The Word of God
Since we are called by our vocation to be servants of the Word among the People of God, recent General Chapters have reminded us that to welcome the Word of God, to proclaim it and to be its witnesses, must be one of the core values of our missionary and apostolic spirituality. From the viewpoint of formation, initiation into the ministry of the Word, understood as a way of being, acting and signifying, must be one of the axes around which the formation process for young missionaries revolves. Thus, the reading, study, meditation on and contemplation of the Word, in keeping with our charism and in light of the challenges that call for our missionary service, must occupy a central place in our life and formation. The present chapter, which considers formation in these dimensions related to the Word of God, is divided into the following sections:
I. THE WORD OF GOD IN CLARET
II. CLARET, A REFERENCE FOR THE CONGREGATION
III. THE CLARETIAN MISSIONARY, A HEARER AND SERVANT OF THE WORD
IV. ORIENTATIONS FOR A PRAYERFUL READING OF THE WORD FROM A CLARETIAN PERSPECTIVE
V. LECTIO DIVINA
VI. THE NOVICE, A HEARER AND SERVANT OF THE WORD
I. THE WORD OF GOD IN CLARET
1. His Personal experience
The Scriptures were one of the axes of St. Anthony Mary Claret’s spirituality. In them he found the impetus to discover his own vocation and to develop it, following the models of Jesus and of the apostles and prophets.
He was always very devoted to the Bible and to reading it daily. Becoming familiar with it while he was still very young, his love for the Scriptures intensified in the seminary in Vic to such an extent that the Bible came to occupy a privileged place throughout his life. Under the action of the Spirit, who anointed him to evangelize the poor (cf. Is. 61:1; Lk. 4:18), and the example of Mary, his Mother and Formatrix, Claret had a very clear notion of the biblical inspiration for his vocation. His lifestyle, his spirit and his missionary activity, seen in light of biblical prophetism, appear as clear indications of a prophetic vocation.
The Word of God shaped Claret’s personality to conform to that of Jesus and the apostles in order to make him into an Apostolic Missionary. His assimilation of the Word of God is for the purpose of carrying out Jesus’ command to proclaim the Good News to all peoples throughout the world. The spreading of the Bible, the recommendation to read the Scriptures every day and the preaching of the Word of God express his earnest endeavor to realize this proclamation.
2. Claret’s Pedagogical Orientation for Assimilating the Word of God
Claret, through the witness of his life and his way of acting, and through his recommendations, offers us concrete and precise orientations for fruitfully assimilating the Word of God. On occasion he uses the word method or we can intuit it when he refers to the way of reading, studying and meditating on the Bible.
The Bible must be the most esteemed book and must take absolute priority over any others, even those that are very pious and devotional. This supposes that for reading and meditating on the Word of God assiduously and attentively, with the greatest fidelity and merit, and without growing weary, motivation and fondness are necessary.
The Bible must be read with devotion. This general disposition, which Claret recommends frequently, implies various attitudes and dispositions such as: simple faith; humility and interior poverty, like Mary and poor in spirit; recollection and interior silence; keeping with the Church’s tradition. Above all, the Bible must be read with love for God.
The Bible must be read with the intention of profiting from its reading. One must search for greater identification with Christ and a missionary availability to proclaim the Good News to all peoples throughout the world.
Finally, Claret offers specific rules for reading, studying and meditating on the Word of God: each individual should have his personal Bible, he should read it systematically every day and commit various passages to memory.
II. CLARET, A REFERENCE FOR THE CONGREGATION
Although the figure of Claret has always been a point of reference for the Congregation since he is its Founder, Father and Model, nevertheless, there are times when this reference must be clearly evident. With respect to the Word of God, there are certain keys to its reading that Claret transmits explicitly or implicitly to the Congregation and that directly challenge us. They are the following:
1. His Example Contained in the Autobiography
A primary reference that Claret transmitted to the Congregation was his own life. As Founder he is an example to imitate not only externally but also out of the interiority of our common charism. The way Claret interpreted his charism in the way he lived is an example for the Congregation, a call linking it to his imitation and an assurance of fidelity. Thus, the way Claret read the Word of God from the perspective of his vocation is also a perspective that we must take into account. And the Autobiography must be a source that inspires how this reading is to be done.
