Agents and Models of Inspiration
90. By “formative agent” we mean the person or group of persons who intervene in the formation process, offering and putting into practice the dynamisms and means that help achieve the aims of formation. This agent, in his formative task, chooses, creates and offers these means with a view to formation, i.e., by organizing and concatenating them in order to achieve the objectives foreseen. Each formative agent acts in a specific way, in keeping with his own nature.
91. By “formative model” we mean a person who acts as an authentic and living intermediary of the values he wishes to transmit through other dynamisms and means. The formative power of the model resides not only in the effectiveness that authenticity of life has in itself, but also in the fact that he shows in a tangible and attractive way that the values being offered in formation are possible in reality. These models may or may not coincide with the agents of formation.
92. We are convinced that throughout the course of our formation, the Lord Himself who has called us will keep accompanying us to the end: He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. He is the one Master and we are His disciples. The agents to whom we will be referring derive their meaning by reference to Him. We always look at them from the viewpoint of our Founder’s charismatic experience.
1.1. The Spirit who anoints us for mission
93. The first and foremost agent of formation, without whom there could be no authentic following of Christ, is the Spirit. It is He who leads us to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and enables us to reach conformity with Him. For us, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son – and also the Spirit of our Mother – is the integrating center for all the dimensions of our life and mission. This is the same Spirit who called and consecrated the prophets so as to make of them the mouth of God, who anointed and sent Jesus to bring Good News to the poor. This Spirit is the Paraclete whom Jesus gives to His community to be with them always. The apostles who gathered together with the Mother of Jesus, were the first recipients of this gift.
94. The Spirit is also the protagonist of our mission and hence, the principal agent of our formation as missionaries. It is only in the Spirit that we acquire our identity as servants of the Word. This is how Claret experienced the Spirit. Like Jesus and the prophets and the apostles, our Founder felt that he was anointed by the Spirit to proclaim the Good News to all human beings.
95. In our formative itinerary, the Spirit’s action is of a different order from that of psychological data or of historical events, although it is also manifest in them. Rather, it is a principle of inner life, creativity and communion. It unifies the life of the formandus and re-creates the formation community as a community of prophets and apostles. It’s creative and renewing action affects our personal core, changes our vision of reality and offers us the indispensable key and power to live that vision from God’s viewpoint, in constant reference to Jesus Christ and to the world. Although we cannot know it in a precise way, we can perceive its fruits.
96. The Spirit who conforms us with Christ is the same one who calls us to follow him, who anoints us for the mission that the Father entrusts to us, and who makes us enjoy, esteem, judge and choose everything relating to Jesus and his Reign. It is the Spirit who comes to our aid in our weakness when we experience the hardships of the way. The Spirit is the “inner teacher” who leads us into all truth in our following of Christ and gives us the strength we need in order to give our life in proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom to the poor and to face the difficulties of evangelization.
97. In order to receive and follow through on the Spirit’s action within us, we need to develop certain fundamental attitudes. On the one hand, these include the humility, docility and bent of disciples who allow themselves to be taught. On the other hand, they include the practice of discernment in order to be able to clarify our vocation, to adjust our own formative way and to recognize the Spirit’s presence in all aspects of life and history and through human intermediaries. The anointing of the Spirit, which equips us to become fit ministers for the proclamation of the Word, demands of us a constant commitment, one that is fulfilled in the measure that our experience of the Lord and our encounter with others, especially the poorest and most suffering, gradually transforms our life.
1.2. Mary, forming missionaries in the forge of her Heart
98. The Virgin Mary, the first human being consecrated to the cause of her Son, is associated with the work of the Spirit. Hence her presence in the formation of those called to the following of Christ is determinative. For us, who are called and are Sons of her Immaculate Heart, Mary’s action takes on a particular relevance. This sonship is not just a title, but is, rather, an existential dimension of our missionary life. It is a gift of the Spirit to be lived and experienced, one that shapes our inner being and energizes it for apostolic mission.
