Part I Chapter 4 – Factors in Formation (Personal and Environmental)

Chapter 4
Factors in Formation (Personal and Environmental)

 Introduction

145.  By factors in formation we mean those realities (persons and surroundings) that have an impact on structuring and personal maturation and on the formation process. They can be either internal or external to the person, and they are interrelated. In principle, they are not pedagogically intentional, either on the part of the formator or of the formandus. Some of them are inherited and others are natural or social milieux, received as they are, without any plan or special pedagogical purpose.

146.   The lack of pedagogical thrust does not mean that these factors have no impact on the process of formation. On the contrary, they usually have a broad and intense impact, both positive and negative. Moreover, when possible, they can be given a formative thrust in an explicit way. Dealt with in this way, these factors are converted into formative dynamisms and means. Hence, formative factors have been taken into account in the GPF and should be considered in the drafting of formation projects, either as a frame of reference or as dynamisms and means of formation.

 1.   Personal factors

1.1. Physical factors

147.   Physical factors are, for the most part, hereditary. Some, however, can be acquired, such as certain illnesses or limitations. Physical factors include health, age, sex and bodily conditions. They have an influence on personal development and on one’s endowments with qualities, aptitudes and future possibilities. Hence, both the Church[1] and the Congregation[2] refer to them in the process of vocational discernment. They indicate, for example, a minimum age for beginning the novitiate, for first and perpetual profession and for ordination. Among the various requirements for entry, they also speak of adequate health. Although they do not describe what this consists of, this generic description includes, at least, sufficient health to allow the candidate to live and fulfill the demands of the missionary life[3].

148.  Given the importance of health in personal balance and in the development of the missionary life, we should strive to take care of it through regular physical exercise, sports, a balanced diet and acquiring good habits of hygiene, cleanliness, rest and relaxation[4].

 1.2. Psychological factors

149.   Psychological factors are those that describe the individual’s personality and its dimensions (sensation, perception, intelligence, interests, attitudes, aptitudes, needs and motivations). The influence of psychological personality traits on a person’s behavior is decisive. Moreover, personality is something that keeps evolving. Although it remains basically the same, it keeps changing as one matures. Hence, a good deal of pedagogical importance is attached to the development of a consistent personality.

150.   One criterion for discerning a vocation is the so-called “natural bent” of the individual. This notion includes temperament, character and personality. In the process of discernment, the study of vocational motivations, of the capacity to live in community and of emotional maturity, all deserve special attention. This last-mentioned trait has a particularly strong impact on the stability of one’s option, on community life and on an integrated living of the evangelical counsels. It is always necessary, then, to be assured of the absence of contraindications in this area (psychological illnesses as such and defects that are incompatible with Claretian life), even, if need be, with the help of specialists.

 1.3.  Youth-related factors

151.  Candidates for our missionary life are, as a general rule, young men who have both the virtues and shortcomings of the younger generations. Although there are notable differences between them, depending on their diverse geographic and cultural contexts, there are nevertheless certain overall traits that tend to be widespread and significantly influence the process of discernment and vocational development[5].

152.  Among the more universal of these values, the following stand out: a sensibility for justice, non-violence and peace; openness to friendship, fraternity and solidarity; a new concept and style in man-woman relationships; an attitude of openness and dialogue[6]; mobilization for causes such as human rights, ecological conservation and quality of life[7]; hungering after freedom and authenticity and aspiring toward a better world[8].

153.  There are also some negative traits, such as an attraction to and dependence on a consumerist society, and individualistic and hedonistic attitude towards life and the rejection of anything that might entail sacrifice or renunciation in living spiritual and religious values[9].

154. Taken as a whole, there are many values emerging among the younger generations that we ought to take into account in the processes of vocation ministry and in formation. These values, properly discerned and enhanced in the light of the Gospel, point the way to the profile that religious life and ministry will be taking on in the coming years. Given the diversity arising from our presence in diverse geographical and cultural areas, the GPF cannot get down to a detailed analysis, but recommends that this be done in provincial and local plans.

 2.   Environmental factors

 2.1. The family

155.  The family is the normal place for the growth of children and the first agent for socializing persons. This socialization is brought about by a process of internalizing the cultural values that are lived in the family. The family, as the best school for humanizing persons[10], is not only the direct transmitter of values through the education of children; its social situation, economic level, type of family relationships and the religious environment it creates, all exercise a special influence on the person.