2. The Congregation’s Scripture Passages
In Claret reading the Word of God from the perspective of vocation has two aspects. The first is his awareness that the vocation he had received had its main origin in, and developed through, the Word of God. And the second lies in the set of specific Scripture passages that gave rise to his vocation and actually furthered its development. Included in this set of passages are some that are strictly personal; others though have a communal and congregational projection. Among the Scripture passages that the Founder explicitly and directly applied to the Congregation, we can highlight: Psalm 22 (Exercises in Vic, 1850); Rev. 14:6; 8:13 and 10:1-3; and the texts that form the foundation of the first Constitutions.
3. Recommendations to the Missionaries
The reading of the Word of God was always the object of Claret’s recommendations to everyone: clergy, seminarians and laity. With even greater reason he recommended it to his Missionaries. In the various Constitutions he asked them to read the Bible every day and that every week there should also be some reading from the Scriptures. The same was true for missionaries in initial formation. In the Rule for Students and Their Prefect he gives some teaching directives especially regarding the place that God’s Word should occupy in the formation of young Missionaries. The Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, motivated in everything by the glory of God, had to have as the objective of their formation to become fitting ministers of God’s Word. To achieve this Claret indicated, from his own experience, some means such as prayer and Bible reading that must be done every day according to the directions of the superiors.
III. THE CLARETIAN MISSIONARY, A HEARER AND SERVANT OF THE WORD
1. Love for the Word of God, a Family Trait
Claret’s experience, teachings and recommendations have passed to our Congregation, which has inherited a rich legacy of biblical formation and spirituality. The congregational tradition that we have ultimately received is especially expressed in the revised Constitutions, in the post-conciliar General Chapters and in the GPF. The Constitutions indicate to us the place that the Word of God should occupy in our missionary life. They emphasize that the Bible must be our principal book for spiritual reading. The Chapters have developed the main core elements and have discerned methodological applications. It was the Chapter of 1991 that especially treated missionary service of the Word as the dynamism that integrates our life and activity. The GPF proposes to every Claretian that, in order to succeed in being a fitting minister of the Word, he must become an habitual hearer of it through a passionate study that allows him to be challenged by it, welcoming it from the perspective of his vocation and sharing it with his brothers and with lay people. In short, the Congregation’s post-conciliar reflection, aware that love and devotion to God’s Word is a family trait, urges all members of the Congregation to preserve this trait and to read the Word of God from the perspective of our charism.
2. The Centrality of the Word of God
The most recent General Chapters have reminded us that Word of God must be the center of our missionary and apostolic spirituality. Thus, as the missionaries that we are, we contemplate and assimilate the Word in order to communicate and proclaim it. Thus the Congregation urges us to diligently engage in seeking the way to teach others what we have contemplated.
The study, meditation on and contemplation of the Word must occupy a central position in our lives. We must read it from the perspective of our charism in light of the challenges that call for our missionary service. We have to allow it to challenge us and we have to hear it as an invitation to a new life.
3. Initial Formation in Reading and Meditating on the Word
Following the example of Jesus and of our Fr. Founder, each of us must become a sign and expression of the Word of God. Thus, for us, initiation into the ministry of the Word is not simply a pastoral action or something added on to our apostolic mission. Rather, it is an essential nucleus of our apostolic charism, a dynamism that integrates our being, our acting and our witnessing, one of the axes around which the formation process for our young missionaries revolves.
This implies in the one being formed a growing appreciation of the Word of God that leads him to an intellectual and exegetical knowledge of the Bible whether it comes through academic formation or through Lectio Divina and other methods of reading.
During the process of formation, the Word of God must mold and structure the personality of the one being formed (his values, interests, motivations), leading him to complete configuration to Christ the Missionary and moving him to live according to Christ’s lifestyle, attitudes and options.
In short, it is a matter of continuing to forge a spirituality centered in the Word in such a way that it is one of the axes of the whole formation process. Thus, the Scriptures will be the principal book for spiritual reading. It will nourish the hunger for study, meditation and contemplation. It will be an area for vocation discernment and for renewing one’s first experience of his vocation. It will kindle an inner fire that fuels our following of Jesus and ultimately becomes a treasure to be shared in the very exercise of the apostolate.
IV. ORIENTATIONS FOR A PRAYERFUL READING OF THE WORD FROM A CLARETIAN PERSPECTIVE
Taking into account the experience and teachings of the Fr. Founder and the Congregation’s reflection, we can present a summary of formation orientations for carrying out a prayerful reading of the Word of God from a Claretian perspective.
1. By the Light of the Spirit, Who Anoints Us for Mission
Claret founded the Congregation along with other people to whom God had given the spirit that he felt animated by. And thus his words take on their full meaning: “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 (Lk. 4:18).” The same Spirit that was active in Claret was active in the cofounders and keeps being active in the Congregation today. Claretians must read the Word under the Spirit’s charismatic action.
