The Claretian Community

Chapter 9

The Claretian Community

The community dimension of our missionary life underwent deep renewal in the period immediately after Vatican II. This Council did not consider specially consecrated community only from an ascetical, moral or juridical perspective. Nor did it treat it merely from the viewpoint of discipline, centered on the observance of norms under a powerful, hierarchical authority, as had been done before. Vatican II made community a theological value and presented it as a mystery of communion. In light of these conciliar orientations, our Congregation deeply renewed its community life[1].

In order to develop the topic of Claretian Community, we are going to divide the present reflection into three sections:

I. SCRIPTURAL AND THEOLOGICAL BASES

II. CHARISMATIC CHARACTERISTICS

III. INTERNAL DYNAMICS

I. SCRIPTURAL AND THEOLOGICAL BASES

            The Claretian community is not merely a human group. It is a community raised up by the Spirit in the Church through St. Anthony Mary Claret. Thus, the Fr. Founder laid its foundations on the special gift of the Spirit which is charity. In the Constitutions of 1857 charity was presented as fraternal union. In those of 1865, this chapter came to be entitled On Fraternal Charity, but these Constitutions and successive ones did not have a specific chapter on community[2]. It was introduced beginning with the special General Chapter of renewal in 1967. The final text on community indicates as the basis for community the scriptural models which Claret poses as the basis for community in his writings. They are models tied to the person of Jesus: the trinitarian communion revealed by the Son who is sent (missionary), in ongoing communion with the Father and the Spirit[3]; the apostolic community that He established with the Twelve[4] and the primitive Jerusalem community, built up as a communion in Christ by the power of the Spirit[5]. Along with these models that inspire Claretian community, the Constitutions specifically emphasize charity as the foundation on which our communion is built. In this way the Constitutions highlight that charity links together the three models indicated and that charity is the primary and most necessary gift for governing and shaping all of missionary life, especially community, as the Fr. Founder himself indicates in his Autobiography and in the Constitutions of 1857 and 1865[6].

1. The Trinitarian Communion

The origin, source and model for our community life, as Claret said[7], is the trinitarian communion. The theological model of communion starts from the fact that God has intervened in history and has revealed Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Three are revealed to us as living such a high degree of communion that they are forever One. The Trinity is made known to us in the life and practice of Jesus. In Him we also come to understand what we mean to God, and to what extent the three Divine Persons have committed themselves to us and the communion to which they call us (cf. Ep. 2:4-9).

 1.1. Perichoresis

The trinitarian communion is the basis of Claretian community, but how are we to understand that communion? The most specific characteristics of the trinitarian communion have been expressed in the Christian tradition by a Greek term that is difficult to translate: perichoresis (the image is that of dancing, from the Greek chorein). Theology understands perichoresis as the reciprocal giving and receiving that occurs among the three Divine Persons. This makes each one live in the others without confusion or separation. In the trinitarian communion, the Divine Persons exist as a complete self-giving and are themselves received in the reciprocity of the others[8]. In the Trinity being and self-giving coincide. Perichoresis is a term that expresses an unthinkable union among human beings. Thus, in part, it will always be impossible for us to realize that total interpenetration of love and life in the trinitarian communion. But we can indeed glimpse how the Unity of the Trinity must be understood.

1.2. Open Communion

The communion of the three Divine Persons is open to all of humanity and the whole of creation. The saving intervention of the Trinity in history gives rise to two new, wider milieus of communion: communion between God and human beings and communion of human beings among themselves. Obviously, in both cases, it is a matter of communion of a different kind than that of the Trinity (cf. Jn. 17:21).

1.3. The Dynamics of Communion Within the Trinity

Jesus Christ has revealed to us the internal life of God (cf. Jn. 1:18). In this sense, if the love that Christ manifests from the moment of His incarnation until His death has sef-emptying as its characteristic (kénosis, cf. Ph. 2:7-8), this means that self-emptying is the dynamic of love within the Trinity. If the love of Christ has this dynamic it is because it receives it from the Trinity. Christ reveals the inner life of God.

In conclusion, the communion of the Triune God and God’s commitment to making a Kingdom of communion possible in history is the basis, model and mission of the Claretian community[9]. It has its most impelling and creative referent in the trinitarian communion and in the Trinity’s dynamics of communion. Thus, the communion of the Claretian community “… is a theological space in which the presence of the risen Lord can be experienced” and “a human milieu where the Trinity dwells”[10].

2. Apostolic Community

Claretian community has, moreover, a basis in the community of Jesus with His followers. We briefly present the values and attitudes that were lived by this community insofar as it is a prototype for Claretian community.

2.1. Jesus Assembles a Community

Jesus came to fulfill the plan of the communion of the God-Trinity. Thus He is presented to us during his public life as forming a community with the apostles, as a paradigmatic realization of the mystery of unity: “He named Twelve as His companions whom he would send to preach” (Mk. 3:13; cf. Mk. 1:16-20). It is, then, a matter of sharing a project of life and mission and of being a living sign of the arrival of the eschatological Kingdom of God[11].

