Mary, Mother and Formatrix

Chapter 17

 Mary, Mother and Formatrix

We Claretian Missionaries are called, and are, Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In our religious profession we dedicate ourselves to her “in order to fulfill the aim for which this Congregation has been established in the Church.”[1] Mary is, then, very closely tied to our being missionary.

Then, who is Mary for us? How should we live in relation to her throughout our formation journey? The General Plan of Formation presents us with a summary answer to these questions. In n. 13 it says that “the basic objective of formation consists in following Jesus Christ the Missionary until we are configured to Him”. And it adds:

“In this process, Mary, the Mother of Jesus and of the Church, the formatrix of the apostles, fulfills an essential mission. Therefore, we dedicate ourselves to her in order to be conformed to the mystery of Christ, imitate her faithful response as His follower and cooperate with her maternal role in the apostolic mission. Only in this way can we truly be missionaries on fire with love who spread its flames wherever we go.”

This quotation refers to n. 8 of the Constitutions; where the concepts on which is Cordi-Marian spirituality are based appear.

In this chapter we follow the outline below:

I. WHO IS MARY FOR THE CLARETIANS MISSIONARIES?

      II. THE MEANING OF OUR DEDICATION TO THE HEART OF MARY

     III. MARY IS OUR MODEL FOR FOLLOWING CHRIST

     IV. MARY ON OUR VOCATIONAL JOURNEY

I. WHO IS MARY FOR THE CLARETIANS MISSIONARIES?

            Our Constitutions refer to Mary 15 times, almost always under the title of the Virgin Mary,[2] although she is also given other titles.[3]

In addition to those references in the Constitutions, Mary has been preeminently seen in our tradition as mother, foundress, formatrix and protectress. Behind each of them is a specific characteristic of Mary and of our relationship to her.

All these characteristics are contained in her Heart. And thus it is that the name of the Heart of Mary is the symbol that best expresses our Marian spirituality.

1. Mary, Mother of the Missionary

1.1. in the Experience of the Fr. Founder

Anthony Mary Claret lived his relationship with Mary so intensely that, at his consecration as bishop, he incorporated the name of the Virgin into his own.[4] He called Mary by many names, but of all the titles that taken together form a summary of Claretian Mariology, that of mother is the one that best summarizes Claret’s experience. From the time he was a boy he really saw Mary as his heavenly mother. He cultivated his relationship with her by praying the rosary, the Angelus and visits to the hermitage of Fusimaña. This relationship was characterized by intimacy, trust, filial love and devotion.[5] His entire childhood was illuminated by the motherly smile of the Virgin of Fusimaña.

As a young man he forcefully experienced her motherly love as protection from dangers.[6]

His response to Mary’s motherly love was always a son’s love. In the prayers he wrote as a Jesuit novice he expresses in passionate words this love by which he professes Mary to be his mother[7].

1.2. In Our Missionary Life

We, Claretian Missionaries, are and are called[8] sons of the Immaculate Heart. In our spirituality, Mary acts as our mother and we are related to her as sons. This sonship is not merely a title. It is “an existential dimension of our missionary life. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit to be lived and experienced, that configures our interior being and dynamizes it for the apostolic mission.”[9]

In our history our Cordi-Marian sonship has been very much emphasized.[10] Some of our brothers have intensely lived this dimension of our Marian spirituality. We recall the names of Fr. Antonio Naval, Br. Manuel Giol, Fr. Martín Alsina, Fr. Ezequiel Villaroya, Br. Francisco Vilajosana, the student Pedro Mardones, the martyrs of Barbastro and others.

Mary’s spiritual motherhood is a maternity that gives birth to us as missionaries. For this reason, the meaning of being a Son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is essentially missionary. As Mother, the Heart of Mary is the setting in which the Father, through the Spirit, conforms us to Christ. This motherhood continues in our mission. In the Founder’s words, we are like “the arms of Mary.”[11]

2. Mary, Foundress of the Congregation

2.1. In the experience of Fr. Founder

In the exercises that the Fr. Founder preached to the Congregation in 1865 he expressly alluded to Mary as foundress. We know this directly from some of his points and indirectly from Fr. Clotet. In the outline of his talk on zeal, Claret writes:

“The Most Holy Virgin founded this Congregation so that her Heart might be Noah’s Ark, David’s tower, a city of refuge and the holy mercy seat.”[12]

On his part, Fr. Clotet refers to the following words of the Founder during one of his talks:

“Yours is the Congregation, You founded it: Don’t you remember, my Lady, don’t you remember? He said it in such a tone of voice and with such feeling that it was easy to see that, at that moment, he was once again experiencing the command, the words and the presence of the Mother of God.”[13]