99. The presence of Mary in our Founder and in the Congregation is a distinctive charismatic experience. Within the mystery of the Church, of which she is Mother, Mary is, for us Claretians:
— Our formation guide. By her maternal action she forms us into true and authentic missionaries and apostles, as she conceived Jesus and formed him to be the missionary of the Father and as she formed Claret to be an apostolic missionary. More concretely, Mary forms us by her maternal action, through an interior process, to be ministers of the Word, to be evangelizers devoted to spreading the Reign of Jesus throughout the world. She is also the godmother who accompanies us in our growth in faith.
— She shapes us in her heart by making us grow in the traits of a perfect disciple of Jesus, whom she conceived in her heart before she conceived him in her womb.
— She forms us to welcome into our hearts, as she did, the Word of God, whose ministers we are. She teaches us to listen to the Word, to meditate on it, to bring it to life and to announce it throughout the world.
— She forms us in the apostolic charity that drives us to work tirelessly and spend ourselves for the sake of the Kingdom, to proclaim a God who is love and mercy and has given his life for us, to announce the Gospel stamped with her hallmark of humility, gentleness and heartfelt or maternal love, an apostolic charity that moves us to love those for whom the Lord shows a special love: the very poor and needy, and those who are most in need of salvation and liberation.
— She associates us in our apostolic mission with her maternal care for the Church. Our Founder felt that he was collaborating with Mary, the Mother of Victories in the struggle against the evil one and his offspring. He felt that he was Mary’s instrument, an arrow poised in her mighty hand to be unleashed against Satan and his followers. Out of this life-experience, transmitted to his missionaries, whom he regarded as the arms of Mary, he was able to tell us, in a reference on the Gospel according to Matthew: You yourselves will not be the speakers; the Spirit of your Father — and of your Mother — will be speaking through you.
101. The filial and apostolic surrender of ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which we make in our profession, takes form and unfolds by means of certain attitudes that keep shaping our life:
— Imitating her in those apostolic attitudes in which she shows herself to be the first of the evangelized and of the evangelizers: her faith, her sense of praise and thanksgiving, her attitude of listening and of availability, her inwardness, her sensibility to the needs of people, especially the poorest of the poor, and her solidarity with them in sorrow and in hope.
— Imitating her in her more typical missionary behavior: living as Jesus lived, embracing in faith the evangelical counsels, welcoming, meditating on and announcing the Word of God, experiencing the cross and forming the Christian community as the family of the Kingdom.
— Discovering her as the consecrated woman whose light shines through towards us in the commitment of women among our people, and in the life and faith of people.
1.3. The formandus as primary agent in his process of formation
102. Formation concerns, directly and first of all, the person. Only he can carry out the process of growth by internalizing the values that sustain his life, by personalizing relationships and by dealing positively with events. Hence, the first one responsible for his formation is the formandus himself.
103. To be a formandus is to be a disciple in the school of following Christ, an apprentice in the workshop where the missionary is forged. It is proper of an apprentice “to do the same thing,” that is to say, to imitate, his master. This is the royal road of formation and of growth. Being an apprentice implies actively and personally following in the footsteps of the Master.
104. On the part of the formandus, this presupposes not only the outward observance of norms and adaptation to situations, but above all the capacity to discern and to consciously assume the values and inner motivation that can enrich his attitudes and behavior. The community’s acceptance bears out and expresses the truth of his personal growth.
105. The responsibility of the formandus embraces everything that can directly or indirectly affect his own formation. He should, however, pay special attention to:
— Cultivating docility to the Spirit, by opening his mind and heart to Him.
— Allowing himself to be shaped in the forge of Mary’s Heart.
— Getting to know and develop his aptitudes in line with our mission.
— Fostering harmony within his own being by recourse to his own conscience, where he finds himself alone with God, whose voice resounds in his innermost self. He must appeal to this voice and to his own responsibility, above all in order to internalize and personalize the values of our missionary life as they are set forth in our Constitutions and in our formation plans.
— Having the “spirit of an initiate” in order to accept the intermediaries that the Lord places at the service of his development; also in order to learn from these intermediaries, and from the tradition of the Church and the Congregation.
