The Following of Christ

Chapter 7

 The Following of Christ

The Constitutions say that the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary have been granted “the gift to follow Christ in a communion of life and to go out into the whole world to proclaim the Gospel to every creature”[1]. The first thing that is emphasized is to follow Jesus or to respond to His call is a gift, a grace.

Novices have to be aware that the following of Jesus Christ, into which they are initiated now and to which they will one day commit themselves more fully through profession[2], is a gift by which they should feel themselves profoundly graced. Among all the gifts that the novices can possess, the special call to follow Jesus Christ is the most basic. Thus they must “joyfully live the gift of their vocation”[3] and respond to it with faithfulness. Like our Founder, and using his very words[4], they must give thanks to God frequently for having chosen them to be a part of this Congregation of Missionaries.

In order to help the novices joyfully internalize their following of Jesus Christ, we are going to develop the topic of this chapter in the following way:

I. THE SUPREME RULE OF OUR LIFE.

     II. FOLLOWING JESUS CHRIST AS CLARETIANS.

     III. CONSEQUENCES FOR FORMATION.

I. THE SUPREME RULE OF OUR LIFE

1. Following Jesus Christ, the Supreme Rule of Religious Life

As Vatican II says, “since the ultimate norm of the religious life is the following of Christ as it is proposed in the Gospel, that following must be regarded by all institutes as their supreme rule”[5].

The call to follow Jesus Christ through religious consecration is fundamentally identical to what the first disciples felt whom He called to come after Him, to share his life and mission and later prolong it in the world. Religious feel themselves impelled to respond to God’s call in a special way and to make the following their ultimate norm, their supreme rule, their greatest rule and the securest norm for their life[6].

All the elements that configure religious life get their meaning from the following of Christ. Religious, with their specific way of living Gospel values or following Christ, incarnate the very attitudes and lifestyle that the Lord lived. They represent—or make present[7]– the life of Christ: his virginity, his poverty, his attitude of complete dedication to the Father’s plans. In this way their life becomes a preeminent sign that invites all people to be disciples according to their specific gift received in baptism.

The following of Jesus Christ is the key to interpeting the entire life and way of acting of religious. The following represents the fundamental value from which all the other realities of religious life take their meaning. And thus we can say that religious are what they are (chaste, poor, obedient, etc.) and do what they do (proclamation of the Gospel or any other mission) because they follow Jesus Christ.

2. The Following of Jesus as It Is Proposed in the Gospel

The following of Jesus Christ that religious, and Claretians in particular according to our missionary spirit, strive to realize cannot be realized arbitrarily. It is realized in conformity to the model proposed in the Gospel[8]. The Constitutions, taking the Council’s statement as its own, clearly specifies that it is the following that is proposed there[9].

Thus we are now going to present the specific characteristics of the following of Jesus as they appear in the Gospel. But we will introduce an important distinction: that following takes on different tones depending on whether we are considering its pre-Easter realization (that which the disciples experienced historically with Jesus) or its post-Easter realization (that realized in the Christian life starting with the death and resurrection of the Lord).

2.1. The Characteristics of Following Jesus Prior to Easter[10]

• Above all, Jesus’ followers, as they appear in the Gospels, were not those sympathetic to Him or casual listeners. They were those who lived with Him and accompanied him as he wandered from place to place (in the strictest sense, the Twelve).

• The source of the following is a personal call from Jesus. The initiative does not come from the disicples but from the Lord, although it demands a personal response (adherence to the person of Jesus and a radical change of life or conversion).

It signified something new (changing one’s life, leaving behind, breaking with what had gone before, etc.) and demanded an attitude of radicalism—not of rigorism—in the focus of one’s whole existence.

• Following Jesus, historically, consisted in living with Him and accompanying him itinerantly on his journeys. This involved abandoning one’s own way of life (leaving their nets, etc.), or at least a readiness to divest oneself of everything.

