6 – The Formation of Novices According to the Claretian Constitutions

Formation Booklets 6

General Prefecture of Formation, Rome 1990

 

THE FORMATION OF THE MISSIONARY NOVICES
According to the Renewed Constitutions

by Joseph M. Vinas, CMF.
English Traslation by Joseph C. Daries, CMF

ABBREVIATIONS USED
Aut Autobiography SOURCES OF THE CONSTITUTIONS
CCTT St. A. M. Claret: Constituciones y Textos sobre la Congregaciòn de Misioneros by Fr.Juan Manuel Lozano, CMF (Barcelona, 1972).
EA Escritos Autobiogrficos de San A. M. Claret, ed. Frs. José Maria Vinas and Jesùs Bermejo, CMF (Madrid, 1981).
EC Epistolario Claretiano, ed. Fr. José Maria Gil, CMF (Madrid, 1970-87). 3 vols.
EE Escritos espirituales de San A. M. Claret Fr. Jesus Bermejo, CMF (Madrid, 1985).
HD EI Beato Padre Claret. Historia Documentada de su vida y empresas, by Fr. Cristòbal Fernandez, CMF (Madrid, 1941). 2 vols.
NHD La Congregaciòn de Misioneros Hijos del Ido. Coraz6n de Maria. Noticia e Historia Generl de sus primeros 73 anos (1849- 1912), by Cristòbal Fernndez, CMF (Madrid, 1967).

SOURCES OF THE CONSTITUTIONS

CH = Church Documents
FO = Documents of Our Founder
CO = Documents of the congregation
CIC = Codex Iuris Canonici
ES = Paulo VI, Ecclesiae Sanctae II, August 6, 1966
OT = Vatican II, Optatam Totius, November 28, 1965.
PC = Perfectae Caritatis, October 28, 1965.
LMT = Letter to the Missionary Theophilus (Rome, 1979), 55 pp.
WIS = The Well-Instructed Seminarian (Barcelona, 1860), Vol. 1, 424 pp.; (Barcelona, 1861) Vol II., 526.
1F = Decree on Formation, Gen. Chapt. 1967.
2F = Formation, Gen. Chapt. 1973.

Chapter X
THE NOVICES AND THE NOVICEMASTER


I. Presentation of the Chapter

a) Content
The content of this chapter is expressed in its title in a personalized way. Instead of speaking directly of the novitiate as a structure, it refers to persons: the Novices and the Novice master.
A Novice is one preparing to make his profession in the Congregation; hence this chapter deals with the process of formation immediately preceding profession. It is an initiation of a person into the Claretian missionary life. It is also a preparation for making the serious commitment of consecrating one’s life to the Father and to His interests. It is a matter of laying the foundation of the Gospel house that cannot be built on sand, because it will have to withstand the winds and rains that are bound to come. And the only ones to build on the rock are those who encounter Jesus, follow him, listen to his word and become converted. There are certain virtues or dispositions that are deemed fundamental for this encounter and following, and the Novices must be exercised in them. Then there is an explanation of the Novice’ s relationships with his guide or Master. The chapter ends with a statement of the procedures and demands of profession.

b) Outline

Chapter X. The Novices and the Novice master

61. The aim of the Novitiate

  1. To prepare oneself for profession
    1. Through a knowledge of the missionary life
    2. Through the practice of the evangelical counsels
    3. Union with Christ the Evangelizer
    4. Accepting Mary as Mother and Teacher.

62. Apostolic Faith

  1.  Necessity of faith in order to respond to our vocation
  2. Effects: power for our witness and our missionary work
  3. Cultivating faith; living faith; firmness in faith.

63. Apostolic Trust

  1. An apostolic missionary’s need of trust
  2. The law of the apostolate: God chooses weak instruments in order to confound the strong
  3. Struggle against temptations to discouragement.

64. Apostolic Humility

  1. oNature of humility:
  2. oAccepting our vocation as a gift
  3. oMaking it bear fruit in the service of all.

65. Apostolic Obedience

  1. Docility to the Spirit
  2. Active discernment of God’s will
  3. Accepting the mediation of Superiors.

66. Living for God

  1. The glory of God in all things, as the only reason for our work
  2. Need for prayer and concern for it.

67. Esteem for Vocation to the Apostolic Ministry

  1. A special gift of God
  2. Discerning one’s vocation
  3. Fidelity to vocation
  4. Disposition in order to be faithful.

68. The Novice master

  1. Need for a Master
  2.  Requisites and appointment
  3. Fulfillment of his charge: care for the health of the novices promoting their:
  • spiritual life
  • union of missionary life wherein the spirit of union with goes hand in hand with apostolic activity.

69. Canonical requisites for the Novitiate

  1. Admission
  2. Duration for validity.

70. Religious Profession

  1. Conditions in order to profess
  2. Approval by the Superior
  3. Temporal profession.

71. Perpetual Profession

  1. Conditions in order to profess perpetually
  2. Nature and special features of profession in the Congregation.

II. Origins of this Chapter

            The primitive text of the chapter on Novices was published in Notebooks on Claretian Formation 2. In the beginning there were four chapters: 1) On the Master of those on Probation; 2) On the Assistant; 3) On Aspirants; 4) On those on Probation. In 1864, our Father Founder included these chapters in the body of the Constitutions, which were presented to the Holy See for pontifical approval. In 1870, obligatory (as opposed to optional) vows were introduced into the text. In that year the constitutional text was definitively approved.

The text of 1870-1924 remained intact up to the moment of renewal. After studying it, the postcapitular commission deemed that there should be a greater stress on the role of the novitiate as a preparation for profession, and that the ascetical elements in this section should be more immediately founded on Christ. Hence it chose to base the whole chapter on the text of Galatians 2:20: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” which had been cited in connection with obedience.

