Chapter 3: Period Between the years 1899-1922

Chapter 3: Period between the years 1899-1922

This period includes the incumbencies of Frs. Clement Serrat and Martin Alsina and the celebration of four General Chapters. Three of them were important for formation

I.    Fr. Clement Serrat (1899-1906)

On his birthday of 1902, Fr. Clement Serrat addressed, from Santo Domingo de la Calzada, a precious circular to the Congregation on Religious Vocation[1]. With it:

“(…) we intend to awaken in you feelings of deep gratitude by reminding you of the divine gift of vocation, (…) which very urgently demands our appreciation and our love”[2].

1. Call to Vocational Fidelity

After arousing these feelings, Fr. Serrat makes a call to vocational fidelity. Making use of the words of St. Paul, which he places as the heading of his circular letter, “Obsecro vos ut digne ambuletis in vocatione qua vocati estis” [I urge you to walk worthily in the vocation you have received][3], he earnestly exhorts:

“(…) to remain faithful in the vocation to which you have been called. Yes, my dear brothers, I entreat you for the love of God to show yourselves as faithful servants, worthy imitators of the virtues of the divine Master who called you, most worthy members of the Religion to which you fortunately belong (…)”[4].

2. Means to Foster Fidelity to One’s Vocation

Following St. Paul himself, Fr. Serrat exhorts to fidelity and indicates the means suggested by the Apostle in his letter to the Ephesians: Cum omni humilitate et mansuetudine, cum patientia supportantes invicem in caritate, sollicity servare unitatem spiritus in vinculo pacis [Be humble, kind, patient, and bear with one another in love; make every effort to keep among you the unity of Spirit through bonds of peace]”[5].

2.1. The first and fundamental means of perseverance in vocation is humility and meekness, two typical virtues of a Claretian missionary[6].Through them, the missionary will be able to attain the grace of God and overcome the trials that emanate from fidelity to one’s vocation. And the reason he alleges is the lofty state of grace and holiness of religious life, which demands a very high degree of humility from those who have been called[7].

It should be a motivated, profound and personalised humility; it should be sincere and well grounded; humility that stems from the knowledge of self, of one’s limitations and sinfulness, and from acknowledging the gifts received from God to be well administered[8].

This self-image that the humble religious who loves his vocation should have, must not be simply theoretical and intellectual: it must be operative. It must be translated into words and deeds, both when he is praised and when he is insulted and held in contempt[9].

The religious should be aware of the sacrifice and self-denial implied by the demands of the religious life he has embraced. He should not be surprised when, on the journey of his vocational life, privations and difficulties arise from his fidelity. On these occasions he should not be carried away by the enticements of the world and the temptations of pride and the flesh; rather, grounded on humility, he should remain in the option he has undertaken[10].

2.2. In the second place, in order to be strengthened more in their vocation, it is necessary that they support one another with patient charity. With a charity that helps understand the brothers, their character and temperament, their pain and suffering, avoiding “harshness and rigour” with them[11]. And he reminds us of the responsibility that each one has over the vocation of his brothers[12].

2.3. The third and last means Fr. Serrat indicates in support of religious vocation is the concern for keeping the unity of spirit with the bond of peace. If the previous means tends to foster mutual charity among the brothers, as individuals, this one considers them collectively, as a corporation[13].

II.  Fr. Martin Alsina (1906-1922)

1. The “divine pious motion”

Fr. Martin Alsina, having in mind the existence of some missionaries who are unhappy or dissatisfied with themselves and with their vocation, wrote a circular letter on the Remedies against discontent in Religious Life[14]. In it he expresses an inner desire on behalf of his brothers, namely:

“(…) I would like to see you all joyful, contented, lively and happy, yet I often hear cries of pain and anguish; there are also occasional cries of some who are dissatisfied even with their own vocation”[15].

1.1. He painfully observed that “not a few live dissatisfied in the Congregation. And discontentment is one of the main evils that affect missionaries and their vocational fidelity[16]. Seeking the spiritual welfare of the Brothers, when he writes about the discontentment in religious life and, particularly in the Congregation, he offers a very concrete remedy to eradicate this evil, which does not consist in solving the discontentment with superficial gestures[17]. It goes to the root of the problem. This remedy lies in vocational fidelity, which he calls the “divine pious motion”[18].

1.2. What is the “divine pious motion?” It is not a matter of the intellect, but of the will. Everybody understands and grasps the need of fidelity to the observance of the Constitutions, but not everybody practices it faithfully and wholeheartedly[19].

With the “divine pious motion,” the person goes to the root of the problem, is led to do God’s will and to glorify him in everything. And this fidelity gives the religious inner unity, affective and effective unity in the diverse situations he must go through. From this unity emanates order and order brings forth peace and spiritual welfare[20].  It is not only a source of vocational joy and happiness, but also a source and guarantee of vocational fidelity.

2. Personalised Formation

On the occasion of the erection of the Province of Bética, Fr. Alsina says that means for a good scientific, religious and apostolic formation are not lacking in the Congregation[21]. But this formation must be personalised, from the very first moments, by means of personal work and discernment[22].

Each one must cultivate his intelligence with the knowledge befitting his vocation so that he “may clearly perceive the affairs he must engage in, make the right judgement about them and ponder them solidly and accurately.” Each one has to cultivate his will, inflaming it with the zeal for the Gory of God and the salvation of souls, so that it may love what is good and virtuous, and firmly embrace it. He must also cultivate his character till it grows noble, firm, gentle and kind, with a view to fidelity, fraternity and mission. For this reason, Fr. Alsina encourages the members to cultivate their own gifts and personal qualities[23].

3. Quality Formation

In one of his trips to Rome, Cardinals Rampolla and Vives recommended Fr. Alsina to foster in the Congregation “the most perfect formation of its members.” On this occasion, he wrote a circular letter on “The Formation of our members”[24], in which he describes how our formation should be.

3.1. In the first place, “formation should be directed towards forming Missionaries of the Congregation”[25]. This will be achieved if the formandi make themselves fit and are apt to accomplish what is permanent and what is variable in the Congregation.

Permanent in the Congregation is its aim, to wit, seeking always and in everything the glory of God, the sanctification of its members and the salvation of people. Also to be taken into account in the formation of the missionaries are the variable elements, that is, the means that the Congregation keeps on adopting in its development throughout the years, in order to attain what is permanent: its aim. Formation must be directed towards obtaining the maximum ability and preparation so that the person may use all the possible means to achieve that which is permanent[26].

