Stage of Preparation: Postulancy
1. Point of Departure
70. Postulancy is the period of preparation prior to the Novitiate. As regards the Word, this means securing the human, religious and vocational base that will allow for initiation and growth in the ministry of the Word.
71. This stage is made up of candidates of quite varied provenance, age, preparation, social standing, culture and language. All that is stated here will have to be set in context and even tailored to the human and religious moment in the vocational process of each candidate.
72. The socio-cultural point of departure is quite diverse. In many cultures, the religious element is at the very center of life and is the most valued, although it sometimes needs to be purified. In others, however, God is not so prominent. Religious experience is suspect and must be justified and revalidated in view of the surrounding humanism. It has to be shown that believing in and encountering God is an experience that is both humanizing and personally fulfilling.
73. Although the “religious,” may be a way to and matrix for the Gospel, it can also lend itself in all cultures to self-deception and wishful fantasies. It runs the risk of keeping people immature and closed off in an unreal world that has little to do with real life.
74. Candidates to the postulancy normally manifest a notable interest in all things spiritual that is translated into a heartfelt sensibility and an openness that helps them connect quite naturally with core aspects of spirituality, such as prayer or listening to the Word. The experience they bring from their own cultural and religious values, introjected into their family background, is a positive asset which prepares and sensitizes them for a sound and purified living of the Word of God. However, they often bring with them some personal problems, gaps in religious formation, a lack of orderly work and study habits, and difficulties for coping with community life that can hamper the process of initiation into the ministry of the Word.
75. As regards the Word, candidates who come from our own minor seminaries or pastoral structures show a certain familiarity with the Bible and use it more or less habitually, especially in prayer. Those who come from other backgrounds are usually not so accustomed to using the Bible and not infrequently are notably lacking in knowledge of it or have a reductionist view of it.
76. Both groups are receptive to initiation in this field. One observes a growing interest in the measure that they advance in the process. The reading of texts depends on their own sensibilities, hence they often make a rather subjective choice of texts that tend to confirm their own feelings, rather than allowing themselves to be challenged and probed by the Word. In some cases, they also find it hard to see the connection between the Word and life.
2. Formative Criteria
77. Those who enter the Postulancy will have already lived through some prior process (youth ministry, apostolic groups, minor seminary…), compared with which this stage should offer some advance, especially in a living contact with Scripture. However, they are not yet religious, although they may have made a first option for the religious life, hence we must avoid anticipating experiences proper of the Novitiate.
78. We cannot accompany initiation into an encounter with God through the Word simply by applying methods or techniques of prayer, or by recommending certain readings. A previous step, without which there can be no process and growth in this field, entails an in-depth review of the candidates’ religious experience and their image (conscious or unconscious) of God, together with the psycho-affective and socio-cultural background that undergirds it.
79. Hence it is important to verify the degree of human and religious maturity of the candidates in certain dimensions that affect the process of initiation into the Ministry of the Word: their level of self-knowledge and self-acceptance, emotional development, real experiences of unconditionality, bent and capacity for solitude, silence, interior life and commitment to fraternity and community life.
80. It is important to detect the experiences that underlie their relationship with God (parental images, the life-process they have gone through, with its religious accents) and to help them elaborate these experiences, recognizing and purifying them in such a way that they can advance in the experiential knowledge of the living God.
81. It is also important to learn the level of religious information and formation they have reached, their degree of familiarity with Sacred Scripture, as well as the kind of sensibility they display regarding world problems, the cry of the poor and other manifestations of God in the history and life of peoples.
82. It is also fitting to provide certain dynamics that may help them to get all these things together in their lives. Community formation meetings, exegetical-sapiential homilies and personal accompaniment can contribute to unite what they are learning (study) with what they are experiencing (prayer, community, apostolate).
3. General Objective
83. To prepare the formandi in the knowledge and reading of Sacred Scripture starting from their own experience and from the reading of certain vocational texts aimed at the discernment of their own missionary vocation.
