Integral formation

Integral formation

A cura di P. Michael Ryan, LC

The aim of the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum is to offer to all the persons that work and study in the Institution a series of elements, surroundings and activities that can collaborate with their becoming what they are meant to be. We can take the motto John Paul II used for the family to express our goal: “Become what you are”. The efforts of each day (with their ups and downs) are directed towards that goal and made with that intention. The following reflections are offered as a contribution to the better realization of this goal, which is very attractive but, at the same time, equally demanding[1].


What does the concept mean? It refers to the formation of the whole person, a harmonic development of his/her physical, psychic, moral, intellectual, religious and social qualities

There are some concepts of formation that are to be kept in focus. Formation touches the four vital dimensions of the person which we can name in a symbolic way: mind (importance of concepts), heart (the concepts inspire the sentiments), hands (formation must be practical), feet (it must reach its goal: the mission).  The formation process must also be attentive to the uniqueness of the person, the mystery in each one. It must be a personalized process, made to measure and adapted (enculturated) to the environment and time in which the person lives.


Some recent authors have underlined how the word “formation” and, more so, the term “integral formation” can fall into the danger of being simply a “universal recipient” which can make it a magical word but somewhat inflated and thus rendering it substantially empty. Nobody doubts about the importance of formation but we must not dress it in rhetoric. Such a situation would not give good results on the long run and the formation given might show cracks when it is put to the test of time.


A certain solution is offered in order to avoid this trap and it consists precisely in remembering an old distinction that was common to make between education and formation. Today we tend to emphasize the aspect of formation – and this is justified – but, in some extent, we have forgotten the importance of education.


Education, as we know, means drawing out of the subject what is inside. This is usually though of only in the positive sense: draw out his qualities, his gifts. But it is also important to take advantage of the occasions in which we can process that which is negative, lacking. In this way we make the person the know himself completely, also in negative traits, so that he can take action and thus prepare the terrain for his formation. Only in this way the formation process will be able to enter into the depths and form the “whole” person. This can imply some painful experiences but it is absolutely necessary. Integral formation is not only the cultivation of the pleasant aspects of the subjects, but, sometimes, it must also face the weak spots. Obviously, this process goes on both in ordinary life and in the academic life. It can make us understand why a university experience must be demanding and make the students delve into themselves and know what their defects are. If we thus education the students we will be able to approach the tasks of formation with better premises. We must not think that it is enough to “announce” the integral formation programme thinking that it will immediately be appropriated. The terrain must be well prepared


The integral formation consists in proposing to each student that “form” which is the student’s own complete identity in all its components: personal, communitarian and social. A formation that goes beyond what might be mere compliance and reach towards the acquisition of that full liberty that enables to have a passionate love for truth, beauty and goodness.

[1] In these reflections we are inspired by the article of A. Cencini, Formazione, Parola Magica in “Tredimensioni” 1(2004), 277-295.

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