2.2. The Values and Dynamic of Jesus’ Community

Jesus’ community with His followers was internally bound together by various principles, values and attitudes that Jesus Himself required for that community to be possible and animated:

a) In general, we can say that the primary thing that cemented this community together was following Christ and accepting the Gospel of the Kingdom, centered in the reconciling love of God the Father, which Jesus’ missionary activity reveals (cf. Jn. 13:34-35).

b) More specifically, Matthew 18 gathers together a series of Jesus’ teachings to the Twelve on the values and attitudes needed in order to successfully achieve the community of life that He was proposing. Logically the apostles recommended these teaching to the first Christian communities (cf. 1 Pt. 1:22; 3: 8-9)and, in this way, as words of Jesus originally addressed to His disciples, but handed on by them to other Christians, they have been preserved in the Gospel. From this more concrete perspective, the community is built through a fraternal charity made real in a series of attitudes which are:

• To humble oneself, to be simple (cf. Mt. 18:4; Ph. 2:7-8). This basic attitude brings with it welcoming the little ones, like Jesus (cf. Mt. 18:10; cf. also Mk. 9:36,38-40) and a fellowship of equals before God, the only Father and Master (cf. Mt. 23:8-9).

• To become a servant, like Jesus Himself who made Himself a servant of all (cf. Mk. 9:33-35). It is a matter of a demanding service, unto the giving of one’s life (cf. Mt. 18:8-10); in a spirit of sacrifice unto handing oneself over (cf. Mk. 10:42-45; Mk. 10:43-45; Lk. 22:24-27; Jn. 13: 1,3-17)[12].

• To be concerned about one’s brothers and sisters who are in need of it, especially through fraternal correction (cf. Mt. 18:15-18; cf. also Lk. 17:3).

• And to forgive wrongs without limit (cf. Mt. 18:21ff.).

c) In building His community Jesus gave special emphasis to praying together (cf. Mt. 18:19-20; cf. also Lk. 11:1-4; 10:2; Jn. 18:2) and rest could be added to this (cf. Mk. 6:31), although this is not found among the principles and attitudes contained in Mt. 18. To rest together is a way of fostering apostolic fellowship.

d) Jesus’ union with the Twelve and their union among themselves also is for the purpose of sending them to preach. Thus the apostolic community is actually a missionary community (cf. Mk. 6:7). The mission constitutes the community and must be carried out through the community, i.e., through the unity so that world may believe (cf. Jn. 17:20-21).

In conclusion, Jesus’ community with the apostles is the model that inspires Claretian community. The values and attitudes indicated are those that the Fr. Founder wanted to be lived in the Congregation and to inspire the specific way of living our fraternal charity.

3. The First Community of Believers

Another model of community found in the Constitutions is that of the first community of believers.

3.1. The Resurgence of the Community

The apostolic community scattered with Jesus’ death (cf. Mt. 26:31). After the resurrection, Christ regathers the community and continues to call it together through the Spirit (cf. Ac. 2:47; 5, 14). The apostles transmit their experience of community lived with the historical Jesus (cf. 1 Pt. 1:22; 3:8-9). Consistent with this experience and prolonging it, the Jerusalem community is born and lives. The ideal of fraternal, apostolic and liturgical life that surges through this little pentecost in Jerusalem is expressed in a series of acts. This ideal comes down to us through the summaries or vignettes in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. Ac. 1:4; 2:42-47; 4:32-35; 5:12-16).

3.2. The Ideal of the Jerusalem Community

The primitive Jerusalem community had the goal of living in community (cf. Ac. 2:44,47), i.e., of forming a human group called together by the initiative and power of the Lord, interrelated and united by fraternal bonds. Other people were being joined to this preexisting group and being fully integrated into it, always by the initative and power of the Lord. They had this ideal for living in community:

a) Possessing one heart and one mind (cf. Ac. 4:32; Ph. 2: 2). Luke describes the members of the Christian community in Jerusalem as friends of one mind. They also have one heart. The heart is the seat of faith, hope and love (cf. Rm. 5:2-5). Thus, the Christian community in Jerusalem not only shares friendship, but the same faith, hope and love, in mutual self-giving. St. Paul says, in a summary fashion, that the members of the community were animated by the “same spirit” and had “the same feelings” (Ph. 2:2; cf. also 2 Co. 13:11 and Rm. 12:16; 15:5).

b) Expressing and growing in harmony through prayer. Oneness of mind and harmony, to which we have alluded, is preserved in relationship through prayer and Eucharist (cf. Ac. 1:14; 2: 46; 4:24; 5:12). The communion of hearts is shown and expressed, created and grows through listening to the Word of God and accepting the teaching of the apostles. Oneness of mind and harmony can also be abundantly seen in the breaking of the bread. The Eucharist has a preeminent place in the first Christian community and is the fullest realization and expression of the communion of all in Christ.

