Initiation into the Missionary Life, Manual for the Claretian Novice

This manual presents the summary of the main topics and formation suggestions that the novices in the congregation must learn and assimilate during the novitiate.

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Chapter 6: The Charism of the Congregation

The Church has encouraged recognizing charisms as a reality, belonging to the realm of grace, that allows us to know, from the gifts God has given through his Spirit, the identity and specific nature of the various Christian vocations, how they fit together and the contribution through which each one actively participates in life of the Church.

Since the charism is so intimately related to the vocational identity and the mission assigned by God to each one in the Church, it is of great interest for the novices in the Congregation to know the Claretian charism, assimilate it in depth and live it out during their period of initiation into the missionary life.

The understanding of the Claretian charism as it is lived in the Congregation presupposes having some clear ideas about charism in general and knowing the characteristics that the charism has in Claret and in the Congregation founded by him[1]. Given these presuppositions, we are going to divide the study of the topic into 4 sections:






The Church has its origin in the grace of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  It is, therefore, a spiritual reality at the same time as it is an institutional one[2]. The Lord promised it, moreover, the perpetual help of the Holy Spirit. The result of this assistance of the Spirit to the Church are the various charisms.

1. The Concept of Charism

            Charism ()(charisma)is a word St. Paul took from secular Greek and used in his theology to explain the dynamism and organization of the Church.  He is the only one who specifically uses the word and thus it is essential to refer to his letters to ascertain its meaning.  Simplifying things much, we can say, in summary fashion, that St. Paul uses the word charism:

• With a basic meaning.  Thus understood, charism is the same as grace in general or  (charis)(2 Co. 1:11; Rm. 5:15-16), to eternal life (Rm. 6:23), to the Spirit (Rm. 5:5; 8:15-16)…

• With a more specific and precise meaning.  In this case the word charism designates a special gift, a special grace or (charisma)that:

– configures a state or form of life and suits one for living it (cf. 1 Co. 7:7,17,20,24).

                        – communicates roles, virtues, ministries, etc., and enables one to discharge them (1 Co. 12:4ff.).

            In this chapter, we are going to use the term charism in this second, more specific and precise biblical meaning.  In this sense, Vatican II defines it as a special gift or grace of divine origin, bestowed by the Holy Spirit on faithful Christians for the renewal and building up of the Church (cf. 1 Co. 12:7)[3]. It is appropriate to emphasize that charisms:

• are supernatural gifts.  From a perspective of grace charisms are not considered natural gifts that adorn the person, like talents, personal qualities, intelligence, etc.

• are gifts given by God freely and gratuitously, through the Spirit.

• are in the first instance given to the Church for its use and edification, even though they are granted to a particular person or group.  They are not granted primarily for the sanctification of the individual that receives them, although the person is sanctified by living them out.

• become, for the people graced with them, a particular vocation for living in a state of life and for developing a service to the Church community.  Moreover, the person is empowered by them.

• must be discerned and approved by the hierarchy of the Church.  The hierarchical charism carries with it that responsibility.

2. The Charism of Religious Life

            It is necessary to situate religious life as a special charism within the charismatic dynamism of the Church.  We need to say something about this because our Congregation is an institute of religious life.

            According to Vatican II, religious life proceeds from a charism given to the Church so that various members of the faithful can live their Christian existence in a state of life that imitates and represents the lifestyle that Jesus chose for Himself and proposed to his followers[4]. Jesus’ lifestyle is configured by the practice of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience, by community life and by mission.  In this way it expresses and realizes the total and exclusive giving of oneself to God and to God’s plan of salvation for humankind (consecration-mission)[5]. With the Lord’s grace, this charism remains forever in the Church[6]. It is appropriate to emphasize that:

• Religious life, by having its origin in a charism, is a constitutive part of the charismatic dimension of the Church.  The institutes that integrate it have their origin in various charisms.  God calls both laity and clerics to be the recipients of those particular charisms[7].

• The charism of relgious life carries with it a special consecration.  By the profession of the evangelical counsels, the religious is consecrated by God and is dedicated to Him alone[8], giving full development to his or her human personality and baptismal consecration[9]. Religious life thus is part of the consecrated life.

• Another integrating and distinctive part of the charism of relgious life is the dimension of community[10]. It is an essential element that represents the life of the apostles with Jesus.

• The charism of religious life, and the vocation that it brings with it,has a missionary, apostolic-prophetic and eschatological dimension: it bears witness to the life of Jesus and to the Gospel and, moreover, manifests the good things of heaven.  It proposes a new and eternal life won by the redemption of Christ and it prefigures the future resurrection and the glory of the heavenly kingdom[11].

3. The Charism of the Founder and of the Institute

            But the charism of religious life has been given to the Church through specific people that have founded religious institutes or congregations in distinct periods of its history.  Thus, the charism of religious life is actually incarnated in religious institutes.  This leads to speaking of the charism of the Founder and of the charism of the institute.  In order to better understand the charism of Claret as founder and the charism of our Congregation we need to present some general ideas on these topics.

