Part II Chapter 9 – The stage of Initiation: Novitiate

Chapter 9: Stage of Initiation: Novitiate

 1.   Nature and aim

348.  The novitiate is a time of integral initiation into following Christ the Evangelizer[1], according to the Claretian charism, with a view to incorporation into the Congregation, by means of religious profession. It is aimed at enabling the novices to have a better knowledge of the call of God as set forth in the Congregation, to experience its way of life, to conform their mind and heart with its evangelizing spirit, and at the same time to test their intention and fitness for it[2].

2. Requirements

349. Postulants will be considered suitable if they are making adequate progress in those attitudes that are oriented toward the demands of the religious life and activities of the Institute[3]. The necessary coordination between those in charge of vocation ministry, the postulancy and the novitiate will contribute toward forming an accurate assessment of the candidate’s fitness for entering the novitiate.

350. Only those postulants who have completed their 17th year, desire to be Claretian Missionaries, possess the requisite qualities of mental and physical health, and of human, spiritual and vocational maturity, and do not have any canonical impediment, may be admitted to the novitiate[4]. Admission belongs to the Major Superior with the consultative vote of his Council; dismissal, should it prove necessary, belongs to the Major Superior[5].

351.  Besides a written petition for admission to the novitiate[6], those candidates who have not done so upon entering the postulancy must present certificates of their Baptism and Confirmation and of their free status[7], as well as a medical certificate.

3.   General objectives

352.  Human dimension

  • To advance in a process of maturation that will allow the candidate consciously and freely to make an option for the Claretian life and to assume from the outset the demands that derive from that life.

353.  Christian dimension

  • To lay the groundwork for a life of union with Christ, the Father’s Son and Envoy, who became incarnate of the Virgin Mary by the work of the Holy Spirit[8].

354.  Claretian dimension

  • To be initiated in the religious life according to the charism, spirit and mission of Saint Anthony Mary Claret and of the Congregation.

4.   Specific objectives and means

355.  The objectives and means that are indicated should be put into practice through a methodology that combines, in a balanced way, a theoretical presentation, personal reading, individual work and teamwork, practical exercise, personal prayer and community celebration.

4.1.  Human dimension

4.1.1. Specific objectives

356.  They are as follows:

  • To achieve a climate of “breaking” with one’s former lifestyle, of a “desert experience” and of a “new openness” to the values of the missionary life.
  • To learn, accept and harmoniously integrate the different aspects that shape one’s personality, paying special attention to developing the ability to make a critical judgment of oneself and of reality.
  • To fit into the novitiate both affectively and effectively, in a simple and austere family-like environment.
  • To cultivate those virtues that give greater credibility to a disciple of Christ[9], namely, hard work, respect for self and others, joy, self-sacrifice, availability, cordiality, simplicity, constancy and steadfastness of will, keeping one’s word, personal dignity in one’s bearing and speech.
  • To assume, integrate and develop one’s affectivity and sexuality.
  • To foster a sense of responsibility and freedom in making personal decisions.
  • To cultivate one’s artistic sensibility and expression (music, literature, the creative arts).

4.1.2. Means

357.  They are as follows:

  • In order to facilitate a climate of desert experience and breaking away: taking advantage of conditions deriving from the location of the novitiate; critical and moderate use of the communications media (radio, TV, press); moderation in external relations with family and friends; actions that favor detachment and availability.
  • In order to create an adequate environment: organizing the pace of life so that it favors friendship, living together, sharing faith, qualities and gifts; taking part in the drafting of the community project and in its subsequent evaluations; distributing tasks and responsibilities.
  • In order to keep growing in maturity: presenting the criteria of human maturity and of some characterology; pedagogical notion of listening and accompaniment; examining one’s own feelings and emotions; prolonged periods of silence, as well as occasions aimed at cultivating harmonious human relationships; practicing oral and written expression; free spaces for creativity and developing one’s own human aptitudes; practicing physical and manual work and frequent sports activities; cultivating artistic activities; review of life; experiences of encountering the realities of poverty and marginalization.

