THE PURPOSE OF RELIGIOUS FORMATION
1. The proper renewal of religious institutes depends
chiefly on the formation of their members. Religious life
brings together disciples of Christ who should be assisted
in accepting "this gift of God which the Church has received
from her Lord and which by his grace she always
safeguards."(1) This is why the best forms of adaptation
will bear fruit only if they are animated by a profound
spiritual renewal. The formation of candidates, which has as
its immediate end that of introducing them to religious life
and making them aware of its specific character within the
Church, will primarily aim at assisting men and women
religious realize their unity of life in Christ through the
Spirit, by means of the harmonious fusion of its spiritual,
apostolic, doctrinal, and practical elements.(2)
A CONSTANT CONCERN
2. Well before the Second Vatican Council, the Church was
concerned about the formation of religious.(3) The Council,
in its turn, gave doctrinal principles and general norms in
Chapter VI of the dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium and in
the decree Perfectae caritatis. Pope Paul VI, for his part,
reminded religious that, whatever the variety of ways of
life and of charisms, all the elements of a religious life
should be directed toward the building up of "the inner
man."(4) Our Holy Father John Paul II, from the beginning of
his pontificate, and in numerous discourses which he has
given, has frequently taken up the matter of religious
formation.(5) Finally, the Code of Canon Law has undertaken
to indicate in more precise norms the exigencies required
for a suitable renewal of formation.(6)
THE POST-CONCILIAR ACTIVITIES OF THE CONGREGATION FOR
INSTITUTES OF CONSECRATED LIFE AND SOCIETIES OF APOSTOLIC
3. In 1969, the Congregation, in the instruction
Renovationis causam, expanded certain canonical dispositions
then in force, in order "to make a better adaptation of the
entire formation cycle to the mentality of younger
generations and modern living conditions, as also to the
present demands of the apostolate, while remaining faithful
to the nature and the special aim of each institute."(7)
Other documents published later by the dicastery, even
though they do not bear directly on religious formation,
still touch it under one or another aspect. These are
"Mutual Relations" in 1978,(8) "Religious and Human
Promotion," and "The Contemplative Dimension of Religious
Life" in 1980,(9) and "The Essential Elements of the
Teaching of the Church on Religious Life" in 1983.(10) It
will be useful to refer to these different documents, since
the formation of religious must be given in complete harmony
with the pastoral directions of the universal Church and of
particular Churches, and in order to assist in the
integration of "interiority and activity" in the lives of
men and women religious dedicated to the apostolate.(11)
Activity "for the Lord" will thus not fail to lead them to
the Lord, the "source of all activity."(12)
THE REASON FOR THIS DOCUMENT AND TO WHOM IT IS DIRECTED
4. The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and
Societies of Apostolic Life deems it useful, and even
necessary, to address this present document to major
superiors of religious institutes, and to their brothers and
sisters charged with formation, including monks and nuns,
all the moreso since many of them have requested it. It does
so in virtue of its mission of giving guidance to
institutes. This can help them to elaborate their own
programs of formation (ratio), as they are obliged to do by
the general law of the Church.(13) On the other hand, men
and women religious have the right to know the position of
the Holy See on the present problems of formation and the
solutions which it suggests for resolving them. The document
has been enriched by the numerous experiences which have
been made since the Second Vatican Council, and it treats
questions frequently raised by major superiors. It reminds
all of certain requirements of the law with respect to
present circumstances and needs. It hopes, finally, to be of
special help to institutes which are coming into existence,
and to those which at this time have few means of formation
and information at their disposal.
5. The document is concerned only with religious institutes.
It deals with what is most specific in religious life, and
it gives only one chapter to the requirements necessary for
approaching the diaconate and priesthood. These have been
the object of exhaustive instructions on the part of the
competent dicastery, which instructions are also pertinent
to religious who are to be ordained for these
ministries.(14) The document strives to give valuable
directions for the religious life in its entirety. Each
institute will have to make use of them according to its own
The contents of the document apply to both sexes, except
where it is obvious from the context, and from the nature of
things, that it does not.(15)
RELIGIOUS CONSECRATION AND FORMATION
6. The primary end of formation is to permit candidates to
the religious life and young professed, first, to discover
and, later, to assimilate and deepen that in which religious
identity consists. Only under these conditions will the
person dedicated to God be inserted into the world as a
significant, effective, and faithful witness.(16) It is
consequently proper to recall, at the beginning of a
document on formation, what the grace of a consecrated
religious life represents for the Church.
RELIGIOUS AND CONSECRATED LIFE ACCORDING TO THE DOCTRINE OF
7. "Religious life, as a consecration of the whole person,
manifests in the Church a wonderful marriage brought about
by God, a sign of the future age. Thus religious bring to
perfection their full gift as a sacrifice offered to God by
which their whole existence becomes a continuous worship of
God in love."
"Life consecrated by the profession of the evangelical
counsels" —of which religious life is a species—"is a stable
form of living by which faithful, following Christ more
closely under the action of the Holy Spirit, are totally
dedicated to God who is loved most of all, so that having
dedicated themselves to his honor, the upbuilding of the
Church, and the salvation of the world by a new and special
title, they strive for the perfection of charity in service
to the Kingdom of God and, having become an outstanding sign
in the Church, they may foretell the heavenly glory."(17)
"Christian faithful who profess the evangelical counsels of
chastity, poverty and obedience by vows or other sacred
bonds according to the proper laws of institutes freely
assume this form of living in institutes of consecrated life
canonically erected by competent Church authority and,
through the charity to which these counsels lead, they are
joined to the Church and its mystery in a special way."(18)
DIVINE VOCATION FOR A MISSION OF SALVATION
8. At the origin of the religious consecration there is a
call of God for which there is no explanation apart from the
love which he bears for the person whom he calls. This love
is absolutely gratuitous, personal, and unique. It embraces
the person to the extent that one no longer pertains to
oneself, but to Christ.(19) It thus reflects the character
of an alliance. The glance which Jesus turned towards the
rich young man has this characteristic: "Looking on him, he
loved him" (Mk 10:21). The gift of the Spirit signifies and
expresses it. This gift invites the person whom God calls to
follow Christ through the practice and profession of the
evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience.
This is "a gift of God which the Church has received from
her Lord and which by his grace she always safeguards."(20)
And this is why "the final norm of the religious life" will
be "the following of Christ as it is put before us in the
A PERSONAL RESPONSE
9. The call of Christ, which is the expression of a
redemptive love, "embraces the whole person, soul and body,
whether man or woman, in that person's unique and
unrepeatable personal 'I'."(22) It "assumes, in the soul of
the person called, the actual form of the profession of the
evangelical counsels."(23) Under this form, those who are
called by God give a response of love in their turn to
Christ their Redeemer: a love which is given entirely and
without reserve, and which loses itself in the offering of
the whole person as "a loving sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto
God" (Rom 12:1). Only this love, which is of a nuptial
character and engages all the affectivity of one's person,
can motivate and support the privations and trials which one
who wishes "to lose his life" necessarily encounters for
Christ and for the Gospel (cf. Mk 8:35).(24) This personal
response is an integrating part of the religious
RELIGIOUS PROFESSION: AN ACT OF THE CHURCH WHICH CONSECRATES
10. According to the teaching of the Church, "by religious
profession members assume by public vow the observance of
the three evangelical counsels, are consecrated to God
through the ministry of the Church, and are incorporated
into the institute with rights and duties defined by
law."(25) In the act of religious profession, which is an
act of the Church through the authority of the one who
receives the vows, the action of God and the response of the
person are brought together.(26) This act incorporates one
into an institute. The members there "live a life in common
as brothers or sisters"(27) and the institute assures them
the help of "a stable and more solidly based way of
Christian life. They receive well-proven teaching on seeking
after perfection. They are bound together in brotherly
communion in the army of Christ. Their Christian freedom is
fortified by obedience. Thus they are enabled to live
securely and to maintain faithfully the religious life to
which they have pledged themselves. Rejoicing in spirit they
advance on the road of love."(28)
The fact that religious belong to an institute causes them
to give to Christ and to the Church a public witness of
separation with regard to "the spirit of the world" (1 Cor
2:12) and to the behavior which it involves, and at the same
time of a presence to the world in keeping with the "wisdom
of God" (1 Cor 2:7).
A LIFE ACCORDING TO THE EVANGELICAL COUNSELS
11. "Religious profession places in the heart of each one of
you... the love of the Father: that love which is in the
heart of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world. It is love
which embraces the world and everything in it that comes
from the Father, and which at the same time tends to
overcome in the world everything that 'does not come from
the Father'."(29) "Such a love should fill each of you...
from the very source of that particular consecration which
-- on the sacramental basis of holy Baptism -- is the
beginning of your new life in Christ and in the Church: it
is the beginning of the new creation."(30)
12. Faith, hope, and charity enable religious, by means of
their vows, to practice and profess the three evangelical
counsels, and thus to give "out standing and striking
testimony that the world cannot be transformed and offered
to God without the spirit of the beatitudes."(31)
The counsels are, as it were, the main support of the
religious life, since they express in a significant and
complete way the evangelical radicalism which characterizes
it. In effect, through the profession of the evangelical
counsels made in the Church, the religious wishes "to be set
free from hindrances that could hold him back from loving
God ardently and worshipping him perfectly and... to
consecrate himself in a more thoroughgoing way to the
service of God."(32)
These touch the human person at the level of the three
essential spheres of his existence and relationships:
affectivity, possession, and power. This anthropological
uprooting explains why the spiritual tradition of the Church
has frequently put them in relation with the three lusts
spoken of by St. John.(33) The faithful exercise of them
fosters the development of the person, spiritual freedom,
purification of the heart, fervor of charity, and it helps a
religious to cooperate in the construction of human
The counsels lived in as authentic a manner as possible have
a great significance for all people,(35) for each vow gives
a specific response to the great temptations of our time.
Through them, the Church continues to show the world the
ways for its transfiguration into the Kingdom of God.
It is therefore important that attentive care should be
taken to initiate candidates for the religious life
theoretically and practically into the concrete exigencies
of the three vows.
13. "The evangelical counsel of chastity assumed for the
sake of the kingdom of heaven, as a sign of the future world
and a source of more abundant fruitfulness in an undivided
heart, entails the obligation of perfect continence in
celibacy."(36) Its practice assumes that persons consecrated
by the vows of religion place at the center of their
affective life a "more immediate" relationship (ET 13) with
God through Christ, in the Spirit.
"The observance of perfect continence touches intimately the
deeper inclinations of human nature. For this reason,
candidates ought not to go forward, nor should they be
admitted, to the profession of chastity except after really
adequate testing, and unless they are sufficiently mature,
psychologically and affectively. Not only should they be
warned against the dangers to chastity which they may
encounter, they should be taught to see that the celibacy
they have dedicated to God is beneficial to their whole
An instinctive tendency of the human person leads to making
an absolute out of human love. It is a tendency
characterized by self-centeredness which asserts itself
through a domination over the person loved, as if happiness
could be secured from this possession. On the other hand,
one finds it very difficult to understand, and especially to
realize, that love can be lived in a total dedication of
oneself, without necessarily requiring a sexual
manifestation of it. Education for chastity will therefore
aim at helping each one to control and to master his or her
sexual impulses, while at the same time it will avoid a
self-centeredness that is content with one's fidelity to
purity. It is no accident that the ancient Fathers gave
priority to humility over chastity, since this latter can be
accompanied, as experience has shown, by a hardness of
Chastity frees the human heart in a remarkable manner (1 Cor
7:32-35), so that it burns with a love for God and for all
people. One of the greatest contributions which religious
can bring to humanity today is certainly that of revealing,
by their life more than by their words, the possibility of a
true dedication to, and openness toward, others, in sharing
in their joys, in being faithful and constant in love,
without a thought of domination or exclusiveness.
The pedagogy of consecrated chastity will consequently aim
preserving joy and thanksgiving for the personal love in
which each one is held, and is chosen, by Christ;
encouraging frequent reception of the sacrament of
reconciliation, recourse to regular spiritual direction, and
the sharing of a truly sisterly or brotherly love within the
community, which is brought about by frank and cordial
explaining the value of the body and its meaning, acquiring
an elementary physical hygiene (sleep, exercise, relaxation,
giving basic notions on masculine and feminine sexuality,
with their physical, psychological, and spiritual
helping in matters of self-control, on the sexual and
affective level, but also with respect to other instinctive
or acquired needs (sweets, tobacco, alcohol);
helping each one to profit by past personal experiences,
whether positive, in order to give thanks for them, or
negative, in order to be aware of one's weaknesses, in order
to humble oneself peacefully before God and to remain
vigilant for the future;
manifesting the fruitfulness of chastity, its spiritual
fecundity (Gal 4:19), which begets life for the Church;
creating a climate of confidence between religious and their
instructors, who should be ready to listen to whatever they
have to say, and to hear them with affection in order to
enlighten and encourage them;
helping them to act with prudence in the use of the
communications media and in personal relationships which may
present an obstacle to a consistent practice of the counsel
of chastity (cf. can. 277.2 and 666). It remains the
responsibility not only of the religious to exercise this
prudence, but also of their superiors.
14. "The evangelical counsel of poverty in imitation of
Christ who, though He was rich became poor for us, entails,
besides a life which is poor fact and in spirit, a life of
labor lived in moderation and foreign to earthly riches, a
dependence and a limitation in the use and disposition of
goods according to the norm of the proper law of each
Sensibility to poverty is nothing new, either in the Church
or in the religious life. What is perhaps new, is a
particular sensibility for the poor and for the poverty that
exists in the world, which characterizes religious life
today. There exist today types of poverty on a large scale
that are either experienced by individuals or endured by
entire groups: hunger, ignorance, sickness; unemployment,
the repression of basic liberties, economic and political
dependence, corruption in the carrying out of offices,
especially the fact that human society seems organized in a
way which produces and reproduces these different kinds of
In these conditions, religious are thrust into a closer
proximity with respect to the most needy and impoverished,
the same who were always preferred by Jesus and to whom he
said that he had been sent,(39) and with whom he
identified.(40) This proximity leads them to adopt a
personal and communitarian style of life more in keeping
with their commitment to follow more closely the poor and
This "preferential option"(41) and evangelical choice of
religious for the poor implies an interior detachment, a
certain austerity in community living, a sharing at times in
their life and struggles, without however forgetting that
the specific mission of a religious is to bear "outstanding
and striking testimony that the world cannot be transformed
and offered to God without the spirit of the
God loves the whole human family and wishes to bring all
together without exclusion.(43) For religious it is
consequently a kind of poverty not to let themselves be
bound within a certain milieu or social class. A study of
the social teaching of the Church, and particularly that of
the encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis, and of the
instruction "On Christian Liberty and Liberation"(44) will
be of assistance in making the required discernments for a
practical actualization of evangelical poverty.