• The followers of Jesus, who lived with Him, also shared his fate: they experienced the difficulties inherent in the following or sequela (the consequences)(rejection, exclusion, accusations, risks).

• The positive side of that radical change of life, with the renunciations it involved, was that it made faith total adherence to Jesus, who was followed, in communion of life with Him.

• The group of followers shared the missionary practice of the wandering Jesus, who was on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, in an itinerant lifestyle. Jesus’ friends—his followers—took part in his Messianic mission in a specific way: they were sent; they were sharers and collaborators in Jesus’ own mission, through his express commission and authority. The group of the Twelve who followed Jesus felt it was the bearer of an eschatological mission, which would open frontiers, break down barriers, exercising a salvific mediation for all people.

• The following was not something merely temporary but permanent; it was not a preparatory step toward something else, but had a enduring quality: it was a matter of being a disciple and follower of Jesus.

• It gave rise to a new consciousness: that of belonging to the group of followers, that of forming a new brotherhood around Jesus.

2.2. The Characteristics of Following Jesus after Easter[11]

That relationship with Jesus that, on an historical level, is expressed as following and being a disciple, after Easter began to be expressed in new ways and with a different depth of meaning:

• At Easter, the historical Jesus became, for the primitive Church, the Christ of faith; and this event is the one that the life of his followers then centers on.

• It is no longer possible to physically and materially follow Jesus along the roads of Galilee, the streets of Jerusalem, etc. It is the risen and living Christ they now follow, but in the light of the Spirit, who helps them internalize and live out the life project of Jesus.

• The following is no longer carried out physically but spiritually, and yet really and authentically. To follow Jesus means to cleave to the faith of the Christian community, i.e., to belive in Him. It also means pursuing the historical and messianic mission of Jesus in the eschatological hope of the full realization of the Kingdom of God.

• The small group of Jesus’ followers expands. The Christian community extends to other cultures outside the borders of Israel, which give it different nuances. It is universalized.

• The experience of Jesus risen, appearing to His disciples and, later, the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost, shed new light on the understanding of Jesus. His followers become apostles, witnessing to what they have seen and heard.

• The understanding of following deepens from the experience of the apostolic life. The understanding is growing of how following Jesus is a charism, a gift for the whole community, but one that has to be lived out in different ways (types of vocations, forms of life, etc.).

• And, to the extent that the Christian community keeps on maturing and expressing its faith in Jesus over the course of time, new categories and new interpretations of Christian following keep on being introduced. These are understood as imitating Christ as a model for living, as identification, as conformation or configuration to Christ, as union or communion of life with Him, etc.

3. Following, Imitation, Configuration

The Christian experience of the disciple of the Lord Jesus, called to share in his life and mission, is expressed in various phrases: a relationship of personally knowing and loving Jesus and being known and loved by Him, following Jesus Christ, imitation of Jesus Christ, conformation or configuration to Christ, Identification with Christ, communion of life with Jesus Christ, “christification”, etc.

All these expressions point to the same basic experience, but three of them—following, imitation and configuration—are the ones most frequently used by spiritual writers and resonate in our Claretian sources[12]. Our General Plan of Formation quite logically often uses some of these related concepts[13], and it is significant that it employs them to state the basic objective of formation. It states that this consists of following Jesus Christ the Missionary until one achieves configuration to Him[14]. Let us clarify the meaning of these expressions.

3.1. Following Jesus Christ

Following Jesus Christ is a phrase that encapsulates the entire Christian life and that refers to the life and praxis of the historical Jesus and the group of apostles. But it likewise refers to the centuries-long tradition of those who, after the Lord’s death and resurrection, oriented their lives in conformity with Gospel values, being followers, disciples, of Jesus in the diverse forms of Christian life and in the widely varying circumstances.