c) Translating communion into the holding of goods in common. In the idealized portrait that Luke presents of the community, the first Christians are presented as sharing goods as a material expression of the harmony and unity in faith, prayer and spirit (cf. Ac. 2:42). The viewpoint from which the holding of goods in common is seen is not that of law, nor of social education, nor of friendship. In the final analysis, the motive for holding goods in common is the free movement of the Spirit (cf. Ac. 5:3,9).

d) To be a community of witness and mission. Finally, the ideal of life of the Jerusalem community includes mission. It is a community oriented toward apostolic activity” “Go to all the world and proclaim the Good News to every creature” (Mk. 16:15; cf. Mt. 28:19; Jn. 20:21). Our Fr. Founder compares it to a beehive[13]. The community must be a witness of unity in order to create communion for those who accept the Word through faith (cf. 1 Jn. 1:1-3). Only through this will one experience how the Spirit brings about signs of the Kingdom.

In conclusion, the communal ideal of the Jerusalem community forms a basis and inspiration for Claretian community, indicating the goals it must strive for. Their ideal must become ours. Our Fr. Founder wanted the Congregation to have it very present. The communities over which he presided, especially in Vic and Cuba, were animated by this spirit. To enter the Congregation is to be integrated into a great spiritual tradition and to commit oneself to in creative fidelity to it[14].

4. Charity, the Primary and Most Necessary Gift

“God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8). The love which comes from God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (cf. Rm. 5: 5). It is indispensable in our community because communion is built on charity[15]. The love of God poured out into our hearts becomes love for God, apostolic zeal and fraternal charity. Fraternal charity is the conclusion and determining factor in community models and must always be present. Christ poses it as a new commandment. It was basic to his community with the Twelve and to the soul of the Jerusalem Church.

II. CHARISMATIC CHARACTERISTICS

            The shape of the Claretian community is defined by a series of charismatic characteristics and by a complex of dynamisms through which fraternal life is expressed and realized. In this section we will concern ourselves with the characteristics that derive from our charism. The complex of dynamisms, in other words, the internal dynamic of the community, will be studied in the following section. We, then, focus on the characteristics derived from our charism:

1. A Community of Grace

The Claretian community has its origin in a gift of the Spirit, in grace. It is not a community raised up by merely human initiative (love, friendship, human objectives…). In the Constitutions, the Congregation professes that it believes in the grace it has received from the Holy Spirit in the Church[16]. This origin situates the Congregation in the context of salvation history and gives rise to its attitude of thankfulness for God’s generosity.

It is God Himself who, through the charismatic gifts of His Spirit and the mediation of St. Anthony Mary Claret, has raised up the community of the Congregation in the Church to be of use to it and to build it up. Thus, the Claretian community must be basically understood in the context of communities of grace raised up by the Spirit. This is the key to understanding it in the proper way.

2. Its Missionary Nature

Its charismatic origin also provides a second key to understanding the Claretian community. The community of the Congregation has its origin in a specific charism of universal missionary service of the word, like the charism of Claret[17]. From this it receives its distinctive imprint and out of that charism it is configured as a community of a universal missionary nature.

Collaboration in the ministry of the word belongs to the very origin of our community life[18]. That ministry and its pressing demands led St. Anthony Mary Claret to do with others what he could not accomplish alone[19]. Our community is built around the ministry of the word. It was this way at its founding and remains so throughout its history:

2.1. At the Founding of the Congregation

The gift of grace received by Claret made him progressively discover the need for a community in order to be able to carry out the universal evangelizing mission to which he felt himself called:

• He began his missionary work alone and on foot in light of the impossibility of evangelizing Catalonia with a team of priests, doing himself what the suppressed religious could not do[20];

• his entry into the Jesuit novitiate was a period of formation in community for mission[21];

• later, he created a group of disciples and collaborators who worked as a team with a definitely communal style of apostolic life while, in a collaborative way, they did missions in Catalonia[22];

• when the civil war made it impossible to conduct missions in Catalonia, the desire grew in him to extend his work and that of his collaborators to other regions of Spain[23], recommending for this purpose living in community and, when this was impossible, union in spirit (communion), even though visibly separated[24];

• a year later, in order to preach missions throughout Spain, he envisioned founding the “Brotherhood of Jesus and Mary” with a specific organization that included living in community[25], but he could not carry out this idea since Bishop Codina invited him to evangelize the Canary Islands and everything had to be put on hold until he returned;

• finally, after acutely experiencing the need for universal evangelizers[26], and receiving a special spiritual illumination during his retreat in April, 1849, which he attributed to the Virgin[27], he began to sketch out his idea of founding the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary that would live in a permanent community and would differ from the Brotherhood of Jesus and Mary, since in time it would have to extend its apostolate to different countries[28]. Claret’s spirit is for all the world[29].

2.2. Over the Course of Time

Sharing a charismatic mission project will at all times be what creates the Claretian community and keeps it animated by the Spirit. A Claretian community is not so only in name or by the choice of its members, nor because it is gathered in one place. It is so above all by its service to the Church, understood and carried out communally.

