The Constitutions, An Instrument of Formation

  Chapter 16

 The Constitutions, an Instrument of Formation

            Our identity, generally described in the Congregation’s documents, is clearly expressed in the Constitutions. These condense and transmit an experience of grace that the Spirit grants us and that gives birth to a specific style of life and mission in the Church. The Constitutions are an immediate reference in our formation process as a guide and instrument for formation[1].

The present chapter deals with this topic in the following points:

  I. THE CONSTITUTIONS: WHAT THEY ARE AND HOW THEY WERE SHAPED AND REVISED

          II. THE MAIN THRUSTS OF THE CONSITUTIONS

          III. THE CONSTITUTIONS, AN REQUIRED REFERENCE DURING THE PERIOD OF FORMATION

          IV. ATTITUDES TOWARD THE CONSTITUTIONS

V. MEANS FOR MAKING THE CONSTITUTIONS AN INSTRUMENT FOR FORMATION

I. THE CONSTITUTIONS: WHAT THEY ARE AND HOW THEY WERE SHAPED AND REVISED

1. What Are the Constitutions?

The Directory precisely defines the identity of the Constitutions by stating that in them

“the nature, characteristics and most essential and permanent demands of our mission in the Church are set forth, and our lifestyle and the type of government befitting a missionary Congregation are defined”[2].

The Constitutions are the objective expression of the same following of Jesus Christ proposed in the Gospel[3], according to the specific charism or form inspired by the Holy Spirit in a founder and the institute founded by him. They are not a substitute for the Gospel. The Constitutions are, for religious, an authentic way of the Gospel and of holiness, guaranteed by the Church’s official approval.

The meaning of the Constitutions can be clearly seen in a series of definitions. The Constitutions are:

• the permanent expression of a charism, the original form of following and imitating Jesus Christ, emphasizing a dimension of His mystery;

• the charter of an Institute’s identity in the Church; an Institute’s life project according to the Gospel, the way the Congregation embodies the Gospel;

• the expression of a credo, of a common vocational faith; the basic book of the Congregation’s spirituality (characteristics and attitudes that create a “lifestyle” or a specific way of being and acting, of sanctification and apostolate);

• the Congregation’s self-awareness as a community “congregated” by the Spirit of the Lord;

• the basic book for personal and communal prayer and discernment, from a Claretian perspective;

• the instrument and guidebook for formation and missionary animation.

2. The Process of Formation and Revision of the Constitutions

The Founder and other members of the Institute worked on developing the earliest Constitutions. Later, with the passage of time, the Constitutions underwent modifications, always as demanded by the orientations of the Church in every epoch. This is normal, since their wording—and also the mindset underlying it—is always subject to revision, adaptation or updating. In this way we Claretians remain faithful to our original charism in every epoch.

The process of formation and revision of our Constitutions followed the following time-line[4]:

1849: The earliest Constitutions—which were never printed—governed the life of the group of early missionaries. They were handwritten by our Founder. No copy of them remains.

1857: The previous or first Constitutions were redone. This time they were printed, with the approval of the Bishop of Vic.

1862: The Constitutions (of 1857) were re-edited and an “Appendix” was added relating to aspirants, those being tested and students (whose admission had been decided on by the 2nd General Chapter) and their formators. Negotiations for their approval began with the Holy See.

1865: With certain modifications, the text of the Constitutions was approved in 1865 in a temporary way (ad decennium—for 10 years).

1870: But five years later, in 1870, they received final approval. The Congregation was approved as a religious Institute (with simple public vows). In the following years the text of the Constitutions as a whole was maintained, while various modifications were added in the form of an appendix (Constitutions of 1913).

1924: Following the orientations of the Church, the Chapter of 1922 began the process of adapting the Constitutions to new Church legislation (the Code of Canon Law of 1917). The new text was published in 1924.

1971: The Special Chapter of 1967 began the revision and adaptation of the Constitutions to the spirit of Vatican II. In 1971, the new text of the revised Constitutions was published, with an experimental character.

1973: Right after the next Chapter of renewal (1973) another new text of the Constitutions appeared, also with an experimental character, continuing the work of updating.

1982-1986: The Chapter of 1979 completed the process of revising the Constitutions, developing a new, definitive text, which was approved by the Apostolic See in 1982 and that, with small corrections, would be adapted in 1986 to the new Code of Canon Law (of 1983)in force in the Church. This is the text in force today.