As for the requisite virtues, some retouches were made, largely to enrich them with the teaching of the Council or to rid them of details that did not belong in the constitutional text.
Thus, for example, hope replaced trust, “in order better to underscore the theological aspect.” Having dealt with faith and hope, the idea of completing them with charity at once came to mind. “The commission was absolutely unanimous in accepting the fittingness of inserting a number on “charity”, so as to complete the triad of the theological virtues. And in this virtue, our Holy Founder is a luminous example, from whom we have drawn the elements for the drafting of this number.” Indeed, charity had been somewhat slighted in the Constitutions, if they were to contain our Founder’s spirituality; but in this chapter our Founder did not intend to deal with all the virtues, but with those that were necessary in order to accept the gift of our vocation and to make progress in it. In the 1979 General Chapter, charity was placed in the chapter on conformity with Christ. As for humility,they sought to use some more apt texts from Scripture. The number on obedience was remodeled, because “the Chapter asked that the exposition on the aspects of obedience be enriched with elements from the Council. This we have striven to do mainly by having recourse to PC 14.” “Likewise, the matter on prayer should be enriched with doctrinal elements taken from the Council. With this in mind, we wanted to bring out the importance that the various forms of prayer have in the life of the novices, and to present the doctrine of nn. 10-12 of the Conciliar Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, with particular reference to the ‘paschal sacraments’. “In the number on fidelity to vocation, the quotes from Rom 8:30 and one attributed to St. Jerome were suppressed. Also “following the norms of the Chapter,” several regulatory norms were suppressed in this context. A chapter was expressly drafted to deal with profession.

The 1973 Chapter added nothing new to the chapter on the Novices. In the period of preparation for the 1979 Chapter there was a trend to give to the Constitutions a more concise style. The precapitular commission, accepting what it deemed correct in this trend, fused the two chapters on the Novices and on the Novice master. “The chapter on the Novice master (of the 1973 Constitutions) was lacking specifically Claretian elements that might justify its length. Reduced to its essential and typical components, it did not require an independent existence.” From yet another point of view, the commission aimed at literally recovering the text of 1970, “as being one of the best achieved in the founding Constitutions.” The Chapter itself reduced the text proposed by the commission, not for doctrinal, but rather for stylistic reasons.

III. Charismatic Foundation

In this section we will consider:
a) The experience of our Father Founder as a novice
b) The broader and deeper implications of the contents of the novitiate:

  • Accepting Christ as Teacher
  • Taking Mary as our Mother and Teacher
  • The fundamental virtues

c) Consecration

  1. a) Our Father Founder’s Experience as a Novice

Our Father Founder had a personal experience of the novitiate during his four months’ stay as a novice in the Society of Jesus in Rome. In his Autobiography he stresses what he learned to do for the good of his neighbors: “It was there that I learned how to give the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, and methods for preaching, catechizing, hearing confessions usefully and effectively.” But he adds: “as well as many other things that have since stood me in good stead” (Aut., 152). Among these “other things” were certainly the criteria for governance and organization – as the Saint himself acknowledge on various occasions – and perhaps other matters relating to formation. One of the things that remained most deeply engraved on our Founder’s mind was self-denial under obedience, of which he tells us in nn. 149-151 of the Autobiography and which he later recalled to Fr. John Lobo, his onetime Provisor in Cuba, who had become a Jesuit novice:” For some time now, the Lord has been bringing me up Jesuit-style, that is, depriving me of whatever I like most and denying me what I most desire.”[1] Perhaps the reference to rendering blind obedience of will and judgment in the old Constitutions is indebted to this experience (cf. Appendix of 1862,n. 19).
We can identify a few norms which had the same origin, for example, the custom of changing companions during recreations (cf. ibid., n.6). Once when the Saint was preaching to the Carmelites of St. Teresa he reminded them of this practice: “He told us that there in the Jesuits they were so careful about this, that there was one in charge of assigning them well during recreation, and he always saw to it that the same two were not together twice in a row; rather, at noon recreation four would be together while he separated them at night recreation, assigning one to one group and another to another. Such was the care he took to see to it that there would be no particular friendships there.”[2]

  1. b) Broader Experience of the Contents of the Novitiate

The Novitiate in its evangelical sense is an initiation into being always with the Lord, as the Twelve were, in order to share his evangelical and fraternal life and his evangelizing mission. In our Father Founder, this experience went more broadly and deeply than his brief stay in the Novitiate of Monte Cavallo. In the commentary on n. 39, there is a broader exposition of our Father Founder’s experience relating to Jesus Christ; here we will deal only with the fundamental encounter, based on which he changed his whole life.

1) The Experience of Union with Christ

The Saint singles out his tenth year as the time of his encounter with the Lord, one which took place precisely in church. The experience was very intense and remained with him clearly for the rest of his life: “Words cannot tell what I felt on that day when I had the unequaled joy of receiving my good Jesus into my heart for the first time. From then on I always frequented the sacraments of Penance and Communion, but with what devotion and love: more than now – yes, more than now, I must say to my embarrassment and shame.”[3] The experience of love received, of being loved, awakened in his heart the desire to correspond, to commit himself, and there in church, when he was twelve years old (as the Saint intentionally informs us), he made his fundamental option, offering to remain in the house of the Lord day and night to serve Him. Although it was impossible for him to carry out his offering, Anthony did not give up on it, but kept on hoping. This first offering of himself had to remain at this point, while Anthony had to return to his Nazareth and remain subject, as he worked and grew in age and grace. But for Anthony Jesus was and continued to be a living, present and friendly presence.

After the crisis in Barcelona – his experience of the world – Anthony again encountered the Lord in the Eucharist, but also in a new place: in the Word. Jesus manifested himself to him as Master, and called him to be near him as a disciple, and not just as an adorer or a minister of the Eucharist.

The Master disclosed to him the personal meaning of Scripture, as well as what was in his own heart, but did not leave him abandoned in his poverty and imperfections. Once more, Anthony experienced the Lord’s prevenient and gratuitous love, but in a new dimension, that of transforming power. The model he discovered in the Gospel seemed impossible to him, but the Master was able not only to teach but to transform. Anthony allowed himself to be modeled: “At the beginning of my stay in Vic I was undergoing an experience not unlike what goes on in a blacksmith’s shop. The smith thrusts an iron bar into the furnace, and when it is white-hot he draws it out, places it on the anvil, and begins to hammer it… until the iron takes the shape the smith had planned” (Aut., 342).