Education to evangelical poverty will be attentive to the
There are young people who, before entering the religious
life, enjoyed a certain amount of financial independence and
were accustomed to obtain by themselves all that they
wished. Others find themselves at a higher level of life
within a religious community than they had in their
childhood or during their years of study or work.
Instruction in poverty should take account of the history of
each one. It should also be remembered that among certain
cultures, families expect to gain by what appears to them to
be an advance for their children.
It is of the nature of the virtue of poverty to be engaged
in a life of work, in humble and concrete acts of
renunciation, of divestiture, which render religious freer
for their mission; to admire and respect creation and the
material objects placed at their disposal; to depend upon
the community for their level of life; to desire faithfully
that "all should be in common," and "that to each one is
given what is needed" (Acts 4:32, 35).
All this is done with the intent of centering one's life on
the poor Jesus, who is contemplated, loved, and followed.
Without this, religious poverty, under the form of
solidarity and sharing, easily becomes ideological and
political. Only one who is poor of heart, who strives to
follow the poor Christ, can be the source of an authentic
solidarity and a true detachment.
15. "The evangelical counsel of obedience, undertaken in a
spirit of faith and love in the following of Christ, who was
obedient even unto death, requires submission of the will to
legitimate superiors, who stand in the place of God when
they command according to the proper constitutions."(45)
Further, all religious "are subject to the supreme authority
of (the) Church in a special manner" and "are also bound to
obey the Supreme Pontiff as their highest superior by reason
of the sacred bond of obedience."(46) "Far from lowering the
dignity of the human person, religious obedience leads it to
maturity by extending the freedom of the sons of God."(47)
Religious obedience is at once an imitation of Christ and a
participation in his mission. It is concerned with doing
what Jesus did, and, at the same time, with what he would do
in the concrete situation in which a religious finds himself
or herself today. Whether one has authority in an institute
or not, one cannot either command or obey without reference
to mission. When religious obey, they offer this obedience
in continuity with the obedience of Jesus for the salvation
of the world. This is why everything which, in the exercise
of authority or obedience, indicates a compromise, a
diplomatic solution, the consequence of pressure, or any
other kind of temporizing, is opposed to the basic
inspiration of religious obedience, which is to align
oneself with the mission of Jesus and to carry it out in
time, even if such an undertaking is difficult.
A superior who promotes dialogue educates to a responsible
and active obedience. All the same, it remains for the
superiors to use "their own authority to decide and to
prescribe what is to be done."(48)
For the teaching of obedience, it should be remembered:
that to give oneself in obedience, it is first necessary to
be conscious of one's existence. Candidates need to leave
the anonymity of the technical world, to know themselves as
they are, and to be known as persons, to be esteemed and
that these same candidates need to find true liberty in
order that they may personally pass from "what pleases them"
to "what pleases the Father." For this, the structures of a
formation community, while ever remaining sufficiently clear
and solid, will leave ample room for responsible initiatives
that the will of God is expressed most often and
preeminently through the mediation of the Church and its
magisterium; and specifically for religious, through their
that for obtaining obedience, the witness of the elder
members in a community has greater influence on the young
than any other theoretical consideration. Still, a person
who makes the effort to obey as Christ did, and in Christ,
can succeed in overcoming less edifying examples.
Education in religious obedience will therefore be given
with all the clarity and exigency that is necessary so that
one does not wander from the "way," which is Christ in
RELIGIOUS INSTITUTES: A DIVERSITY OF GIFTS TO BE CULTIVATED
16. The variety of religious institutes resembles a "widespreading
tree" which, beginning with a seed sown by God, "has grown
up in the field of the Lord" and multiplied.(50) Through
them the Church manifests Christ "to believers and
unbelievers alike, Christ in contemplation on the mountain,
or proclaiming the kingdom of God to the multitudes, or
healing the sick and maimed and converting sinners to a good
life, or blessing children and doing good to all men, always
in obedience to the will of the Father who sent him."(51)
The variety is explained by the diversity of the "charisms
of their founders,"(52) which "appears as 'an experience of
the Spirit,' transmitted to their disciples to be lived,
safeguarded, deepened and constantly developed by them, in
harmony with the Body of Christ continually in the process
of growth. 'It is for this reason that the distinctive
character of various religious institutes is preserved and
fostered by the Church'."(53)
There is thus no uniform way for observing the evangelical
counsels, but each institute should define its own way,
"keeping in mind its own character and purposes."(54) This
is true not only with regard to the observance of the
counsels, but with respect to all that concerns the style of
life of its members in view of tending toward the perfection
of their state.(55)
A LIFE UNIFIED IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
17. "Those who make profession of the evangelical counsels
should seek and love above all else God who has first loved
us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10). In all circumstances they should take
care to foster a life hidden with Christ in God (cf. 3:3),
which is the source and stimulus of love of the neighbor,
for the salvation of the world and the building up the
Church."(56) This love, which orders and vivifies the very
practice of the evangelical counsels, is poured out in
hearts through the Spirit of God, which is a Spirit of
unity, of harmony, and of reconciliation, not only among
persons, but also within the interior of each person.
This is why the personal life of a religious must not become
dichotomized between the generic end of religious life and
the specific end of the institute; between consecration to
God and mission in the world; nor between religious life
itself on the one hand, and apostolic activities on the
other. There is no religious life existing concretely "by
itself" upon which is grafted the specific and the
particular charism of each institute as subordinate
additions. In institutes dedicated to the apostolate there
is no pursuit of sanctity, profession of the evangelical
counsels, or life dedicated to God and to his service which
is not intrinsically connected with the service of the
Church and of the world.(57) Further "apostolic and
charitable activity is of the very nature of religious life"
to such an extent that "the entire religious life... should
be imbued with an apostolic spirit and all apostolic
activity with a religious spirit."(58) The service of one's
neighbor neither divides nor separates a religious from God.
If it is moved by a truly theological charity, this service
obtains its value as service of God.(59)
And thus it can truly be said that "the apostolate of all
religious consists first in their witness of a consecrated
18. It will be the duty of each one to verify the way in
which their activities in their own lives are derived from
intimate union with God and, at the same time, confirm and
strengthen this union.(61) From this point of view,
obedience to the will of God, manifested here and now in the
mission received, is the immediate means through which one
can secure for oneself a certain unity of life, patiently
sought but never fully attained. This obedience is only
explained by a resolve to follow Christ more closely, which
is itself enlivened and stimulated by a personal love of
Christ. This love is the interior principle of unity of all
The proof of a unity of life will be opportunely made in
terms of the four great fidelities: fidelity to Christ and
the Gospel, fidelity to the Church and to its mission in the
world, fidelity to religious life and to the charism of
one's own institute, and fidelity to humanity and to our
ASPECTS COMMON TO ALL STAGES OF RELIGIOUS FORMATION
A) AGENTS AND ENVIRONMENT OF FORMATION
THE SPIRIT OF GOD
19. It is God himself who calls one to a consecrated life
within the Church. It is God, who all through the course of
a religious life, keeps the initiative: "He who has called
you is faithful, and he will do it."(63) Just as Jesus was
not content to call his disciples, but patiently educated
them during his public life, so, after his resurrection, he
continued through his Spirit, "to lead them to the fullness
The Spirit, whose action is of another order than the
findings of psychology or visible history, but who also
works through them, acts with great secrecy in the heart of
each one of us so as later to be made manifest in fruits
that are clearly visible: The Spirit is the Truth who
"teaches," "reminds," and "guides."(65) He is the Anointing
giving desire, appreciation, judgment, choice.(66) The
Spirit is the consoling advocate who "comes to assist us in
our weakness," sustains us, and gives us a filial
spirit.(67) This discreet but decisive presence of the
Spirit of God demands two fundamental attitudes: humility,
which makes one resign oneself to the wisdom of God; and the
knowledge and practice of spiritual discernment. It is, in
fact, important to be able to recognize the presence of the
Spirit in all the aspects of life and of history, and
through human mediation. Among these last must be included
openness to a spiritual guide; this openness is prompted by
the desire of having a clear knowledge of oneself and by a
readiness to let oneself be advised and directed with the
intent of correctly discerning the will of God.
THE VIRGIN MARY
20. The work of the Spirit has always been associated with
the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and Mother of all the
members of the people of God. It is through the Spirit that
she conceived the Word of God in her womb; it was for the
Spirit that she awaited with the Apostles, persevering in
prayer (cf. LG 52 and 59) following the Ascension of the
Lord. This is why the presence of the Virgin Mary is
encountered by religious from the beginning to the end of
"Among all persons consecrated unreservedly to God, she is
the first. She -- the Virgin of Nazareth -- is also the one
most fully consecrated to God, consecrated in the most
perfect way. Her spousal love reached its height in the
divine Motherhood through the power of the Holy Spirit. She,
who as Mother carries Christ in her arms, at the same time
fulfills in the most perfect way his call: "Follow me." And
she follows Him—she, the Mother—as her Teacher of chastity,
poverty and obedience... If the entire Church finds in Mary
her first model, all the more reason do you find her so—you
as consecrated individuals and communities within the
Church!" Each religious is invited "to your religious
consecration according to the model of the consecration of
the very Mother of God."(68)
A religious encounters Mary, not only under the title of an
exemplar, but also under that of a mother. "She is the
Mother of religious in being Mother of him who was
consecrated and sent, and in her fiat and magnificat
religious life finds the totality of its surrender to and
the thrill of its joy in the consecratory action of
THE CHURCH AND THE "SENSE OF CHURCH"
21. Between Mary and the Church there are many close bonds.
She is its most eminent member, and she is its Mother. She
is its model in faith, charity, and perfect union with
Christ. She is a sign of sure hope and of consolation for
the Church, until the coming of the day of the Lord (cf. LG
53, 63, 68). Religious life is also associated with the
mystery of the Church by a special bond. It pertains to its
life and holiness.(70) It "is a special way of participating
in the sacramental nature of the People of God."(71) One's
complete gift to God "unites the religious 'to the Church
and her mystery in a special way' and urges such a one to
work with undivided dedication for the good of the entire
Body."(72) And the Church, through the ministry of its
pastors, "besides giving legal sanction to the religious
form of life and thus raising it to the dignity of a
canonical state, ... sets it forth liturgically also as a
state of consecration to God."(73)
22. In the Church religious receive that which nourishes
their baptismal life and their religious consecration. In
it, they receive the bread of life from the table of the
Word of God and of the Body of Christ. It was, actually,
during the course of a liturgical celebration that St.
Anthony, who is rightly deemed to be the father of the
religious life, heard the living and efficacious word which
led him to leave everything in order to undertake the
following of Christ.(74) It is in the Church that the
reading of the Word of God, accompanied by prayer,
establishes the dialogue between God and religious,(75)
encouraging them to high aspirations and necessary
renunciations. It is the Church which associates the
offerings which religious make of their own life with the
Eucharistic Sacrifice of Christ.(76) It is through the
sacrament of reconciliation celebrated frequently, finally,
that they receive, from the mercy of God, pardon for their
sins and are reconciled with the Church and their own
community, which has been wounded by their sins.(77) The
liturgy of the Church should thus be for them the summit to
which an entire community is tending, and the source from
which flows its evangelical strength (cf. SC 2,10).
23. This is why the task of formation is necessarily carried
on in communion with the Church, of which religious are
members, filially obedient to its pastors. The Church,
"which is filled with the Trinity,"(78) as Origin says, is a
universal communion in charity, according to its image and
dependence on its source. It is from her that we receive the
Gospel, which she helps us to understand, thanks to her
tradition and to the authentic interpretation of the
magisterium.(79) For the communion which is the Church is
organic.(80) It remains, thanks to the Apostles and to their
successors, under the authority of Peter, the "lasting and
visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and
24. It is therefore necessary to develop among religious "a
manner of thinking" not only "with" but, as St. Ignatius of
Loyola also says, "within", the Church.(82) This sense of
the Church consists in being aware that one belongs to a
people on a journey:
A people which has its source in the Trinitarian communion,
which is rooted in human history; which is based upon the
foundation of the Apostles and upon the pastoral ministry of
their successors, and which recognizes in the successor of
St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ and the visible head of the
A people which finds in the Scriptures, tradition, and the
magisterium, the triple and unique channel through which the
Word of God comes to it; which longs for a visible unity
with other Christian, non-Catholic communities;
A people which is not unaware of the changes that have
occurred through the centuries, or of the present legitimate
diversities within the Church, but seeks rather to discover
the continuity and unity that are all the more real;
A people which identifies itself as the Body of Christ, and
which does not separate the love for Christ from that which
it should have for his Church, knowing that it represents a
mystery, the very mystery of God in Jesus Christ through his
Spirit, poured out and communicated to humanity today and
for all time;
A people which, as a consequence, does not accept being
perceived or analyzed from a merely sociological or
political point of view, since the most authentic part of
its life escapes the attention of the wise men of this
And, finally, a missionary people, which is not satisfied
with seeing the Church remain a "little flock" but is ever
seeking to have the Gospel announced to every human being so
that the world will know that there is no other name under
heaven given to us whereby we may be saved" (Acts 4:12),
except that of Jesus Christ (cf. LG 9).
25. A sense of Church also implies a feeling for ecclesial
communion. In virtue of the affinity which exists between
religious life and the mystery of a Church, "whose unity...
in communion and service"(83) is assured by the Holy Spirit,
religious, as "experts in communion," are "called to be an
ecclesial community in the Church and in the world,
witnesses and architects of the plan for communion which is
the crowning point of human history in God's design."(84)
This is brought about through the profession of the
evangelical counsels, which frees the fervor of charity from
every impediment and causes religious to become a prophetic
sign of an intimate communion with God loved above all else;
it is also effected through the daily experience of
communion of life, prayer, and apostolate, essential and
distinctive constituents of their form of consecrated life,
which makes them signs of fraternal communion.(85)
This is why, especially during the course of initial
formation, "life in common, seen especially as an experience
and witness of communion,"(86) will be deemed an
indispensable milieu and a preeminent means of formation.
