Formula of Profession
whereby we dedicate ourselves to God and are incorporated in the Congregation
The Spanish civil government had suppressed all religious orders in 1835. The secular clergy conducted the greatest part of popular evangelization so that this suppression brought about the painful consequence of people’s not being evangelized. The Lord raised up, among others, Anthony Mary Claret as an extraordinary evangelizer and promoter of evangelizers. Confirmed by the Church as an apostolic Missionary, he managed to gather a small missionary community on July 16, 1849. For civil effects, it was born as a team of preachers of popular missions and spiritual exercises, which is what the government tolerated. The community, on its part, lived in fact all the Gospel demands that constitute religious life. In 1870, with the social situation somewhat changed, the Church approved it as a religious Institute of simple vows.
Claretian Religious Profession
According to the Constitutions of 1857 the aspirant was subjected to a year of probation, after which, if he was not excluded, he was automatically admitted into the Congregation with no special formality.
When the Congregation started to have novices, it felt the need of having the novices express their commitment to follow the missionary vocation before the community. The Chapter of 1862, presided over by the Founder, had prescribed that the year of probation should start and end with some ceremony. Our Father Founder himself drafted the act of consecration that those to make profession should pronounce at the closing ceremony of the probation year. It said: “I surrender and consecrate myself to the special service of God, of Jesus Christ and of the Blessed Virgin Mary; to this end I will observe with the greatest possible care the commandments of the Holy Law of God, the evangelical counsels and the Constitutions of this Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary….”
This act was included in the Regulations, added to the Constitutions. To this self-giving was added an oath of permanence that gave stability to the commitment. The oath of not accepting ecclesiastical positions because they hindered the freedom of movement and full dedication to evangelization:
“Haec definitiva admissio per formalem consecrationis actum suum effectum sortietur: ista vero consecratio in se continet iuramenta in Congregatione usque ad mortem permanendi, necnon dignitatem ullam extra Congregationem acceptandi. Superior autem minime dispensare poterit dictum iuramentum, nisi in actu dimissionis ab Instituto ex decreto ipsius Superioris, aut ex dispensatione Summi Pontificis; et ne aliquis suorum actuum duplici merito defraudetur, Superior iis qui hanc voluntatem habuerint concedere poterit, ut vota simplicia, castitatis, nempe, obedientiae, et paupertatis, temporalia seu perpetua emittere possit.”1
At the end of Part Three of the Constitutions, after n. 38 that deals with the possible Procurator, without a special title, the rite of the consecration is found, which is celebrated at the end of the Mass. The Superior celebrates the Mass which the candidate or the one to be consecrated attends kneeling ante altare genuflexus post celebrantem. If he is a priest, with surplice and stole; if a brother, in lay attire. The one to be consecrated receives communion. After the Mass, the Veni Creator is sung and three Hail Marys are recited in honor of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Then the one to be consecrated pronounces the act of consecration voce clara et intelligibili.
“ACT OF CONSECRATION
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Hear, O heavens, what I say; let the earth hearken to the words of my mouth. To you, O Jesus and Mary, my Mother! my heart speaks out at this moment, though I am dust and ashes.
I, N.N., humbly prostrate before my triune God, before Jesus Christ, true God and man, who is truly present in the most holy Sacrament of the altar, whom I presently have in my heart; being also spiritually in the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, of the glorious prince St. Michael Archangel, and of the entire heavenly court, as well as before you, Fathers of this venerable Community, whose member, though unworthy, by divine vocation, I am pleased to be, I beg of you to commend me to the Lord and to be witnesses of my resolution, that is: today I surrender and consecrate myself to the special service of God and to the most pure Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for the purpose to which this Congregation is dedicated, in which I swear to remain until death and not to receive any prelature or dignity without express order from the Superior General or from the Supreme Pontiff. Therefore, I will observe with all possible care the holy commandments of the law of God and the Constitutions of this Congregation, approved by the Supreme Pontiff Pius IX. I make this consecration today through your hands, O my Father and Superior, and I hope you will pray God to grant me the aid and grace I need to persevere faithfully till death. Amen.”
In the consecration the vows were not explicitly mentioned but the Regulations added: “And so that no one may be deprived of the double merit of his actions, the Superior may authorize temporary or perpetual simple vows to those who are willing to make them.”