2.2. In Our Missionary Life

The General Plan of Formation, recalling our heritage, alludes to Mary as foundress of the Congregation.[14] What is this expression trying to say? From a theological point of view, it is clear that the one who gives rise to different forms of life in the Church is the Holy Spirit. Mary, then, does not take the Spirit’s place. Also, to say that she is our Foundress does not mean that she started our Institute juridically. The expression must be understood in the context of Claret’s spiritual experience. He, as a missionary, felt he was Mary’s instrument within the mysterious spiritual communion that exists between the pilgrim Church and the Church in glory to which Mary belongs. It is not strange, then, that he might experience the founding of the Congregation as a particular manifestation of Mary’s spirituality motherhood, of her missionary impetus.

We can say that, as on Pentecost, Mary keeps reuniting us so that we that we may receive the Spirit who launches us on mission. In this sense, she founds our missionary community. As the mother to us that she is, she gathers us together and disposes us to welcome the Spirit.

3. Mary, Formatrix of Apostles in the Forge of Her Mercy and Love

3.1. In the Experience of the Fr. Founder

Claret also experiences Mary as formatrix of his apostle’s heart. It is a title closely linked to the previous one. If “the virtue that an apostolic missionary needs most is love”[15] it is logical that Claret considers that Mary has been the one who has formed him in this essential virtue because she is a true forge of mercy and love. Our Founder specifically used the allegory of the forge to explain his process of formation as apostolic missionary.[16]

This allegory is not merely one among many Claret used. In fact, in the prayer he used to pray at the beginning of missions, he recalled Mary, knowing well that he was her son and minister, formed by her in the forge of her mercy and love.[17]

Within the allegory, Mary is represented by the fire of love. Claret considers that the experience of Mary’s love has been for him a true school in which his missionary’s heart has been formed. This fire of love has purified him, inspired him and set him on fire. Beginning with this experience of the forge, he understood himself as a son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary “who is one fire with love and spreads that love wherever he goes.”[18]

3.2. In our Missionary Life

The General Plan of Formation refers to Mary as formatrix on two occasions: in nos. 13 and 99. Number 13 states that Mary has an essential mission as formatrix. Number 99 develops the implications for formation that this reality involves. This formation task of the Virgin’s is also interpreted, in no. 23 of the Plan, more poetically, i.e., out of the allegory of the forge used by the Fr. Founder.[19]

How does Mary carry out this role as forge? In the following way:

•shaping us in her heart and making the characteristics of the perfect disciple of Jesus grow in us;

•forming us to welcome into our hearts, like she did, the Word of God, of which we are ministers;

•forging in us that apostolic love that impels us to work tirelessly to the point of exhaustion for the Kingdom;

•and joining us in the apostolic mission with her motherly office in the Church.[20]

4. Mary, Protectress on Mission

4.1. In the Experience of the Fr. Founder

The image of Mary as protectress is one that dominates Anthony Mary Claret’s young manhood, a period in which he intimately experiences the dangers that are present in life.[21]

This protection extends to various aspects of his life: physical health, reputation, moral integrity, etc.[22]

Mary’s protection is especially manifested in his missionary work, which Claret understands as the struggle between good and evil, or between the Woman and her offspring against the dragon.

This experience was heightened when he was a seminarian in his second year of philosophy in 1831. Claret was 23 years old. While he was in bed with a cold, he experienced a strong temptation against chastity. All his efforts to resist it were in vain. But help came to him from the Lord, through Mary’s mediation, who appeared him, most beautiful, freeing him from the temptation.

It is worth reading the passage referring to the vision in his Autobiography[23] and to try to understand the meaning it had for our Founder. Claret, in fact, referred to it many times throughout his life.[24]

What is the meaning of this vision that had such an impact? In his first years in the seminary in Vic, Claret powerfully felt his apostolic vocation. He found it reflected in the texts of the prophets (e.g., Is. 41:8-9), in which the prophet feels chosen by grace. He found particular illumination in the well-known text of Is. 61:1: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, thus the Lord has sent me to proclaim Good News to the poor and heal the broken-hearted.” In light of this experience, the temptation and the vision must be interpreted as a true sign of vocation. Claret is a witness to a manifestation of Mary, in which he himself, out of his situation as a sick man being tempted, pictures in his mind Mary’s protection. In the first place, he experiences the power of evil, represented by demons—a formidable power he cannot vanquish by his own resources. Secondly, Mary appears to him, the beautiful woman, the power of good, the new Eve. Claret lets himself be swept away by the irresistible power of her enchantment. Now, Mary does not appear alone, but in the company of a group of saints. Finally, Claret sees himself as a child who resemble the child he himself has been[25].

