PART ONE: GENERAL ASPECTS
Claretian Formation: Objective and Frame of Reference
11. This chapter offers a summary presentation of the guiding principles of Claretian formation. It constitutes, so to speak, the foundation of all that is developed at greater length in the following chapters. In the first section it presents a statement of the fundamental objective of our formation and a brief commentary on each of the four affirmations contained in it. In the second section, the fundamental objective is set in a charismatic, pedagogical and situational framework aimed at helping the reader gain a better grasp of its meaning. The whole chapter deals, then, with the same basic questions on three progressive levels of development.
1. Fundamental objective
12. The objective of formation is to promote our growth in union and conformity with Christ, according to the Claretian charism in the Church, by means of a personalizing process, in each concrete situation and with openness to universality.
1.1. Conformity with Christ the Missionary
13. The fundamental objective consists of following Jesus Christ the Missionary until we become conformed with Him. In our formation, following Christ as set forth in the Gospel is our supreme rule. All other orientations and norms have meaning insofar as they help and prepare us to follow Christ in a communion of life and to go out into the world to proclaim the Good News to every creature. Our mission and hence the whole formative itinerary that prepares us for it must always spring from a real conformity with Christ the Evangelizer and from a close communion and friendship with Him, so that it will no longer be we who live, but Christ who truly lives in us. In this process, Mary, the Mother of Jesus and of the Church, the Formatrix of Apostles, plays an essential role. Hence, we commit ourselves to her that we may be conformed to the mystery of Christ and may cooperate with her in her maternal role in our apostolic mission. Only thus will we be able to become truly missionary men who are on fire with charity and spread its flames wherever we go.
1.2. According to the Claretian charism in the Church
14. Within the great variety of charisms which the Spirit raises up in the Church, and in fellowship with them, we carry on the gift of grace granted to our Founder. We follow Christ in the likeness of the Apostles, as servants of the Word. Thus we form in the Church an Institute which is truly and fully apostolic. In the Regulation our Founder wrote for the students, he pointed out that the missionaries’ formation is oriented toward the glory of God, whom they should ask to make them fitting ministers of the word, in order to extend his name and spread his reign throughout the world. In it there already appears the missionary imprint that has characterized Claretian formation from its outset until today, an imprint which the Constitutions clearly capture. Our formation is for mission. Hence mission is the key to all our formation and the nucleus for promoting new Claretian vocations, as well as the principle of discernment, of pedagogical incentive and of experimentation, throughout the process of incorporation into our Institute.
1.3. By means of a personalizing process
15. In our formative itinerary we try to re-create, with the help of the Spirit and as responsible and creative persons, the charism of Claret, persuaded that this will enable us to move forward in missionary community to achieve that personal fullness to which we have been called. Our formation is inspired in a notion of humankind as being open to God, to others and to the world.
1.4. In each concrete situation, yet open to our universal mission
16. As missionaries, we are immersed in the diverse realities of the peoples and cultures in which we live, while at the same time maintaining our availability for the universal mission of the Congregation. Missionary community constitutes the environment par excellence of our formation process. While this missionary formation community should, both in its lifestyle and in the way it performs its ministry, so develop and unfold our original gift for serving the Church and the world that it becomes truly rooted in the conditions and needs of the local Church,it must also maintain its relationship with the rest of the Congregation, its insertion in the Church and its contact with the world.
2. Frame of reference
17. In order to be able to realize the fundamental objective of formation, we need to take into account our Claretian identity (charismatic reference), the essential characteristics of the formation process (pedagogical reference) and the setting in which we find ourselves (situational reference). These three dimensions, already contained in the very formulation of the objective, are so closely interlinked that reference to them is indispensable in formation.
2.1. Our Claretian identity (charismatic reference)
18. Our identity, described in an overall way in the documents of the Congregation, is clearly expressed in the Constitutions, which condense and transmit an experience of grace which the Spirit grants us and which begets a distinctive style of life and mission within the Church. The Constitutions are the immediate reference point of our formation process and the source from which the following pedagogical synthesis of our charism springs.
