What Is the Novitiate?

Chapter 1

 What Is the Novitiate?

             The General Plan of Formation defines what the novitiate is:

“The novitiate is a time of integral initiation into the following of Christ the Evangelizer, according to the Claretian charism, in regard to incorporation into the Congregation, through religious profession”[1].

            In order to aid in understanding the meaning of the novitiate and its transcendent importance in religious life, we deal, in this opening chapter, with the following points:

            I. THE NOVITIATE IN THE HISTORY OF RELIGIOUS LIFE

            II. THE NATURE, PURPOSE AND OBJECTIVES OF THE NOVITIATE

            III. FORMATIONAL ORIENTATIONS

I. THE NOVITIATE IN THE HISTORY OF RELIGIOUS LIFE

1. Historical Antecedents of the Novitiate

            From the very beginning religious life made use of this institution, or similar ones, with the objective of initiating candidates into the monastic life. Once religious life was organized in an associative form, the institution of the novitiate was an element inherent to every new religious that arose in the Church.

            It is understandable that, from the earliest times, entrance into religious life began with an introductory experience, in some institutionalized form, through which those who felt called to consecrate themselves to this type of life could be tested and prepared. There are certainly testimonies to the existence of this institution in the earliest rules and in other documents, both in the East and in the West. But we only find broader and more systematic references about the novitiate starting with the 12th century. What seems certain is that during this time a uniform regulation did not exist. Each monastery determined its norms in relation to this stage of formation. The organization of the novitiate was diverse and flexible. There did not yet exist a common legislation issued by Church authority.

2. The Institutionalization of the Novitiate

            It was the Council of Trent (1545-1563) that established normative regulations for the obligations and organization of the novitiate. From that time on, the novitiate acquired a birthright in the Church and was officially recognized. Henceforth those who tried to enter religious life were required to make the novitiate. The Council established, specifically, that no one could be admitted to religious life without a predetermined and carefully planned preparation that would have to last a year. Only after completing that year, and being at least 16 years old, could the candidates become religious through profession of the evangelical counsels[2].

            It is appropriate to include in the account of this decisive step what led up to the adoption of these measures. Prior to the Council of Trent, profession or pronouncing of vows or of the votum (that already was going on in some places) was not obligatory. Aspirants or novices could go on to become part of the monastery or of the order by simple enrollment, without religious profession necessarily taking place. After Trent, on the other hand, incorporation into religious life would be obligatorily tied to profession of the evangelical counsels, and this after having completed a year of predetermined preparation. In this way the novitiate was officially institutionalized throughout the world.

            The Council of Trent represented, for the institution of the novitiate, the dividing line between an earlier stage where uniform legislation was lacking, although one tremendously rich in traditions and varying methods of incorporation into religious life, and a later stage, characterized by the progressive refinement of its juridical structure, starting with its institutionalization. Both stages, pre-Tridentine and post-Tridentine, contributed to shaping its formational aspects.

3. The Codification of Doctrine Regarding the Novitiate

            In the years following Trent, many measures were drawn up aimed at regularizing and refining the functioning of the novitiate, which culminated with the publication of the Code of Canon Law in 1917. This Code gathered together the traditional doctrine and redeveloped it in a systematic way[3].

            This Code, in relation to the formation of novices, requires that:

• their spirit be well shaped through study of the rule and of the Constitutions;

• the required learning process on the content of the vows and of the spiritual life will be completed;

• a radical rooting out of vices will be pursued;

• control of internal impulses will be achieved;

• the virtues will be acquired;

• the novices will be introduced to the pious practices of diligent meditation and prayer[4].

            These will be the main objectives toward which the novices should earnestly direct their energies. They cannot be be dedicated to other things such as carrying out studies and performing apostolic activities. Other work is not absolutely excluded, but must never hinder the pursuit of the proper formational objectives of the novitiate[5].

4. The Novitiate Beginning with the Years of Conciliar Renewal

           In the second half of the 20th century some events occurred in the Church to which religious life could not remain indifferent, even affecting the institution of the novitiate. The celebration of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) opened new horizons in the life of the Church. The Council, with its impulse to renewal, reinterpreted the values of religious life and prepared the way for their updating supporting various changes that the sensitivities of new times were calling for[6]. In the intervening decades the entire life of the Church and religious life itself has been revolutionized in this process of renewal.