In the year 1870, when the majority of the members had taken refuge in France due to the revolution of 1868, the Congregation obtained the religious Profession, which was joined to the previous consecration in the same formula.
A Ritual was created and place at the end of the Constitutions.
In the spirituality of our Father Founder private vows are not frequent, not even the vow of doing what is most perfect. The saint lived more in the environment of “charity” than in that of “religion.” In contrast, self “surrenders” are very frequent. We could say that he live in a state of listening and in an oblationary state of response. As early as his childhood the acts of self-giving abound as vocational response. At the age of 10 he offers himself to God to serve him in the Eucharist day and night. Later on, he offers himself to the service of the Gospel—in the manner of the Apostles—with and like the Son dedicated to the things of the Father. These two offerings contain the total donation of self forever. In his turn, the Spirit consecrates him into the anointing of the Son, sent to bring the good news to the poor and to cure those with a contrite heart.
There were other self-givings and consecrations—such as the clerical, priestly, episcopal—but all of them are qualified and shaped by the original charismatic consecration.
The consecrations of our Father Founder to Mary are abundant. All are founded on the self-surrender at Calvary: “I surrender myself to you. Mother, behold your son.” “I surrender myself as your son and minister.” In the pre-congregation period, he already consecrated himself, precisely because he was a son. Once the Congregation was founded, he lived out the surrender so often made and renewed. At the time of looking for a common and social manifestation of belonging to the Congregation, he saw as the most natural thing an act of consecration to the Father, to Jesus Christ, to most holy Mary, for the service of the Gospel.
The vows, before they became juridical realities, were for him ways of conforming himself to Christ the evangelizer. We have already seen in what ways he kept discovering them in the process of his spiritual experience. Because of this, the reason that the Constitutions gave for making the vows—when they were optional—was the double merit; they added nothing to the gospel radicalism; rather they softened it, as in the case of poverty, by simple vow.
The community of Segovia was the first one to make the consecration, and it did it on the occasion of the feast of the Heart of Mary. The Father Founder personally presided over the ceremony: “We made the consecration at the hands of the Founder, who preached to us afterwards, making us see how important this consecration was in itself. On Tuesday afternoon we renewed the vows, each one in particular, before his Excellency and the Blessed Virgin.”2
On May 2, 1870, the Holy See definitively approved the Constitutions, including the obligatory vows. On July 15 the Pope agreed and ordered that the Bishop of Vic be given the necessary faculties to approve the formula of profession. The Bishop did it on August 4. On August 12, the remaining members of the community of Vic made their profession. On the 28th—the feast of the Heart of Mary— Fr. Xifré and the community of Prades did the same, but not at the hands of the Founder, who had taken refuge in the Monastery of Fontfroide in order to escape from his persecutors. On October 8 the Founder professed at the hands of Fr. Xifré who was administering the last sacraments to him.
“The Founder, the legislator of the Institute, passed away shortly after making his Religious Profession, and was the first to enter heaven with this character, as he had also been on earth the first member of the Congregation of Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”3
Adaptation to the Code of Canon Law of 1924
In the formula of Profession found in the Constitutions published in 1913 we find the temporal vows for the first time, as a consequence of the resolutions of the Chapter of 1912, published as an Appendix to the same Constitutions, and approved by the Congregation for Religious on November 15, 1912. The 1922 Chapter ratified the resolutions of the previous Chapter and inserted them in the constitutional text, together with other changes, in order to adjust to the Code of Canon Law. The adapted Constitutions were fully approved on May 13, 1924 by the Sacred Congregation by the apostolic Letters of Pius XI on July 16, 1924.
The ceremony of the profession was published in the Spiritual Directory of 1890 and of 1957. In 1935 the Ritus impositionis et professionis religiosayin Congregatione Missionariorum Filiorumn Immaculati Cordis Beatae Mariae Virginis was separately published in Rome.