3.1 The Charism of the Founder

            By the charism of the Founder we mean a special communication of grace, granted directly by the Spirit to an individual, in order to empower that person to found a religious institute and to configure its shape and identity[12]. The special, objective communication of grace enables the founder to live out the common elements of the Christian vocation, religious life and the different, specific elements of his or her charism[13], namely:

            a. The patrimony common to all Christians.  Every charism has its starting point in the the baptismal consecration, through which we share in Christ’s consecration. The baptismal consecration makes us a member of the Body of Christ and immerses us in the mystery of His death and resurrection, in order to configure us completely to Him.

            b. The patrimony common to all religious.  The charism, moreover, incorporates religious consecration, considered as a unique and fruitful deepening of the baptismal consecration, insofar as it develops as a configuration to Christ expressed and realized through efficacious profession of the evangelical counsels[14].

            c. Different, specific elements.  These specify how the two elements we have just mentioned are to be lived out:

• A special personal vocation.  The charism always involves a special vocation.  The type of life and mission to which God calls the person and for which God empowers the person through His gift of grace; the call to found…

• A specific spirituality.  Every charism gives rise to a spirituality[15]. The core of that spirituality is a specific way of living out the mystery of Christ.  From it, the founder lives out his or her baptismal and religious consecration.

• A prophetic vision directed toward a specific mission.  The specific way of living out the mystery of Christ illumines the eyes of the founder’s heart (cf. Ep. 1:18) to sees the needs of the Church and of people.  The milieu he or she is surrounded by is a theological space where signs of God’s saving will appear and where the founder discovers various needs of the Church, i.e., the mission that he or she and the congregation or institute that he or she is going to found must carry out within God’s plan of salvation (cf. Ep. 4:12)[16]. The prophetic vision makes the mission a new response to historical circumstances that responds to them positively, efficaciously and fruitfully.  The prophetic vision inspires the appropriate means for carrying out the mission.

• A specific lifestyle.  The charism is manifested through various traits and characteristics.  Its implementation configures the life of the founder and gives it a style, a specific character that also greatly contributes to configuring the particular life of the institution that he or she founds.

3.2. The Charism of the Institute or Congregation

            The charism of the founder, as a gift of grace intended to begin a form of life suited for many people to live and, by that token, a collective gift, is charism that is transmissible, enduring and able to be developed and updated.

            It is necessary to note from the outset that the charism of the founder, insofar as it is an objective gift of grace that a group must receive, can only be given or transmitted by the Spirit.  The founder, in the perspective we are using, cannot give or transmit his or her charism to others, nor can they acquire it on their own.  It is the Spirit that gives and transmits the collective charism of the founder to the founding group and to all who are graced with it over the course of time[17]. This communication becomes for them a personal vocation to live out, according to their personal circumstances, the charism received and, at the same time, to live it in a community vocation with other recipients of the same vocation.

            The charism of the founder is also transmissible as spiritual experience.  In this perspective of the subjective living of the gift, the experience of the collective charism realized by the founder, his or her spirit, is meant to be transmitted by that person to “his or her disciples so that it may be lived, cared for, deepened and constantly developed by them in concert with the Body of Christ in an on-going process of growth”[18]. When we speak of transmitting the charism we need to understand that we are speaking from this subjective perspective.

            The experience of the charism realized by the founder is transmitted, initially, to the founding group.  The foundational period configures the birth of the community of the institute and its future development, since during it, when the charismatic experience of the founder is taken on and lived in community, that experience is converted into a genetic code that delineates and configures the new community in its specific and proper aspects: its life, nature, purpose, spirit, classification and mission.

            The charism of the institute takes in the charism of the founder insofar as it remains, in an explicit and actualized way, in its history, lived out in the disciples who continue the original founding experience.  The charism of the institute is lived by its members as a vocation analogous to that of the founder and the founding group.

            The charism of the institute endures and is explicitated, actualized and developed over time, preserving the original and fundamental identity it had from the beginning by on-going creative and dynamic adaptation to the signs of the times.  The parts of this two-fold movement, fidelity and progress, are inseparable.  In this way the charism of the institute expresses the historical continuity of the charism received.  The explicitation, actualization and development is carried out only by the institute, not the individual.  Personal actualization, while necessary, does not express the total richness of the charism.

4. Tradition, Traditions and Spiritual Patrimony  

4.1. The Tradition of the Congregation

            By tradition of the Congregation we mean the accumulated living out of the charism by the entire institute throughout its history: the mindset of the institute or congregation, its lifestyle as a family, its role models, its saints, etc.  It is the specific treasure house of the life, spirituality and mission of an institute over the course of its history, taken as a whole.