Starting with this vision, Claret considers himself an offspring of the Woman. As a result, he will understand his apostolic mission as a struggle against everything opposed to the Kingdom of God. Mary, whom he has seen as a mother since childhood, appears now as one who fights at his side and protects him from evil.

4.2. In Our Missionary Life

This vision of Mary as protectress is emphasized during the period of postulancy,[26] but it has been a constant in our history, especially in the experience of our martyrs. This is closely linked to our missionary task and the dangers it entails. Mission, when it comes from Jesus, always is a risk that demands courage and preparation. This risk can only be assumed in union with Jesus and Mary, as done by our Founder and our martyrs.[27]

5. Heart of Mary, an Official Title

This final name of Mary is the one that is part of the title of our Congregation and the one that summarizes all the others. It is the title in the Constitutions. Thus it requires a broader treatment.

5.1. In the Experience of the Fr. Founder

When Anthony Mary Claret went to Italy for the first time in 1839, he came in contact with a Marian devotion very widespread at that time: Mary as Mother of Beautiful Love or Mother of Divine Love. Mary was represented with a heart. The theology of the time said that the object of devotion to the Heart of Mary was her love for God and human beings. That explains why the Marian prayers he composed during his stay in Rome as a Jesuit novice highlight the theme of “apostolic love,” a gift he asks from Mary.

Back in Spain, in 1847, Claret founded in Vic the Archconfraternity of the Heart of Mary with a strongly apostolic character. Claret had heard of the conversions that had taken place in Paris through the prayers of the Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Victory.

In the same line, and based on his great devotion to the Virgin, it is not surprising that he calls our Congregation, founded two years later, in 1849, the Congregation of Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

How does Claret live and understand his Cordi-Marian experience? In his time the Mary’s physical heart was venerated because it was thought that the heart was the seat of love, the source of blood and of life. Claret shares this way of thinking and, consequently, uses it to explain the very special link between the Heart of Mary and her divine Son, Jesus Christ. According to this conception, Jesus’ body would have been formed, then, from the most pure blood of the Heart of Mary.[28]

Now, in addition to that physical or material reality of the heart—and of the Heart of Mary—, Claret sees it as a spiritual reality, as a symbol of interiority and of love and charity:

“Mary is all love. Where Mary is, there is love… The world is like a huge family. Every family has to have a center of direction or head and a center of love or heart… In the Christian world, the head is Jesus Christ and the heart is the Virgin Mary. Mary is, then, the heart of the Church. This is where all works of charity come from.”[29]

The first time Claret mentions the Heart of Mary in his Autobiography is in chapter 30 which talks “On Love of God and Neighbor.” It contains a beautiful prayer that reveals who Mary is for him:

“O Mary, my Mother, Mother of Divine Love, I can ask for nothing more pleasing to you, nor anything that you are more ready to grant, than the love of God. Grant me this, my Mother and my love. Mother, I am hungry and thirsty for love; help me, satisfy my need. O Heart of Mary, furnace and instrument of love, kindle in me the love of God and neighbor!”[30]

5.2. In Our Missionary Life

In our history, the title of Heart of Mary applied to the Virgin has been strongly emphasized and, consequently, our Cordi-Marian sonship.[31]

Before we were canonically recognized as a religious institute, the bond that linked together the first missionaries was an act of dedication to God and to the Heart of Mary: “I dedicate myself and consecrate myself to the special service of God, Jesus Christ and Mary Most Holy.”[32]

After Vatican II and the first General Chapters of renewal (1967, 1973), our understanding of our Cordi-Marian sonship was enriched through a better biblical and charismatic grounding. The circular letter of Fr. Antonio Leghisa on The Heart of Mary and the Congregation Today (1978) represented a point of arrival for this new understanding and a point of departure for later developments.

Our Constitutions do not talk about the Heart of Mary in physical terms. They adopt a spiritual and symbolic perspective. Besides the six numbers that expressly allude to the (Immaculate) Heart of Mary,[33] the Constitutions use other linguistic devices to express various aspects contained in the title Heart of Mary.[34] It is a new way of speaking about the Heart of Mary, emphasizing aspects contained the heart symbol: interiority, total self-giving, depth, cordiality, tenderness, etc.


II. THE MEANING OF OUR DEDICATION TO THE HEART OF MARY

            To be a disciple of Christ is more than feeling sympathy for His person or being inspired by His teaching. It involves being born again (cf. Jn. 3:7). This birth does not come about through personal effort, but through water and the Spirit (cf. Jn. 3:5). Thus, our formation for the following of Christ considers the Holy Spirit to be the first and principal agent[35].