Revision of the Formula of Profession
The first Chapter of renewal (1967) looked for new insight on profession in the doctrine of Vatican II. In the document on religious life the Council expressed a new theological and spiritual understanding of religious self-giving beyond the canonical demands, which up to that time were considered the most important:
“Baptismal consecration is brought to its fullness by means of religious Profession, since it associates us with the Paschal Sacrifice of Christ precisely from the viewpoint of his heavenly consummation, to which our association with Christ in the Mystery of his Death and Resurrection is directed. And if baptism makes us die with Christ and rise with him, in order to be one day glorified with him, by the profession of the counsels, the power of Christ and the infinite strength of his Spirit makes thousands of men and women capable of living here on earth with a view to the future reality of perfect life, in order to offer all people, as a clear sign and as an announcement and testimony, that future life to which the Paschal Sacrifice of Christ tends (cf. PC 5)” (1VR 38).
The Chapter considered life consecrated by profession as a sign, lived in the Church and for the whole Church, and even for all humanity, of the life of heaven (cf. LG 44). In addition, since the Church is a universal sacrament of salvation (LG 1, 9,48; GS 45), in the Liturgy it associates religious life to the sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist. “Hence the totally ecclesial character of religious profession, associated, even in its liturgical celebration, to the Eucharist, as Christ’s sacrifice and as sacrament of the unity of the Church” (n. 41).
The Chapter determined that profession should be more closely bound to the eucharistic sacrifice, by changing what was prescribed in the Constitutions which placed it immediately after the Mass. The reason given was: “It is fitting that, just as our consecration is united to the sacrifice of Calvary, in the same way our profession should be more closely united to the eucharistic sacrifice” (n. 46). The Congregation accepted the Rite “intra missam.” Therefore, the need was felt to adapt the formula of profession, used since 1870, to its new place in the liturgy.
The need to adapt it to the conciliar insight also appeared. The new text expresses the will to respond to the vocation of following the Lord Jesus more closely, like the Apostles, the consecration to God the Father in the Holy Spirit through his Son Jesus Christ, and the offering of self in special service to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in order to fulfill the aim for which this Congregation has been established in the Church. The vows and the commitment to live in the community of apostolic life according to its Constitutions follow.
Placement of the Formula in the Revised Constitutions
On July 16, 1972, the General Government published the Ritual of the Profession proper of the Congregation, suitably revised according to the Ordo Professionis Religiosae published by the Congregation for Divine Worship on February 2, 1970 and the Indicazioni, which appeared the following July.4
Meanwhile the 1971 Constitutions, n. 123, contained a revised formula of profession ad experimentum, inspired by that proposed by the Ordo Professionis. The revision is justified because, when profession was placed within the Eucharist, it had to be adapted to Roman liturgical language, more sober and concise.
The formula of 1971 does not contain the oath of permanence. The postcapitular Commission proposed to suppress it as redundant: “This oath was established in order to strengthen the original act of consecration and later it remained in the formula of profession, although it adds nothing to the profession?” Perhaps before the Code it had some reason for being because at that time the Bishops could dispense from simple vows.
In contrast, the Commission was in favor of maintaining the oath not to accept ecclesiastical dignities: “The oath not to accept any dignity outside of the Congregation without permission from the Superior General, subject however to our obedience to the Supreme Pontiff” is retained in its totality. But in these matters, the most important thing is not accepting these offices, but desiring and seeking them. For this reason it is strongly urged that “in keeping with the spirit of this oath, our religious should not desire ecclesiastical dignities.” With this, we strongly emphasize the bond we wish to contract with the Institute. We should serve the Church in this distinctive vocation where dignities outside the Congregation normally have no place.
The Chapter of 1973 opted for also suppressing the oath of not accepting prelatures, because it was equivalent to swearing in vain for the majority of the Claretians. It was deemed sufficient that the prohibition be included in the Constitutions as incompatible with our charism of missionary service of the Word, as our Father Founder understood it.
On April 27, 1972, the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes approved the formula of profession until the next General Chapter of 1973. The Chapter revised it and confirmed it on October 20th in Session 45 (Min. p. 149). The Congregation for Religious approved it “juxta textum emendatum, prout in annexo folio habetur” on December 20,1973. It is signed by the Claretian Cardinal Arturo Tabera.5
The XIX Chapter of 1979 was to say the final word on the revision of the Constitutions, which were further revised again and approved by the same Chapter on October 10th. It was decided that the Formula of Profession should be placed at the end of the Constitutions, after the last number 153, as an Amen and full response.
