I’ve been almost paralysed in my bloglessness lately – too much going on in my head for any of it to make it out into pixels, but then  I read what Rachel had to say about how tough she’s finding college stuff ( she’s in her first year,  & not at the same TI as me…) at the moment, and I was spurred into responding to her as her struggles  are somehow the opposite of mine, but still I recognised that shaking & formation in what she was saying.

You can read her whole post at that link on her name,  but here’s what struck me

“But then there are the other rules, the implicit ones. These become part of your thinking. It is failure to comply to these rules that cuts deep and has consequence. This is where the struggle is encountered over how to be who you are and how to surrender to transformation, whilst at the same time being wary about to whom you are surrendering: God or the institution or more likely God through the institution, for rarely are the two in disagreement or so it would seem in the end, but it’s always worth asking!

So some of this ‘formation stuff’ seems to be about ‘letting go’, surrendering my will to the corporate will (God’s will?) and sometimes it is done through gritted teeth. “

and my response on her blog, which she was gracious enough to ” approve” 😀

I find  this interesting as my experience of formation is almost entirely opposite- that there is no conformity, we have to find our own place in God, and in our vocation, in some ways some of the “givens” and the definites are removed, the suitcase is unpacked and the contents scattered and it is for each of us & God to repack together what we need for the onward journey. Maybe it is to do with the way different colleges approach formation – maybe some try to mould formation more? I don’t know and there is probably no answer as everyone has only the one ( institutional) experience of priestly formation…!
I find it hard too – but in a different way to you, the untethering is freeing, but it can be a little scary too – I am not rebelling against implicit models of conformity as you are, I’m not feeling that they are being placed on me (others in my college may well do, I think it is probably personal as much as corporate) but I am finding my way in what is more of a messed up clothes pile than I had envisaged.

Isn’t this ) both) what formation is about though? individual responses and experiences? I think a d*mn good shake up is essential as part of the whole process,..
I’m getting that at college and I’m getting it in Life too at the moment, really really hard, but all I can do right now is go with it and see where God takes me in the shaking.
Hope things shake out for you too!

I think she’s right that a lot of formation is about letting go – I’m not so sure it’s about surrendering to a corporate will, I don’t think that’s formation,   I think that might be just “learning to get along in a big organisation”  My experience in s a pretty ecclectic training institution is that there *is* no one way of being or behaving, and in some strange way that is as unnerving as feeling you are being moulded to a common design.

Interesting stuff; I’m not knocking Rachel’s experience  at all, I think I would be feeling very similarly  in her shoes,  almost certainly I would have been x years ago! The natural rebel in me looks for stuff to kick at, I’m the one at the back of the coach on field trips…;-) I like to think it’s my innate creativity!!  I guess what I’m musing on here is the difference in experience, how I’m actually perhaps  experiencing a much more “loose” formation style, a way of guiding that is forcing me, with God to form from within rather than be formed in reaction to outside structures. It’s a formation without “form” perhaps, no preconceptions of the type of priest I should be, the type of ministry I should have.

Is that good or bad, I don’t know?! Maybe we need both, I think perhaps I do, I’m liking what’s happening to me, but there are days I feel a little lost, like when you are sorting  the cupboards out and you’re at the ” gets worse before it gets better” stage!

I know at least one of the staff from college reads this, so feel free to comment!!


2 Responses to “Shake’n’mould”

  1. Wow – I went and added to my blogpost just now and then I came and looked at yours. Strange how you talk about the kitchen cupboards, I see my tins in there with all the labels off – analogies are colliding.

    Thanks for the reflection.

    Just to say my post speaks volumes about me but does not present, of course, a comment on my training institution, just my thoughts as I sit within it…very subjective.

  2. Andrew Williams Says:

    Thanks for your honesty Angi (and Rachel). Very helpful comments in both cases.
    Formation for me too is certainly an unsettling, at times tormenting, experience. I feel like the map I’m trying to navigate with has suddenly got very confused… it’s like going on a walk and reaching the edge of one map sheet and trying to pick up your place on an adjacent sheet… or perhaps there’s a bit of terrain for which there is just no map. Or is it that the bit of the map I’m trying to read has been so well thumbed that the print has worn away and it’s become illegible? And where is God in all this? Is God the cartographer, a fellow navigator, the star above to help me navigate, the edge of the map, the centre, the paper it’s printed on? (Sorry, not sure if these analogies work… you can tell I’m still a geographer deep down!)

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