4.2. Healthy Traditions

            Certain traditions also arise in an institute specifically related to the charism, i.e., ways of understanding, valuing and implementing aspects of the charism.  These are customs and usages, ideas, values related to the living out of the charism that go one being expressed in various areas of the institute’s life (spirituality, mission, lifestyle, etc.) and which are passed on from generation to generation. Their value depends on how closely they are connected to the charism.  For these traditions to form part of the spiritual patrimony of a Congregation, they must fulfill three conditions:

• They must be healthy, i.e., they must be in keeping with, and must express an essential aspect of the charism, without which it will suffer deterioration. They must remain strong in order to keep the charism alive. They must be, then, salutary, living, life-producing[19].

• They must be universal, i.e., they must be lived throughout the whole congregation.

• They must be permanent, i.e., they must endure throughout the congregation’s history.

4.3. Spiritual Patrimony

            The spiritual patrimony of an institute is made up of its charismatic experience (spirit and intention of the founder), its tradition and healthy traditions.  Vatican II asks each institute to recognize and preserve its spiritual patrimony[20].

5. Institutionalization and Historical Expression of the Charism

5.1. Institutionalization

            Institutionalization is the process of making the charism visible through expression, regulation and ecclesiastical recognition.  It is done above all through putting together rules and constitutions and through the approval of the Church, which discerns the authenticity of the charism and the appropriateness of its institutionalization[21]. Approval by the hierachy confirms the public, social and universal nature of the charism in such a way that the charism is officially declared to belong not to the institute alone, but to the whole Church.

5.2. Historical Expression

            Every charism must necessarily have its historical expression. The founder expresses the charism in his or her life and writings. The institute also expresses it in its teachings, its lived experience and its institutions. In both cases, the expression of the charism is necessarily incarnated in, and linked to the culture of a particular time and geographical location.

            The external expression of the charism, of the various elements that make it up, constitutes the nature of the institute, what kind of family it is[22].


            Having explained some ideas about charism in general, we are prepared to more clearly understand the charism of St. Anthony Mary Claret, our Founder and Father.

            The charism of the Fr. Founder contains, in addition to the elements that belong to the Christian baptismal consecration and those that belong to religious life, various characteristic and proper elements that have been described elsewhere in this manual[23]. To avoid repetition, we are now simply going to enumerate those elements that make up the Claretian charism, briefly highlighting each aspect:

1. A Special Personal Vocation

            For Claret, the charism is converted, first and foremost, into a particular call. His vocational journey appears as a manifestation of the charism with which God has graced him and which allows him to deduce from there the nature of that charism[24].

            His vocational journey clearly shows that the charism of St. Anthony Mary Claret as Founder is a missionary charism and basically expressed as the universal service or ministry of the Word in the style of the apostles[25].

2. A Unique Mission

            The interior illumination (prophetic inspiration) that in Claret produced his charism, espcially through its specific way of living out the mystery of Christ, carried with it an acute sensitivity for assessing the needs of the Church and led to a particular understanding of the mission God had entrusted to him, transmissible to all those who were called to the Congregation by the vocation of that same God[26].

            It is of interest to consider the attitudes wth which our Founder carried out his mission:

            “St. Anthony Mary Claret carried out his particular mission in the Church while animated by a lively sense of the Church and the hiearchy and by a catholic and universalist spirit.  He was impelled by an acute sensitivity toward whatever was most urgent, opportune and effective, having a decided preference for the poor and humble, and dedicating a special care to the consecrated.

            In the exercise of his personal vocation and his vocation as Founder, the Saint lived an evangelical life in the perfect following of Christ, with a deep sense of mission and with a powerful spirit of prayer and mortification, feeling himself directly linked to the teaching function of the Bishops in the proclamation of the Gospel”[27].

3. A Particular Spirituality

            The Christian experience of our Fr. Founder matured through a process dictated by his charism, which imparted characteristic traits to his spiritual physiognomy[28]. Like his vocation, his spirituality was decidedly apostolic[29].

            It is appropriate to emphasize that Claret’s apostolic spirituality was centered in a special way of knowing, understanding and living the mystery of Christ, his thought and his teaching.  As a brief expression of Claret’s particular christological experience, we can say that Claret understood and lived Christ as the Son sent by the Father, through Mary, in order to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom[30].

4. A Particular Lifestyle

            The Claretian charism configures a lifestyle.  The particular way of experiencing all the charismatic elements indicated makes Claret’s charism crystalize into a specific lifestyle[31].

            It is unthinkable that the apostolic mission would not give rise to a spirituality and that this would not be corroborated by the witness of a certain manner of life.  Spirituality, mission and lifestyle are intimately related.


            Our Congregation has kept alive the awareness that its founding was not a social event, but an event of the Holy Spirit, as on Pentecost, through the mediation of St. Anthony Mary Claret[32].