2.1.1. We are followers of Jesus Christ in the style of the apostles
19. We are followers of Jesus Christ, consecrated to the Father through the gift of the Spirit. For us, Jesus is the Christ and the Lord to whom we entrust our life. He is the Son and Envoy of the Father, He is Word made flesh of the Virgin Mary, He is the One Anointed by the Spirit to bring Good News to the poor, the Prophet powerful in works and words, the One who was obedient even to death and is the Risen One who continues living in the world. We have been granted the grace to represent in the Church his prophetic life, his vocation as herald of the Good News for all human beings, especially for the poor, the addressees and privileged subjects of the Kingdom that He lived and proclaimed.
20. We follow Jesus Christ in the manner of the apostles. Like them, we have been given the grace to live and to announce the Word, by re-presenting in the Church the virginity, poverty and obedience of Christ, and by sharing the hopes and sorrows of humankind, especially of the poor.
21. Among the elements emphasized in the Gospel, we pay special heed to the call to be perfect as our Father is perfect, to the commandment of love, to prayer, to the rule of apostolic life and to the beatitudes. These emphases entail as their foundation the unconditional acceptance of the person of Jesus and of the new order of values he proposes as the Kingdom. The centrality of the Kingdom in the message of Jesus becomes for us the fundamental criterion of discernment for our life and mission. It presupposes an unshakable faith in the God who calls us, an experience of our sonship in God, of becoming conformed with Christ the Evangelizer and of living our cordimarian sonship.
2.1.2. Formed by the Spirit in the forge of Mary’s Heart
22. Our experience of apostolic life is only possible through the action of the Spirit who anointed Jesus, impelled the apostles to bear witness to His resurrection throughout the world and moves others to follow the same kind of life. This Spirit makes us sons of God and cries out “Abba” in our hearts. It is the Spirit who has raised up our Congregation as a gift for the Church, bestows on each of us the gift to follow Christ in apostolic community, anoints us to evangelize by giving us joy and missionary zeal, gathers us together in fraternal community and grants us a diversity of gifts for one common mission.
23. Like our Founder, we are aware that our own vocation as followers is shaped in the forge of Mary’s heart. All of us can address her in the same terms that Claret used: You are well aware that I am your son and minister, formed by you in the forge of your mercy and love. I am like an arrow poised in your mighty hand. Thus we feel strengthened to proclaim the Gospel and confront the evil that affects the persons and structures among which we live. This cordimarian dimension is essential in our missionary vocation. Hence we must stress it in a special way in formation.
2.1.3 In missionary community
24. We live the vocation of disciples, followers and apostles in a missionary community. Our community is enriched with a diversity of charisms and ministries: We form a Congregation of priests, deacons, brothers and students who share the same vocation. All of us belong to the same community, fulfill the same mission and, in keeping with our own gift of order and the special role we perform in our Congregation, we all share the same rights and duties deriving from our religious profession.
2.1.4. Called to evangelize through the ministry of the Word
25. In close communion with its diverse ministries and charisms, the ministry of the word, through which we communicate the total mystery of Christ to humanity, is our special calling among the People of God. Collaboration in this ministry pertains to the very origins of our common life. We are a community called together in the Spirit for the announcement of the Gospel. For us, the Word of God is as essential to community, as community is to the Word of God. Hence, one of the core aspects of our formation is initiation and growth in the ministry of the word, understood as an authentic way of being, acting and signifying.
26. Mary lived this mystery in its fullness. We, too, under her maternal action learn to accept the Word, to embody it in a life-commitment and to communicate it with the same readiness and generosity that she did. The listening to, fulfillment, fraternal sharing and announcement of the Word, whether personally or as a community, are basic moments of the dynamics of the Word that must be present in all stages of formation.
2.1.5 In the universal mission of the Church
27. Our mission acquires its meaning within the universal mission of the Church. Throughout the ages, the Church, impelled by the Spirit, has endeavored to fulfill the mission charge of Jesus: “Go into the world and proclaim the Good News to every creature”. Its mission consists of prolonging the saving mission of Christ, by evangelizing all peoples through witness and word. We make this universal mission our own through our distinctive missionary charism. We have been called to communicate the integral mystery of Christ to human beings. We fulfill this charge by raising up and consolidating communities of believers, wherever the need is most urgent, timely and effective, not allowing ourselves to be tied down to our native land, but rather being docile to the Spirit and obedient to mission.
