For those wishing to be a Catholic in the fullest sense, there are three areas of formation that are important to form a complete and balanced soul.
These areas are spiritual and religious formation, moral and character formation and cultural formation. They do not exclude each other. Each one has its way of working. They all interact and lead to the proper functioning of the soul.
This formation is a lifelong process that begins in infancy and only end with death. It involves the intellect, will, emotions and senses. Every human being, regardless of age, needs to be engaged in this formation.
Religious and spiritual formation is the first and most important component. It involves the cultivation of the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, the cardinal virtues and all others that flow from these two sets of virtues. Spiritual formation consists in forming the soul to know, love and serve God. This can be done not only in the theoretically but also practically when expressing the Faith.
For example, a young boy seeing a parent make the sign of the cross or devotedly praying is influenced by these actions, even if he does not fully understand their meaning. As he matures, he can learn more through word, deed or reflection. He will put this religious and spiritual formation into practice by imitating what he has seen.
The second area of formation is moral and character formation. This kind of formation develops a complete Catholic moral sense whereby the person understands right from wrong, how and when to act; spiritually, mentally, verbally and physically. The more complete the formation is, the more profound the understanding of this moral code. As one ages, this character formation deepens and creates strong habits.
The third area of formation, which is commonly neglected, is cultural formation. A culture is a vision of universe of a particular people or area that encompasses the extent of its human knowledge especially in the theological, philosophical and scientific fields. It is reflected in the arts, fashions, food, education, literature, architecture, leisure, manners, forms of behavior and social structures.
All societies have some form of culture. However, the most excellent culture is one oriented by the Teachings of the Catholic Church. Hence, the cultural achievements in Christian Civilization are admired and imitated worldwide.
According to Saint Ignatius of Loyola, “All the things in this world are gifts of God, created for us, to be the means by which we can come to know Him better, love Him more surely, and serve Him more faithfully.”
Cultural elements do not have to be specifically religious, because all culture have things that are worthy of admiration when they reflect the good, the true and the beautiful.
The well-formed soul constantly observes, listens, tastes, touches and then analyzes the cultural significance of all that is around. Some objects invite deep and profound reflection. Others need less time to observe and reflect.
Cultural formation, like spiritual and character formation requires support and guidance from parents, relatives, teachers, clergy, friends and neighbors. On one’s own, a person will not have means to develop a full cultural understanding and appreciation. Above all culture needs the orientation of natural law and the Church’s teachings.
Today’s world lacks authentic culture because it neglects formation in the spiritual and moral areas. What is described as culture today is actually a degradation of culture since it does not reflect the good, the true and the beautiful. All it takes is a glance at some of the things presented as culture to come to this obvious conclusion.
Exercising an appreciation for culture can be grand or simple. One does not have to have a high level of formal education or wealth in order to appreciate authentic culture. The scope of this appreciation may be as grand as the sea and as small as the lilies of the field.
Exercising a Catholic appreciation for culture will be a positive influence both on one’s spiritual and moral life. The soul who does not see value in culture will suffer the deformity of not being able to appreciate true beauty.
All three formations are needed to be a Catholic in the full sense. Neglecting any of them should be avoided at all costs.