A faith foundation built on a Christocentric life is a foundation built on rock. The daily challenges of life—the rain, the flood, and the wind—continue to weather our foundations, and if we are not attentive to it, the spiritual in particular, the foundation can crumble.
By Patrick Laorden
30 December 2019
Those in seminary formation receive a strong formation in order to serve well in ministry. As a former seminarian, I know firsthand the importance of receiving a solid formation. The structure it provides sets the tone not only for what one does in the present, but lays a foundation for the rest of one’s life. Foundation is essential. We can recall the parable of the wise and foolish builders in the seventh chapter of Mathew where the house built on a rock remained even after the rain, the flood and the wind came. Wise was the one whose house was built on a rock.
Seminarians follow a curriculum that is shaped by the Program for Priestly Formation, which emphasizes four dimensions of formation: human, pastoral, intellectual and spiritual. Like four legs of a table, seminary formation needs to maintain a balance of these dimensions to promote strong formation. For the laity, we receive formation during the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, First Reconciliation and Confirmation. For those preparing for marriage, there is a formation process in place to ensure that the couple preparing is fully ready to receive the sacrament.
One aspect of formation that I have encountered is the notion of ongoing formation. There is an important distinction between initial formation and ongoing formation. Initial formation is just as it sounds, being formed in the initial process. Ongoing formation follows and is a recurring process. Once you are finished with initial formation, what comes after? For those in youth ministry, this could pertain to the mystagogia after being confirmed.
I pose the following question: what is your foundation? What is your foundation after you have gone through religious education and have been confirmed? What is your foundation after you have gone through marriage preparation and gotten married? How are you being shaped in the day to day after you have gone through such initial processes of life? I think it’s important to revisit this question frequently, perhaps every year.
We are creatures of habit and it is important for us to develop a foundation that is essential for our survival and personal growth. Yet, it becomes all the more necessary to revisit this matter on a regular basis, so that we are attentive to how we are growing. We build a foundation for ourselves as we get older: professional, financially, relationally, yet are we attentive to our spiritual foundation? What matters most with ongoing formation is how our foundation preserves and strengthens us each day.
If we revisit the parable from Mathew, Jesus says, “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock” (Mathew 7: 24). A foundation that is built on a Christocentric life is a foundation that is built on a rock. The daily challenges of life, the rain, the flood, and the wind, continue to weather our foundations and if we are not attentive to it, the spiritual in particular, the foundation can crumble.
I moved to Connecticut a couple of years ago and in recent years, many residential homes in the northeast part of the state experienced crumbling foundations in their homes due to a particular mineral, pyrrhotite. Houses that were developed some twenty or thirty years ago were developed with pyrrhotite in their foundations. Residents found cracks developing in their basement walls that grew substantially, to the point that their foundations needed to be redone. A house in one neighborhood became the poster house for these residents, the house raised on slats as the foundation beneath was redone. If we are not attentive to our spiritual foundation, we can overlook these matters and the small cracks become significant ones.
The picture above has an interesting illustration where bricks have been added to old stone. A newer foundation is added to a preexisting one. One way we can add to and strengthen our foundation is being mindful of spiritual traditions. Traditions are things that are passed on to us from one generation to the next, distinctive and unique to those in relationship with one another. Perhaps a spiritual tradition is coming to Mass fifteen or twenty early and sitting quietly while reciting devotional prayers. Whatever the tradition, it’s important to preserve them and pass them on.
In a growing secular world, the faith continues to wane as fewer people are practicing and the faith itself continues to be ridiculed and scrutinized. The essence of family is compromised with the continued reality of high divorce rates worldwide. St. John Paul II said the family is the domestic church, where the father and the mother are the first teachers of the faith. Faith went beyond the Sunday Mass and the walls of the church, taking root and blossoming in the home.
Spiritual traditions provide the framework for ongoing formation that we can cultivate in order for our families to stay rooted and grow. The foundations for families, starting with the husband and wife, are built on the values that are passed onto them from their own families. These traditions set the tone for how they go about raising their own families. As we begin this new year, think about how you are passing on your own spiritual traditions and building onto them? Are they Christ-centered?
Each of us receive initial formation at different points of our lives, yet the Christian life is a lifelong journey of ongoing formation. Both parents and children will always have something to learn, especially from one another. Fundamental to that learning is how formation takes root. If we are attentive to our formation every day in this manner, we are laying down a foundation that is steadfast and lasting, no matter the challenges that will always come.
Patrick enjoys engaging theology in everyday life, especially in the areas of the lay vocation, discernment, prayer, ministry, Catholic social teaching, art and family life. He brings a strong foundation in formation and ministry, having discerned the priesthood with the Dominican Order for almost five years. Currently, he works for the School Sisters of Notre Dame and was previously with the Archdiocese of Hartford and Catholic Relief Services. He holds graduate degrees in pastoral studies and nonprofit management. With a strong devotion to Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati and St. John Paul II, Patrick enjoys the outdoors, cooking, woodworking, and photography.