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 15: The Unity of the Missionary Life

            One of the objectives of formation that was widely discussed after Vatican II referred to preparing those in formation to live and experience personal unity in the living out of their own vocation.

            The experience of personal unity means that one always feels that one is the same person over the course of one’s personal history and in all the varied situations and circumstances one has lived through. It is the experience that I personally have of being myself, enduring and evolving at the same time, by undergoing profound changes. It is the experience of being aware of myself as feeling, perceiving, learning and thinking; it is being able to exert control over my own personality in every circumstance, no matter what environment I find myself in. From the perspective of religious life, personal unity occurs when one preserves one’s own identity in prayer, apostolate, community life, and during changes in the institution and the Congregation. The religious finds his or her personality totally involved in each of these areas without any internal division or rupture. In order to help achieve personal unity, we offer the following orientations, divided into four parts:






1. Vatican II

            Vatican II, when talking about formation of religious, emphasizes that the instruction that is provided to those being formed during the different phases of their education should be harmoniously coordinated and should contribute to the unity of their life.[1]

            Instruction is harmonious if the content communicated during the learning process has internal unity and avoids scattering and lack of organization of ideas, materials, specialties, etc. It will also be harmonious if it is consistent with the life and mission of their own religious institute. Lastly, harmony also requires that instruction be in concert with the rhythm and degree of the personal evolution of those being formed.

            If the formation instruction alluded to by the Council has these characteristics it will be an integrating factor in the personality and will help those being formed to achieve unity of life. How does it do this? It does it by providing young religious with a coherent set of values that they must discover during their formation, without which it is impossible for them to realize their option for religious life. The set of values has to be consistent with the life and mission of the Institute in order to help them choose that Institute as their own, feel an identification with it and affectively and effectively belong to it. The consistency and harmony of the values presented at decisive moments in their formation when the young people open themselves generously to a new vision of the world and of their own personality, favorably impacts the personalization of these values. In order for the world of values that those being formed discover not to be mere instruction they must be living values of a kind that stimulate personal growth and whose living out is experienced as self-realization and the realization of their vocational project.

2. Other Church Documents

            Renovationis Causam offers us a wider and deeper perspective on formation.

            The instruction that Vatican II talks about is certainly necessary for those being formed to attain unity of life; but it is not completely sufficient. If we limit ourselves to instruction, certain personal dynamisms that are necessary to orient toward the unity of the person still remain outside personal integration. These include the whole dynamic world of tendencies and motivations, and the process of personal adaptation to the environments in which one finds oneself; all this lies outside the realm of simple instruction.

            Renovationis Causam indicates as one of the basic objectives of formation the following:

“to progressively realize in the life [of those being formed] that coherent and harmonious unity that exists between contemplation and apostolic activity, a unity that is one of the fundamental and primary values of these Institutes.”[2]

            All pedagogical means, programmed in an evolutionary and progressive way, must always intend to stimulate and encourage the experience of the unity between one’s interiority and one’s external world. Those being formed will have to live lives with no operational dualism and no internal divisions or ruptures between praying and working, between living in community and directly relating to God and other people.

            Other Church documents have taken up the same theme, such as Potissimum Institutioni[3] and Vita Consecrata.[4]

3. Claret, a Witness of a Process of Personal Unity

            Claret’s life and spiritual experience allow us to know the process he went through to reach the point of living personal unity. This was an inner unity that was essential for living in and with Christ and necessary for carrying out his apostolic mission.

            Claret, although kindly by nature,[5] was very active and had a strong character. Clotet said that he had a very intense character and the inclination to get angry at times.[6] But we also know that he had to accept roles with which he was not totally happy and that he was persecuted and slandered to the utmost. Claret needed to control himself and control the difficult situations he had to suffer. He focused his spiritual attention on all this in life plans and in resolutions made during spiritual exercises.

