The Ratio takes a very expressive picture of the practical training when it defines it "from the Salesian point of view, the most characteristic phase of initial formation" (FSDB 428). The letter draws its consequences, based on the Constitutions, Regulations and the Ratio itself:
"A first point to note is that Article 115 of the Constitutions does not concentrate on educational and pastoral action as such, but on the VITAL and INTENSE EXPERIENCE that the confrere does for this action. It is the quality of the LIVED EXPERIENCE that makes the practical training 'the most characteristic phase of initial formation'".
What makes this season such a great potential for Salesian growth is the way in which experience is lived and interpreted. Not so much the work itself, nor having good personal skills. It is rather the "learning from life" that makes the difference. The reference is to the concluding article of the third part of the Constitutions dedicated to formation, which is like a password that helps to understand the meaning and value of Salesian formation as a whole: "Living in the midst of young people and in constant contact with workingclass surroundings, the Salesian tries to discern the voice of the Spirit in the events of each day, and so acquires the ability to learn from life's experiences." (Const. No. 119).
This is the true ongoing formation, that is, the persistence in a process of growth and response to the call of God, in the service to which one is sent. Read in this perspective, the practical training has a unique and irreplaceable potential.
Why then recall these elements already so well expressed in the Constitutions and in the Ratio? Because they are not at all obvious.
The letter is directed primarily to the Provincials and their Councils, to encourage the best possible discernment when it comes to choosing in which community to send the confreres for practical training. The Regulations and the Ratio are very clear in recalling the requisites necessary for a community to accompany the trainees.
With equal clarity, young trainees are asked to be open and willing to give their best and be accompanied.
To the letter of Fr Ivo, addressed mainly to those accompanying him, the one written in 2010 by the then Councilor for Formation, Fr Francesco Cereda, is sent to the trainees themselves.
Article 44 of the Constitutions then recalls that the mission is implemented "in the first place by the provincial and local communities". Making the practical training a "vital and intense experience of educational and pastoral action" is possible when all members of the community take this responsibility to heart, ensuring that what is lived in that particular house becomes "the most characteristic phase of initial formation".