The Virgin Mary is associated with the Spirit’s work. We recognize that “that her presence is a determining factor in the formation of those called to follow Christ”[36] and—as our profession formula says—we dedicate ourselves “in special service to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary in order to fulfill the aim for which this Congregation has been established in the Church.”[37]

 1. What Does Our Filial and Apostolic Dedication to the Heart of Mary Mean?

From the very beginning of our Congregation our relationship with Mary has also been spoken of in terms of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary[38].

Today we are accustomed to refer to the same reality in other terms. We talk about consecration to God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit and of dedication to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The word consecration, insofar as it refers to communion with God, in the strict sense can only be made to God Himself. Thus the Constitutions prefer to use the term dedication. We use this word to express our offering of ourselves to Mary so that she, along with the Spirit, may engender in us the Christ that we are called to be, to the extent that we can make our own the words of Paul that were so meaningful to our Founder: “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Ga. 2:20).

2. What Does This Dedication Entail?

Now then, what is the content behind the words of this dedication? Our dedication entails, above all, acknowledging and accepting Mary’s spiritual motherhood as a gift of the Lord to His Church. The Lord says to each one of us: “Here is your mother” (Jn. 19:27). This offering demands of us a filial welcome, until we truly experience Mary as our Mother. Our spirituality takes on a filial character since, through Mary; the Spirit configures us to her Son, Jesus Christ. Cordi-Marian sonship, then, is part of the Congregation’s charism.[39]

Since we are sons of Mary, we can consecrate our entire lives to the glory of God, following Jesus Christ in His work of saving people and cooperating with the sanctifying action of the Spirit. Therefore, in our missionary vocation there are not two objectives, but only one. We dedicate ourselves to Mary to the extent that we make of our lives what she made of hers: a dedication to the glory of God and the salvation of all men and women.

Dedicated to Mary, we collaborate in her motherly mission in the exercise of the apostolate. To the extent that the ministry of the Word engenders new people through faith, to that extent we carry on Mary’s spiritual maternity. Our vocation is Marian not because it is centered on devotion to Mary but because it carries on in the Church her mission of giving birth to the Word.

The General Plan of Formation[40] presents some very interesting pedagogical orientations for living this dedication. It sees the figure of Mary as inspiring the life synthesis of each one being formed, as the mother, mistress and formatrix whom they must welcome and love, and whom they must imitate in her basic evangelical attitudes and her behaviors that most typify a missionary and whom they must discover, venerate and proclaim blessed.

All these aspects appear together in the Filial and Apostolic Prayer to the Heart of Mary, so rooted in the tradition of our Congregation. A modern version of it is presented in the Spiritual Directory:[41]

“O Virgin and Mother of God,

I dedicate myself as your son.

I entrust myself to your motherly love

So that, in me, you may form Jesus,

The Son and the One sent by Father,

The One anointed by the Holy Spirit

To proclaim Good News to the poor.

Teach me to treasure the Word in my heart, as you did,

Until it makes me a living Gospel.

Request the power of the Spirit for me

That I may witness to Christ among men and women.

Infuse me with your motherly love

So that it may reveal the Father to them

And they may feel the joy of being children of God

In the fraternal communion of the Church.

Mother, here is your son. Form me.

Mother, here is your son. Send me.

Mother, here is your son. Speak through me. Love through me.

Watch over me, so that, having proclaimed the Gospel to others,

I may not be left out of the Kingdom.

In you, my Mother,

I have placed all my trust.

Let me never be put to shame.

Amen”.

III. MARY IS OUR MODEL FOR FOLLOWING CHRIST

            Having discovered the various ways in which Mary engenders us as missionaries, we now focus on her as the model for following Christ.[42] Mary is for us the model believer, the model of the consecrated woman and the model for the practice of those virtues that best typify a missionary.

1. Mary, the Model Believer

 1.1. In Listening to and Fulfilling the Word

Our special vocation among God’s people is the ministry of the Word. How can we not learn from her who gave birth to the Word in her heart and in her body and who has been exalted for listening to the Word and fulfilling it?

“Mary lived this mystery in its fullness. Under her motherly action we learn to welcome the Word, to embody it in a life commitment and to communicate it with the same readiness and generosity as she did.”[43]

This cultivation of the Word, following Mary’s example, first arises from the encounter with God’s Word. The Bible must be our main book for prayer and spiritual reading.[44] And this reading of the Word must be converted into a commitment to live and proclaim it.[45]

 1.2. In Prayer

Mary is the model for prayer that knows how to welcome the mystery of God into one’s heart. “Our prayer is inspired by the attitude and recommendation of Christ to pray earnestly and by the attitude of Mary that treasured all these things and meditated on them in her heart.”[46]

It is a matter, then, of a kind of prayer that gives rise to a deep faith in God, affects the very core of one’s being and is translated into a life of praise and service (cf. Lk. 1:47; 1:39).