The Constitutions were presented to the Apostolic See and were approved on February 11, 1982. In these Constitutions the Formula is also at the end, with n. 159. The XX Chapter of 1985 adapted the Constitutions to the new Code of Canon Law. They were approved by the Congregation for Religious on May 11, 1986. The Formula remains in the same place and with the same number today.
Text of the Formula
FORMULA OF PROFESSION
whereby we dedicate ourselves to God and are incorporated in the Congregation
159 In answer to God’s call, I,____________, desire to seek his glory more earnestly, to devote myself to him more fully, and to follow Christ more closely, as the Apostles did, in the ministry of salvation throughout the world.
Therefore, in the presence of God’s family gathered here, through your hands, ______, 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.
And so, I vow to God CHASTITY, POVERTY and OBEDIENCE forever (or for one year, or for three years), and I promise to live in the community of apostolic life of this Congregation of Missionaries, Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, according to its Constitutions, which I will observe with all possible care.
Therefore I ask you, my brothers and sisters, to be witness to my profession.
Pray for me, that in serving God and the Church, I may be faithful to the spirit of our Founder, St. Anthony Mary Claret, and that I may reach the perfection of charity.
A M E N
The Formula is composed of five paragraphs:
- Presentation of the person before the liturgical assembly. Manifestation of the willingness to surrender himself totally in response to the divine vocation. The motivation that justifies such self-giving refers to the aim of the Congregation: the glory of God, the following of Christ the Lord, in the manner of the Apostles, in the ministry of the salvation of all throughout the world.
- It contains: the original consecration, which united the Congregation before the inclusion of vows; the consecration to God –with a new trinitarian formulation in this context-, and the offering of self in special service to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in order to fulfill the aim of the Congregation. The presence of God’s family and the mediation of the Superior are mentioned.
- This paragraph explicitly mentions the vows together with the commitment to live “in the community of apostolic life” (the Congregation is explicitly mentioned, not like before when it was mentioned as the genitive form of the Constitutions), the resolution to observe the Constitutions.
- All the brothers (and sisters) are called as witnesses (earlier, only the Fathers).
- The asking for prayers for fidelity to the spirit of Father Founder in the service of God and of the Church, until he reaches the perfection of charity. Amen of the professed and of the Assembly.
We will follow the main phrases bringing out the spiritual experience of the Founder and the heritage of the Congregation. But before doing that, we wan to show how the Congregation was enlightened by the Council. The formulation of its meditations is found mainly in PE 20-23 and in 1VR 37-44. Here are some statements characteristic of this latter decree:
“The religious profession of the evangelical Counsels is the perfection of baptismal consecration” (n. 37).
“Since it associates us to the Paschal Sacrifice of Christ precisely from the viewpoint of his heavenly consummation, to which our association with Christ in the Mystery of his Death and Resurrection is directed. And if baptism makes us die with Christ and rise with him, in order to be one day glorified with him, by the profession of the counsels, the power of Christ and the infinite strength of his Spirit makes thousands of men and women capable of living here on earth with a view to the future reality of perfect life, in order to offer all people, as a clear sign and as an announcement and testimony, that future life to which the Paschal Sacrifice of Christ tends (cf. PC 5)” (n. 38).
“It is a presence of the power of Christ “Kyrios” and of the infinite strength of his Spirit who, seizing the religious, impels him to a self-giving as broad as the love of Christ and the fire of the Spirit. Whatever renunciation there is in religious Profession is only the result of an enormous broadening of human love when it is raised to the level of the love of Christ united to his Church with an indissoluble bond. It is a sign offered to the world that the heavenly goods are not something that will only come in the future, but are already partly present in this world (cf. LG 44)” (n. 39).
“The full consecration of religious life, as the completion of baptismal consecration, takes place also in the Church, not only because religious life springs from its own life and holiness (cf. LG 44), but because, the Church being a universal sacrament of salvation (LG 1, 9, 48; SC 5; GS 45), associates religious life to the sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist in Liturgy…” (n. 40).
“Hence the totally ecclesial character of religious profession associated, even in its liturgical celebration, to the Eucharist, as Christ’s sacrifice and as sacrament of the unity of the Church” (n. 41).
Commentary on the Paragraphs of the Formula
This I is the concentration and actualization of the person of the aspirant; he is a person who has a human nature, a Christian grace, a vocational call and a history of life, of growth and development. For this reason, this I is followed by the Christian name and the family name. The family is involved in this moment of realization and in the consequences of the commitment for the future.