            In order to achieve interior unity he had to have the virtue of meekness. He focused his attention on this key virtue in the interior process for several years.[7]

            The initial motives for living meekness are the following: being a person, being a Christian and his vocation (priest and bishop).[8] In a Christian and vocational context he appealed to carrying out God’s will.[9] He followed the example of the meekness of Jesus, “meek and humble of heart” (cf. Mt. 11:19) and the Blessed Virgin Mary, his Mother and Formatrix.  He said that she never got angry and she always had an internal and external evenness.[10]

            In an apostolic context he was also motivated by the people. For their good, Claret always made the effort to do everything with patience, meekness and amiability, avoiding acting precipitately, or with anger or annoyance.[11]

            In the life plan he wrote done in his Autobiography,[12] he writes a text that could serve as a summary of the entire process:

“I resolve to keep an even temper and disposition, never allowing myself to be carried away by anger, impatience, sadness or exaggerated joy, always remembering the example of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, who also had their trials and far greater ones than mine. I will think that God has arranged things this way for my own good, and so I will not complain.  Rather, I will say, “Thy will be done”. I will remember what St. Augustine says: “Either do God’s will or suffer what you would not.” I will also recall what God told St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzis: to maintain the same unchanging pleasant mood with every sort of person, yet never let slip one word of flattery. Of St. Martin we read that he seemed never to be upset or sad or laughing, but always in an even mood of heavenly joy. So great was his patience that although they knew he was their prelate, even the least of his clergy could rest assured that if they offended him, he would not chastise them.”[13]

            Claret succeeded, with God’s grace and his personal efforts, in controlling his aggressive character, dominating his feelings and passions, maintaining an extraordinary inner balance and evenness of spirit, having great courage in the face of difficulties and persecutions, and showing a great love for his enemies.[14]

4. The Congregation

4.1. The Constitutions

            The Constitutions enjoin the novice-master to “be concerned that the novices acquire that distinctive unity of missionary life wherein the spirit of union with God goes hand in hand with apostolic work.”[15] Seeing that the novices acquire personal unity is one of his functions as a formator and one of the objectives of the novitiate. Consequently, he must pay close attention to achieving this through a wise and prudent pedagogy.

4.2. The General Plan of Formation

            Our GPF groups these orientations into various times and gives them different nuances:[16]

“The Claretian Missionary’s integral formation involves the harmonious and balanced development of all facets of his personality from the perspective of the gift he has received.  Being Claretians is our concrete way of being people, Christians, religious, priests and apostles. Harmonization of all these facets of our personality allows us to attain that unity of missionary life by virtue of which union with God and apostolic activity are perfectly integrated, avoiding any dichotomy or extremism. This integration, a task and a result of personal maturation, is, above all, a work of the Spirit.  It is attained when our personal love for Christ becomes our center.  Out of it we can integrate all dimensions, even those which seem contradictory. On the other hand, humble acknowledgment of our own gifts and limitations will open us to the other’s gifts and talents complement our own.”[17]

            “We must every effort to achieve the kind of life where consecration and mission are united, as are self-offering to God and dedication to our brothers and sisters, praise and service.”[18]

            “Finding in [Mary] the person who inspires the life synthesis that each person being formed must put together throughout the formation process until he arrives at full interior unity.”[19]


            The personality of the religious, as a believing and consecrated person who is, at the same, inserted into a particular environment, is subject to the dynamic influence of factors that create existential tensions in his life.  Although the person is basically and structurally one, still he does not possess existential unity, from a dynamic point of view, from the outset. It is a conquest.

            What factors have a dynamic impact on the person of the religious? They derive from his personality, from his religious option and from environmental stimuli (physical, social, cultural) that he lives with. These factors are normal and necessary for the growth and development of the personality, factors which impel the person to gain mastery, mature and experience his own internal unity.