4.1. The updating of the novitiate according to “Renovationis Causam”

            Responding to that sensitivity detected in a great number of religious families, an instruction was published immediately after the Council ended entitled Renovationis Causam, concerning the formation of religious[7]. Some of the canons of the Code of Canon Law of 1917 were already coming to be outdated. Some orientations more in accord with the contemporary world were determined that would be able to guide the necessary experiences that had to be realized during this post-conciliar period[8]. Renovationis Causam ably fulfilled this function until the promulgation of the new Code of Canon Law (1983).

            With this instruction the shape of the novitiate changed and it toook on a new appearance: that of an institution that attempted to serve better and more realistically the formation of novices as the second half of the 20th century advanced. Renovationis Causam introduced into the period of the novitiate many innovations in order to impel a true renewal of formation[9]. In this way, the instruction attempted to promote an adaptation of formation that would be more in keeping with the modern mindset and that would take into account circumstances, the complexity of situations, the diversity of institutes and of their works, the variety of settings and the constant rapidity of changes in the modern world, as well as the demands arising from the apostolate. And it demanded remaining faithful to the spirit and the objectives proper to each institute[10].

            Our Congregation diligently applied itself to putting into practices these directions from the Church. Specifically, and through appropriate consultation of the whole institute, it set up an obligatory period of postulancy or of appropriate preparation for entrance into the novitiate; it opened up the possibility of novices participating in fomation activities outside the novitiate house and that the novitiate might end with the pronouncement of some bonds (or promises) distinct from temporary vows[11]. Later, the General Assembly that was held in Costa Rica (1976) addressed, among other things, the period of the novitiate, agreeing on a series of doctrinal lines or contents that would have to be developed during the novitiate, in harmony with the post-conciliar impulse to renewal and with our Claretian charism[12].

            Renovationis Causam set in motion in the Church—and in our Congregation—renewal in the area of formation, But, since this instruction had only a provisional character (ad experimentum), the promulgation of a new Code of Canon Law in 1983 would end this period of experimentation in formation. The new Code incorporated into its canons many of the innovations, abrogated others and modified various details of earlier legislation. The Church doctrine presently in effect concerning the novitiate is found in the new Code of Canon Law[13].

4.2. Subsequent Directions From the Church

            The novitiate, as the living Church organism it is, has continued to be the object of special attention on the Church’s part in recent years as well. The Apostolic See has outlined some details related to this stage in the formation of religious in various allocutions. In 1990, an instruction entitled Potissimum Institutioni[14] was published dealing with formation in institutes of consecrated life, in general, and with formation in the novitiate, in particular. This instruction formulates what could be called a general law of integral initiation for the period of the novitiate, indicating lines of action that characterize this initiation.

            In 1998, another instruction from the Apostolic See was published, bearing the title Collaboration Among Institutes for Formation[15]. Reference is also made in it to the novitiate. This instruction presents a series of observations on the possible organization of some common services for the the novitiates of different institutes. It emphasizes the complementary character of such services and it totally rejects the concept of a hypothetical inter-congregational novitiate in the strict sense.

            To recap, the doctrine in the current Code of Canon Law and the directions from the last two documents give us the profile of today’s novitiate in all religious institutes. The various configurations and characteristics depend on the different charisms of the Congregations.

II. THE NATURE, PURPOSE AND OBJECTIVES OF THE NOVITIATE

1. Clarification of Terminology

            Before proceeding to our explanation, we need to clarify the meanings of these words: nature, purpose and obectives of the novitiate.

            1. The term nature refers to that which defines it in its constitutive or fundamental elements.

            2. The distinction between the purpose and objectives of the novitiate, on the other hand, is not always completely clear. The purposes (objectives, goals) are general orientations that are formulated with very broad meaning. The make up the frame of reference within which all the formation must take place, or the all-inclusive goal toward which it must tend. Usually, as in the case of the novitiate, this is predetermined by the legislation of the Church and of the Congregation. Our General Plan of Formation is such a document, defining both the nature and the purpose of the novitiate as well as indicating its general objectives[16], which are very broad aims.

            3. The objectives, nevertheless, always indicate specific goals. These are pursued for a given amount of time, with very precise and short-range results, and allow for evaluation throughout the formation process and, especially, at the end of each stage. For that reason such objectives are called operative.