26. At the heart of the Church, and in communion with the
Virgin Mary, community life enjoys a privileged role in
formation at every stage. Formation depends to a great
extent on the quality of this community. This quality is the
result of its general climate and the style of life of its
members, in conformity with the particular character and
spirit of the institute. This means that a community will be
what its members make it, that it has its own requirements,
and that before it can be used as a means of formation, it
deserves to be lived and loved for what it is in the
religious life, as the Church conceives it.
The basic inspiration is obviously the first Christian
community, the fruit of the Pasch of the Lord.(87) But in
tending toward this ideal, it is necessary to be aware of
its requirements. A humble realism and one's faith should
animate the efforts made during formation toward fraternal
life. The community is established and endures, not because
its members find that they are happy together due to an
affinity in thought, character, or options, but because the
Lord has brought them together and unites them by a common
consecration and for a common mission within the Church. All
adhere to the particular mediation exercised by the superior
in an obedience of faith.(88) Moreover, it should not be
forgotten that the Paschal peace and joy of a community are
always the fruit of death to self and the reception of the
gift of the Spirit.(89)
27. A community is formative to the extent that it permits
each one of its numbers to grow in fidelity to the Lord
according to the charism of his or her institute.
To accomplish this, the members must be clear among
themselves on why the community exists, and on its basic
objectives. Their interpersonal relationships will be marked
by simplicity and confidence, being based primarily upon
faith and charity. Toward this end, the community is formed
each day under the action of the Holy Spirit, allowing
itself to be judged and converted by the Word of God,
purified by penance, constructed by the Eucharist, and
vivified by the celebration of the liturgical year. It
strengthens its communion by generous mutual assistance and
by a continuous exchange of material and spiritual goods, in
a spirit of poverty and with the help of friendship and
dialogue. The community lives the spirit of its founder and
the rule of the institute profoundly. Superiors will
consider it their particular office to seek to build a
community of brothers or sisters in Christ (cf. can. 619).
Then, each one, aware of his or her responsibility within
the community, is moved to grow, not only for self but for
the good of all.(90)
Religious in formation should be able to find a spiritual
atmosphere, an austerity of life, and an apostolic
enthusiasm within their community, which are conducive to
their following Christ according to the radicalism of their
It is fitting to recall here the words of Pope John Paul
II's message to the religious of Brazil: "It will therefore
be good that the young, during the period of formation,
reside in formative communities where there should be no
lack of the conditions required for a complete formation:
spiritual, intellectual, cultural, liturgical,
communitarian, and pastoral; conditions which are rarely
found together in small communities. It is therefore always
indispensable to keep drawing from the pedagogical
experience of the Church all that can assist and enrich
formation, in a community suitable to the individuals and to
their religious, and in some cases, priestly vocation" (IDGP
IX 2, pp. 243-44).
28. Here it is necessary to bring up the problem caused by
inserting a religious formation community in a poor milieu.
Small religious communities inserted in a working class
district, on the periphery of certain large cities, or in
the inner city, or in the more remote or poorer areas of the
country, can be a significant expression of "the
preferential option for the poor," since it is not enough to
work for the poor but there is also the question of living
with them and, as far as possible, like them. However, this
demand should be modified at times according to the
situation in which religious find themselves. First of all,
it is necessary to insist, as a general rule, that the
requirements of formation should prevail over certain
apostolic advantages that come from an insertion into a poor
milieu. It must be possible to realize and maintain solitude
and silence, for example, which are indispensable during the
whole time of initial formation. On the other hand, the time
of formation contains periods of apostolic activities where
this dimension of religious life can find expression, on
condition that these small, inserted communities conform to
certain criteria which assure their religious authenticity;
that is, that they offer the possibility of living a truly
religious life in accord with the ends of the institute;
that, in these communities, the life of communal and
personal prayer and, consequently, times and places of
silence, can be maintained; that the motives for the
presence of the religious be first of all, evangelical; that
these communities always be ready to respond to the needs of
the superiors of the institute; that their apostolic
activity not be primarily a response to a personal choice,
but to a choice of the institute, in harmony with the
pastoral work of the diocese, for which the bishop is
It must be remembered, finally, that in countries and
cultures where hospitality is held in particularly high
esteem, a religious community, with regard to times and
places, insofar as possible, ought to be able to maintain
its autonomy and independence with respect to its guests.
This is undoubtedly more difficult to realize in religious
houses of a modest dimension, but it should always be taken
into consideration when a community makes plans for its
THE RELIGIOUS THEMSELVES: RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR FOR
29. It is the individual religious who holds the first
responsibility for saying "yes" to the call which has been
received and for accepting all the consequences of this
response; this is not primarily in the order of the
intellect, but of the whole of life. The call and the action
of God, like his love, are always new; historical situations
are never repeated. The one who is called is therefore
invited unceasingly to give an attentive, new, and
responsible reply. The journey of each religious will recall
that of the people of God in Exodus, and also that evolution
of the disciples, who were "slow to believe"(91) but who, in
the end, were burning with fervor when the risen Lord
revealed himself to them.(92) This indicates the extent to
which the formation of a religious should be personalized.
It will therefore be a question of strongly appealing to the
conscience and personal responsibility of each religious, so
that they interiorize the values of religious life, and at
the same time, the role of life which is proposed to them by
the director of formation so that they find within
themselves the justification for their practical choices,
and find in the creator Spirit their fundamental dynamism.
Therefore, a right balance must be found between the
formation of the group and that of each person, between the
respect for the time envisioned for each phase of formation
and its adaptation to the rhythm of each individual.
INSTRUCTORS OR FORMATORS (SUPERIORS AND OTHERS RESPONSIBLE
30. The spirit of the risen Jesus is made present and active
by means of a complex of ecclesial mediations. The whole of
the religious tradition of the Church attests to the
decisive character of the role of teachers for the success
of the work of formation. Their role is to discern the
authenticity of the call to the religious life in the
initial phase of formation, and to assist the religious
toward a successful personal dialogue with God while they
are discovering the ways in which God seems to wish them to
advance. They should also accompany religious along the
paths of the Lord(93) by means of direct and regular
dialogue, always respecting the proper role of the confessor
and spiritual director in the strict sense of the words.
Further, one of the main tasks of those responsible for
formation is to ascertain whether the novices and the young
professed are being effectively followed by a spiritual
Formators should also offer religious solid nourishment,
both doctrinal and practical, in keeping with each one's
stage of formation. Finally, they should progressively
examine and evaluate the progress that is being made by
those in their charge, in light of the fruits of the Spirit.
They must decide whether the individual called has the
capacities which are required at this time by the Church and
31. In addition to a sound knowledge of Catholic faith and
morals, "those who are responsible for formation need to
the human qualities of insight and responsiveness;
a certain experiential knowledge of God and of prayer;
wisdom resulting from attentive and prolonged listening to
the Word of God;
love of the liturgy and understanding of its role in
spiritual and ecclesial formation;
necessary cultural competence;
sufficient time and good will to attend to the candidates
individually, and not just as a group."(94)
Consequently, this office requires inner serenity,
availability, patience, understanding, and a true affection
for those who have been confided to the pastoral
responsibility of the instructor.
32. If there is a group of formators under the personal
responsibility of the one who is in charge of formation, the
individual members should act in harmony, keenly aware of
their common responsibility. Under the direction of the
superior, "they should cultivate the closest harmony of
spirit and action," and should form with one another and
with those in their charge, one united family.(95) No less
necessary is the cohesion and continued collaboration among
those responsible for the different stages of formation.
The work of formation as a whole is the fruit of the
collaboration between those responsible for formation and
their disciples. If it remains true that the disciple
assumes a large part of the responsibility for his or her
own formation, still this responsibility can only be
exercised within a specific tradition, that of the
institute, for which those responsible for formation are the
witnesses and immediate exponents.
B) THE HUMAN AND CHRISTIAN DIMENSION OF FORMATION
33. In its declaration on Christian education, the Second
Vatican Council set forth the aims and means for every true
education in the service of the human family. It is
important to keep these in mind in the reception and
formation of candidates for religious life, since the first
requirement for this formation is the ability to identify a
human and Christian foundation with a particular person.
Numerous failures in religious life can, in effect, be
attributed to defects that were not perceived, or overcome,
in this area. Not only should the existence of this human
and Christian foundation be verified in one who is entering
religious life, but it is necessary to assure that effective
adjustments are made all during the period of formation,
according to the evolution of the individuals and events.
The integral formation of a person has a physical, moral,
intellectual, and spiritual dimension. Its ends and
exigencies are known. The Second Vatican Council gives an
account of them in the pastoral constitution Gaudium et spes,(96)
and in the declaration on Christian education Gravissimum
educationis(97) The decree on the formation of priests
Optatam totius gives criteria that enable one to judge the
level of human maturity required in candidates for priestly
ministry.(98) These criteria can be easily applied to
candidates for religious life, considering its nature and
the mission which a religious is called to fill within the
Church. The decree Perfectae caritatis, on the appropriate
renewal of religious life, recalls the baptismal roots of
religious consecration;(99) and, from this fact, it
implicitly allows for admission into the novitiate only
those candidates who are already living all of their
baptismal promises in a manner consistent with their age.
Similarly, a good formation for religious life should
confirm one's profession of faith and baptismal promises in
all stages of life and particularly in its most difficult
periods when one is called to choose again freely what once
was chosen forever.
35. Whatever the insistence placed upon the cultural and
intellectual dimensions of formation by this document, the
spiritual dimension retains its priority. "The principal
purpose of formation at its various stages, initial and
ongoing, is to immerse religious in the experience of God
and to help them perfect it gradually in their lives."(100)
36. "Following in the footsteps of Christ leads to sharing
ever more consciously and concretely in the mystery of his
passion, of his death, and of his resurrection. The Paschal
mystery should be, as it were, the heart of the programs of
formation, insofar as it is a font of life and of maturity.
It is on this foundation that the new person is formed, the
religious and the apostle."(101) This leads us to recall the
indispensable need of asceticism in formation and in the
religious life. In a world of eroticism, of consumerism, and
all kinds of abuse of power, there is a need for witnesses
of the Paschal mystery of Christ, the first stage of which
necessarily passes through the cross. This passage requires
insertion of a daily, personal asceticism into an integral
program of formation; this leads candidates, novices, and
professed to the exercise of the virtues of faith, hope,
charity, prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. Such
a program is perennial and cannot go out of style. It is
always contemporary and always necessary. One cannot live
out one's baptism without adopting asceticism, much less be
faithful to a religious vocation. This way will be pursued
all the more actively if, as with the entire Christian life,
it is motivated by a love of Our Lord Jesus Christ and by
the joy of serving him.
In addition to this, Christians have need of coaches who can
assist them in running along the "royal way of the Holy
Cross." They need witnesses who renounce what St. John has
called "the world," and "its lusts," and also "this world,"
created and preserved by the love of its Creator, and some
of its values. The Kingdom of God, which is shown by
religious life "to surpass all things that are here
below,"(102) is not of this world. There is a need of
witnesses to say so. During the course of formation this
naturally assumes reflection upon the Christian meaning of
asceticism, and sound convictions about God and his
relationship with the world that has come from his hands.
This is because a blissful and naturalistic optimism must be
avoided, on the one hand, and a pessimism oblivious to the
mystery of Christ, Creator and Redeemer of the world, on the
37. Asceticism, moreover, which implies refusing to follow
one's spontaneous and primary drives and instincts, is an
anthropological exigency, before being specifically
Christian. Psychologists have observed that the young,
especially, have need of encountering opposition
(instructors, regulations, etc...) in order to develop their
personalities. But this is not simply true for the young,
since the development of a person is never fully achieved.
The pedagogy used in the formation of religious should help
them to be enthusiastic for an enterprise that demands
effort. It is in this way that God himself leads the human
person whom he has created.
An asceticism inherent in the religious life, among other
elements, calls for an initiation into silence and solitude;
this is true also for institutes dedicated to the
apostolate. They must faithfully comply "with the basic law
of all spiritual life, which consists in arranging a proper
balance of periods set aside for solitude with God and
others, devoted to various activities and to the human
contacts which these involve."(103) Solitude, if it is
freely assumed, leads to interior silence, and this invites
material silence. The regulation of every religious
community, not only of houses of formation, should
absolutely provide for times and places of solitude and
silence; these foster hearing and assimilating the word of
God, and at the same time, favor the spiritual maturation of
the person and of a true fraternal communion in Christ.
D) SEXUALITY AND FORMATION
39. Today's generations have often grown up in such
integrated situations that boys and girls are not helped to
know and appreciate their own respective wealth and
limitations. Formation in this area is particularly
important due to apostolic contacts of all kinds and the
greater collaboration which has begun between religious men
and religious women as well as present cultural currents.
Early desegregation and close and frequent cooperation do
not necessarily guarantee maturity in the relationships
between the two sexes. It will therefore be necessary to
take means to promote this maturity and to strengthen it
with a view toward formation for the observance of perfect
Moreover, men and women must become aware of their specific
place in the plan of God, of the unique contribution which
respectively they should make to the work of salvation.
Future religious should thus be offered the possibility of
reflecting on the role of sexuality in the divine plan of
creation and salvation.
In this context reasons must be given and understood to
explain why those who do not seem to be able to overcome
their homosexual tendencies, or who maintain that it is
possible to adopt a third way, "living in an ambiguous state
between celibacy and marriage"(104) must be dismissed from
the religious life.
40. God did not create an undifferentiated world. Creating
the human person to his own image and likeness (Gen
2:26-27), as a reasonable and free creature, capable of
knowing and of loving him, God did not wish man to be alone,
but in relation with another human person, woman (Gen 2:18).
Between the two is established a "mutual relationship: man
to woman and woman to man."(105) "The woman is another 'I'
in a common humanity."(106) This is why "man and woman are
called from the beginning not only to exist 'side by side'
or 'together,' but they are also called to exist mutually
'one for the other'."(107) One can easily see the importance
of these anthropological principles, since there is a
question of forming men and women who, through a special
grace, have made a free profession of perfect chastity for
the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.