            In this perspective of grace, the charism of the Congregation is nothing other than the charism of Claret that is communicated by the Spirit to the group of all those called by God to form the Congregation and, as such, to live that charism in community.  The charism of the community is made up of those characteristic of Claret’s charism lived in community.

            The charism of the Congregation, as we have seen, is basically expressed in the life of St. Anthony Mary Claret and can be recognized in it.  Nevertheless, it is necessary to discover the community development that the charism has undergone in the history of the founding community and the Congregation (Constitutions, Directory, General Chapters, circular letters of the Fathers General, tradition, etc.). The history of the Congregation is the incarnation and existential ralization of the charism of Claret as founder[33].

            We now briefly explain the sense the Congregation has of its charism, distinguishing between what we might call the basic identity of the charism of the Congregation and the living experience of it.  Undoubtedly this delineates, in broad strokes, the charism of the Congregation.

1. The Basic Identity of the Congregation’s Charism

1.1. A Congregation of Missionaries in the Style of the Apostles

            By virtue of the Congregation’s charism we are a Congregation of apostolic missionaries, as our Foudner was, as the apostles were, called by Christ “to be with Him and so He might send them to preach” (Mk. 3:13-14). The awareness of being missionaries has been maintained throughout the Congregation’s entire history and has been clearly expressed starting with the General Chapters of renewal[34].

            The Constitutions make an important statement relative to the charism of the Congregation that manifests the consciousness the Congregation has about the identity of its chairsm: the purpose of the Congregation must be fulfilled “in keeping with our missionary charism in the Church”[35]. It is no surprise that the General Chapter of 1967 states that the name missionaries is substantive and essential[36] for us, as the Directory says:

            “The word missionary, understood in the light of the spiritual experience of St. Anthony Mary Claret, defines our charismatic identity. The title of Apostolic Missionary, which he received, synthesizes his ideal of life according to the style of the Apostles.  This way of life implies being disciples and to follow the Master, to live the evangelical counsels in a community of life with Jesus and the group of those who are called, to be sent and to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom to the whole world”[37].

1.2. A Congregation of Servants of the Word

            From its foundation up to the present moment, the charism of the Congregation has been understood, moreover, as a charism of missionary servants of the Word.  That is the experience and consciousness the Congregation has had throughout its history:

• The Constitutions of 1865 already state: “[…] will be effective helpers of the Prelates of the Church in the ministry of the Word”[38];

• the Fr. Founder proposes to our Students that they request as the goal of their formation to become “suitable ministers of God’s Word”[39];

• our specific mission as servants of the Word was treated in depth at the General Chapter of 1967[40];

• it is very clear in the present Constitutions[41];

• the theme of the General Chapter of 1991 centered on our condition as servants of the Word and the General Chapter of 1997 accentuated the prophetic dimension of that service.

            In conclusion, we can say that the prophetic service of the Word expresses the identity and nature of the charism and of the Congregation in the Church.

1.3. The Charismatic Identity: A Configuring and Energizing Principle

            The consciousness of being a community of apostolic missionaries for the service of the Word is the principle that configures and energizes all the experience that the Congregation realizes of its charism.

2. The Manifestation of the Charism in the Lived Experience of the Congregation

            On the level of religious experience, the community living of the Claretian charism involves receiving it and developing it collectively in the specific historical circumstances of time and place for the good of the Church[42]. Thus the Congregation’s charism is lived by the Congregation and is corporately expressed in its life—specifically, in its mission, spirituality and lifestyle, as significant areas of that life and where it is synthesized most concretely.  We present the most important charismatic characteristics and traits associated with these areas:

2.1. The Congregation’s Mission

            Our mission receives its basic identity and nature from the charism: it is missionary in the style of the apostles and it revolves around the service of the Word[43].

            In this area, the charism is also expressed in the characteristics of our mission as a Congregation and in its ministries:

            a. Charismatic Characteristics of the Mission:

            It is appropriate to highlight three charismatic characteristics of the Congregation’s mission: it is ecclesial, universal and prophetic[44].

            b. The Ministries of the Congregation. We Claretians have always been considered ministers of the Word, but the ministries by which this charism has become a reality have varied according to the needs of the times and of cultures.  In general, the charism of the Congregation has been realized in the following ministries[45]:

• In its earliest days, the tasks of the Congregation were popular missions, teaching catechism and giving retreats to clergy and religious.

• As it grew in numbers and new, urgent apostolic needs appeared, the Congregation’s mission expanded.  From simply catechizing children and adults, by recommendation of the Founder, the Congregation extended its activity into Christian education, strongly committing itself to schools[46]. Later came parishes, which were taken on because of their missionary possibilities.

• A result of Claret’s inspiration, and following his spirit, has been the attention paid to the formation of clergy and religious and to publications.  Attentiveness to the new evangelization of the people led the Congregation to the formation of evangelizers, spiritual direction or teaching in seminaries and universities, specialized and popular publications.

