Dynamisms and Means
181. By “dynamisms and means” we mean realities (situations, activities, instruments) that have a formative use and thrust. They are called “dynamisms” because of the energy they have to stimulate the formation process. They are called “means” inasmuch as they constitute channels for communicating the values that are meant to be handed on. These realities can either be created by various agents of formation, or they can be taken over with an educational aim from the broad world of formative factors (personal and environmental).
182. However, the thrust that the agents of formation assign to these realities does not in itself suffice to automatically transform them into value-bearing instruments useful for formation. It is necessary that the realities themselves must already be signs of the values they mean to convey. Moreover, a good organization and orientation of signs, as well as a good pedagogy in the use of means, contributes to making them more effective and helpful in achieving their intended objectives.
183. In this chapter, the fundamental dynamisms and means are set forth. Others that are more specific will appear in the different stages of formation. Moreover, the ones that are presented here are those that have had a special charismatic thrust and tradition in the Congregation. Some of them are joined together as binomial pairs in order to show their close interrelatedness which, in some cases, was underscored by our Founder himself.
1. Vocational accompaniment
1.1. The process of growth in vocation
184. A vocation is a gift of God that always demands a free response on the part of the person called. It must then be dynamically understood as something that is in a continual process of growth.
185. On God’s part, we are always assured of the active presence of the Spirit, who illumines and guides the person called and supports him in his response. On the part of the person called, he accepts the gift by becoming clearer about the nature of the call and by searching for a continuing formation in keeping with the Congregation’s project of life and by pursuing the way of his own sanctification.
186. Anyone who is called to our missionary life does not travel the ways of the Lord by himself alone, but rather in community. The community helps him discover what the Spirit is asking of him, it duly accompanies him in his journey throughout its successive stages and provides him with suitable persons who can offer him a more personalized help.
1.2. Personal accompaniment
187. Our Founder followed the pathways that the Lord chose for him by seeking both specific and regular guidance from persons experienced in the spiritual life, who helped him discern God’s will for him. He disclosed the state of his conscience to them, relied on their approval and obeyed them. He himself adverts to the fact that at very critical moments in his life he had recourse to certain persons for advice and direction. He recalls, as something especially significant, the meeting he had with Fr. Amigó, which contributed to reviving the fervor of his piety and devotion by opening his eyes to the dangers that he had been passing through. In a letter to Fr. Xifré, he expressed his desire that his sons should render a clear account of conscience to their spiritual directors, in order to avoid desertions and overcome temptations.
188. In a broad sense, personal accompaniment is any help that enlightens, sustains and guides a Claretian in his endeavor to discern the will of God in order to achieve the fullness of his missionary life. The ways in which this is done are many and diverse, as we will point out in what follows.
189. Spiritual direction is the way most often recommended both by the Church and by the Congregation. The Congregation has regarded it as an excellent means to discern the will of God, to maintain our fervor and to persevere to the end. The Congregation recommends spiritual direction to our missionaries in general and to our formandi in particular.
190. In our tradition, the novicemaster and the prefect of students are the persons whom the Congregation offers to each formandus for spiritual direction, but safeguarding the candidate’s freedom, with the consent of his superiors, to choose some other suitable person for this form of accompaniment. When some other person is chosen, he should preferably be a Claretian.
191. In spiritual direction, there should be an effort to help the person:
— To know himself, accept himself and possess himself of his own free will.
— To distance himself from himself in order to set out on the way of conversion to God and of giving himself as an offering to others. At this moment it is important to pay particular attention to the experience of God going on in the person, to the way he listens to the Word, to his personal and community prayer, to the different ways in which he keeps discovering the presence of Christ, to his critical reading of reality, to the way he is living his sense of belonging to the community and its apostolic experiences, and to the trials, crises and temptations that are inviting him to abandon the way he has begun.
— To seek God’s will always in the concrete circumstances of life.
192. The spiritual director carries out his task of accompaniment by means of a pedagogy which on the one hand illumines, suggests and encourages the person to value what he is or is not called to be and, on the other hand promotes his responsibility so that the person himself will be the one who chooses or undertakes as his own the ways that the Spirit of God is proposing to him.