41. A "penetrating and accurate consideration of the
anthropological foundation for masculinity and femininity"
will aim at "clarifying woman's personal identity in
relation to man, that is, a diversity yet mutual
complementarity, not only as it concerns roles to be held
and functions to be performed, but also, and more deeply, as
it concerns her nature and meaning as a person."(108) The
history of religious life bears witness to the fact that
many women, within the cloister or in the world, have found
there, an ideal place for the service of God and others,
conditions favorable to the expansion of their own
femininity and, as a consequence, to a fuller understanding
of their own identity. This growth in depth is to be pursued
with the help of theological reflection and "the help that
can come from different human sciences and cultures."(109)
Finally, for a clearer perception of the specific character
of the feminine religious life, one should not forget that
"the figure of Mary of Nazareth sheds light on womanhood as
such by the very fact that God, in the sublime event of the
incarnation of his Son, entrusted himself to the ministry,
the free and active ministry, of a woman. It can thus be
said that women, by looking to Mary, find in her the secret
of living their femininity with dignity and of achieving
their own true advancement. In the light of Mary, the Church
sees in the face of women the reflection of a beauty which
mirrors the loftiest sentiments of which the human heart is
capable: the self-offering totality of love; the strength
that is capable of bearing the greatest sorrows; limitless
fidelity and tireless devotion to work; the ability to
combine penetrating intuition with words of support and
THE STAGES OF RELIGIOUS FORMATION
A) THE STAGE BEFORE ENTRANCE INTO THE NOVITIATE
42. In today's circumstances, generally speaking, it may be
said that the analysis of Renovationis causam remains valid:
"Most of the difficulties encountered today in the formation
of novices are usually due to the fact that when they were
admitted they did not have the required maturity."(111) It
certainly is not required that a candidate for the religious
life be able to assume all of the obligations of the
religious life immediately, but he or she should be found
capable of doing so progressively. The possibility of making
such a judgment justifies the time and means employed in
reaching it. This is the purpose of the stage preparatory to
the novitiate, no matter what name may be given to it:
postulancy, pre-novitiate, etc. It pertains exclusively to
the proper law of institutes to determine the manner in
which it is carried out, but whatever these may be, "no one
can be admitted without suitable preparation."(112)
43. Taking into account what will be said (nn. 86 ff), with
respect to the condition of youth in the modern world, this
preparatory stage, which can be prolonged without fear,
should aim at verifying and clarifying certain points which
will permit superiors to determine the advisability of and
the time for the candidate's admission into the novitiate.
Care should be taken not to hasten the time for this
admission, nor to defer it unduly, provided that it is
possible to arrive at a certain judgment on whether the
person is a promising candidate.
Admission is based upon conditions determined by the general
law of the Church, though the institute's proper law can add
others.(113) The requirements of the law are as follows:
a sufficient degree of human and Christian maturity(114) for
undertaking novitiate without its being reduced to the level
of a course of general formation based on a simple
catechumenate. It can actually happen that some present
themselves as candidates who have not completed their
Christian initiation (sacramental, doctrinal, and moral),
and lack some of the elements of an ordinary Christian life.
a general cultural foundation which should correspond to
what is generally expected of young persons who have
achieved the normal education of their country. It is
particularly necessary that future novices attain a facility
in the language used in the novitiate.
Since this is a matter of basic culture, it will be
important to take into account the conditions of certain
countries or social environments where the level of
schooling is still relatively low, but where the Lord is
nonetheless calling candidates to the religious life. Thus
it will be necessary to promote the original culture
carefully, and not assimilate it into a foreign culture. It
is within their own culture that candidates, whether male or
female, must recognize the call of the Lord and respond to
it in a personal way.
a balanced affectivity, especially sexual balance, which
presupposes the acceptance of the other, man or woman,
respecting his or her own difference. Recourse to a
psychological examination can be useful, taking into account
the right of each individual to preserve his or her own
the ability to live in community under the authority of
superiors in a particular institute. This capacity certainly
will be verified further during the course of the novitiate,
but the question should be posed in advance. Candidates
should be well aware of the fact that other ways exist by
which to give all of one's life to the Lord, apart from
entering a religious institute.
FORMS OF REALIZATION
44. These can be diverse: reception into a community of the
institute, without sharing all its life -- with the
exception of the novitiate community, which is not
recommended for this, except in the case of nuns; -- periods
of contacts with the institute or with one of its
representatives; common life in a house of reception for
candidates, etc. However, none of these forms should give
the impression that those who are interested have already
become members of the institute. In every way, the persons
accompanying the candidates are more important than the
modalities of reception.
One or several religious endowed with the necessary
qualifications will be designated by superiors to guide the
candidates and to help them with the discernment of their
vocation. These persons will actively collaborate with the
directors of novices.
B) THE NOVITIATE AND FIRST PROFESSION
45. "The novitiate, by which life in the institute begins,
is ordered to this, that the novices better recognize their
divine vocation and one which is, moreover, proper to the
institute; that they experience the institute's manner of
living; that they be formed in mind and heart by its spirit;
and that their intention and suitability be tested."(116)
Taking into account the diversity of charisms and
institutes, the end of the novitiate could be defined, in
other words, as a time of integral initiation into the form
of life which the Son of God embraced and which he proposes
to us in the Gospel(117) under one or another aspect of his
service, or one or another of his mysteries.(118)
46. "The novices are to be led to cultivate human and
Christian virtues; they are to be introduced to a fuller way
of perfection by prayer and self-denial; they are to be
instructed to contemplate the mystery of salvation, and to
read and meditate on the Sacred Scriptures; they are to be
prepared to cultivate the worship of God in the sacred
liturgy; they are to be trained in a way of life consecrated
by the evangelical counsels to God and humankind in Christ;
they are to be educated about the character and spirit,
purpose and discipline, history and life of their institute,
and they are to be imbued with a love for the Church and its
47. As a consequence of this general law, the total
initiation which characterizes the novitiate goes far beyond
that of simple instruction. It is:
an initiation into a profound and living knowledge of Christ
and of his Father. This presupposes a meditative study of
Scripture, the celebration of the liturgy according to the
spirit and character of the institute, an initiation into
personal prayer, so that its practice becomes habitual, and
a relish for the great authors of the Church's spiritual
tradition, without being limited to spiritual reading of a
an initiation into the Paschal mystery of Christ through
detachment from self, especially in the practice of the
evangelical counsels according to the spirit of the
institute, an evangelical asceticism joyfully undertaken,
and a courageous acceptance of the mystery of the cross.
an initiation into a fraternal, evangelical life. It is, in
effect, within a community that faith is deepened and
becomes communion, and that charity finds its numerous
manifestations in the concrete routine of daily life.
an initiation into the history, particular mission, and
spirituality of the institute. Here, for institutes
dedicated to the apostolate, there enters the fact that: "to
complete the formation of the novices, in addition to the
time mentioned in n. 1 (that is, the twelve months to be
passed within the novitiate community itself) the
constitutions can determine one or several periods of
apostolic exercises to be spent outside the novitiate
These periods have the purpose of teaching the novices to
"realize in their lives, in progressive stages, that
cohesive unity whereby contemplation and apostolic activity
are closely linked together, a unity which is one of the
most fundamental and primary values of these same
The arrangement of these periods should take into account
the twelve months to be passed within the novitiate
community itself, during which the novices will not be
occupied with studies and duties which do not directly serve
The novitiate program of formation should be defined by the
institute's proper law.(123)
It is not advisable that the novitiate be conducted within a
milieu foreign to the culture and native language of the
novices. Small novitiates are actually better, provided that
they are rooted in this culture. The essential reason for
this is to avoid a multiplication of problems during a
period of formation in which the fundamental equilibrium of
a person should be established and when the relationship
between the novices and the director of novices should be
comfortable, enabling them to speak to each other with all
the nuances required at the outset of an intensive spiritual
journey. Further, a transfer into another culture at this
particular moment involves the risk of accepting false
vocations and of not perceiving what may be false
PROFESSIONAL WORK DURING THE COURSE OF THE NOVITIATE
48. It is worth mentioning here the question of professional
work during the course of the novitiate. In a number of
industrialized countries, for motives which are at times
justified by an apostolic intention, and which may also be
in keeping with the social legislation of these countries,
candidates who are receiving a salary only ask their
employer for a one-year leave of absence "for personal
convenience," at the time of their entrance into the
novitiate. This enables them to regain their employment if
they should return to the world, and they do not, as a
consequence, run the risk of becoming unemployed. At times
this also leads to the resumption of their professional work
during the second year of the novitiate under the guise of
We believe that the following principle should be stated in
this regard. In institutes which have two years of
novitiate, the novices can exercise their profession full
time only under the following conditions:
that this work effectively corresponds to the apostolic
finality of the institute;
that it is assumed in the second year of the novitiate;
that it corresponds to the exigencies of can. 648.2, namely,
that it contributes to perfecting the formation of the
novices for life in the institute, and that it is truly an
SOME CONDITIONS TO BE OBSERVED
49. The canonical conditions for licit and valid admission
on the part of both the candidate and the competent
authority must be rigorously observed. Conformity with these
regulations can avoid many future difficulties.(124) With
respect to candidates for the diaconate or priesthood,
special care should be taken at this time so that no
irregularity later affects the reception of Holy Orders --
it being understood that major superiors of clerical
institutes of pontifical right can dispense from
irregularities not reserved to the Holy See.(125)
It should also be remembered that superiors must consult the
proper ordinary and ask for testimony from him before
admitting a secular cleric into the novitiate (can. 644 and
50. The circumstances of time and place necessary for the
fulfillment of the novitiate are indicated by law. Its
flexibility should also be kept in mind, always remembering,
however, that prudence can advise what the law does not
impose.(126) Major superiors, and those responsible for
formation, should know that current circumstances, now more
than ever, require conditions of stability sufficient to
enable the novices to grow and advance in spirit in a
profound and peaceful way. This is all the more important
because of the fact that many candidates have already had
experience of life in the world. Novices actually have a
need of being trained in the practice of prolonged prayer,
of solitude, and of silence. For all this, the element of
time plays a determining role. They can have a greater need
"to withdraw" from the world than "to go" to the world, and
this need is not merely subjective. This is why the time and
place of the novitiate will be organized so that the novices
can find an atmosphere that is favorable to becoming deeply
rooted in a life with Christ. But this is only achieved by
becoming detached from oneself, from all that which opposes
God in the world, and even from those goods of the world
"that undoubtedly deserve to be highly valued."(127) As a
consequence, making the novitiate in an inserted community
is completely discouraged. As was stated above (n. 28), the
demands of formation must take precedence over certain
apostolic advantages of insertion in a poor milieu.
51. Not all the novices enter the novitiate at the same
level of human and Christian culture. It will therefore be
necessary to pay very close attention to each individual so
that each advances at his or her own pace, and so that the
content of formation and the way it is communicated, are
suitable to the one receiving it.
THE DIRECTORS OF NOVICES AND THEIR COLLABORATORS
52. The care of the novices is reserved solely to the
director of novices under the authority of the major
superiors. He or she must be free from all other obligations
that would impede the complete fulfillment of the role as
educator. If he or she has collaborators, these depend upon
the director in what concerns the program of formation and
the conduct of the novitiate. Together with the director,
they have an important role in discernment and
When secular priests or other religious from outside the
novitiate, and even laymen or laywomen, are brought into the
novitiate, either for teaching or for the sacrament of
reconciliation, they work in close collaboration with the
director of novices, each keeping complete discretion.
The director of novices is the spiritual guide appointed for
this purpose for each and all of the novices. The novitiate
is the place of the director's ministry, and he or she
should thus be permanently available to the novices. The
director will be able to fulfill this task readily only if
the novices are entirely free and open in his or her regard.
Nevertheless, in clerical institutes, neither the director
nor his assistant may hear the sacramental confessions of
the novices unless, in particular instances, they
spontaneously ask him to do so.(129)
Finally, directors of novices should remember that
psycho-pedagogical means by themselves cannot substitute for
an authentic spiritual direction.
53. "Conscious of their own responsibility, the novices are
to collaborate actively with their director so that they may
faithfully respond to the grace of a divine vocation."(130)
And, "members of the institute are to take care that on
their part they cooperate in the work of training novices by
the example of their life and by prayer."(131)
54. During the course of a liturgical celebration, the
Church, through the competent superiors, receives the vows
of those who make their profession, and associates their
offering with the Eucharistic Sacrifice.(132) The Ordo
professionis(133) gives the outline of this celebration, but
it also leaves room for the legitimate traditions of the
respective institutes. This liturgical action manifests the
ecclesial roots of profession. Beginning from the mystery
celebrated in this way, it will be possible to develop a
more vital and profound appreciation of consecration.
During the novitiate, both the excellence and the
possibility of a perpetual commitment in the service of the
Lord will be brought out. "The quality of a person can be
judged by the nature of his bonds. Consequently, one can
joyfully say that your freedom is freely attached to God by
a voluntary service, a loving servitude. And, as a
consequence of this your humanity attains its maturity.
'Extended humanity,' as I have written in the encyclical
Redemptor hominis, means the full use of the gift of freedom
which we have received from the Creator when he called man,
made to his own image and likeness, into existence. This
gift finds its full realization in the unreserved donation
of the human person, whole and entire, in a spirit of
nuptial love towards Christ, and, with Christ, towards all
those to whom he sends men and women who are totally
consecrated to him according to the evangelical
counsels."(134) One does not give one's life to Christ on a
"trial" basis. Moreover it is he who takes the initiative in
asking this of us. Religious bear witness to the fact that
this is possible, thanks first of all to God's fidelity, and
to the fact that this renders them free and happy, if their
gift is renewed each day.
56. Perpetual profession presumes a prolonged preparation
and a persevering apprenticeship. This justifies the
Church's requirement that it be preceded by a period of
temporary profession. "While still retaining its
probationary character by the fact that it is temporary, the
profession of first vows makes the young religious share in
the consecration proper to the religious state."(135)
Consequently, this time of temporary profession has as its
end the strengthening of the fidelity of the young
professed, whatever may be the human satisfaction which they
receive from their daily life "in the following of Christ."