1. The Religious as a Person

            The religious, as the human person he is, possesses all the wealth of personality, as well as limitations imposed on him by the human condition itself. The first structure that conditions the life of the religious is the structure of his own personality, his physical makeup, his temperament and his character. These factors so much determine his future and his internal dynamic that his lifestyle largely is derived from them.

            a. From a structural perspective, the personality is made up of different levels, from instinct to thought-out behavior.  These levels are not static. Each has its own distinctive and specific function, which dynamically affects the entire person, positively or negatively as the case may be. Thus, a visual defect leads to personal insecurity; a perception of people based on stereotypes and personal prejudices conditions human relationships and life in community. A good intellect helps considerably in overcoming problems of adapting in life.

            b. From a dynamic perspective, the personality is driven to act and to behave in specific ways by various types of tendencies (needs, impulses, pressures, motivations, etc.).  Although these tendencies are united in the person, they are autonomous; each has its own function and is often at cross-purposes. The tendencies are an unending source of conflicts, especially when they are frustrated, that influence a person’s emotional life. This emotional life, by its very nature, conditions the way a person sees himself and the world around him. They are factors that, when they are disordered and channeled improperly, give rise to the awareness of one’s personal disintegration, since they are highly variable and changeable.

            c. From a developmental perspective, the development of the personality passes through various stages that are intimately related and that progressively condition one another. Personality growth increases significantly at decisive moments and affects the person physically and psychologically as the person experiences deep changes in himself. When the developmental process of growth and expansion does not occur satisfactorily, it can produce various defects (fixations and regressions) that mark the future dynamic of the personality. It is not surprising that many attitudes and behaviors of the personality have their roots in previous developmental stages that after certain period keep on acting on the subconscious level.

            d. The religious possesses these factors as part of his makeup from the moment he is born. The interaction that is established among them can produce the consciousness that one is divided or broken internally. The process of personal maturation helps to overcome one’s own reality and one’s own limitations; to accept limitations that are necessary and cannot be overcome; to channel and integrate tendencies harmoniously so that each one is at the service of the others and all serve the personality as a whole.

2. The Religious a Believer and Specially Consecrated

            As a believer, the religious accepts Jesus and the complex of Gospel values by faith. As specially consecrated, the religious wants to live the radical following of Christ and the demands incumbent on the Lord’s disciples.

            The complex of values involved in the person of Jesus and in His Gospel is not, for the religious, a complex of indifferent values. It is not simply a conceptual framework nor cultural knowledge. The vocational word of Jesus is incisive, profound and definitive. It continually challenges the religious in his life and work and conditions his psychology and lifestyle. Jesus is, or at least should be, his Way, his Truth and his Life (cf. Jn. 16:6).

            The religious, in order to understand his vocation and its consequences must have the mind of God and must give up certain, merely human ways of thinking. The option for Jesus is radical and nullifies other possible options incompatible with Him. Sincere living out of the charism of virginity implies the constructive effort to sublimate, to integrate one’s sexuality and its impulses. The radical charity to which he commits himself by his life is not compatible with the selfish and narcissistic tendencies of the person; on the contrary, it leads him not only to love his friends, but also his enemies, to return good for evil, to bear all things for the sake of the Gospel, to die to self in order to live for God and to really and concretely give his own life if necessary.

            Thus, faith and the radical nature of the Gospel become a source of deep inner conflicts for the religious, which he feels and experiences in the inmost depths of himself (cf. Lk. 12:49-53). His option to follow Jesus does not mean comfort or the absence of existential tensions. Even St. Paul experienced in himself the existential consequences of his faith.  Experience teaches us that many young men who seek their self-realization in religious life feel in themselves, before making the choice, gut-wrenching tension between oneself and Christ. Maturing in one’s vocation through the formation process in order to be authentic and to guarantee future success, must involve moments of existential conflict in which one returns to personally opting for the values that are accepted in profession. Fidelity to vocation is a road one travels throughout one’s life that is often beset with tensions between the demands of one’s self and those of the Gospel (cf. Rm. 7:14-15).[20]

3. The Religious, Inserted into the Environment Around Him

            The religious, like every person, is born, lives and develops his personality in contact with the environment around him, which is physical as well as human and social.  With the option for a vocation that is a sign of Gospel values, he must be in the midst of peoples and cultures and must share in the joys, hopes, sorrows and anxieties of the people of our time.  As an apostle, he must be incarnated into the human environment if he wants to make the message of Jesus that he experiences in his life and has to communicate to people intelligible.