3.2. Ours must be good, quality formation. What does good formation consist in?, Fr. Alsina asks. It consists in this:

“That all members come out as good Missionaries, to wit, Missionaries of the Congregation and Missionaries of their own time”[27].

Missionaries of the Congregation according to its spirit and the aim it has in the Church. Missionaries of their own time, to the extent that they are open to all possible means, always in a state of renewal and adaptation, in order better to respond to their apostolic mission[28].

Without this formation we would have useless, wretched and ridiculous individuals, who do not know how to present themselves and are incapable of exercising any sound influence at all on the people around them. All members, formators and formandi, should pray, study and exert great efforts to achieve the formation needed “in our time,” using “the best methods” towards a good formation[29].

3.3. Formation, or vocational development, is a shared task where both formators and those in formation have their own function. In the circular letter on formation he writes “to all:”

“And we say to all, because formation is a joint task of directors and directed. To obtain a perfect image, not only the intelligence and the skilful hand of the artist are needed, but also the malleability of the material. How much more necessary will the co-operation of the directed with the action of the director be, since we are dealing with beings that are by nature free?”[30]

Therefore, the directors (Superiors, Prefects, Masters and confessors) and the directed (formandi and penitents) should co-operate to achieve a perfect formation[31].

4. Solid Formation in Virtue

On his return from another trip to Rome, after a papal audience in which Pope Benedict XV exhorted him to extol the importance of fostering “a solid formation in virtue,” Fr. Alsina wrote a circular on this matter[32].

From the moment they enter the Congregation, our missionaries should receive a “solid formation”[33] and, to this end, they should be grounded on “solid virtue”[34].  It is a guarantee of vocational perseverance in the face of the adversities and difficulties of missionary life[35].

4.1. A solid formation should be grounded on the imitation of Jesus. It is attained if it is based on Christ, on knowing and loving Him, on the imitation of his life and works. A formation thus grounded will be like a “house built on solid rock,” capable of withstanding all the assaults and difficulties of missionary life. On the contrary, without a reference to Christ, formation will be built on sand, without a stable support or consistent foundation[36].

4.2. A solid formation should also aim at the acquisition of the missionary virtues proposed in the Constitutions[37]. In them we find the virtues that serve as basis for the missionary life that the Congregation demands. These virtues are lively faith, trust, humility, obedience, upright intention, prayer and fidelity to one’s vocation; those who enter the Congregation should assimilate and personalise them right from the noviciate.

5. Formation of Character

Delving into and developing some aspects of the previous circular, Fr. Alsina wrote on the Formation of Character[38], since a good vocational screening and a solid formation imply giving a special attention to the formation of the person’s character[39].

5.1. In the first place, forming men of character means forming “men with self-control, who can also be masters of the circumstances in order to go after what is good, just, fair and rational, in every place, time and occasion”[40]. It is imperative to form in the Congregation missionaries of character, missionaries that are masters of their own selves and of the circumstances in order to attain the three aims of our vocation: give glory to God, sanctify oneself and save people in every place, time and occasion. The imitation of Christ, conformity with him, the witness of virtue and the proclamation of the Kingdom are not possible if the missionary is not a man of character[41]. And in the second place, the personal character of each one must be formed, since Missionaries with a bad character are pernicious to the Congregation, to the community and to the ministry[42].

5.2. A firm character is obtained by means of subjection and fidelity to each one’s “duties”[43]. We are referring to a subjection that is an expression of the spirit of obedience, motivated by the love of Jesus and exercised in a climate of freedom, faith and love. In order to form a “firm, noble and lofty character, as befits a Missionary Son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” it is necessary to form the person in the truth, in the values of our life, in the actions and behaviour that are consonant with the missionary values. In all this, there should be a central motivation, which is no other than the “love of Jesus Christ”[44].

This formative approach, the formula propter Jesum Christum, should start in the Seminaries and in the Noviciate and should continue in the years that follow Profession. On the one hand, these formative stages constitute the proper ground where the seed of religious and apostolic vocation may take root, develop and grow to perfection, and the good character may be formed. And on the other, this constant exercise would form the habit, the character, and this would be the best guarantee for a prosperous individual and corporate future[45].

6. Mary in Formation

Mary is an essential reference to form Christ in the persons in formation. Solid formation, which is to be founded on Christ and on the imitation of his life and works, should be attained through Mary, our Mother. The Missionary should take Mary as the “basis and exemplar of his spiritual formation,” in order to mould in himself, “more gently and efficaciously, the image and the very life of Jesus, until he comes to a full identification with Him[46].

III. Vocational and Formative Documents

1. Vocations

The criteria and the requirements for the admission of the candidates at the moment of entrance and the circumstances for dismissal during the formative period were expressed in the documents of the Congregation. Nevertheless, given the great variety of these documents, starting from the Reglamento of 1900, about which we will speak immediately, the requirements were compiled in an Appendix with the title Bases de admisión e interrogatorio para Postulantes [Bases for admission and questionnaire for Postulants]. This appendix was published “with the desire of obtaining total uniformity in all our Seminaries regarding the steps or procedures in the admission of Postulants”[47].

2. Postulants

With the passage of time, the new pedagogical demands of the centres, the suggestions of formators and the directives of the General Chapters, the book of regulations for postulants was progressively actualised.

2.1. Previous experiences prompted the convenience of gradually introducing “some important modifications” in Fr. Xifré’s last book of regulations. For this reason, the VIII General Chapter (Vich 1899) believed that the moment had come to assume those modifications and bring about a new drafting of the same[48].

The new Regulations for the Schools for Postulants (1900) was edited during the time of Fr. Clement Serrat[49] and, for its drafting, the following were taken into consideration:

“1st. the regulations of 1894 with the amendments later introduced by the Superior General; 2nd. the decisions taken in the General Chapters of Madrid, Cervera and Santo Domingo; and 3rd. the reports of the Prefects of our Seminaries and other Fathers of well-known learning”[50].

This book of regulations does not explicitly mention, but presupposes a Plan of studies. It maintains the fundamental formative aspects of the previous regulations[51], among them, the triple dimension already proposed by Fr. Xifré, that is, “the uniformity, the order and the harmony in all postulants” of our seminaries. However, it introduces a considerable number of changes in their internal organisation, it more amply develops some points and adds, as a novelty, some Instructions for the transfer of the postulants to the Noviciate, plus several appendices[52].