Our vocation to be hearers and servants of the Word is a gift of the Spirit. The Spirit, who anoints us for mission and is the main catalyst in the process of identification with, and configuration to, Christ, is also the one who makes us understand the Word of God. The Spirit really is active within us, leads us to the complete truth (Jn. 16:13), changes our view of the world, makes us relish, appreciate, determine and choose all that safeguards our relationship with Jesus and with His Kingdom and gives us the power to dedicate our lives to mission. The Spirit, as the one who inspires the Word of God and as our inner teacher, is the one who opens for us access to the Word and molds us for our mission to be fitting ministers of the Word. Thus it is necessary to pray and to persistently ask for the inner light of the Spirit and for the love that makes us understand the meaning of the Word and its impact on our vocation. It is necessary to call on the Spirit before reading Scripture, as the entire tradition of spirituality indicates and as our Fr. Founder advises.
2. With Mary and Like Mary, Our Mother and Formatrix
Made fruitful by the Spirit, Mary gave birth to the Word. By means of her motherhood, the Word became flesh. What came to pass in the fullness of time keeps on happening in the faith process for those whom Christ engenders as believers when they accept the proclaimed Word. Without the Spirit’s power and without the mediation of Mary, the Word is reduced to a merely human creation, who, at best, can be a source of intellectual and moral inspiration. Through the Spirit and through Mary, the Word keeps on incarnating Himself and becomes the living presence of the Risen One in the midst of the Church, in a true place of encounter with God. It is this joyous reality that Claret experienced when he recognized that he had been forged as a herald of the Word in the forge of the Heart of Mary. And it is this same reality that we experience when we welcome and venerate Mary as our Mother and Formatrix. Thus it is necessary to help the one being formed to recognize, be thankful for and joyfully support the motherly action of Mary in his process of welcoming and assimilating the Word.
We also recognize in Mary a model of the faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. She, who incarnated the Word through God’s grace and her attitude of obedience, is also proclaimed blessed for being first among the simple ones who listen, fulfill and preserve the Word in their hearts and proclaim it with promptness and joy. Thus Mary inspires a life synthesis which everyone being formed should be pursuing through the formation process.
3. The Word Lived and Celebrated in Community
The novice has been incorporated into a family that has been called together by the Spirit to proclaim the Gospel. It is a community that is evangelized and evangelizing at the same time. In order to be able to transmit the Gospel it must allow itself to be converted by the Word and, out of that, for the deeds that affect people, especially the poorest and neediest, to whom it is sent. In order for the Word of the Kingdom to be credible and to draw people, it must be proclaimed by a community of brothers that live with Jesus and in Jesus. In short, for us the Word is as essential to community as community is to the Word.
Formation to be fitting ministers of the word, then, is a process that must be carried out in the setting of a missionary community. In community, as an environment for growth, is where the novices develop their ability to listen and dialogue, where they learn to welcome the Word together, to receive it and communicate it, to discern God’s will and to work as a team with their brothers.
The formation community, in order to be able to grow in the light of the Word of God and be an environment for the formation of the missionary, celebrates the Word of God. In this celebration, the formators and those being formed share as brothers the hearing, living and proclaiming of the Word. In the communal celebration of the Eucharist and of the Liturgy of the Hours, in communal reflection on the Word of God, in prayer that analyzes life events and compares them with the Gospel, is where the community expresses its faith and where it encounters and dialogues with the Lord. All this will be possible if the community lives in a faith context, creates settings and times for silence, carries out its celebration with the time and serenity it needs, and creatively employs the most appropriate methodologies.
4. Eucharist and Liturgy: Special Moments
The Word of God is intimately connected with the Eucharist. These are the two complementary tables of which the Council speaks and reminds us that both the Word and the Eucharist are signs of the presence of the living Christ, the Word of the Father, who invites us to an encounter with Him. Just like the Word, the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist calls us together around a table, creates a community, a tapestry of interpersonal relationships, and enkindles within it apostolic zeal. In every sacramental liturgical celebration, but in a special way in the Eucharist, the most perfect actualization of the Scripture texts is realized, since in the Eucharist they are proclaimed in the midst of a community gathered around Christ in order to draw near to God.
Since it is in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist and in praying the Hours, that we customarily receive and share the Word of God in community, we must place great value on these times, carefully prepare them and celebrate them unhurriedly. The importance that the Word of God has in the liturgy also requires specific preparation in the liturgical service of the Word, especially in homiletics and pastoral administration of the Sacraments.