            At the conclusion of this rapid review of the ministries in which the charismatic mission of the Congregation has been expressed, it is clear that the universality of means for evangelization called for in the Constitutions[47], must be understood as a universality that is consistent with the ministry of the Word and the prophetic mission.  The Claretian must be a missionary servant of the Word in the parish, in the school, in every work or ministerial position[48].

            But what principles or criteria do we follow in choosing appropriate means for fulfilling our evangelizing mission? The principles are found in nn. 46-49 of the Constitutions.  These same Constitutions propose what is most urgent, opportune and effective as valid criteria for choosing the means[49].

2.2. The Congregation’s Spirituality

            Spirituality is the internalization and the subjective living out of the charism.

            a. Basic Charactersitic. The internalization and living out of the Christian and religious vocation, from the specific Claretian and congregational core values, generates a specific missionary spirituality.

            b. Main Characteristics. The Congregation’s spirituality, by being the communal living out of the Claretian charism, has characteristics similar to those discovered in the spirituality of the Founder, although in the Congregation it is lived out enriched and developed by the common experience of the founding community and the spiritual patrimony of the Congregation.  Concretely, paying attention to the traits that configure and characterize it, our spirituality is:

A spirituality of hearers and servants of the Word of God, because “welcoming the Word makes us disciples; to proclaim it and be its witnesses is our way of following Jesus (cf. SW 13). We contemplate the Master and listen to His word in order to proclaim the kingdom, opening our hearts to it and sharing the hopes and anxieties of our brothers and sisters” (cf. SW 15)[50]. Moreover, under the maternal action of Mary, we learn to listen to and welcome the Word, to give it flesh in the commitment we live out, to share it with our brothers and sisters and to communicate it with the same readiness and generosity as she did[51].

• A Christ-centered spirituality, because the following of Christ as is proposed in the Gospel is for us the supreme rule[52]. Our missionary life represents in the Church the virginity, the poverty and the obedience of Christ, dedicated to the preaching of the Gospel[53]. The real interior and exterior configuration to Christ the Evangelizer, in the way in which our Fr. Founder realized it, and intimate communion and friendship with Him are the root of missionary identity, of all that we are and all that we do[54].

• A Eucharistic spirituality that is the generative center of our missionary and community life. It is also a powerful call to realize the definition of the missionary and to transform the world according to God’s plan. The celebration of the Eucharist and devotion to the Presence of the Lord are the axes of our spirituality and the power for our journey[55].

• A spirituality of total dedication to the Father that, as a consequence of the christological characteristic, clearly emphasizes that God alone is sufficient. The Claretian missionary is totally and exclusively dedicated to the Father, imitating the Lord who lived with an attitude of total filial dedication to the Father[56].

• A spirituality of Cordi-Marian sonship, related also to the christological characteristic. A Cordi-Marian spirituality is found in both the Founder and ourselves.

             “Claret presented the Heart of Mary to us as the burning forge where we are formed for the ministry.  The community discovers and learns the way to listen in the Heart of Mary.  By the indwelling of the Word, we will not live divided, nor be insensitive to God’s crying out to us in men and women (cf. SW 7). Our prophetic lifestyle receives a distinctive imprint from the Heart of Mary, Mother of the Congregation.  She teaches us that without heart, without tenderness, without love, there is no credible prophecy (IPM 20)”[57].

• A spirituality of sacrifice and self-denial, in imitation of the Lord who washed His disciples feet, and which is derived from our identification with Christ and our specific apostolic mission[58].

2.3. The Congregation’s Lifestyle   

            The lifestyle of the Congregation constitutes its specific character in the Church, its nature and it ways of being a family[59]. The Claretian chairsm is lived out of the specific individual vocation as an ordained minister or a layman[60]. But the Congregation, within its diversity, is essential one, like the Church. Thus the lifestyle of its members must basically be one and of a missionary nature.

            The Congregation’s missionary lifestyle is configured in the founding community and set down in the Constitutions and the Directory.  Let us now recall some characteristics and attitudes in the founding community and in the later Congregation:

            a. Initial lifestyle. The Fr. Founder summarized the lifestyle of the first Claretian community: “…and in the School we live in community a life that is truly poor and apostolic”[61]. The Fr. Founder also wanted the lifestyle of the Congregation to be dictated by:

• The Constitutions and the directives of the General Chapters[62].

• The definition of the missionary[63].

• The mission. The life of the first community was not conventual, but apostolic.  It was governed by apostolic works.  In the first Constitutions there was a rule for the time of missions[64].

• The apostolic virtues, as proposed in the Autobiography[65].

• Various counsels left to us by the Founder himself, especially regarding mortification, austerity in food and drink, and ongoing formation for the apostolate[66].

• The image of the beehive that our houses and communities should be as open, apostolic and bustling (etc.) houses[67]; also the image of the home for prayer, study, giving or receiving formation conferences during times not given over to missionary activity[68].