193. Another form of accompaniment consists of frequent dialogues with the formator. The formator’s role puts him in relationship with each of the formandi in whatever refers to the ensemble of aspects of the formation project. This form of accompaniment must always take place, even when the spiritual director is someone else than the formator.
194. Also understood as forms of accompaniment are frequent confession and all those other realities which are helpful for personal growth in the formation community: reviewing one’s life, moments of celebrating and sharing the Word, formation chats, occasional reports on the life of the Church, the Congregation and the world, and even some small details (a word of advice, a meaningful word or gesture).
195. The drawing up and faithful fulfillment of a personal or growth project is another means that can prove helpful in vocational maturation. Our Founder always gave great importance to resolutions and plans of life for the effectiveness they have in making scientific, spiritual and apostolic progress. In order for a personal project to truly respond to its objective, it should start out from a faith-experience and include the main dimensions of one’s vocation. It has to be drafted with realism, concreteness, simplicity and flexibility, so that it can be periodically adapted to the situations that arise, and it should be shared with the formator and the spiritual director.
2. The Word and the sacraments
196. The 17th General Chapter, in its listing of the traits that define our distinctive way of being in the Church, speaks of a special devotion to the Eucharist and to the Word of God as primary and constant sources of our supernatural life and apostolic zeal. Given this centrality, both elements – together with the Sacrament of Reconciliation – must have a relevant and distinctive presence in the formative itinerary.
2.1. The Word
197. Throughout its history, in different concrete forms and practical expressions, the Church has held to the Pauline teaching that all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be completely, equipped for every good work. Along this same line, the Second Vatican Council recommends that all the faithful assiduously read the Scriptures as a way to the supreme knowledge of Jesus Christ, and it asks that the Church’s shepherds provide their faithful with the means for an adequate biblical formation. The Bible will never be merely a book to study, but rather, a spiritual nourishment served generously at the table of the liturgy, and a book of life.
198. Saint Anthony Mary Claret discovered his vocation above all in contact with the Bible. He was much given to reading it and constantly nourished his missionary spirituality on it, fixing his gaze principally on Jesus, the apostles and the prophets. He drew on the Bible for his preaching, both for subject matter and for style. During his years as a seminarian, he had acquired the custom of reading the whole Bible in the course of every year, in keeping with the guidelines of Bishop Corcuera.
199. Claret’s praxis and experience were transmitted to the Congregation. Already in number 6 of the rules for a “perfect missionary” which he wrote shortly before the founding of the Congregation, he prescribed the daily reading of the New Testament. The talks he gave at the founding retreat always open with a biblical introduction. The first Constitutions (1857) prescribed daily Bible reading during the time of missions. The Special Regulations for Students (1862) stipulates that each one of them have a Bible and read four chapters from it daily. In the 1865 Constitutions, Bible reading is established for the novices. Beginning in 1870, during their period they spent back in the mission house, the missionaries began having a weekly class in Sacred Scriptures as a kind of ongoing formation.
200. The Constitutions define our specific calling among the People of God as the service of the Word, and they ask that, following Mary’s example, we should listen to it assiduously and share it with our brethren. The Bible should be our principal book of spiritual reading. The superior should encourage his brethren to fidelity by offering them the ministry of God’s Word.
201. The latest General Chapters of the Congregation have acknowledged and highlighted the rich legacy of formation and biblical spirituality that has accompanied and enlivened the Institute throughout its history. Our aspiration is that each Claretian should become a habitual listener to the Word (in prayer, in events, and in the culture, silences and outcries of the people), an impassioned student of the Scriptures who allows himself to be challenged and probed by them, reads them in the light of his vocation, and shares them with his brethren and with the laity. Under Mary’s motherly guidance we learn how to turn the Word into a life-commitment and a missionary proclamation.
202. The Claretian Missionary will strive to read and study the Word in a charismatic key and with a view to the real world, from our Founder’s typically Christ-centered standpoint and in communion with the living tradition of the Gospel, which includes the latest advances in exegesis and hermeneutics. He will also prepare himself to be able to help the faithful to become familiarized with the Word of God.
