Sunday, 16 November 2014

Teaching - Marks assured!

Teaching philosophy - or for that matter, any subject - to a group of seminarians is perhaps the most unrewarding task one can engage oneself in (with the exception of what benefits one derives personally from the effort one makes, not much can be expected of the students). Most of the students 'go through' the curriculum only and only because it stands between them and ordination.  If this stage were to be side-tracked in any legal way, there would hardly be a handful choosing to study at all!

So I'm thinking of  a proposal:
Offer students the choice of earning 45 marks (40 being the pass mark) by merely opting out of the class. That would mean they need not attend classes, no assignments, no reading requirements and no tests and final exam either.  The alternative is to stay in class, go through the grind of study, fulfill enough and more requirements of the course and EARN the 40 marks, or more as per one's effort. Of course, prior to making this proposal, I first need to assure and promise them that there would be no repercussions, whatsoever, from anyone or any quarter at all, for the choice they make.  That's primarily to put to rest the conviction that most of them carry about in their heads that passing in the exam and subservience are two requirements for promotion to the next level of formation.  So if this is assured, then only those who are really interested in LEARNING, will stick on. Oh what a joy will such a learning - and teaching - be!  

The 'best' ... where to?

For many years I've always heard and seen in concrete, the policy of religious superiors to send their best personnel to formation houses - whether they be young practical trainees or seasoned confreres.  I too found this very logical and practical.  After all, to train those learning the ropes, you need to send in the ones who are 'ideal'. (One can very well contest who decides and on what criteria, the tag 'best' is awarded to some... aren't we all the best of who we are, or supposed to be).
However, during the GC 27 when the Salesians met Pope Francis, the latter exhorted the superiors to send out the best to be with the young, making explicit that the 'best' are not to be reserved for theology or formation.  When I read it first, I really thought that Pope Francis was not at his best that day. But now reflecting on that and all that is transpiring in my mind and around me, I realize the truth in what Pope Francis suggested.  It makes complete sense when I realize that youngsters joining us are not from formation houses but from different settings we work in.  And if youngsters do not see a life worth living, a challenge not fit taking up, why on earth will they ever join a religious order?  And even if they do join it will be for something totally counter to what religious life is all about... and why is that? That's because that is how religious life is presented to them.  

At home?

I've been trying to decipher as to why the 'participation model' works best in a home for street children, and not so well in a formation setting, at least in the Philosophate.  My analysis may be too raw or biased.  All the same I feel it is something that needs to be taken into consideration.

A child from the street, is very enthusiastic and most importantly responsible, when it comes to partaking with the caretakers in decision making, especially those decisions that affect him.  Perhaps this is because the child or the youngster knows from first hand experience what it means to make a choice and then bear the consequences of the same.  The choice to leave home and take to the streets was his and so were the consequent consequences of his choice.  He has that learning experience.  So now when you offer him a share in making decisions, perhaps even guided decisions, he still will very well be aware that the consequences of that decision or choice are going to be facing him sometime or the other.

A young man moving into the formation house, too leaves home to either become a Priest or a religious.  But hold on, does he?  Or has he moved from one house to another? Does he really accept the consequences of that choice of leaving home and live accordingly?  Or does he demand and expect the 'new' home to provide him with better facilities than the one he left?  Is he challenged enough to 'make a home' rather than merely enjoy the security the present home provides to slip into a comfortable life of ease?  To one who has never made any further choices, nor faced the consequences of the first choice, to such a youngster 'participation' would only mean a cushion to make his life - and his life alone - comfortable. 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

For everyone else...

Just a couple of days ago there was a particular person's name doing the rounds in some parts of the US.  It was of a professor of religion at Cleaveland. He taught at St Ignatius High School and his name was Jim Skerl.  To know more of him watch the video below... or read this article (from The Deacon's Bench)
Besides the many initiatives he undertook and lead young people to join in, what struck me most was his quote on the perspective of education he offered:
An Ignatius education does not exist to make you better than everyone else. It exists to make you better FOR everyone else.
I suppose that idea can be apt for any formation setting as well ... formation is not be make one better than everyone else but FOR everyone else!

The militant Church

Only today did I come to know that the Church considers those living on earth and making their way up to heaven, as the 'militant Church'.  Furthermore that the 'communion of saints' meant that the three categories of saints, the triumphant (those already in heaven), the militant (those of us still alive) and the suffering (those in purgatory) are always in support of one another.

The former fact surprised me, not so much the concept but the title itself, 'militant'.  Somehow I did not expect the Church, of yesteryear to be so 'radical', even in according titles.  Besides it is also good to see that the Church does accord some status to us living, not so much as sinful and dreaded but as 'saints'.  That's truly very encouraging and affirmative.  
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