As Claretians, we are followers of Jesus Christ, like the apostles, and we have that following of the Lord as it is proposed in the Gospel as the supreme norm for our lives[15]. In the definition of the missionary we find the model on which we focus in order to contemplate the exemplary follower of Jesus Christ, that man whose “only concern is how he may follow Christ and imitate Him”[16] in everything, and that is reflected in the way our Founder himself lived.

Thus, following the Lord Jesus is the basic objective of formation, which is striven for according to our specific Claretian identity, through a pedagogical process of clearly stated characteristics and with due consideration given to every possible socio-cultural, ecclesial and congregational situation[17].

3.2. The Imitation of Jesus Christ

This alternative expression ha been very frequently used in spiritual literature from the past. It alludes to a clearly evident external (although not restricted to the external) reproduction of the model, Jesus Christ. In an exaggerated form, it might be identified as copying or literal conformation and excessively dependent on the external model. But that is not the meaning that the imitation of Jesus Christ has when it is properly understood, in the way many saints have understood it. Our Founder openly acknowledges his proposal to imitate Jesus:

“I resolve to always walk in God’s presence, referring all things to Him, never seeking my own praise, but only greater grace to imitate Jesus. I will always try to ask myself how Jesus would have acted under similar circumstances”[18].

And we know that he tried to imitate Jesus literally[19]. An aspiration of the Claretian missionary also is this imitation of Jesus Christ in his entire life, especially in the living out of the religious vows, in assiduous prayer, in the practice of the apostolic virtues and in pursuing the goal that it may really be Christ that lives in him through the power of contemplating him and imitating him assiduously[20].

3.3. Configuration to Christ

This is the expression that Constitutions prefer to use throughout Chapter VI[21]. It alludes to a process of conformation to, and identification with, Jesus Christ, but considered from within, in his motivations and in his life attitudes (no longer merely copying his gestures or external behavior). It presupposes the transformation of our life into the life of the Lord, as sharing in Christ’s fullness and in order to be fitting instruments for proclaiming the Kingdom of heaven[22]. The Constitutions remind us how this configuration involves a spirit of self-denial in order to embrace the cross of Jesus Christ[23], without which any attempt at conformation to Christ is unthinkable.

The Constitutions urge the novices specifically to pursue that configuration, identification or union with Christ: cling wholeheartedly to Christ our Lord, especially in the Mystery of the Eucharist, since they are planning to share in His life and ministry[24].

Our General Plan of Formation—as we have said before—indicates that the basic objective of formation is the following of Christ the Missionary. It understands this following to be of a progressive nature: being more external and imitative of Jesus Christ at the beginning and later achieving internal configuration to Him. It adds:

“Our mission and, consequently, the whole formation program that prepares us for it, must always spring from a real configuration to Christ the Evangelizer and from intimate communion and friendship with Him, to the point that we realize it is no longer we who live, but Christ who really lives in us”[25].

II. FOLLOWING JESUS CHRIST AS CLARETIANS

 1. Following Jesus According to the Religious Vocation

Religious life—and our Claretian project, specifically—attempts to be a specific and meaningful way of realizing the one following of Jesus Christ proposed for everyone by the Gospel. It does not claim exclusive possession of the way to holiness[26]. It only tries to be the reactualizing or representation of the very lifestyle that Jesus led on earth, offered as a gift to the Church today. Religious life, in effect, “is committed to making the way of life He chose present in some way, emphasizing its absolute and eschatological value”[27].

For the consecrated, their vocation is to start afresh from Christ which means this:

“proclaiming that the consecrated life is a special following of Christ, ‘a living memorial of the way Jesus lived and acted as the Incarnate Word in relation to the Father and to His brothers and sisters’ (VC 22)”[28].

Thus the following of Christ carried out by religious and which, by a calling from God, we also try to fulfill as Claretians, has certain specific characteristics that we can describe as follows:

•Being summoned by the vocation: of feeling one is called by name. Like the apostles, Jesus personally calls each person. The gift of the call is the basis for all religious life. It is totally gratuitous and starts exclusively from God’s initiative, who shows no partiality and has no regard for personal status or merit. It requires a “yes” on the part of the person, a response that is free, given out of faith and love and asking for no reward.