203. In order for the Word to have a real impact on us, we have to follow a pedagogical approach that will make it for us what it was for our Founder: an impact for change and conversion; bread to satisfy our hunger for study, meditation and contemplation; a source of discernment and vocational discovery; a renewal of the first experience of our vocation; an inner fire that carries our following of Jesus over into doing and suffering; a treasure that we cannot help sharing with others in our preaching and writing. In order to achieve this, we need to give a relevant place, within a serious academic formation, to a savored and exegetical knowledge of the Bible; and see to it that the Word, through “lectio divina” and other kinds of reading, should be one of the hinges of the whole process of formation.We must strive throughout the different stages of formation to do a complete reading of the Scriptures and to maintain the tradition of daily Bible reading.
2.2. The Eucharist
204. The Eucharist, as the Sacrament of the sacrifice and real presence of Christ, occupied a preponderant place in the spiritual and apostolic life of Saint Anthony Mary Claret. It was the most intense moment of his personal union with Jesus Christ, offered to the Father for the salvation of humankind. In the Eucharist, Claret received his most burning desires to sacrifice his life with Christ for the good of the Church and of all human beings. Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament helped him to maintain these feelings and to unfold his activities in a sacrificial spirit that was profoundly steeped in the redemptive mystery of Christ and of the Church.
205. Since the Eucharist constitutes the center and apex of the liturgy and of worship, all of our efforts at formation in spirituality and piety should converge toward it. Following the example of our Founder, we must strive to live the Eucharist in its fullness, as:
— The Sacrifice of Christ and of his Church, to which we should be personally associated in obedience along with Christ, so that driven by His own charity, we may then give ourselves over to others.
— The Sacrament of the permanent presence of Christ in the Tabernacle where he invites us to come into his presence and be with Him to revive our faith and make us fitting ministers of his word in order to spread his Kingdom throughout the world.
— The nourishment that keeps our awareness of our missionary vocation alive and thriving throughout our formative itinerary.
206. In keeping with the experience and teaching of our Founder, our Constitutions speak of visiting, worshipping and celebrating the Eucharist daily. This must be a never-failing element in the daily life of the Claretian, one that should be lived wholeheartedly, since we must give ourselves totally to him who gives himself totally to us. In formation communities, the Eucharist should be the fundamental community act.
207. In order for the Eucharist to have its full transforming and missionary power among us, it is necessary, from a pedagogical point of view:
— To center our whole life in it, not reducing it to the moment of its sacramental celebration.
— To highlight its ecclesial and apostolic character.
— To integrate into its celebration the reality of the people (their struggles and sufferings, their hopes and achievements), as well as all that we are and do.
— To discover it as a power that transforms us into builders of peace, reconciliation and justice.
— To cultivate an adequate liturgical formation.
— To be educated in the meaning and dynamism proper of this celebration, also focusing on the missionary demands and commitments that derive from it.
— To pay constant attention to the truth of the signs involved in the Sacrament: proclamation of the Word, offertory and consecration, sign of peace, breaking of bread, communion under both species.
208. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, which restores and invigorates the new life received in Baptism, plays an essential role in missionary growth, since this will not take place without personal and community awareness of ongoing conversion. As pilgrims who have not yet reached our homeland, we need to receive God’s forgiveness in order to keep on dying to sin, which hinders our conformity with Christ, who knew no sin. Our Founder always accorded it great importance, as can be seen in many of his retreat resolutions.
209. Community celebrations of the different forms of the Rite of Penance, along with its frequent individual celebration, prepared for by a daily examen on our fidelity to the Gospel, will allow us:
— To experience the joy of the Father’s forgiveness.
— To rebuild our communion with the Church and with all creation.
— To know ourselves better and better.
— To purify the motives that guide us as servants of the Word.
— To strengthen our response to our vocation.
3. Prayer and study
210. These two dynamisms of formation have always been closely united in the Claretian tradition. As our Founder used to say, prayer and study are the two feet of the missionary, who needs both of them to be able to walk. He himself integrated the two in his own life as a missionary: I, before preaching, should move and beat the wings of study and prayer. Hence it is recommended that all of us cultivate the theological and human disciplines most diligently and that we constantly keep making progress in them. Missionaries in initial formation are told to cultivate their hearts as well as their minds, keeping them open to the action of the Spirit.