— Respecting the pace and rhythms of his own maturation and resolving them adequately, as possible crises, conflicts and tensions keep appearing.
— Making use of adequate means to safeguard his physical, mental and spiritual health.
— Feeling co-responsible for the formation of his brothers.
106. The recognition of the formandus as primary agent of his formation:
— Calls for a pedagogy of trust, in which the formandus is guaranteed a broad and adequate margin of responsible freedom.
— Requires, in practice, a just balance between the formation of the group and that of each person, between respect for the times set apart for each phase of formation and their adaptation to formative pace of each individual, between each one’s personality, community solidarity and the fulfillment of the mission received with and in the community.
1.4. Formators and formation teams
107. By “formators” we mean those entrusted with an immediate responsibility for the integral formation of our candidates. Their specific task is articulated with the tasks of the other missionaries within the single, common Claretian mission. Through these formators the Spirit of Jesus is at work. Hence, living in an attitude of listening to the Spirit and of being attentive to his movements and inspirations must be a permanent attitude on the part of both the formator and of the formandi.
108. In order to exercise their ministry effectively, formators must possess certain specific qualities:
— Love for the Church, for its apostolic tradition and for its liturgy.
— Love for the Congregation and a knowledge of its history.
109. The functions of the formator and of the formation team, both with regard to each formandus and to the group as a whole, are:
— To discern with the formandi the work that God is carrying out in them and the ways along which He wants them to make progress.
— To accompany them in their different stages of growth, respecting their pace and at every moment offering them the help they need for their development.
— To provide them in each phase with solid doctrinal and practical nourishment that responds to their personal needs, to the demands of the present moment, and to their future responsibilities.
110. Claret was a formator of missionaries by his witness, by being present and living with them whenever possible, as well as by his words, in the spiritual exercises he gave them, in the conferences he addressed to them, in his conversations with them and in his writings. In the same way, the formator must educate not only by word, but above all by his own life, so that he can say with Saint Paul: Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
111. In order that the formation task may be more well-rounded, it is fitting that, if possible, there exist in our centers a group of formators with complementary abilities, whose members, aware of their common responsibility, work together in concord. Under the direction of the superior, they should live in close fellowship of spirit, forming a well-knit family among themselves and those they are educating. This team of formators should always act under the principal responsibility of one of their number.
112. Formators need a specific preparation that should be truly technical, pedagogical, spiritual, theological and pastoral, in order to carry out their tasks effectively. Besides the preparation they receive prior to beginning their work, they have need of a continuing formation that will help them rise above the routine and will allow them, above all, to engage in a continual renewal that reflects their life-experience. This experience becomes a source of formation, provided that it is subject to constant fraternal evaluation. Interchanges with other formators, the analysis of concrete formation situations and problems, consultation with experts, an updated knowledge of the world of young people, short courses or systematic programs devoted to theological and pedagogical updating, apostolic experiences and spiritual renewal will allow the formators to evaluate their task and to prepare themselves to keep on carrying it out productively.
1.5. The formation community
114. Formation is also the work of the community, because the whole Congregation is involved in formation. But the formation community is the one whose direct aim is formation. It should, therefore, make a special effort to achieve the objectives of the plan of formation, with a particular concern for:
— Creating bonds that facilitate emotional maturity, fostering interpersonal relationships based on faith and charity, and that also prepare one for teamwork and for the kind of missionary collaboration that our Founder sought.
— Employing dialogue as an instance of discernment and co-responsibility, and stimulating personal growth in the members of the group.
1.6. Other agents
115. Besides those who make up the formation communities proper, there are also different agents who take part in formation through tasks that complement it: professors, spiritual directors, confessors, pastoral assessors and others. The participation of some laypersons, both men and women, who offer specific contributions based on experience, psychology or other sciences, is useful for the integral formation of the formandi.
