The General Councillor for Formation
To Rev Fr Provincials
and Provincial Councils
To the Provincial Formation Delegates
and Provincial Formation Commissions
THE PERSONAL PLAN OF LIFE
A process of creative faithfulness towards holiness
One of the guidelines of the 25th General Chapter was that of asking every “confrere, as the one primarily responsible for his own formation to give due importance to the “Personal Plan of Salesian Life”, bearing in mind the following elements:
- a continual evaluation of the human, spiritual and salesian maturing process, by means of self-assessment procedures, openness to the Word of God and acceptance of fraternal correction;
- knowledge and practice of the spirituality of the preventive system as the source of new relationships in fraternal life;
- the progressive growth in maturity in salesian charismatic identity;
- an active and wholehearted presence at the ordinary and extraordinary meetings of the community;
- cultivation of openness to others and availability for sharing” (GC25 14).
The Chapter entrusted to the Provincial and his Council through the Delegate and Provincial Formation Commission the task of suggesting methods and providing helps for the drawing up the plan by the confreres (GC25 16).
The Department for Formation offers Provincials and Provincial Delegates for Formation these notes in the form of: motivations, explanations, and suggestions addressed to the individual confrere, in the hope that they may serve in the animation of the Province.
The personal plan of life is an instrument that assists your development process; it is a practical means in the methodology of the spiritual life. You do not make progress if there is no serious method in the journey. Here are some of the elements in this method; they come from spiritual tradition, but it is interesting to see how they come into play in reference to the plan and how they can take on a new meaning.
- It is useful to use the method that you have always used from the beginning of initial formation, that practical pedagogical method of meditating and writing, taking notes, writing down what in the Spirit you have seen as the plan of your life. It is a methodology of the spiritual life that our salesian tradition has always had recourse to and that is effective in the unfolding of the journey. You can refer to what you have written at any time in order to check progress. Writing is a means to prevent you being superficial, to help you with your reflection and prayer, to reach the depth of your life.
- Having drawn up the plan according to the three steps indicated above, it is necessary to determine specific times or dates when you will assess the progress you are making. You need to give sufficient time for evaluation, for example during days of recollection or retreats. The assessment has the purpose of seeing how faithful you have been to all that you set yourself in the plan: whether you have carried out the chosen activities and whether you have done them well, badly or moderately. If you haven’t carried them out you should see why. Check also to see whether you have reached the goals set and to what extent. In the event of little success an examination of the reasons could indicate that you have not been constant in the commitments assumed and that you have not made progress after the initial enthusiasm; or perhaps you have not judged the problems very well and have been superficial; or you have not paid attention to the different aspects of the problem; or perhaps your lines of action were too generic. Whatever the explanation, through the assessment you can see whether you are on the right road or not and you can discover useful elements to improve your plan. The assessment of the plan requires that you have a different approach to carrying out the monthly or quarterly days of recollection, so that you have more time for prayer and personal reflection.
- There are also particular occasions when you can keep an eye on the daily steps being taken. Without an attentive conscience, without keeping awake there is no progress; instead there is laziness, weakness, superficiality. It is appropriate to remember that the methodology of the spiritual life has always proposed to us a daily examination of conscience, not merely routine and hasty, but serious and in depth. You have also the daily meditation as an opportunity to “make some good resolution and consider how to put it into practice,” in this way re-enforcing the steps being taken. But above all you have frequent reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation, which in addition to an examination of your life, to repentance, to God’s pardon, offers sacramental grace for healing and renewal.
- Finally, it is useful to reflect on how to harmonize your personal plan with the community’s (cf. GC25 74). In fact there is an interdependent relationship between the two: they re-enforce and help each other. On the one hand, when you draw up your personal plan you take into consideration the commitments of the community plan, since it is a discernment carried out by you and the other confreres into God’s designs for your community; it therefore includes those expressions of God’s will that also concern you. On the other hand the community plan is enriched when each member of the community, having drawn up his own personal plan, has reached a mature understanding of what he is proposing. While respecting the right to privacy you can share with other confreres those aspects of your own plan that you wish to; in this way people get to know each other better in the community, stronger links are forged in the sense of belonging and you help the community to reach a deeper level in its own planning process.
The plan of life therefore is of little use without reference to all the other aspects of the spiritual life; it would be a mere formalty that has little impact on the process of growth. It is my hope that in your personal life and in the life of our Congregation there may be felt again the need for a serious method for the journey of holiness.
In conclusion, with the personal plan of life you have in your hands an instrument that helps you to grow in creative fidelity to the gift of a vocation. I invite you to value it and to accept it joyfully. It is meant to help you fulfil the gift of yourself and your response to God’s call. The journey that the plan offers you is the result of your free choice and the gratuitous action of God, who has called you to this life. Accept the invitation to live the plan as an opportunity to walk the way of holiness!
Fr Francesco Cereda
Rome, 21 June 2003
THE PERSONAL PLAN OF LIFE
Scheme for drawing it up
What does God want from me in the circumstances in which I find myself?
1. Find a time for being quiet and recollected, for example during the monthly day of recollection or the annual retreat, and open your heart to the Lord asking for light and strength.
2. In the presence of the Lord ask yourself what He wants of you. To make it practical, examine different aspects of your life as a consecrated salesian apostle as they are described in the Constitutions:
- “sent to the young” – the mission to youth: for example. Your knowledge and practice of the Preventive System;
- “in fraternal communities” – the life of communion with confreres in the community: for example. Your active and wholehearted presence at community meetings; your readiness to share;
- “following Christ obedient, poor and chaste” – the practice of the evangelical counsels of obedience, poverty, chastity;
- “in dialogue with the Lord” – community and personal prayer, union with God;
- “in continual formation” – personal commitment to ongoing formation: your human, spiritual, pastoral and cultural maturity.
3. Identify the two or three main aspects of your life where you feel called by the Lord: what does the Lord wants from you in each of these areas? These are to be your goals.
YOUR ACTUAL SITUATION
Where are you in relation to God’s call?
1. Taking one thing after the other, identify the two or three significant points of “success” or favourable aspects of your life.
2. In a similar way, in each of the areas indicated above identify two or three significant points that need attention, improvement or change in your life.
3. It is possible to make use of the Confession of praise, sin and faith for each of the aspects indicated by the Constitutions.
YOUR LINES OF ACTION
What steps do you intend to take? In what direction by what ways, with what means?
1. In the light of what has emerged in the previous stages select the lines for action most appropriate to reach your goals, with the necessary objectives, procedures and activities.
2. Determine when and how you intend to assess the progress made or lack of it in carrying out the lines of action and in the achievement of your goals.