4. Specific Objectives and Means
b) To submit to review, with personal accompaniment, their psychological and affective and socio-cultural background in their relationship with others and with God.
d) To pay special attention to the use of language (both oral and written) as a means of enabling them to speak of themselves and of the reality around them.
85. a) Drafting, with the help of the formator or of some written guide, their own autobiography, as a means for serenely accepting their own life story, and discovering it as a manifestation of God.
b) Practice of personal accompaniment, with special attention to the life-events that sustain the religious experience of the formandus.
d) Practical exercises of reflection and communication, both oral and written.
4.2. Listening to and internalizing the Word in Prayer
4.2.1. Specific Objectives
b) To clarify and keep consolidating one’s response to God’s call from the standpoint of the Word.
c) To overcome gradually the tendency to subjectivism in one’s approach to the Word.
e) To know and venerate the Virgin Mary as hearer and servant of the Word.
87. a) Personal prayer and review of one’s own life in the light of the Word.
c) Daily reading of selected passages from the Bible, stressing some vocational texts and texts that present biblical figures who are in harmony with the Claretian vocation, especially those referring to Mary.
d) Insofar as possible, presenting the Lectio continua proposed in the Liturgy by means of homilies adapted to the vocational situation of the formandi.
4.3. Understood and assimilated in study
88. a) Initiation or advancement in handling the Bible.
b) Acquiring a sufficient knowledge of the fundamental keys for reading the Word of God and some basic criteria of interpretation in the context of one’s own culture.
c) Becoming aware of the importance of the Word of God in Christian life and in the Church.
b) Basic introduction to Holy Scripture and to the History of Israel.
d) Use of other languages in order to delve more deeply into the Word and to help communicate it: mime, composing songs, dance, etc.
4.4. Lived and celebrated in community
b) To learn how to realistically restate the ideals of community based on the calls that come from the Word.
c) To be initiated into sharing the living of the God’s Word in community.
91. a) Presence and relevance of the Bible in community through concrete signs: place in chapel, frequent use at different times during the day and gestures of respect and veneration, in keeping with the symbology of one’s own culture.
b) Eucharistic celebrations that highlight the unity between the table of the Word and the table of the Eucharist, and their connection with life.
d) Practice of reviewing life in a group, in the light of biblical texts and of one’s own socio-cultural context.
4.5. Announced and Witnessed to in the Apostolate
92. a) Being initiated into the missionary dimensions of the Word: proclamation, celebration, communication and commitment.
b) Growing in awareness of the world around us and learning to detect the signs of the times in the light of God’s Word.
c) Learning to pray from the standpoint of apostolic experience.
93. a) Theoretical knowledge and practical performance of apostolic activities in keeping with the possibilities of the formandi, involving the announcement of the Word, such as catechesis, animating liturgical services, etc.
b) Participating in some missionary experience where the Word holds a privileged place: renewed popular missions, retreats or get-togethers…
e) Progressive initiation into apostolic prayer, based on the experiences that have been made, read in the light of the Word.
5. Meaningful Experiences
94. Beginning the time of Postulancy with some days of Retreat or Sharing centered on the Word, above all on vocational texts.
95. Presenting a copy of the Bible (the same edition for all) in the ceremony of entering the Postulancy, with an invitation to make it a privileged instrument for discerning one’s vocation.
96. During the Postulancy, to take part in some experiences to help connect Word and reality as mutually enlightening elements: some centered on the explicit announcement of the Word (popular missions…) and the others on presence among and service to the marginalized (psychiatric centers, halfway houses for alcoholics, transients, drug addicts…). Careful formative preparation and accompaniment of these experiences, in order to guarantee the attainment of the objective for which they are pursued.
 Given the situation of the candidates, it is importnt to work on the human base that allows them access to the Word of God, especially in this stage. Hence it is presented in a specific section of its own. In the other stages, this must continue to be cared for, and objectives and means for doing so are offered, though not in a special section.