            Each novitiate of the Congregation has the task of defining specific concrete objectives for this stage of formation, identifying them, selecting them, organizing them and appropriately formulating them. This must be done in such a way that assures that they always conform to the drectives of the Church and the Congregation, as well as deal with the particular circumstances of each place and each group of novices.

2. Nature and Purpose of the Novitiate

            Our Congregation made clear from its very beginnings what the nature and purpose of the novitiate must be: to lay the groundwork for the future missionary to acquire all the virtues, especially those most needed for the conduct of his apostolic ministry. In the Appendix to the Constitutions of 1862 it is expressly stated that the year of testing or novitiate was set up to lay the groundwork for the virtues[17]. This statement is of major importance for us because it reveals the thinking of the our Founder on this stage of formation, since he personally intervened in the drawing up of this Appendix[18]. Our Founder was convinced, then, that during the novitiate was when the foundations for the missionary life were to be laid. That was its purpose and reason for being.

            A more developed statement about the nature and purpose of the novitate is found in the latest documents of the Church and of our Congregation:

            The Code of Canon Law says that, with the novitiate, “life in an institute begins”[19]. The Instruction Potissimum Institutioni states the nature and purpose of the novitiate in a more explicit and descriptive way:

“it would be possible to define the purpose of the novitiate as a time of integral initiation into the kind of life that the Son of God took on and that He proposes to us in the Gospel, in one or another aspect of his service or of his ministries”[20].

            Our General Plan of Formation, based on the same doctrine, defines the nature of the noivitiate this way:

"The novitiate is a time of integral initiation into the the following fo Christ the Evangelizer, in order to be incorporated into the Congregation, through religious profession"[21].

            The GPF goes on to indicate its purpose. In addition to the objective of being incorporated into the Congregation through religious profession,

"[the novitiate] aims at the novices having a better understanding of the divine vocation as it is proposed in the Congregation, experiencing its way of life, coforming their mind and heart to its evangelzing spirit; and, at the same time, being able to verify their intention and suitability"[22].

3. The Core Objectives Proper to the Novitiate

            The objectives of the novitiate can be looked at comprehensively and in detail. We will now present a comprehensive explanation of the objectives of the novitiate. We will present the main core of objectives, as they are decribed in the documents of the Church and of the Congregation[23]. We will provide a commentary one each one of these core objectives in order to aid in understanding them and also to facilitate the carrying out of the formation project for this stage.

3.1. Integral Inititiatioon into a New Life

            1. The Code of Canon Law acknowledges a fact that is quite evident: that with the novitiate life in an institute begins[24]. It is a matter of beginning a life and of laying foundations so that the person can keep on developing in his later religious life. Thus our Constitutions specifically exhort the novices to strive to “lay the foundations for a missionary life” and to come to know “its main elements”[25].

            The novitiate is a true experience of initiation into Claretian religious life. This requires the novices to be completely immersed in that vital and charismatic current, which is the tradition and the present—people and works—of the Congregation. Thus they will be able to actually verify whether or not they feel that this is their proper milieu. This experience carries with it as well a break with one’s former life. As happens in every act of birth, here also the abandonment of one’s former surrounding comes to pass, with the resultant wrenching that the person may experience.

            2. The novitiate, as a true integral initiation into that new life. Should make it possible, specifically, to lay the foundations of:

• “a life of union with Jesus Christ, the Son who was sent by the Father, and became incarnate of the Virgin Mary through the working of the Holy Spirit;

 • a knowledge and practice of the essential demands of the Claretian relgious life, as a way of following Jesus Christ who was poor, chaste and obedient, in proclaiming the Good News;

 • a truly Clartetian community lifestyle;

 • a missionary spirit and a preparation for the apostolate in keeping with the charism of the Congregation (can. 652)"[26].

            3. In order for the integral initiation of the novice to be fruitful, he must have prior preparation. This is normally done in the period of postulancy. Still, initiation is sometimes faulty, with deficient preparation on the part of the novices and other deficiencies arising from human immaturity[27]. A step prior to all laying of solid foundations will be to confront these deficiencies. Glossing over them, as if they did not exist, contributes absolutely nothing to resolving them and makes the realization of this process questionable. These elemental deficiencies in the human substratum need to be attended to. There must be assurance of a progressive pursuit of maturity of judgment and firmness of character[28], among other things. This is part of the initiation. Precisely in this lack of attention to deficiencies in human maturity can be found the root cause of many failures not only during the period of the novitiate, but, what is worse, in later stages of formation and in the future.