•Following Jesus today in religious life essentially consists in configuring oneself to Him, according to the specific charism, adopting His same internal attitudes, assimilating His way of thinking or scale of values—which are those of the Gospel—, clothing oneself with His feelings or spiritual and innermost ways, i.e., conforming or identifiying oneself progressively with His same lifestyle in virginity, poverty and obedience[29], which are the three essential dimensions of his Paschal Mystery (special consecration).

• It involves sharing one’s life with Jesus and his other followers (in communion of life). Community life (or common union with Christ and with the brothers) constitutes for religious the living environment that makes possible the living out of all the other Gospel values. But it does not merely have a functional or utilitarian value (as would, for example, joining together with the simple intention of working better or achieving greater results, even though this may be extending the Kingdom). Rather it is a substantive value in itself that intensively expresses the communion of the whole Church. Community life consists in being united with Christ and among ourselves, sharing everything, both material and spiritual goods.

• It likewise inloves sharing the mission of Jesus Christ. Religious fulfill,, prolong and perpetuate in the world, through an original lifestyle and through multiple services (of an apostolic or social nature) the evangelizing mission of Christ Himself. The whole of religious life, in its being and doing, is a proclamation and present anticipation of the Kingdom fully come. Thus, in itself it constitutes a specific way of bringing the Good News to the people of this world (evangelization), even now proclaiming the future resurrection and the glory of the Kingdom of heaven (eschatological dimension of the consecrated life)[30].

• It carries with a total giving of self, without reservations, to Jesus amd his cause. Following Jesus in religious life involves doing so with the intention of perpetuity (being a disciple forever, and not for a limited time), with full availability (attitude of consecrating all one’s energies to Jesus’ cause, in a permanent way), in exclusivity (only for Him and His cause, and all of the time) and with a sense of gratitude (without self-interest of any kind). These characteristics of the religious’ way of following make it a sign of prophetic witness to the values of the Kingdom for other Christians.

• It is actually carried out charismatically, i.e., under the grace or prompting of the Holy Spirit, who inspires a specific way of following Jesus, and who leads to its incarnation in the Church in a specific way, in harmony with the charism of the founder, in continuity with the tradition of the specific institute and as part of a consistent evolution in relation to the original charism. Jesus is not followed generically, but in a specific way, according to the specific vocation or call to represent in the Church the lifestyle of Jesus as it is condensed and borne witness to in one or another of its mysteries (praying, or healing, teaching or preaching, etc.)[31]. The different works of the apostolate of religious are different charismatic ways of carrying out and sharing in that evangelizing mission of Jesus in one of its particular ministries. That is the specific or charismatic configuration to Christ.

2. Following Jesus According to the Claretian Vocation

Taking into account what has already been said and the specific nature of our charism[32], Claretians emphasize the following aspects:

2.1. The School and the Workshop of Following

The General Plan of Formation says that “to be in formation is to be a disciple in the school of following, an apprentice in the workshop where the missionary is forged”[33].

An apprentice is a person who is learning some art or process, who is being initiated, who has not yet attained mastery of a manual profession…; and a disciple is the person who is learning a disicpline, science or art under the direction of a teacher.

The novice is an apprentice insofar as he is being initiated into Claretian religious life; he does not yet possess the credentials or official title that will be conferred on the day of his religious profession—being a Claretian with full rights. And, even after making his profession, he will continue undergoing formation, i.e., a Claretian in the stage of initial formation.

The novice is also a disciple because he is not being initiated into Claretian religious life on his own or in a self-taught way. He is doing it under the direction of the divine Teacher, Jesus Christ, and under the authority of his superiors, with a docile attitude, active and responsive. He accepts the directions that are given without detriment to his direct, personal responsibility, which also matters insofar as he plays the major role in his own formation[34].