Its missionary nature is, in conclusion, the most important key to understanding Claretian community. Its apostolic activity belongs to its nature[30]. Claretian community is thus a community for mission and on continuing mission. It evangelzes by what it is and what it does[31].

3. A True Fellowship

The Claretian charism gives rise to a community that is a true fellowship. Communion of life is essential to our being evangelizers.

The configuration of the physiognomy of the Claretian community is not due to the Founder alone. The founding community also had a marked impact on it. That was the original Claretian community. In it the spiritual face of the Congregation is sketched out paradigmatically. Because of this, the aspect we are concerned with requires us now to take a quick look back at the founding community in Vic.

On 16 July 1849, five priests, to whom the Lord had given the spirit as Claret[32], left their parishes and benefices to dedicate themselves together with him, freely and completely, to the mission of universal preaching. The life of that community had a very precise meaning and method. The Founder himself presents, in his Autobiography and his letters, the basic characteristics of the group:

“We are busy from 4 in the morning until 10 at night. We are busy in such a way that, like unbroken chain, one activity is linked to another. Our activities are mental and vocal prayer, the Divine Office, conferences on catechetics, preaching, hearing confessions, moral, mystical and ascetical theology… and we practice all the virtues, especially humility and charity and we live in this school a truly poor and apostolic life”[33].

It is a matter of a missionary community and, at the same time, a fraternal community. What is said about the community in Vic is equally true of the Archbishop’s house in Cuba, Madrid, Paris or Rome. In Cuba Claret and his companions lived the same life as was lived in la Merced[34]. It was a missionary community, organized like a beehive[35]. But it also appears as a fraternal community in which all were loved and where faith, charity and the presence of the Spirit reigned[36].

Consequently, the Congregation comes to be constituted as a community out of collaboration in the ministry of the word and out of fellowship. In order to appropriately understand the integration of both aspects into community it is necessary to keep a healthy balance: not to overemphasize fraternal community to the detriment of missionary community, nor to place so little value on fraternal community as to make it irrelevant. Our fellowship is apostolic. It is a question of priorities. And it is not irrelevant, but of the greatest importance, because it determines a physiognomy, an identity[37] and has practical consequences: the life community must always be focussed on mission and communion must be built on a creative and integrating tension between the priority values of mission and those emphasized by fellowship.

4. Belonging to the Congregation

It is necessary to be aware that, through the Claretian charism that confers a universal mission, the Lord calls us to become part of the Congregation as such. The Congregation, extending throughout the world, is the primary community to which we belong[38].

Now, community life is realized in a specific way in the local community[39]. Thus, any other way we belong to the Congregation is lived and expressed through belonging to the local community:

• in community and out of community, sharing with the brothers that make up the local community the communion of the Congregation’s charism, vocation and mission; the fraternal life and mission of the local community, and making use of structures and means to create and animate all this. Belonging to the Congregation is fully realized and expressed on the local level;

• in communion and out of communion, sharing with the brothers in the Congregation, the Province or any other intermediate Organism the same vocation and the same mission of the Congregation, even though we do not live with them.

5. Lively and Incarnated Community

Finally, a basic characteristic of the Claretian community, as an apostolic fellowship, and a key to interpreting it, is its duty to actualize the Claretian charism and realize its potential, adapting it to varying cultural and historical situations[40].

Throughout his life the Fr. Founder kept on developing the gift he had received, realizing its potential according to the needs of the Church and the world. This became an example that gave direction to the Congregation. “Our latest General Chapters, ‘in keeping with the example of Claret and in harmony with the Church in the modern world’ (MCT 4), have sought in the life and journeying of humankind the signs and voice of the God of the Kingdom”[41]. Like them, each community must try to continue what Claret did in the today of the people into which it is inserted and from there to configure its lifestyle, its spirituality, its fellowship, its ministry of the word…[42].

III. INTERNAL DYNAMICS

            Claretian community is shaped by the characteristics which we have just indicated, and also by a complex of dynamisms in which fraternal life is expressed and realized. This internal dynamic, which is presented now from a Claretian perspective, gives our community its specific physiognomy, an “air” or unique style.

These dynamisms can also be considered, from another perspective, as means. Thus, the realities we are going to consider are called dynamisms because of the energy they contain for unleashing dynamic processes within them by which communion and community is expressed and realized. They are called means insofar as they are useful actions for realizing, animating and increasing fellowship itself, transmitting specific values[43].

The most important dynamism-means are those proposed in the Constitutions[44]. Some are related to love of God and Jesus Christ, others to fraternal charity and a third group to apostolic charity:

1. The Eucharist

The Claretian community has always lived out of the Eucharist and has been built around it. From the beginning it was highly esteemed. The first community acts were visits to the Blessed Sacrament[45]. It could not be otherwise, knowing the importance it had for the Founder who was granted the grace of preserving the sacred species within him[46]. It is a trait of the Claretian community to have a strongly Eucharistic character.

