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Mid-life in religious life

Triad-sharing gives participants the chance to listen and to be heard.

Publication Date : 04-07-2012


“There is something sun-like within us,” the great psychiatrist and founder of the school of analytical psychology, Carl Gustav Jung, once said. He was talking about how the sun begins to rise at dawn, to reach its summit at noon, and then to begin its descent.

Man follows much the same movement. But for man, this descent often means the reversal of the ideals and values that were cherished in the morning.

In the first half of our life, all effort is  centered on adapting to our environment. Thus, the person we become in the first 30-40 years of life is one that is a result of all the outside forces around us.

It is not until the second half of life, at mid-life, that we are able to name ourselves. “At mid-life our true identity finally emerges from our own inner world and finds expression in the person we choose to become.”

Difficult transition

Unfortunately, many of us miss this opportunity to become more authentically ourselves because of the lack of understanding of the deep psychological and spiritual changes taking place at mid-life. Many are lost and are unable to negotiate these often difficult and perilous transitions, prompting others to refer to this stage as the mid-life crisis.

All go through this transition, religious men and women included. Luckily enough, help is made available for the religious through programmes such as the recent Formators Institute At Transfiguration, or FIAT. It is offered every summer by the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon in south Philippines.

Last May 8-14, FIAT offered “Mid-life Transition in Religious Life”, a one-week programme that aims to support  the needs and concerns of religious formation houses and seminaries all over the country.

For a week, 24 religious formators from different congregations (Franciscans, Dominicans, Benedictines, Hospitaller Brothers, Salesians, among others) listened to lectures, engaged in workshops, participated in deep and meaningful sharing, built linkages for personal and institutional support, and most importantly, celebrated life’s most wonderful adventure: the mid-life transition.

The seminar workshop was  beneficial not only to the formator-participants themselves, but also to their whole communities. After all, it is indeed good that someone in a religious community is properly trained to detect, support and accompany members who could be in this often difficult stage.

Special guest-facilitators for the seminar were Msgr. Ramon Masculino Jr., rector of St. Joseph Theological Seminary, pastoral counselor and spiritual director; and  Cynthia Concepcion Baga, formatrix (human formation), inner pilgrimage companion, social psychologist, spiritual director and Papal Awardee (for her more than 20 years of work with religious congregations).

Coordinating the programme was this writer.

They presented and explored topics which included Changes and Transitions at Mid-life, Developmental Passages, Transformation of Consciousness, Role of Patience and Humility in Mid-life, and Mid-life Spirituality.

Monastic experience

But what made the FIAT seminar even more deeply effective was the fact that it was done in an atmosphere of monastic prayer. The participants experienced the peace, quiet and beauty of nature in this Benedictine monastery on the hills of Bukidnon.

Participants joined the monks in their monastic Liturgy of the Hours and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Thus, it became a double treat for the participants—a formation seminar on mid-life and a monastic experience as well.

As one participant, Brother Eldy of the Hospitaller Brothers, so aptly put it: “For several years, as I entered my mid-life stage, I felt like a log drifting through the current without any clear direction. I just felt that all my energy had deserted me.

This FIAT seminar on Mid-life Transition put my feet back on the ground of my own reality, allowing me to see and understand my own process. Consequently, this showed me the significant signposts to lead me home! Now my zeal to respond to God’s invitation to a life of hospitality is even greater and with much deep feeling!”

FIAT, since its inception in 2005, has helped and trained over 150 religious formators from all over the country. Because many applicants were not accommodated last summer, FIAT will again offer the “Mid-life Transition in Religious Life” seminar on May 8-14, 2013.

And due to popular requests, a seminar on  “Mid-life Transition for Lay Men and Women” will also be offered later this year,  on October 5-8,  at the Monastery of the Transfiguration.


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