• The examples that Claret gave us during his lifetime and that he indicated for his missionaries in the Autobiography.

            b. Lifestyle in our history. As time went on the lifestyle of the original community changed in certain external aspects.  The General Chapter of renewal held in 1967 attempted to return to the spirit it had at the beginning[69].

            The General Chapter of 1979 indicated various attitudes and characteristics that must be present in all Claretian service to the Church and that create a lifestyle which declares the Congregation’s mission[70]. Specifically, the Claretian:

• proclaims the Father so that the Father may be known and loved.  This is what Claret meant by “the glory of God”[71]

• feels himself anointed and sent to the poor (love impels us to commit ourselves to our fellow men and women)[72];

• feels himself to be a son and minister of Mary, formed in the forge of her love;

• by his personal poverty proclaims to people the riches of the Kingdom;

• through his virginity that makes him available expresses his burning love ;

• through his obedience to the Church, the Pope and the Bishop, proclaims the mystery of the obedient Christ, attentive to the Father’s glory and always itinerant;

• through his community life recalls the apostolic community, a community evangelized and evangelizing;

• lives his faith and his love of the Word that he listens to and assimilates in order to better carry out his prophetic function and his role as apostle, witness and martyr;

• pays careful attention to the needs of the world and of the Church, tries out a great variety of means in order to achieve the salvation of men and women and always keeps himself attentive to what is most urgent, opportune and effective.

            This is a matter of attitudes and characteristics that define a life project for mission and that propose, moreover, a level of quality of life already molded in the holiness modeled by St. Anthony Mary Claret and our many brothers who have generously tried to live up to it.  This lifestyle is most perfectly reflected in the Definition of a Son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

3. Institutionalization of the Claretian Charism

            Institutionalization makes the Claretian charism historical and identifiable in the Church.  It has been institutionalized in the life of Claret, in the life of the founding community and of each and every Claretian, in the way it is presented in our Constitutions, etc. Every apostolic, organizational and juridical structure of the Congregation presents and institutionalizes it, making it visible.

            But the most significant institutionalization comes from the recognition that has been conferred on it by the Church in approving the Congregation and its Constitutions.  The Church has institutionalized it, recognizing and approving its existence, by recognizing and proving the realities it has produced.

            The Claretian charism has not only been institutionalized in the Congregation.  This has also been done in the other institutions also founded by Claret and recognized by the Church, such as the Religious of Mary Immaculate, the Claretian Missionary Sisters, the Cordi-Marian Filiation secular institute and the Lay Claretian Movement.  It has also been done to some extent in other institutions and people linked more indirectly to the charism of Claret.

            Institutionalization is an open-ended task. We cannot institutionalize our charism or make it visible in the Church once and for all, nor in one uniform way.  Rather we have to renew our response to God’s call day by day in a consistent evolution. Institutionalizaion, however, is not a task of everyone, carried out in a haphazard way.  Thus, it is officially crystalized in the General Chapter, which is the servant of the charism for the brothers, represents the Congregation and collegially expresses the participation of all.[73].

4. Historical Development in Creative Fidelity

            The Claretian charism is a word that God addresses to the world and to the Church at a specific time and that is incarnated in various specific social and cultural projections. Through them it makes visible and manifests its efficacy and usefulness in the world and in the Church of that time.  And, as a word of God, it must be developed and adapted to diferent places, cultures and times by the Congregation.

            Thus it is necessary to live the elements of the Claretian charism, the Congregation’s tradition and its healthy traditions in creative fidelity[74]. Fidelity to our charism does not mean slavishly repeating expressions and apostolic works tied to an historical moment in the Congregation where it was illustrious because of what it was doing.  Fidelity means always finding inspiration in the way the Fr. Founder operated in order to express his spiritual experience in the way that most adequately meets the new circumstances, so that we can respond as he did to the mission the Spirit wanted to raise up in the Church. In keeping with this creative fidelity, the General Chapters have been talking about revision of apostolic positions.


            The Fr. Founder expressed his willingness to transmit his profound living out of the charism, i.e., his spirit, to the Congregation by agreeing to write the Autobiography, by revising various editions of the Constitutions, and by leaving us many writings, such as the retreat he preached to the communities of Vic and Gracia in 1865[75],the letter to Fr. Xifré about Christian education[76] and many other autobiographical and spiritual writings.

            At the time he founded the Congregation, Claret invited, convoked, animated and oriented others. In this way the Claretian way of living the charism, his spirit, was transmitted to his first missionaries.  That transmission continued after the death of the Fr. Founder and goes on even today.  What is transmitted is his style, his focus, his way of life in order to  orient a common destiny.  This involves the necessary historical specification that is given in the institutionalization of the group, in the Constitutions, in the emerging spirituality, in the specific mission, in the way of serving the Church, etc.