156. The educational mission of the family, a community of faith, life and love, embraces all dimensions of the person. For this very reason, parents should, by means of the Christian education of their children, cultivate and preserve in them whatever favors their discovery of and response to a religious vocation[11]. In this way, when the family lives up to its mission as the domestic church, it becomes the first seminary of its children[12].

157.  Hence, the family and the family environment in which the candidate has lived constitute a decisive and conditioning factor for the vocational and formative future of the person who enters the Congregation. A sound family, human and Christian education is always a solid basis and a guarantee for the future Claretian formation of the candidate. In contrast, anomalous family situations, problems and conflicts among family members, and the values that are lived in the heart of the family, especially if these values are not very Christian and evangelical, can offer more or less consistent difficulties for the normal unfolding of their formation.

158.  All of this makes the family a key element in vocational discernment that has to be taken very much into account during the whole process of formation, but in particular at its beginning. Throughout the process, attention must be paid to the family’s influence on the motivations and behavior of the candidate, to help him become integrated into the new family to which he has been called. When a candidate comes from a family belonging to other religious traditions, it is important to get to know his family’s religious environment and help him to focus his whole religious experience on following Jesus within the Claretian community.

159.  An adequate and balanced formation will have to be, on the one hand, aware of the positive influence that the family can exert on the life of the formandi[13] and, on the other hand, consistent with the gospel demand to renounce one’s own family[14], which is called for both by the process of personal maturation and by our own distinctive style of life and mission.

 2.2.  Physical space

160.  Natural physical space consists of the physical conditions of our surroundings: landscape, climate, elevation and the physical lay of the land. Artificial space is one created by human beings in order to dominate nature. It involves an ambivalent ensemble of phenomena: the city, the noises and the sometimes unhygienic conditions.

161.  The relationship between physical and artificial space can be either harmonious or unbalanced, either ecological or exploitative. Hence, bearing in mind the influence exerted by our surroundings and our present-day sensibility of concern for the world in which we live, it is important to foster those attitudes which best serve a formation that is in harmony with and respectful of nature.

162.  All of this has its influence on the different types of persons and cultures. Human history also records different modalities of cultures that are closely linked to the natural surroundings in which they have arisen. All of these traits must be respected and valued in formation. When they are placed in service of our common project, they enrich it and make it more universal.

 2.3. Society and culture

163. The complex social reality that surrounds us, already described above in the frame of reference[15], has both positive and negative traits that exert an increasingly important influence on the process of personal maturation. There are some values – such as an awareness of the dignity and inviolability of the person, an affirmation of the inalienable right to life, a hunger for justice and truth, a respect for pluralism, an interest and concern for the defense of nature and a growing closeness between peoples – that open up new horizons of hope and offer a positive framework for personal and community growth, and for an awakening of missionary sensibility. They facilitate the personalization that we seek and favor the acquisition of values and habits that are very much in line with our prophetic and liberating mission.

164.  Others, in contrast – such as the culture of destruction and death (violence, war, marginalization, exploitation), rugged individualism and consumerism – reflect the lack of solidarity and the unbridled lust for power and comfort that shape the existential horizon in which we happen to live and present a challenge to formation. They mar and mark persons and hinder a sense of availability, of missionary itinerancy and the assimilation of other gospel traits that are also indispensable for a missionary, such as the acceptance of objective mediation by others, of unselfish self-commitment and a predilection for the poorest of the poor.

165. In this sociocultural context, we are called upon to achieve a sensibility for the culture of life, justice, peace and the integrity of the created world. Our formation has to be inculturated and must guarantee an adequate preparation that will allow us, like Claret, to offer responsible missionary and prophetic answers to the manifold challenges that face us. We should pay special attention to a critical analysis of reality and to the practice of discernment, so that we may all learn how to interpret reality from the standpoint of faith.

