In the Community of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, we see ourselves as a house of formation, in a very loose sense. Formation is actually what we offer. We organize ourselves according to four pillars of formation: human, spiritual, intellectual, and apostolic.
But what is formation? Formation is the idea that we need structure, guidance, and practice in coming to maturity as human beings. Formation is the development of the interior life according to the wisdom found in tradition. Formation is thus a foreign concept to American culture, which is so individualistic and activist.
It is a hard sell! Self-help, "spiritual but not religious," self-directed study, social media and entrepreneurship are catch words of our culture that resist the docility to traditional wisdom necessary to undergo formation. There is, of course, an individual element to formation. Each person is actually his own formation director. But we grow in formation to the extent that we are docile to the traditional wisdom proven and given to us through the crucible of human experience.
It is easy to see what formation means in a spiritual setting. It means living the sacramental life. It means following the wisdom of a proven path of prayer and asceticism. Intellectual formation is also pretty clear: scripture, creeds, the teachings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church give us a clear path of intellectual formation. Apostolic formation requires some technique to share the Gospel or to share a meal, but the impulse is one of spiritual generosity. But just what is human formation? It is the most fundamental of all, and without it we are stunted in all other areas. It is the art of living the good and virtuous life.
Human formation is about living well. But even that concept is distorted in our American society to mean living extravagantly. Human formation is learned from contact with wise men and women, who themselves have been well-formed. It is about the day to day death to self that they practice every day. We have constructed a society that almost prevents us from sustaining the contacts necessary for good human formation. Families are driven to distraction by activities and work. Schools are chopped up into so many programs. Churches are activity centers, if they are in the picture at all. Neighborhoods -- what is a neighborhood?
Human formation requires us to be. To be accepted -- by other people. To be challenged -- by other people. To be with other people. We learn what is kind, generous, thoughtful, and noble from other people. We start to choose other people's needs to our desires. We start to live well.
I hope that Frassati House becomes a center of human formation, where we take the time to be with each other and for each other. Where we unplug. Where we get off the treadmill of agenda and manipulation. Our heavenly patron, Bl. Pier Giorgio is an excellent example of the humanly well formed man. Get to know him better!