In addition to the functions of the Formators (prefects, professors and auxiliaries), it more explicitly develops the functions of the superiors[53].

Prefects are insistently reminded of the periodic contact with the postulants, so that the latter may give an “account on their corporal and spiritual condition,” describing with greater precision and developing more extensively the contents of such personal relationship. Prefects should see to it,

“that, at least once a month, the Postulants go to the Prefect’s room to give an account of their corporal and spiritual situation. The Prefects should find out in detail all that is happening to the Postulants or may be useful for them, in accordance with their character and temperament. Very especially they should ascertain the behaviour of these young men in prayer and in other ordinary practices or actions”[54].

It introduces some pedagogical criteria for the fraternal correction of the postulants. This correction should be based on justice, it should be fair, timely and suitable, proportionate to the age and psychic and spiritual conditions of the Postulant, gradual in its application, and based on charity[55]. It also demands from the Prefects that, in giving correction, they should not only ask humbly and fervently for the necessary graces to perform this delicate task: they should also put on true charity[56].

2.2. During Fr. Alsina’s governance, another edition is made of the Regulations for the Schools of Postulants (1907)[57]. Both the principles and the formative guidelines basically coincide with the previous regulations. However, they include, in addition to the table of subjects to be studied during the four years, several modifications suggested by some persons consulted for the purpose. In the field of formation the following may be pointed out:

1st. Physical and corporal development, which has always been emphasised, should be especially taken care of during these years, with a view to the postulant’s future apostolic life. Many cases of diseases that eventually render the Missionary unable to exercise the ministry have their origin in the disregard or lack of attention given to the postulant or novice during the formation period[58].

2nd. In correcting or admonishing the postulants, the professors should be fair, moderate and motivated only by a “holy and gentle zeal.” They should not humiliate or dishearten them, thus putting their vocation at risk[59].

3rd. Timetables, which were common to all postulancy centres in order to facilitate their proper functioning, are made flexible in their application. The real situation makes this flexibility mandatory. For this reason, superiors are authorised to change the schedule on certain days, with due cause and after hearing the opinion of the prefects[60].

2.3. Although the previous books of regulations have formative indications related to the postulants, they do not contain direct references to them as a specific educational body. In order to complete the formative framework, during the time of Fr. Alsina, the Mirror of the Postulant appears, a type of directory or book of regulations addressed to the Congregation’s minor seminarians[61].

According to these regulations, postulants must be aware from the beginning that they are being trained to be missionaries. Therefore, from the time they enter the seminary, “they should always have before their eyes the aim of their vocation to the Congregation of Missionaries, Sons of the I. H. of Mary.” For this reason, they should live in accordance with the spirit and the practices of the Congregation[62].

First and above all, they should be “truly and solidly devout,” with a piety based on the “holy love and fear of God” and with a special reference to the Heart of Mary whom they should call Mother. They should be especially devoted to the saints whose devotion has been traditionally fostered by the Congregation; they should be initiated in the devotion to the Ven. Fr. Founder[63].

As a clear sign of vocation, they should affectively and effectively love the Congregation as true children[64]. They should put into practice the demands that arise from the vows they will profess in the future, as well as the missionary and typically Claretian virtues, such as humility and modesty. They should also seriously and responsibly dedicate themselves to study[65]. They should have an open and sincere personal relationship with the Fr. Prefect, their immediate superior and frequently visit him in his room and manifest to him their personal situation[66].

3. Professed Students

3.1. Dispositions for the Professed Students

We already said in the previous chapter that the Books of Regulations for postulants served also as formative guidelines for the professed students in their fundamental points[67]. In this period the same criterion was also followed[68].

Later on, however, in the time of Fr. Alsina, on 11 November 1912, the Disposiciones particulares para los Colegios de los Estudiantes profesos [Particular Dispositions for the Seminaries of the Professed Students] (1912) were published[69]. They are a synthesis of dispositions that were being given and observed from the first seminaries of Thuir until the present moment, for the organisation and functioning of the same. It is like a Book of Regulations with very detailed practices, “concrete and well defined norms,” that seek uniformity of behaviours and tend to foster religious spirit and the advancement in science and virtue[70].

3.2. Statuta pro Studiis

The VIII General Chapter (Vich 1899) asked that the Plan of Studies of the Congregation, in force since the time of Fr. Clotet, be revised and amended, establishing a methodology to this end[71].

After a wide consultation with the professors of the Congregation, the General Government drafted a new Plan of Studies that was published on 25 August 1900. This plan was entitled Statuta pro Studiis Congregartionis Filiorum Immaculati Cordis Beatae Mariae Virginis [Statutes for the Studies of the Congregation of Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary][72].

The Plan was promulgated “ad experimentum” for three years. After the three-year period, a consultation was made to the Superiors, Prefects and Professors, asking their observations in the matter. After compiling these observations, the General Government introduced some changes in the Statutes and published them on 10 September 1903[73].

The IX Extraordinary General Chapter (Selva del Campo 1904) asked the General Government to establish a Permanent Commission on Studies to examine, among other things, the prevailing Statutes and Regulations and to draft the Regulations for the Prefects[74]. This Commission made new observations on the Statutes for the Studies, which were published on 14 July 1904[75].

The Statutes were confirmed and published again in 1913 and 1916, with few corrections and a good number of interpretations done by the Permanent Commission on Studies. In this period there were no substantial changes, “waiting for whatever the Holy See might decide about studies in the Religious Institutes”[76].

 IV. General Chapters[77]

1. VIII General Chapter, Vich 1899[78]

1.1. Regime of the Noviciate

The favourable time has not yet come, the Chapter says, for the Provinces to establish their own noviciate. The present one should continue under the jurisdiction of the General Government[79], although the Provincial Superiors should have something to say in the appointment of the Novicemasters and in the admission of novices to the Profession. With a view to the future, the Provincial Superiors should begin to prepare whatever is necessary to establish the Noviciates as soon as the suitable circumstances are present[80].

1.2. Revision of the Regulations for Postulants and of           Studies

Bearing in mind the experiences of the last years, the Chapter asked the General Government to revise the current Regulations for Postulants and to make the necessary changes and amendments[81]. It also left to the General Government’s discretion the chance to make some modifications to the Regulations of Studies[82].