The Eucharist expresses and realizes our community and spurs its dedication to mission. Through the celebration of the Eucharist and devotion to it, the Spirit breaks into community and, making Christ’s Paschal Mystery present, unites its members by virtue of the reconciliation achieved through the Easter Mystery. The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity, of communion in Christ, of divine sonship and of fellowship, of the mystery of His body given in time. The Eucharist also nourishes, feeds and fortifies the community it creates.

By its nature the Eucharist is linked to a specific community celebrating it, to a place and a well-defined time. Our local apostolic fellowship must daily celebrate the Eucharist[47] and rediscover it every day, following the example of the Fr. Founder, and giving life each day to the great realities that lie at the center of its celebration: remembrance, sacrifice and banquet[48]. In formation communities, participation in daily Eucharist must be the basic community act[49]. Concelebration, as a way communally living the Eucharist and of building community out of it[50], enjoys a privileged place among us.

Nevertheless, the Eucharistic dimension of the local community must also revolve around reservation of the Eucharist in the tabernacle. The Constitutions and the Directory continue to recommend this adoration and devotion[51].

2. Prayer

Prayer, whether personal[52], liturgical or communal is a dynamism-means that has a privileged place in our missionary community.

The prayer of the Claretian community is, on one hand, an exercise and expression of perfect fellowship in Christ[53]. It requires harmony and oneness of mind and guarantees the presence of Christ (cf. Mt. 18:19-20). On the other hand, our community prayer also constitutes the community. Prayer obtains from the Spirit the gift that unites us in communion[54]. Prayer, based on the Word, is a dialogue and an encounter with Christ in our midst. And every encounter is, to a greater or lesser extent, mutual communication (cf. Jn. 14:21). Thus prayer transforms us into Christ and configures us to Him.

In the Congregation, community prayer—to which the community must dedicate at least half an hour every day—takes shape, as a community dialogue and encounter with the Lord, especially in listening to the Word, in liturgical prayer, in shared prayer and in apostolic prayer[55]. In shaping our community prayer Mary plays an important role. She is always present in the community, inspiring its life as she who listens to the Word of God, is faithful to God’s plans and is attentive to the needs of the poor and needy in order to proclaim God’s mercy to them[56].

3. Family Lifestyle

This is one of the most characteristic dynamisms-means of Claretian community. We have already spoken of how important it was for the Fr. Founder, despite the fact that mission was the priority[57].

The family lifestyle of our community is shaped by a strong theological character. The Claretian community is a “family gathered in the name of the Lord and rejoicing in His presence (Mt. 18:20)”[58]. This strong theological character does not require us to shape our family also with reference to the biological family. In Claretian community the values of the human group are lived that certainly facilitate a communion that is ever more concrete and profound. The family lifestyle is marked also by a Cordi-Marian character and an openness to other people and groups. The specific way of living all these characteristics gives our fellowship its specific family lifestyle.

3.1. Fraternal Relationships

Due to its theological character, our family lifestyle is expressed and realized above all through the living of fraternal charity. The specific way this dynamism-means is to be lived is spelled out in nn. 15-19 of the Constitutions. It involves living a series of characteristics: accepting the Lord’s command and practicing all the virtues (n. 15); speaking with humility and love, not complaining, not passing judgment and practicing forgiveness (n. 16)[59]; maintaining unity within a diversity of national origins, cultures and ideas, as well as within a diversity of gifts, and practicing hospitality (n. 17)[60]; making caring for the sick and the aged a priority (n. 18)[61] and living in communion with the brothers who have gone before us (n. 19)[62]. A preeminent way of building up the community out of charity is fraternal correction[63].

In order for the community to be based on our fraternal love and be a witness to the love of God and of Christ, it must have characteristics with which it is lived by its members. It must be efficacious, translated into feelings, behaviors, initiatives, attitudes and creativity. It must be reconciling, being concretized in a process of the cross, in profound self-forgetfulness, put into practice through the granting of forgiveness, acceptance of faults, a personal asceticism to overcome any obstacles of enmity, hatred and any network of opposition or barriers (cf. Ga. 3:28). It must be gratuitous, loving as God loves, simply because the dynamic of love demands giving ourselves to all, loving them because God loves them, seeking their good, their promotion, their salvation. It must be universal, reaching out to good and bad, to enemies (cf. Mt. 5: 43-47). These qualities of love do not involve accepting injustice and remaining unmoved by situations of sin because a form of love is fraternal correction, which can even lead to separation from the community (cf. Mt. 18:15ff.).

3.2. Cultivating Human Values

The family lifestyle is also expressed and realized by implementing values of the human family that help to reaffirm communion. Among these values, the Congregation emphasizes holding goods in common[64]; the common table, where we are nourished with the food that the Father gives to his children, we hear spiritual reading, or we talk to our brothers in fraternal conversation[65]; unity among generations for the transmission of values[66]. In short, the Congregation has clearly stated the commitment to practice and cultivate the human bases for living together[67]. This cultivation involves the realization of deep human values.