As Anthony’s heart was melted in the crucible and purified in the fire of love, his eyes were opened to the new demands of his vocation: the Lord was calling him as he had called the Twelve. His union with Jesus would have to be like that of the Beloved Disciple, a union of hearts in friendship, and moreover a communion of evangelical life and of evangelizing mission. In the face of this new call, Anthony remarked: “I prayed continually to Jesus and Mary, offering myself to them for this purpose” (Aut., 113).

2) The Experience of Receiving Mary as his Mother and Mistress

Mary was involved in the mystery of the Son as mother and as disciple. The Lord chose that she should be present as mother and mistress in the mystery of the Son who lives in the Church. Saint Anthony Mary Claret is one of the saints in whom this presence has been transformed into a way of life. We already know what the presence of Mary meant in Anthony’s childhood, but we are now mainly interested in what her presence meant in the vocation to discipleship and the apostolate.

Anthony interpreted his coming to Vic as a grace obtained through the Blessed Virgin. A year before he died, he summed up his whole life in 16 important graces, the 5th of which was: “When I was 19, she made me go to Vic.”[4] “Mary Most Holy so protected me that she always saw to it that I had very good companions and that I always lived in very good households where the people, besides looking after my bodily needs, also attended to those of my soul by their good example. I had a good spiritual director, good and very wise teachers, all the books I needed, and time to study”[5]

Anthony attributed the grace of his apostolic vocation to Mary. As this grace kept unfolding, he experienced the maternal presence of Mary, above all as the Mother of the beloved disciple: “Thus it was clear that Mary Most Holy had a special providence for me and treated me as a very spoiledson”[6] “It occurred to him that what he ought to do was to read and study the life of St. John the Evangelist and imitate him. In doing so he discovered that this son of Mary, given to her by Jesus on the Cross, had been distinguished for his virtues, but especially for his humility, purity and charity, and so this young student set about practicing these virtues.”[7]

Mary, as the first disciple, was likewise Claret’s mistress in the following of the Master. She formed him as an apostle, not only as an external exemplar, but also one who shaped him inwardly. Many years later, addressing the Blessed Virgin, he told her: “You are well aware that I am your son and minister, formed in the furnace of your 1ove.”[8]

3) The Experience of the Fundamental Virtues

Saint Anthony Mary Claret, reflecting on his own vocational experience and with the first novices in mind, summed up in a few virtues the fundamental attitudes of heart needed in order to accept and live the vocation to the apostolic ministry: faith and prayer; trust, humility, obedience and fidelity. In effect, all of these virtues fulfill a distinctive function in the novitiate.

In order to be able to pursue his vocation, Anthony needed the faith of the prophets, apostles and martyrs. Only in this way could he have the “courage to embrace gladly poverty, abnegation and sacrifice needed in order to spread the reign of Christ.”

Faith reveals the greatness of mission: to be called to the missionary state “is to be called to the most divine state” (n. 22). In the face of all this greatness and responsibility, the novices, like the ancient prophets, might feel tempted to flight, fear and discouragement; hence, “the second virtue they must have is great trust in God, hoping that he will grant them all graces, especially the aptitude they need for the exercise of the sacred ministry” (n. 17).

It has been called to my attention that the subject of trust is not very common in our Holy Founder’s writings. In his notes for the retreats he preached to all different classes of people, it appears that he spoke about it only one year. It seems he felt so beloved and cared for by grace that he had an excess of optimism when it carne to anything regarding the apostolic ministry. Ordinarily, he had a greater need for humility – on which he made his particular examen for so many years – than he did for trust. At any rate, faced with the huge pastoral responsibility for the Archdiocese of Cuba, he wrote: “St. Augustine and St. Thomas, commenting on St. Paul’s words, ‘He has made us fit ministers of the new testament,’ state that when God chooses some one for a position or office, He gives him the talents required for it. I know that I have not sought this dignity; rather, I refused it. Others have commanded me to accept it and told me that it was God’ s will. Therefore, I trust in God, who will give me the grace I need.”[9] His dealings with young seminarians and with novices of different Institutes showed him the occasions for discouragement felt by beginners and led him to stress their need for trust. He told his seminarians: “You must be generous with God, trusting that he will give you the helps you need, since He can raise up children to Abraham from stones; he ordinarily makes use of the weak and miserable to confound the pride of men.”[10]

When he arrived in Vic as a seminarian, Anthony’s soul was wounded by the apparent failure of his industrial dreams. He had to be converted to the gospel and aspire to not other form of personal fulfillment than conformity with Christ the Evangelizer. This is the meaning of humility at the beginning of the novitiate. “A proud preacher is a thief of God’s glory.” “My God, if you hadn’t silenced me when I felt like talking about my sermons, etc., I would have… not only lost all the good of it, but gained a well-deserved punishment. For you have said, ‘I will not give my glory to another,’ and I, by talking about it, would have given your glory to the demon of vanity… only you know whether or not the devil has managed to pilfer something in spite of all the powerful help you gave me. Have mercy on me, Lord![11]

Moreover, humility is the foundation of all the other virtues a Missionary needs, and in this sense it has a special meaning during the year of novitiate, which is aimed at laying the foundation of the missionary life. “I knew that if I was to acquire the virtues I needed in order to become a truly apostolic missionary, I would have to begin with humility, which I regard as the foundation for all the other virtues.”[12] For Saint Anthony Mary Claret, obedience is a consequence of humility: “Let him (the seminarians) also consider how he needs to be humble and subject himself, so that he can learn sciences and virtues. For example, how could a potter form a useful vessel if the clay would not let itself be shaped?”[13] In other writings he proposes Jesus as the external model of obedience; here, he presents him as the Christ, the obedient Son and envoy, who lives and perpetuates his obedience in the heart of the novice. In the Autobiography he speaks of obedience in this latter sense, as a living of Christ’s mission. Obedience is what constitutes a missionary: his being is to be sent.’[14] Since it is the aim of the Congregation to seek God’s glory in all things, it is only logical that the novices should begin living this dimension. “Rectitude of intention is the soul of works. Hence, whether they are preaching, studying, praying, eating or relaxing, let them always set before them the glory of God” (n. 20). Our Father Founder tells us that he directed everything to the glory of God: “I shall strive to be in the presence of God to do everything for God.”[15] “I will do everything for the greater glory of God.”[16] The Saint uses another less philosophical and more personal expression “to please God.” He weighed what pleased himself against what might please God, and “I would joyfully abstain from the pleasure in question, to give pleasure to God. This is still the way it is with me in all things: eating, drinking, resting, talking, looking, hearing, going somewhere, etc”[17]