II. THE MAIN THRUSTS OF THE CONSTITUTIONS

            We are going to indicate the major ideas that are articulated or are present in the text of the Constitutions and that are the ones that must guide Claretian formation.

1. Statement of Our Charism

The text of the Constitutions indisputably contains the essence of our charism in the Church. The fundamental constitution, specifically, expresses it in a clear and summary fashion[5]: it starts with the founding of the Congregation itself, indicates its aims, highlights its Gospel and Church foundation and emphasizes our condition as consecrated men in community at the service of the Gospel as Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, cooperating with her motherly role in the apostolic mission. The final number of the fundamental constitution contains the definition of the missionary, which represents the quintessence and ideal of the Claretian charism.

Without going into a detailed analysis of each number of the fundamental constitution[6], we only now want to highlight the phrase with which the Constitutions begin and which marvelously summarizes the essence of our charism: “Our Congregation of Missionaries was founded by Archbishop St. Anthony Mary Claret”[7]. Three words in this phrase provide the key to the Congregation’s own consciousness of its charism: Our, Missionaries and Anthony Mary Claret. Let us look at these:

a. Our: this word refers to a sense of belonging to a community that has a single origin, one history and one purpose. It expresses the fact that successive generations of Claretians are linked to the first community that was born in the cell of the seminary in Vic and have a kept alive the consciousness of belonging to a single Congregation throughout history.

b. Missionaries: the generic title “missionaries” that the Fr. Founder gave to the Congregation responds to a historical fact, since he and his companions felt called to, and actually performed, works of evangelization. But it also expresses the deepest meaning of who we are in the Church.

c. The allusion to Archbishop St. Anthony Mary Claret does not merely state an historical fact. It emphasizes that he is the Founder: Claret is the man chosen by God to start a community of missionaries. He is our father on the way of sanctification and of apostolate that he began. He is the model or exemplar of a missionary that is proposed for our consideration and imitation. Thus we are called Claretians and we form a community of missionary life in the Church.

In n. 2 of the Constitutions, where the aim of the Congregation is stated, this charismatic consciousness also appears in a very concise form. It says that the object—or three-fold object—that is sought is carried out according to our missionary charism in the Church. In this terse statement is captured all the richness of the life experience that the Founder had, as well as that of the Congregation of the past and that which the present day Congregation seeks to have.

But the statement of our charism does not only appear in the fundamental constitution. In some way or other it runs through the entire text of the revised Constitutions from start to finish. This missionary charism, briefly described in the first nine numbers, is explained later in the chapters of Part One. And that same spirit that characterizes our missionary family pulses through the remaining chapters or is evident with greater or lesser intensity.

2. Following Christ the Evangelizer

We Claretians find a model of the centrality of Christ close to us in the person and teaching of our Founder. His specific way of following Christ proclaiming the Gospel[8] is an appropriate paradigm for us. Numbers 3, 4 and 5 of the Constitutions present that aspect of Christ as the Evangelizer, which our Founder felt and lived. These numbers also indicate the interpretive guideline that is found at the beginning of all the chapters of part one of the Constitutions[9], which are all rooted in the imitation of Jesus Christ. Following Him, imitating Him, configuring ourselves to Him are different expressions that all undoubtedly refer to a lifestyle characterized by this centrality of Christ.

We see those nuances of terminology and living in the spiritual journey of St. Anthony Mary Claret (following, imitation, configuration, etc.): he achieves external imitation of the apostolic virtues of Christ, he then tries to duplicate His inner attitudes (internalization) and arrives at transformation into Christ (configuration to Him)[10].

Our missionary life gets its meaning from the following of Christ the Evangelizer. Thus, we have to be progressively initiated into that following. The Constitutions[11] and the writings of our Founder, especially his spiritual writings and the Autobiography, will be a priceless aid for progressing along this spiritual journey.

3. Consciousness of and Availability in and for the Church

In times gone by a very common way of conceiving of the Church consisted in identifying it almost exclusively with the hierarchy. Vatican II, from a new theological understanding, helped make us understand that all of us, religious included—and not only the bishops—are the Church. Religious institutes arose in and for the Church. That was undoubtedly one of the principles of renewal that yielded the most results. The Council sees the Church as a mystery of salvation, the People of God, a faith Community, a worshipping Community, etc. Religious life is inserted into the Church with full rights and privileges and participates in the Church’s life[12]. This removes the old temptation that some religious have to feel they were on the fringes of the Church or were considered such by other people.