            As signs of communion and bonds of unity, it is the responsibility of the superiors to maintain and animate the living out of the Congregation’s charism in the community of missionaries[77]. The essential way and key to animation and development of this living out is the formation process that embraces the whole life of the Claretian missionary. Its objective is “to promote our growth in union with, and configuration to Christ, according to the Claretian charism in the Church”[78]. Our formation is thus of high quality when it is truly Claretian. From that educational perspective, the specific dynamic of charismatic growth affects the points that we will now discuss.

1. Formation in the Charismatic Identity

            This involves, above all, assimilating Claretian values; divesting oneself and identifying oneself with the common charism, enriched with those personal charisms that are not opposed to it; preserving it and making it grow in depth and extent. In order to do this it is necessary to take care that the charismatic values, clearly defined, are expressed as often and as clearly as possible in the ordinary moments of our lives as well as in the extraordinary ones (spiritual exercises, retreats, the forge, activities of initial and continuing formation, etc.).

2. Formation in the Community Dimension of the Claretian Charism

            This presupposes knowing in depth the history of the Congregation and its spiritual patrimony as it has been collected in our most representative documents (Constitutions, Directory, General Chapters, Circular Letters, etc.). In this way, beyond the observance of rules and norms, we are a community united by virtue of the common charism, received from the Spirit with Mary and its growth impulses fostered.

            This quality spontaneously and naturally pervades community dynamisms and is expressed specifically in a Community Project that emphasizes what is Claretian in the practice of community prayer.  This must include certain charsimatic emphases (the centrality of the Word of God, configuration to Christ the Missionary, the mediation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary or the acceptance of the Congregation’s liturgical and prayer tradition).

            Of particular importance is the use of Claretian symbols.  These are signs of the identity of our congregational selves and translate our charism into gestures, rites, pictures, sculptures, poetry, books, liturgies, customs, lifestyles, temporal rhythms of celebration and remembrance, etc.

3. Formation for the Apostolic Dimension of the Claretian Charism   

            This involves taking on the service of the Word as the configuring and organizing principle of our life and apostolic action, maintaining the specific originality and imagination[79] which that service had at the beginning.  This requires always making sure that the charism pervades our apostolic positions and works, our missionary options, the preferred recipients and the corresponding demands that derive from this, in such a way that the charism of our Fr. Founder, without losing its uniqueness, keeps on being of use to the life and mission of the Church.

4. Spreading and Transmitting the Living Out of the Charism

            Spreading the Claretian charism is basically realized by living it.   And this involves:

• Encouraging people to know our Founder as a gift of the Spirit to the Church in general and in particular to the church where we live, and creating a climate that fosters our charism in such a way that infectiously and little by little our “claretian-ness” pervades our environments and gives life to the missionary spirituality of people graced with the same gift.

• Making sure that by means of our welcome and the normal expression of our spirituality and missionary life we bring others to see things with the same eyes as our Fr. Founder, i.e., with his sensibilities, his heart, his ideals, his perceptions, his missionary way of thinking.

      [1] In this Manual a summary of the characteristics that describe the Claretian charism is presented.  Some of these characteristics will be further developed in other chapters.

                [2] “A multitude made one through the unity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (LG 4; cf. LG 2-4, 7).

                [3] Cf. LG 12; in relation to the ideas in this section, cf. DC 1-9.

                [4] Cf. LG 44; cf. also VC 14, 16, 18, 22, 29.

                [5] Cf. LG 43-44; PC 1; cf. also VC 16, 18-22.

                [6] Cf. LG 43.

                [7] Cf. LG 43.

                [8] “in order to be consecrated to God alone”(LG 42); “supremely loved”, “is consecrated more intimately to God’s service” (LG 44); “seeking God alone and before all else” (PC 5) .

                [9] Cf. LG 46; PC 5.

                [10] Cf. CIC c. 607, 2; cf. also VC 42, 47, 54, 72.

                [11] Cf. LG 44; VC 26, 84. 

                [12] The expression charism of the founder does not refer to a personal charism.  That expression summarizes what some theologians call the founder charism (grace for founding) and the charism of the founder (to configure the shape and spirituality of the institute).

                [13] Besides these elements that make up the charism of the founder, it is possible to receive personal graces to be lived and experienced only by him or her, as, for example, the grace of preserving the sacramental species granted to Claret.

                [14] Cf. VC 30; CC 39; PE 20-23

                [15] It is appropraite to distinguish between charism and spirituality or spirit. The charism is the gift of God.  It is something objective.  On the other hand, the spirituality or the spirit is something subjective, the manner of possessing and living out, in time and space, the objective elements involved in the charism.

                [16] Rather than a specific apostolic work, it is a matter of the missionary orientation, the originating apostolic commitment, which later has to be made visible in specific apostolic works; but the charism as such is identified with none of these (cf. CC 13; PE 30; MCT 72)

                [17] The charism of the founder is manifested as a collective charism precisely in the fact that from the very beginning it is shared by others, who, in the originating experience of the group, enrich and clarify it.

