Dom Jean-Pierre Longeat, OSB
President of AIM
It is important for the AIM to call attention regularly to proposals for monastic formation across the world. Such proposals inevitably evolve with the development and initiatives of the monasteries in each region. The initiatives are many, and it seems to us useful on such an important matter to listen to their echo by consecrating to it two issues, 119 and 120. If, on reading number 119, anyone wishes to provide us with information on one or another of their own projects, they are welcome to write to us, and we will make every effort to include their contribution in number 120. The formation in question is primarily monastic life itself and the conditions necessary for its realisation and development. The question of philosophical and theological studies and various university-type specialisations could form the subject of a separate treatment, not entering directly into the field of these numbers of the Bulletin.
With regard to initial formation each community bears its own responsibility. In this, as the document ‘Mirror of Monastic Life’ stresses, it is the entire community which is responsible for the formation.
It is, however, important to widen the horizons of the members during the time of continuous formation. It is, moreover, important that each community should be in a position to stimulate and form those who are responsible. Each monastic Order, Congregation and Region puts forward its own formation at the level of shared noviciates and special sessions for young professed, for formators, for superiors and other persons responsible. In his Rule St Benedict says he wishes to found a school of the Lord’s service. This is a challenging programme. We are invited to keep our eyes and ears open continuously throughout our lives for an exchange of knowledge and experience. To take up another image used by St Benedict, formation occurs as in a fraternal army (chapter 1), where fellowship, tension, encouragement, the shared resolution of problems, is in full operation for the sake of a genuine conversion to live the commandment of love. It takes place in the context of a workshop (chapter 4) where one learns to make use of all the spiritual tools available. The whole perspective of monastic formation aims at enabling all the brothers and sisters of our communities to experience the road which leads us all together to true life under the inspiration of the love of God.
Thus, under the guidance of the Gospel, ‘never turning aside from the teaching of Christ and persevering until death in his teaching at the heart of the monastery, we shall share by patience in the sufferings of Christ in order to merit some share in his kingdom’ (Prologue to the Rule and chapter 72). The map of the Beatitudes with which the gospel according to St Matthew opens is a fine illustration of this project of formation.