            The Congregation can only be successful at this initiation, through the master and his collaborators, if the good disposition and the active participation of the novices is involved. They must be the ones primarily interested in this initiation being achieved in the best way possible. Thus the Constitutions advises that “they cooperate responsibly with their novicemaster and Superiors and accepting their decisions out of faith and love”[29].

3.2. Christological and Charismatic References

            The kind of life into which the novice is initiated is the one taken on by Jesus Christ himself as it appears in the Gospel[30]. The Christological point of refernece is the key to understanding the orginality that characterizes religious life, into which one who enters an institute is introduced. The person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God incarnate, will be the center of all formation and, in a special way, of this period of the novitiate. His divine person and the kind of life He took on, and that He proposes in the Gospel, must be understood as the axis on which the lives of the novices revolve. The activities, projects, interpretations of religious life, etc., cannot obscure the light that radiates directly from the person and life of the Savior, to which the novices must conform themselves. Hence the recommendation made by the Constitutions that:

“they should cling wholeheardtedly to Christ our Lord [...] since they are planning to share in his life and ministry”[31].

            Confirguration with Jesus Christ happens through conformation and identity with various aspects of his life and of his mission. Thus the different aspects are seen according to the charism of each one of the religious families. It is Jesus Christ, living and challenging through a specific mystery, who conquers, attracts and impels with a special power: praying in the garden, praying alone in the desert, preaching the Good News, curing the sick, teaching, seeking out sinners, welcoming the children, etc. Likewise, the novitiate is the time of integral initiation into the mystery of Christ that characterizes his own institute and that later he himself is able to incarnate in his spiritual characteristics and in tasks, services and various ministries.

            The General Plan of Formation echoes this differing Christological and charismatic aspect when it states that

“we are followers of Jesus Christ and it has been granted to us to represent in the Church his prophetic life, his vocation as messenger of the Good News for all people, especially the poor, who are the privileged recipients and subjects of the Kingdom lived and proclaimed by Him”[32].

            In our institute, this Christological and charismatic reference undoubtedly bears the imprint of the very same experience of our Founder, St. Anthony Mary Claret, fully configured to Jesus the Evangelizer, i.e., identified with the person of Jesus in the mystery of his proclamation of the Good News of salvation for all.

            Claretian novices have to be initiated and should initiate themselves into the life of the Congregation from this specific Christological and charismatic reference, avoiding the encouragement of a generic spirituality or one not in accord with our identity.

3.3. A Very Clear Awareness of One’s Own Vocation

            It is clear that this objective peculiarly characterizes the period of the novitiate[33]. Although it is certain that during postulancy, and even before, one has already begun the discernment of his own vocation[34], during the novitiate this discernment must continue until it reaches that reasonable degree of awareness and conviction that God has really called him to religious life and, concretely to the specific religious life of our institute.

            The Constitutions urge the novices to “earnestly engage in the process of discerning whether they are truly called to the Congregation”[35]. They are invited to continue a process of discernment supposedly begun prior to entrance into the novitiate. The object of such discernment is to see if they are truly called to the Congregation. Novices cannot enter the novitiate only to see if, maybe, they have a vocation. They enter in order to verify and prove if it is the authentic vocation they think they have. This awareness is the result of a process of discernment that continues and is compared with the same life already lived in the congregational environment of the novitiate.

3.4. An Experience of the Life of the Congregation and Conformation of Mind and Heart to Its Spirit

            1. The novices must have an intense and direct experience of the life of the Congregation. It cannot be limited to there being spectators viewing that life from a panoramic and theoretical perspective. The must experience directly and in a lived way the vocation to which the feel they are called. This presupposes being actually involved in the dynamic of the life of the missionary community, even though it is basically realized out of a house of formation. The novices must keep in contact with individuals and communities and learn about the specific apostolic works of our Congregation, in order to acquire that basic experience of the real life of our religious family.