1.3. Local Ministers

The Ministers, in their capacity as persons-in-charge of the Brothers, should be for them “like true fathers;” should attend to them in their physical and moral needs, watch their behaviour and always deal with them in a dignified and charitable manner[83].

1.4. The Manifestation of Conscience

In order to facilitate the keeping of the Constitutions[84] regarding the manifestation of conscience to the Superior and the Confessor, the Chapter declared that the Superiors as well as the Ministers, Prefects and Novicemasters, are not authorised to reveal “to anyone anything they may have learned from their respective subjects only, purely and exclusively by means of the aforementioned manifestation of conscience”[85].

2. IX General Chapter. Selva del Campo 1904[86]

2.1. Organisation of the Centres

The Chapter approved the complete distribution of the Scholasticate, transferring it to the jurisdiction of the Provincial Superiors. It also created a Central Seminary, dependent on the General Government, for the priests who “have finished the courses of Moral Theology and Canon Law and for the priests who made their profession in the Noviciates”[87].

2.2. Hygiene in the Seminaries

The Chapter was concerned about the health of some of our seminarians and the hygiene in our seminaries. Without health there can be no adequate formation or observance of the commitments of missionary life. For this reason, it was agreed in the first place to introduce in our Seminaries the necessary improvements to enhance their hygienic conditions. And, in the second place, it was deemed fitting to consult “with persons of acknowledged learning and experience,” in order to take stock towards adopting other measures that may seem necessary[88].

2.3. Permanent Commission and Regulations for Prefects

The Chapter deliberated on several points related to the Plan of studies, the Regulations for Postulants and the convenience of drafting a book of special regulations for the Prefects of our Seminaries.

Carefully taking into account the desires of the Cardinal Protector regarding the studies of our Missionaries, the Chapter decided to ask the General Government to create a Permanent Commission with the task, among others, of studying the prevailing statutes and regulations. The Chapter also acknowledged the convenience of having a Book of Regulations for Prefects and decreed that the drafting of the same be entrusted to the aforementioned Permanent Commission[89].

2.4. Declarations on the Constitutions

Regarding the Constitutions, the Chapter made several declarations, some of them with an obvious formative content[90].

1st. With regard to the novices, there is a distinction between their approval for profession, in which the provincial examiners intervene, and their admission to the same, which requires the vote of the Provincial Government[91]. Every three months, the Novicemaster should give to the Provincial Superior a report on the novices; this report should be also made known to all those who have a vote in the approval or admission of the novices[92]. At the end of the noviciate year, and before their profession, the novices, by means of a public or private document, should dispose of the use, usufruct and administration of all their properties. It would be fitting that they also make a will[93].

2nd. The students are forbidden to read, without the permission of the Superior, books or writings that are not permitted[94]. As for the Sacred Scriptures, they should read those passages (not necessarily chapters) previously assigned by the Superior[95].

The requirement for ordination that states that our students “should be truly exemplary,” implies the following requisites:

“1st. That they avoid deliberate faults, welcome admonitions and, through them, amend those that are indeliberate. 2nd. That they act in conformity with virtue in ordinary cases and offer guarantee to do so in extraordinary ones. 3rd. That both superiors and peers are satisfied with them and their behaviour[96].

3rd. The Novicemaster should explain to the novices number 56 of Part 1 of the Constitutions in this sense: As a general principle, brothers, after their profession, are not allowed to transfer to the category of students; and students who are ordained in sacris may not transfer to that of brothers in a definitive way. However, the General Government may, for a serious cause, definitively send students not yet ordained in sacris to the category of brothers. Superiors in their respective levels may, and it is fitting that they occasionally do, send any priest or student to do the services proper of brothers, either to practice virtue, by way of trial, or also as penance for some fault.

3. XI General Chapter. Vich 1912[97]

The Chapter decided to introduce a set of changes regarding the postulancy, the noviciate and the religious profession, and requested from the Holy See the approval thereof[98]. The reason for these changes was expressed in the motivation for the request. It was this: The period of aspirancy – which since the time of our Fr. Founder had been fifteen days – and the Noviciate year prescribed by the Constitutions as the period of probation before perpetual profession, were insufficient, especially for the brothers[99]. The experience of religious life was demonstrating that a more mature age and a longer period of personal maturation was needed before the young religious could enter into a definitive commitment[100].

3.1. Noviciate[101]

1st. Preparation for Noviciate. Regarding those who entered directly into the Noviciate without a previous period of acceptance like that of minor seminarians, the Chapter asked from the Holy See that, instead of fifteen days, the duration of Aspirancy be one year as a rule, with the possibility of being reduced in special cases.

2nd. Duration. The duration of the Noviciate would be of one year for all, to be counted from the taking of the habit.

3.2. Profession[102]

1st. Temporal. After the Noviciate, a temporal profession would be made, not the definitive. The novice would make the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for one year and would renew them yearly for a period of three years.

2nd. Perpetual. No one would be admitted to perpetual profession before the age of 21. If, at the end of the three-year period, the students should not have reached that age, they would make their profession for the period that was lacking to reach it. Brothers, however, should renew their profession for another period of three continuous years. At the end of the period of temporal vows according to the aforementioned different modalities, the professed person, if deemed worthy, would be admitted to perpetual profession; otherwise, he should be dismissed.

The Chapter also dealt with other matters related to formation, such as the foundation of Postulancy and Noviciate houses in Quasi-Provinces[103], the role of provincial examiners in the approval of Postulants for admission in the Noviciate and of Novices for profession[104]. They also touched on the criteria for reading newspapers and magazines in our Communities and in Scholasticate and Noviciate houses[105].

V.  General Dispositions

In 1900 the first General Dispositions[106] are published. They are so called because they are addressed to the entire Congregation. It is an organic and systematic compilation of the general guidelines of the Congregation.

In the drafting, the following points have been taken into consideration: On one hand, the prevailing dispositions –previously published in alphabetical order- after removing all that was circumstantial, exhortative or motivational. On the other hand, those dispositions that are explicitly included in the Constitutions have been omitted here. As a norm, the dispositions of the General Chapters and others derived from the Constitutions are taken up here. The vocational and formative aspect is found in chapters XVIII-XXVI and XXX of Part One.