2. Mary, A Model for the Consecrated Life

2.1. In Chastity

Mary is especially emphasized as one of the motives for our consecrated chastity. She is for us the example of consecrated chastity.[47] The Scripture text presented by the Constitutions refers to the vocation of Mary (cf. Lk. 1: 34-37). She is an example of chaste love as mother and wife.

Mary’s example is manifested, above all, in making our life a life of love, as she did. Our chastity is a witness insofar as “it expresses an intensely evangelical way of loving the Father and one’s brothers and sisters like Christ and Mary.”[48]

And, since observing chastity is a difficult task, it is necessary to cultivate the spiritual maturity “that is supported by a deep faith and an ardent and passionate love, as Claret had, for Christ, the Virgin and the Church, and guarantees victory over temptations.”[49]

 2.2. In Poverty

The motive for our evangelical poverty lies in Christ, but “we also find it in Mary, first among the poor of the Lord.”[50] Our Founder lived it that way: “I thought of how Mary, too, had always wanted to be poor.”[51]

The Constitutions propose to us the model of Mary as first among the poor of the Lord.[52] They base this attitude on the text of the Magnificat (cf. Lk 1:48-55). According to Luke, Mary belonged to the group of humble people that God lifted up: “He has looked upon his lowly servant” (Lk. 1:48). Mary lives as a poor woman before God and in solidarity with all the poor of the earth.

2.3. In Obedience

Mary also provides a model for our consecrated obedience. She “as the Lord’s servant, devoted herself totally to the Son and to His work.”[53] Luke emphasizes her complete availability to the Word of God (cf. Lk. 1:38). And thus Mary is blessed. She belongs to the group to whom Jesus said: “Blessed are those who hear the Word and God and fulfill it” (Lk. 11:28).

By accepting the Word in total obedience, Mary becomes a servant of the Word. In this sense, our obedience, understood like Mary’s, is necessary so that we can serve Word authentically and carry out God’s will.

3. Mary, Model of the Virtues That Typify the Missionary

3.1. In Apostolic Zeal

Our Constitutions explicitly recognizes that zeal which springs from love is the virtue a missionary needs most.[54] “Jesus Christ, the Virgin and the apostles are models”[55] of that zeal, which strives to make God known, loved, served and praised by all.

Besides a model, the Virgin is a means to that fire of fire, just as our Founder says:

“We attain this submission and this making use of our imagination in order to fan the fire of love through the Most Holy Virgin, our special advocate.”[56]

Among the means that help us keep the fire of love alive emphasis is given to “living our condition of being sons of the Heart of Mary and recourse to her efficacious intercession as mother of love.”[57]

3.2. In Humility

Although the Constitutions do not explicitly refer to Maria when they talk about humility, since they have already referred to her in the chapter on poverty, Claret, speaks of her in the prayers he makes for the people;[58] and, because he knows that Mary lived humility perfectly, he prays that she will also request that gift for him:

“I will ask Mary Most Holy for a burning love, perfect union with God, the most profound humility and desire to be held in contempt.”[59]

3.3. In Meekness

For Claret, meekness “is one sign of a vocation to be an apostolic missionary.”[60] It is so important for a missionary that Claret says “There is no virtue so attractive [to human hearts] as meekness.”[61] The great model of meekness is Jesus Himself. But Mary is also a model:

“I shall remember the meekness of Mary Most Holy and how she was never moved to anger, even accidentally, nor ever lost her perfect meekness…”[62]

3.4. In Mortification

In speaking of mortification, Claret acknowledges that “I have received special encouragement… from considering the example set by Jesus, Mary and the Saints.”[63] Although he does not develop the sense of how Mary is a model of this virtue, he tells us how Mary told him that the missionaries would be successful through mortification:

“On 4 September [1859], at 4:25 in the morning, Jesus Christ told me: You have to teach your Missionaries mortification, Anthony. A few minutes later, the Most Holy Virgin told me: If you do, the results will be great, Anthony.”[64]

IV. MARY ON OUR VOCATIONAL JOURNEY

            In Part 2 we already explained that we dedicate ourselves to the Heart of Mary in order to share in her spiritual motherhood. Now we want to see how this cooperation goes on over the course of our missionary life and, specifically, during the stages of initial formation.