            But the surrounding environment is not neutral or passive; on the contrary, it is active and dynamic. By its profound effect on the individual’s personality it is a determining factor in the development of the person. Through the socialization process, the individual and the environment condition one another; both flow together and by this mutual influence the personality keeps on growing and being developed. From his birth, the subject keeps acquiring and assimilating cultural standards and models of behavior that go on shaping him.

            The physical and social environments actively flow into the structure of the personality and its various levels.  Physical, social and cultural stimuli give rise to and direct the functions of the personality; the subject feels, perceives, experiences, learns and thinks about active data that comes to him from the outside, spurring his personal development. In this way, social and environmental factors create force fields of attraction and repulsion, which are experienced in the form of conflicts that are more or less intense.

4. The Positive Value of Existential Conflict

            Existential conflict is a normal situation in a person’s life and it is, moreover, a situation that should be positive for the person.

            Through the conflict, the personality grows, matures and becomes creative. A deeply motivated person with strong tendencies will always be dynamic, active and tireless in its self-realization. A high, but not impossible, level of aspirations, consistent with one’s own possibilities, will always be an incentive to personal creativity and a source of deep satisfaction. The committed person, involved in life situations that are often contradictory, can develop his potential to the maximum degree. A stimulating environment, rich in incentives, accepted and personally assimilated, spurs the realization of a person’s potential, even though the assimilation process may cause frustration on some other personal level.

5. Ways of Confronting the Existential Conflict

            What matters in life is not the conflict the person experiences, but his personal attitude towards it and the concrete way he confronts and overcomes it. In the face of a situation of conflict, the person can employ two solutions: one, integrating and enriching the personality; the other, disintegrating it.

            a. In the integrating solution the person tries to take on the factors that influence the development of his personality in the way they deserves, according to his value system, giving them an internal and dynamic unity. The person is master of the situation and controls his tendencies and the external influences. Even though he may at times experience the impact of the factors that influence his personality, he never loses control of them.

            In the face of possible frustration and failure, the person is tolerant of them. He is not worn down by them and does not let himself be dominated by distress and anxiety.  Rather, he looks for new solutions, restates the problem, intensifies coping devices and harnesses new willpower. He will try any kind of solution rather than see himself fall apart and become unable to carry out his life project. This process is the oath to awareness of personal unity.

            b. The disintegrating solution has a totally negative effect on the personality. In this case, the person is completely helpless and feels incapable of unifying the tendencies and motivations. The tendencies impose their rhythm on the person and demand satisfaction. Sometimes they impose themselves in such a way that, in extreme cases, they end up controlling the person. The personality is at the mercy of impulses and tendencies.

            On other occasions, the weak person caves in to social pressure with a negative dependence on the environment, with no autonomy or inner freedom. He feels abandoned and subject to the seesawing of circumstances. His possibilities are restricted; he is master neither of himself, his actions, his decisions nor his choices. In this situation the person has no present and no future and is totally dependent on the influence of the moment.

            In the face of conflict and frustration, the person does not confront reality and is incapable of making positive personal decisions. His reaction is to escape from the situation, take refuge in himself, becoming aggressive and attacking others, etc. He feels out of control and divided and this experience causes him anguish and anxiety that he cannot master or channel, a condition which turns into a cause for new anguish and anxieties.

            In religious life, when a similar situation arises, problems can multiply. The religious in this situation experiences a lack of personal identity and a lack of adaptation to the values involved in his life project. He finds no satisfaction in prayer, nor community life, nor living the vows, nor apostolic activity. If, in addition, the person lacks the resources of faith and vocational awareness, the situation is aggravated since the life project he has embraced makes no sense if it is lived out of the Gospel. In these circumstances one ends up either leading a mediocre life or having a dual personality with satisfactions on the margin of the demands of one’s vocation or ends up abandoning the project of religious life.


            Taking into account the existential situation of the religious, suitable formation planning will consist in helping those being formed to positively integrate all the internal and external forces that influence their personality in order to achieve the experience of personal unity. The pedagogical orientations that are presented it aim in this direction.

