On Legionary Formation and the Ratio Institutionis

[Translated from the Original Spanish]

Rome, February 27, 2014

 

1) Introduction

121. A Legionary’s formation has been one of the most important themes treated in the chapter, since it is indispensable for facing the stage that the congregation now begins in the best possible way. As chapter fathers we ask the new general government to give it the highest attention. Certainly, it is not only the task of the government but of all Legionaries, both formators and those in formation, and so we invite everyone to participate actively.

122. In this communiqué we aim to present only a synthesis of some of the aspects discussed in the chapter. We think that they should be taken into consideration when drafting the Ratio Institutionis, which the Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata defines as “a formation program inspired by the particular charism, presenting clearly and in all its stages the course to be followed in order to assimilate fully the spirituality of the respective Institute” (Vita Consecrata, 68).

2) Analysis

123. The Pontifical Delegate invited us to analyze our formation on the basis of our experience and the current socio-cultural context. Here are the main points of our reflection which should receive further in-depth consideration.

124. The influence of the socio-cultural context on young people has always been a challenge to formation. Dealing with it requires the ability to understand and adapt so as to take advantage of what is positive in each generation and transmit perennial values to it. At present, secularization, the dissolution of the family, the crisis of authority, a false concept of human autonomy, the relativization of values, constant changes, etc. create growing difficulties1 for religious and priestly formation. A culture of the provisional does not favor definitive decisions.2.

125. We appreciate the interest the Legion has always placed on the integral formation of its members. The fruits can be seen in many Legionaries who live a love for the church, a sense of obedience, self-denial, availability, and apostolic zeal. They also combine an adequate intellectual formation with a careful human formation.

126. We also find certain deficiencies that need to be corrected. Sometimes we have not adequately accompanied religious in their vocational discernment, helping them to make and live responsible and mature decisions, partly due to the high number of religious in centers of formation. Not having ordinarily distinguished between superiors and spiritual directors, among other possible consequences, weakened the specific function of each. Regulating with norms, often even the smallest details of life, and a lack of gradualism in applying norms hampers the process of maturing or can lead to performing acts solely to fulfill the norm without inner understanding of the values they contain. Failing to integrate all of the facets of life with one’s consecrated and priestly vocation can beget the widespread phenomenon of activism and a neglect of community and spiritual life in favor of apostolic activity; when interior life declines, we throw ourselves into action.

3) Formation in the light of the Charism

127. The purpose of the Ratio Institutionis is to help all members of the congregation to reach the measure of the fullness of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:13), according to the charism of Regnum Christi. We must always keep before our eyes the identity of a Legionary: he is a religious priest who, experiencing the love of Jesus Christ, understands and feels the urgent need to center his whole existence on him, to live authentic charity, to proclaim the merciful love of God to everyone, and to bring them to a redeeming encounter with him (cf. CLC, n.33).

128. By the profession of the evangelical counsels in the Legion, we have consecrated ourselves to God, embracing the way of life that Jesus Christ chose for himself. We should be more mindful in the whole formation process of our condition as religious priests and of the high ideals involved.

4) Some Aspects of Integral Formation

129. Among the various aspects that call for our consideration in order to improve the formation of Legionaries, we believe that at the present moment the following deserve special attention.

a. Principles of Formation

130. It is important to develop an attitude of constant growth. This means being ready to form ourselves every day of our lives, since we can never assume that we have finished bringing to life the “new man” in ourselves4.

131. The relationship of formation is accompaniment, characterized by mutual trust between the formator and the one in formation. Both should lend their cooperation and willingness to reach a close, friendly relationship, characterized by sincerity, simplicity, openness, and warmth.

132. We should overcome the danger of living formation as the automatic result of a mere succession of stages; we must center the mission of the formator on helping the religious to take upon themselves the responsibility for their own growth, finding a sense of motivation and a

wider vision in the formative objectives which the Legion proposes, and which the Ratio Institutionis should define clearly. This should facilitate the personalization of the formation process.

b. Spiritual Formation

133. The unifying heart of the life of a Legionary should be his spiritual life. Called to be another Christ, we have to foster a solid spiritual growth keeping in mind that the Holy Spirit is the author of our transformation into Christ and the one who sustains us in the mission to establish his Kingdom (cf. CLC 13). We should value the life of grace and prayer as an intimate, growing relationship with Christ, in which love expands, as the source of inner freedom in living one’s commitments.