2.1.6. In keeping with the demands, options and preferential recipients of our mission
28. In response to the demands of our mission and to the challenges of our time, we have opted for an evangelization that is missionary, inculturated, prophetic and liberating, from the viewpoint of the poor and needy, and that aims at multiplying evangelizing leaders.These options qualify our service of the Word and, logically, our style of formation. Based on these options, we assign a privileged place to a missionary proclamation that is addressed to the non-christian world and to de-christianized groups, to the poor, to new evangelizers, to youth and to the family, according to the differing situations in the places where we are evangelizing. All of these demands, options and preferences must energize our formation process.
2.2. Formation as a process (pedagogical reference)
29. Our formation is based on the pedagogy that God himself used with his people, on the itinerary that Jesus followed with his disciples and on the action of the Spirit in the Church and in the world. It is based on a Christian vision of humans, understood as beings created in the image and likeness of God, wounded by sin and renewed by grace, called to universal fellowship and fraternity, immersed in history and society, graced with a particular vocation that unfolds progressively in conscious and free response to the inspirations of the Spirit. For us, Jesus Christ is the New Man, the only one who fully illumines our human strivings and fulfillment, and is the origin, way and goal of every authentic path to humanization.
30. On these bases we understand formation as a process whereby we keep assimilating, in a conscious and harmonious manner, the gospel ideal as our Founder lived it, in the daily reality of our life and mission. In this sense, the aim of formation is to actualize what already exists in us as a vocational gift bestowed on us by God. The discovery and development of our own vocational charism, of the possibilities and capacities we have received from God, begets in each of us an attunement and progressive acceptance of the Claretian charism and project of life. This process has the following fundamental characteristics:
31. All of us are free and responsible persons, equipped to give a personal response to the call of God. When we contemplate our personal and community reality from the standpoint of faith, we discover in it the image of God, the unsuspected newness of the Spirit and a missionary vocation that is a grace for the world. Given this, it is essential that in our formative itinerary we should attend to each person in his singular self, that we value him for all that this entails, and that we respect and stimulate his rhythm of growth, aware that this person finds growth and fulfillment by opening himself to communion and by entering into his moment in history.
32. In the formation process, the person must achieve a growing awareness of his own reality, of the gift he has received from God, in order to develop all his human and spiritual possibilities. Hence, we must appeal to his conscience and responsibility, as well as to his personalized internalization of the values of Claretian community, and we should promote each Claretian’s readiness to play a leading role, while taking care to assure that he has the proper personal and community accompaniment. This accompaniment should help each one to discover and develop the gift he has received from God, so that we may all achieve the personal fulfillment to which we have been called.
2.2.2. Integral and integrating
33. The integral formation of a Claretian Missionary entails the harmoniously balanced development of all facets of his personality within the gift we have received. For us, being Claretians is our concrete way of being men, Christians, religious, priests and apostles. The harmonizing of all these facets will allow us to achieve that unity of missionary life in virtue of which the spirit of union with God and apostolic action are perfectly integrated, thus avoiding any dichotomy between them or going to extremes in either way. This integration, which is the task and outcome of personal maturity, is above all a work of the Spirit. It is achieved when our personal love for Christ becomes the very center of our being. Through it we are able to integrate all dimensions, even those that might seem to be contradictory. Moreover, the humble recognition of our own gifts and limitations will make us open to accepting the complementarity that comes to us from others.
2.2.3. Gradual, progressive and articulated
34. The person achieves self-realization through a process of evolving in close inter-relationship with the world and the situations that surround him. Maturity is a day-by-day conquest. Hence, the following of Christ is also gradual and progressive. This does not mean that we abandon the utopia of the Kingdom, but rather that we strive to incarnate it in the reality of our personhood. We must therefore pay particular attention to the different stages of the formative process, as well as to the different pace and maturity level of each individual. Attention to this gradual and progressive process demands that we learn to distinguish the essential from the accidental, the permanent from the changing, and not to confuse these levels. Only in this way will we be able to face the different situations in our personal and missionary life without falling into either rigidity or relativism. For us, graced as we are with a charism that renders us open to the whole world, it is indispensable that we both grow in creative sensibility and remain firm in fidelity.
35. The gradualness of this process and the need to harmonize its different dimensions necessarily calls for planning and evaluating the objectives and actions of our formative itinerary. In this effort to articulate them, we aspire toward a just balance. Hence, we should avoid not only improvisation and a neglect of fitting instruments, but also any vain trust that programming constitutes the center of the formative task and that it will automatically guarantee results.