We Claretians are a Congregation within the Church community, a Congregation within the larger community of the People of God[13]. Our Congregation reflects this consciousness and availability in its revised Constitutions. In nn. 3-6 of the fundamental constitution we see our missionary vocation conceived in terms of outreach to the Church and a dynamism fully in accord with the Church. This Church perspective is expressed specifically when the text recalls that we are “steadfast helpers of its Shepherds”[14], or when it urges each community to develop its original charism and put it at the service of the Church and of the world and to truly incarnate itself in the situation and needs of the local Church and the world around it[15].

Consciousness of, and availability in and for, the Church clearly resonate in Chapter 7 (on fulfilling our mission). This consciousness of being in the Church, of the Church and for the Church must logically be fostered not only through activities directed outside the community, but also through activities that take place within it, such as its life hidden in God, prayer, fraternal life, daily work, suffering, living the vows, the endeavor to progress in the spiritual life and formation itself.

4. With a Missionary Emphasis  

Here we are dealing with more than a question of terminology; we are dealing with a matter of content[16]. We really have here one of the major thrusts that affects the essence of our life as Claretians and that, for this reason, is sharply reflected in the text of the Constitutions. In the revision of the new text of the Constitutions the Congregation wanted to emphasize and give even greater weight to the missionary character of our vocation, as a sign of fidelity to the original spirit inherited from our Founder.

The emphasis that the Constitutions give to our being missionary is clearly evident: even in the fundamental constitution the word appears in our title Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary[17]; the text states that our charism in the Church is missionary[18]; and our Institute is presented as such through use of the synonym apostolic[19]. The rest of the Constitutions must be understood from this missionary perspective. The term missionary or missionaries appears frequently (along with the use of the word as an adjective, as in missionary life, missionary community, etc.), and in a bold way in the heading of the first part and in the title of many of the chapters, in addition to being contained in many numbers. Curiously, the chapter relating to the novices does not have the word missionary in its title, but the text compensates for this by using the word (or equivalent ones, including the noun mission) in almost all its numbers[20].

In summary, the word missionary carries great weight for Claretians since it decisively nuances and qualifies each and every one of the elements that make up our life (life in union with God, living the evangelical counsels, living the common life with our brothers, apostolate, etc.).

Logically, the emphasis the Constitutions put on the concept of missionary by directly relating everything to it is echoed or similarly expressed in the Chapter documents, which have been highlighting important aspects of our missionary charism: the mission itself[21], the Word welcomed and served[22] and prophetic ministry[23].

5. In Fidelity to Our Sonship in the Heart of Mary

Another major thrust throughout the Constitutions is our Cordi-Marian sonship. References to the Virgin Mary may seem scarce; but we must not judge the importance of this thrust by the number of times that the Mother of the Lord is explicitly referred to. Rather, we have to consider the content of this thrust, as well as the places where it appears, in order to properly evaluate what we find concerning this truly significant concept that touches the most intimate fibers of our Claretian spirituality.

Mary is referred to in nothing less than the title of the Congregation and, later, in several numbers of the fundamental constitution[24]. Her name also appears in the chapters dedicated to chastity, poverty and obedience, for which she is a valuable and exemplary reference[25], and also in the chapter on prayer, when it talks about devotion to, and filial love for, her[26]. It is also highly significant that she is especially mentioned in the chapters related to initial formation: the novices are told to “take the Blessed Virgin Mary, the first disciple of Christ, as their Mother and Teacher”[27]; later it is recalled how through religious profession we are consecrated to God and “we entrust ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the ministry of salvation”[28]; and, in the chapter related to missionaries in formation and their prefect, it is urged that “as trusting sons, they should love and honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose special concern is the formation of apostles”[29].

Now, the key to interpreting this Cordi-Marian thrust is in n. 8 of the fundamental constitution. There it is emphasized—directly or indirectly—that Mary is our Foundress, Patroness, Titular and Mother. And the meaning of this preeminent presence of Mary is specified (since it is not a matter of accumulating Marian titles): so that we may be conformed to the mystery of Christ and may cooperate with her in her maternal role in our apostolic mission.