134. It is also necessary to continue strengthening the attitude of listening to the voice of God and the consequent exercise of spiritual discernment by taking advantage of conscience examinations and spiritual direction, among other means.

135. With respect to norms, we are aware that it is neither necessary nor convenient to regulate the path of perfection in all of its details and that gradualism favors religious maturity. We consider that the reduction of norms carried out in these years is an opportunity to discover the meaning of the norms: their pedagogical value, their orientation towards the good of the community and the values that each norm protects or promotes.

136. A militant character is part of the spiritual and human make-up of the Legionary as the expression and fruit of a healthy tension towards holiness and the establishment of the Kingdom.

c. Human Formation

137. The importance of human formation remains relevant today because the priest “should seek to reflect in himself, as far as possible, the human perfection which shines forth in the incarnate Son of God” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 43).

138. Among other aspects, we see the need to foster affective maturity as the fruit of a love which commits the whole person and in which one grows to the degree that the heart clings to God. With the heart focused on Christ we watch over ourselves (cf. Mt. 26: 41), overcoming selfish love (cf. Rom. 7: 14-25) and freely giving and receiving love.

139. We need to continue growing in responsibility. In the process of maturation each one is called to learn to use his freedom, to make prudent decisions and to respect the obligations undertaken with God and men.

140. Called to clothe ourselves with Christ and to be new men (cf. CLC 19), we seek to show this by paying attention to our presentation and by the courtesy with which we deal with others as befits a Legionary.

d. Formation of the apostle

141. Regarding the apostolic formation of the Legionary priest, we invite all to renew their awareness of the fact that the mission guides, unifies and determines the formative process (Pastores Dabo Vobis 57). It is essential that from the first stages of formation a Legionary

should acquire a practical knowledge of how to do apostolate in Regnum Christi, form himself as a formator of apostles, begin developing the ability to work in a team with other members of the Movement and the capacity to adapt apostolic methods to the needs of the people whom he would evangelize.

142. In this context apostolic internship holds a particular place. The religious will best achieve the objectives5 of this period by being assigned to a community and an apostolic responsibility suited to that precise period of formation, by an adequate introduction to the apostolate entrusted to them, and by the accompaniment of their superiors and the directors of their apostolate.

e. Intellectual Formation

143. Regarding intellectual formation, we invite all Legionaries to continue seeking a solid, profound, select preparation in order to be able to engage actively in the task of the new evangelization. We encourage those at the beginning of their formation to dedicate themselves with enthusiasm to their academic preparation, seeking to expand their horizons, and not losing sight of the fact that this preparation is geared to the mission.

144. We should be aware that to carry out our priestly mission we need to know the situation of the Church and the world, detect the primary apostolic challenges, the problems that people suffer and the ideological tendencies that have most influence on society (cf. RS 516). Only in this way will we be able to engage in an evangelizing dialogue with culture.

f. On-going Formation

145. Finally, we recall that formation does not end with priestly ordination; it can always be deepened, perfected, and updated in various areas. We believe that the Legion needs to offer a program of on-going formation adapted to the circumstances, but we invite each Legionary to take responsibility for his own formation. As John Paul II reminded us in the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis: “permanent formation is a requirement of the priest’s own faithfulness to his ministry, to his very being.” (n.70).

146. In this program of on-going formation special emphasis should be given to accompaniment during the first years of priesthood.

5) Path of Formation

147. In addition to the dimensions of integral formation, we also discussed the path of formation, in continuity with the reflections made during the past years.

148. We believe that there are issues that still require further analysis. Among others are the following: the duration of candidacy, the study of humanities, the duration of apostolic internship, license in philosophy, license in theology, the duration of the diaconate, the personalization of the path of formation. The development of the Ratio Institutionis will offer an opportunity to carry out this reflection and allow the new government to make the appropriate decisions. However, the general chapter expressed support for the proposal that in the Directory, it should be established ad experimentum that the first profession and the subsequent renewal of vows be made for four years each.

149. The objective of this proposal is to offer better conditions for maturing and to improve coordination between religious formation and academic stages. In particular, it is expected that Legionaries would ordinarily prepare for perpetual profession having lived for a time in Rome after apostolic internship and having done their month-long spiritual exercises. Furthermore four year periods allow a more continuous support by the superiors, who will have greater time to know and guide the religious before presenting them as candidates for renewal of vows or perpetual profession.