116. Professors, including those who exercise their task in academic centers that do not belong to the Congregation, should be regarded as true formators, since the doctrinal formation they impart should not be aimed solely at the transmission of concepts, but to the integral education of the students, creating in them a solid mindset of faith in order to be able to proclaim the Gospel and serve the People of God. This means that in order to carry out their task adequately, these professors should:
— Be well-enough suited to live in an integrated way their condition as witnesses to the faith, their apostolic zeal and their scientific and teaching competency.
— Transmit a teaching that is whole and entire, with depth and critical insight.
— Help the students, by way of studies carried out in a climate of mutual collaboration, to lay the foundations for their missionary vocation.
2. Models of inspiration
117. Following Claret’s example, the first model of inspiration for our life is Jesus Christ. Union and conformity with Christ the evangelizer, anointed and sent to preach Good News to the poor, is a lifelong process and task. Other models who inspire us in this adventure of following Christ are Mary, our Founder, the prophets, the apostles, many men and women saints with an apostolic charism, missionaries of yesterday and today, Claretian martyrs and other martyrs.
2.1. Our Founder
2.1.1. Claret as a charismatic model
118. In recognizing Claret as our founder and in approving the Congregation he founded as a prolongation of his spirit and mission, the Church has recognized his apostolic charism as a form of Christian life that can be shared by many and be of benefit to the People of God until the end of time. The Congregation’s task in the Church consists of keeping the charism of Saint Anthony Mary Claret alive and effective in it.
119. Like the Claretians of yesterday, we Claretians of today, who live in a cultural context and situation that is quite different from that of our Founder, feel that we are graced by his charism and spirit, by the example of his life and by his writings. We cannot copy his missionary means and methods or his attitudes and models of behavior in a literal way. There is a need for creativity, originality and spontaneity in our missionary formation in order to update and actualize this spirit.
2.1.2. The Autobiography as a Claretian itinerary
120. Claret wrote his Autobiography at the express command of Fr. Xifré, his spiritual director and then Superior General of the Congregation. Without such a command, it would never have occurred to him to do so, since a work of this sort was quite alien to his character and temperament. Once he had begun the work, it dawned on him that it could be helpful for his missionary sons. He wrote it, then, with a deliberately formative intention. He wrote it as a Founder, for the missionaries of his Congregation. It is, then, both a testimonial and pedagogical document.
121. The witness of Claret’s own life is useful in initiating us into a panoramic view of the way in which the Spirit goes on forming the missionary from the outset of his calling until he reaches its fulfillment. In this sense, we are dealing with a true handbook of missionary spirituality which introduces us into the experience of a life dedicated to the Gospel.
122. A charismatic re-reading of Claret’s Autobiography obliges us to discern between what belongs to his charism and spirit – and is thus valid for all times – and what might be a product of his culture and his time. There are also some traits that belong to his personal psychology or to his environment that cannot be transmitted to the whole Congregation. But this does not hinder us in using the Autobiography as a pedagogical tool in the formation of the different generations of Claretians.
2.1.3. The “Forge” as a pedagogical proposal
123. Throughout his long missionary life, our Founder had a singular life-experience of God that enabled him to devote himself fully to the proclamation of the Gospel. This gift of the Spirit is also granted to us so that we, too, can come to be fit ministers of the Word.
124. The allegorical description of the formative process that Claret himself lived through is found in his Autobiography: 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 forge, and when it is white-hot he draws it out, places it on the anvil, and begins to hammer it. His assistant joins in, and the two of them keep alternating hammer blows in a sort of rhythmic dance until the iron takes the shape the smith had planned. This allegory is not just one more among the many that Claret used. In fact, in the prayer he used to recite at the beginning of every mission, he reminds Mary of it: You are well aware that I am your son and minister, formed by you yourself in the forge of your mercy and love.
125. As in every allegory, so too in the case of the forge, each one of the symbolic elements corresponds to one or several aspects of reality. Thus, the smith’s workshop is the formative milieu of Vic; the smith or director is the Father, Christ, Mary and the different persons in charge of formation; the iron bar is Claret himself as a passive subject, as a disciple who allows himself to be shaped; the forge is above all the Holy Spirit, but also the Heart of Mary and various ascetical means, such as prayer and the spiritual exercises; the anvil represents the situations and trials of life; the assistant is again Claret, this time as an active subject; the hammer blows are equivalent to the various formative actions; the shape or form that the director has planned is none other than Christ himself. This is the process that prepares the end product, the arrow that is to be unleashed against the enemies of the Gospel.
