Vocational texts of the Congregation
We include in this Appendix a selection of vocational texts of our Father Founder and the numbers of the Constitutions of 1924 in which are stated the criteria of admission of candidates to the Congregation. These criteria have basically been the same all through the history of the Congregation since the Constitutions of 1865 up to the Second Vatican Council.
1. Father Founder
1º. «Some of them (outsiders) have even asked to live with us, but we are going rather slowly about this, carefully considering their physical and moral abilities, for one can’t be too cautious in such matters, since one mangy sheep might infect the rest of the flock»1
2º. «Of course you should proceed carefully with this (to admit young men), to avoid what happened to the Vincentians in Madrid, for a number of young men who were educated and ordained, have left them (…)»2
3º. «Nevertheless, I am quite apprehensive when someone who has been elsewhere enters the Congregation»3
4º. «In my opinion, whenever you see a young man of the right disposition, etc., etc., you should admit him, even if he’s not a priest or in orders, so long as he is advanced in his studies and offers hopes of persevering in the Congregation»4 (…)
5º. «Don’t hesitate to build, if it is necessary in order to admit more missionaries, because we must strive greatly toward this (…); We need to make people (…). Believe me, my friend, work as hard as you can to increase the personnel of the Congregation, and if this means you have to erect another building, then do so at once and never mind the costs or what the world will say».5
6º. «Friends, we must not fall asleep. Evil is reaching its peak with giant steps; (…) I trust only in God and in you of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and thus I repeat that, without losing time, you should work at gathering and forming young men».6
7º. «Let us pray to the heavenly Father to send labourers, because the labourers are indeed few and the harvest is great, both inside and outside Spain7 (…).
2. Constitutions (1924). First Part
Chapter XVII. The Examiners
73. Their duty shall be, under the direction of the Superior General or Provincial: 1º. To examine Postulants or Aspirants before their admission to the Novitiate in order to ascertain their aim, vocation and fitness. 2º. To inquire diligently before the profession concerning the vocation and talents of the novices and the other qualifications prescribed by the Constitutions; and to give in writing confidential information and their vote on the fitness of the subjects. 3º. To examine those who are to be appointed to hear confessions and to submit their opinion to the Superior. This shall, likewise, be done in regard to candidates for ordination.
Chapter XVIII. The candidates
74. Although we ought ardently to desire for the growth of the Congregation and its expansion throughout the world, and although we ought to pray without ceasing for this purpose that the Lord of the harvest should send laborers to His vineyard (Mt. 9, 38; Lk 10, 2); nevertheless, as it would be harmful and prejudicial for the Congregation to admit to its membership those who are not called, who are ignorant, or who have a bad character, on that account the following questions must be proposed to the postulants, or at least to those who are not well known:
1ª. What is his name; what is his country; what is his age; what trade, art or profession he has or may have practised; whether he has any parents, what are their names, condition, trade and manner of living; whether they are in want of the necessaries of life and whether they are in grave need of help; how many brothers and sisters he has and what are their circumstances, their trade and their manner of living; whether any are dead and from what sickness.
2ª. Whether he was born in lawful wedlock; whether he has engaged himself to be married; whether he has any secret, or external infirmity, and what it is, or whether he suffers from any natural impediment; or whether he is free from physical defects of speech.
3ª. Whether he suffers from scrupulosity, or some other mental disturbance; whether he entertains or has entertained ideas, or opinions contrary to the Church or legitimate authority, or at variance with those commonly taught by the Doctors of the Church.
4ª. Whether he has in the world means of subsistence; whether he is burdened with debts; whether he is under any civil obligations; whether he has been a member of some Religious Institute, or whether he has at least taken the habit of the Novice, or that of a hermit; whether he has incurred any infamy, or irregularity; and whether he is able to read and write.
5ª. Whether he has the real determination and the firm purpose to leave and renounce the world and, likewise, to live and to die in the Congregation; what purpose animates him and since when; where and by whom he has been urged to take the step; whether he is devoted to mental prayer; how often he receives the Sacraments and who is his Spiritual Director.