150. The chapter fathers are aware that to achieve this objective the most important factor is the attitude of each religious, especially the awareness of what it means to be consecrated to God from his first profession (cf. CLC 84) and of each one’s responsibility for his own life and vocation.

151. It is equally important that superiors should be able to dedicate themselves entirely to the task of accompanying religious closely and that they always have in mind the requisite qualities.

6) Tasks the Chapter Entrusts to the Central Government

152. Ratio Institutionis

a. the chapter asks the central government to form a committee, presided by the general director or one of his counselors, to develop the Ratio Institutionis of the congregation. They should bear in mind the documents of the Church regarding priestly formation, especially Pastores Dabo Vobis, Vita Consecrata and the Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis.

b. it asks that the committee seek ways to take into account, verify and validate the experience of the past, and what has been implemented in recent years.

c. the chapter proposes a period of three years to finish the work, in order to have three years to put it in practice before arriving at the next chapter, which should approve it.

d. As far as possible, the Ratio Studiorum should also be revised and completed in the next years.

153. Formation of Superiors and Formators

a. The General Chapter requests that the central government develop and follow up on a plan of formation specifically for superiors, formators, and spiritual directors. It should promote, oversee and coordinate the initiatives that emerge in the territories.

b. It should assist superiors and formators in knowing and applying the formative principles mentioned in numbers 10 and 12, and promote the reception and assimilation of the Constitutions and other documents of the chapter.

c. It should continue monitoring attentively formation in the various territories, promoting and coordinating communication and exchange among formators of the same stages.

d. It should ensure the continued promotion of spiritual direction and a trustful relationship between superiors and subjects.

e. It has been found that superiors can improve their preparation in some areas: a deeper knowledge of the spiritual life and of the documents of the Church about religious life, a greater knowledge of psychology in general and especially of affectivity, and the capacity to offer guidance in vocational discernment.

154. Renewal of Apostolic Schools

The chapter requests the government to continue ensuring the renewal of the apostolic schools, something already underway in various territories. Specifically it asks it to:

a. coordinate the work of producing a document on the identity of the apostolic schools of the Legion, with their essential elements.

b. see to it that they continue to make the due pedagogical and disciplinary adaptations taking into account the legitimate diversity among the schools.

155. Make a plan of accompaniment and formation during the first years of the priesthood. Continue ensuring that the community and mission assigned are appropriate to this stage.

156. Conduct the evaluation of the humanities program and its implications.

157. Analyze the dynamics of formation in small novitiates.

158. Create a commission to analyze the adequate use of psychology, reflecting on its goals and how to apply it advantageously to discernment and formation, taking into account the documents of the Church.

 

1 Benedict XVI spoke of an “educational emergency”, the “increasing difficulty encountered in transmitting the basic values of life and correct behaviour to the new generations” (Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Participants in the Convention of the Diocese of Rome, 11 June 2007).
2 We recall here the words of Pope Francis during an encounter with seminarians and novices last July: “However, listen carefully: we are all, even the older people among us, we too, are under pressure from this ‘culture of the temporary’; and this is dangerous because one does not put one’s stakes on life once and for all. I marry as long as love lasts; I become a woman religious, but only for ‘a little while…’, ‘a short time’ and then I shall see; I become a seminarian in order to become a priest, but I don’t know how the story will end.” (6 July 2013).
3 Translator’s note: The abbreviation “CLC” refers to the constitutional text which was approved by the Holy See on October 16th, 2014.
4 Cf. Vita Consecrata 69: “(…)Due to human limitations, the consecrated person can never claim to have completely brought to life the ‘new creature’ who, in every circumstance of life, reflects the very mind of Christ. (…) None are exempt from the obligation to grow humanly and as Religious; by the same token, no one can be over-confident and live in self-sufficient isolation. At no stage of life can people feel so secure and committed that they do not need to give careful attention to ensuring perseverance in faithfulness; just as there is no age at which a person has completely achieved maturity.”
5 Cf. CLC 104: “The religious should live this period conscious that it is an opportunity to know themselves better, consolidate the formation they have already acquired and assimilate in practice the criteria and apostolic principles of the Legion of Christ. They should seek to form a priestly heart in dealing with souls and learn to live the evangelical counsels in the world without being of the world. They should try to live and grow in apostolic zeal, militancy, responsibility, conviction, and team work.”
6 Translator’s note: The abbreviation RS refers to the Legion’s current Ratio Studiorum.