Being an apprentice and a disciple in following the Lord is a consequence of the vocation of all Christians. To follow Jesus Christ in the Congregation is a priceless special gift. Following is also a project: the project of evangelical life, which begins with baptism and which continues, through the new grace of the Claretian religious vocation, throughout one’s whole life. To follow Jesus, to respond to His call, is our deepest identity. Developing that identity is our project.

In this school of following, in which we are all disciples and apprentices under the guidance of the divine Teacher, the novices must apply themselves in order to attain their identification with Christ, their wholehearted union with Him, their imitation and conformation or cofiguration to Him so that they can thus be ones sent—missionaries—like Jesus Christ the Evangelizer. We will now indicate the various settings in which we can be disciples and apprentices in following Jesus and the means by which we can become better followers.

2.2. The Settings of the School and the Workshop of Following

The novices must be apprentices and disciples especially in the following settings[35]:

1. In the school of the Word[36]: they must attend it. In reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation of the Word they will cultivate their relationship with Christ the Missionary. The texts that are the basis for the reflection that the Congregation has done on Fr. Claret’s experience of Christ, and which form the core of the Claretian charism, will be their secure nourishment[37].

2. In the school of the Eucharist[38]: the Claretian missionary’s day makes no sense without the Eucharist. Celebrated daily in the formation community or shared with the People of God, it becomes a school for progessively assimilating the lifestyle of Jesus, since this summarizes His life as a memorial of the Lord.

From the inner dynamic of the Eucharist we are invited to make active in our life of following the attitudes of: exodus (entrance rite), listening (liturgy of the Word), intercession (universal prayer), offering and self-giving (preparation of the gifts), thankfulness and self-denial (eucharistic prayer), communion (communion) and sending (rite of dismissal).

It keeps on being a privileged environment for growing in that personal relationship with Jesus, identification with his self-giving until our whole life becomes eucharistic. We continue to perceive how our life is being transformed each time we come in contact with the Eucharist (in this line of thought we can see the meaning of the extraordinary grace of the preservation of the Sacred Species in St. Anthony Mary Claret).

3. In the school of the poor: God has favorites. Since he wants to be the Abba of all, he does everything He can for those who in this world have neither father nor mother to rely on. We see this clearly reflected in Jesus’ words and actions. The Lord wants to identify Himself in a special way with the lowly and the small, with the excluded and the marginated, with the poor (cf. Mt. 25), His presence among the poor challenges us to recognize, welcome and serve Him in them[39].

The authenticity of one’s personal relationship with Jesus can be judged by one’s relationship with those who are His living image: the poor. Those who want to follow Him and be like Him are permanently invited to go and do likewise (cf. Lk. 10:37; Jn. 13:1-16).

Throughout the novitiate there will be many occasions that will make it possible to grow in that sensitivity that resembles that of the Master. In putting into practice the dynamisms of formation opportunities can be discovered for stimulating and growing in this dimension, always lived out with that internal motivation that enriches attitudes and behaviors.

2.3. Means for Contemplating and Imitating Christ

In the school of following it is also necessary to adopt various means that make effective the process of contemplation and of imitation or configuration to Christ[40]:

1. Relating to diligent contemplation of Christ: configuration to Christ in the life of the missionary above all comes from a prior, contemplative attitude that consists in knowing how to gaze fixedly at the Model or to contemplate Him in order to then imitate Him. Means relevant to the contemplation of Christ are the following[41]:

• meditation,

• spiritual reading

• and, examination of conscience.

2. Relating to imitation of Christ (doing likewise): from contemplation one goes on to adopt those attitudes and behaviors that make him more and more resemble his Model, Jesus Christ the Evangelizer. Here the teaching of ascetical means comes into play because the values that inspire and orient formation are not alone sufficient for this to be realized… Also needed are techniques, how to organize and derive the full potential from one’s personal resources (intellect, strength of will, emotions) and from one’s time[42]. Employment of appropriate means is then required, the power to clothe oneself in those virtues needed in the life of the missionary, mortification included[43] and avoiding, certainly, the risks of a repressive or self-centered asceticism, i.e., one that is governed by oneself and not by the Model, Jesus Christ.