211. In this association of prayer with study, special attention should be paid to the integrative character of our formation, in a search for personal unity and harmony in the development of all his possibilities. Prayer and study should mutually help one another: prayer must orient the apostolic thrust of study and study must provide the contents, expression and penetrating power of the word we have to announce.
213. Our prayer must be based on the attitude and on the recommendations of Christ, who prayed assiduously, and on the attitude of Mary, who treasured all of these things, pondering them in her heart. Our Founder formed himself in this attitude of treasuring and pondering on the Word, fully convinced that in the fire that burns in meditation, men are melted and fused and molded in the image of Jesus. Hence he wanted his missionaries to practice that concrete form of prayer called meditation, understood above all as a way of looking at Jesus and studying Him in order to be interfused with Him and act as He did. A Claretian’s only thought is of how he can follow and imitate Christ in praying. Moreover, the formandus should constantly ask the Lord to make him a fitting minister of the Word.
214. Our whole liturgical life (especially the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours) and our acts of piety should express the most characteristic elements that we have inherited from our Founder: his Christocentrism, his Eucharistic piety, his love for the Word of God, his way of living Cordimarian sonship in close relationship with his missionary vocation, and his devotion to the apostles and to saints who were especially distinguished for their apostolic zeal.
215. Our prayer should be missionary prayer: in its continually taking up the mission and message within us, in its intention to communicate what we have contemplated, in its concern to assimilate Christ’s love for the Father and his zeal for His glory, in its constant intercession on behalf of the Church and for human salvation. The reason for this is that the missionary is always borne up by the certainty that his activity at prayer contributes powerfully to the effectiveness of his ministry.
216. In the formation of our prayer life, the history of Christian spirituality affords us with a very rich heritage to which we should all have recourse, both in theory and in practice. This matter should be programmed into our academic studies and should above all form part of the concrete instructions given by formators from the year of novitiate on, so that the formandus can keep discovering methods and resources that will make it easier for him to exercise an intense life of prayer.
217. The masters of the spiritual life insist on the need to prepare for prayer by an orderly life, a pure heart and an effort to distance ourselves from the noise and distractions that surround us. Only in this way will we be able to create in our hearts the kind of quiet space we need in order to receive the Word of God and to allow ourselves to be transformed by it.
218. Prayer is one of the essential bases of the religious life: the expression of faith and, indeed, faith itself in practice. Its basic theological meaning should therefore be understood from the very outset, and it should above all be established as the basis of all life in God. It is an openness to God and a communication with Him that we have to keep bringing into our life, our struggles and our everyday efforts, anchoring it in hope, so that it can be effective in love, with all its practical implications.
219. In all religions and cultures, prayer has played the role of breathing, or of circulating the life-giving sap that makes religious life possible and nourishes it. In present-day ecumenical relationships, it is fitting – if circumstances seem to warrant it – to try an approach to prayer forms inspired in other religious traditions.
220. Personal accompaniment is particularly necessary here. Through it we should keenly and continually analyze the way our prayer life is going: its concrete difficulties, its advances, the means to assure constancy in it and the care we take to ensure that we continue in its practice.
221. In order to become a fitting minister of the Word, the missionary must assiduously cultivate human and divine sciences, striving to achieve the degree of perfection in them that is normally expected of every educated human being. It is necessary, above all, to seek an understanding of our faith by painstakingly studying the sacred sciences.
222. The example of our Founder should spur all of us missionaries on. A man of action, intensely committed to the apostolate, he knew how to nourish that action at the sources of piety and study, which he cultivated sedulously. For him, piety and study are, so to speak, the eyes of understanding and the sustaining bread of the soul: a body without eyes does not see and runs forward headlong, and without sustenance it dies. We gather up his example and, in today’s circumstances, we propose, as an indispensable requisite for mission, to promote the quality of academic formation in the initial period.
223. The orientations of Vatican II regarding the academic formation of priests, updated in subsequent magisterial documents, should serve as the basic guidelines for organizing the academic plans for our formandi. We should seek to strike a harmonious balance between humanistic formation and a knowledge of contemporary learning, on the one hand, and philosophical and theological formation in the more properly so-called priestly studies, on the other.