Vocation is communitarian –convocation-, but the response must be “personal” to God and to the brothers.
In order to be able to make perpetual vows, a member should have reached a level of personal maturity such that he can see this divine calling as good for his whole person and as a life he can actually live (CC 71). It is not a resigned acceptance of a sacrifice, heroic though it may be; it is an intimately joyful response of one who gives himself out of love, even if it implies renunciation.
“in answer to God’s call”
Nowadays “voluntary works” are proliferating in many areas. This aspirant makes his profession is freely and voluntarily but, before anything else, he is a person called by God. His fundamental attitude is not his own creation but a response. During the time of his novitiate he has sufficiently proven his vocation to the Congregation.
“desire to seek God’s glory more earnestly”
Claret felt himself called to be a servant of the glory of the Father in his conformation to the Son. “You are my servant, through you I will be known” (cf. Is 49, 3; EA 418). His entire concern was: “O my God and my Father, may I know you and make you known” (Aut 233).
The aim of our Congregation is to seek in all things the glory of God for the sanctification of its members and for the salvation of people throughout the world.
The “more earnestly” that the Formula demands comes from the aid that the Spirit gives to our response, namely our missionary charism in the Church (cf. CC 2).
Our missionary charism is manifested in the mystery of Christ who makes us live (CC 3), in the mission entrusted to us (CC 6), in our lifestyle “like that of the Apostles” (CC 4), and in our apostolic spirit (CC 9).
“to devote myself to Him more fully”
Claret felt himself called, from his time as a seminarian, to conform himself to the Son, totally dedicated to the Father and his concerns, as he showed in his self-giving in the temple at the age of 12 (cf. Lk 2, 48-49; EA 418). The Son of the Heart of Mary follows this same line. His distinctive characteristic is being totally consecrated and fully available for the universal mission.
“and to follow Christ more closely”
Claret’s only concern is how he might follow Christ and imitate him in praying, working and enduring and he wants us to feel the same way.
The “more closely” stems from the demands of our vocation in the manner of the Apostles. A conversion of heart only to continue living the normal life of this world is not enough. One must change place, lifestyle, one must live in apostolic community.
“as the Apostles did”
As a weaver, Claret had learned to look painstakingly at a sample, in order to prepare the loom fittingly so that he could make an exact reproduction. Now he looks at Jesus the evangelizer and sees him proclaiming the Gospel in communion of life with the Twelve. He sees he will not be like the “sample,” if he does not proclaim the Gospel in the same way. He asks for men with his own spirit and, when the Lord gives them to him, he begins to live evangelically in community with them.
The Constitutions remind us that, called in the manner of the Apostles, we have also been granted the gift of following Christ in communion of life and of proclaiming the Gospel to all people, going throughout the entire world (CC 4).
“in the ministry of salvation throughout the world”
Claret felt himself personally called to proclaim the Gospel like the Apostles, not only in communion of life, but also in universal mission. In such a way that, leaving the parish, he went to Rome alone to offer himself to the Pope to be sent anywhere. He fell sick and it seemed that all was a failure, but later on he was again on the road. He had to go to Cuba and to Paris and to Rome, and finally founded the Congregation of missionaries who would be sent to the whole world.
The Constitutions tell us: we must be in the Church steadfast helpers of its Shepherds in the ministry of the word, using all means possible to spread the good news of the kingdom throughout the world (CC 6).
“Therefore, in the presence of God’s family gathered here”
We commit ourselves in the Church and in the presence of the Church, God’s family, as in the Acts of the Apostles, when the community saw those whom the Holy Spirit had chosen to be sent.
“through your hands, __________”
We give ourselves to God through the community, which is communion and also hierarchy, we profess “at the hands” of the Superior.
In the first formula it was expressly said: “that today I promise God Almighty and to you, my Reverend Father and our Superior General, who take the place of God, and to all who will legitimately succeed you.” At the time of revising the formula, some suggested that we all should profess explicitly “at the hands of the Superior General” in order to indicate more clearly our availability for the universal mission. The idea was not accepted due to the division of the Congregation into provinces.6 However in the Profession we commit ourselves to live “in the Congregation” and not in a Province or in a concrete house. It is always Fr. General who gives assignments outside the Province, and the norm was established that one month before perpetual profession, each one of the aspirants must offer himself personally to Father General with a view to the universal mission (Dir 223).