The dispositions are typically Claretian. As Fr. Serrat says in the Prologue, both the Constitutions and the General Dispositions not only ensure observance; they also “give our Institute its own face and character. They are as it were the seal that distinguishes it from the other institutes, in its being as well as in its inner life and its external manifestations”[107].

They were updated and partially modified after the General Chapters held in 1905[108], 1906[109] and 1912[110]



[1] C. SERRAT, circular on the Vocación Religiosa, Anales, 8 (1901-1902), pp. 669-680; ColCC., pp. 228-241. Fr. Serrat translated from Italian the Avisos sobre la Vocación Religiosa [Advices on Religious Vocation] by St. Alphonsus M. de Ligorio (Cf. Librería Religiosa, Barcelona 1871, pp. 226; AG CMF: Library 5, 4, 14).

[2] C. SERRAT, Ib., ColCC., p. 229.

[3] Ef 4, 1-3.

[4] C. SERRAT, Ib., ColCC., p. 231.

[5] Ef, 4, 1-3.

[6] “Before all else, the Apostle considers humility and meekness as the first and fundamental means of perseverance in one’s vocation” (C. SERRAT, Ib., ColCC., p. 233).

[7] “For this reason, humility should not be mediocre, but all-embracing, cum omni humilitate [with all humility], and under all its aspects” (C. SERRAT, Ib., ColCC., p. 234).

[8] “It should be born from their innermost self, feeling themselves to be very lowly, considering that their origin is dust, nothingness, sin. They should be aware that the grace of vocation and all the talents they possess are free gifts. They are mere administrators of these gifts and should diligently manage them. The glory and honour of their actions and ministries should be exclusively directed to God; only confusion should they reserve for themselves, like the author of the Imitation of Christ, soli Deo honor et gloria, mihi autem confusio [only to God be given honour and glory, but confusion to me]. Such is the image that the religious who loves perseverance in his vocation should form of himself” (C. SERRAT, Ib., p. 234).

[9] Because “he should not pay attention only to what is great and sublime in the religious state, in order to be cautious against the blurring effect of pride, cruel destroyer of the grace of vocation; he should also ponder what is painful and difficult in that state, and the humiliations that may appear where he least expects, in order to arm himself against discouragement or indignation, which is another no less disastrous pitfall” (C. SERRAT, ColCC., p. 234).

[10] “He should therefore bear in mind the continuous sacrifice imposed by religious life, the self-denial and privations implied by obedience and the other vows, the presence of mind to deal with naturally unpleasant individuals, etc., etc. He should also consider that in these critical moments of humiliation and of trial, the world will magnify the difficulties. The world will seduce him with the false glamour of honours, comforts and freedom, with the allurement of family or friends, who portend a bright future in the Babylon he has left behind (…). But well equipped with them (humility and meekness), he will face all the sacrifices and humiliations that may come his way in the religious life, and he will abhor the incentives and pleasures of the world, (…)” (C. SERRAT, ColCC, p. 235).

[11] “When we see a brother who is spiritually afflicted, victim of a distressing sickness or other trials, we should not further exacerbate the situation with charges or recriminations, as Job’s heedless friends did, quis innocens periit? [when did an innocent person perish?], nor should we show ourselves indifferent to his pain, passing by like the Levite and the priest. Rather, like good Samaritans, we should approach him with kindness and compassion, curing the wounds of his spirit with the wine and oil of consolation. God forbid that in any of our Communities there may be even a single person who, in his afflictions, could say with any basis, consolantem me quaesivi et non inveni [I looked for someone who would console me and I found none]” (C. SERRAT, Ib., ColCC., p. 237).

[12] “We beg you, beloved Brothers, for the sake of Jesus Christ, to reflect thoroughly on this matter. Because harshness of heart toward those who suffer, or impatience and severity with the faults of the brothers, if it should be habitual, could make them waver in their vocation. And the mere reasonable suspicion of having somehow contributed to such grievous harm would by no means be a small source of sorrow” (C. SERRAT, Ib., ColCC, p. 237).

[13] “Yes, dearest Brothers, we should place all our care, all our solicitude and effort in keeping the unity of spirits, the conformity of minds, the affective intimacy of hearts, in such a way that all may be one in thinking and feeling, willing and acting, one in heart and mind, as was the case with the primitive Christians, model and exemplar of all good religious” (C. SERRAT, Ib., ColCC., p. 238).

[14] M. ALSINA, circular letter on Los Remedios del descontento en la Religión, Anales, 10 (1906), pp. 529-538; ColCC., pp. 241-245.

[15] M. ALSINA, Remedios…, ColCC., p. 242.

[16] “Many are the needs of the Congregation, both common and particular, of the material as well as of the spiritual order. Now then, my personal trust in these moments emanates from the fact that prayer continues being always the universal remedy to obtain any help we may desire. However, although I hope to find the remedy of all the needs, I am most interested in those that affect the spiritual welfare of each and every one of the members of the Congregation. Do not be surprised that I refer particularly to this need, because it is presently the main one and because, albeit painful, it is actually a frequent occurrence that not a few live dissatisfied in the Congregation. One is dissatisfied because of the place where he has to live; another one, because of the work he is to accomplish; this one, because of the company of an unpleasant person; that one because of another demanding companion. One suffers on account of the Superior; another one, of the Minister; the other, for this or that one Person-in-charge, etc…” (M. ALSINA, Remedios…, ColCC., pp. 241-242).

[17] “The remedy to this malaise afflicting so many should not be sought for on earth, not in a change of place, not in new relationships, not in a change of occupation, of Superiors, of Ministers, of Prefects, no. These changes may, in a given case, produce a momentary relief, like a cold wet cloth on a high fever. But they do not attack the root of the evil, and so soon enough the old malaise reappears and, not infrequently, with greater strength and more danger, because of the experienced disappointment” (M. ALSINA, Remedios…, ColCC., p. 242).

[18] It consists “(…) in changing our will, in making it kin on observance, in efficaciously feeling the divine pious motion” M. ALSINA, Ib., ColCC., p. 242.

[19] “Yes, the remedy must be applied to the will, and this remedy is no other than the divine pious motion to observance. Because if this pious motion is lacking, the will does not feel sufficiently attracted to this observance; from there comes indecision, from indecision emerges division, from division annoyance, from annoyance inner disorder, and from there uneasiness, ill-being and pain” (M. ALSINA, Ib., ColCC., p. 243).