224. As a basis for all our studies, by reason of their missionary orientation, we should give a relevant place, with a serious academic formation, to a savored and exegetical knowledge of the Bible. Likewise, our formation candidates should diligently cultivate the study of languages and become adept in the techniques of communications and in language skills, so that they will be able to exercise their ministry both ably and attractively.
225. For the formation of the Missionary Brothers, general orientations and more particular guidelines should be given in keeping with their personal qualities and their diverse cultural areas, as indicated in this Plan of Formation. In any case, we should make sure that they possess a formation that will allow them to solidly know and live their distinctive missionary vocation.
226. The knowledge of culture and of the cultures of our time, demands a twofold complementary outlook: an ecumenical openness to all lores and all peoples and, at the same time, an adequate attention to and insertion in the indigenous cultures in which we are to unfold our ministry. This is all the more necessary today, since in many areas of the world, the split between the Gospel and culture is without a doubt the drama of our time. In initial formation, it should be seen so that the missionaries make an in-depth and systematic study of their own cultural traditions. This will allow them to be initiated into a process of missionary inculturation and be introduced into a dialogue between faith and the culture of their people.
227. Academic studies, whether carried out in our own centers or in those of others, are governed by the norms of the Church that regulate ecclesiastical studies. In some cases it will be necessary to complete these studies, in keeping with the orientations of the GPF, with certain matters that are closely related to our charism and are not included in ordinary plans of studies. If academic formation is carried out in theological faculties or centers of studies other than our own, we should collaborate with them as best we can, in order to participate more directly in the academic formation of our formandi.
228. The study center, in which the formandi spend a good deal of their time, can exert a quite determining influence on their formation. Hence, it is fitting that we choose centers that offer a quality education and offer some guarantee, in their overall educational mission, of measuring up to the level demanded by the Church. In those cases where studies are made in centers not directed by the Congregation, it is necessary to round out and complete our missionary formation in the formation community, following the indications contained in the GPF.
229. Study becomes a missionary dynamism when, in addition to its being pursued with responsibility, constancy, rigor and technical sufficiency, it is motivated and oriented toward the announcement of the Gospel. In order that our studies may be carried out under good conditions, we should make sure that all our formation communities have the necessary means, ranging from an appropriate environment and an updated library and other tools to equip us pastorally and technically.
4. Community life and formative apostolic experiences
4.1. Community life
230. The experience of community that Saint Anthony Mary Claret lived through was very rich and original, both because of his calling to be a founder and because of his distinctive mission in the Church. He founded the Congregation as one whose mission drove him both to devote himself to the ministry of the word and to lead a perfect common life in union with others who had the very same spirit. He lived, as often as he could, in community with his missionaries, as a demand of his conformity with Jesus who evangelized in fellowship with the apostles. But he also lived the mystery of the cross in community whenever he was not able to live in it as fully as he would have desired to do.
231. Our common life responds to our Founder’s desire to imitate the apostolic life in its fullness, that is, to follow Christ who gathered the apostles about him in fraternal charity. According to our Constitutions, the foundation of our missionary community lies in the person of Jesus, the Son always sent in communion with the Father and the Spirit, in the community of the Twelve and in the first community of believers.
232. In formation for community, we need to stress the most outstanding traits of our style of community life:
— It is, first and foremost, a missionary community, and as such its evangelizing mission is its reason for being and the reality that makes it both ecclesial and universal. The witness of fraternal life is already, in itself, evangelizing.
233. In order to relive in community the spiritual journey of Claret and his basic preoccupation with serving and building up the Church through the ministry of the Word, proclaiming the Kingdom of God, it is imperative that our community possess certain requisites:
— Those who are in the period of first formation should be familiarized with an overview of mission in its real sociological, cultural and historical dimensions…, should grow in theological understanding of the missionary Church…, and in an availability to be sent on mission through the mediation of regular community channels.