1. Positive Acceptance of Existential Conflict

            To begin with, existential conflict is a reality the religious must accept for his self-realization. As has been indicated above, the factors that cause existential tension are normal and necessary factors in the human person, without which there would be no growth or self-realization. Some of them are factors derived from one’s personal and social condition (personality, character, qualities, aspirations, family environment, social, cultural or Church environment, etc.), and others have been taken on by the religious freely and voluntarily through faith and love in accepting the following of Christ as the best way to carry out his Christian vocation.

            The acceptance of the conflict must be positive, i.e., without a passive and fatalistic conformity that is apathetic and negative. On the contrary, personal and vocational development, the process of interaction that culminates in personal unity and a lively experience of it is an ongoing process, active and dynamic. Vocation is responded to every day with creativity and originality, in constant growth and fidelity, overcoming obstacles and difficulties.

            Many of the problems religious suffer in the future, and which they often cannot overcome, are due to not knowing the psychotically dynamisms of their own personality. There are religious who become disoriented in the face of any conflict, lose hope and are tragically destroyed. There are also many religious who, when faced with some normal crisis arising from the impact and contrariness of internal and external factors, are plunged into a vocational crisis that calls into question their fundamental option for religious life. They call a vocation crisis what is simply an emotional crisis, a simple problem of adapting to a community or a normal process of integrating into an apostolate. And so their vocation is often in crisis, since their personal growth dynamic marches in step with the forces they encounter.

2. Personal Unity Out of the Spirit

            The Spirit who anoints us for mission gives meaning and unity to our life.[21] All of us have received the Spirit in Baptism and have been confirmed in the gift of the vocation calling us to the Claretian Congregation. Moreover, for us the Spirit of the Father and the Son is also the Spirit of our Mother.[22]

            The Spirit is the first and principal agent of formation.  The activity of the Spirit in the course of our formation is a special activity.[23] It is the principle of the interior life, of creativity and communion, and unifies the life of the one being formed. The Spirit’s creative and renewing action affects the center of our person and the depths of our personality. It transforms our vision of reality and offers us the indispensable key and power to live our life out of God in permanent reference to Jesus Christ and the world.

            The Spirit who configures us to Christ is the one who comes to help us in our weakness when we encounter difficulties along the road (cf. Rm. 8:26). In short, the Spirit is the inner master who, as we follow Christ, leads us to the complete truth (cf. Jn. 16:13), grants us the power that allows us to dedicate our lives so that the Good News of the Kingdom may be proclaimed to the poor and to confront the difficulties of evangelization.

3. Mary, Inspirer of the Personal Unity of the One Being Formed

            Being a son of the Heart of Mary impels us to a positive integration of our vocation. Our relationship with Mary, our Mother and Formatrix, should foster, as it did in the Fr. Founder and the Claretians most representative of our tradition, the interior unity between word and apostolic activity, faith and charity, contemplation and action, prayer and mission. We express this unity by offering ourselves as sons to the Heart of Mary, as well as by our consecration to the Triune God. Mary, as Mother, keeps forming us into the image of her Son Jesus, encouraging us to place ourselves in Him and grow more and more in wisdom and grace.[24]

            For the one being formed, Mary has to be the person that inspires his life synthesis throughout the formation process until he achieves full interior unity.[25] Mary, as Mother and Formatrix, helps us in the process of the integration of our personality and in the quest for personal unity.

            By receiving us into the forge of her Heart, Mary forms us in apostolic charity, an essential motivation that impels and unifies the missionary’s life.[26] Our Mother teaches us to welcome the Word of God with a joyful heart and to live according to it, putting it into practice and making it effective.

4. Forming Free and Well-Integrated People

            Those being formed must succeed in becoming well-integrated people, both humanly and in terms of their vocation. They must become free and authentic people who live their own vocation with full freedom and joy. Experience shows us that it is possible to cultivate the values of missionary life and maintain our lifestyle within a harmonious and unified development of our personality. Our life has no meaning if we are not authentic, i.e., if we do not live freely and consistently the values that we proclaim. When there is consistency between proclamation and life we are experiencing interior unity. In order to achieve this integration it is necessary to consciously live the action of the Spirit, as we have already said.