6ª. Whether he will always be tranquil and contented with the offices, duties and spiritual charges to which he shall be elected, or appointed for the welfare of the House or the Congregation, of whatever nature they may be, humble and lowly, or distinguished, always ready to spend his life in their discharge. Thus acting for the love of God, he will deserve well of the Congregation and arrive at true sanctity.
7ª. Finally, let Superiors and Examiners diligently ascertain with what spirit, intention and purpose, he has chosen this mode of life; what end he has proposed to himself, whether it was due to zeal for a better and more perfect life and in order to serve God with greater perfection, or whether it was prompted by levity, or some other human, or inordinate affection, and whether his parents deprived of his help and assistance, shall be left in dire need (Decree Clement VIII, Cum ad Regularem, 19, Mrt. 1603, n. 4).
Particular questions to be asked of Priests
75. In addition to the above, a Clergyman shall be questioned as to whether he has exercised the ministry of preaching the Word of God; whether he has been engaged in hearing confessions, or whether he, in any other way, has followed courses in philosophy and theology and what ratings in talent and application he may have received.
76. 1º. Proper age which for those of average talent shall be up to thirty years; for those above the average, forty years. Beyond this age they should have an excellent standing, or, in addition to the required knowledge and virtue, they should possess some distinguishing quality. In case of doubt recourse should be had to the Superior General who may grant a dispensation. 2º. That he had studied philosophy and dogmatic and moral theology. But should the postulant not have taken all these courses he may be admitted if his age and ability allow him to take them up in the Congregation; or if on account of some special circumstance he should prove especially useful to the Congregation. 4º. That he present certificates of Baptism and Confirmation. 5º. That he present certificates of ordination and of all the subjects and courses which he has followed with the standing in each of these subjects issued by the Rector, or the Secretary of the College, or University. 6º. That he have no physical defect of speech. 7º. That he possess the required physical and moral fitness.
Questions to be proposed to Students
77. In addition to what has been said above, a student soliciting admission should be asked the following: Where he has studied; what courses, authors and teaching he has followed; how long he has been engaged in study; whether he has mastered the Latin language; whether he be endowed with a retentive memory; what degree of intelligence he thinks he possesses; whether he has a liking for study; whether he feels that he has the physical and spiritual strength to acuist himself of the work which the Congregation might require of him be it in studies, or in the vineyard of the Lord; whether he is rightly disposed toward the Catholic Church, the Holy Father and authorities.
78. 1º. Proper age; namely, from fifteen to thirty years. 2º. A real vocation. 3º. The Apostolic Spirit. 4º. Certificates of Baptism and Confirmation. 5º. Testimonial letters as required by the Canon Law. 6º. A Certificate issued by the College, or establishment in which he has made his studies of all the subjects he has followed together with the grades. 7º. A certificate of health from a physician; a permit or passport from the civil authority and a certificate of exemption or discharge from military service. 8º. An examination in which he must obtain a passing mark. In case of doubt recourse be had to the Superior General.
Questions to be proposed to Lay Brothers
79. In addition to what has been said in article 74, Lay Brothers shall be asked as follows: Whether they can read and write; whether they are acquainted with at least the principal points of Christian Doctrine; whether they know any trade; what spirit, purpose and aim has brought them to this Congregation.
80. 1º. Proper age; that is to say from fifteen to thirty years, after which none are admitted unless they are possessed of some qualification which shall prove beneficial to the Congregation. 2º. Certificates of Baptism and Confirmation. 3º. Testimonial letters as required by the Canon Law. 4º. Letters of recommendation issued by the Pastor certifying their sound moral character and the frequency with which they approached the Sacraments. 5º. A certificate of health issued by a physician. 6º. A permit or passport and a certificate of exemption or discharge from military service. Besides this, they should be of a good disposition; they should have a presentable appearance; they should be active, healthy, fit to learn the Christian Doctrine and all that pertains to their state; they should be prudent in their conduct, peaceable, persevering, zealous for the Congregation and for the salvation of souls; they ought to have a right conscience; they should be unmarried, docile, tractable, inclined to the spiritual life, so that they may serve as example to those of their community and to outsiders.