5. The Interconnectedness of the Study of the Word and Prayer
The interconnection between the study of the Word and prayer is a basic element in the process of initiation into the ministry of the Word. The one being formed must become accustomed to reading the Word prayerfully and listening to it with all docility. Prayer is privileged moment for receiving and meditating on the Word of God, a fire in which the heart is melted down and recast into the image of Christ; of gazing at and studying Jesus in order to commit oneself to Him and to do as He did; to ask Him to make us fitting ministers of Word. But this prayerful reading needs to make use of the progress made in biblical studies. Claret also insists on the serious study of Scripture so that we do not make the Word say whatever we want it to say. From this flows the importance of reading it in its original languages and interpreting it out of the Church’s tradition. The Congregation also asks us to attain a deep knowledge of Scripture research and exegesis.
Thus we have to work at fostering the integration of prayer and study, in such a way that they support and stimulate one another. Prayer must point study in an apostolic direction and study must give the Word that we have to proclaim content, expression and power to penetrate.
6. The Word of God in Apostolic Experiences
All of formation must be directed toward missionary service of the Word. It must be a Word that is heard, contemplated, internalized and shared with the People of God, stimulates dedication to mission, inspires ways of proclamation, and helps explain its ability to transform people, the Church and the world. It requires formation in a way of reading Scripture that is contemporary and inculturated, done within and out of the concrete situation, especially out of an identification with the poor and out of insertion among them, without which it is difficult to understand and proclaim the Word of Jesus.
Taking into account the centrality of mission in our life and, thus, in formation, apostolic experiences become, throughout the course of formation, a school in which we are being formed as missionaries at the time as we proclaim the Word. Apostolic experiences, actually discerned and lived according to the requirements, options and preferred recipients of our mission, should help us to read reality as a word of God and listen to it with a Gospel attitude, developing the sensitivity and intuition to ascertain the challenges and urgencies of the Kingdom and provide appropriate missionary responses to them. Thus those being formed need to employ an inculturated and contemporary reading of the Word that really gives impetus and illumination to the specific realities of mission.
Living apostolic experiences out of hearing and meditating on the Word also helps those being formed to live these experiences in union with Christ, the Son sent by the Father, impelled by the love of Christ to work with dedication and generosity and to courageously and joyfully take on the sacrifices, trials and failures of the apostolate as ones who know that the cross is the badge of the apostle. In the apostolic sending, working on a team and sharing experiences, also out of the Word, they will be able to come to see that the community is essential to the Word and the Word to community.
7. Practical Dispositions and Attitudes
We cannot approach the Word of God with simple curiosity, in order to know more things about it or to increase our knowledge of culture (history, art, literature, etc., of the people it talks about) or merely to satisfy our curiosity. Nor can we approach it with an apologetic attitude, as if it would provide strong arguments to support what we want to say or with simply with a moral outlook, as a catalogue of norms, commandments and obligations.
We have to enter into contact with the Bible in order to get to know God better, God’s plans, God’s way of thinking and God’s will; in order to understand the divine meaning of our life and vocation; and in order to interpret the reality that surrounds us and in which we are inserted in the light of God.
All formation must be oriented toward missionary service of the Word. This must be a Word that is heard, contemplated, internalized and shared with the People of God, that stimulates dedication to mission, inspires forms of proclamation, and helps explain its ability to transform people, the Church and the world. There must be formation in a contemporary and inculturated reading of the Word, in and out of the concrete situation, especially out of an identification with the poor and out of an insertion among them, without which it is difficult to understand and proclaim the Word of Jesus.
Thus we have to cultivate certain basic attitudes that allow us to approach the Word of God in the way that our Fr. Founder teaches us. In particular:
1. As a starting point, it is necessary to believe, to have a spirit of faith. Without faith it is impossible to know the authentic and true value of the Word of God and, thus, it is impossible to enter into the Lord’s way of thinking and to know His will. This must be an obedient faith that is inclined to carry out the Word. It is a faith that must be ecclesial, lived within and nourished by the Church’s tradition. As Claret said, the Word of God, which is the truth and bread of understanding, must be sought in an environment of truth and authenticity guaranteed by the Church.
2. With humility and inner poverty, like Mary and the poor in spirit. God hides Himself from the learned and the clever of this world, from the proud and the haughty. On the other hand, He reveals Himself to the simple and humble. Thus, without humility God will never reveal or manifest Himself to a person in His Word.