For us Mary is not principally the Most Excellent Lady whose glories we have to propagate; nor is she only an advocate in times of difficulty; nor even merely a model to imitate… Mary, by being the Mother of Jesus the Evangelizer and by having welcomed us as sons of her Heart, is, above all, she who forms us, configures us to Christ and incorporates us into her maternal role in the mission of her Son. She can, then, truly be considered as our Mother and Formatrix in the apostolic ministry[30]. The is the real meaning of sonship in the Heart of Mary, which permeates every fiber of our missionary being.

The Congregation wants to prolong in its sons what St. Anthony Mary Claret wanted when he founded it: “who would both be, and be called, Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary”[31], always understanding this in the way indicated above. In the Founder, Mary and the apostolate are profoundly linked[32]. In us, the same thing happens. Our filial piety lies in always being ready for the apostolic mission. The consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary that we make in profession is for the apostolate, i.e., directed toward mission[33]. It is, then, something deeper than a simple ascetical practice. Cordi-Marian sonship, according to the Constitutions, is revealed, then, as the Claretians’ specific way of being and acting, consisting in living religious consecration with Mary—out of her Heart—at the service of the Kingdom. Thus, a son of the Heart of Mary will always be an apostle[34].

6. A Prophetic Spirit and Social Consciousness

Vatican II says:

“institutes must promote among their members the proper understanding of the human situation, of the times and of the needs of the Church, so that, wisely judging the circumstances of the contemporary world in the light of faith and burning with apostolic zeal, they can help people more effectively”[35].

This recommendation of Vatican II is taken up and integrated into our Constitutions. They reflect a healthy restlessness in regard to everything that affects the human being, especially the poorest ones. Our Constitutions clearly explain that this social consciousness or sensitivity is truly animated and guided by a prophetic spirit. Underlying this sensitivity and this prophetism must be absolute consistency with the spirit of the Founder:

“The Lord told me both for myself and for all these missionary companions of mine: You yourselves will not be the speakers; the Spirit of your Father, and of your Mother, will be speaking in you. So true is this that each one of us will be able to say: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore He has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted “[36].

The Congregation is, and feels itself to be, the heir of that prophetic ministry of Claret’s. The Spirit impels it to creatively continue the great work begun by Claret and the first Claretians[37]. Both that prophetic character and that social consciousness are reflected in the Constitutions as in a mirror:

a. Jesus’ prophetic mission, which lies at the center of Claret’s apostolic experience[38], is one of the main thrusts that runs through the text of the Constitutions. It is expressed in phrases such as: Proclaiming the Good News, preaching the Gospel, bearing witness, helping to build up the Church, awakening hope, recalling the good things of the world to come, making God known, loved and served by all people, communicating to people the total mystery of Christ[39] etc.

b. Besides the prophetic character, many numbers of our Constitutions indubitably manifest a concern for people and a social consciousness[40]. The references to, and calls for, social sensitivity undeniably demonstrate how the Constitutions are set against a backdrop of social urgency, from a prophetic perspective.

Thus we find in the Constitutions a major thrust of prophetism and of social consciousness that constantly reminds us how our entire life of religious consecration, our community life and our ministry of the Word, from the very beginning of formation, cannot be divorced from the world around us.

 

III. THE CONSITUTIONS, A REQUIRED REFERENCE DURING THE PERIOD OF FORMATION

            Today in our Congregation we find ourselves with a text of the Constitutions revised in conformity with the orientations of Vatican II and in fidelity to the original charism of St. Anthony Mary Claret. It is a text that preserves the most authentic Claretian spirit and is, probably, the richest text in terms of teaching and the best written one since our Institute was founded.

Now, it does not do us Claretians any good to have a beautiful text of our Constitutions if we do not come to know, internalize and live what is contained there. Out of this arises the pressing need for the Constitutions to be the main force in renewal[41], and, particularly, an essential and indispensable instrument during formation, as it has been for so many Claretians in earlier times[42]. Our General Plan of Formation says they are “the immediate reference for our formation process”[43].

