice). Length: Ongoing.