3. With interior silence. Interior silence allows us to hear God’s voice speaking to us through God’s Word. In silence and inner peace is how we can penetrate the mysteries hidden in the sacred books and can acquire the knowledge of heart that a missionary needs. Claret asks those called to the ministry of God’s Word that they, following Jesus’ example, retire to pray in solitude in order to acquire, by meditating on the sufferings of the crucified Jesus, the knowledge of heart without which their words would be like the clanging of a bell.
4. With love for God and fidelity to His Word. Without love it is impossible to understand the Word of God. It is love that makes us children of God and like God, which gives us the power to hear God, listen to God and understand God. This love means, and is manifested in, being faithful to God’s will expressed in God’s Word.
5. With an open spirit and the determination to have the Word be productive. It is necessary to let oneself be challenged by the Word personally and in terms of one’s vocation as a Claretian missionary:
• To seek greater identification with Christ. This identification must be radical and absolute, and in an apostolic perspective. Through the Word the missionary must imitate Jesus and must acquire a Gospel mentality by accepting Gospel values and conforming his own conduct to the proposals of Jesus in the Gospel.
• To acquire suitable formation to be good disciples (of Jesus) and fervent preachers. The Word of God is a source of the Spirit that animates and guides the missionary’s formation. In the Word of God, the one being formed will find, moreover, the best models for his life and mission.
• To feel one is called, sent and identified with Jesus’ command to proclaim the Good News to all peoples throughout the world. The Word of God will enkindle apostolic charity in him and motivate and impel him to proclaim it as Jesus did. The Lord will enlighten him and the Spirit will inspire in him the words he should speak and proclaim at every moment. The Scriptures will also teach the missionary the way of proclaiming the Word so it will be most effective. And, lastly, from reading the Word of God, the missionary will obtain the other graces and aids needed for the discharge of his sacred ministry of preaching.
V. LECTIO DIVINA
1. A Brief History
Throughout the course of its history, the Church, following in the footsteps of the people of Israel, has heard the Word of God and learned to read it in different contexts in order to make sure it discovers the will of God in each moment of history. This long process of apprenticeship has crystallized into a way of reading the Word that was called from very early times (Origen, in the 3rd century) Lectio Divina.
With the birth of monasticism, Lectio Divina became the preferred path of spirituality. Among the monks was where it acquired its systematization. A 12th century Carthusian has bequeathed to us the steps in this process of reading the Word that nourished the faith of whole generations of Christians until the 14th century when the disputations in Late Scholasticism paved the way for other, more introspective types of prayer (mental prayer, Ignatian meditation, etc.). Vatican II proposes Lectio Divina as a privileged form of ongoing and prayerful contact with Scripture not only for priests or religious, but also for all lay people. The 21st General Chapter also recommends that we also practice it.
2. The Major Steps in Lectio Divina
Lectio Divina is not simply a method of reading the Scriptures, but a way of encountering God through the Bible. Starting with the conviction that through Scripture God Himself comes out to meet us and that the words written there are directed precisely to us in the midst of the joys, longings, hopes and disillusionment of the personal or social moment in which we find ourselves. We now present a summary of its major steps, following the description of Guigo the Carthusian:
1. INVOCATION OF THE SPIRIT: At the very beginning there must be an invocation of the Holy Spirit (epíclesis) so that the Spirit might make us know God’s will expressed in the Scripture. When the power of the Spirit descends on us, we discover the life that pulses in the Word, overcoming the mere letter which kills. Thus, without invoking the Spirit we cannot have Lectio Divina, since the reading of Scripture is then merely an intellectual pursuit.
2. READING: This consists in reading and rereading the text with attentiveness and respect. It should be done several times, avoiding rapid reading. It is a matter of going beyond reading with the eyes in order to read it with our hearts and hear it. God speaks and Lectio Divina is only a means to succeed in hearing God (audire) and obeying God (ob-audire). For this it is good to let the Scripture guide us in understanding the text through the reading of parallel passages, of marginal texts, because the Scripture must interpret oneself, as the Father of the Church remind us.
3. MEDITATION: This is a matter of thinking about the text (thus the monks called this phase, rumination). One goes and returns to it again and again, mulling it over until one discovers the message contained in it. For this one must use attentive and deep reflection that succeeds in ascertaining the deepest meaning of the text out of one’s personal situation and one’s faith stance. In the meditation a dialogue is taken up between what the text contains and our life. One does not always understand the text or get the specific message one was looking for. Obedience to the God who speaks to us will often require that we wait and recognize that we have understood nothing.