            The novitiate house, even when pedagogical reasons necessitate its being located in a separate location, must never take on the aspect of a hothouse or of a laboratory. Anything artficial, as well as anything that would set apart from the true life of our institute the young men who are going to become part of it, will result, in the long run, in being harmful to formation.

            It is very positive for the novices to keep in touch with the life current of the institute, people and works, except for the specific activities this stage of formation requires (and which are already foreseen by the legislation and healthy tradition of the Chuirch and of our Congregation). The Directory indicates the following in this regard:

            "With regard to the relationship between novices and the professed members, given the distinctive character and aims of the novitiate, on the one hand, there must be a balance between the nearness the novices need to achieve a knowledge and love for the Congregation, and on the other, the fitting separation they require to safeguard their condition as novices. The government of the Major Organism must determine the general guidelines for this relationship"[36].

            Relationships of the novices with the professed members will allow them to be in tune with the Congregation, breathing in the characteristic family atmosphere of the Congregation. When we speak of family atmosphere or of family style, way of life, etc., of the Congregation we are referring to that constellation of characteristics, attitudes, elements of doctrine and lifestyle that make up the mode of being or temper of institute in the Church—a mode of being that derives from the charism of our Congregation.

            2. Since it is not a matter of assimilating an external style, the Code speaks of “conforming the mind and heart to the spirit of the institute”[37]. The spirit of an institute is its foundational charism, enriched by tradition through the various circumstances of each time and place and always in fidelity to the primordial gift. Conformation to the spirit of the institute is actually brought about through osmosis, by contact with the life of the Congregation. Through praxis, the charism is transmitted, giving rise to its recognition, solidification and development in the personalities of those being formed through various channels and means of transmission. But when the community of the Congregation lives its spirituality, its lifestyle and its mission from its charismatic perspective, the transmission is effected naturally and spontaneously. Specific prayer, its specific form of governance, its traditional lifestyle, the Congregation’s apostolic options, etc., are channels and means of transmission of the charismatic experience. When, concretely, the religious community of the novice intensely lives its community project, developed from the viewpoint of the charism, it becomes an ideal environment for living, animating and transmitting the living out of the charism to the novices.

            The novices must conform their mind and heart—the totality of their personalities—to the spirit of the Congregation. True conformation to this spirit does not consist in learning some facts about the history and mission of our religious family. It is a matter of heartfelt assimilation of the core contents of the charism. Without this, the novices will remain on the fringes, not attaining a thorough understanding nor living the spirit of the Founder, inherited by the Congregation,. They may know some things about our institute, but they will not be able to say that they have experienced its life.

3.5. Verification of the Intention and Suitability of the Novices

            Vocational discernment, of which we have spoken before, is not only the novice’s commitment to discern if he has truly been called by God to pursue this vocation. It is also a commitment of the institute itself, which has the serious responsibility of verifying the intention and suitability of the candidates. To the institute belongs the verification of the authenticity or lack of authenticity of their motivations, as well as their real ability to embrace this kind of life in the Church. Moreover, the final say on admission to the novitiate and approval for making religious profession with incorporation into the Congregations lies with the lgitimate representatives of the institute.

            1. Verification of rightness of intention. This is an unavoidable task. The Church’s magisterium generally used this term to talk about the requisites demanded of candidates for the religious and priestly life. The aim or intention of the novices—that has to be verified—means the set of motivations that give meaning to their option and impel them to embrace religious life. Verification of intention presupposes more than a verbal explanation of the conscious desires of the candidates[38]. On the one hand, it involves the adoption of the habitual means that daily life together presents for vocational discernment; on the other, it involves the adoption, if needed, of other means, such as the help of outside professionals, either as a general practice or as an exceptional practice especially in the case of a doubtful vocation.

            Verification of intention or motivations becomes a serious formational task. It is necessary for the novices to be personally involved in this. The novices are the ones primarily concerned with a thorough evaluation of their motivations, with the help of the novicemaster and the others whose collaboration he may consider appropriate to solicit. It is necessary to act clearly and decisively in dealing with this matter.

