I was born and raised in a culture, a country and in a family that not only honor, but rewards those who are assertive, independent, and self-sufficient.
My family is large and warm, but also loquacious and direct. To make your voice heard you must compete, in some way, with those who are already talking so as to steal the attention, if only for a moment. I was an expert at being the center of attention and of convincing others to follow suit. I was an active volcano, full of energy and ideas, always ready to erupt and diffuse lava wherever it seemed fit.
Then, I met the Apostles.
I believed to possess all that I needed to achieve both happiness and sanctity: conviction, courage and constancy, but I didn’t truly know how to live alongside others, how to see and desire the value of working together instead of flying solo. The beginning of my formative journey, consequently, was a constant struggle because I lacked the ability of entrusting myself to others (even though I had enthusiastically professed my desire to give of myself fully in the years previous to my entrance).
The Apostle of the Interior Life knows that no one can give what one does not have (Rule of Life of the Apostles of the Interior Life).
I did not know how to abandon myself to God nor to His creatures.
Many ask why we Apostles (or any other form of consecrated life for that matter) have such an extended period of formation before we take vows. I believe that even a year ago I was unable to adequately respond to this question, since I had not fully accepted the response myself.
First and foremost, these five years of formation are teaching me that I am an earthen vessel, not made of steel as I once believed. I am malleable, capable of change and of growth. They are teaching me that “when I am weak, then I am strong…because the power of Christ dwell[s] with[in] me” (2 Cor 12). There is no need to hide my imperfections from my sisters because all of us have them, and we can learn from each other when we accept being imperfect. These years are teaching me that being together is a much richer experience than being alone, because each brings with them God-given gifts, creativity, and the necessary energy to bring His work to fruition.
The candidates are placed under the responsibility of a formator. Given the particular nature of the Apostles of the Interior Life – for which each of them becomes competent in formation – every sister can give her own personal contribution in the formative field, in such a way that the whole Community may be involved. This involvement is to be understood not only in a generic way (environment, witness, etc.), but also specifically. (Rule of Life)
In our community, there is not just one sister responsible for our formation, but each and every member shares the Charism with us. I must confess that there have been moments where having twenty plus “formators” was not easy for me. But when I look around me now I see faces of those who are helping me to become more me, more “Briana,” and I cannot help but thank the Lord for the form that He is giving to this earthen vessel.
If formation to community life is demanded in the natural family (the life of the couple and relationship with the children), it will be even more so for the consecrated person, who, not being able to enjoy the help of natural or blood bonds, will have to find her strength in the bond of love with her Lord. (Rule of Life)
It is unthinkable to imagine clay being aware of the potter who manipulates and adjusts it, so as to bring out the splendor of it’s intended design. We, instead, are profoundly aware of every correction, every admonition, and it is not always a pleasant experience being reminded of our limits and imperfections. I for one recognize that I am not always vigil with my reactions; I do not always see the goodness of those setting me on the straight path, those who desire what is best for me and who see potential for growth in me. However with time and most importantly with God’s grace, I hope to be ever more welcoming, docile, and grateful for the gift of the formation I have thus received, as well as for that which is yet to come.
Closeness with the Lord in times when our vision is obscured, our heart hardened and our mind closed in on itself, can be like a balm that frees us and opens us to the Glory which awaits us in every single one of His promises. Can we allow ourselves to be formed by His hands?
“I went down to the potter’s house and there he was, working at the wheel. Whenever the vessel of clay he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making another vessel of whatever sort he pleased. Then the word of the LORD came to me: Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done?—oracle of the LORD. Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel.” – Jer. 18: 3-6
Where is the Lord asking me to let go of the reigns and allow Him to form me “as the clay” of which the prophet Jeremiah speaks? With whom have I been impatient when my good was all they desired? Should I ask their forgiveness?