The novice ceaselessly tries to more and more closely approach his ideal, through the acquisition of the virtues. And he will say, along with the Apostle Paul:

“It is not that I have reached it yet or have already finished my course, but I am racing to grasp the prize if possible since I have been grasped by Christ… I give no thought to what lies behind but push on to what is ahead. My entire attention is on the finish line as I run toward the prize to which God calls me—life in high in Christ Jesus ” (Ph. 3:12-14).

In the definition of the missionary (also called a reminder or memorial) we find the perfectly-molded Claretian, the ideal disicple of Jesus Christ according to the style of St. Anthony Mary Claret. The revised Constitutions include that definition in their fundamental constitution, recommending that we have it ever before our eyes, like a mirror in which we see ourselves, as the utopia to which we must aspire, as a memento or family photograph in which we discover our charismatic characteristics or our ideal on that journey of following, imitation and configuration to Christ in the style of Claret:

“A Son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a man on fire with love, who spreads its flames wherever he goes. He desires mightily and strives by all means possible to set everyone on fire with God’s love. Nothing daunts him: he delights in privations, welcomes work, embraces sacrifices, smiles at slander, rejoices in all the torments and sorrows he suffers, and glories in the cross of Jesus Christ. His only concern is how he may follow Christ and imitate him in praying, working, enduring and striving constantly and solely for the greater glory of God and the salvation of humankind” [44].

  III. CONSEQUENCES FOR FORMATION  

 1. To have present always the objective of formation

The basic objective of Claretian formation and the source of our misionary activity is configuration to Christ the Evangelizer[45]. During the whole formation program, and in a special way during the novitiate, that objective must always be kept in sight, so that the young men may clearly perceive the goal toward which they are heading and use means conducive to a greater identification, imitation and configuration to the Lord Jesus.

Initiation into the following of Jesus Christ will be sucessfully concluded only if the novices succeed in deepening their following of Christ, making it the unifying center of their entire spiritual experience[46].

That objective, then, since it is fundamental and gives rise to the specific apostolic deployment of our missionary vocation in the Church, is not achieved exactly and once and for all. It requires, rather, a continuous striving. It is realized progressively and in faithful and permanent response to God’s grace.

 2. The Progressive Character of the Process of Configuration to Christ

Following the Lord, imitating Him, identifying with Him, configuring oneself to Him, being wholeheartedly united with Him[47], etc., are similar formulations and largely equivalent, according to what we have said before. Each one of them, nonetheless, has different shades of meaning, and carries with it special emphases that better clarify, from a pedagogical point of view, that process.

In any case, it is fitting to take into account the progressive character involved in the process of identification with or configuration to Christ, so that, in the years of formation, the longing to attain greater perfection in the following, imitation, configuration, and union with Christ the Evangelizer never ceases. It is really a matter of a utopian goal, but one that provides stimulus and is worth pursuing always, although it is, at the same time, never absolutely attainable.

The existential consequences that this process involves are worth considering as is, above all, their ultimate practice. Configuration to Christ brings us to:

• possess the same feelings as Christ had (cf. Ph. 2:5);

• think the way Christ thought (cf. Mt. 16:23);

• concern ourselves with the same things Christ did (cf. 1 Co. 7:32);

• live the life of Christ (cf. Rm. 8:1-39);

• the point where it is Christ who lives in us (cf. Ga. 2:20);

• take up the Lord’s cross until we can say: God forbid that I should boast… (cf. Mt. 16:24 and Ga. 6:14).

