The Montreal Institute for Integral Human Formation (IFHIM)
Mother Isabelle Valez, OCSO, Igny (France)
What does the IFHIM offer for monastic life ? To begin with, the first advantage it offers is a greater knowledge of self. The years spent there enabled me to find in myself signs of tiredness as soon as they appeared, without needing to wait to relax till I was reduced to a vegetative state. The same was true for signs of anger, disgust, impatience and everything which affects human relationships. To be able to anticipate some of my reactions of rejection or refusal to listen, to see my adverse reactions developing and so be able to say ‘Stop’ and really live this ‘Stop’ and recover an attitude of welcoming attention changes everything in fraternal life. Equally I learnt to recognize anything positive in myself on which I could rely, to recognize my own abilities, what I could offer to my community without false modesty or vanity, simply because I had certain qualities which I had been given in order to use them freely for others.
Secondly, I learnt to differentiate between personalities. I came to understand that others are different from myself, to register differences between one person and another, differences linked to personalities, to age, education, culture, conditions of life, experiences – not to put everyone in the same box. This was to me a great help in accepting and understanding reactions different from my own to particular situations, not to make quick and arbitrary judgments, to adapt my behaviour to that of others. That was invaluable for community life, for team-work. On the other hand I came to appreciate what all human beings share, whatever our culture, our conditions of life, the education we have received. The years at the IFHIM were very rich, years of 180 degree opening. By living 24 hours a day with students of other cultures I widened my horizons as never before, I broadened the space in my tent.
Dom Pierre-Marie, OCist, Rougemont, Quebec (Canada)
The IFHIM enabled me to enter into the spirit of St Benedict in a concrete way. It helped me to bring daily crosses and difficulties into the light of day. It was a way of freedom to be found in every act, every decision, every action entered upon for the good of others. It taught me to follow in the steps of the Lord, find my joy in the service of my brothers. No matter what the challenge, the annoying and difficult task, the demanding and pressing command, I found myself able to summon up the enthusiasm which enabled me to deploy all my strength for others. What happiness it was to find joy where so often there is sadness and constraint!
This, and much more, is what the IFHIM gave me, an orientation, a trajectory for my vocation. As a young monk I had found an Order which was often poor, full of challenges, but the IFHIM taught me to see and grasp all the possibilities which others, my brothers, my community, my Order, other religious Orders, other communities, could bring to me and to the world. It taught me to see the richness of other people, and the capacity to summon up the depths of human capacities. The IFHIM put fire back into my monastic charism, a fire of hope and love which draws me to my brothers. I have become a monk who at heart is a missionary, simple and ordinary, but a monk who in some extraordinary way knows how to bring his simplicity and humility to the whole world – the fruit of freedom!