                [18] MR 11. Of course, the elements of his or her charism oriented toward founding (the founding charism) is not transmitted to the institute, nor are the strictly personal elements of his or her charism.

                [19] Cf. PC 2b.

                [20] Cf. Ibid.

                [21] Cf. LG 12, 45.

                [22] Cf. PC 2b; DC 25.

                [23] Cf. Chapter 4, “Claret, Founder and Model of Apostolic Life”.

                [24] Claret’s experience of his vocation is explained in section 1 of chapter 4.

                [25] The whole Congregation fully agrees on this expression as defining the charism of our Founder (cf. MCT 56; cf. also 52).               

                [26] Cf DC 5. For the description of Claret’s charismatic mission, see ch. 4, II. 3.

                [27] DC 12.

                [28] The experience is expressed in the General Plan of Formation as a pedagogical proposal starting from the allegory of the forge (cf. GPF 123-127; cf. also OMS, pp. 26-28).

                [29] This is described in section II, 1 of chapter 4. 

                [30] Cf CC 3.4.5.

                [31] The description of its most outstanding characteristics is found in section 11, 2 of chapter 4.

                [32] Cf. MCT 70; CC 1, 86.

                [33] Cf. MCT 73.

                [34] Cf. From the very beginning the title of the Congregation has been Missionaries (cf. CC of 1857 in CCTT, p. 142 and successive CC). The definition of the Son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is the definition of apsotolic missionary (cf. CC 9). Claret calls Fr. Xifré General of the Missionaries and writes his Autobiography for the missionaries (Aut. 1)… The use of the term missionary is habitual in recent General Chapters (cf., e.g., MCT 70-71; CPR 2,3,6; SW 3,4,6,7; IPM 1,2).

                [35] CC 2; cf. also ibid. 153

                [36] Cf. 1AP 5; PE 47.

                [37] Dir 26; cf. OMS, p. 18.

                [38] CC 1865, n. 2.

                [39] Ibid. 95.

                [40] Cf. DC. 20-23, 27-30; PE. 10, 27, 41; AP. 5; F. 32.

                [41] Cf. CC 6, 13, 46, 73.

                [42] Cf. MCT 71-72.

                [43] The identity and nature of our mission in the Church is presented in ch. 10, II, 1 of this manual (“The Claretian Mission”).

                [44] These characteristics are presented in ch. 10, II, 2 of this manual.

                [45] This summary is taken from MCT 73-76.

                [46] Cf. Letter to Xifré, 16 July 1869, EC II, p. 1406ff.

                [47] “using all means possible” (CC 6,48).

                [48] One of the roles of the General Chapters has been to update these ministries.

                [49] Cf. CC 48. Other criteria are explained in ch. 10, II, 5.

                [50] OMS, p. 19.

                [51] Cf. MCT 151.

                [52] Cf. CC 4.

                [53] Cf. CC 5.

                [54] Cf. OMS, pp. 19-20; Dir 94.

                [55] Cf. OMS, pp. 38-39.

                [56] Cf. CC 3; PE 8, 4.

                [57] OMS, p. 20.

                [58] Cf. PE 47. For other characteristics of the Congregation’s spirituality developed in creative fidelity by the recent General Chapters cf. OMS, pp. 22-24.

                [59] Cf. PC 2b; DC 25.

                [60] Cf. DC 21.

                [61] Cf. Letter to Caixal, 5 Sept. 1849, EC I, p. 316.

                [62] Cf. Letter to Xifré, 16 July 1869, EC II, p. 1406.

                [63] Cf. CC 9.

                [64] Cf. CCTT, pp. 245 ss.

                [65] Cf. Aut 340-453.

                [66] Cf. Cf. Aut 406, 684.

                [67] Cf. Aut 608.

                [68] Cf. Letter to Caixal, 5 Sept. 1849, EC I, p. 316; cf. Aut 491.

                [69] The Chapter introduced changes in the horarium and the internal regulation of the community (cf. 1VR 93, 131; cf. also PE 30); it restored the idea of the community being at the service of the world (cf. 2VR 36); it began talking about community for the sake of mission (cf. MCT 126-141) and, at the same time, considered it as the environment in which the Claretian grows and develops (cf. CPR 60-65); it presented the community as a prophetic one so that world may believe (cf. IPM 27-34).

                [70] Cf. MCT 85-86.

                [71] Cf. Aut 42, 153.

                [72] Cf. Aut 313,448.

                [73] Cf. CC 153.

                [74] Cf. VC 36-37.

                [75] Cf. CCTT, pp. 581-606.

                [76] Cf. Letter to Xifré, 16 July 1869, EC II, p. 1406ff. In this letter he states, in a pressing way, his intention of clarifying a characteristic of the Congregation’s mission.

                [77] Cf. CC 104; Dir 22.

                [78] Cf. GPF 12.

                [79] Cf. EN 69.