— Community values hold a privileged place: sharing the faith, the Word and responsibilities; programming and planning together; teamwork; favoring mutual openness of the individual with others and with the group; jointly reading and analyzing situations and signs of the times. The community project should become a normal dynamism in our formation communities.
— Whenever it is deemed fitting, and with due safeguards for personal freedom and privacy, we should likewise make use of those modern techniques that enhance community life and structure, such as group dynamics, exercises in sharing and clarifying issues in depth, and other pedagogical means.
— We should equip ourselves to offer different services to the community, including manual labor.
4.2. Apostolic experiences in formation
234. Bearing in mind the centrality of mission in our life, apostolic experiences take on a singular importance throughout the course of our formative journey. They serve as a school in which, at the same time that we are proclaiming the Word, we are also being formed as missionaries.
235. The documents of the Church and of our Founder, as well as the orientations of the Congregation, all insist on apostolic formation. Study should be intimately connected with pastoral practice. Apostolic formation is the fruit of the interrelation between concrete actions and the light thrown on them by the theology of pastoral action.
236. This formation requires careful planning geared toward equipping our formandi for mission, avoiding improvisation, mere good will, reductionist approaches or carrying out actions without evaluating them.
237. As regards theoretical apostolic formation, we should take care that it is fitted adequately into the cycle of ecclesiastical studies and is backed up with the help of complementary courses and seminars, with readings from reviews specializing in pastoral matters, and with the study of techniques of the apostolate and of other disciplines related with the ministry of the word.
238. As for concrete apostolic activities, these should be set within a framework that takes into account the objectives, attitudes, criteria and pedagogical orientations that are pointed out in the numbers that follow.
239. When the time comes for programming apostolic activities, the fundamental objective is that the formandi have a practical experience of the Claretian mission today, in keeping with the demands, options and preferential recipients that this entails. This fundamental objective is concretely embodied in other more specific objectives:
— The gradual discovery and development of the apostolic aptitudes of each formandus, which will help to focus his ministerial specialization.
— The knowledge of the apostolic reality of the Church and of the Organism he is working in, and his progressive fitting into it.
— The acquisition of the habit of perceiving in reality the challenges and urgent needs of the Kingdom.
240. Among the attitudes with which activities should be carried out, the formandi should lay special stress on union with Jesus Christ, the Son sent by the Father. In this way the charity of Christ will spur them on to work with dedication and generosity in proclaiming the Gospelwherever the Congregation, after due discernment, asks them to provide this service. From this union with Christ, other distinctively Claretian attitudes will spring:
— Strength and joy in bearing sacrifices, difficulties, trials and failures in the apostolate without becoming disheartened, as becomes men who know that the cross is the apostle’s shield and banner.
— Sensitivity and insight in order to grasp the most urgent needs and challenges,without allowing themselves to be overcome by pessimism, but rather, to keep on searching with others for adequate missionary responses.
241. Concrete apostolic activities should be adjusted to the following criteria:
— They should be in keeping with our charism and at the same time be effectively formative; that is, they should contribute positively toward the person’s maturation and to his becoming equipped as a missionary. For this, it is imperative that we learn to grasp and interpret the reality in which the recipients of our word live, to take up their experience and to express ourselves in their language and their symbolic world.
— In the performance of these activities there should be a gradual process leading from the postulancy to perpetual profession or ordination, with due regard for each person’s pace in maturing.
— They should be carried out in coordination with the pastoral projects of the Church and of the Congregation, and be fittingly accompanied and evaluated.
242. As pedagogical orientation:
— It should be assured that each formation community annually programs its apostolic activities, taking into account on the one hand our Claretian options, the person of the formandus and the possibilities of the surroundings and, on the other, their harmonious distribution in relation to prayer, study and community life.
— It should likewise be assured that the formandi do teamwork, and that throughout the cycle of their formation they experience progressively more demanding forms of pastoral service in keeping with their stage of formation.
— Both during times when their studies are interrupted (regency…) and in other special times (vacations, holidays), more intense and qualified experiences can be planned in the fields of the service of the Word, of marginalization, the defense of life and human rights and of further training in keeping with our missionary options.
— A member of the formation team should accompany the formandi in their process of overall apostolic formation and keep in frequent contact with those who have received them into their pastoral service.