25. Formation of formators in the murialdine pedagogy
Educating is generating, i.e. living a relationship that is capable of generating to a new, full, beautiful and harmonious life. The formator’s task is to speak to the heart, to empathize, to be both authoritative and credible. A 1995 film by Jeremy Leven could help us understand what it means to live and share education as an experience of life. Meeting the other is also meeting oneself, this is the reason of the saying “forming oneself to form others. Forming others to form oneself.” Love, affectivity, tenderness, gentleness are the terms governing the educational relationship, with a view to discover more and more what we are today and what we might be tomorrow.
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25. Formation of formators in the murialdine pedagogy “Man become what you are”
A formator, i.e. anyone involved in and concerned about the formation of children, youth and adults, is such if he is first of all able to put at the centre the relational dimension and the whole person (physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual dimensions). Grasping something of the other person, something hidden, means that you have been attentive to him/her, it means you had the time to stop not to observe it from the outside, but to meet him. Formation starts from a not necessary but random encounter, an encounter in which the other is not perceived as a problem to be solved, but as a life to be discovered.
Today’s crisis is such that it is no more enough to invoke the sense, to appeal to the person, to values. Values, in fact, if they are perceived in the abstract do not move life. Perceiving that something really matters means wanting to continue it in one’s own experience and life. The real educational challenge is to question not so much about what you do, but about how you do it. And if you do it wanting to establish a relationship, and if you do it to educate and re-educate yourself before others.
Today it is important to acquire expertises and skills that are consistent with the social structure of the contemporary world. Therefore it is necessary to propose a new way to form. Formation is not so much discipline from above, an imposition, a filling in the personality of the boy, the young with a system of values, or on the contrary jumping onto spontaneity; rather formation means educating to stay in the relationship, not whichever one, but a generative relationship. Children and young people are formed if they feel generated and if they feel they can generate.
The time of the relationship, the intensity of the educating relationship is and remains to be considered fundamental. This is accomplished through a dimension that is not only intellectual but mostly emotional. We have a great Christian tradition to be rediscovered, which is the dimension of the heart found through the pages of the Bible, but also our pedagogical tradition developed over the centuries, by Murialdo, by the holy educators, through the importance they gave lo loving kindness, to the ability to speak to the heart.
To the extent that we speak to the heart, we create a virtuous relationship, because we enter into a dimension, which we call empathic, but which in essence is the harmony that is created between two people, between two freedoms.
It is not enough to be an authoritative formator, you must become credible. And what is credibility for a formator? It is his consistency, his ability to act in such a way that what he says today, tomorrow will not be denied. Credible is the way to accompany the other making him grow and activating processes that are growth processes, which are strenuous but must start from the assumption of the other’s freedom. But be careful: freedom is not nomadic, it is a freedom that does not allow us to do whatever we want, it is a freedom always supported by the principle of responsibility and the construction of the principle of responsibility is what makes people grow.
A few years ago there was a movie that could be a case for what is theoretically shown here: “Don Juan de Marco” by Jeremy Leven, 1995.
It is the story of a man who takes refuge in the adventurous life of a masked hero of the past. In the nineties, this man dresses up to fight and defend true love. He is readily entrusted to the care of a psychiatrist who tries to understand the origin of the pathology and find a cure. The patient, in a sincere and disarming way, claims to know he is not a hero, but he had taken refuge in that fantasy world to escape a reality of poverty of values and self-interest. Then he challenges the psychiatrist telling him that he will throw the mask and come back to reality only if the physician would be able to prove him that the answer to four important questions is true and that you can live your life with love. The masked hero says to the doctor: “There are only four questions of value in life: What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same: only love”. At that point the doctor has to prove with his life that the answer is the right one. At that point, it is the life of the doctor, who had serious relationship problems with his wife and his daughters, which completely changes. So, trying to cure his patient, accepting the challenge, the doctor changes his own life. He finds again the pleasure of being with his daughters, improves his by now wrecked relationship with his wife… in the end, the doctor who tried to save his patient is saved by his request to live what he said, to witness with his life and the way in which he lived that love is the answer.
To meet, welcome and understand the other, therefore, we should before have met, welcomed and understood ourselves; otherwise, we continually project ourselves on the others, and sometimes, we want… desperately… morbidly… to cure others as a result of the fact that we do not want to cure ourselves.
Jung says: the method is the analyst. More simply, it can be said: what is truly and effectively forming is the quality and human stature of the formator.
Forming oneself… to form others. Forming others to form oneself…
The formators of children and young people should be rich in humanity, teachers, witnesses and fellow-travellers, present in their reality and willing to meet with children and young people where they are, listen to them, awaken in them questions about the meaning of life and their future, and challenge them to take seriously, even in vocational terms, the commitment for life.