            Both on the part of the immediate representatives of the institute, which are the master and his team, as well as on the part of the novices this verification of vocational intentions is going to require a tenacious and patient effort at clarification, because it often happens that the motivations which initially impel the young men—even if they are valid ones—are not always clearly delineated. It may requiere painstaking analysis of the motivations, refinement and reinforcement of those considered acceptable and valid from the perspective of the Claretian vocation; along with an effort to detect and eradicate those that they deem unacceptable or less valid; or of conscious control when they cannot be completely eliminated. This discernment will definitely be converted into an ongoing spiritual grace and formational task, given the complexity that the universe of vocational motivations presents[39].

            2. The suitability of the novices must likewise be verified. Suitability means the real ability—here and now, and projected into the future—to take on the specific commitments of Claretian religious life. This suitability must be based on positive arguments, not merely on the absence of counterindications. It must be sustained with positive signs that, without necessarily having to be extraordinary, have a certain relevance from the perspection of vocation[40]. At the same time it presupposes an absence of those impediments that both Canon Law and our particular Law have indicated[41].

            There is a basic suitability, which is that which one’s fundamental nature confers. And there is a suitability acquired through personal effort, through the grace of God and through one’s responsiveness to the educational help offered by the institute. In both cases, in order to evaluate suitability, it is necessary to guided by balanced criteria, knowing that the signs of a vocation are normally in the person in a germinal way[42]. Thus, one has to know how to judge the degree of real maturity acquired by the novices and how to likewise predict their ability to achieve greater goals in maturity in the future.

4. Specific Objectives and Concrete Programming

            Having looked at the main core objectives of the novitiate, it would now be appropriate to formulate in detail some specific objectives. For this we recur to our General Plan of Formation[43], where we find detailed formulations of such objectives as well as the recommnedation of certain dynamisms and means that are considered appropriate for pursuing these objectives.

            The final specification of the onjectives and the other elements involved in programming should be carried out by each formation community, paying attention to the circumstances of time and place, the people involved and other local conditions. This job of planning should take into account the directives emanating from various organs of the Church and of our insttute and that we find expressed in the Code of Canon Law and the various Instructions, the Constitutions, the Direectory, the General Plan of Formation and the corresponding Plan of each Province or Delegation. Thus it will be possible to put together the formation program of the novitiate[44]. This is a responsibility that must be assumed by each novitiate. This task logically presupposes the involvement of each and every member of the fomation community: novices, master and collaborators.

III. FORMATIONAL ORIENTATIONS

1. St. Anthony Claret as a Novice: A Model to Imitate

            Talking about the novitiate, it is appropriate to ask ourselves if our Founder has anything to say in this regard. We have alrady mentioned his thinking in regard to this initial stage of the formation of the missionary[45]. But now we can look at him as a novice during the time he spent in the Company of Jesus, since he was a Jesuit for four months in Rome when he was a young priest.

            In is interesting to us, from the viewpoint of formation, that our Founder had a personal experience of what a novitiate is. His entrance into, and stay in, the novitiate of the Company of Jesus was providential, as we learn from the account of it he has left us in his Autobiography, even though it was brief and did not end with a profession that would make him a member of the Jesuits. Yet it was carried out under ideal conditions to make the novice Anthony Claret a model to whom the novices of the Congregation can look to imitate his performance during this stage of formation in which certain details and various virtues are particularly commendable. Thus the following attitudes of the novice Anthony Claret can be admired and imitated[46]:

• his openness to people and to their directions in the discernment of his call at the initial moment or time of entrance;

• his humble and grateful spirit before the grandeur of his vocation;

• his fervor and his eagerness for perfection;

• his receptive attitude and his apprenticeship to being formed with the exemplary asceticism that was observed in his surroundings;

• his application to learning the apostolic methods and spiritual practices of the Jesuits;

• his implementation of a model obedience, proved and exercised up to the ultimate point of renouncing the possession and use of his personal Bible;

• his ability to channel his tremendous apostolic longings into prayer during that time when he could not completely devote himself to the active ministry;

• the happy spirit and dedication with which he carried out his catechetical efforts and the ministry that he was allowed to do each week;

• and his docility and promptness to avail himself of the direction of his superiors in vocational discernment and also later on, especially on the occasion of the illness that forced him to leave the Jesuits and return to his own country.