The “Missionaries on Probation” must devote themselves to prayer, both as Missionaries and as Probandi. As missionaries they must do so because prayer is essential to the missionary after the example of the Lord: “By day He preached and cured the sick, and by night He prayed. ‘And he spent the night in communion with God.’ (Lk 6: 12)”[18] “You must be a great friend of prayer, in imitation of Jesus, who spent the night praying to God (Lk 6:12) and strongly commended prayer to his Apostles. All missionaries of renown have been men of prayer.”[19] Saint Anthony Mary Claret wanted to leave the parish priesthood and did so. He tried to refuse the nomination as Archbishop of Cuba, and even thought of resigning from that position after he was serving in it, but he never considered ceasing to be an Apostolic Missionary. More than once he adopted as his own the words of Paul in Acts: “But I fear none of these things, neither do I count my life more precious than myself, so long as I may happily finish my course and the ministry that I have received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

To encourage us to perseverance, he wrote: “Ask yourself, then, Theophilus, whether there can be any honor like the one Jesus Christ bestows by accepting us into his apostolate and sharing with us his title of Savior of the world. We should take great heart, then, in following in his footsteps, working day and night at our mission, shedding our life’s blood and spending our life in its flower, as Jesus did, should that be God’s holy will. What I want to tell you is that you must let nothing daunt or frighten you, but must keep pressing onward.”[20]

  1. c)The Experience of Consecration

In 1862, when our Father Founder wrote the regulations for the novices, the Congregation was not recognized as a religious institute on a level with others, hence the commitment to belong to it could not be one of canonical religious profession. But the recently held Chapter wanted some kind of formal commitment and religious solemnity in the rite, and it charged the Founder with finding the way. The Saint composed an act of consecration “to God and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary” which was published at the end of this Regulation.
As we read the autobiographical writings of our Father Founder, we are struck by the fact that almost as soon as he discovers a sign of God’s will, he responds at once with an offering. There are offerings to follow Christ, to work, to suffer. Sometimes he combines the words “I entrust and consecrate myself,” but all of these entrustments are subjective consecrations: he offers himself totally and freely.

In 1859 he felt passively and mystically consecrated by the Spirit to bring good tidings to the poor and heal the brokenhearted. He also has consecrations to the Blessed Virgin, but he specifies their scope of his words: “1 commit myself as your son”; he acknowledges and accepts Mary as his Mother in response to the words of Jesus on Calvary. He also commits himself to her service, which is nothing else than the service of the Gospel.
As for canonical religious profession, it must be noted that when he was consecrated Archbishop, there was still no consecration or formula of remaining in the community. Doubtless out of devotion the Saint made the consecration he wrote for the Congregation in 1862. Until 1870 the Congregation did not achieve obligatory vows included in the formula of Profession. When he was gravely ill in the Monastery of Fontfroide, our Father Founder professed in the hands of the Father General before receiving Viaticum.

IV. Commentary on Each Number

61. Since the novices are preparing for profession in our Congregation, they should take care to lay the foundation for a missionary life, acquire knowledge of its main elements and begin to practice the evangelical counsels. For this reason they should cling wholeheartedly to Christ our Lord, especially in the mystery of the Eucharist, since they are planning to share in his life and ministry. Let them take the blessed Virgin Mary, the first disciple of Christ, as their Mother and Teacher.[21]

Ch-RC 5,13 Fo  AUT 5, 153, 270, 340; EA p. 412.
Co-CC 1857, 43, 47; 1865,1870,pt.1,69,82; 1924,pt.1,90,104; 1971, 97; 1973, 105.

In n. 61, the aim of the novitiate is stated first: to prepare for profession in our Congregation, The nature of the preparation depends on the aim. If profession were just a religious ceremony, it would be enough to practice the rubrics and strive to have the proper devotion. If profession were a contract, then it would be fitting to analyze its nature and juridical consequences. The Constitutions tell us what profession is: it is the taking of the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience; it is an act whereby we publicly consecrate ourselves to God and entrust ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the ministry of salvation; and we do all this in a Congregation founded to carry out the ministry of the Word. “Through this act of self-giving, accepted by the Congregation and the Church, each of our members share in our mission among the People of God” (n. 71).

In the Formula of Profession this is stated in a more evangelical way: professing is answering God’s call, seeking God’s glory more earnestly, devoting oneself to Him more, loving Christ more closely as the Apostles did, in the ministry of salvation throughout the world. All of this is done as a consecration to the Father through the Son in the Spirit, and as a commitment to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in order to fulfill the aim of the Congregation as described in the Fundamental Constitution. This consecration is expressed in the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and in a commitment to live in our community of apostolic life, according to our Constitutions “which I will observe with all possible care” (n. 159).

In brief, professing is committing oneself before God and the Church to live the missionary life according to the charism of Saint Anthony Mary Claret, received in the Congregation of Missionaries in conformity with the Constitutions. Preparing for this means being initiated into this life.
From the viewpoint of the aim of the Congregation, professing means consecrating oneself for that aim, which is the glory of God in all things, one’s own sanctification and “the salvation of people throughout the world. During the novitiate the aim more immediately pursued (presupposing the glory of God) is sanctification; thus the 1862 emphasized holiness: “Nothing is so important for the Missionaries, nothing so befitting them, as the adornment of all virtues. Without them their talents would be useless, their voice fruitless and all their efforts would be in vain. Therefore, all their desires, and even their entire attention should be directed to the acquisition of virtues. Since the year of novitiate has been established as the time for laying the foundations of virtue, all of them, whether Priests, Students or Adjutant Brothers, shall endeavor with the greatest care to practice them, using the most effective means to this end.”[22]

62. While our missionaries need all virtues, they must first of all have a lively faith, in order to be able to respond to their vocation.
It was faith that burned in the Prophets, the Apostles and the Martyrs, and it was faith that led so many preachers of God’ s word gladly to accept poverty, self-denial and sacrifice in the cause of spreading Christ’s kingdom.
Therefore the novices should be well grounded in faith and really live by faith,[23] especially when they are troubled by doubts about remaining faithful to their vocation.