The Constitutions actually play a major role as an instrument and guidebook in the formation of Claretians because they contain the fundamental theological principles of religious life and the basic charismatic elements needed for the formation process to achieve its goal: making them missionaries. On the occasion of their approval by the Holy See in 1982, Fr. General stressed this important of the Constitutions during formation with the following words:

“The Constitutions must have a relevant role during the formation period of young Claretians. The discernment of their vocation, their growth and the progressive identification as Claretians would not be possible if they did not rely on this wellspring, made familiar in accord with an intensive program and under the guidance of their directors”[44].

The Constitutions must serve as a guidebook for the formation journey. The basic orientation for Claretian formation is found in them and they contain the dynamic principles that can spur one along on that journey toward the goal, which makes them a very valuable instrument for formation and self-formation.

1. The Constitutions Clarify the Goal and Principles of Formation

The Constitutions tell us the kind of missionary that must be formed. They describe the vocation, lifestyle and mission we have to carry out in the Church, which makes the goal of formation abundantly clear. The General Plan of Formation then explicitly indicates the basic objective:

“The objective of formation is to promote our growth in union with, and configuration to, Christ, according to the Claretian charism, through an individualized process, in each concrete situation and open to the whole world”[45].

This is possible through the clarifying contribution of the Constitutions, which very well express what the goal of formation is and what principles the formation of every Claretian must be based on. We are very fortunate to be able to rely on a clear outline of purposes, objectives and guiding principles so that our missionary formation can be carried out successfully.

2. The Constitutions Introduce Us to a Common Vocational Credo

The Constitutions are an expression of a common faith. They have been revised in accordance with the faith or credo that gives meaning to our missionary community and, consequently, can serve as an instrument and guidebook for formation in that vocational faith.

When a young man asks to share Claretian missionary life he receives the book of the Constitutions in the novitiate. But the words of this book in themselves do not lead to understanding. Understanding comes through communion and through encounter with the spirit or life highlighted in it and toward which it is oriented. The young candidate who believes he has a vocation to our Institute and knocks at its door, must existentially encounter the elements that shape our Claretian vocation that are contained in the Constitutions. The Constitutions must guide that experience of communion and encounter. They are the instrument and guidebook for delving into that vocational faith.

The Constitutions are a valuable instrument on that journey of verifying, discerning and sharing in order to respond to God’s call. They offer a program of life, various charismatic values and an evangelical way authenticated by the Church, whose main thrusts are:

• the following of Christ the Evangelizer,

• lived in missionary community,

• in poverty, chastity and obedience,

• in assiduous prayer,

• in an ongoing process of sanctification,

• totally directed toward proclaiming the Good News.

3. The Constitutions Promote Vocational Growth

In the Constitutions we find stimulus for personal growth in all its dimensions, within and out of community. The community is the womb in which human, spiritual and apostolic growth takes place, starting with a principle established in the fundamental constitution that says:

“All of us belong to the same community, fulfill the same mission and, in keeping with our own gift of order and the special role we perform in our Congregation, we share the same rights and duties deriving from our profession “[46].

Out of that missionary community the growth of its members is fostered on all levels. Thus:

• the Constitutions talk about the need of joyfully living the gift of God’s call; they urge those who enter to go through a process of discernment and to develop maturity of judgment and constancy of purpose (psychological balance)[47];

• they stimulate attainment of that personal maturity sufficient to enable one to make religious profession[48]; recurring allusions to the use of freedom, to a sense of responsibility, to personal fulfillment, to an attitude of service, to collaboration, etc., show that the Constitutions promote human growth;

• and, logically, texts frequently occur in the Constitutions that encourage spiritual and apostolic growth and can be found continuously.

4. The Constitutions Empower Us for Missionary Activity

Every vocation implies a mission: God calls us to do something. To be formed is to make it possible to respond to God’s call to carry out the mission. Our Constitutions are a magnificent instrument and guidebook for formation for missionary service in the Church according to the Claretian charism. Thus:

• they invite those who feel they are called by God to deeply understand and experience in some way the life and mission of the Congregation[49];

• they urge the novices to lay the foundations for the missionary life, understanding its essential elements and practicing the evangelical counsels[50];

• they remind missionaries in formation what the goal of this institutional period is, i.e., to be formed in order to carry out the mission, and they urge them to ask God to make them fitting ministers of God’s word[51];

• and they call the rest of the members of the Congregation, whether Brothers, Deacons or Priests, to share the same life and mission of the Congregation, out of their distinctive, specific vocation[52].


