An Encouraging Word — Formation keeps us youthful

All that matters is that one is being created anew. Galatians 6:15

Fr. Ron Knott.2012-wI came across a quote recently that has been rolling around inside my head for some time now. It is not a new idea, but a life script that I adopted a long time ago: “When we are through changing, we are through.”

Us old people, when we were young people, might remember Bob Dylan singing another version of this same idea: “He not busy being born is busy dying.”

Blessed John Paul II said, “Ongoing formation keeps up one’s youthfulness of spirit, which is something that cannot be imposed from without.”

St. Paul said: “All that matters is that one is being created anew.”

Jesus said “Metanoiete!” By that, he calls us to keep on changing the way we think about things — to keep growing.

Winston Churchill said, “Nothing gets better by leaving it alone.” In fact, when we “leave things alone” the natural process of entropy sets in. Entropy is the spontaneous and unremitting tendency in the universe toward disorder unless there is an opposing force working against it. People, like homes, when they are left alone fall into decay.

When we “leave ourselves alone,” we commit what I call “personal and spiritual suicide.” Personal and spiritual suicide is the result of saying “no” to opportunities to grow and change.”

Blessed John Paul II taught us that “All formation is ultimately self-formation.” In other words no one can make us grow and change. We must continually find the motivation within ourselves. Only those who keep alive their desire to learn and grow and take advantage of the opportunities, time and forms available to them can be said to enjoy that “youthfulness” that he spoke about.

As one who bought into this idea a long time ago, as one who hopes to keep on “working my program” for many years to come, I have concluded that there are two secret ingredients to becoming all that we can be.

The first ingredient is a passionate commitment to personal excellence — to who one is. One of the most critical needs here is the need for a capacity for critical and constructive self-awareness. We must be able to know and understand what makes us tick. We must own our personal histories and heal them if necessary. In short, we must be dedicated to becoming quality human persons first.

The second ingredient is a passionate commitment to vocational excellence — to what one does. If we strive to be the best at what we do, we will get better at it. If we choose the “good enough to get by” path, we will become known for our mediocrity. The saddest summary of such a life is “could have, might have and should have.”

An ancient spiritual maxim puts it this way, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” When we show up for work, both on who we are and what we do, God shows up too!

Father J. Ronald Knott

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