Fo- AUT 111-15, 215-220, 223, 226, 228-233.
CO – CC 1865, 1870, pt. I, 83; 1924, pt. I, 106; 1971, 99; 1973, 107.

These numbers speaks of the faith a missionary as such needs above all in order to respond to his own vocation. We could say that our Founder presupposes baptismal faith in the novices, that of a disciple who believes in the Master and his teaching. The novice now finds himself faced with a new demand: that of also accepting, even publicly, the same lifestyle as that of the Master. Only with a lively faith can he risk leaving everything and take up living with Him: now and ever to be ready to be sent – an apostle – to make disciples, believers, of all nations.

The missionary’s faith “that burned in the Prophets”, he seems to be referring to Elijah, “a man of fervent and powerful prayer and of great and extraordinary zeal.”[24] Concerning the Lesser Prophets, he cites Sir 49: 10: “They gave new strength to Jacob and saved themselves through the virtue of faith.”[25] The first Renewal Chapter – the General Chapter of 1967 – made faith the watchword of the Congregation, stating that: “Faith occupies the first level in the prophetism and apostolic life of our Founder, and is the first requisite of our prophetism and missionary life (cf. Const. I,105). Sharing Christ’s prophetic role among the holy People of God, our missionary vocation makes it urgent for us to have a special sense of faith, to give special witness to it and to be valiant heralds of it.”

The novice’ s faith must be like the faith that “encouraged the Apostles in the midst of persecutions, torments and even death itself.” Our Father Founder sets before us the model of the Apostles, because they preached without fear of human respect, deeming that they should rather obey God than mere mortals. “Scourging could not intimidate them into giving up their preaching; on the contrary, they counted themselves fortunate to be able to suffer for the sake of Jesus Christ” (Aut 223). “Faith allayed the sufferings of the Martyrs.”

Faith is above all what encouraged Preachers to expand the Reign of Christ and thus to gladly accept poverty, self-denial and sacrifice. In his Autobiography our Father Founder gave us the example of preachers such as Avila, Granada and Cadiz, but we are moved by his own example. To illustrate this here, one would have to cite a large part of the Autobiography. Let us simply cite a few passages on poverty: “I had nothing, wanted nothing, refused everything” (Aut 359). As for self-denial, he said, “For what pleasure could I get out of wearing myself out from early in the morning until night?… and not for just one day, but day after day, for weeks, months and years” (Aut 200). As for sacrifices: “I traveled alone and on foot… for five hours in the morning and another five in the afternoon; sometimes through rain other times through snow or under the boiling heat of a summer’s day” (Aut 460). “I have always wanted to die a poor man in some hospital, or on the scaffold as a martyr, or to be put to death by the enemies of the holy religion we profess and preach, thus sealing the virtues and truths I have preached and taught with my blood” (Aut 467).

To these motives for faith, the Founder added the example of our Divine Master, who frequently preached on it to those whom He had chosen for this ministry, and strongly reproved them when He saw them wavering in it” (CC pt. I, n. 105). Our Father Founder, after setting forth the reasons for which faith is indispensable for the novices, concludes: “For this reason the Novices must root faith deeply in their hearts and live by it” (ibid.). Moreover, they must “frequently direct their minds to the virtues of faith, earnestly ask God for it, and have recourse to it when they are assailed by the devil, the world and the flesh”(ibid.), or as the present Constitutions put it, “when they are troubled by doubts concerning their vocation” (CC 62). The Well-Instructed Novice reduces these exhortations to three: 1) liveliness of faith, 2) a life of faith and 3) the armor of faith.
1) Liveliness of faith goes beyond living faith in the theological sense of “faith animated by charity and grace,” which the Founder takes for granted, but rather in the sense of lived in an excellent or most firm, vigorous, ardent and robust way, like burning, powerful and shining torch that sheds brilliant rays on all sides.

2) A life of faith consists of a conviction of revealed truths that is so deep that it influences all one’ s thoughts, actions, words and works.

3) The Armour of faith enables us to resist the devil and escape from his snares (cf. Eph 6: 11, 1 PT 5: 9). Enlivening our faith means recalling the word of Jesus Christ in the Gospel concerning our life and mission, uniting ourselves to “the stronger one,” reliving the experience of our call.

63. They should have great trust in God, confidently looking to him for the ability to accomplish their mission well.[26] Therefore, when they feel tempted to distrust or are worried about their limitations, let them take at the thought that it has always been God’ s way to choose weak and frail instruments in order to shame the strong»[27]

Fo- AUT 341-356; EA pp. 516, 613.
Co-CC 1865,28,84; 1870, pt.I, 84; 1924 pt.I, 106; 1971, 99; 1973, 107.

Our Father Founder exhorts us to have great trust in God. If we contemplate the demands of mission by way of our life and work, the difficulties of the ministry both by way of conversion itself and by the opposition that can come from our environment, and then compare it with our limitations, there is a natural reaction of fear and rejection. Hence, when the Lord calls anyone, He always adds: “fear not.”

The motive for trust is above all God’s customary way of using weak instruments. The primitive text offered examples, not without a touch of good humor, of these interventions: God can rise up children to Abraham out of stones, and can speak and prophesy even through the mouths of wicked men and beasts. The other motive for trust is negative: “Weariness of mind and distrust are surely one means whereby the devil brings about the downfall of many Missionaries.”

The Well-Instructed Novice reduces temptations of distrust to three groups, corresponding to the three qualities necessary in order to fulfill the apostolic ministry worthily, namely, a lack of health or fear of not having the stamina to sustain the fatigues of the apostolate; a lack of learning and other natural qualities, and a lack of virtue required by the Constitutions themselves. “With so many motives for trust, let us resolutely shrug off our dejection, breaking forth, when we feel tempted to distrust, into the words of our Father Founder: The same Lord who has chosen me will also supply all my needs; and if I am infirm or ignorant, His Providence will beam forth with greater splendor (CC 1924, n. 106).