126. In the process described in the allegory, the basic core elements which Claret lived, with varying stresses throughout his life, are also symbolized:
— The first (“Quid prodest”) refers to the relativizing of the world and to the discovery of God as the only Absolute, as it appears in Mt 16:26: What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?
— The second (“Patris Mei”) is the experience of the love of God, communicated through his Spirit, which Claret found expressed in summary form in the child Jesus’ statement in Lk 2:49: I must be about my Father’s business.
— The third (“Caritas Christi”) is the experience of imitating, following and becoming conformed with the Christ, sent by the Father, born of Mary and anointed by the Spirit, as summed up in 2 Cor 5:14: The charity of Christ impels me.
— The fourth (“Spiritus Domini”) is the experience of feeling of being anointed and sent by the Spirit to proclaim, like Jesus, the Gospel to the poor, as highlighted in Lk 4:18: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me… He has sent me to proclaim glad tidings to the poor.
127. For us, this allegory takes on a special relevance for formation when we interpret it not in isolation from but in the overall context of our Founder’s life. Only in this way can we find summed up in it the core fundamentals of our charism and even the pedagogical process for living that charism. It is not a matter of reproducing, without further ado, an experience which is in itself non-transferable, but rather of using a brief and symbolic expression that can foster the transmission and deepening of the charism in our present day formation. Thus understood, it becomes a symbol of the workshop in which we are forged as missionaries throughout our life.
2.1.4. Model saints
128. One thing that spurred Claret on to the apostolate was his reading of the lives of the saints and, among them, the lives of those who were moved most intensely by zeal for the salvation of souls. In the Autobiography he mentions first of all the example of the prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Elijah and the Lesser Prophets. The lives of the Apostles Peter and Paul, James and John, captured his admiration. But the ardor of Saint Paul always awakened his deepest enthusiasm. He also felt moved by other men and women saints who were distinguished for their apostolic zeal, such as Saints Francis Xavier, Vincent de Paul, Ignatius of Loyola, Alphonsus Mary Liguori, Francis de Sales, John of Avila and Blessed Diego of Cádiz, Saints Teresa of Jesus, Mary Magdalene de Pazzi and Rose of Lima.
129. In these men and women we, too, find living models for following Christ the Evangelizer. Along with them we also find inspiration in numerous missionaries and martyrs of our own time who have been distinguished for their apostolic zeal and have borne witness to the name of Christ in different cultures and countries. The martyrs of the Kingdom who continue to lay down their lives in today’s world are a clear sign of the vitality of the Church.
2.2. The Congregation
2.2.1. The exemplary thrust of its history
130. Born in the Church by an inspiration of the Blessed Virgin, called together and consecrated under the action of the Holy Spirit and made heir to the missionary spirit of Saint Anthony Mary Claret, the Congregation was raised up to reproduce the style of life that Jesus and his apostles led in order to spread the Good News. At present, the Congregation feels a responsibility to update and promote apostolic initiatives that are in keeping with the missionary service of the Word.
131. Its charism, as an experience of the Spirit, has been received, deepened, developed and enriched by several different generations of missionaries who have kept giving our Claretian project meaning and life.
132. The history of the Congregation is the incarnation and existential realization of the founding charism of Claret. The tasks that the first community carried out were preaching popular missions, catechizing children and giving retreats to clergy, seminarians and religious. As the number of its members increased, the Congregation experienced missionary expansion in Europe and America, thus opening itself to new geographical and cultural areas.
133. Toward the end of his life, our Father Founder proposed that some of our missionaries be dedicated to Christian education. With the passage of time, this service acquired a certain relevance in the Congregation, as many of its members were assigned to educational institutions. Toward the beginning of the present century, the first parishes were taken up with a view to missionary service.