2. Appropriate Attiitudes in the Novitiate

            After eveything we have explained about the nature, purpose and objectives of the novitiate, and having in front of the shinging example of our Founder, we now present some practical and useful orientation for those who are going to begin this period of formation. We suggest the following attiutudes:

1. Give yourself without reserve to formation: the Congregation generously offers the best conditions for the novices to be able to dedicate themselves exclusively to their missionary formation. One hopes they know how to respond with equal dedication.

2. Take advantage of the time: lack of preoccupations and engagement in other tasks is neither a luxury nor a waste of time. It is to provide a special time for formation. Thus the novice needs to make the best and most responsible use of the time available to him in the novitiate for his formation.

3. Honestly and clearly confront deficiences and problems of vocation or personal maturity: vocational problems and those arising from immaturity need to be confronted in dialogue with the master. Concealing them is no help; it only delays solving them.

4. Have to courage to break ties you need to break: the novitiate requires the creation of an environment of breaking with one’s former lifestyle. This involves detachment from things, people, relationships, etc. This is the law of the Gospel: leave everything to follow Christ. The one who decides not to make the break cannot find the freedom needed to completely immerse himself in the novitiate experience.

5. Be ready to continue discerning your vocation: discerning does not mean calling your vocation into question but of verufying its authenticity, seeing it more clearly, analyzing it in the new context of Claretian community, in open dialogue with those in charge of formation, and then responding to it with a joyful and generaous spirit[47].

6. Cultivate a deep spiritual life, that does not remain on the surface level of practices or momentary fervor, that shifts with the wind, but one that extends to your entire life. Everything should be lived out of union with God and with the others.

7. Carry out the commitments of day to day life (charges, domestic tasks, etc.) as well as apostolic endeavors with a truly missionary spirit, never as mindless routine or as an escape.

 8. Struggle against fatigue and impatience: the period of the novitiate also includes times of testing, disenchantment, difficulties, temptation, etc. One must take precautions in order to firmly bear up during those bad moments, counting on the help of God and the inteercession of Mary, our Mother and Teacher[48].

3. Conclusion

            The importance of formation in the consecrated life has been recalled in a recent Chruch document with these words:

“We must be supremely generous in dedicating time and our best energies to formation. The personalities of consecrated people are actually one of the most precious possessions of the Church. Without them, all the formational and apostolic plans would remain mere theory, vain desires. Let us not forget, in a fast-paced time like ours, what makes for failure more than anything else is lack of time, perseverance and patient waiting in order to achieve the objectives of formation. In such circumstances where speed and superficiality predominate, we need serenity and depth because in reality the person is is forged very slowly”[49].

            The stage of the novitiate, that has the greatest impact on the remaining stages of formation, undoubtedly has a decisive value for the future. All the stages of formation—each one taking place at its proper time—have their own identity. But they are unanimous in recognizing that this period of the novitiate has a special relevance. Renovationis Causam explains it in these words:

“In the cycle of formation, the novitiate has to absolutely preserve its importance, since there is no substitute for it and it has a momentous impact at the beginning of religious life”[50].

            This same awareness has been what has impelled all religious order and congregations, even the oldest ones, to consider the novitiate as a privileged time and place for laying the foundations of the spiritual life, thus assuring the perseverance and fidelity of the future religious.

            Our institute has placed great value and taken painstaking care with this stage of formation[51], very aware that it would not be able to count on members well prepared for the apostolate if they had not been shaped in the forge and on the anvil of a serious formation. In the novitiate is where the the best Claretians actually begin to be forged and where they also right now lay the groundwork for the missionary life, learn its essential elements and are trained and put into practice the evangelical counsels[52] according to the spirit our holy Fr. Founder and of the Congregation.


[1] GPF 348; cf. also PI 45.

[2] COUNCIL OF TRENT, Decree De regularibus et monialibus (On Regulars and Monks), ss. XXV, cap. XV.

[3] Concerning the novitiate, cf. CIC of 1917, cc. 542-571.

[4] Cf. CIC of 1917, c. 565, 1.

[5] Cf. CIC of 1917, c. 565, 3.

[6] Cf. PC, 3.

[7] RC, AAS 61 (1969), pp. 103-120.

[8] Cf. RC introduction.

[9] Among the innovations presented by the Instruction Renovationis Causam we can cite, among others, the possibility of realization of the consecration at the end of the noitiate by other sacred bonds different from temporary vows and the possibility of participating in some formation activity outside the novitiate house.