3.3. The Cordi-Marian Character

In the Claretian community the living of fraternal charity and the values of the human family is done with a Cordi-Marian character. Mary, with her mother’s heart, inspires our life synthesis in missionary fellowship[68]. This Cordi-Marian character is emphasized in cordiality (living with heart). This is a trait inherited from our Mother. This is the tender and gentle atmosphere that pervades and colors our entire community environment. It adds emotion, warmth, tenderness, meekness, insight into love and mutual service, properties of mercy in Scripture. It is opposed to indifference and to distancing ourselves from God and people. Cordiality is intense human sensitivity and empathy[69].

3.4. Open Community

Finally, our family character leads us to naturally open our community, first, to our Claretian brothers from other communities and other Major Organisms, and, secondly, by the virtue of the charism of Claret that we share, to other people or groups, particularly to members of the Claretian Family[70].

4. Participation in Government and the Ordering of the Community

Participation in government and communal corresponsibility is realized on the general, provincial and local level. Right now we are interested in highlighting the local level where, in a specific way, the dynamisms of fraternal life are lived[71] and, more concretely, those of participation and corresponsibility in government and in the ordering of the community.

Participation aids in building community and to achieving personal fulfillment. It is one of the elements that keeps a sense of belonging alive, along with commitment to the options carried out by the community with everyone’s cooperation. Community coalesces in this way. On the other hand, each member of the community finds in participation the possibility of realizing himself fully, receiving enrichment from his brothers[72].

Participationn and corresponsibility presupposes that an authority and government of communion exists in the community. This form of authority and government was institutionalized by the General Chapter of 1973[73] and appears in the Constitutions, since “the unity of love and mission…is…expressed in our superiors”[74]. A government of communion is participative, corresponsible and ordered[75], motivating[76], auxiliary[77] and must be exercised in community and for the community[78].

According to this model, the superior shares the life and mission of the community, while at the same time offering the service of government of communion and animation that has been entrusted to him. He is seen as an indispensable means for creating fraternal and missionary communion[79]. The sense of his authority is established by the community he serves and also by the functions he has to provide in that style of government[80]. This means that, on specific occasions, the participation of the the superior in communal dialogue involves making an appropriate decision on his own when agreement cannot be reached or matters require it[81].

For the others, participacion and corresponsibility in government and community order is expressed, like any other kind of participation, through an ongoing attitude of openness and communication in true interpersonal relationships, i.e., through an ongoing attitude of fraternal dialogue[82]. That attitude has crystallized in two dynamisms-means that powerfully emerged during the period of renewal in the Congregation: the plenary meeting of the community and the community project[83].

4.1. Plenary Meetings of the Community

Ordinarily the name “community meeting” designates a wide-ranging means of animation making possible and increasing the encounter of the community with all its differences, diversity and tendencies through communication and dialogue. Nevertheless, in the Congregation, starting with the General Chapter of 1973, the plenary meeting of the community has been institutionalized, not only as a means of community animation and a means of spiritual and apostolic growth[84], but also as an organ of participation in the local government[85]. It is an authentic organ of government that in many aspects takes the place of the old local council. The local council has not in fact disappeared but its role is reduced[86]. The usual thing is that matters relating to the life of the community are treated corresponsibly in meetings we have.

The plenary meeting of the community, given its new nature, is made up of all professed members of the local community. The community itself determines how these will be run and their frequency, which must be at least monthly[87].

4.2. The Community Project

This is a means related mainly to participation in the ordering of the community and in harmonizing the demands of fellowship and mission. The community project[88] is understood as a complex of objectives that the local community establishes and programs for itself. It is realized in light of the Claretian charism and spirit, for the purpose of living fraternal communion in a dynamic process of growth. This allows the local community to be a true community of the Congregation, inserted in its surroundings, as a prophetic sign and apostolic body[89].

The community project is done by all the members of the community in a plenary meeting[90]. It is also evaluated in a plenary meeting. The community project is not something that is put together and preserved. It attempts to launch the community into a dynamic process of growth, something that only succeeds in being pursued if the community follows it and does the necessary evaluation. The development of the community project is done through a process involving various steps: awareness of the current situation, programming according to the demands of the Constitutions[91], designation of priorities, setting up a schedule for evaluation and modification, and approval by the Provincial Government[92].

The community project, united with the following of it that is done in community meetings and the animation carried out by the superior, taking him as the point of reference for government and communion, is a very effective instrument for the growth of the community in its missonary fellowship.

5. Collaboration in Mission

The community must live in an ongoing and insightful missionary relationship to the world. Thus the entire internal dynamism of the community is governed by the community’s mission[93]. In presenting the general coordinates it has already been said that collaboration in ministry belongs to the very origin of our community life. It has already been emphasized how collaboration in a charismatic mission project constitutes the community[94]. All this explains why our community is basically missionary and how this quality defines it and is its priority.