1. The Stage of Accepting Our Vocation

Mary shares in the birth of the missionary vocation:

“At the origin of every missionary vocation lies the efficacious action of Mary’s spiritual motherhood, through which the Spirit configures us to the image of the Missionary Son of the Father.”[65]

We do not embrace our vocation through a simple act of recruitment, but as a response to the grace we have received.

Among the characteristics that our vocation ministry should emphasize is the Marian dimension.[66] One of the objectives of this stage of ministry and acceptance of vocation is “to present Mary as mother and as a faithful response to God’s gratuitous call.”[67]

1.1. Mary, Inner Wellspring of Generosity

The stage of discovering God’s call usually creates a crossroads in one’s life. On one hand, God’s voice is clearly heard in many signs: meaningful Scripture passages, events that raise questions, encounters with people who bear witness to the Gospel, desires to make the world a better place, etc. On the other hand, difficulties usually appear that make one hesitant to respond definitively: fear of the future, family resistance, competing projects, etc. In these moments of seeking and, on occasion, of foundering, Mary appears as an inner wellspring of generosity. Her spiritual motherhood is manifested as engendering attitudes in us that help us yield to God’s will. One can speak, then of a Marian genesis of the vocation.

1.2. Mary, Mother and Model of Response to God’s Call

The second aspect emphasized in this stage refers to response to one’s vocation. The call of Mary, as related in Lk. 1:26-38, is a model to enlighten the aspirant and encourage his own response.

Mary’s vocation begins with a powerful experience of God’s grace: “Rejoice, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you”. Mary is upset and disconcerted. She cannot interpret what is happening. The second moment combines a message of trust and fruitfulness from the angel of God (“Don’t be afraid… You are to bear a son”) with an incredulous question from Mary (“How can this be?”). The definitive moment combines God’s promise (“The Holy Spirit will overshadow you”) and Mary’s unconditional surrender (“Be it done to me according your word”).

In this experience of Mary’s the aspirant finds all the elements he needs to interpret his own experience. He also feels touched by God’s grace and is not sure how to understand its meaning. He receives encouragements not to be afraid and to discover the fruitfulness of his missionary vocation. But, at the same time, many objections are raised: his own inability, social difficulties, fear of the future, etc. He needs to open himself to God’s promise. A vocation is not sustained by the power of enthusiasm. There is only a true vocation when we receive the Holy Spirit. All the obstacles can be overcome “because nothing is impossible for God”. When the aspirant discovers this, he is in a condition to say his own Hinnení,[68] like Mary. And this will not be the result of his own initiative, but in response to the grace received from God.

2. The Stage of Postulancy

Postulancy is a period of preparation in order to be initiated into Claretian life. Without it, we would run the risk of sowing seed in poor soil. During this preparation, one of the objectives is “to discover and accept Mary as a mother who accompanies us on the vocational journey and protects us in difficult times.”[69]

2.1. Discovering Mary

The verb discover here has a special thrust here. It does not mean that, prior to postulancy, the candidate did not know Mary at all and is beginning to know her now for the first time. Discover is equivalent to catching on, valuing Mary’s presence and its meaning in the Christian life in a more conscious and rewarding way. In a certain sense, the postulant is invited to embark on a road like that taken by the primitive Church: passing from almost complete silence on Mary, as seen, for example, in the Pauline writings, to the mature reflections of Matthew, Luke and John. To the extent that the postulant lives his faith and his vocation as an experience of encounter with the person of Jesus, he is also discovering the significance of Jesus’ Mother. When faith is seen as an ideology or a moral code, Mary has no place. Ideologies and moral codes do not need a mother. When faith is a relationship to the person of Jesus, then Mary’s presence becomes a given: Jesus has a mother who is, at the same time, our mother. This is the discovery that is proposed to the candidate during this stage of his formation.

2.2. Accepting Mary as a Mother Who Accompanies and Protects Us

Acceptance is the consequence of discovery. Of the various characteristics of Mary highlighted in our Congregation’s tradition and examined in Part I, here we will mention only one: her role as a mother who accompanies and protects us.

One who takes the first steps on the formation journey needs someone to show him the way and help him remove obstacles that keep cropping up. For the postulant, Mary is that person, the mother who accompanies him from within. It is a motherly presence that is not imposed, that does not remove the risks of our own decisions, but that encourages and stimulates. Just as in the case of the young Claret, Mary also carries out the task of protection (never over-protection) in the face of the dangers that can threaten his response to his vocation and in the face of every kind of temptation he may experience.