The liturgical celebration should carefully distinguish the
perpetual profession from the temporal profession, which
should be celebrated "without any particular
solemnity."(136) On the other hand, the perpetual profession
is made "with the desired solemnity, and in the presence of
the religious and others,"(137) since "it is the sign of the
indissoluble union of Christ with the Church, his Spouse
(cf. LG 44)."(138)
57. All the legal dispositions with respect to the
conditions for validity and for the time of temporary and
perpetual profession must be observed.(139)
C) FORMATION OF THE TEMPORARILY PROFESSED
WHAT IS PRESCRIBED BY THE CHURCH
58. With respect to the formation of those who are
temporarily professed, the Church prescribes that "in
individual institutes after first profession the formation
of all members is to be continued so that they may lead more
fully the proper life of the institute and carry out its
mission more suitably. Therefore, proper law must define the
program of this formation and its duration, keeping in mind
the needs of the Church and the circumstances of human
persons and times to the extent this is required by the
purpose and character of the institute."(140)
"The formation is to be systematic, adapted to the capacity
of the members, spiritual, and apostolic, doctrinal and at
the same time practical, and when it seems opportune,
leading to appropriate degrees both ecclesiastical and
civil. During the time of this formation, duties and jobs
which would impede the formation are not to be assigned to
SIGNIFICANCE AND REQUIREMENTS OF THIS STAGE
59. First profession inaugurates a new phase of formation,
which benefits from the dynamism and stability derived from
profession. For the religious, it is a matter of reaping the
fruits of the preceding stages, and of pursuing their own
human and spiritual growth through the courageous execution
of their responsibilities. Retaining the spiritual
enthusiasm given by the preceding stage is all the more
necessary, since, in institutes dedicated to the apostolate,
the move to a more open life style and to very demanding
activities often runs the risk of disorientation and
aridity. In institutes dedicated to contemplation, the risk
is more apt to be a matter of routine, of weariness, and of
spiritual laziness. Jesus taught his disciples through the
crises to which they were subjected. Through his repeated
prophecies of his Passion, he prepared them to become more
authentic disciples.(142) The pedagogy of this stage will
therefore aim at permitting young religious to make real
progress by means of their experiences according to a unity
of perspective and of life -- that of their own vocation, at
this time in their existence, with a view toward perpetual
THE CONTENT AND MEANS OF FORMATION
60. The institute has the grave responsibility of providing
for the organization and duration of this period of
formation, and of furnishing the young religious with
favorable conditions for a real increase in their donation
to the Lord. In the first place, it will provide them a
vigorous formational community and the presence of competent
instructors. Actually, at this level of formation, in
contrast to what was said regarding the novitiate (cf. n.
47), a larger community, well provided with means of
formation and good guidance, is better than a small
community without experts in formation. As in the whole
course of religious life, religious must make efforts: to
better understand the practical importance of community life
in keeping with the vocation proper to their institute; to
accept the reality of this life and to discover within it
the conditions for their personal progress; to respect
others in their differences; and to feel personal
responsibility within this same community. Superiors will
specifically designate one to be responsible for the
formation of the temporarily professed, extending in a
specific manner to this level, the work of the director of
novices. This formation should last for at least three
61. The following suggestions for programs are only
indicative, and they do not hesitate to propose a high
ideal, considering the need there is for forming religious
to meet the requirements and expectations of the
contemporary world. It will be up to the institutes and to
the formators to make the necessary adaptations to
individuals, places, and times.
In the program of studies, special attention should be given
to biblical, dogmatic, spiritual, and pastoral theology, and
in particular, to deepening a doctrinal understanding of
consecrated life and of the charism of the institute. The
establishment of this program and its functioning should
respect the internal unity of teaching and the harmonization
of different disciplines. There are not many sciences, but
only one which a religious should be aware of learning: the
science of faith and of the Gospel. In this regard, a
cumulative diversification of courses and disciplines should
be avoided. Further, out of respect for individuals,
religious should not be introduced prematurely into highly
controversial questions if they have not as yet completed
the courses needed to approach them peacefully.
The program will aim at suitably providing a basic
philosophical formation that will permit religious to
acquire a knowledge of God and a Christian vision of the
world, in close connection with the debated questions of our
time. This will show the harmony which exists between the
knowledge of reason and that of faith in the search for
truth which is one. In such conditions, religious will be
protected from the ever threatening temptations of a
critical rationalism on the one hand, and of a pietism and
fundamentalism on the other.
The program of theological studies should be judiciously
conceived, and its different parts should be well defined so
that the "hierarchy" of the truths of Catholic doctrine is
brought out, since they vary in their relationship with the
foundations of the Christian faith.(143) The establishment
of this program can draw inspiration from an adaptation of
the suggestions made by the Congregation for Catholic
Education on the formation of candidates for the priestly
ministry,(144) taking care not to omit anything that could
assist in acquiring a good knowledge of the faith and a
Christian life within the Church: history, liturgy, canon
62. Finally, the maturation of a religious at this stage
will require an apostolic commitment and a progressive
participation in ecclesial and social experiences in keeping
with the charism of their institute, and taking into account
the aptitudes and aspirations of individuals. In the process
of these experiences, religious should remember that they
are not primarily pastoral ministers, but that they are in a
period of initial formation, rather than one that is more
advanced, and that their commitment to an ecclesial, and
especially a social service, is necessarily subject to the
criteria of discernment (cf. n. 18).
63. Even though superiors are rightly described as
"spiritual directors in relation to the evangelical purpose
of their institute,"(145) religious should have a person
available to them, who may be called a spiritual director or
spiritual counselor, for the internal, even non-sacramental,
forum. "Following the tradition of the early fathers of the
desert and of all the great religious founders in the matter
of provision for spiritual guidance, religious institutes
each have members who are particularly qualified and
appointed to help their sisters and brothers in this matter.
Their role varies according to the stage reached by the
religious but their main responsibilities are: discernment
of God's action; the accompaniment of the religious in the
ways of God; the nourishing of life with solid doctrine and
the practice of prayer; and, particularly in the first
stage, the evaluation of the journey thus far made.(146)
This spiritual direction, which "cannot in any way be
replaced by psychological methods,"(147) and for which the
Council claims a "due liberty,"(148) should therefore be
"fostered by the availability of competent and qualified
These provisions primarily intended for this stage in the
formation of religious, should continue for the rest of
their lives. In religious communities, above all those which
are large and especially where the temporarily professed are
living, there must be at least one officially designated
religious to assist their brothers and sisters with guidance
of spiritual advice.
64. Some institutes have provisions for a more intense
period of preparation prior to perpetual profession, which
includes a withdrawal from one's usual occupations. This
practice merits encouragement and extension.
65. If, as is provided for in the law, young professed are
sent to study by their superior,(150) "such studies should
not be programmed with a view to achieving personal goals,
as if they were a means of wrongly understood
self-fulfillment, but with a view to responding to the
requirements of the apostolic commitments of the religious
family itself, in harmony with the needs of the
Church."(151) The course of these studies and the pursuit of
degrees will be suitably harmonized with the rest of the
program for this stage of formation, according to the
judgment of major superiors and those responsible for
D) THE ON-GOING FORMATION OF THE PERPETUALLY PROFESSED
66. "Throughout their entire life religious are to continue
carefully their own spiritual, doctrinal, and practical
formation, and superiors are to provide them with the
resources and time to do this."(152) "Each religious
institute therefore has the task of planning and realizing a
program of permanent formation suitable for all its members.
It should be a program which is not simply directed to the
formation of the intellect, but also to that of the whole
person, primarily in its spiritual mission, so that every
religious can live his or her own consecration to God in all
its fullness, and in keeping with the specific mission which
the Church has confided to them."(153)
REASONS FOR ON-GOING FORMATION
67. On-going formation is motivated first of all. by the
initiative of God, who calls each one, at every moment and
in new circumstances. The charism of religious life in a
determined institute is a living grace which must be
received and lived in conditions which often are new. "The
very charism of the founders (ET 11) appears as 'an
experience of the Spirit,' transmitted to their disciples to
be lived, safeguarded, deepened and constantly developed by
them, in harmony with the Body of Christ continually in the
process of growth.... The specific charismatic note of any
institute demands, both of the founder and of his disciples,
a continual examination regarding fidelity to the Lord;
docility to His Spirit; intelligent attention to
circumstances and an outlook cautiously directed to the
signs of the times; the will to be part of the Church; the
awareness of subordination to the sacred hierarchy; boldness
of initiatives; constancy in the giving of self; humility in
bearing with adversities. Especially in our times that same
charismatic genuineness, vivacious and ingenious in its
inventiveness, is expected of religious, as stood out so
eminently in their founders."(154) Permanent formation
demands that one pay close attention to the signs of the
Spirit in our times and that religious allow themselves to
be sensitive to them in order to be able to respond to them
Moreover, continued formation is a sociological factor which
in our days affects all areas of professional activity. It
very frequently determines whether one will remain in a
profession or be obliged to take up another.
Whereas initial formation is ordered towards a person's
acquisition of an autonomy sufficient for faithfully living
a religious commitment, on-going formation assists a
religious in integrating creativity within fidelity. This is
because a Christian and religious vocation demands a dynamic
growth and fidelity in the concrete circumstances of
existence. This in turn demands a spiritual formation which
produces inner unity, but which is also flexible and
attentive to the daily events in one's personal life and in
the life of the world.
"To follow Christ" means that one is always on the road,
that one is on one's guard against sclerosis and
ossification, in order to be able to give a living and true
witness to the Kingdom of God in this world.
In other words, there are three basic motivations for
the first arises from the very function of the religious
life within the Church. There it plays a very significant
charismatic and eschatological role that presumes on the
part of religious men and women a special attention to the
life of the Spirit, both in the personal history of each one
and in the hopes and anxieties of others;
the second comes from the challenges which arise from the
future of the Christian faith in a world that is changing
with increased rapidity;(155)
the third concerns the very life of religious institutes,
and especially their future, which depends in part upon the
permanent formation of their members.
68. Continued formation is a global process of renewal which
extends to all aspects of the religious person and to the
whole institute itself. It should be carried out, taking
into account the fact that its different aspects are
inseparable from, and mutually influential in, the life of
each religious and every community. The following aspects
should be kept in mind:
life according to the Spirit, or spirituality: this must
have primacy, since it includes a deepening of faith and of
the meaning of religious profession. The annual spiritual
exercises and other forms of spiritual renewal are thus to
be given priority;
participation in the life of the Church according to the
charism of the pastoral activities in collaboration with
others involved in that activity locally:
doctrinal and professional updating, which includes a
deepening of the biblical and theological perspectives of
the religious, a study of the documents of the universal and
local magisterium, a better knowledge of the local cultures
where one is living and working, new professional and
technical training, when appropriate;
fidelity to the charism of one's institute, through an ever
increasing knowledge of its founder, its history, its
spirit, its mission, and a correlative effort to live this
charism personally and in community.
69. Sometimes a significant amount of permanent religious
formation takes place in an inter-institutional context. In
such cases, it should be remembered that an institute cannot
delegate to external organizations the whole task of
continued formation for its members, since in many respects
that formation is too closely tied to values proper to its
own charism. Each institute, according to its needs and
potentialities, should therefore create and organize various
programs and structures for the formation of its own
SPECIAL TIMES FOR ON-GOING FORMATION
70. The following stages are to be understood in a very
flexible manner. It will be useful to combine them
concretely with those which may arise as a result of the
unforeseeable initiatives of the Holy Spirit. The following
are regarded as particularly significant stages:
the passage from initial formation to the first experience
of a more independent life, in which a religious must
discover a new way of being faithful to God;
the completion of about ten years of perpetual profession,
when the risk of life's becoming "a habit" occurs with the
consequent loss of all enthusiasm. At this time it seems
imperative that there be a prolonged period during which one
withdraws from ordinary life in order to "reread" it in the
light of the Gospel and the mind of one's founder. Various
institutes offer their members such a period of intensifying
their religious life, in what is known as the "third year,"
"second novitiate," "second probation," etc. It is desirable
that this time be passed within a community of the
full maturity, which often involves the danger of the
development of individualism, especially among those of an
active and vigorous temperament;
a time of severe crisis, which can occur at any age as a
result of external factors (change of place of work,
failure, incomprehension, feelings of alienation, etc.), or
more directly personal factors (physical or psychic illness,
spiritual aridity, strong temptations, crises of faith or
feelings, or both at the same time, etc.). In such
circumstances, a religious should be helped so that he or
she successfully overcomes the crisis, in faith;
a time of progressive withdrawal from activity, when
religious feel more profoundly within themselves the
experience which Paul described in the context of moving
toward the resurrection: "We are not discouraged; and even
if, in us, the outward man is being corrupted, the inner man
is being renewed day by day."(156) Peter himself, after he
had received the immense task of feeding the flock of
Christ, heard him say: "When you are old, you will stretch
forth your hands, and another will gird you, and lead you
where you would not wish to go."(157) Religious can live
these moments as a unique opportunity for allowing
themselves to be penetrated by the Paschal experience of the
Lord Jesus, to the point of wishing to die "to be with
Christ," in keeping with their initial choice: "that I may
know Christ, the power of his resurrection and the
fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his
death, in order to come, if possible, to the resurrection
from the dead."(158) Religious life follows no other way.
71. Superiors should designate someone as responsible for
permanent formation in the institute. But it is also
desirable that religious, all during their lives, have
access to spiritual guides or counselors in accord with
their course of initial formation and in ways adapted to
their greater maturity and their actual circumstances.
FORMATION IN INSTITUTES ENTIRELY ORDERED TOWARDS
CONTEMPLATION, ESPECIALLY THOSE OF NUNS (PC 7)
72. What has been said in the preceding chapter is also
applicable to the institutes which will be considered here,
taking into account their particular charism, tradition, and
THE PLACE OF THESE INSTITUTES IN THE CHURCH
73. "There are institutes which are entirely ordered toward
contemplation, in such wise that their members give
themselves over to God alone in solitude and silence, in
constant prayer and willing penance. These will always have
an honored place in the mystical Body of Christ, in which
'all the members do not have the same function' (Rom 12:4),
no matter how pressing may be the needs of the active
ministry. For they offer to God an exceptional sacrifice of
praise, they lend luster to God's people with abundant
fruits of holiness, they sway them by their example, and
they enlarge the Church by their hidden apostolic
In the midst of a particular Church, "their contemplative
life... is their primary and fundamental apostolate, because
it is their typical and characteristic way in God's special
design to be Church, to live in the Church, to achieve
communion with the Church, and to carry out a mission in the
From the point of view of the formation of their members,
and for the reasons which have been given, these institutes
deserve a very special attention, with respect to both
initial and on-going formation.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FORMATION IN THESE INSTITUTES
74. The study of the word of God, of the tradition of the
Fathers, of the documents of the Church's magisterium, and
systematic theological reflection cannot be held in low
esteem where individuals have chosen to direct their whole
life toward the primary, if not exclusive, search for God.