166.  Society has a different face in the different peoples among whom we live. From them we pick up a particular way of understanding life and history. The knowledge and appreciation of the symbols and values of a people’s culture will keep shaping us as persons and will give us the kind of attunement we need in order to better understand the hopes and problems of those human beings whose existence we share. Jesus Christ, anointed by the Spirit, welcomed the Father’s will and shared the sorrows of his people. We contemplate the Master and welcome his word by opening up our hearts and sharing the anxieties and hopes of our brothers and sisters. These people are constantly challenging us by their life-witness, their capacity for struggle and transformation and their hope in the coming of a new society. We perceive all these values when we keep in constant relationship with them. For this reason we must make an effort to listen to the Word of God in personal prayer, in the events of history and also in the cultures and life of different peoples, in their silences and in their outcries. We can only evangelize when we open ourselves to others, offering them the best of ourselves and sharing our hope with them.

 2.4. Ecclesial community

167.  Our Claretian vocation must be situated within the context of the People of God. The Church, as mother and educator of vocations, accompanies them from their birth up to their full maturity throughout the process of formation[16]. The Church is the setting in which the community lives its charism and carries out its formative mission.

168.  The special period of grace and renewal that opened up in the Church with the Second Vatican Council and its ensuing proliferation of fruits of evangelical life, constitutes the context to which formation should constantly make reference. The call to a new evangelization has become an updated context that stamps the formation process with a special newness in its ardor, in its methods and in its expressions[17]. Papal Magisterium, which has thrown light on the new situation of the Church and the world with important documents of Jesus Christ[18], the Father[19], the Spirit[20], Mary[21], women[22], the vocation and mission of the laity[23], the social situation[24], the mission of the Church[25] and the problem of truth[26], must also be reflected in the formation of Claretian missionaries. It is also necessary to take into account the guidelines of the bishops and of the bishops’ conference of each region. The new Catechism of the Catholic Church should likewise constitute a reference point for growth in the sense of ecclesial communion.

169.  An adequate mediation of the Church in formation entails an effort to live in attunement and communion with the Church, allowing ourselves to be challenged and educated by the People of God, sharing experiences of evangelization and faith with them, joining with them in fostering all vocations and offering them our own distinctive charismatic input, both for their own advantage and for the upbuilding of the Body of Christ. In this sense, we can find enrichment in an adequate knowledge of and participation in the different charismatic experiences of the Church.

170.  Feeling with the Church and loving it will also act as a formative stimulus to work toward overcoming some of the shadows that affect it and toward promoting: an organic communion among the Church’s different vocations and between charisms and ministries; unity in pluralism; the mission of evangelizing those who have not yet heard the Good News of the Kingdom; inculturation and openness to the world[27]. An esteem for the Church’s universality, manifested in ecumenical attitudes of concern for all churches and of openness to their distinctive traits and needs, is very much in keeping with our missionary vocation. Collaboration with other institutes of consecrated life favors the common task of all of us in building up the Kingdom together.

 2.5. Congregational community

171.  Responsibility for vocation ministry and for missionary formation is incumbent on the whole Congregation[28]. It is the Congregation that welcomes those who are called to it and accompanies them in their process of formation, offering them a project of life and mission, and assuring them of the means to carry it out.

172.  The witness of fidelity to our vocation and of coherence with our charism will act as a stimulus to attract vocations and as an invitation to growth and maturation. The constant renewal of our communities, their experience of God, and their happy and simple life of brotherhood, can become one of the best means to help formation unfold in a harmonious way. The universal dimension of the Congregation, especially in those areas where cultural pluralism and interaction between diverse ethnic groups is most palpable, acts as a constant call to form our candidates in openness and respect for all peoples and cultures, as well as in missionary itinerancy and availability.

173.  The shadows of the Congregation, analyzed in the latest General Chapters[29], also have an influence on the process of formation. Our limitations and lacks constitute a call to promote an authentic formation that will guarantee that its human and Christian quality may be deeply Claretian and constantly renewed.

 2.6. Provincial community

174. Although our first and most radical belonging is to the Congregation as such, we carry out our missionary life and our processes of formation in the setting of our Provinces. Each one of them has its own history, is located in a determined country or region, is made up of persons whose faces are well known, and carries out works in which those who become incorporated into it collaborate. Through its members it takes responsibility for the formation of its candidates by means of witness, prayer, fraternal life, apostolic commitments and concern for the formandi. Hence the Province is a special milieu that influences formation very close at hand. This close knowledge of persons and works, sharing in designated events and collaborating in missionary tasks, are expressions that can favor the sense of belonging in our candidates, which is indispensable for their simultaneous growth in universal openness.