81. If after all this it is likely that they shall be admitted and, if they deem that they ought to enter the Congregation in order to attend to their own salvation and perfection as well as that of their neighbor, then the following shall be proposed to them; viz:
That poverty, chastity and obedience are professed in a perfect degree in the Congregation; and that in it after one year’s novitiate there is made besides the solemn oath of perseverance unto death which is reserved to the Sovereign Pontiff and to the Superior General, the profession of the simple vows of obedience, chastity and poverty the dispensation from which is reserved solely to the Holy See. After the aforesaid year of novitiate and before the profession, the novices shall renounce the administration and the usufruct of their goods of which, however, they may retain the simple ownership, and therefore, they should know that henceforward they cannot keep anything for their personal use, nor in their possession, or that of another. Neither can they dispose of the fruits, or the revenues of their goods so that they shall accumulate in a manner that would increase their capital: but they shall convey the fruits and the revenues to other persons; and finally that they cannot without failing against the vow of poverty make any act of proprietorship or ownership whether in regard to the goods of which they retain the simple ownership, or with regard to the acceptance of other goods in whosoever manner they may come to them after profession, unless it be done with the permission of the Superior. In the same manner the novices before making the profession of temporary vows shall freely make their will and testament of all their present goods or possessions and those that they may acquire thereafter. But the professed are not permitted to renounce by an act inter vivos and gratuitously the ownership of all their property, nor to change a will already made excepting with the permission of the Holy See or, if the case is urgent and there is no time to have recourse to the Holy See, without the permission of a higher Superior, or if the recourse may not be had even to this, that of the local Superior. They must, likewise leave their parents, relatives, friends and so forth with whom they may neither speak, nor correspond except in cases when the Superior should deem it otherwise.
82. They should always keep in mind that their letters which they receive and those which they write must be inspected by him to whom this duty is assigned who shall deliver them or not according to his own discretion and the prescriptions of the Superior. But by no means can the letters be inspected which one may address to the Holy See, or the Apostolic Legate or the Cardinal Protector, the Higher Superiors, or the local Superior who chances to be absent, and the Ordinary of the Diocese to whom they are subject, as well as the letters which they may receive from these persons.
Let the Postulants be reminded of the patience and gratitude with which they are to receive counsels and corrections, as well as of the charity with which they ought to admonish others.
Finally let them be asked if they shall be content should the faults and defects which may be noticed in them be manifested by any person whatsoever to the Superiors.
CHAPTER XIX. Impediments which exclude
83. Besides the impediments mentioned in Common Law, the following also exclude from membership in the Congregation:
1º. Heresy. 2º. Homicide. 3º. Having lost one’s reputation by reason of grievous sins. 4º. Having incurred the guilt, or even the mere suspicion of serious crimes. 5º. Being burdened with debts beyond one’s ability to pay. 6º. Holding political or social opinions contrary to those of the Church, the Sovereign Pontiff, the Prelates, or of legitimate authorities. 7º. Suffering from mental aberrations of such a nature as impair a sound judgment, or at least give indications in that direction. 8º. Ignorance of, or unfitness for the duties that shall be required in the Congregation. 9º. Lack of judgment and stubbornness in adhering to his own opinions.
Impediments of the second class or such as render admission difficult
84. 1º. Great propensity to vanity, or an exaggerated opinion of one’s own person. 2º. Instability of character and indolence recognized as such by the applicant. 3º. Notable indiscretion in practices of devotion which bring on illusions. 4º. Physical defect, infirmity, feebleness or notable deformity. 5º. Too advanced age; viz: forty years. 6º. Being or having been a novice or a professed in any society which resembles a religious order, or a novice or professed in a strict religious sense, or a hermit.
85. The Superior General with his Council can dispense from the impediments or requirements prescribed only in these Constitutions.