When he was eighteen years old, Blessed Frédéric felt as if he was not committed enough to living his faith, that he too often failed in charity. His spiritual director at the time advised him that his many distractions and temptations would fade away when he was formed. “When I am formed,” Frédéric lamented. “When will that day come?” [Letter 13, to Materne,1830]
For the young man, in a hurry to grow, this was an obvious question. When, exactly, can I check “formation” off my list? When will I be finished? When will I be what I am meant, and called, to be? These are questions every Vincentian, indeed every Catholic may ask.
Yet we know what we are called to be. Jesus said it quite clearly: we are called to “be perfect, just as Your heavenly Father is perfect.” Christ, of course, was only echoing the words of the Father, who said (more than once) that “you shall be holy, because I am holy.” Knowing that we are called to be like God, you would think we would be more patient with ourselves, more willing to “abandon ourselves to the providence of God and be very careful not to run ahead of it.” [CCD II:499]
The word “holy” stems from the same root as “healthy” and “whole”, meaning complete. Similarly, “perfect” also expresses completeness. As the Apostle explains, “when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” When we are formed, we will be complete, fulfilling God’s plan and His will for us.
This is why, for Vincentians, our formation is not limited to training events, like the Ozanam Orientation, which serves the intellectual dimension of our formation. Instead, we feed our human formation by service to the poor, building habits of holiness by serving “for love alone.” [Rule, Part I, 2.2] Our spiritual formation is fed by our reflections, prayer, and sharing our insights and growth with each other. For our ministerial formation, we try to live our vocation in “every moment of our lives.” [Rule, Part I, 2.6]
When will we be formed? When will we be perfect? The two questions have the same answer.
The same God who called us to this vocation walks with us on our pathway, guiding our steps if we let Him. To continue this walk is not to confess our inadequacy, but to express our gratitude for having been called. Along the way, we are regularly reassured by our “devotion to the Eucharist” [Rule, Part I, 2.2], in which “God, seeing Himself in us, makes us, once again, like unto Him… thereby giving us the capacity to live in Him as He lives in us.” [SWLM, M.72]
We will be fully formed, fulfilling God’s will for us, when we are perfect. We remain humble in our incompleteness and patient in our pursuit of holiness, reminding ourselves that “Even the saints could be better since the Creator alone enjoys infinite perfection.” [Letter 515, To Amélie, 1843]
How have I become more holy this week?