4.2. Christian dimension

4.2.1. Specific objectives

358.  They are as follows:

  • Growing deeper in following Christ as the unifying center of one’s whole spiritual experience, as the One who disposes us always to follow the will of the Father and to become docile to the Spirit[10].
  • Setting our life within the gratuitous election of the Father, the acceptance of the Gospel as norm of life, and a sense of Church.
  • Personalizing and internalizing the spirit of the Beatitudes, following the example of Mary, a model of listening and responding to the Word of God.
  • Assimilating, both theoretically and practically, the biblical, theological and spiritual foundations of the Christian life that will enable one to achieve the goals proper of the novitiate and thus to respond to the vocation one has received.

4.2.2. Means

359.  Regarding experiences:

  • Growing deeper in personal prayer with long periods dedicated to it and an adequate pedagogy in it (biblical and theological foundations, methods, difficulties, different ways of expressing it). Stress on apostolic prayer.
  • Fostering a spirituality that is both committed to and shared with the people of God (apostolic groups, evangelizing agents, popular communities).
  • Incorporating the religious values of the people around us in our expressions of faith.
  • Daily celebration of the Eucharist[11] and Liturgy of the Hours, and frequent (both personal and community) celebrations of reconciliation.

360.   Regarding studies:

  • Introduction to Scripture in general and to a vocational reading of Scripture in particular.
  • Presentation of the figure of God the Father in the OT and NT, especially highlighting His providence for us and our trust in Him[12].
  • Introduction to the mystery of Christ, who died and is risen; special attention to the vocation accounts, in which he appears as Master and Lord calling the apostles to follow him[13].
  • Meditating on the Johannine and Pauline texts that deal with the action of the Spirit in believers, to awaken in them a greater docility to His inspirations[14].
  • A presentation of the figure of Mary as she appears within salvation history, stressing God’s free and gratuitous election of her, and the response of obedient faith that she gives as servant and disciple of her Son.
  • Initiation into the mystery of the Church.
  • Reflection on the religious vocation: discernment of vocation (signs, aptitudes, motivations, difficulties), theology and psychological and pedagogical aspects of vocation.
  • Introduction to Christian spirituality and an approach to the great authors of the spiritual traditions of the Church[15].
  • Initiation into liturgical prayer and pedagogy on it (its meaning as the Church praying with Jesus; its different manifestations of praise, thanksgiving, intercession; the theological-spiritual meaning of the Liturgy of the Hours and of the Sacraments of Initiation and Reconciliation).
  • Theoretical and practical initiation into spiritual accompaniment, discernment and particular examen.

4.3. Claretian dimension

4.3.1. Specific objectives

361.  They are as follows:

  • To come to know and experience the following of the poor, virginal and obedient Christ[16] in proclaiming the Gospel, making a mature option for Him.
  • To discover the meaning of cordimarian sonship and foster its living.
  • To know and love our Founder, to grow in the sense of Claretian identity and of belonging to the Congregation, and to delve more deeply into its spiritual heritage.
  • To experience missionary community life in a stable way and in keeping with the Constitutions.
  • To devote oneself to studying matters related with the aim of the novitiate.
  • To assimilate the missionary spirit and prepare for the apostolate in keeping with the guidelines of our recent General Chapters[17].
  • To accept the discernment and mediation of the novicemaster, superiors and brothers in community[18].