36. The personality traits, lay, deaconal or priestly condition, age and consequences deriving from the sociocultural context of each of our members are the main reasons for which our formation, while maintaining its basically unified character, must also be differentiated. This distinction, especially the one deriving from one’s ministerial condition, enriches the manifold character of our community and further enables it for its missionary service.
2.2.5. Liberating and prophetic
37. It was for liberty that Christ freed us. Our formation should be carried out in and for liberty, so that it can help us to become ever freer and prepare us for the liberating and prophetic mission that is proper of our charism. This demands that throughout our formative itinerary we learn to know ourselves better, that we free ourselves from negative unconscious motivations, fears and all other conditionings that hinder us from responsibly assuming the commitments of our missionary life. Above all, it demands that we develop the capacity to make free options that are held up to the values of the Kingdom and are spurred by authentic motivations.
38. A freedom that is lived in this way disposes us to be a sign and a force that liberates human beings from every sort of selfishness, servitude and slavery that would hinder them from achieving personal growth and communion with God and with others. Moreover, formation in freedom is a formation that is alert to the signs of the times, that fosters a constant relationship with the Lord and that develops in us the distinctive daring of prophets.
39. Given the conflict-ridden circumstances in which we live this prophetic vocation, we should prepare ourselves to live it with the boldness and confidence of martyrs. We are well aware that transmitting a message of annunciation and of denunciation in conflicting situations of unbelief, injustice, alienation or death is always a dangerous and risky business. Hence we, who follow Jesus, Martyr of the Word that nobody has been able to silence, must passionately love God, Mary and the brethren, as our Founder and our Blessed Martyrs did. In this way we will be able to conquer the fears and temptations that might paralyze us.
2.2.6. Inculturated and universal
40. Our missionary formation process is an interpersonal, historical and cultural process in which the Claretian person finds growth and fulfillment by opening himself to communion and by entering into his moment in history. This means that our style of formation must be keenly sensitive to the needs and characteristics of today’s men and women, to the point that sharing the hopes and joys, the sorrows and trials of the people, especially those of the poor, we may readily offer to join efforts with all who are striving to transform the world according to God’s plan. Haunted by the panorama of impoverished and oppressed human masses, we should be formed from the standpoint of the Congregation’s option for the poor, endorsing the signs that point to a new style of life that better reflects the utopia of the Kingdom.
41. In a Congregation like ours, spread throughout the continents and called to a universal mission, it is crucial that we maintain the necessary balance between our need to be immersed in the culture of each people, and our availability and openness to be sent to any place in the world. This demands that our formation, at the same time that it is carried out and prepares us to live in a specific culture and people, undertaking their way of life and values, should also attend to those aspects that derive from our openness to universality.
2.3. The present situation (situational reference)
42. While every form of religious life and every formation process must be faithful to the human situation and geared to the demands of the present, in our case, attention to social, ecclesial and congregational challenges is a demand of our missionary charism: Through them, the Spirit is now addressing and probing us…, once again calling us to personal, community and institutional conversion, and to a still greater fidelity to our missionary vocation.
43. Formation is a process which unfolds in concrete circumstances, in the here and now of society and of the Church. The current world offers us both new hopes and hitherto unheard of challenges that affect our formation. The current sociocultural, ecclesial and congregational context awakens positive drives and new possibilities, but it also presents obstacles that can slow or even set back the formative process. Hence we must become accustomed to a continually ongoing process of discernment.
2.3.1. The sociocultural situation
44. When we contemplate today’s men and women, we discover in them not only a widespread awareness of the dignity of the person, but also various forms of individualism and subjectivism; not only an esteem for the meaning of life and for its defense, but also expressions of aggression toward it (abortion, violation of human rights) that go so far as to beget a real culture of death; a hunger for authentic values and for a deep spirituality, along with a great increase of false pathways (drugs, etc.); a struggle for liberty and democracy, countered by new modes of oppression, exploitation and dependency (manipulation by the communications media, arms sales, external debts), and evident sensibility toward cultural and religious pluralism, and a no less evident divorce between faith and culture; a notable increase in human aid favoring the progress of peoples, along with a widespread tendency to hedonism, a growing concern for solidarity, along with a parallel loss of the sense of giving and of responsibility; a new esteem for equality between the sexes, along with a blurring, misrepresentation and even exploitation of the true meaning of human sexuality; a revaluation of the family as the nurturing matrix of the person, and at the same time, a spate of harsh attacks on the family, some of which (divorce, conjugal infidelity, free love) tend to destroy it.