IV. ATTITUDES TOWARD THE CONSTITUTIONS

            The Claretian Constitutions can be a valuable instrument for our formation if we adopt the attitudes toward them indicated below.

1. Reading Them under the Inspiration of the Spirit Who Has Anointed Us

Without the presence of the Spirit nothing makes sense in the Church. Although our historical origin lies in St. Anthony Mary Claret, our more genuine and basic origin is the Holy Spirit, whose inspiration made the founding of our Institute possible. The deep, intimate link between Claret and the Congregation can only be understood from the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit who led Claret to bring together the first missionaries, to give a name to the first community, to write its Constitutions[53].

The Spirit has also been very present in the whole process of the revision of the Constitutions carried out in the years following the Council[54].      The Spirit is also needed now in order to read them and to carry them forward under the Spirit’s impulse. Thus, we cannot limit ourselves to admiring and passively contemplating this document of the Congregation. Nor is it enough to recognize that they are the result of the Spirit. All of us are required to let ourselves be driven by the power of that same Spirit toward interior renewal, without resigning ourselves to merely an outward and superficial conformity to the Constitutions.

One who is being initiated into religious life likewise needs to go through a process of interior conformation, which is impossible unless it is nourished by the Spirit. One needs the attitude of a disciple, i.e., openness and docility to the action of the Holy Spirit, who is the main one who inspires and propels the life of the Congregation and who nourishes and guides all genuine formation in the Claretian charism.

2. Considering Them to Be an Expression of a Common Vocational Faith

The Constitutions arise as an expression of a common vocational faith. Only when the Constitutions are seen from this perspective—and not as something imposed from the outside—can they also be assumed as a specific, ascetical Gospel path.

They can be understood as a genuine expression of faith and a norm of life for all who want to communally profess the following of Jesus. What it means to be human, Christian and a Claretian religious is condensed into that credo of the Congregation, as an objective frame of reference out of which meaning and value are given to the identity and mission of the Congregation in the Church, its missionary lifestyle, it structure and organization. They justify shared prayer, communion of spiritual and material goods, the framework of the proper relationships in our community life, the availability needed for the evangelizing mission, the joint search for God’s will, the witness of our life and formation—both initial and ongoing—for sacred ministry.

3. Assuming Them in Continuity of Life

The Constitutions are an objective expression of the founding charism; and the tradition of our religious family is also condensed in them. This means that they must be assumed in continuity of life with that gift of the Spirit granted to St. Anthony Mary Claret, to the Founder’s first companions, who had the same spirit as he did[55], and to those who have continued to adhere to them in the Claretian community over the course of history.

The novices, when they hold the Constitutions in their hands, must be aware that they are holding a family album. The Constitutions are the family album that gathers together and presents the experience of a missionary life already carried out and still able to be carried out in the Church. Thus, they should open this book with the utmost love and respect, with the awareness that they too have been called by God to be the ones who carry on a life already begun, not one that they have to invent as if it had not existed until now, i.e., they must take up the Constitutions—a book of life, a family album—in harmony and continuity with the spirit of our Founder and of the Congregation.


V. MEANS FOR MAKING THE CONSTITUTIONS AN INSTRUMENT FOR FORMATION

            We have indicated under what conditions and with what attitudes the Constitutions can become a valid instrument for formation. Now we are going to suggest what means can be used for them to carry their role as a guidebook and instrument for formation. We only intend to present a few means (activities, strategies, habits, measures, exercises, etc.) among many others that could be adopted.

1. Suggestions for Aiding the Internalization of the Constitutions   

1.1. Reading

• Reading the Constitutions often, either communally or individually.

• Reading that attempts to trace a theme in the Constitutions: finding out, e.g., what image of God runs through the entire Constitutions (or the image of the Lord Jesus, or of Mary, etc.).

1.2. Study

• Committing certain passages of the Constitutions to memory; memorizing certain paragraphs as an aid for retaining their valuable content, which can be recalled as needed.

• Deepening one’s understanding of the Constitutions, going deeper into their content through secondary sources such as others’ readings of them, study guides or commentaries that already exist[56].