“I consecrate myself in the Holy Spirit, to God the Father, through Jesus Christ, his Son”
The Profession used to be made “Coram Deo meo uno et Trino humiliter provolutus” (CC 1865). In the renewal of the formula it was decided that the consecration itself should be a “confession Trinitatis” and this expression was approved.
In various parts of the Constitutions the trinitarian way of our life is described, especially in n. 39: “The anointing of the Holy Spirit whereby we are anointed to preach the good news to the poor, is a sharing in the fullness of Christ.” This anointing not only brings us to follow and imitate Jesus Christ and to collaborate in the work assigned him by the Father, but it conforms us to him so that it will no longer be we who live, but Christ who truly lives in us. Conformed to Christ by the Spirit, and inflamed with his fire, we seek by all means and resources that the Father be known, loved and served by all.
“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”
Anthony the seminarian, from the viewpoint of the word of God, had the spiritual experience of the entrusting of the Mother to the beloved disciple. He accepted her in tohis life that was in the process of becoming missionary.
Later on he discovered Mary as a Heart, not only in his inner self, like the previous spirituality, but in view to mission. He felt himself formed in the forge of her mercy and love. For this reason he wished that the missionaries be and be called “Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
Profession is accepting this spiritual maternity and living it out in mission, “in order to fulfill the aim for which this Congregation has been established in the Church:” seeking in all things the glory of the Father and the salvation of all.
In the fundamental Constitution we are reminded that the founding of our Congregation is attributed to the intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our Father Founder clearly said, during the Exercises of 1865, that when pantheism denied God and rationalism the divinity of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin founded her Congregation so that her “Heart might be the Ark of Noah, the tower of David, a city of refuge and the sacred Propitiatory” (CCTT 602). Since we are called and truly are Sons of her Heart, we accompany her in love and trust. We commit ourselves to her, not only so that she may help us fulfill the aim of this society, but to “be conformed to the mystery of Christ and to cooperate with her in her maternal role in our apostolic mission” (CC 8).
“And so, I vow to God”
Incorporation into the Congregation is accomplished by a public profession of vows (CC 70). “Through our profession of the evangelical counsels by public vows we dedicate ourselves to God and are consecrated by him, and thus we form in the Church an Institute which is truly and fully apostolic” (CC 5)
In the beginning the Congregation could not make vows because of the opposition of the civil government. However, they were advised to make them, behind the government’s back, as a means of perseverance in vocation. “These vows are optional, so that no one in the Congregation is bound to make them. Thus one can be a member for life without being bound by vows. But experience has shown that those who do not bind themselves with vows, at the first temptation against vocation, consent and desert, with great harm to themselves and to the Congregation, with joy on the part of the devil and with sadness on the part of the Angels of heaven, with offense to God and to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and with great damage to people, since many perhaps might have been converted by their ministry, had they persevered in the Congregation. In addition it has been observed that those who bound themselves with vows are very happy, and never experience temptations against their vocation” (CCTT 312).
The most Blessed Virgin granted Claret the seminarian the grace of chastity as a missionary charism, before the obligation of clerical celibacy in the subdiaconate. Anthony, in his first year of philosophy strove to become a Carthusian, until he fell ill. He says that in this way God uprooted him from worldliness. From this moment on, he started “continuously trying to imagine what and how I could do to save the souls of my neighbors. Hence I prayed continuously to Jesus and Mary, offering myself to them for this purpose” (Aut 113). The Blessed Virgin began by giving him a missionary heart, a heart possessed and inflamed by the love of Christ: an exclusive love for the Father –and his concerns –, and a universal apostolic love and zeal. Whoever has this heart cannot enter into marriage, even as a sacrament.
The chastity we profess frees us in a unique way to inflame us in love for God and for all people. It strengthens our spirit to struggle against the powers of evil in our apostolic ministry. It fosters a fraternal communion in Christ and builds up a community based neither on blood nor on carnal desire, but on the will of God (CC21).
Anthony found in manufacturing the joy of having gained the world (Aut 63). In the midst of this triumph, “while I was at Mass one day, I remembered reading as a small boy those words of the Gospel: What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul? (Mt 16, 26). This phrase impressed me deeply and went like an arrow into my heart” (Aut 68). It made him leave the world.
