The word formation denotes the act of giving shape or structure to something. An image that comes to mind is that of the potter and the clay. St. Paul uses this imagery in Romans 9 to refer to our utter dependence on God’s providence and plan for our lives. Thus, it is fair to say that the word formation connotes a sort of hands-on approach to achieving its end. At Servite, formation can take on many manifestations, but the essence of this hands-on understanding of the word remains at its core. In other words, in order for formation to really take place, human contact and relationship must be established as primary to the entire endeavor. This is why, for example, in addition to an entire faculty and staff dedicated to this process, we have Formation Directors in place at each grade level to assure that each student is accompanied in his own formation journey at Servite. Of course, each journey is unique and different, but generally, the formation process adheres to a few founding principles and follows a certain pattern.
In a Church document entitled “The Grave Importance of Education,” it is stated that “a true education aims at the formation of the human person in the pursuit of his ultimate end.” A defining characteristic of Servite High School and specifically its Formation process is the consistent, deliberate, and daily attention given to each student achieving his “ultimate end.” In essence, it comes down to the question, “Who am I?” and the journey that each student must embrace for an answer to eventually take shape. Committed to this philosophy of education as formation, faculty and staff members constantly ask each young man, “Who are you?” or “What were you created to be?”, “How are you different?”, “What can you offer this world and those around you?”, etc. The list could go on, but it is important to begin with that foundational “Who am I?”
Along the way, there are certain guideposts or principles to help us navigate the inevitable challenges and bends in the road. At Servite we define and name these in a specific way although their application is almost entirely universal. There are four principles, which we call Formation Themes: Primacy of Faith, Mastery of Self, Necessity of the Other, and Centrality of Christ.
Primacy of Faith begins with the assertion that life is filled with mystery and, therefore, is a series of acts of faith, large and small. From the simplest, most mundane things like trusting gravity when we get out of bed in the morning or having faith that oncoming traffic will adhere to the line of yellow paint that keeps disaster at bay, life is not nearly as certain as we’d like to believe. On a deeper level, we can never fully grasp our own destiny or those of the people around us; we live in a world of uncertainty and yet must live and act decisively according to our convictions and beliefs.
Mastery of Self identifies the critical importance of developing the gifts and abilities that make us who we are. If each one of us really is utterly unique, then a commitment to the Mastery of Self becomes that much more consequential - to let our uniqueness go undeveloped is to deny the world a gift that the Almighty intended to share. An intentional awareness and appreciation for the insights and wisdom hidden in our daily routine is key to this theme. We must consistently and deliberately study and reflect on the book our daily life is writing. Through this, a confidence in one’s talents and gifts can be developed as well as an acceptance of one’s limits and weaknesses.
The limitations that Mastery of Self helps us come to terms with are what lead to the next theme, which is Necessity of the Other. Students are often reminded that “you need the next man” because it’s important for them to understand that they can’t do it all. Their own individual greatness is inextricably wrapped up in their collective greatness as brothers and classmates. Necessity of the Other is often best exemplified through athletic analogy - for example, a running back’s full potential will never be reached so long as there is weakness within his offensive line. We need all those around us to be in a state of excellence if we want any chance of reaching excellence ourselves.
Finally, as Christians, the “ultimate end” always points to Christ as the source and model for the entire formation process-Centrality of Christ. If he really is what we believe him to be - the Word of God made flesh, then it only makes sense to keep him at the center of all of our thoughts and actions. Furthermore, each man should be developing his unique self (Mastery of Self) and appreciating the uniqueness of those around him (Necessity of the Other) in light of Christ’s own example and message.
Amidst the many demands that a rigorous, multi-faceted high school experience entails, the Formation process at Servite High School consistently witnesses and points to these four themes, which essentially revolve around the elemental question, “Who am I?” A mere glance at the culture around us proves without a doubt that distractions are aplenty. The need to develop one’s self according to the foundations of who we are is more necessary than ever. At Servite, this necessity is fleshed out in the details of our Formation process. Each and every student who passes through our halls is afforded value as a unique human being whose strengths and gifts are desperately needed by the world around him, and therefore worth the necessary accompaniment, challenge, and guidance that his journey will require.
Dennis Flanagan is the Freshman Formation Director. He graduated from the University of Hawaii with a B.A. in English and Spanish.