3. The Period of Novitiate

The novitiate is the period of initiation into Claretian life. One of the formation objectives of this stage from a Christian perspective is “to personalize and internalize the spirit of the Beatitudes, following the example of Mary, a model of listening and responding to the Word of God.”[70] From a Claretian perspective another specifically Marian objective is noted: “Discovering the meaning of Cordi-Marian sonship and fostering the living of it.”[71]

3.1. Accepting Mary as a Model of Listening to and Fulfilling the Word

Initiation into the following of Jesus begins by listening to His word. There is no faith without the proclamation of the message. The core of Jesus’ message is summarized in the Beatitudes. As a result, listening to and fulfilling the Word is linked to making one’s own the spirit of the Beatitudes. This is the grace and task presented to the novice during his time of initiation. It is thus a matter of experiencing the essence of the Gospel. On this journey, Mary appears as a model. She is really the one who knew how to listen and fulfill the Word to such an extent that in her, by the power of the Spirit, the Word became flesh. In order to incarnate this Word, for it not to be reduced to mere knowledge, the novice is invited to welcome the Spirit and Mary.

3.2. Discovering and Living Cordi-Marian Sonship

The verb discover appears again during this stage with the sense of catching on, becoming aware, valuing. The aspect emphasized is Cordi-Marian sonship. Considering this stage whose objective is initiation into Claretian life, this initiation logically carries with it the experience that figures in the name of our Congregation. The novice is invited to discover that we, Claretian Missionaries, are and are called sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In Part I we have already explained the content of this title.

4. The Stage of Missionaries in Formation

In this final stage of initial formation, which is a stage of development and consolidation, the missionary is invited to deepen his Marian experience. One of the specific objectives of this stage is: “To love Mary, Mother of the Church, formatrix of apostles, as a son, making the pilgrimage of faith that she made in the way that she did it.”[72]

4.1. Loving Mary, Mother of the Church, Formatrix of Apostles, as a Son

In the dynamic experience that the one being formed continues having of Mary, the apostolic and ecclesial dimension is now emphasized, in keeping with the objectives proper to this stage, which involves immediate preparation to carry out our mission in the Church. It is not surprising, then, that another objective goes along with loving Mary as Mother of the Church: “Learning to feel with the Church, understood as the People of God in motion and as a mystery of communion.”[73]

Mary appears as the Mother of the whole community of those who believe in Jesus. Her motherhood is seen not only from a personal perspective, but also an ecclesial one. Looking on the Church as a mother, Mary collaborates with Holy Spirit in forming those who have been given the duty of building up the Church through the ministry of the Word. In this sense, she is the formatrix of apostles. Among the many agencies proposed to the young missionary at this stage of formation, he is encouraged to love Mary as the one in whom his mission is rooted: a loving heart that is ready to love. Without forming this kind of heart, all his other abilities count for nothing.[74]

4.2. Making the Pilgrimage of Faith with Mary

This stage, the longest in initial formation, “involves an experience of contrast and realism, not normally exempt from crisis and difficulties.”[75] Faith can also be put to the test by studies, by confronting other world views, by fatigue, etc. This encourages looking at Mary as the woman on a pilgrimage of faith, who did not come to believe all at once but who lived a true faith journey on which she experienced doubt, darkness and temptation. Accompanied by the pilgrim Mary, the missionary is invited not to weaken, to keep on journeying, to trust more lucidly and deeply in the promise of God, who never takes back His gifts.



[1] CC 159.

[2] Cf. CC 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 20, 23, 28, 35, 36, 61, 71, 73, 159.

[3]“Blessed Virgin Mary” (CC 1, 8, 24, 35, 36, 61, 73, 159); “Immaculate Heart of Mary” (CC 1, 4, 8, 71, 159); and, in various places, she is called “Mother of God,” “mother and teacher,” “first disciple of Christ,” “formatrix of apostles,” “handmaid of the Lord” and “Patroness.” Taken together, the biblical image of Mary predominates, although seen from a Claretian perspective.

[4] “Out of devotion to Mary Most Holy, I added the sweet name of Mary, my mother, my patroness, my mistress, my directress, and my all, after Jesus” (Aut 5).

[5] “I never tired of being in church before the image of Our Lady of the Rosary, and I talked and prayed so trustingly that I was quite sure the Blessed Virgin heard me” (Aut 48).

[6] EA, p. 432.

[7] Cf. Aut 154-162. At another time in his life, speaking of himself in the third person, he writes: “As he loved Mary Most Holy as his tender and affectionate Mother, he always thought about what he could in her honor…” (EA, p. 411).

[8] The expression “we call ourselves” (CC 1) recalls the words used by our Founder in the Autobiography when he speaks of thinking about having to found a Congregation of missionaries “who would both be, and be called, Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary” (Aut 488); cf. also OPML II, p. 43f.

[9] GPF 99.