These religious, who are totally dedicated to contemplation,
learn from Scripture that God does not cease to search for
his creatures in order to become united with them, and that
in return, the whole life of a person cannot be anything but
an unceasing search for God. They patiently undertake this
search. At the same time God renders his creatures able to
become enamored with him, despite the burden of their
limitations and their gropings. There is consequently the
task of helping these religious approach the mystery of God
without neglecting the critical exigencies of the human
mind. The certainties given by revelation on the mystery of
God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit must also be brought
out, while ever remaining humble before the quest that will
never be completed until we shall see God face to face for
what he is. The main concern of these contemplatives is not,
and cannot be, the acquisition of extensive knowledge, nor
the gaining of academic degrees. It is, and must be, that of
strengthening their faith, "the substance of things to be
hoped for, the evidence of things that are not seen."(161)
In faith are to be found the roots and premises of an
authentic contemplation. It is occupied with certainties on
paths that are unknown: "Abraham left, not knowing where he
was to go;"(162) faith enables one to remain steadfast
during the time of trial, as if one saw him who is
unseen.(163) Faith heals, deepens, and expands the efforts
of a mind which seeks and contemplates what now is attained
only "through a mirror, in a dark manner."(164)
SOME POINTS TO BE STRESSED
75. The program of formation in these institutes, after it
has taken into account their specific character and the
means suggested for remaining faithful to it, will insist
upon certain elements as it gradually takes up the
successive stages of formation. It should be noted from the
outset that the course of formation among contemplatives
will be less intensive and more informal because of the
stability of their members and the absence of activities
outside the monastery. It must also be noted that, in the
context of today's world, one should expect in the members
of these institutes a level of human and religious culture
in keeping with the needs of our day.
76. More than their brothers and sisters dedicated to the
apostolate, the members of institutes totally directed
toward contemplation spend a good part of each day in a
study of the word of God and in lectio divina, under its
four aspects of reading, meditation, prayer, and
contemplation. Whatever may be the terms employed in the
different spiritual traditions, and the precise meaning that
is given to them, each one of these steps preserves its
uniqueness and necessity. Lectio divina is nourished by the
word of God, where it finds its point of departure, and to
which it returns. The seriousness of biblical study, for its
part, guarantees the richness of the lectio. Whether this
latter has for its object the text of the Bible itself, a
liturgical text, or a great spiritual page of Catholic
tradition, there is a faithful echo of the word of God,
which must be heard and, perhaps, in the manner of the
ancients, even murmured. This initiation requires courageous
practice during the times of formation and all the further
stages depend upon it.
77. The liturgy, especially the celebration of the Eucharist
and the Divine Office, has a privileged place in these
institutes. If the ancients readily compared the monastic
life with that of the angels, it was, among other reasons,
because the angels are the "liturgists" of God.(165) The
liturgy, where earth is united with heaven, and which
therefore provides a kind of foretaste of the celestial
liturgy, is the summit to which the entire Church is
tending, and the font from which it receives all its
strength. It does not take the place of all the activity of
the Church, but for those who "have time solely for the
things of God," it is the place and privileged means for
celebrating, in the name of the Church, in adoration, joy,
and thanksgiving, the work of salvation wrought by Christ, a
memory of which is periodically offered to us in the
unfolding of the liturgical year.(166) Therefore, it should
not only be carefully celebrated according to the rites and
traditions proper to the different institutes, but it should
also be studied with regard to its history, the variety of
its forms, and its theological significance.
78. In the tradition of some of these institutes, religious
receive the priestly ministry and celebrate the daily
Eucharist, even though they are not destined to exercise an
apostolate. This practice finds its justification not only
in that which concerns the priestly ministry, but also in
that which pertains to the sacrament of the Eucharist.
On the one hand there is actually an inner harmony between a
religious consecration and a consecration to the ministry,
and it is legitimate that these religious should be ordained
priests, even if they do not exercise a ministry within, or
outside of, the monastery. "The union in the same person of
the religious consecration, which makes of one an offering
to God, and the priestly character, configures the
individual in a special manner to Christ, who is at once
both Priest and Victim."(167)
On the other hand, the Eucharist "is an act of Christ and
the Church even if it is impossible for the faithful to be
present."(168) And it consequently deserves to be celebrated
as such, because "the reasons for offering the sacrifice are
not to be understood solely in view of the faithful to whom
it is necessary to administer the sacraments, but primarily
in view of God, to whom a sacrifice is offered in the
consecration of this sacrament."(169) Finally, it is
necessary to retain the affinity that exists between a
contemplative vocation and the mystery of the Eucharist.
Actually, "among the works of the contemplative life, the
most important consist in the celebration of the divine
79. Work is a common law by which religious know they are
bound, and it is fitting that during the period of formation
they develop an appreciation of this, since, with respect to
those with whom we are now concerned, formation is carried
on within the interior of the monastery. Work, in order to
live, is not an obstacle to the providence of God, who is
concerned with the least details of our lives; rather it
enters into his plans. It can be considered as a service to
the community, a means of exercising a certain
responsibility within it, and of collaborating with others.
It permits the development of a certain personal discipline
and gives a kind of balance to the more interior activities
that make up the daily routine. In systems of social
analysis, which are becoming progressively more developed in
different countries, work also allows religious to share in
the national solidarity, from which no citizen has the right
to withdraw. More commonly, it is an element of solidarity
with all the workers of the world.
Work thus responds not only to an economic and social need,
but also to an evangelical demand. No one in a community can
identify his or her self with a precise work that risks
becoming his or her own property. Instead, all should be
ready for any work that can be asked of them.
During the time of initial formation, especially during the
novitiate, the time reserved for work should not encroach
upon that which is normally reserved for studies or other
activities in direct connection with formation.
80. Asceticism has a special place in institutes exclusively
dedicated to contemplation; religious in such institutes
should be fully aware of the fact that, despite the
exigencies of a withdrawal from the world which is proper to
them, their religious consecration makes them present to
humanity and to the world "in a deeper way... in the heart
of Christ."(171) "The monk is he who is separated from all
and united to all:"(172) united with all, because he is
united with Christ; united with all, because he hears in his
heart the worship, thanksgiving, praise, anguish, and
sufferings of all humanity; united to all, because God calls
him to a place where he reveals his secrets to humanity.
Religious who are wholly dedicated to contemplation are thus
not only present to the world, but also to the heart of the
Church. The liturgy which they celebrate fulfills an
essential function of the ecclesial community. The charity
which animates them, and which they strive to perfect, at
the same time quickens the whole mystical body of Christ. In
this love, they arrive at the first source of all that
exists, the amor fontalis; and because of this, they are at
the heart of the world and of the Church. "Within the heart
of the Church, my Mother, I shall be love."(173) This is
their vocation and their mission.
MEASURES TO BE TAKEN
81. The general norm is that the whole cycle of formation,
both initial and permanent, is carried on within the
interior of the monastery. For these religious, it is the
most suitable place in which they can complete the path of
conversion, of purification, and of asceticism with the
intent of conforming their life to Christ. This requirement
also has the advantage of favoring the harmony of the
community. It is, in effect, the whole community, and not
simply some more initiated individuals or groups, which
should benefit from the advantages of a well-ordered
82. When a monastery cannot provide this formation itself
because of a lack of teachers or of a sufficient number of
candidates, it will be useful to organize teaching programs
(courses, meetings, etc.) in common with several other
monasteries or convents of the same federation, of the same
order, or of basically common vocation, in one of these
monasteries or convents according to a schedule that will be
suitable to the contemplative nature of the monasteries
In every instance where the demands of formation conflict
with the rule of enclosure, the current legislation should
be maintained.(174) For the sake of formation, assistance
can also be sought from externs to the monastery and even to
the order, provided that they enter into the specific
perspective of the religious whom they will instruct.
83. The association of convents of nuns with institutes of
men, according to can. 614, can also be of advantage in the
formation of nuns. It guarantees fidelity to the charism, to
the spirit, and to the traditions of a common spiritual
84. Every monastery will take care to create conditions that
are favorable to personal study and reading by providing the
religious with a good library that is kept up to date and,
in certain cases, through correspondence courses.
85. Orders and congregations of monks, federations of nuns,
and monasteries and convents that are not federated or
associated with others are requested to draw up a program
(ratio) of formation which will be included in their own law
and will contain concrete norms for its execution in keeping
with can. 650.1, 659-661.
ACTUAL QUESTIONS CONCERNING RELIGIOUS FORMATION
The following contains actual questions, or positions, some
of which are the result of a brief analysis and which, as a
consequence, probably deserve to be further discussed,
refined, and expanded. The directions and principles of
other matters are expressed here, but their concrete
application can only be made on the level of particular
A) YOUNG CANDIDATES TO RELIGIOUS LIFE AND VOCATION PROMOTION
86. Young people are "the hope of the Church."(175) She has
"so much to talk about with youth, and youth have so much to
share with the Church."(176) Although there are adult
candidates to the religious life, the majority of candidates
today are between eighteen and twenty-five years old. To the
degree that they have been influenced by what is
conveniently called "modernity," it seems that some of their
common traits can be identified with sufficient accuracy.
The portrait reflects a northern and western model, but this
model is tending to become universal in its strengths and
weaknesses, and each culture will add touches to it that are
required by its own uniqueness.
87. "The sensitivity of young people profoundly affects
their perception of the values of justice, non-violence, and
peace. Their hearts are disposed to fellowship, friendship,
and solidarity. They are greatly moved by causes that relate
to the quality of life and the conservation of nature."(177)
Likewise, they have a thirst for freedom and authenticity.
Generally, and at times ardently, they aspire toward a
better world; there is no lack of those who are engaged in
political, social, cultural, and charitable associations in
order to contribute to the betterment of humanity. If they
have not been corrupted by totalitarian ideologies, they are
for the most part keenly interested in the liberation of
humanity from racism, underdevelopment, war, and injustices.
This attitude is not always -- at times is far from being --
motivated by religious, philosophical, or political
principles, but the sincerity of these youth and the depth
of their generosity cannot be denied. Among youth may be
found some who are marked by profound religious sentiment,
but this sentiment itself needs to be evangelized. Finally,
there are some, and these are not necessarily in the
minority, who lead a sufficiently exemplary Christian life
and are courageously engaged in the apostolate, already
experiencing what it means to "follow Jesus Christ more
88. Though this is so, their doctrinal and ethical frames of
reference tend to be relative, and to such an extent that
they do not always know very well if there are solid points
of reference for attaining the truth about humanity, the
world, and things. The lack of the teaching of philosophy in
schools is frequently a reason for this. Young people
hesitate to say who they are and what they are called to
become. If they have some conviction about the existence of
good and evil, the meaning of these words seems to be at
odds with respect to what it was for preceding generations.
There is frequently a gap between the level of their secular
knowledge, which can be highly specialized at times, and
that of their psychological growth and their Christian life.
Not all have had a happy experience within their family,
considering the crises which have afflicted this
institution, either where the culture has not been deeply
influenced by Christianity, where the culture is of a
post-Christian type where there is an urgent need of a new
evangelization, or even where the culture has long been
evangelized. They learn much through images, and the present
system of education encourages this at times, but they read
less. It thus happens that their culture is characterized by
a nearly total absence of an historical dimension, as if our
world began today. They have not been spared by consumerism,
with the deceptions which it begets. Succeeding, at times
with difficulty, in finding their place in the world, some
let themselves be seduced by violence, drugs, and eroticism.
It is becoming less and less rare to find young people among
the candidates for religious life who have had unhappy
experiences in this last domain.
89. One thus has an indication of the problems which the
variety and complexity of this human background poses for
vocation promotion and also for formation. It is the
discernment of vocations that is the concern here. Above
all, in certain countries, some candidates for the religious
life present themselves because of a more or less conscious
search for social gain and future security; others look upon
the religious life as an ideal place for an ideological
struggle for justice. Finally, there are others of a more
conservative nature who look upon the religious life as if
it were a place for saving their faith in a world which they
regard as being hostile and corrupt. These motives represent
the reverse side of a number of values, but they need to be
corrected and purified.
In the so-called developed countries, there is perhaps above
all a need of promoting a human and spiritual balance based
on renunciation, lasting fidelity, calm and enduring
generosity, authentic joy and love. Here, then, is a
demanding but necessary program for those religious who are
charged with vocation promotion and with formation.
B) RELIGIOUS FORMATION AND CULTURE
90. The word "culture" in its general sense, according to
the pastoral constitution Gaudium et spes, can indicate "all
those factors by which man refines and unfolds the manifold
spiritual and physical qualities that enable him to master
his condition and his destiny" (GS II, ch. II, nn.
53-62).(178) This is why culture may be said to be "that by
means of which the human person becomes more human," and
that "it is always situated in an essential and necessary
relationship with what the human person is."(179)
On the other hand "while the profession of the evangelical
counsels involves the renunciation of goods that undoubtedly
deserve to be highly valued, it does not constitute an
obstacle to the true development of the human person, but by
its nature is supremely beneficial to that
development."(180) There consequently exists an affinity
between the religious life and culture.
91. Concretely, this affinity calls our attention to certain
points. Jesus Christ and his Gospel transcend all cultures,
even if they are entirely penetrated by the presence of the
risen Christ and of his Spirit.(181) On the other hand,
every culture should be evangelized, that is to say,
purified and healed of the wounds of sin. At the same time
the wisdom which it contains has been surpassed, enriched,
and perfected by the wisdom of the Cross.(182) It will
therefore be good, in every region:
to be attentive to the level of general culture of the
candidates, without forgetting that one's culture is not
limited to the intellectual dimension of a man or woman;
to see how religious succeed in inculturating their own
faith within the culture of their origins and to assist them
to do so. This should not aim at transforming a house of
formation for the religious life into a kind of laboratory
of inculturation. Nevertheless, those responsible for
formation cannot neglect being concerned with this in their
guidance of those who have been entrusted them. Since it is
a question of personal education in their faith and of its
taking root in the life of the whole person, they cannot
forget that the Gospel frees the ultimate truth of the
values contained in a culture, and that the culture itself
expresses the Gospel in an original manner and reveals new
aspects of it;(183)
to initiate religious who are living and working in a
culture that is foreign to their own native culture into a
knowledge and esteem for this culture, in keeping with the
recommendations of the conciliar decree Ad gentes n. 18.
C) RELIGIOUS LIFE AND ECCLESIAL MOVEMENTS
92. "In Church communion the states of life, by being
ordered one to the other, are thus bound together among
themselves. They all share in a deeply basic meaning: that
of being the manner of living out the commonly shared
Christian dignity and the universal call to holiness in the
perfection of love. They are different yet complementary, in
the sense that each of them has a basic and unmistakable
character which sets each apart, while at the same time each
of them is seen in relation to the other and placed at each
other's service."(184) This is confirmed by the many actual
experiences of sharing, not only of work, but also at times
in prayer and at meals, among religious and members of the
laity. It is not our intent here to undertake a general
study of this new development, but solely to consider the
relations between religious and the laity under the aspect
of ecclesial movements, due for the most part to the
initiative of lay men and women.