Our Father Founder expressed it in this way in the prayer he wrote during the novitiate: “My Mother, would you then avail yourself of some instrument with which to remedy so great an evil? Here is one who however vile and contemptible he knows himself to be, is yet assured that he will serve the better for this end, since your power will shine forth all brighter, and all will see that it is you who are at work, not I… Here I am: dispose of me as you will ,for you know that I am wholly yours”[28]

64.They should safeguard their missionary vocation with gospel humility, remembering that they have nothing besides what they have received from God or for which they will not have to render an account.[29] Therefore, let them acknowledge the gifts they have received and, by putting them to the service of all people, let them see to it that these gifts bear fruit.[30]

Fo – AUT 341-356; EA pp. 516, 613.
Co – CC 1865-70 85; 1924, pt.1 107; 1971, 101; 1973, 109.

OurFather Founder tells us that “the third virtue which the young Missionaries should particularly try to acquire is humility,” because the missionary vocation, as excellent as it seems, is always a gift of God of which we will have to render an account. Thus this gift must be acknowledged and made to bear fruit in the apostolate. Humility, therefore, safeguards the missionary vocation. The 1862 text notes the danger of using the missionary vocation for self-exaltation, above all in those days when the missionary was considered as a “sacred orator.” “The proud preacher is a thief and robber of the divine glory, an idolater who worships himself. For this reason in the hour of death he shall be called a worker of iniquity.” Consequently they must humble themselves before God:
“Hence, they shall avoid all self-praise, refer everything to God, and promptly reject any thought tending to self-exaltation or self complacency, remembering that they have nothing which they have not received, and of which they shall not have to render an account to God.” And they must also humble themselves before others: “Therefore, they shall not despise others, or disparage them, or dare to prefer themselves to anyone.”

65. In their search for God’s will, our young missionaries should let themselves be led by the Holy Spirit, cooperating responsibly with their novice master and superiors, and accepting their decisions out of faith and love

Ch-PC 14; RC 32.1
Fo – AUT 149-5 1; EC II, letter 1324, pp. 309-10
Co-CC 1865-70, pt. I, 86; 1924, pt.I 108; 1971,102; 1973, 110

Our Founder wants the novices to be “perfect in the practice of the virtue of (obedience) which is so necessary to them, and which is so firmly enjoined by the Constitutions.” The reason is that Jesus, the Son sent, the Missionary, who carne to do the will of the Father, is now living in them. So that this grace may be truly lived by them, the young Missionaries, “upon leaving the world should also leave their own will.” “Hence,” says the 1862 text, “they will blindly render their understanding and will promptly and gladly in all things that they are commanded to do, however repugnant they may be to self love.” The present text, in harmony with the Council, above all stresses docility to the Spirit: searching for God’ s will, not just accepting it, for since the young “Missionary” is “called” he is also “responsible.” This search is mediated through the community, “cooperating with their novice master and superiors.” But the process of search must end in acceptance “of their decisions out of faith and love.”

66. In everything they do, whether it be studying, eating or simply relaxing, God’s glory should be the aim and wellspring of their action.[31]For this reason, they should cultivate prayer without ceasing or lukewarmness. Thus, by the time they leave their year of probation, they will have real progress.

Co – CC 1865-70, pt. 1,87-88; 1924, pt. I, 109-10; 1971, 103- 04; &973, 111-12.

a) The glory of God

The novice is being initiated into the missionary life, which aims at “seeking God’s will in everything.” He must become accustomed to not being the center of his own life. Even as a baptized person his life is hidden in Christ and he lives for God; but as a missionary, his life is that of the Son revealing the Father, the shining-forth of the Father who has sent him and lives in him. In other parts of the Constitutions, our Father Founder teaches or reminds us of how to seek God’s glory in everything, or to act with rectitude of intention (nn. 2, 9,52,26; 1970: pt. 11, n. 30: “offering Him our thoughts, words and actions”; n. 32: “offering each action to Him”; pt. I, n. 122: “they shall direct all to the glory of God”). The primitive text expressed it almost tenderly to the young novices:
“The new Sons (novelli Filii) of the Immaculate Heart of Mary must always have as their guide and end the glory of God; this must be the whole aim to which they direct all their actions. Rectitude of intention is the soul of works. Thus, whether they are preaching, studying, praying, eating, relaxing, let them always attend to the glory of God, thus growing in merit and holiness, and rendering themselves worthy of His grace.”

b) Prayer Without Ceasing

The candidate who enters a missionary Congregation that has the task of bringing the Gospel to the whole world by all means, may perhaps feel disconcerted to hear our Founder say: “That which the Missionary Novices ought never to forget, that which before all else shall demand their attention and care, and which they ought to practice incessantly, without laziness, is holy prayer.” It is precisely because they are missionaries, that they must attach such importance to prayer. “All missionaries of renown have been men of prayer.’[32] In Chapter V of the present Constitutions, prayer is explained in keeping with the spirituality of the Congregation, but these other words of our Founder are more than adequate:
“If you want to go forward on the spiritual path and not to be swept back by the currents of passion, be a man of prayer…
“If you want to fill your understanding with holy thoughts and your heart with great and effective desires for perfection, as well as fervent affections of devotion, be a man of prayer”.
“If you want to have a manly spirit and a mind constant in the service of God, be a man of prayer”.
“If you want to uproot all vices and acquire all virtues, be a man of prayer.”[33] The forms of prayer most befitting a novice, besides initiation into the liturgy, are:
-Those which tend to foster a personal encounter with the Lord;
-Meditative forms of prayer, in order to change their Worldly way of thinking to a goodly way of thinking;
-Those that strengthen their will;
-Those that kindle zeal, like our Founder’s novitiate prayer: “I offered my all to God without reserve. I was continually thinking and planning what I could do for the good of my neighbor, and since the time had not yet come for me to set out on my work, I busied myself with prayer.”[34] The prayer we are dealing with here is above all Christian prayer with its long history in the experience of “spiritual matters,” but it is also apostolic prayer with a long history of experience in the Congregation, beginning with our Father Founder; hence, the prayer of one who is being initiated into Claretian life should enter into this current, contributing to it the personal originality he has received from the Spirit. Our Father Founder also foresaw an objective order for those who were resolved on the discernment of charisms.

67. The novices should highly esteem their missionary vocation and earnestly engage in the process of discerning whether they are truly called to the Congregation. When they discern that they have been called, they should strive to respond gladly and generously to God’s fidelity toward them, by their own fidelity toward God.