The response to the universal mission made him leave the local Church and go to Rome to be sent. During the trip he wanted to imitate the poverty of Jesus Christ which prompted him to leave the comfort of a ship cabin and be exposed to the inclement weather on deck. This gesture carried the grace of conversion. The Lord was giving him the charism of missionary poverty. In light of this poverty he tried to organize the different situations of his life. As an apostolic missionary he thought that in order to oppose the golden calf, which those of this world call all-powerful, he should confront him by means of evangelical poverty (Aut 359). In founding the Congregation he followed the example of the Apostles, holding everything in common and giving to each one according to his needs.
The Constitutions remind us that “our poverty is apostolic, which means that our life and activities should be imbued with the spirit of poverty… We should have our goods always at the disposal of others” (CC 25,26).
“The Lord himself, who chose to be identified with those who suffer, invites us to recognize him suffering in them, and to offer them effective help, even laying down our lives for the sake of our brothers and sisters” (CC 44).
Claret’s experience of obedience was very rich, first in his family circle, then in his work experience.
He discovered that God had a vocational design for him and he followed it, even though his family had other plans. He accepts ecclesiastical obedience as a seminarian and as a priest. He seeks obedience to the Supreme Pontiff in the universal mission, but he finds himself experiencing Jesuit obedience for four months. Later on he enters into obedience to the Pope, upon the latter’s insistence, as Archbishop and as confessor to the queen. As a Founder, he lived the obedience of the new community, based on universal mission and in the organization of missionary fraternity.
The Constitutions remind us that by obedience we are conformed to Jesus Christ, who for our sake became obedient even to death, death on a cross, and are united in all we do with the saving will of God (cf. CC 28). Together we seek the concrete realization of this will, “so that we may be able to fulfill our common mission in the Church amid the changing circumstances of times, places and persons (CC 29). “With this disposition of mind, our missionaries will be available to be sent anywhere in the world and ready for whatever ministries to which the Congregation through its superior might assign them” (CC 32).
“forever (or for one year, for three years)”
Profession is a self-giving out of love. The acts of temporary self-giving, for a year or for three years, are experiences that have no justification except in light of the definitive donation.
Our Father Founder, commenting on the donation of Christ to the Church, says: “Jesus, as a true, faithful and loving Spouse, has never separated and will never separate himself from his Bride, but He will always be with her everyday until the end of time.”7
In this world where self-interest is the only thing that counts, this self-giving “forever” in unthinkable, because interests change constantly.
“and I promise to live in the community of apostolic life of this Congregation of Missionaries, Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, according to its Constitutions, which I will observe with all possible care”
The commitment to live in community is not a romantic idealization of solidarity or of fraternity in the manner of the French revolution; it is responding to vocation in the manner of the Apostles, in communion of life with Jesus Christ. Among the different forms of community of life in the Church, ours is neither monastic, nor conventual: it is “apostolic.” Communion and apostolate are two essential elements.
“Therefore I ask you, my brothers and sisters, to be witnesses to my profession”
Profession has social consequences and the candidate asks his brothers (and sisters) to be witnesses of his act, before others and before himself, lest, with the passing of time, he might forget this commitment.
“Pray for me, that in serving God and the Church, I may be faithful to the spirit of our Founder, St. Anthony Mary Claret”
God’s faithfulness is the basis of our perseverance. We are firmly convinced that the same one who has begun this good work in us will bring it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus (cf. Phil 1, 6; CC 51). Let us strive, with the help of grace, to respond gladly and generously (CC 67).
The spirit of our Founder is apostolic. The Holy Spirit gives us the inclination and the inner ability in life and in apostolic ministry. 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 all people (CC 9).
“and that I may reach the perfection of charity”
We are speaking here of the perfection of charity of the missionary Son of the Heart of Mary. Our Founder tells us that “the virtue the missionary needs most is love,” not only in view of personal communion with God, but with a view toward mission. The apostolic missionary should have a fiery heart and tongue inflamed with the fire of charity. A Son of the Heart of Mary is a man on fire with love, he spreads its flames wherever he goes; desires mightily and strives by all means possible to set everyone on fire with God’s love (CC 9).
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