In fact, to the extent that our configuration to Christ is realized, there is operative in each of us what Paul says about himself: It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Ga. 2: 20). Thus:

• it is Christ who prays in us, it is we who pray in and with Christ and He who teaches us how to pray;

• Christ makes us His apostles and teaches us how to act on the mission He entrusts us with (the missionary discourse: cf. Mt. 10);

• Christ helps us bear our cross, which is His cross. We even die so that others might rise (cf. 2 Co. 4:11-12);

• we get to the point of loving Christ in our brothers in community with whom we live, and also in the people we evangelize, and giving preference, as He did, to the poor and needy;

• through Christ we attain freedom, always being devoted to the truth which sets people free;

• it is also Christ who makes us sensitive to the signs of the times, to the signs that express His Father’s will for humankind;

• in the final analysis, Christ is the One who gives meaning to our lives, to our day-to-day problems, etc.

 3. Reinterpretation from the Texts of Our Constitutions on Following (Statements to Reread, Meditate on, Remember…)

Finally, we offer a selection of texts from our Constitutions that invite us to reinterpret ourselves from the christological perspective of following:

• “Called like the Apostles, we have been granted the gift to follow Christ in a communion of life”[48].

• “The following of Christ as set forth in the Gospel is therefore our supreme rule”[49].

• “We adopt Jesus’ way of life”[50].

• “And so in the Church we have to manifest Christ’s virginity, poverty and obedience, in proclaiming the Good News”[51].

• “We commit ourselves to Her [Mary] that we may be conformed to the mystery of Christ”[52].

• “His only concern is how he may follow Christ and imitate Him in praying, working, enduring and striving constantly and solely for the greater glory of God and the salvation of humankind”[53].

• “We should imitate the communion of life that prevailed among Christ and the Apostles”[54].

• “[Love] marks us out as true disciples of Christ”[55].

• “Imitating Jesus Christ […] we too embrace chastity as a gift”[56].

• “Imitating Jesus Christ we profess the poverty of the Gospel”[57].

• “Imitating Jesus Christ […] we strive to fulfill the will of the Father in our Congregation”[58].

• “We are made conformable to Jesus Christ […] and are united in all we do with the saving will of God”[59].

• “We who have undertaken Christ’s missionary work should also imitate His constancy in prayer”[60].

• “We who have been called to follow the Lord and collaborate with Him in the work assigned Him by the Father, must keep our gaze fixed on Christ, imitate Him, and be so steeped in His spirit that it will no longer be we who live, but Christ who truly lives in us”[61].

• “We aim to attain conformity to Christ by professing religious vows in a missionary Community, We pursue this conformity by the practice of other virtues and express it according to our specific charism in the Church”[62].

• “If we are to experience within us the attitude of Christ Jesus […] we must seek humility”[63].

• “We must earnestly strive to practice that gentle meekness which the Lord commends and which is a sign of an apostolic vocation”[64].

• “As associates in the work of Redemption, we should strive to be conformed to Christ, who said: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross”[65].


[1] CC 4.

[2] Cf. CC 159.

[3] CC 58.

[4] The prayer that our Founder recorded in his Autobiography immediately after giving the details about the founding of the Congregation has been defined as the Vocation Magnificat: “My God, may you be blessed for condescending to choose your humble servants to be Sons of the Immaculate Heart of your Mother! Most Blessed Mother, may the courtesy of your Immaculate Heart, in accepting us as your Sons, be praised a thousand times! Mother, make us cooperate with such kindness by becoming daily more humble, fervent, and zealous for the salvations of souls” (Aut 492-493).

[5] PC 2.

[6] Cf. PC 2 y ET 12.

[7] Religious life “has the commitment to make present in somehow the way of life that He chose, pointing it out as an absolute and eschatological value” (VC 29).

[8] Cf. PC, ibid.

[9] Cf. CC 4.

[10] A good selection of Scriptural vocation texts, epsecially from the New Testament, inspired by the following of Jesus may be found in the CVD, appendix 2, pp. 217-220; also in IPM, appendix 2, pp. 88-91.