Mission is carried out in the Congregation through collaboration in a community of work and in development of a pastoral project. This is how this dynamism is set in motion and, by doing it, constitutes the community. Community of work means sharing, participating in and expressing, out of concrete personal and community differentiation, the specific mission of the community[95]. Claretian community is not a community directed toward maintaining the group while each member deals with the outside world as he wishes. The apostolate is not left to each one’s personality or whims. Still, collaboration in the community’s mission is done in varying ways[96]. But communal living of the apostolate demands doing it out of community and, as far as possible, in a team[97], integrating personal qualities for apostolic service and suppressing differences of origin, culture, race or opinion[98]. And always out of apostolic charity[99]. In this way collaboration in the community’s mission becomes a dynamism that fosters mutual relationship and communion.



[1] Cf. CPR 13-14, 18; cf. also OPML II, p. 183.

[2] The Constitutions of 1865 only contain a chapter on fraternal charity and another on the house rule (cf. CCTT, pp. 493-495 and 501-509).

[3] Cf. CC 10. In the Rules for the Institute for secular clerics he writes: “There is not and cannot be more than one true God; but God is three, He has in Himself three Presons. This God is the Most Holy Trinity—uncreated love, indivisible society, origin, source and model for all friendship and harmony. It is this good God, one and three, that clerics propose to honor when, united in a common life, being all of one mind and one heart in imitation of the primitive Christians, they desire to serve the Lord with all perfection and also to honor Jesus Christ, following his examples and practicing his evangelical counsels” (RCS II, 7,1).

[4] “Our life of communion responds to the Fr. Founder’s wish to imitate the apostolic life, i.e., following Christ who gathers his Apostles around Himself in fraternal charity” (PE 108; cf. CC 3).

[5] “Being all of one mind and one heart in imitation of the primitive Christians”(RCS II, 7,1).

[6] Cf. Aut. 438; CC 1857, ch. IX, 81-83 on Unión fraterna; CC 1865, II, ch. IX “On Fraternal Charity”.

[7] Cf. note 3.

[8] In the NT, especially in John, we find frequent references to this communion or perichoresis (cf. Jn. 10:30; 14:11; 17:21; 14:20). Both Jn. 10:30, and Jn. 17:21 are quoted in our Constitutions.

[9] “…we missionaries should be one with Them, so that the world may come to believe in Christ” (CC 10; cf. GPF 54).

[10] VC 41; 42.

[11] Cf. CC 3; GPF 54.

[12] After the washing of the feet, as a sign of self-giving even unto death. “If I, your Lord and Master…so also you” (Jn. 15:12-14).

[13] Cf. Aut 608.

[14] Cf. OMS, pp. 22-24.

[15] Cf. Aut 438.

[16] Cf. CC 4; Dir 36; GPF 54-55; OMS, p. 18.

[17] Cf. Ch. 6 of this manual, “The Claretian Charism”. For the meaning of the word “missionary” cf. Dir 26.

[18] Cf. CC 13. The presence of Christ and His word is what constitutes the community: cf. Mt. 28:20; Mk. 16:15.

[19] Cf. Letter to Apostolic Nuncio Most Rev. Giovanni Brunelli: EC III, p. 41; cf. also PE 108.

[20] Cf. Aut 460; cf. also CCTT, pp. 14-15. Right after his ordination to the diaconate, at the time he was wprking out how to implement his apostolic and evangelizing vocation, he felt the need of joining with other priests in order to go on mission in Catalonia and wanted to found a center for the formation of missionaries.

[21] He was invited to enter in order to be sent and accompasnied (cf. Aut 139). There he had an experience of community life as part of mission.

[22] Starting in 1842, he gathered priests into a purely apostolic association called the “Germandat de María del Roser” (Brotherhood of Mary of the Rosary). It was a work group, not a community. These priests remained where they were living (cf. CCTT Doc III, 79; cf. also 17-18).

[23] Claret felt called by God to direct a group of missionaries. Thus, in 1846, he organized the “Apostolic Brotherhood” along with some other priests. He recommended living in community to its members (cf. CCTT 17-18).

[24] Cf. CCTT, Doc IV, 15, p. 87.

[25] Cf. CCTT, p. 25

[26] Undoubtedly he was working on this while he was evangelizing in the Canary Islands and the fact that the people of the Canary Islands stole his heart (cf. CCTT, p. 27; Letter to the Bishop of Vic: EC I, p. 280).

[27] Cf. CCTT p. 602,3; EsC, pp. 16-17; Notes for Annales: Mss Clotet, J.: Varieties, 179; cf. also AGCMF: GA, 01, 06, 192; CPR 73: GPF 99.

[28] Cf. CCTT, p. 27

[29] Cf. Letter to Apostolic Nuncio Most Rev. Giovanni Brunelli: EC III, p. 41.

[30] Cf. PE 119; PC 8; OMS, p. 18. This missionary nature distinguishes it from monastic and mendicant community.

[31] Cf. IPM 28; cf. also 27, 30; Dir 36; OMS, p. 45.