 3.   Local settings

 3.1. Social and cultural setting

175. The social setting, as a living environment, is a factor of considerable importance in the formation process. Even when this local setting may vary, in keeping with the different stages of formation, the criteria that govern the choice of a setting ought to combine the demands of a formation that is carried out in the context and praxis of mission, with adequate academic preparation.

176.  Formation must always be contextualized, but at the same time open to the horizon of universality proper of our charism. When the time comes to chose the most appropriate social setting, all the elements that guarantee the integral formation of the person, as stated in this Plan, must be taken into account.

177. Among the different ways of setting up these communities, we find some that are inserted in working class neighborhoods, with a view to forming missionaries who identify with the poor and their cause, so that they can proclaim to all, in all walks of life, the Good News of the Kingdom, with a preferential option for the poor, as Jesus did[30].

178. In communities of insertion, nearness to the people has a special impact on the process of formation. Their values and life-experiences are challenging, both for the formators and the formandi. Their relationship with the people can be:

—  To encourage our candidates to face themselves, to foster a dynamic clarification of their motivations and vocational attitudes, and to help them to undertake the project of missionary life.

—  To help them grow in the experience of God and to enhance their prayer.

—  To illumine their studies from the viewpoint of the shunned and the outcast, and to orient their studies toward the service of the people.

—  To help them read and proclaim the Word of God in its most probing aspects, when it is listened to with a gospel-focused attitude[31].

—  To enrich and promote the radical character of our missionary life whenever we accept its values of solidarity and service, its lifestyle, its capacity to struggle and overcome in the face of injustice and inequality and, above all, its patience and its hope.

179.  It is recommended that initial formation, above all in its initial stages, be carried out in the geographic and cultural area of the formandus, so that he can assume the values of his own culture in the light of evangelical criteria. In contrast, the cultural pluralism of the Church and of the Congregation, as well as the universal character of our charism, would suggest that some part of our formation could be carried out in places different from that of our place of origin.       

3.2. The formation house

180. The house in which a formation community lives is the physical and symbolic space in which a good part of the task of formation is carried out. Hence, it is indispensable to attach due importance to it. In order to achieve the objectives of formation, it must fulfill certain basic requisites:

—  Above all, it should favor community life and provide a family environment, while avoiding massiveness, dispersal and individualism.

—  It should be of a witnessing character, reflecting austerity, simplicity and decorum.

—  Along with spaces assigned to common services, which can be shared with outsiders, it should also have areas and times reserved for community life, study, prayer and rest.

—  The formation house, situated in different cultures and surroundings, will always reflect a predilection for the poor and will strive to be an expression of gospel radicalism.

—  The presence of Claretian symbols in its decoration will contribute pedagogically to create a family spirit and visibly manifest an esteem for our charism. Likewise, formation communities should always take up the symbolism of peoples, in order to assimilate the values of their cultures and to promote a greater identification with them.


[1] Cf. PI 33, 39-41, 43.

[2] Cf. Dir 198.

[3] Cf. CIC 689 2.

[4] Cf. 1F 6.

[5] Cf. PI 87-89; DVM 71-78.

[6] Cf. PDV 9.

[7] Cf. ChL 46.

[8] Cf. PI 87.

[9] Cf. PDV 8.

[10] Cf. GS 52.

[11] Cf. PC 24.

[12] Cf. OT 2; LG 11; AA 11; PDV 41.

[13] Cf. 1F 115.

[14] Cf. Lk 511.

[15] Cf. GPF 44-46.

[16] Cf. PI 21-23.

[17] Cf. AAS 65 (1983) 777-779.

[18] Cf. RH.

[19] Cf. DiM.

[20] Cf. D&V.

[21] Cf. RM

[22] Cf. MD.

[23] Cf. ChL.

[24] Cf. SRS and CA.

[25] Cf. RMi.

[26] Cf. VS.

[27] Cf. CIC 652 2, 659 2 and 3, along with 257 1 and 245 2.

[28] Cf. CC 58, 76.

[29] Cf. CPR 11, 13-19, 21-31, 32-38, 39-40; SW 3.2.

[30] Cf. Lk 418.

[31] Cf. SW 20, 21.5.