            In addition, the one being formed must succeed in being free through a process of formation in freedom and for freedom. This requires that the one being formed, throughout the course of his formation, comes to know himself better and have a realistic image of his own personality. He must succeed in freeing himself from inauthentic, unconscious and negative motivations, from fear and anxiety, and from all those things that hinder him from freely and responsibly assuming the commitments of missionary life. It most of all requires a positive and satisfactory view of himself that allows him to develop his ability to make free choices related to the values of the Kingdom and stimulated by conscious, valid and authentic motivations.[27]

5. Revitalizing Consciousness of Vocation[28]

            Vocation is a faith experience through which the religious feels personally called and challenged by Jesus to follow Him as the apostles did. Without consciousness of the Lord’s personal call it is impossible for the religious to begin his vocational journey. Thus it is essential for entering the novitiate and beginning the process of formation in the Congregation.

            Experience shows us that some religious either have not arrived at this explicit consciousness or have lost a few years after profession. In these cases, the religious, not feeling himself called, does not feel integrated into prayer, or community or apostolate. He has lost the dream to which he committed himself so seriously in past years. Since he does not feel himself called by the Lord, he feels out of place and unable to unify his personality by carrying out the mission of his vocation.

            In these circumstances it is urgent to recover and revitalize consciousness of the vocational call. God keeps on calling us constantly. Vocation is not only at the moment of entering the novitiate or the moment of religious profession.  Vocation is life-long and God keeps speaking and calling throughout the vocational history of the religious.[29]

            Prayer is of the greatest importance in all of this and for the religious prayer must always be vocational prayer.  Through it, the religious feels and experiences the urgency of committing himself to his vocation. Vocational prayer is consciousness-raising regarding the call of the Lord, who keeps on dynamically inviting the religious to delve into the Gospel demands of his life. When contact with the Lord who calls breaks down, one no longer perceives the call. And if the perception of the call disappears, vocational commitment makes no sense.

6. Renewing and Harnessing Vocational Motivations[30]

            Vocational motivations are the power and energy through which a religious begins his vocation project, consistently maintains his interior unity and creatively orients himself in his vocational commitments. Together with consciousness of his call, vocational motivations impel the religious to a responsive and dynamic life, in constant self-improvement.

            At the foundation of the integration of the personality, in addition to other psychological and pedagogical means, above all lies the motivation of love, apostolic charity, the fire that makes the sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary men on fire with love, who spread its flames wherever they go and live in Christ Jesus, contemplating Him and imitating Him until it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us.[31] In order to have the maturity that prepares us for martyrdom and to conquer the fears and temptations that paralyze us, we have to passionately love God, Mary and our brothers, as the Founder and our martyrs did.[32]

            When motivations are lacking, the religious not only finds no meaning for his life, but also is incapable of maintaining the rhythm demanded by the Gospel. If the religious is not highly motivated on a conscious level, his life will actually be driven by unconscious motivations that will often be incompatible with the project of religious life.  The religious will thus be divided: he will consciously have an aspiration in accord with the values of religious life but will act out of unconscious motivations at the fringes of his religious commitments. He will implicitly have a dual personality and will feel maladjusted.

            Motivations, which at the beginning of religious life were authentic and valid, can lose their vitality and power with a consequent process of bewilderment on the unconscious level. This fact imposes the need for an ongoing renewal and clarification of these motivations in order to harness and refine them honestly and transparently. This is a difficult task for those of us who tend to rationalize and justify our attitudes and behavior and to blame others for our psychological problems and deficiencies. Discernment of our attitudes and behavior in the light of faith, fraternal correction, pastoral counsel and spiritual direction, etc., are effective means to help us discover the “whys” of our conduct.

7. Living One’s Own Identity

            The sense of one’s own identity fosters and maintains the person’s interior unity and continuity. The image of oneself and of one’s own identity include “what I am” and “what I want to be,” always in relationship to others and to the circumstances in which the person develops. When these questions have been answered satisfactorily, one has achieved unity and maturity of personality.