[20] Cf. M. ALSINA, Ib., ColCC., p. 244.

Once we attain this “divine pious motion,” “(…) we will all be contented with our lot, however humble or laborious. We will enjoy great peace in the Congregation and we will accumulate a large amount of merits for eternity” (Ib., ColCC., p. 245).

[21] M. ALSINA, circular letter on the topic Una nueva Provincia [A New Province], Anales, 10 (1906), pp. 577-580: note on p. 578.

[22] “And this work should consist in developing, perfecting and strengthening more and more our faculties with a view to the aim of the Congregation” (Ib., p. 579).

[23] “Work in accordance with the riches received; if it is five talents, cultivate and put all five to work; if it is two, all two; and if it is only one, cultivate the one talent and put to work. No work will be left without its due reward, unusquisque recipiet mercedem juxta suum laborem (Ib., p. 579).

[24] M. ALSINA, circular letter on La formación de los nuestros, Anales, 13 (1911-1912), pp. 333-336; ColCC., pp. 501-504.

[25] M. ALSINA, La formación de los…, ColCC., p. 502.

[26] “In omnibus, the Rule says: in everything and by everyone. Thus should the postulants be formed, thus the Novices, thus the Professed: Brothers, as well as Students and Priests” (Ib., p. 502).

[27] Ib., p. 502.

[28] “Formation, therefore, should be directed to obtain the best possible aptness for the accomplishment of such varied means” (Ib., p. 503).

[29] Cf. Ib., pp. 503-504.

[30] Ib., p. 502.

[31] Cf. Ib., p. 502. Then someone might ask: “In what should a good formation consist? In this: That all members come out as good Missionaries, to wit, Missionaries of the Congregation and Missionaries of their own time” (Ib., p. 502).

To attain this good formation, “the Directors should pray, study and reflect on the best methods of good formation and the subjects docilely co-operate with the action and direction of their elders” (Ib., p. 504). Fr. Alsina addressed a circular letter exclusively to the persons-in-charge of formation, on the theme of chastity (M. ALSINA, circular on La educación y formación de nuestros jóvenes misioneros [Education and formation of our young missionaries], 15 August 1919; AG CMF: BC, 1, 6, 6).

[32] M. ALSINA, circular on La formación sólida de los nuestros en la virtud [Solid formation of our members in virtue], Anales, 17 (1919-1920), pp. 65-68); ColCC., pp. 504-507.

[33] “The second note was that (Pope Benedict XV) in a fatherly manner exhorted us to secure a solid formation in virtue for all those who enter into our beloved Congregation (…). Let us then receive this exhortation, Fathers and Brothers, with gratitude and docility. Directors and directed, let us listen to the loving voice of our common Father, and let us strive for that solid formation recommended to us” (M. ALSINA, Formación sólida…, ColCC., pp. 504-505).

[34] “Yes, dear Fathers and Brothers, we need to be formed in solid virtue as our Holy Father urges us, and always to remain in it. Otherwise, we will not be able to fulfil our vocation, which is sanctifying ourselves first, and helping others attain their salvation and sanctification” (M. ALSINA, Formación sólida…, ColCC., p. 505).

[35] “Would, dear Fathers and Brothers, that all of us in the Congregation had placed the solid foundation marked out by our holy Constitutions and had remained ever faithful to the vocation we have received! The deficiencies we have to lament are obvious to all. We have seen many who started well but were incapable of remaining faithful to their vocation (…). While they stayed in the Noviciates and the Seminary, they were good, fervent and edifying. But they did not possess a solid virtue, did not have their mind and their heart fixed on the love and imitation of Jesus. Thus, when they got in touch with the world, they allowed worldly affections enter their hearts. They accepted the principles of pride and independence, of pleasure of the senses, having a good time, having and owning vain, superfluous and precious things, and (…) finally they apostatised, first in their hearts and then from the Congregation!” (M. ALSINA, Formación sólida…, ColCC., p. 506).

[36] “How can we obtain this solid formation? By placing the imitation of Jesus as its foundation. Whoever builds in himself the house of perfection in this way, as Jesus Christ himself teaches, will be like one building his house on firm rock, (…). On the contrary, if anyone upon entering the Congregation is not determined to imitate and be conformed with Jesus, will be building his perfection on sand (…)” (M. ALSINA, Formación sólida…, ColCC., p. 505).

[37] “The Holy Constitutions clearly point out the virtues that are the basis of the life that is lived in the Congregation. As such, all those who enter into it should implant these virtues in their souls: above all, a living faith, as it is the basis of supernatural life; trust, humility, obedience, upright intention, prayer and fidelity to vocation. In other words, we should not turn back from the path we have taken; we should persevere in the practice of those virtues with which we started religious life. In this way, when we present ourselves to the world, people will see in us models to imitate in order to save their souls” (M. ALSINA, Formación sólida…, ColCC., p. 506).

[38] Cf. M. ALSINA, circular on La formación del carácter, Anales, 17 (1919-1920) pp. 161-166; ColCC., pp. 507-513.

[39] “The Holy constitutions give us a clear idea of the relation and dependence that the character of the Missionaries has on the aims of the Congregation, when they instruct the Provincial to ascertain the character of those who desire to enter the Congregation; and even more, if possible, when they state that it would be dangerous and detrimental to the Congregation to admit persons with bad character among its members” (M. ALSINA., Formación del…, ColCC., p. 509).

“Let us all work at it, my dear Fathers and Brothers; however, we should work in a special way to attain what has been said in the Noviciates and Seminaries. That is the suitable ground for the seed or religious life to take root, develop and reach its perfection, and for the good character to be formed” (Ib. p. 512).

[40] M. ALSINA, Formación del…, ColCC., p. 509.

[41] “But, dearest Brothers, without detriment to what has been said, rather leaving it firmly established, we consider it most important to give you some instruction on the character of a Missionary and on his formation. Because it is true that a Missionary, to be truly worthy of the name, should be like another Christ, should preach virtue and point out to everyone the way to heaven, both by word and by example. But in the same way, there is not the slightest doubt that the attainment of this divine enterprise is intimately related to the character of each one” (M. ALSINA, Formación del…, ColCC., p. 508).

[42] M. ALSINA, Formación del…, ColCC., pp. 509-510.