[11] One can find many texts in the Gospels and other New Testament writings where one can appreciate how the fact that they were written after Easter contributed to understanding the Christian life as the following of the Lord.

[12] Cf. OPML I, pp. 305-312; II, pp. 559ff.; III, pp. 195-197.

[13] Cf. the entries configuration to Christ and following in the subject Index of the GPF, pp. 355 and 364.

[14] Cf. GPF 13.

[15] Cf. CC 4; cf. OPML II, p. 89ff.

[16] CC 9.

[17] Cf. PGF 13-14 and 18-49.

[18] Aut 648.

[19] Cf. Aut 387.

[20] Cf. CC 9, 20ff., 23ff., 33, 40-42 and 39.

[21] Cf. OPML II, pp. 546ff. and 558ff.

[22] Cf. CC 39.

[23] Cf. CC 43-45.

[24] Cf. CC 61.

[25] GPF 13; cf. SW 19 and CC 39.

[26] The post-synodal exhortation Vita Consecrata states, nonetheless, that the chaste, poor and obedient way of the consecrated “seems to be the most radical way of living the Gospel on this earth”. Thus it adds: “The Christian tradition has always spoken of the objective excellence of the consecrated life” (VC 18).

[27] VC 29.

CDC 22.

[29] “The evangelical counsels, through which Christ invites some to share his experience of virginity, poverty and obedience, require and manifest, in those who accept them, the explicit desire for total conformation to Him” (VC 18). The same exhortation, in another place, indicates as a specific—although not exclusive—aspect of the consecrated, “the special conformation to the virginal, poor and obedient Christ” (VC 31).

[30] Cf. LG 44 and VC 26.

[31] Cf. MR 51, b.

[32] Cf. Ch. 6, “The Charism of the Congregation”, in this manual.

[33] GPF 103.

[34] Cf. GPF 102.

[35] Cf. CF, pp. 16-18.

[36] Cf. GPF 197-203.

[37] Cf. OPML I, pp. 187-268. This is refered to in IPM 106 e) and 108 b). Those texts paint a picture of Jesus with the following characteristics: the Son concerned about his Father’s business (cf. Lk. 2:49); the Son anointed to evangelize the poor (cf. Lk. 4:18ff.); the Son of Man who has no place to lay His head (cf. Lk. 9:58); a sign of contradiction (cf. Lk. 2:34); son of Mary (cf. Lk. 1:38; 2:7); sent by the Father and anointed by the Spirit, He shares his life and mission with the apostles (cf. Mk. 3: 14-15). Cf MCT 57-62; also GPF 13, 19, 50.

[38] Cf. GPF 204-207.

[39] Cf. GPF 19, 20, 51, 71, 100, 101.

[40] Cf. CF, pp. 18-21.

[41] Cf. ID., p. 19 and GPF 213-220.

[42] Cf. CF, ibid.

[43] The GPF talks about those virtues that give the most credibility to Jesus’ disciples and invites the novices to cultivate them: industriousness, self-respect and respect for others, joy, self-sacrifice, availability, cordiality, simplicity, constancy and firmness of will, fidelity to one’s promise, personal dignity in one’s speech and behavior (cf. GPF 356). These are not innate, they need to be cultivated and this requires the use of certain ascetical means. And among the apostolic virtues that configure the missionary mortification is certainly included: cf. GPF 87-89.

[44] CC 9.

[45] Cf. CC 39, SW 6 and GPF 12-16, 50.

[46] Cf. GPF 358.

[47] Cf. CC 61.

[48] CC 4.

[49] Ibid.

[50] CC 5.

[51] Ibid.

[52] CC 8.

[53] CC 9.

[54] CC 10.

[55] Ibid.

[56] CC 20.

[57] CC 23.

[58] CC 28.

[59] Ibid.

[60] CC 33.

[61] CC 39.

[62] Ibid.

[63] CC 41.

[64] CC 42.

[65] CC 43.