[32] Cf. Aut 489; cf. in addition 488-494.

[33] Letter to Bishop José Caixal: EC I, p. 316; cf. Aut 491. For a more extensive description of the community in Vic cf. OPML I, pp. 158-160.

[34] Cf. Letter to Most Rev. Luciano Casadevall, Bishop of Vic: EC I, p. 608.

[35] Cf. Aut 608.

[36] Cf. Aut 612; cf. also 606-609.

[37] Other forms of consecrated life gather in order to live fellowship and incorporate the ministry of fraternal life. The Claretian community gathers for the missionary service of the word and carries this out through community. It incorporates fellowship into its mission. Its priority is mission.

[38] A consequence of this is universal availability (cf. CC 11; on availability in the local or province community, cf. Dir 39).

[39] Cf. CC 102.

[40] Cf. CC 14.

[41] IPM 4.

[42] Cf. Dir 47; SW 16,1; OMS, pp. 34-35, 51-52. For this, we in the Congregation value prayer, social analysis (cf. MCT 211; CC 1973, 18) and creative fidelity (cf. OPML II, pp. 230-231), implemented, as we will see, out of the community project.

[43] Cf. GPF 181; CVD 142-143. The General Plan of Formation in nn. 232-233 (cf. also 405-407) provides a summary of the characteristics that must be emphasized in formation for community.

[44] Cf. CC 12 and CC 13 on collaboration in mission.

[45] Cf. OPML II, p. 209.

[46] Cf. Aut 694; cf. also PE 14; MCT 60; GPF 204; OMS, pp. 38-40.

[47] Cf. CC 35; OMS, pp. 38-40.

[48] Cf. GPF 205; cf. Eucharisticum Mysterium n. 3.

[49] Cf. GPF 207.

[50] Cf. 2VR 32-33; Dir 37.

[51] Cf. CC 35 and Dir 87. The reserved Eucharist in the tabernacle is a reminder of the Eucharist celebrated earlier by the community. This Eucharistic bread demands acceptance of its transforming action, an attitude of adoration and gratitude, a deep desire for communion with Christ.

[52] Cf. CC 37; 2VR 33.

[53] Cf. PE 111.

[54] Cf. PE 110.

[55] Cf. CC 34-37; Dir 85; 2VR 32; MCT 99, 223.

[56] Cf. CC 36; MCT 223b; OMS, p. 42.

[57] Cf. section II, 3.

[58] PC 15.

[59] Cf. Dir 49.

[60] Cf. Dir 36, 50; IPM 30.

[61] Cf. Dir 52-53.

[62] Cf. Dir 54.

[63] Cf. CC 54.

[64] Cf. PE 79. This can be a sacramentalization of harmony and oneness of mind, but it is also a deeply familial value and contributed to a great degree to the consolidating belonging in our founding community (cf. OPML II, p. 330ff.; cf. also Letter to Most Rev. Luciano Casadevall, Bishop of Vic: EC I, p. 608).

[65] Cf. Dir 41.

[66] Cf. 1F 31.

[67] Cf. 1VR 29; SW 7.1.

[68] Cf. MCT 150.

[69] Cf. Dir 48; OMS, p. 20, note 28.

[70] Cf. CC 7; Dir 31, 42-45; MCT 224.

[71] Cf. CC 102.

[72] Cf. 2RG 14.

[73] Cf. CA 28; CPR 17.

[74] CC 30; cf. CC 103; CC 94.

[75] Cf. CC 93.

[76] Cf. CC 94.

[77] Cf. CC 95.

[78] Cf. CPR 17-18.

[79] Cf. CPR 17.

[80] “They should exercise authority in keeping with the norms of the Constitutions” (CC 30; cf. CC 104).

[81] Cf. CC 104, 2.

[82] Cf. 2RG 47-48.

[83] Cf. CPR 63.

[84] Cf. Dir 139.

[85] Cf. CC 110.

[86] Cf. Dir 428.

[87] Cf. CC 110. Topics: cf. Dir 431-433. 530; elections: cf. Dir 383, 424-425; functions: cf. Dir 434; minutes: cf. Dir 355.

[88] The ordering of the community is also called among us “internal regulation” (CC 57) and “annual planning of the community’s missionary life” (Dir 431; cf. CPR 15). Recent General Chapters talk about “community project” (CPR 63; SW 7,1).

[89] This planning means that the community project can never be separated from the life project of the Congregation, precisely presented in the Constitutions, let alone something opposed to it.

[90] Cf. Dir 431.

[91] Cf. CC 57; Dir 431.

[92] Cf. Dir 431.

[93] Cf. CPR 4, 14.

[94] Cf. section II, 2; cf. also CC 13; Dir 38;.

[95] Cf. 2VR 36,2.

[96] Cf. CC 13.

[97] Cf. PE 122;1VR 32; 1AP 20; 2VR 36, 2.

[98] Cf. CC 17.

[99] Cf. NEM, p. 35 b).