134. Following the spirit and missionary activity of Claret, the Congregation gave special attention to the formation of clergy and religious. It is likewise fitting to highlight its dedication to the apostolate of the press, which has doubtless been of great service to the Church. Later, the Congregation heightened its focus on forming evangelizers, directing or teaching in seminaries and universities, and on issuing both specialized and popular publications. In recent years a part of this activity has been concentrated on service to the religious life. One should also highlight the particular attention that the Congregation has given to the popular masses and its opening up of new centers for the mission “ad gentes” in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.
135. These more characteristic events in some way illustrate the missionary history of the Congregation which has, beginning with its Founder, been watered with the blood of martyrs. Like its Founder, it has suffered persecution, exile and death. Indeed, we can say that our congregational history, from our Founder onward, has been rich in martyrs.
136. The desire to remain faithful, even at the risk of one’s own life, has been a constant in the history of the Congregation. Great missionaries, such as the Venerable Jaume Clotet and Mariano Avellana, the 51 Blessed Martyrs of Barbastro and many other Claretians (priests, students and brothers) have illumined the true nature of Claretian identity with the powerful witness of their lives. This history of the Congregation is an important page in the history of service to the needy, to common people and to the promotion and formation of agents of evangelization.
137. In our 51 brothers, the Blessed Martyrs of Barbastro, we see portrayed in a special way the paradigm of what we are called to be: sons of the Heart of Mary, from the Magnificat to Calvary. This “martyr seminary” has also become for us a model formation community, by reason of its unbreakable and joyful faith, its full availability to the will of God, its constant and trusting prayer, its living of cordimarian sonship and of the Eucharist, its mutual brotherly help, its love for the Congregation and its apostolic zeal.
138. As we look back over our tradition, we have a feeling of thanks for those who have gone before us, and at the same time we feel invited to learn from their history and to carry on their fidelity, seeking to embody in the Church the legacy of Claret as good news on the frontiers of evangelization.
2.2.2. The Constitutions as an expression of the Congregation’s project of missionary life
139. In the very year of the founding of our Congregation, our Founder wrote the text of the Constitutions and entrusted it to his missionaries before he went off to Cuba toward the end of 1850. The first text that we still have, dates from 1857. Their official definitive approval by the Holy See came in 1870, a short time before the death of our Founder.
140. In the first Constitutions, our Founder described his personal experience of the gift he received from the Spirit for the building up of the Church and of his program for imitating Christ, the guide and model of missionaries, so that they could serve as an identity model for Claretians of all times. In them, the first Claretians found the expression of the aspirations sown in their hearts by the Holy Spirit. This has also been the experience of the Claretians of today and of all times.
141. The Constitutions renewed in keeping with the guidelines of Vatican II and with the accommodations required by the new Code of Canon Law obtained their definitive approval on 15 May 1986. The Constitutions are an expression of the action whereby the Spirit calls some members of the Church to follow and imitate perfectly the evangelical life of Christ according to the form in which our Father Founder lived and proposed it. These Constitutions have been officially accepted by the Church for the glory of God and the lasting good of his people.
142. Our Constitutions spring from a life experience. They motivate us to relive the experience of our call from God and the charism of the Congregation. They are the word of the Gospel as referred to our community and set as a pivot point for our model of following Christ: hence, a necessary point of reference in order that our life in common may continue to have a Christian and ecclesial thrust, and that the charismatic gift of Claret may conserve its power to summon and to mobilize.
143. Bearing in mind the different cultures and contexts into which the Congregation has kept sinking its roots, an inculturated reading of the Constitutions is necessary. This reading consists in incorporating the spiritual riches and cultural values of the peoples among whom we live, in such a way that the Claretian charism can be lived as something of their own and also contribute to throw light on these same cultures from the viewpoint of the Gospel.
144. The assimilation of the Constitutions ought to be gradual, taking the various stages of formation into account. Moreover, the Constitutions should be read and interpreted in the light of our Founder’s spirituality, of the history of the Congregation and of the evolution of the religious life in general. Their contents should be more deeply probed by taking into account all aspects, theological as well as charismatic and pedagogical.