The formator’s identity is a construction process, it is a work that lasts a lifetime. The identity, again, can only be built in relationships, in a net full of meaningful interpersonal relationships.
The formator, as far as our experience of FSLM, is present in the day-care, school, vocational training, oratory and parish. Therefore, the formator’s profile must always be thought from the experiential relationship he lives with certain institutions, in a particular territory, in an organization, with very specific and concrete people, bearers of their own characteristics.
This profile becomes essential when the formator is not alone, but acts within a context that helps and supports him in his action. Formation is not invented, it is not a time of single-handed action, but must be shared and verified in a group. It is not the individual but the community, the team who forms. It is important to share a formation project and be witnesses of that attention to the person. If the pedagogy of the person is the basic choice of formation, this can be promoted only through a dialogue among people who come into contact and put themselves on the line within a community dimension, in a vision and for a mission. Forming, I think, is not giving a form, shaping the other to our liking, but having the gift of discovering together with the other, in a shared and responsible journey, the form that he already has inside, without perceiving and being aware of it. Forming is making the other aware of what he already is, what he already has.
A formator can never really form unless he continues to form himself.
A lamp can never light another lamp unless it continues to burn its own flame. (Rabindranath Tagore 1861-1941, Nobel Prize for Literature).
The formator should build himself within via a number of important skills:
• relational and communicational;
• human, spiritual and value-related;
We start from an absolute, a principle: there is no better opportunity to truly and effectively help others than knowing yourself inside out and then working on your “building up in humanity.”
Like it or not, the formator has a big possibility that is also a great responsibility in freedom.
This leads to an inevitable personal self-implication: you cannot avoid getting personally involved; in every relationship you spend, you give, you give away something of yourself.
What are these human and value-related possibilities?
I believe they can be traced to a fundamental attitude that comes from Murialdine spirituality: tenderness.
The risk of a talk on tenderness is to confine it only within the horizon of feelings and words, of spontaneity and passing emotions. Instead it is a serious matter. It is humanity, because it strikes the most genuine cords of our being; theology, because tenderness is part of God’s ineffability; it is a lifestyle choice, a commitment, because it involves a conversion.
Tenderness is a way of being, which makes feel the other more desired and desirable, important for you; it makes him aware of being a value without which your life is empty, missing something significant; it makes feel good the other and also myself; it does not violate his freedom, but strengthens it with my own. Even on the level of faith, tenderness and desire go hand in hand: faith is desire of God, is reference to God’s tenderness which is embodied in his creature to walk with her.
Tenderness is not imposed, but knows how to wait firmly and with confidence; does not stop with attitudes of superiority, but encounters; is not inclusive or closed by security and power fences, but is exposed, is extensive and expandable. It is wait, watch, trusting, selflessness, being arm in arm.
It favours each one, to any aspect of the world he may belong, restoring his right to be recognized, valued and appreciated in his difference.
Tenderness comes up as tension that must be recovered at all levels—personal, public and ecclesial—in the awareness of recognizing differences and limitations, fragility and the radical human need for relationship and interdependence as conditions and values in contrast to the dominant mentality of strength and superiority.
Finally, the golden rule does not indicate any specific content of formation: the content is never given once and for all. What emerges is the sense, not the particular; it is a problem of orientation, ability to stay in the concrete situation: all this just puts the high, sublime and exceeding value in the relationship.
In this perspective, contents are always contingent, dependent on the people who change, but the form, understood as the capacity to welcome… the humanity of the other, remains universal. And beware, there is no the undifferentiated neighbour, but always the real one. Don Milani said, “our neighbour is the one who is by our side.” And Levinas, “the neighbour always has a face to be looked at.”
A Buddhist formulation of the golden rule says, “If you light a lamp for another, your own way will be lit. It’s good also to me to do good to another.” It refers to the discourse of care and the sacredness of the relationship.
It is fundamental forming to desire (etymologically from the Latin verb de-siderare, carefully stare at the stars, that is, educating to transcendence, to look at the sky and the stars… what is beyond). This is not to convey specific content, but rather to educate oneself to desire, educate oneself to the possibility of transcendence. Then each will fill this desire aroused or stimulated by the formator as and when he wants to or can. It can certainly seem, once again, a weak form of education, but perhaps it is the only really important one… is educating to hope and trust.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said so, not in The Little Prince: “If you want to build a ship, do not drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders, but rather teach them to long for the vast and endless sea.”
It is about being open to the dimension of the not yet, a planning approach that stems from trust in the future and in life. Just in the tension between longing and lack we understand the genuine sense of unrest as a figure of the human condition, an unrest that the formator must be able to open and arouse.