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Posted February 5, 2010

Book: Vocations and Their Formation Today
Author: Friar Guy Lespinay, OP
St. Pauls. Staten Island, NY. 2009. Pp. 175

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Formation in religious life is a very complex matter. Indeed, it has become even more so since we live in a time of doubt and uncertainty when religious houses are closing and more than a few religious communities are facing the possibility of extinction for lack of vocations. Yet, while it is neither popular, nor easy to speak positively of religious life, and much less of formation for religious life, we must find the courage to do so! The formation plan has to be clear, yet, in its clarity, it must not become too rigid. The author sets out a number of priorities and responsibilities in which the first person responsible for discernment and growth is the candidate himself. Without devoting special chapters to each group, he considers the differences between monasteries and apostolic congregations focusing a remark here and there, for example, on the difficulties met in contemplative monasteries where those in formation are few and formation can last 6 to 8 years without a change of spiritual guide. This book is extremely valuable for the way in which it draws our attention to details frequently assumed (and thus often forgotten), reminding us that the young candidate to religious life is truly representative of his or her generation. The work also points out a number of snares into which formation communities may fall, e.g., harshly critiquing the candidate or using those in formation as household servants. These pitfalls are easily and best avoided! In short, this is a solid, straightforward and faithful book that avoids indulging in illusions as it outlines conditions for a positive journey along the path of formation in religious communities today.

An Excerpt from the Book:

What are young people expecting from us?

They are better placed than I am to answer the question. But I dare to venture and share my intuitions with you. They want to be trusted by being given responsibilities, taking into consideration their capacity to assume them. Let us avoid training submissive individuals. There is often a false idea of obedience. Those in charge of forming others should not be “adoptive” or “possessive” parents of their spiritual offsprings or little dictators on the spot who love to exert their power. We must be willing to take some risks, knowing that they may make mistakes and by doing so carve out their own path. The experience will mature them.

. . .Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, archbishop of Montreal, said at the time of the canonization of St. Marcellin Champagnat:

To love is not to be lenient. It is to be able to be demanding while remaining sympathetic. It is to be able to give self-assurance. It is to believe that in any human being there is a richness which needs to be developed. To love is also to have time — much time — to listen. It is to be able to be patient. It is to be able to encourage rather than to criticize. The canonization of Marcellin Champagnat proclaims with force that today’s young people, who undoubtedly need to educate themselves and undoubtedly need diplomas, need also undoubtedly to be loved. It is impossible to work at their education without loving them.

Table of Contents:

1. The call to religious life

2. The signs accompanying the choice of religious life

3. Who are the young today?

4. Accompanying vocations

5. Pre-formation

6. Adaptation to religious life

7. Persons in charge of formation and of the community of formation

8. Evaluation

9. Pastoral work with vocations