45. As regards political, social and economic structures, we are witnessing not only the mutual relation and interdependence between all peoples, and a greater awareness of the dignity of ethnic minorities as agents of their own destiny, but also self-enclosed nationalisms that rend the social fabric and militate against the universality of the human race; a new political and social map of the world characterized more than ever before by a gaping abyss between North and South, between the rich and the poor, with all the human consequences that derive from it, a growing sense of international solidarity, and at the same time the consequences of the lack of it, seen especially in the enormous phenomena of migration to wealthy countries; a new relationship and interdependence between nations and the unchecked impoverishment of economically underdeveloped countries and to a great extent of post-communist countries, a great thirst for justice and peace, and at the same time many situations of oppression, marginalization and exploitation generated by unjust economic structures.
46. Regarding culture in general, we can perceive not only the enormous development of science and technology with its humanizing achievements, but also its excesses and the rationalism to which it often leads; diverse attempts to express this brave new world and weak forms of thought and art after the fall of the great ideologies of the past; a concern for the ecology of the planet, along with new forms of contaminating and degrading it; the rapid spread of information through great communications networks, and the manipulation that is often exercised through them; the misuse and even the takeover of language, hindering communication between human beings; the yearning for religious values and the very diverse forms of searching for God in different cultures; the divorce between faith and life, the difficulty of undertaking stable commitments, the consumerism and practical materialism that characterizes believers of all religions, the stunning loss of Christianity in many countries with a deeply rooted Christian tradition, the invasion of sects, syncretism and reactions of different forms of fundamentalism.
2.3.2. The ecclesial situation
47. As we near the end of the second millennium, the Church that we form part of is living through a situation that challenges us as missionaries. The way opened up by the Second Vatican Council is irreversible and is little by little bearing its fruits. On the one hand, there are abundant signs of vitality: The Spirit is raising up…new Christian communities and movements, new styles of life and spirituality, inculturated theologies, new forms of presence and committed accompaniment. On the other hand, we are witnessing some signs for concern. The tendency of the Church to become truly catholic and polycentric, the road toward ecumenism, and the attempt to become incarnated in the reality and cultures of peoples, are sometimes held back by the passion for uniformity and centralism, by the temptation to turn in on itself and to isolate itself from the world, and by internal tensions. The crisis of identity and relevance of many of the baptized who live in some traditionally Catholic countries in which our Congregation is well established continues to be a lively issue. The decrease of Christians in economically developed countries and their increase in many countries of the southern hemisphere are giving rise to a deployment of the Church toward economically underdeveloped countries, which will have notable repercussions in the coming decades. In this setting of lights and shadows, the Church wants to approach the third millennium by launching a project of evangelization which involves us especially inasmuch as we are missionaries.
2.3.3. The congregational situation
48. The reality of our Congregation also has an influence on formation processes. During the years following the Council, we Claretians have also been renewing our missionary awareness. The Constitutions, approved definitively in 1986, are a permanent source of inspiration and an obligatory point of reference. We are making a great effort to grow realistically deeper in our identity, in our missionary spirituality, in community life and in our evangelizing demands and options. Nevertheless, we must humbly acknowledge that we are still not full of the fire that burned in the heart of Claret. We perceive tensions between the universal needs of the Congregation and local priorities. We are not making as much progress as we ought in the revision of positions. We are especially troubled by the fact that two thirds of humanity have not yet heard of Jesus and his message. We are still in search of way toward a deeper inculturation.
49. We are also witnessing with concern and hope the situation of the young men called to our Congregation and of those who have already begun their process of formation. During the past decade vocations have been abundant in Asia and Africa, but we have experienced a great scarcity of vocations in traditionally Catholic countries. The lack of enough well-trained formators, and the considerable number of departures during the first years of profession or ministry, are problems that concern us and for which we are still seeking adequate answers. The scarcity of missionary brothers and the need to provide for ongoing formation are also challenges that are still pressing us. Moreover, we are keenly concerned with heightening the charismatic thrust of our formation processes and with seeing to it that they are more inculturated.