• Consulting the sources in the Founder (the Congregation, the Church) that inspire each number of the Constitutions and which are indicated in the Appendix to the text of the Constitutions. This is a difficult, but very rewarding, undertaking.

1.3. Prayer

• Using the text of the Constitutions as matter for meditation frequently, or at least once a week.

• Praying with the Constitutions: taking a text and repeating it as a petition, making variations, applying it to one’s own life, praising the Lord, giving thanks, interceding for others, etc.

1.4. Celebration

• Occasionally having a community celebration where the book of the Constitutions is the focal point or main reason for the community gathered in prayer and that recalls the historical gift granted to the Congregation by the Spirit. They might include symbolic gestures such as: carrying the book of the Constitutions in procession, setting it in a place of honor, welcoming it with words of thanks to God, individually receiving it, etc.

1.5. Examen

• In order to try to observe the Constitutions with all possible care, using a specific chapter for a particular examination of conscience or of renewal for a period of time.

• Evaluating one’s own life and vocation in light of the ideal proposed in the Constitutions.

1.6. Creativity

• As a literary exercise, rewrite some chapter of the Constitutions, retaining the context but expressing it in your own words.

• Starting with the definition of the missionary (n. 9), compose another, personal definition, including elements contained in the Constitutions, explaining what is summarized in that definition.

• Write a prayer every day based on a particular number of the Constitutions.

2. Observing the Constitutions “With All Possible Care”

In conclusion, we can recall the recommendation that our Founder made to the missionaries in a letter to Fr. Jaime Clotet in 1861:

”Tell them to read the Rules and Constitutions of the Congregation often and observe them faithfully”[57].

Each Claretian must read the Constitutions frequently and be diligent in fulfilling them or faithfully observing them. This means:

• Reading the Constitutions, in the first place, means more than becoming acquainted with their contents. It means to arrive at the point of receiving them with wisdom. From merely knowing their contents, one must go on to existentially harmonize oneself with the Constitutions, i.e., one must succeed in making them second nature, having a true love and heartfelt sympathy for them by identifying with the project of life and mission described in them[58].

• And then that heartfelt reception must be translated into a faithful fulfillment of their demands. Doing what one loves.

The ritual of temporary profession provides the eloquent gesture of handing over the book of the Constitutions to the newly professed, verbally expressing what they represent for those who are consecrated[59].

According to the ritual, they must receive them, read them and learn them, understand them with their mind, treasure them in their heart, observe them in what they do and find in them strength for their missionary life as well as progress in the way of the Lord, which is their own sanctification. That is the challenge every Claretian faces when he makes his profession. We publicly commit ourselves to live in the Congregation “according to its Constitutions” and to try to observe them “with all possible care”[60].

This will become a reality only if we make them “the immediate reference for our process of formation”[61] and if, from the very beginning of formation, we get used to familiarizing ourselves with this book, which is our main charter of identity in the Church, if we welcome it with all our heart as the word of life that it is, and put it into practice. This all requires an intensive program of understanding, of apprenticeship, of ongoing exercise of that wise reception of the Constitutions and their translation into the way we live.



[1] Cf. GPF 18.

[2] Dir 4; cf. SW 3.1.

[3] “Religious have as a supreme rule of life the following of Christ as it is proposed in the Gospels and as it is expressed in the Constitutions of their own Institute” (CIC 662; cf. PC 2 a.).

 

[4] Studies on the Claretian Constitutions may be consulted in OPML I, pp. 27-114 (historical aspects) and pp. 383-489 (juridical and governmental aspects). Cf. likewise GPF 139-144.

[5] Cf. CC 1-9.

[6] That can be found in OPML II, pp. 35-163.

[7] CC 1.

[8] Cf. PC 2a; LG 46.

[9] Cf. CC 10, 20, 23, 28, 39, 46 and 51.

[10] It is enough to consult the Autobiography to see his passion for Christ the Evangelizer, which permeates his entire life and mission.

[11] “The Constitutions contain a way of following Christ characterized by a specific charism recognized by the Church” (VC 37).

[12] Cf. PC 2.

[13] Cf. TRMC 34.

[14] CC 6.

[15] Cf. CC 14.

[16] “The word ‘missionary,’ understood in the light of the spiritual experience of St. Anthony Mary Claret , defines our charismatic identity” (Dir 26).