[10] In the message addressed to the General Chapter of 1985, Pope John Paul II recalled: “You know perfectly well to what extent this awareness of your Marian sonship is not only the basis of your Holy Founder’s apostolic activity, but also, specifically, the mortar in the foundation of your Institute. Throughout your history, this characteristic of Marian sonship has remained an important element in your spirituality and apostolic activity. Don’t let it weaken” (CPR, p. 73).

[11] Cf. EA, p. 665.

[12] CCTT, p. 602.

[13] Mss-Clotet: Notes for the annals, Variedades 1885, 179. Archive of the Office of the Claretian Postulator. Unpublished; cf. also AGCMF: GA, 01, 06, 192.

[14] Cf. GPF 99.

[15] Aut 438.

[16] Starting with what goes on in a blacksmith’s shop, the Founder explains what happened to him: cf. Aut 342.

[17] Cf. Aut 270.

[18] Aut 494.

[19] Cf. GPF 23.

[20] Cf. GPF 100.

[21] Cf. Aut 76.

[22] Cf. EA, p. 432.

[23] Cf. Aut 95-98.

[24] He recalls it in several written works: “A Student Devoted to Most Holy Mary of the Rosary (1865), A Method of Preaching Missions in Villages (1857), Origin of the Trisagion (1861). According to the testimony of Don Antonio Barjau, the servant of God preached about this very many times and I myself heard it, and, even though he preached about it in the third person, his hearers commonly attributed it to him” (PIV, session 33).

[25] Cf. Aut 43, 38.

[26] Cf. GPF 337.

[27] Cf. GPF 39.

[28] Cf. EE, pp. 500-501.

[29] EE, pp. 493-495.

[30] Aut 447.

[31] At certain times in the past it even used to be said that this was the aspect that defines our specific vocation in the Church. This explains the huge spread of the devotion, the building of the votive temple in Rome and many pious practices and apostolic works centering on the Heart of Mary.

[32] CCTT, p. 310.

[33] Cf. CC 1, 4, 8, 9, 71, 159.

[34] Thus, for example, they propose that we embrace chastity “as a gift which enables us to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the concerns of the Father” (CC 20); they speak of the Blessed Virgin as she “who, as the Lord’s servant, devoted herself totally to the Son and to His work” (CC 28); they ask us to venerate the Mary “as Mother of God, who is associated with all her heart in the saving work of her Son” (CC 36).

[35] Cf. GPF 93-97.

[36] GPF 98.

[37] CC 159.

[38] Cf. Dir 32.

[39] Cf. Dir 33-34.

[40] Cf. GPF 101.

[41] Directorio Espiritual (Rome 2001), Depart. tech. de Ed. Regina, Pr. BIGSA, San Adrià del Besós (Barcelona), pp. 25-26. One can find the older version in the former edition, Spiritual Directory of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Part I. Manual of Prayers, Madrid, Ed. Coculsa, 1957, pp. 53-54.

[42] “Claretian formation must seek in Mary the characteristics that identify the true missionary: the capacity for contemplation, deep adherence to Jesus, pastoral charity and mercy toward the unfortunate, availability, identification with the poor, courage in the face of the cross and death, unquenchable hope, transparent communication of the Word” (PGF 58).

[43] GPF 26.

[44] Cf. GPF 200.

[45] GPF 201.

[46] GPF 213.

[47] Cf. CC 20; also GPF 62.

[48] GPF 63.

[49] GPF 64.

[50] GPF 67.

[51] Aut 363.

[52] Cf. CC 23.

[53] CC 28; cf. GPF 73.

[54] Cf. CC 10, 40.

[55] GPF 79.

[56] EE, pp. 487.

[57] GPF 80.

[58] Cf. Aut 659.

[59] Aut 749.

[60] Aut 374; cf. CC 42.

[61] Aut 373.

[62] Aut 783.

[63] Aut 393.

[64] Aut 684.

[65] CVD 84.

[66] Cf. GPF 287; also CVD 84-85.

[67] GPF 314.

[68] Hinnení is a Hebrew word translated as Take me, here I am, etc., indicating an attitude of total availability to do what God has deigned to command. It is an attitude expressed in Scripture references such as: Ps. 40:8; Gn. 22:1; 1 S 3:4-5; Is. 6:8; Ac. 9:10; etc. It is Mary’s attitude: Behold, the handmaid of the Lord.

[69] GPF 337.

[70] GPF 358.

[71] GPF 361.

[72] GPF 387.

[73] Ibid.

[74] Our Founder saw it thus: “If [an apostolic missionary] lacks this love, all his talents, however fine in themselves, are for nothing. But if, together with his natural endowments, he has much love, he has everything” (Aut 438).

[75] GPF 379.