4. PRAYER: Reading and meditation now bring us to prayer, to talk to God. Until now it has been a matter of listening to God, of arriving at an understanding of God’s message for us. Now is the moment that the heart comes into play and our feelings are expressed in the most varied ways: supplication, praise, thanksgiving, lamentation, reproach, etc.
5. CONTEMPLATION: This is the culmination of the process. Our attention is concentrated on the mystery of Jesus, above the multiplicity of our feelings. It is a matter of acquiring, little by little, through personal contact with the Word, the view that God has of the world, of history, of humanity, etc.; to succeed in acquiring, as Paul says, the attitude of Christ (cf. Ph. 2:5) until one can say that it is Christ who lives in me (cf. Ga. 2: 20). In the final analysis, the process of Lectio Divina is not an escape from reality, but dwelling at its very heart out of the new view of it that the Word has presented to us and that leads us to commitment and to action in order to make the saving plan of God present in this world.
At first glance Lectio Divina can give the impression of being an excessively personal and not very apostolic path. Thus, some contemporary authors have added new steps such as collatio, or a time of sharing the Word with our brothers, and actio or operatio, or a commitment that springs from the Word. It may be that it is not necessary to add these phases, which do not belong to the original outline, if we consider that the most suitable place for learning Lectio Divina is a Christian community or group. The personal effort that Lectio Divina entails does not mean that it is an individual or private path. All the experts agree in emphasizing that the true place of initiation into the prayerful reading of the Word is the community and that Lectio Divina produces the best results when the hearing and meditating on the Word occurs in a community setting.
The novitiate is a time in which the attempt is made especially to initiate one into the process of union with and conformation to Christ the Evangelizer as the unifying center of all spiritual experience, with the aid of a reading the Word of God from the perspective of the Claretian vocation.
The novice must advance in a process of human and Christian growth that allows him, starting from the assiduous reading of the Word, to lay the foundation for a life of union with Christ, to assimilate the basics of religious life and to consciously and freely opt for the Claretian life, taking on from the very beginning the demands that derive from it. The Word, then, must be welcomed and internalized to make it a basis and dynamism for missionary life.
Thus, the Word of God in the novitiate is the element that helps to articulate the entire contents of this stage and to facilitate the integration of all the dimensions of missionary life.
As with all the dimensions of the educational process, here too the active participation of the one being formed is necessary. He has to be, as a hearer and servant of the Word, the primary one responsible for this process of growth.
As a point of departure, it is appropriate that the novice pay attention to that human foundation of his personality that facilitates the entire process of initiation into the ministry of the Word. The human foundation, formed for silence and for listening, makes possible and assures the welcoming, internalizing and communicating of the Word. Thus it is necessary that they be educated in, and cultivate in themselves, the specific attitudes of those who, like Mary, the apostles and the prophets, welcomed the Word, lived it and let it transform them.
It is proper for the novice, as a disciple of the Lord who calls him to the perfection of the Father, to always be listening and open to being surprised by the Word and by the Spirit. For this he must cultivate docility to the Spirit, opening his mind and his heart to the Spirit, and allowing himself to be shaped in the forge of Mary’s Heart. Although he feels weak and small, he must trust in the Word which, when it empowers us and we are docile to it, efficaciously acts in those who listen to it and carry it out (cf. Mt. 7:24; Lk. 11:28).
The novice must live and cultivate a truly apostolic spirituality. For this, in addition to other formative dynamisms, he will develop an intense love for the Word of God, in whose reading and meditation, like our Father Founder, he will pursue the sublime knowledge of Christ and a growing configuration to Him (cf. Ph. 3:8). Through daily contact with Scripture he will personally experience the attraction of the person of the Lord, His love and His friendship, and will acquire a clear consciousness of his vocation to follow Him faithfully. He will confront his life with the Word in order to grow in fidelity to the Gospel. And finally, he will ceaselessly ask the Lord to make him a fitting minister of the divine Word.
It is good, at the start of the novitiate, to formulate some type of commitment to the reading of Scripture and to include it in one’s personal project.
And during this stage of formation it is important to create the habit of daily reading of the Scriptures, carried out from the perspective of our charism and through appropriate methods, especially Lectio Divina.
 This chapter is a summary of the book Initiation into the Ministry of the Word (IMW) published by the General Prefecture of Formation (Rome, 1997). In the IMW there are more detailed references and a bibliography of sources.