[10] Cf. RC introduction.

[11] Cf. A. LEGHISA, Circular Letter The the Major Superior of the Congeragtion Regarding “Renovationis Causam”, in Annales, 50 (1970), pp. 293-296; ID., Decree of the General Government The Application of the Instruction “Renovationis Causam” to Our Congregation, in Annales, 50 (1970), pp. 296-319; also J. Mª PALACIOS, Historical Notes Regarding Formation in Our Congregation, General Prefecture of Formation, Rome, 1997, pp. 98-99.

[12] Cf. GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF COSTA RICA, Annales, 52 (1976), pp. 466-467.

[13] Cf. CIC 641-653.

[14] PI, Rome, 2.02.1990: AAS, 82 (1990), pp. 470-532. Regarding the novitiate, cf. nn. 45-57.

[15]Collaboration Among Institutes for Formation, Rome, 8.12.1998. Concerning the novitiate, cf. nn. 14-16.

[16] Cf. GPF 348, 352-354.

[17] Cf. CC 1862, Appendix, n. 15. The text appeared in those Constitutions under the following title: Appendix to the Foregoing Constitutions or A Rule for the Aspirants, Those Being Tested and Students and Their Respective Directors. The part referring to the novices may be consulted in Appendix I of this Manual.

[18] St. Anthony Mary Claret, once he had returned to Spain from Cuba, intervened in the process of drawing up the Constitutions of the Congregation and in the procedure by which they were approved by the Holy See. He particularly worked on the chapters on the novices (or those being tested) and their formators (or masters), which are included in an Appendix to the Constitutions of 1862. In that Appendix we find the thinking of our Founder on this most important stage of the novitiate and, specifically, his urgent recommendation to the missionaries find themselves in this year of testing so that they may lay the foundations of the virtues of faith, trust, humility, obedience, rightness of intention, prayer and fidelity to their vocation.

[19] CIC 646.

[20] PI 45.

[21] GPF 348.

[22] Ibid.; cf. CC 61 and Dir 195.

[23] Cf. GPF 348, CIC 646 y PI 45. Regarding the objective or purpose of the novitiate cf. NPVM III, pp. 178ff., 188ff. and 200ff.

[24] CIC 646.

[25] CC 61.

[26] Dir 196.

[27] Difficulty in this regard was already foreseen in the instruction RC 4.

[28] Cf. CC 68.

[29] CC 65. Regarding the acceptance of formational directives and the responsible cooperation of the novices, cf. the commentary on n. 65 of the Constitutions in NPVM III, pp. 178ff. and 281-283.

[30] “The consecrated person not only makes Christ the center of his own life, but is concerned with reproducing in himself, as far as possible, that form of life chosen by the Son of God when He came into the world” (VC 16; cf. LG 44).

[31] CC 61.

[32] GPF 19.

[33] Cf. CIC 646.

[34] Cf. CVD 169-175.

[35] CC 67.

[36] Dir 207.

[37] CIC 646.

[38] Vocational motivations can be present in various forms, which gives rise to the distinguishing of motivations: one can speak of motivations that are conscious and unconscious, adequate and inadequate, sufficient and insufficient, authentic and unauthentic, valid and invalid, etc. Cf. CVD 259-260.

[39] Cf. NPVM III, pp. 300-301 and 317ff.

[40] Cf. CVD 234.

[41] Cf. the criteria for vocational discernment (requirements and counterindications) of Canon Law and our particular law collected in DVC 240-257 and 263ff.

[42] Cf. CVD 235.

[43] In regard to the formulation of specific objectives cf. GPF 355-363. In regard to the means cf. GPF 355-363 and Dir 197.

[44] Cf. Dir 168 and GPF 368.

[45] Cf. note 18 of this chapter.

[46] Cf. Aut 139-152.

[47] Cf. CC 67.

[48] Cf. CC 61.

[49] CDC 18.

[50] RC 4.

[51] Cf. NPVM III, p. 184; likewise DVC 360ff.; also, in this Manual, the introduction on the novitiate in the Congregation (historical notes), which talks about the care the Superiorsd in the institute take to see that the novitiate will be carried out under the best conditions, setting it apart from other apostolic tasks or from study.

[52] Cf. CC 61.