            Lack of personal identity is one of the most serious causes of mental illness. This deficiency is a factor that leads to harmful behavior on the part of those who are dominated by anxiety and insecurity. There are religious who live their vocation feeling existentially insecure or totally abandoned, because they do not know who they are or what their meaning is in the Church and in the world or where they are going or what their specific mission is. By not knowing or living their own religious and congregational identity, they feel no existential satisfaction in remaining faithful to something unknown and something that does not actually exist for them.

            Religious must not only be aware that they have been called by the Lord, nor must they only be generically motivated to follow Jesus. The following of Jesus to which the religious feels called and to which he commits himself for life has a specific identity, definite values and an existential way of living the faith that characterize it.  Also, just as the human being keeps acquiring, from childhood, a progressive sense of personal identity, the religious must keep on progressively discovering, assimilating and living his own religious identity throughout his process of formation. In this way he will know who he is and what others expect of him in regard to his identity. He will feel internally configured and will be capable of maintaining interior unity and continuity.

8. Consistency with the Fundamental Option[33]

            When the novice professes, he makes a fundamental option for the values of religious life and of the Congregation. The fundamental option, will all its psychological and faith implications, is the decision that gives meaning and unity to the entire life of the religious, throughout the many varied circumstances in which his personal history develops. In the face of the multiplicity of situations, conflicts, circumstances, emotional states, limitations, stimulations or incentives of all types, etc., the fundamental option will tie everything together and give interior unity to the religious.  The weakening of the fundamental option always leads to the disintegration of the religious, who ends up being led by unsatisfied tendencies and by an environment filled with conflicting values and contradictions. When the fundamental option collapses, the whole vocational process is disrupted and the religious ends up abandoning his vocational project.

            The power and energy of the fundamental option structures the dynamic of the personality and gives interior unity to all one’s behaviors. It structures the dynamic of the personality by establishing a harmonious hierarchy among the tendencies that is in accord with the values of religious life. This hierarchy gives unity to the personality and all one’s behaviors, in such a way that each one is integrated into the person and all of them are linked together by the option, avoiding any autonomous satisfaction of the tendencies at the fringes of the fundamental option. In order for what we have been saying to happen, the religious, when making the option, should be clear about his call and vocational motivations; he should know the complex of values involved in religious life and the Congregation’s life; he should know the consequences of the option he is going to make; and he should have experienced the extent of its commitments.

            For the fundamental option to be effective and produce the desired effects requires a discipline that is above all internal. Internal discipline, which is reflected in external discipline, is control of one’s personal tendencies, which, appropriately blended into a hierarchy and unified, are oriented toward the values of the fundamental option. It is of such importance that the personality can only achieve a harmonious unity and the objectives of the option to the extent that it subjects itself to a free and voluntary control of both the internal and external factors that affect it. Moreover, without such control it is impossible for the person to mature in his emotional, intellectual or social life or to achieve an all-encompassing maturity. Now, discipline, in order to be effective and positive, must be motivated and integrated into the development of the entire personality as a another element for the person’s maturation and liberation.  The discipline that the religious imposes on himself in order to live his religious commitments will become neurotic if it is not personally assimilated after having been intentionally motivated.

9. Personal Effectiveness

            A person with a well-integrated personal life needs to feel effective and useful, which requires the person to authentically participate in certain meaningful spheres of human activity. Human beings have the driving need to break the restrictive molds of their personal individuality through communication, human relationships and activity. Work and effectiveness help a person’s self-esteem and make him feel esteemed by others. They help to reinforce his own identity, to channel his tendencies and interests and to find an internal balance in adapting to reality.

            From a negative perspective, there are religious that gradually lose their vocational enthusiasm when they find that their community and apostolic work do not give them the slightest existential satisfaction. The internal maladjustment of many religious comes from a feeling that they are useless, ineffective, and that they are working hopelessly, carrying out efforts that often go unrecognized by others.