4.3.2. Means

362.  Regarding experiences:

  • Celebrating the feasts of the Congregation: Our Founder, the Heart of Mary, the Co-patrons; anniversaries of the Approval of the Constitutions, of the Canonization of Fr. Claret, of the Founding of the Congregation, of the grace of Claret’s conservation of the sacramental Species, and of the Blessed Martyrs of Barbastro. Some of these celebrations can be shared with members of other communities and with other branches of the Claretian Family.
  • Meetings and periodic contacts with Claretians of other communities, in order to share their missionary works, receive information on provincial projects, of matters of government and of other things.
  • Visits to some of our communities, above all for the celebration of professions, ordinations, the sending of missionaries or other significant events.
  • Using the symbols of our spiritual tradition: iconography of the Heart of Mary, of our Fr. Founder, of the founding of the Congregation, of the Claretian martyrs, and others.
  • Putting into practice some dynamics aimed at fostering good interpersonal relationships.
  • Fostering the dynamics of solidarity, communication, collaboration and fellowship.
  • Celebrating feast days that are most meaningful for the community and its members; relating in a friendly, hospitable and serviceable way with those who visit us.
  • Concrete apostolic experiences, in teamwork, in the field of catechetics and of animating the liturgy, and among the poor and marginalized.
  • Contacts with Claretians working in our missions.

363. Regarding studies:

  • Presentation of the biblical, historical and theological foundations of the religious life.
  • Study of its basic contents: consecration and vows (their biblical, theological and charismatic elements; psychological and pedagogical aspects, God-related, fraternal and apostolic dimension); the Claretian community as a missionary community; the mission of the Claretian in the context of the Church’s mission.
  • Study of the experience of Claret, by way of his Autobiography and his other writings (mainly his autobiographical and spiritual writings), with special attention to his vocational itinerary and its symbolic expression in the allegory of the forge.
  • Presentation of the Claretian charism and spirit, and study of the Constitutions, Directory and Documents of recent General Chapters; a summarized history of the Congregation (its most relevant persons and events) and of its present situation in the world.
  • A systematic presentation, following and evaluation of the virtues recommended to the novices in the Constitutions: lively faith[19], trust[20], evangelical humility[21], docility to the Spirit[22], rectitude of intention[23] and fidelity[24].
  • The foundations of cordimarian spirituality, of the Claretian missionary virtues, of the three possible ways of living the one Claretian vocation (priests, deacons, brothers) and a presentation of the different institutions that make up the Claretian Family.
  • A knowledge of present-day society and of the needs that most clamor for our attention.
  • Orientations for the practice of the apostolate and techniques for doing so (notions of pastoral ministry in general and of catechetics; different dynamics).

5. Characteristics

364.  Taking into account what is indicated in the law[25], the Provincial Government can organize the novitiate in different ways, according to the needs and circumstances of each region.

365.  By way of exception, in particular cases, by grant of the Superior General with the consent of his Council, a candidate can make the novitiate in a house distinct from that of the novitiate; always, however, under the direction of a religious who takes the place of a novicemaster[26].

366.  The novitiate must last for a minimum of 12 months; it may last for a maximum of two years[27]. In particular cases, the Major Superior can prolong the time of probation by a maximum of six months[28] beyond its ordinary duration.

367.  It is advisable that the candidate make the novitiate in his country of origin, so as to avoid difficulties that may stand as obstacles to the formation process[29], always, however, safeguarding the possibility of organizing interprovincial novitiates in keeping with concrete needs and circumstances.

368.  Formation programming must include the different elements indicated in the universal law of the Church[30], in the Constitutions and the Directory[31], and those presented in this Plan of Formation.

6.   The novicemaster and his collaborators

369.  The novicemaster is designated by the Major Superior with the consent of his Council. He must be perpetually professed and endowed with the human, religious and apostolic qualities that will allow him to accomplish his mission fully[32]. Besides having a suitable apostolic experience, he should have a great love for the Congregation, pedagogical aptitudes and the necessary endowments of maturity, kindness, prudence and solid teaching regarding the nature and mission of the Congregation in the Church[33].

370.  The novicemaster fulfills the function of helping the novices, by his word and example, to become formed in the missionary life of the Congregation[34]. To this end, he must:

  • Personally accompany each novice, orienting him in a personalized way and inculcating in him human and Christian virtues[35].
  • Endeavor to create and encourage a true community of faith and love among the novices.
  • See to it that they achieve the unity of missionary life that will allow them to combine in a harmonious way the spirit of union with God and apostolic action.
  • Discern and test the vocation of the novices[36].

371.  So that he may devote himself entirely to a task of such great importance, he must be free of all obligations and charges that might prevent him from doing so.

