Especially in our times, when everything is subject to such rapid change and evolution, and when new questions and new knowledge are constantly developing, our apostolates demand of us a process of permanent and continuing formation. Thus formation is never ended, and our 'first' formation must be seen as the beginning of this continuing process.
Continuing formation is achieved especially through a constant evaluation of, and reflection on, one's apostolate, iin the light of faith, and with the help of one's apostolic community. It also needs the cooperation of our porfessors and experts, whose theorry can shed light on our praxis, even wheile they themselves are led to more profound reflection by the apostolic experience of their fellow Jesuits. This kind of communication will also assist the integration of the young iinto the apostolic life of the province, and the contact between formation and the apostolate will profit the whole Society.
This continuing formation demands that definite periods of time be given to formal courses, or simply to private study, as required for one's apostolate.
“Continuing formation and apostolic discernment constitute the ‘twin pillars’ of the Society’s spiritual and apostolic renewal." This was Fr General Pedro Arrupe’s deeply held conviction, which he expressed on repeated occasions. He urged individual Jesuits and the whole Society of Jesus constantly to get fit to respond to the requirements of mission and challenges in today’s world.
He stressed that God wants us to be his effective instruments to respond to the fast and profound changes taking place in the world. Such changes ‘oblige us to reflect as much on the world as on ourselves, so as to know how we can change ourselves and update our knowledge, our attitudes and our apostolic methods … in order to rise up to our vocation’.
Fr Arrupe believed that, 'More than theoretical, academic or practical improvement, something like an intellectual or professional recycling is wanted – something much deeper and extensive. Since ongoing formation is rooted deep down in the spirit, it seeks to adapt itself in every possible way to the environment, and to foresee the future itself’.
Seen in this way, formation never ends. It involves all the dimensions and stages of growth of the person. It gives priority to life in the Spirit, as the means of structuring and giving life to the rest of our activities.
General Congregation 32 distinguishes two stages of Jesuit formation. There is the initial stage which ‘begins in the Novitiate’, and normally ends with Tertianship; then there is the ‘continuing or permanent’ process of ongoing formation.
This ongoing formation is not a remedy to make up for possible deficiencies in the initial formation, nor is it its complement, crowing, or adaptation. On the contrary, ‘Our first formation must be geared to continuing formation’. Our initial formation, from the Noviciate up to the Tertianship and final vows, prepares us for a life of permanent formation. These first stage has a relative autonomy and its own requirements, because it is a stage of probation and a period of initiation into religious life.
Initial formation is the first stage of a life of continuing formation. It must foster intellectual curiosity, and help to acquire attitudes and skills that enhance our apostolic discernment, and our ability to constantly adapt to the changes we experience in ourselves, as well as in the world we seek to serve, our own interior growth keeping up with such changes.