Ecclesial movements, inspired by a desire to live the Gospel
more intensively and to announce it to others, have always
been manifest in the midst of the people of God. Some of
these have been quite closely connected with religious
institutes, and share their specific spiritualities. In our
day, and particularly during recent decades, new movements
have appeared that are more independent of the structures
and style of the religious life than in the past; their
beneficial influence on the Church was frequently recalled
during the synod of bishops on the vocation and mission of
the laity (1987), provided that they observe a certain
number of criteria of ecclesiality.(185)
93. In order to retain a positive relationship between these
movements and religious institutes, and all the moreso
because numerous religious vocations have come from these
movements, it is important to reflect upon the following
requirements and the concrete consequences which these
involve for members of these institutes.
An institute, as it was intended by its founder and as it
has been approved by the Church, has an internal
cohesiveness which it receives from its nature, its end, its
spirit, its character, and its traditions. This whole
patrimony is the axis around which both the identity and
unity of the institute itself(186) and the unity of life of
each of its members are maintained. This is a gift of the
Spirit to the Church which does not admit any interference
or any admixture. A dialogue and sharing within the Church
presumes that each institute is well aware of what it is.
candidates for the religious life who have come from one or
other of these ecclesial movements place themselves freely
under the authority of the superiors and formators
legitimately commissioned for their formation when they
enter the novitiate. Therefore they cannot simultaneously be
dependent upon someone apart from the institute to which
they now pertain, even though they belonged to this movement
before their entrance. This is a matter of the unity of the
religious institute and the unity of life of its novices.
These exigencies remain after the religious profession, so
as to avoid appearance of divided loyalties, either on the
level of the personal spiritual life of the religious or on
the level of their mission. If these requirements are not
respected, the necessary communion between religious and the
laity risks degenerating into a confusion on the two levels
D) EPISCOPAL MINISTRY AND THE RELIGIOUS LIFE
94. This matter has taken on more current interest since the
publication of the document "Mutuae Relationes" and the
emphasis which John Paul II has, on several occasions,
placed on the impact of the bishops' pastoral care for
The ministry of the bishop and that of a religious superior
are not in competition. Certainly, there exists an internal
order of institutes which has its own sphere of competence
for the upholding and growth of religious life. This
internal order enjoys a true autonomy, but it is necessarily
exercised within the framework of organic ecclesial
Actually, "there is acknowledged a rightful autonomy of
life, especially of governance, by which they enjoy their
own discipline in the Church and have the power to preserve
their own patrimony intact.... It belongs to local
ordinaries to safeguard and protect this autonomy."(188)
Within the context of this autonomy, "the proper law (of
these institutes) must define the program of this formation
and its duration, keeping in mind the needs of the Church
and the circumstances of human persons and times to the
extent this is required by the purpose and character of the
"Regarding the office of teaching, religious superiors have
the competency and authority of spiritual director in
relation to the evangelical purpose of their institute. In
this context, therefore, they must carry on a veritable
spiritual direction of the entire Congregation and of its
individual communities. They should accomplish this in
sincere harmony with the authentic magisterium of the
96. On the other hand, bishops, as "authentic teachers" and
"witnesses of divine and Catholic truth,"(191) have a
"responsibility for the doctrinal teaching of faith both in
the centers where its study is promoted and in the use of
means to transmit it."(192)
"It is the duty of bishops as authentic teachers and guides
of perfection for all the members of the diocese (cf. CD,
12; 15; 35:2; LG 25, 45) to be the guardians likewise of
fidelity to the religious vocation in the spirit of each
institute,"(193) according to the norms of the law (cf. can.
386, 387, 591, 593, 678).
97. The above is in no way opposed to the autonomy of life,
and particularly of government, recognized in religious
institutes. If, in the exercise of this jurisdiction, the
bishop is limited by the respect which he must have for this
autonomy, he is not on this account dispensed from watching
over the progress that religious are making towards
holiness. It is, in effect, the duty of a successor of the
Apostles, in so far as he is a minister of the word of God,
to call all Christians in general to the following of
Christ, and especially those who have received the grace of
following him "more closely" (can. 573.1). The institute to
which these latter belong already represents a school of
perfection and a way toward holiness in itself, and for the
religious, but religious life belongs to the Church, and, as
such, pertains to the responsibility of the bishop. The
relationship between a bishop and religious men and women,
which is perceived generally at the level of the apostolate,
is more deeply rooted in his office as a minister of the
Gospel, a promoter of holiness within the Church, and as a
guardian of the integrity of the faith.
In this spirit, and on the basis of these principles, it is
fitting that the bishops of particular Churches should at
least be informed by major superiors regarding current
programs of formation in centers or regarding services for
religious formation which are located within their pastoral
territories. Every difficulty pertaining to episcopal
responsibility or concerning the activities of these
services or centers should be examined between bishops and
major superiors, in keeping with the directives given in "Mutuae
relationes" (nn. 24-35) and in certain cases, with the help
of the organs of coordination indicated in the same document
E) INTER-INSTITUTIONAL COLLABORATION ON THE LEVEL OF
98. The first responsibility for the formation of religious
belongs by law to each institute; it is the major superiors
of the institutes, with the help of qualified assistants,
who must attend to this important mission. Each institute,
moreover, should, according to the law, establish its own
program (ratio) of formation.(194) Still, necessity has led
some institutes on every continent, to place their means of
formation (personnel and institutions) in common, in order
to collaborate in such an important work, which they could
no longer accomplish by themselves.
99. This collaboration is effected through permanent centers
or periodic services. An inter-institutional center is a
center of study for religious which has been placed under
the collective responsibility of the major superiors of the
institutes whose members participate in it. Its purpose is
to assure the doctrinal and practical formation required by
the specific mission of the respective institutes in
accordance with their nature. It is distinct from the
formation community proper to each institute and within
which a novice and a religious are introduced into the
communitarian, spiritual, and pastoral life of the
institute. When an institute participates in an
inter-institutional center, a complementarity should exist
between the formation community and the center so that an
integral and harmonious formation is provided.
Centers of formation for a federation should observe the
norms written in the statutes of the federation; however,
these are not the present concern. The same holds true for
centers or study programs placed under the responsibility of
a single institute, but which, as hosts, receive religious
of other institutes.
100. Inter-institutional collaboration for the formation of
young professed, for on-going formation, and for the
formation of formators, can be effected within the framework
of a center. The formation of novices, on the other hand,
can only be given under the form of periodic services, since
the novitiate community properly so-called must be a
homogenous community proper to each institute.
Our dicastery intends to publish a special normative
document later, dealing with the establishment of
inter-institutional collaboration in the area of formation.
RELIGIOUS CANDIDATES FOR PRIESTLY AND DIACONAL MINISTRIES
101. The questions raised by this type of religious deserve
to be examined separately because of their particular
character. They are of three kinds. The first is regarding
the formation of ministers as such; the second, the specific
religious character of religious priests and deacons; the
third, the insertion of the religious priest into the
102. In some institutes, defined by their proper law as
"clerical," it is proposed at times that the same formation
be given to lay brothers and to candidates for the ordained
ministries. On the level of the novitiate, a common
formation for both even seems to be demanded at times, by
the specific charism of the institute. This has advantages
both with respect to the quality and the completeness of the
doctrinal formation of the lay brothers, and with their
integration within the community. But, in all such cases,
norms regarding the length and content of the preparatory
studies for priestly ministry must be rigorously observed
103. "The formation of members who are preparing to receive
holy orders is regulated by universal law and by the program
of studies proper to the institute."(195) Religious
candidates for the priestly ministry will thus comply with
the norms of the Ratio fundamentalis institutionis
sacerdotalis,(196) and candidates for the permanent
diaconate with the dispositions provided for this in the
proper law of their institutes. The totality of this Ratio,
the major points of which are found in canon law,(197) will
not be repeated here. It will be enough to recall some of
the stages of the course of formation so that they may be
observed by major superiors.
104. Philosophical and theological studies, whether taken
successively or conjointly, should comprise at least six
complete years so that two whole years are given to
philosophical, and four whole years to theological
disciplines. Major superiors must be attentive to the
observance of these norms, especially when they entrust
their young religious to inter-institutional centers or to
105. Even though the entire formation of candidates to the
priesthood has a pastoral goal, they should have a pastoral
formation, properly so called, which is adapted to the end
of the institute. The program for this formation will be
animated by the decree Optatam totius and, for religious
called to work in cultures foreign to their own, by the
decree Ad gentes.(198)
106. Religious priests dedicated to contemplation, whether
monks or others, who are called by their superiors to serve
their guests in the ministry of reconciliation or spiritual
advice should be provided with a pastoral formation
appropriate to these ministries. They must also comply with
the pastoral directives of the particular Church in which
107. All the canonical conditions required of ordinands and
all that pertains to them must be observed, taking into
account the nature and obligations proper to the religious
THE SPECIFIC RELIGIOUS CHARACTER OF RELIGIOUS PRIESTS AND
108. "A religious priest involved in pastoral activity
alongside diocesan priests should clearly show by his
attitudes that he is a religious."(200) So that "what
characterizes religious life and the religious, and gives
them a particular aspect,(201) may always be manifest in a
religious priest or deacon, it seems that several conditions
must be fulfilled; it will be useful for religious who are
candidates for priestly and diaconal ministries to examine
themselves on these during the time of their initial
formation and in the course of their permanent formation:
that they have a clear perception of, and a firm conviction
about, the respective natures of the priestly and diaconal
ministries, which pertain to the structure of the Church,
and of religious life, which pertains to the sanctity and
life of the Church;(202) at the same time there remains the
principle that pastoral ministry is a part of the nature of
their religious life;(203)
that, for their spiritual life, they draw upon the sources
of the institute of which they are a member and receive
within themselves the gift which this institute is for the
that they bear witness to a personal spiritual experience
which is inspired by the witness and teaching of their
that they lead a life in conformity with the rule of life
which they have bound themselves to observe;
that they live in community according to the law;
that they are mobile and available for the service of the
universal Church if the superiors of their institute call
them to it.
If these conditions are respected, a religious priest or
deacon will succeed in smoothly integrating these two
dimensions of his unique vocation.
THE PLACE OF THE RELIGIOUS PRIEST WITHIN THE DIOCESAN
109. The formation of a religious priest should take into
account his future insertion into the presbyterate of a
particular Church, above all if he must exercise a ministry
there, taking into account however, "the spirit of their own
institute."(204) In effect, "the particular Church is the
historical space in which a vocation is exercised in the
concrete and realizes its apostolic commitment."(205) A
religious priest can rightly deem it to be "the fatherland
of his own vocation."(206)
The basic principles which govern this insertion have been
given by the conciliar decree Christus Dominus (nn. 34-35).
Religious priests are "cooperators with the episcopal
order," and "in a certain sense (they) belong to the
diocesan clergy inasmuch as they share in the care of souls
and in the practice of apostolic works under the authority
of the bishops."(207) Regarding this insertion, "Mutuae
relationes" (nn. 15-23) indicates the reciprocal influence
between universal and particular values. Although religious
are asked "even if they belong to an institute of pontifical
right, to feel themselves truly a part of the 'diocesan
family',"(208) canon law recognizes the rightful
autonomy(209) by which they maintain their universal and
Normally the position of a religious priest, or of an
institute, to which the bishop has entrusted a mission or
pastoral work within the particular Church must be regulated
by a written agreement(211) between the diocesan bishop and
the competent superior of the institute or the religious
concerned. The same would hold for a religious deacon in the
110. This document has aimed at taking into account the
experiments that have already been made since the Council
and, at the same time, at reflecting the questions that have
been raised by major superiors. It reminds all of certain
requirements of the law with respect to present needs and
circumstances. In the end, it hopes to be of use to
religious institutes so that all may advance in ecclesial
communion under the guidance of the pope and the bishops, to
whom belongs "the ministry of discernment and harmony (cf.
LG 21) which involves an abundance of special gifts of the
Holy Spirit and the distinctive charism of ordering the
various roles in intimate docility of mind to the one and
only vivifying Spirit."(212) In the first place, it has been
indicated that the formation of religious has for its
primary end to initiate candidates into religious life and
help them become aware of their identity as persons
consecrated through their profession of the evangelical
counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience in a religious
institute. Among the agents of formation, primacy is given
to the Holy Spirit, because religious formation in its
origins and in its objectives, is essentially a theological
work. Insistence has been placed upon the need of forming
qualified formators, without waiting until those who are
presently in charge of this have completed their mandate.
The primary role which the religious themselves and their
communities play makes this task a privileged exercise of
personal and communitarian responsibility. Several current
questions have been raised. Though they have not all
received a definitive response, the answers will at least
provoke reflection. A special place has also been given to
institutes which are wholly ordered toward contemplation
because of their position at the heart of the Church and the
special character of their vocation.
It now remains to ask for all, superiors, instructors,
formators, and religious, the grace of fidelity to their
vocation, following the example, and under the protection,
of the Virgin Mary. In its progress through the course of
time, the Church "proceeds along the path already trodden by
the Virgin Mary, who 'advanced in her pilgrimage of faith
and loyally persevered in her union with her Son unto the
cross'."(213) The time of formation helps a religious to
make this journey in light of the mystery of Christ, which
"shines in its fullness"(214) in the mystery of Mary, while
at the same time the mystery of Mary "is for the Church like
a seal upon the dogma of the incarnation,"(215) as became
clear at the Council of Ephesus. Mary is present at the
birth and at the formation of a religious vocation. She is
intimately involved in its whole process of growth in the
Holy Spirit. The mission which she fulfilled in the service
of Jesus, she fulfills for the benefit of his Body, which is
the Church, and in every Christian, especially those who
strive to follow Jesus Christ "more closely."(216) This is
why a Marian orientation, sustained by a sound theology,
will give the formation of religious the authenticity, the
solidity, and the joy without which their mission in the
world cannot be fully accomplished.
In an audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect
on 10 November 1989, the Holy Father approved the present
document of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated
Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and authorized its
publication under the title "Directives on Formation in
Rome, Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and
Societies of Apostolic Life, Feast of the Presentation of
Our Lord, 2 February 1990.
Fr. JEROME CARD. HAMER
+ VINCENZO FAGIOLO
Archbisbop Emeritus of Chieti
(1) LG 43.
(2) Cf. PC 18, third paragraph.