Fo – AUT 153-54, 670; EA, p. 582.
CO- 1865-70, pt. I, 98-91; 1924, pt. I, 111-13; 1971,106-07; 1973, 114-15.

As the crowning attitude of a novice, our Father Founder says that he should remain in love, that he should be faithful. Our fidelity has its support in God’s fidelity.

Fidelity is fostered:

  1. a)By esteem for our vocation: Our Founder tells us that “In nothing has God our Lord so shown his love for us poor exiles in this valley of tears, as in sending his only Son to redeem and save us, and in making him the head and the model of all other missionaries. ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son.’ And the divine majesty of Jesus Christ himself found no task on this earth so acceptable to his Eternal Father, than that of being Savior of the World. Now this is the sublime, holy and divine ministry which Jesus Christ entrusts to the Apostles and to apostolic missionaries, when be tells them, ‘As the Father has sent me, so also I send you’ (Jn 20:21). In so doing, says St. Jerome, he has willed that we, too, should be saviors of the world. Ask yourself, then Theophilus, whether there can be any honor like the one Jesus Christ bestows on us by accepting us into his apostleship and sharing with us his title of Savior of the world. We should take great heart, then, in following in his footsteps, working day and night at our mission, shedding our life’s blood and spending our life in its flower, as Jesus did, should that be God’s holy wil1.”[35] In
    the primitive text our Founder speaks warmly to the probandi:
    “Finally, let the probandi remember that the calling to the missionary state is a special gift from God; it is a calling to the most divine state, to which Jesus Christ promised a hundredfold in this life and eternal life hereafter (Mt 19: 29).”

We live the apostolic ministry in the Congregation, and Father Xifré pondered: on the esteem it deserves for having had such a Founder; for its aim, whence it is to the Church, its prelates and souls, what the heart is to the body; for its title, which is most effective in winning souls; for its timeliness: “The world in which we live is swamped in sensuality, indifferentism, greed and pride; therefore God has chosen this Congregation, through its preaching, accompanied by fervor, abnegation and detachment, to be a guide to the blind and a way to those who have gone astray;” and this can be seen by itsapproval by the Church, by its protection by God and by the effects of its aposto1ate.[36] Our Father Founder showed a great appreciation and love for the Congregation because he believed it to be the work of God and for the apostolate of evangelization: “I have such an affection for priests who devote themselves to the missions that I would give my life’s blood for them. I would wash and kiss their feet a thousand times and would even take the food from my mouth to feed them. I care for them so much that I would do crazy things – indeed, I know not what I would not do – for love of them. When I consider that they are working to make God better known and loved and to save souls lest they be lost, I can’t tell you what I feel… Even now as I write I have had to set down my pen and dry my eyes… Oh Sons of the Immaculate Heart of my dearest Mother Mary ! .. .,I want to write to you but I cannot, because my eyes are bathed in tears. Preach and pray for me.”[37]

  1. b) By corresponding and giving thanks. “I give you thanks, oh Mother, for the vocation I have received. Give me the grace to be faithful to it throughout my life.”
  2. c) By struggling against temptations. The 1862 text specifies how the devil may appear as an angel of light: “This is doubtless the reason why the devil, transformed into an angel of light, assails it and tries it into so many ways…, availing himself now of the inordinate love of relatives, now of the fear of losing one’ s health or of lacking talent or filling them with the idea that they can work better elsewhere…, and thus, not without great detriment to their own souls, he removes many from the places in which God had put them.”
    To avoid these dangers, they should remember the word of their Master, and should not expose themselves imprudently to such dangers.

68. In order to be firmly grounded in missionary life, the novices are entrusted to the guidance of a novicemaster who by word and example will instruct them in the spirit of the Congregation.
The novicemaster is designated by the major superior with his council. He should be a truly spiritual man, filled with love for the Congregation. He should be mature, kindly and prudent, equipped with a sound grasp of the nature and mission of our Congregation in the Church, as well as with suitable apostolic experience.
He should give the novices the kind of direction that will help them develop the maturity of judgment and constancy of purpose best suited to their individual needs, encouraging them to grow in those virtues which are generally admired by the people and are most becoming in a disciple of Christ. He should be concerned that the novices acquire that distinctive unity of missionary life wherein the spirit of union with God goes hand in hand with apostolic work.

I-a) RC 5,31.
C-CC 1857,43; 1865, l87O,p.69-78;p.I,90-98; 1971,108- 116; 1973, 116-124.

Our Father Founderhad a clear idea of the novice master and his functions. He does not confuse them with those of a confessor director, a prefect of discipline or a seminary rector. One need only read what he has to say of those other functions in the Well Instructed Seminarian, and then compare them with those of the novice master.[38] In the seminary, a seminarian’s heart is also formed, but in order that he may be able to live alone afterwards. The seminary is only a place of formation; its formative community is transitory. In contrast, a religious community is a definitive situation, a lasting communion of life.

“It is indispensable for one who is called by God to such a sublime and important state as the apostolic ministry to be adorned with all the required virtues, and to this end it is usually necessary for him to have a guide to teach and direct him.” The role of the novice master is, to be a guide to teach and direct the initiation into the missionary life, which is not just the activity of the apostolic ministry – even if the latter is done as part of a team – but also a communion of persons and a style of life like that of the Twelve with the Lord. The choice of the person belonged to the highest authorities in the Congregation: the Director and the Sub director General. The qualities that the one chose should have are: maturity, kindness, discretion and the knowledge required for this role. He should be: a man of God, and “most devoted to the Blessed Virgin”; a man of the Superior, “to whom he must be most faithful, working always in dependency on him”; a man of the novices, “toward whom he ought to be a father and a physician”; he must be very attentive to beginners “on account of the special temptations to which they are subjected. Hence he should listen to them patiently, however childish and tedious they might be, exhorting and encouraging them and giving them salutary and wise advice, especially when they are sad.” His role is also to discern whether they are truly called to missionary life in the Congregation.
“Finally, let him be a light, a way, a father, a teacher and a model to all.” And “as this charge is a heavy one, he may have a helper, known as the Assistant.” This latter figure is discussed in the third chapter, with a description of his functions, which are largely supplementary.