            This situation can certainly arise from lack of preparation of the religious, or lack of steady work or the absence of planning by the Congregation.[34] Nevertheless, the problem is much broader. The crisis of personal disintegration due to lack of effectiveness also affects religious who are very well prepared or who exercise a role suited to their talents and personal gifts. In these cases the cause of the situation is deeper. It arises from the lack of giving an appropriate value to the apostolic activity of religious life. The apostle works and does not always see and feel the result of his apostolic labor. He works at an intimate, hidden task that cannot by statistically or mathematically evaluated. In his apostolic activity, the religious knows he is not the principal agent, but that it is Jesus and His Spirit that animates his work. Moreover, it is often a matter of failing in the apostolate, but from a faith perspective we know that this failure can be the source apostolic results.

            This whole mysterious and transcendent reality must be taken into account when we evaluate the effectiveness of our apostolic activity and, consequently, the origin of our human dissatisfaction. Possibly, what we are often seeking is our own success and not the work of God. The apostolic commitment is to believe in what one proclaims, to live what one believes in and preaches, and to preach what one lives. The standards that must be used to measure its growth, effectiveness and usefulness are not human one, but those of God, according to the mind and ways of God.


            In the process of seeking personal unity, the community plays a decisive role. The process of internal and external adjustment is a process of interacting and the people that make up the community in which one lives play a decisive role in this process. A concrete way of charity in community life is to make the sacrifice of offering oneself to help the brothers who need it.

            A satisfactory community life, attitudes of understanding and dialogue, the deepening of personal relationships, etc., are factors that have a positive effect on overcoming difficulties with personal integration. The community can help satisfy the need the religious has for emotional ties, for acceptance and support, for recognition and esteem, for expression and creativity.  Thus, the community must live its own religious and congregational identity, must be oriented toward a specific, well-defined apostolic mission and must set up various goals to achieve in pre-determined stages. On the contrary, a community that displays anarchy, with neither motivations nor projects, without Gospel demands and without a high level of religious and apostolic aspiration, will rather be a factor in the disintegration of the members that make it up.

     [1] Cf. PC 18.

[2] RC 5.

[3] PI 17-18, 47.

[4] VC 67.

[5] Cf. Aut.  18-20.

[6] Cf. J. CLOTET,  Vida edificante del Padre Claret, Misionero y Fundador, transcription, revised and annotated by J. BERMEJO, Madrid 2000, cita p. 760

[7] Cf. Aut 782.

[8] EA, resolutions of 1854,

[9] Cf. “I will never complain but resign myself to the will of God, who tries me for my own good” (Aut 785, 9).

[10] Cf. Aut 782-783.

[11] Cf. Aut 784-786. “I will never lose my temper; I will be silent and make an offering to God of all that causes me pain” (785, 8); “I will always be pleasant with everyone, especially those who annoy me” (786).

[12] Aut III, ch. XV.

[13] Aut 650.

[14] Cf. J. CLOTET, op.cit., pp. 770-772, 777-779, 792.

[15] CC 68.

[16] Besides the quotes which follow, cf. also GPF. 211,  370, 404, 407, 425.

     [17] GPF 33; cf. also MCT 132.

     [18] GPF 60.

     [19] GPF 101; cf. also MCT 150.

[20] Cf. CVD, ch. VIII.

[21] Cf. GPF 93-97.

[22] Cf Aut 687

                [23] Cf PI 19.

                [24] Cf. A. LEGHISA, CMC, p. 50.

          [25] Cf. MCT 150; GPF 101; cf. also SW 13; Aut 687.

          [26] Cf. GPF 100.

          [27] Cf. GPF 37.

          [28] Cf. CVD 373-378.

          [29] Cf. IPM 37.2.

          [30] Cf. CVD 258-262.

          [31] Cf. IPM 16, 19, 21.

          [32] Cf. SW 17; GPF 39; TM 22.

          [33] Cf. CVD 380-383.

     [34] Vatican II and other Chuch documents, when talking about formation, insist on those being formed being provided, after profession, with specific preparation that is not only spiritual, but also technical and apostolic, adapted to their talents and the urgent apostolic needs of the Church (Cf. PC 16).