“(…) a person is deemed to have a bad character if he is: selfish, arrogant, vindictive, irascible, distrustful, voluble, scatterbrain, unsociable, apprehensive, disdainful, mocking, false, (…). All these qualities will be more or less prejudicial, to the extent that they have a greater or smaller influence in the day-to-day life of the Missionary (…). In order to be useful to himself, to those who live with him and to those to whom he is sent to exercise the sacred ministry, a Missionary should have a generous, affable, patient, sincere, thoughtful, formal, kind, constant, level-headed, compassionate, indulgent, sociable character (…)” (Ib.).

[43] “In the second place, we have to attain strength of character; this can be achieved by means of a continuous and voluntary subjection to the law, order and discipline. What forms a person of character is the fidelity to each one’s daily duties, according to their respective social position” (M. ALSINA, Ib., ColCC., p. 511).

“A regularly obeyed set of domestic regulations, an exactly observed day and night timetable, is an insuperable school to acquire a firm character, it is a quarry from which it may be possible to extract in time a firm, solid character. In this apparently insignificant exercise, the statement of our Lord is admirably fulfilled: whoever is faithful in small things will also be faithful in the big ones. For this reason, a Missionary who wishes (and all of us should do) to be formed with a firm and noble character, worthy of his lofty vocation, finds here the path to follow” (Ib., pp. 511-512).

[44] “And if we want a formula taken from the Constitutions themselves, it is Propter Jesum Christum [for the love of Jesus Christ]. This is the thought, this is the motive needed for a formation of a noble and lofty character (all should obey in everything), this is the absolutely necessary action to form one’s character. The motto, then, the formula should be this: Nothing against obedience; everything according to it; from eating and resting to working and praying; the studies as well as the ministries, everything should be regulated by obedience, everything done in its proper place, time and manner and for the love of Jesus Christ” (Ib., ColCC., p. 512).

[45] “Would that the said formula be practised from the Noviciate! Would that this practice be not diminished in the years following the Profession! (…) Let us all work at that, beloved Fathers and Brothers; however, we must exert special efforts to attain this in the Noviciates and Seminaries.” (M. ALSINA, Formación del…, ColCC., p. 512).

[46] “And it would be advisable for the Missionary to take Mary, our sweet Mother, as the basis and exemplar of his spiritual formation. In this way, he will more easily and efficaciously copy in himself the image and live the life of Jesus, until he may be able to say with the Apostle: It is is not I who live, but Christ lives in me” (M. ALSINA, La formación del…, ColCC., p. 508).

[47] CMF, Reglamento para los Colegios de Postulantes del Instituto de Misioneros Hijos del Inmaculado Corazón de María, [Regulations for the Schools for Postulants of the Institute of Missionaries, Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary], Santo Domingo 1900, pp. 60. Appendix, pp. 47-58. It continued being published as vocational propaganda to make the Congregation known: M. ALSINA, Relación sumaria del Instituto Religioso de los Misioneros Hijos del Inmaculado Corazón de María [Summary account of the Religious Institute of the Missionaries, Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary], Aranda de Duero 1908; AG CMF, BE, 13, 1. 5; Madrid 1920; AG CMF, BE, 13, 1, 4.

[48] Cf. below regarding the VIII General Chapter, n. 1.2.

[49] CMF, Reglamento para los Colegios de Postulantes del Instituto de Misioneros Hijos del Inmaculado Corazón de María, Santo Domingo 1900, pp. 60.

[50] CMF, Reglamento…, 1900, p. 4.

[51] The last book of regulations of Fr. Xifré served as basis for the subsequent regulations.

[52] The appendices are formularies that deal with the bases for admission, with the questionnaire prescribed for the candidates and with certain letters prescribed in the process of admission (Cf. CMF, Reglamento…, 1900, pp. 47-60).

[53] Among other things, two very important functions are ascribed to superiors: “They should see to it (…) that the Prefects and Professors have the books that are necessary for the good performance of their duties. Finally, they are reminded (…) about the absolute prohibition of assigning the Prefects any preaching outside the house, even in their own church, if this would distract them from their main task, which is the care of the postulants. The same should be said, relatively, about Professors; no preaching should be assigned to them inside or outside the house, if this would be an obstacle to the teaching of their respective subjects, which is their main task” (CMF, Reglamento…, 1900, ch. 3, art. 2, III, pp. 25-26).

[54] CMF, Ib., 1900, ch. 3, art 3, III, p. 33.

[55] Cf. CMF, Ib., 1900, ch. 3, art. 3,V, pp. 36-37.

[56] “(put on) feelings of love towards his beloved Postulants; that type of love that hates sin but loves the sinner (…)” (CMF, Reglamento…, 1900, ch. 3, art 3, V, pp. 37-38).

[57] CMF, Reglamento para los Colegios de Postulantes del Instituto de Misioneros Hijos del Inmaculado Corazón de María, Aranda de Duero 1907, 48 pp.

[58] Cf. CMF, Ib., 1907, p. 12.

[59] Professors should be convinced that “they will obtain better results with persuasion and mildness, than with rigid measures. They should consider the child’s weakness and attribute most of his defects to this weakness, rather than to malice. With a great stock of patience and meekness (…) all evils will be more effectively remedied” (CMF, Reglamento…, 1907, p. 19).

[60] Cf. CMF, Ib., 1907, p. 32.

[61] CMF, Espejo del Postulante o sea Directorio para los Postulantes del Colegio de Vich [Mirror of the Postulant or Directory for the Postulants of the Seminary of Vich], 32 pp. It has neither author’s name nor place or date of publication. From other sources we know that it was written for the postulants of that centre by Fr. Ribera when he was in Vich (Cf. J. Mª BERENGUERAS, Vida del P. Ribera, Barcelona 1950, p. 109). From the correspondence of Fr. Ribera it can be assumed that he wrote it in the first months of 1907 (AG CMF: GR, 3, 2, 40; GR, 3, 2, 31). Several editions (1917, 1937) and translations into different languages were made. As we shall see later, in 1962 an updated adaptation was published under the name Manual del Seminarista Claretiano [Manual of the Claretian Seminarian] (CMF, General Prefecture of Formation, Rome 1962, 183 pp.).

[62] “During the years of Postulancy, they should strive with great determination to initiate themselves in the religious life, in conformity with the spirit and practices of the Congregation” (CMF, Espejo del Postulante…, p.1).