(3) By chronological order: Sacred Congregation for
Religious, decree Quo efficacius, 24 Jan. 1944: AAS 36
(1944) 213; circular letter Quantum conferat, 10 June 1944:
Enchiridion de statibus perfectionis, Romae, 1949, n. 382,
pp. 561-564; Apostolic constitution Sedes Sapientiae, 31 May
1956: AAS 48 (1956), 354-365, and the general statutes
annexed to the constitution.
(4) ET 32; cf. 2 Cor 4.16; Rom 7.22; Eph 4.24; EV 996 ff.
(5) John Paul II in Porto Alegre, 5 July 1980: IDGP III.2,
128; in Bergamo, 26 April 1981: IDGP IV.1, 1035; in Manila,
17 Feb. 1981: IDGP, IV.I, 329; to the Jesuits in Rome, 27
Feb 1982: IDGP, V.1, 704; to the Capuchin masters of novices
in Rome, 28 Sep 1984: IDGP VII.2, 689; in Lima, 1 Feb 1985:
IDGP VIII.1, 339; to the UISG in Rome, 7 May 1985: IDGP
VIII.1, 1212; in Bombay, 10 Feb 1986: IDGP, IX.1, 420; to
the UISG, 22 May 1986: IDGP IX.1, 1656; to the Conference of
Religious of Brazil, 2 Jul 1986: IDGP IX.2, 237.
(6) Cf. CIC 641-661.
(7) Instruction Renovationis Causam, Introduction AAS 61
(1969) 103 ff.
(8) CRIS and the Congregation for Bishops, AAS 70 (1978) 473
(9) CRIS, EV 9.181 ff.
(10) CRIS, EV 7.414 ff.
(11) CDm 4.
(12) John Paul II to CRIS, 7 March 1980: IDGP III.1, 527.
(13) Cf. CIC 659.2-3.
(14) RI 1-2 AAS 62 (1970) 321 ff.
(15) Cf. CIC 606.
(16) Cf. John Paul II to UISG, 7 May 1985; see Introduction,
note 5, above.
(17) CIC 607, 573.1; cf. LG 44 and PC 1.5-6.
(18) CIC 573.2.
(19) Cf. 1 Cor 6:19.
(20) LG 43.
(21)PC 2a. On the divine vocation, see also LG 39; 43b, 44a,
47; PC 1c; RC preface, 2d; OPR I 57 62 67 85 140 142; II 65
72; appendix; OCV 17 20; ET 3 6 8 12 19 31 55; MR 8a; CIC
574.2, 575; EE 2 5 6 7 12 14 23 44 53; RD 3c 6b 7d 10c 16a.
(22) RD 3.
(23) RD 8.
(24)On the personal response, see also LG 44a, 46b, 47; PC
1c; RC 2a c; 13 1; OPR I 7 80; ET 1 4 7 8 31; can. 573.1; EE
4 5 30 44 9; RD 7a 8b 9b.
(25) CIC 654.
(26) Cf. EE 13-17.
(27) CIC 607.2.
(28) LG 43a. On the ministry of the Church in the religious
consecration, see also LG 44a 45c; PC 1bc, 5b, 11a; OPR
appendix Missa in die professionis perpetuae 1; Ritus
promissionis 5; OCV 16; ET 7, 47; MR 8a; CIC 573.2, 576,
598, 600-602; EE 7 8 11 13 40 42; RD 7ab 14c.
(29) RD 9; AAS 76 (1984) 513 ff.
(30) RD 8; ibid.
(31) LG 31.
(32) LG 44.
(33) Cf. 1 Jn 2:15-17.
(34) Cf. LG 46.
(35) Cf. LG 39, 42, 43.
(36) Can. 599.
(37) PC 12.
(38) Can. 600.
(39) Cf. Lk 4:6-21.
(40) Cf. Lk 7:18-23.
(41) Puebla Documents 733-735.
(42) Sollicitudo rei socialis 41; see also LG 31.
(43) Cf. GS 32.
(44) Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 22 March
(45) Can. 601.
(46) Can. 590.1, 590.2.
(47) PC 14.
(48) PC 14.
(49) Cf. Jn 14:16.
(50) LG 43.
(51) LG 46.
(52) ET 11; cf. Introduction, note 4, above.
(53) MR 11; cf. Introduction, note 8.
(54) CIC 598.1.
(55) Cf. CIC 598.2.
(56) PC 6.
(57) Cf. PC 5.
(58) PC 8.
(59) St. Thomas, Summa Theologica IIa IIae, q. 188, aa. 1
(60) Can. 673.
(61) Cf. PC 8.
(62) Cf. RHP 13-21; cf. Introduction. note 9 above.
(63) 1 Thes 5:23-24; 2 Thes 3:3.
(64) Jn 16:13.
(65) Cf. Jn 14:26, 16:12.
(66) Cf. 1 Jn 2:20-27.
(67) Cf. Rom 8:15-26.
(68) RD 17: AAS 76 (1984) 513f.
(69) EE II 53; cf. Introduction, note 10, above; LG 53 and
(70) Cf. LG 44.
(71) MR 10, cf. Introduction, note 8.
(72) MR 10 cf. Introduction, note 8; cf. LG 44 and CIC 678.
(73) LG 45; cf. MR 8 and Introduction, note 8, above.
(74) Cf. St. Athanasius, Vita S. Antonii, PG 26: 841-845
(75) Cf. DV 25.
(76) Cf. LG 45.
(77) Cf. LG 11.
(78) PG 12: 1265.
(79) Cf. DV 10.
(80) Cf. MR 5; cf. Introduction, note 8, above.
(81) LG 18.
(82) Exercitia Spiritualia 351-352.
(83) LG 4.
(84) RHP 24. Cf. Introduction note 9, above.
(85) Idem, cf. also Puebla Documents 211-219.
(86) RHP 33c, Introduction note 9, above; also CIC 602.
(87) Cf. Acts 2.42; PC 15; CIC 602 ff; EE 18-22.
(88) Cf. CIC 601 618-619, PC 14.
(89) Cf. Jn 12:24; Gal 5:22.
(90) ET 32-34; cf. Introduction, note 4, above; EE 18-22.
(91) Lk 24:25.
(92) Cf. Lk 24:32.
(93) Cf. Tob 5:10, 17, 22.
(94) CDm 20; cf. Introduction, note 9, above.
(95) OT 5b.
(96) Cf. GS 12-22, 61.
(97) Cf. GE 1 and 2.
(98) Cf. OT 11.
(99) Cf. PC 5.
(100) CDm 17; cf. Introduction, note 9, above.
(101) John Paul II to the religious of Brazil, 11 July 1986,
no. 5; cf. Introduction, note 5.
(102) LG 44.
(103) RC 5; cf. Introduction 7, above.
(104) "Final Document of the Special Synod of Bishops of the
Low Countries," L'Osservatore Romano, 2 February 1980,
(105) MD 7.
(106) MD 6.
(107) MD 7.
(108) ChL 50.
(109) ChL 50.
(110) RM 46.
(111) Cf. RC 4; Introduction, note 7, above.
(112) Cf. CIC 597.2
(113) Cf. CIC 641-645.
(114) See above nn. 26-30.
(115) Cf. CIC 620.
(116) CIC 646.
(117) LG 44.
(118) LG 46.
(119) CIC 652.1.
(120) CIC 648.2.
(121) RC 5; cf. Introduction, note 7, above.
(122) CIC 652.5.
(123) CIC 650.1.
(124) Cf. CIC 597.1-2, 641-645.
(125) Cf. CIC 134.1, 1047.4.
(126) Cf. CIC 647-649, 653.2.
(127) LG 46b.
(128) Cf. CIC 650-652.1.
(129) Cf. CIC 985.
(130) CIC 652.3.
(131) CIC 652.4.
(132) Cf. LG 45.
(133) Dated 2 February 1970; a corrected edition was
published in l975. EV 3, 1237 ff.
(134) John Paul II in Madrid, 2 November 1982: AAS 75 (1983)
(135) RC 7; cf. Introduction note 7, above.
(136) OPR 5; cf. note 24.
(137) OPR 6; idem.
(138) OPR 6; idem.
(139) Cf. CIC 655-658.
(140) CIC 659.1-2.
(141) CIC 660.1-2.
(142) Cf. Mk 8:31-37; 9:31-32; 10:32-34.
(143) UR 11.
(144) RI nn. 70-81 and note 148; 90-93. EV 3, 1103.
(145) MR 13a; cf. Introduction, note 8, above.
(146) EE II, 47; cf. introduction, note 10 above.
(147) CDm II, 11; cf. Introduction, note 9, above.
(148) PC 14; see also CIC 630.
(149) CDm II, 11, cf. Introduction, note 9.
(150) Cf. CIC 660.1.
(151) MR 26; cf. Introduction, note 8.
(152) CIC 661.
(153) John Paul II to the religious of Brazil, 1986, no. 6;
cf. Introduction, note 5, above.
(154) MR 11b, 12b, 23f., cf. Introduction, note 8.
(155) PC 2d.
(156) 1 Cor 4:16; see also 5:1-10.
(157) Jn 21:15-19.
(158) Phil 3:10; cf. 1:20-26 and LG 48.
(159) PC 7.
(160) CDm 26-27; cf. Introduction, note 9, above.
(161) Heb 11:1.
(162) Heb 11:2.
(163) Cf. Heb 11:27.
(164) 1 Cor 13:12.
(165) Origen, Peri Archon 1.8.1.
(166) Cf. LG 49, 50; SC 5, 8, 9, 10.
(167) Paul VI to the major superiors of Italy; AAS 58 (1966)
1180. See also his "Letter to the Carthusians, 18 April
1971: AAS 63 (1971) 448-449.
(168) PO 13; cf. Paul VI, encyclical Mysterium fidei: AAS 57
(169) St. Thomas, Summa theologica IIIa, q. 82, a. 10.
(170) Ibid. IIa IIae, q. 189, a. 8, ad 2am.
(171) LG 46.
(172) VS III Introduction and note 27. EV 3, 865.
(173) Ste. Thérèse de l' Enfant Jésus, Manuscrits
autobiographiques, 1957, p. 229.
(174) Cf. CIC 647.
(175) GE 2.
(176) ChL 46; cf. Prop. 51-52 of the Seventh Synod of
(177) ChL 46.
(178) CIT of 8 October 1985, n. 4.I.
(179) John Paul II to UNESCO, 1980, nn. 6-7. IDGP 1980 I
(180) LG 46.
(181) CIT "Faith and Inculturation" 8-22: cf. La Civiltà
Cattolica 140.1 (1989) 159-177.
(182) Idem; see also ChL 44.
(183) CIT, n. 4.2; see note 4 of this chapter.
(184) ChL 55.
(185) ChL 30.
(186) Cf. CIC 578.
(187) Cf. ChD 35,3 and 4; MR 13c.
(188) CIC 586.
(189) CIC 659.2; see also 650.1 for what concerns the
novitiate in particular.
(190) MR 13a. Cf. Introduction, note 8, above.
(191) LG 25.
(192) MR 33. Cf. Introduction, note 8, above, and also CIC
753 and 212.1.
(193) MR 28. Cf. Introduction, note 8. For the "perfector"
bishop, see Summa Theologica IIa-IIae, q. 184.
(194) CIC 650.1, 659.2 See also John Paul II to the
religious of Brazil, 2 July 1986, no. 5. Cf. Introduction,
note 5, above.
(195) CIC 659.3.
(196) First edition, 6 January 1970; second edition, 19
(197) Cf. CIC 242-256.
(198) See OT 2, 19-21; AG 25-26.
(199) Cf. CIC 1010-1054.
(200) John Paul II to the religious of Brazil on 3 July
1980; cf. Introduction, note 5 above.
(202) Cf. LG 44.
(203) Cf. PC 8.
(204) ChD 35.2.
(205) MR 23d.
(206) MR 37.
(207) ChD 34. According to ChD 35, "ut Episcopis
auxiliatores adsint et subsint."
(208) MR 18b.
(209) Cf. can. 586.1-2.
(210) Cf. can. 591 and MR 23.
(211) MR 57-58; cf. CIC 520.2.
(212) MR 6; cf. Introduction, note 8, above.
(213) RM 2: AAS 79 (1987) 361 ff.
(214) RM 4; idem.
(216) LG 42.
DOCUMENTS OF VATICAN II
AG Decree Ad Gentes, 1965
ChD Decree Christus Dominus, 1965
DV Dogmatic Constitution Dei verbum, 1965
GE Declaration Gravissimum educationis, 1965
GS Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 1965
LG Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 1964
OT Decree Optatam totius, 1965
PC Decree Perfectae caritatis, 1965
PO Decree Presbyterorum ordinis, 1965
UR Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 1964
SC Constitution Sacrosanctum concilium, 1963
ChL Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici, John Paul
ET Apostolic Exhortation Evangelica testificatio, Paul VI,
MD Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem, John Paul II, 1988
RD Apostolic Exhortation Redemptionis donum, John Paul II,
RM Encyclical Redemptoris mater, John Paul II, 1987
OTHER DOCUMENTS OF THE HOLY SEE
can. canon or canons of the Code of Canon Law
CDm The Contemplative Dimension of Religious Life,
Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and
Societies of Apostolic Life, 1980 (1)
CIC Codex Iuris Canonici
EE Essential Elements in the Church's Teaching on Religious
Life as Applied to Institutes Dedicated to Works of the
MR Document Mutuae relationes, Congregation for Bishops and
Congregation for Religious and for Secular Institutes, 1978
OCV Ordo consecrationis virginum, Congregation for Divine
OPR Ordo professionis religiosae, idem, 1970
RC Instruction Renovationis causam, Congregation for
Religious and for Secular Institutes, 1969
RI Ratio institutionis (...), Congregation for Catholic
Education, 1970, 1985
RHP Religious and Human Promotion, Congregation for
Religious and for Secular Institutes, 1980 (2)
SF Circular Letter Concerning Some of the More Urgent
Aspects of Spiritual Formation in Seminaries, Congregation
for Catholic Education, 1980 (3)
VS Instruction Venite seorsum, Congregation for Religious
and for Secular Institutes, 1969
AAS Acta apostolicae sedis
CIT International Theological Commission
EV Enchiridion vaticanum, edizioni dehoniane, Bologna
IGDP Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, libreria editrice
OR L'Osservatore Romano
PG Patrologie grecque
UISG International Union of Superiors General
(1) Since this document did not have an official translation
in Latin, we have used the English abbreviation employed for
it in the official edition of Essential Elements.
(2) Cf. note 1.
(3) Idem. The English abbreviation is from the English title
of the text in Enchiridion Vaticanum, vol. 7, nn. 45 ff.