[17] CC 1. On the title Claretian Missionaries, cf. OPML II, pp.47-48.

[18] Cf. CC 2. CC 9 presents the definition of the Missionary or Son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

[19] CC 5 says that we form “in the Church an Institute that is truly and fully apostolic”. The adjective apostólico is also used frequently throughout the text of the Constitutions. Cf. CC 7, 8, 17, 21, 25, 40, 43 etc.

[20] Cf. CC 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 67, 68 and 71.

[21] 19th General Chapter, in 1979: The Mission of the Claretian Today (MCT).

[22] 21st General Chapter, in 1991: Servants of the Word (SW).

[23] 22nd General Chapter, in 1997: In Prophetic Mission (IPM).

[24] Cf. CC 3, 5, 8 y 9.

[25] Cf. CC 20, 23 and 28.

[26] Cf. CC 35 and 36.

[27] CC 61.

[28] CC 71.

[29] CC 73.

[30] “Like Claret, Mary, through the working of the Holy Spirit, conforms us to her Son, who is the living Gospel of God. She is our formation guide and director for the work of evangelization” (MCT 150; cf. nn. 1, 151 and 223). Fr. General G. ALONSO emphasized this: “It is not enough for the Claretian to be ‘devoted’ to Mary: he has to develop a Marian spirituality […] With Mary he travels his own path of growth and identification with Christ” (CF 3.4).

[31] Aut 488.

[32] For our Founder, Mary is his “Mother”, his “Patroness”, his “Mistress”, his “Directress” and “his all, after Jesus” (cf. Aut 5), and he is her “son and minister”, formed by Her in the furnace of her mercy and love (cf. Aut 270); formed—one understands—for mission.

[33] The present consecration formula is similar to the one bequeathed to us by the Founder, and says: “I consecrate myself, in the Holy Spirit, to God the Father, through Jesus Christ His Son, and I offer myself 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” (CC 159). The aim referred to here is specifically indicated in the Constitutions: “to seek in all things the glory of God, the sanctification of our members and the salvation of people throughout the world” (CC 2).

[34] Cf. CC 9.

[35] PC 2.

[36] Aut 687.

[37] Cf. IPM 41.

[38] Cf. MCT 58.

[39] Cf. CC 4, 5, 5 y 45, 6, 20, 23, 40 and 46.

[40] Cf. CC 3, 4, 14, 20, 24, 26, 29, 34, 44, 46, 48 and 49.

[41] As the 21st General Chapter in 1991 reminded us: cf. SW 13.2.

[42] In the history of the Congregation, the Constitutions were the mold in which the Sons of the Heart of Mary were formed as missionaries radically committed to God, giving God great glory among the people and offering valiant service to the Church. Cf. A. BOCOS, Circular Letter on the Occasion of the 125th Anniversary of the Approval of the Constitutions, Rome, 1995, 1.

[43] GPF 18.

[44] CCR 3.1.

[45] GPF 12. VC 65 says: “The main objective of the formation process is to prepare the person for his or her total consecration to God in following Christ, at the service of mission”.

[46] CC 7.

[47] Cf. CC 58, 59, 68.

[48] Cf. CC 71.

[49] Cf. CC 59.

[50] Cf. CC 61.

[51] Cf. CC 72 and 73.

[52] Cf. CC 78-85.

[53] Cf. IP 14.

[54] “We are living in a privileged moment of the Spirit in the Church” (EN 75).

[55] Cf. Aut 489.

[56] Cf. OPML I, II and III.

[57]St. Anthony Mary Claret. Selected Letters (ed. J. BERMEJO), Madrid, BAC, 1996, pp. 348-350. There was a letter written on 1 July 1861 in which the Founder would refer to the Constitutions published in Barcelona sone years earlier, in 1857.

[58] Cf. OPML I, p. 25-26.

[59] “Receive the Constitutions of our Congregation, make sure to read them and learn them in such a way that you understand them with your mind, treasure them in your heart, observe them in what you do and find in them the strength for your missionary life so that, by observing them faithfully, you will progress in the way of the Lord and in the service of the Kingdom” (Missal and Ritual of Profession for the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Barcelona, Ed. Regina, 1998, p. 111).

[60] “Omni cum cura possibili servabo”: CC 159 (profession formula).

[61] GPF 18.