[63] Cf. CMF, Ib., ch. 1, nn. 2,7, p. 2-3.

[64] “Since the love for the Congregation is one of the most unmistakable signs of vocation to it, they (the missionaries) should love it with true filial love, highly appreciate its things, rejoice in its triumphs, constantly pray for it and for its Superiors. By means of an irreproachable behaviour, they should strive to be a source of delight and hope for it now, in order to become its glory and crown in the future” (Cf. CMF, Ib, ch. 1. n. 8, pp. 3-4).

[65] Cf. CMF, Ib. ch. 2, and 4, pp. 6-16.

[66] “They should frequently visit him in his room, informing him about their state of health and what they need to preserve it, about their progress in studies and about the difficulties they encounter. Above all, they will open their heart to him, sincerely manifesting to him whatever good or bad there is in their soul and receiving with docility his advices, warnings and corrections. This transparency of conscience will be for the postulants one of the best guarantees of their perseverance in the Congregation” (CMF, Ib., ch. 2, n. 6, pp 7-8).

[67] Cf. ch 2, II, 5, 1.

[68] Cf. note 194.

[69] Aranda de Duero, 1912, AG CMF: 12, 2, 1.

[70] Cf. Introduction.

[71] Cf. Anales, 7 (1899-1900), p. 515.

[72] Cf. Anales, 7 (1899-1900), p. 577.

[73] Cf. Anales, 9 (1903-1904), p. 253.

[74] Cf. Minutes of the Chapter, sessions 23 and 24.

[75] Cf. Anales, 9 (1903-1904), p. 553.

[76] Cf. Anales, 14 (1913-1914), p. 239, and 15 (1915-1916), p. 621.

[77] The X General Chapter of Aranda de Duero (1906) has nothing special on the themes we are dealing with (Cf. Anales, 10 (1905-1906), pp. 184-196).

[78] VIII GENERAL CHAPTER, Anales, 7 (1899-1900), Appendix.

[79] Cf. Rescript of 28 October 1895.

[80] Cf. Appendix, p. 12-13.

[81] Cf. Appendix, p. 16.

[82] Cf. Appendix, p. 17.

[83] Cf. Appendix, p. 15-16.

[84] Cf. CC., 1870, Part 2, n. 41.

[85] Cf. Appendix, p. 9.

[86] IX GENERAL CHAPTER, Anales, 9 (1903-1904), Appendix.

[87] Cf. Appendix, pp. 7-8.

[88] Cf. Appendix, pp. 28-30.

[89] Cf. Appendix, pp. 30-31.

[90] Appendix, pp. 34ff.

[91] Cf. CC., 1870, part I, n. 29.

[92] Cf. CC., 1870, part I, n. 76.

[93] Cf. CC., 1870, part I, n. 63.

[94] Cf. CC., 1870, part I, n. 103.

[95] Cf. CC., 1870, part I, n. 94.

[96] Cf. Appendix, p. 37.

[97] XI GENERAL CHAPTER, Anales, 13 (1911-1912), pp. 515-521, 545-560, 641-644.

[98] Cf. Rescript of 20 June 1912, Anales, 13 (1911-1912), pp. 551-552.

[99] The following is proposed as motivation for the proposal: “Superior Generalis (…) voto obsequens Capituli Generalis (…) exponit: (…) Sed talis probatio experimento (quindecim dies) inventa est non satis sufficiens, maxime pro fratribus coadjutoribus seu laicis: unde Capitulum Generale, re mature deliberata, in decisionem venit petendi a S.V. decretum quo (…) inducatur longius tempus aspiratus seu Postulatus pro Fratribus Coadjutoribus, etenim pro Clericis necessarium non apparet extendere tempus aspiratus, quia generatim iuvenes, antequam ad aspiratum et Novitiatum pergant, manent sub nomine Postulantium aliquot annons, ordinarie quatuor, in nostris Collegiis ad modum Scholarum Apostolicarum constitutis (…)” [The Superior General (…) following the desire of the General Chapter (…) exposes: (…). But such probation for a period of 15 days is deemed insufficient, especially for coadjutor or lay brothers. Hence, the General Chapter, after mature deliberation, has decided to ask from you a decree by which (…) a longer period of Aspirancy or Postulancy be prescribed for Coadjutor Brothers. Indeed, it does not seem necessary to extend the period of Aspirancy for clerics, because, as a rule, before going to Aspirancy and Noviciate, the young men spend several years (usually four) under the name of Postulants in our formation centres, established in the style of Apostolic Schools] (Ib., pp. 551-553). This longer period of Aspirancy begins to be called Postulancy.

[100] These are the concrete reasons that appear in the minutes of the General Chapter of 1912: The will of the Holy See manifested in various pontifical documents; the practice of almost all religious Institutes; the need to give our Missionaries a good foundation in the religious spirit and, in the case of Spain, the demands of the new compulsory military service law, which could probably affect the Congregation. One capitular priest declared himself in favour of temporal vows, because the perpetual profession should be made after Philosophy, since in this formative stage (16-20 years) the individual is still affectively immature (this is “the stage of passions,” he said). On the contrary, on entering into the Theology years, the students “are in better position to decide with greater conviction and will power on the profession of perpetual vows.” However, in others’ opinion, the introduction of temporal vows would bring many vocational defections during this period (Cf. Minutes, ses. 19-20, AG CMF: AD, 2, 4).

[101] Cf. Ib., pp. 551-552.

[102] Cf. Ib., p. 552.

[103] Cf. Ib., p. 553.

[104] Cf. Ib., p. 556.

[105] Cf. Ib., p. 557.

[106] CMF, Disposiciones Generales para los Hijos del Inmaculado Corazón de María, Santo Domingo 1900, pp. 112.

[107] Cf. Prologue, p. 6.

[108] CMF, Disposiciones Generales Vigentes para los Hijos del Inmaculado Corazón de María [Prevailing General Dispositions for the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary], Santo Domingo 1905, pp. 118. It includes an Appendix with some modifications originated in the General Chapter of Aranda de Duero (1906), pp. 6.

[109] As we have just indicated, the modifications are included in an Appendix in the foregoing publication.

[110] CMF, Disposiciones basadas en el Capítulo General de Vich del año 1912 [Dispositions based on the 1912 General Chapter of Vic], Aranda de Duero, 1912, pp. 131.