The Special Chapter of 1967 added a few brushstrokes to our Founder’s description of the novice master. “The Master of Novices must possess, besides the qualities wisely pointed out by our Holy Father Founder (cf. Const. I, 90), those mentioned by the Council (cf. OT 5). In particular he needs an ecclesial sense of our times, a proven ability to dialogue, special preparation in Claretian spirituality and ‘constant readiness for renewal and adaptation’ (GS 5). When he is to be appointed, his age should be born in mind, so that he will not be out of time with the young men he is supposed to educate.”[39]

71. b)Our religious profession consists of taking vows of chastity, poverty and obedience and of making a public act whereby we consecrate ourselves to God and entrust ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the ministry of salvation. By doing so, we more clearly show that we are professing religious life in a Congregation that was founded for the express purpose of performing the ministry of the Word. Through this act of self-giving, accepted by the Congregation and the Church, each of our members shares in our mission among the People of God.

Ch-LG44a;RC2
Co-CC 1857,46; 1865-7Opt.I, 15-19; 1971,117-23; 1973, 125-30

  The 1862 Regulation did not speak of profession, but of consecration:
“Finally, if at the end of the year of probation they are decided and resolved to remain in the Congregation, and if the qualities befitting a good Missionary are observed in them, they will make a fervent, ten-day retreat, which will serve as an immediate preparation for their definitive admission, which shall be effected by the solemn act of Consecration to God and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This Consecration will entail the oaths of remaining in the Congregation until death, and of not accepting any ecclesiastical dignity without the express command of the Superior General or the Supreme Pontiff and the latter will be the only ones who can dispense from the said oaths.” However, vows were not excluded. The political circumstances of the time ran contrary to the institutionalized religious life, whereas our Congregation was approved (or rather tolerated) by the civil Government only as an association of priests, which was “dedicated to the moral betterment of the masses” through preaching. But this did not hinder the taking of vow behind close doors, although these were not officially recognized by either the Government or the Church. Hence the Regulation added: “And so that nobody may be deprived of the two fold merit of their acts, the Superior can authorize the taking of temporal or perpetual simple vows by those who wish to make them.”

The Special Chapter of 1967 summed up the path that led from Consecration to Obligatory Profession, as follows: “The Father Founder and the first missionaries committed themselves to the apostolic following of Christ in a manner that was as total as it was simple. Under the action of the Holy Spirit who had inspired them to make this self-gift, they began to express it explicitly, first in a consecration ‘to the special service of God and the Immaculate Heart of Mary’ with an oath of remaining in the Congregation and a promise to live the evangelical counsels. Later this promise, by the will of both the Founder and the Congregation, was raised by the Church to a canonical state consecrated to God, and the Church itself incorporated the apostolic ‘special service’ of the Institute into its mission. Thus, before his death, the Founder had the joy of seeing the Congregation take definitive shape and of making his profession in it.

“These are the main stages of this process: Within the Institute itself, especially with Fathers Xifré and Clotet, there was a burgeoning desire to embody public profession, the personal and community practice of evangelical life that had existed in it since the first day. The 1962 Chapter, presided over by the Founder, proposed spreading the idea of making private vows, and the Constitutions approved in 1865 made it optional. In 1869 at a gathering of priests in Prades, France, Fr. Xifré proposed the idea of making profession obligatory, and with their consent, informed the Founder (then attending Vatican I in Rome) of the project. The Saint welcomed this idea, stipulating that the vows be simple, and negotiated with the Holy See for its approval.”[40]

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

The Novices and the Novice master

I. Presentation of the Chapter

  1. a)Content
  2. b)Outline

II. Origins of this Chapter
III. .Charismatic Foundation

  1. a)Our Father Founder’s Experience as a Novice
  2. b)Broader Experience of the Contents of the Novitiate
    1. 1.The Experience of Union with Christ
    2. 2.The Experience of Receiving Mary as his Mother and Mistress
    3. 3.The Experience of the Fundamental Virtues
  3. c)The Experience of Consecration

IV. Commentary on Each Number

Notes

[1] Letter of July 12, 1857, in EC I, pp. 1375-76.

[2] Cf. C. Fernandez, Historia Documentada, I, p. 371.

[3] Aut., 38.

[4] Benefits and special graces through Mary the Most Holyin Autobiographical Document XV, EA p. 449.

[5] Autob., Doc. IX, EA p. 432.

[6] Autob. Doc. IX, EA .p 432.

[7] Autob. Doc. II, EA p. 413.

[8] Autob., 270.

[9] Spiritual Notes 1959-57, EA p. 590.

[10] The Well-Instructed Seminarian Il, p. 20.

[11]Autob., 354.

[12] Autob., 34 1.

[13] Well-Instructed Seminarian, I, p. 221.

[14] Autob., 192.

[15] Retreat Resolutions 1843,4.

[16] Retreat Resolutions 1859, 2.

[17] Autob., 391

[18] Autob., 434.

[19] EE p. 349. This is the first counsel he gives to the Missionary (Theophilus).

[20] Letter to the Missionary Theophilus, EE p. 349.

[21] Cf. Jn 19: 27.

[22] CC 1857, App. 1862, 17.

[23] Cf. Rom 1: 17.

[24] Autob. 219

[25] Autob. 220.26.- Cf. Phil 1: 6.

[26] Cf. Phil 1:6.

[27] Cf. Is 6: 5-8; l Cor 1: 27;2Cor 12: 9-10.

[28] Autob. 156

[29] Cf. Mt 12: 36;Lk 16:2.

[30] Cf. Mt 25: 14-30.

[31] Cf. l Cor 10:31.

[32] Letter to the Missionary Theophilus, ch. 1; 2: EE p. 349

[33] Two Little Dialogues on Prayer, EE p. 96.

[34] Autob., 153; cf. 154-64.

[35] Letter to the Missionary Theophilus, eh. 1. 2, EE p. 343

[36] Irsstrucciòn imporrantfsima…, CCTT. p.618.

[37] Letter to Fr. Xifré, August 20, 1961, in EC Il, p. 352.

[38] WIS, I, pp. 362-81.

[39] IF 121.

[40] SH 8.