372.  The novicemaster should periodically inform the Major Superior concerning the progress of the novitiate and of each of the novices[37].

373.  The direction of the novices is reserved to the novicemaster alone, under the authority of the Major Superiors[38]. The novicemaster can rely on collaborators who work in team with him and share responsibilities and functions. They depend on him in anything that relates to the direction of the novitiate and to the application of the formation plan[39].

7.   Special moments

374. The beginning of the novitiate should be preceded by no less than five full days of spiritual exercises[40]. It is fitting that the rite of initiation be celebrated according to the Congregation’s own ritual[41].

375. In order to complete the formation of the novices, one or more periods of apostolic exercises outside the novitiate community can be programmed, always taking into account the prescriptions of the law in this regard[42].

376.  Three months before the date assigned for finishing his novitiate, the novice should submit a written petition to the Major Superior, asking for admission to religious profession, expressing his will to persevere in the Congregation, his disposition to fulfill the Constitutions[43] and his present desire to be a Claretian Missionary according to the lay, diaconal or priestly vocation[44].

377.  It is necessary to attend carefully to the preparation immediately preceding profession, providing the candidate with sufficient time for prayer and silence so that he may dispose himself adequately to make his vows. All members of the community, especially the Superior, the novicemaster and the candidate’s peers, are obliged to submit their reports in order to help form a right discernment[45].

378.  By his first profession, which should be celebrated according to the Congregation’s own rite[46], the novice is incorporated into the Institute[47]. In order for a profession to be valid, the prescriptions of the Church’s universal law and the Congregation’s own law must be fulfilled[48]. Profession is effected through a consecration to God by making the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and by a public act of commitment to the Heart of Mary in order to achieve the aim of the Congregation according to the Constitutions[49]. The liturgical celebration of profession should not be attended by any particular solemnity[50]. As regards the minutes, record and communication of the profession, the norms of our law should be followed[51].

[1] Cf. PI 45.

[2] Cf. CIC 646; CC 61; Dir 194.

[3] Cf. Dir 198.

[4] Cf. CIC 642, 643; Dir 198.

[5] Cf. CIC 641, 653 1; CC 69; Dir 201, 269.

[6] Cf. Dir 200.

[7] Cf. CIC 645.

[8] Cf. Dir 195.

[9] Cf. CC 68.

[10] Cf. Dir 195, 196.

[11] Cf. CC 61.

[12] Cf. CC 63, 67.

[13] Cf. CC 61.

[14] Cf. CC 65.

[15] Cf. PI 47.

[16] Cf. CIC 652 2.

[17] Cf. Dir 195.

[18] Cf. Dir 196.

[19] Cf. CC 62.

[20] Cf. CC 63.

[21] Cf. CC 64.

[22] Cf. CC 65.

[23] Cf. CC 66.

[24] Cf. CC 67.

[25] Cf. CIC 647; Dir 204, 206

[26] Cf. CIC 647; Dir 204.

[27] Cf. CIC 648; CC 69.

[28] Cf. CIC 653 2; Dir 208.

[29] Cf. PI 47.

[30] Cf. CIC 646-653.

[31] Cf. CC 61-71; Dir 194-231.

[32] Cf. CIC 651; Dir 210.

[33] Cf. CC 68.

[34] Cf. CC 68.

[35] Cf. Dir 211.

[36] Cf. CIC 652 1.

[37] Cf. Dir 213.

[38] Cf. CIC 650 2.

[39] Cf. CIC 651 2.

[40] Cf. Dir 202.

[41] Cf. Dir 203.

[42] Cf. CIC 648 2; CC 69.

[43] Cf. Dir 217.

[44] Cf. Dir 205.

[45] Cf. Dir 225.

[46] Cf. Dir 229.

[47] Cf. CIC 654; CC 70; Dir 214.

[48] Cf. CIC 656; Dir 218.

[49] Dir 215.

[50] Cf. OPR 5; PI 56.

[51] Cf. Dir 230-231.