06 Apr Lay Friars and Ongoing Formation: A Talk given to the Friars of East Asia
Br. Sinisa Balajić, the Order’s Vice-Secretary for Formation and Studies, was invited to the first gathering of the Lay Brothers of the East Asian Conference in South Korea from April 3-7, 2017. He presented two important topics: the person of the lay brother and the fundamental principles regarding Ongoing Formation.
His presentation about the Lay Brother pointed out the basic thesis that the lay brother is a friar like any other friar. All of us, in this sense, are essentially brothers: we are all the same, whether lay or ordained.
Starting with this affirmation, the speech established the theoretical framework which in a sense dismantles the existence of the question of the lay brother. In effect, there is only the question of the friar. But on the practical-pastoral aspect, we must recognize that there is a serious question of the lay brother in the Order and his role, which is linked to various events of our history. Br. Sinisa then moved on to talk about the practical-pastoral problems of the question and about the opportunities linked to the presence of the lay friars and clerics together.
Speaking about Ongoing Formation, he reflected on the daily life of the ordinary fraternity which he pointed out as the place where our efforts should be focused. It is necessary to take in consideration a vision of Ongoing Formation that deals not so much with extraordinary measures but on improving the quality of ordinary life. This idea of Ongoing Formation focused on ordinary life does not exclude having special initiatives and programs that can be useful. But we cannot delude ourselves to think that Formation entails only the learning of theories. It involves learning the life: our own emotional, affective, spiritual life and all our insights of the world. This insight is crucial if we are to understand Formation as a concept. The idea of Formation in general, which also means Ongoing Formation, is not linked to the concept of time (that is, being formed for a specific time), but concerns the psycho-spiritual, affective, emotional and existential aspects of the person. Formation does not need special or extraordinary moments. These special moments may occur; indeed, they certainly do take place within the life of our fraternities — but precisely because they are special or extraordinary, they are rare occasions. It is important to note that Formation is not a discipline imposed only by the superior but that we should all take responsibility for our own path of growth. On top of this, since our life and our formation include others, one of the most important elements for our Franciscan life from the pedagogical and formative points of view is the openness towards each other. Thus, when we say that our life and vocation is primarily a gift, we implicitly indicate the importance of the other (of God and of the brothers) in this exchange of gifts that is given and received.