Session 1

Introduction

  1. The course is intended to provide Formators with a thorough knowledge and understanding of the Constitutions, studied in a systematic way, in the light of the most recent Documents on Religious Life issued by the Church. At the end of the course, Formators should feel that they know and understand the Constitutions and related modern Church documents and that they possess the confidence and the skills for passing on the major themes of the Constitutions to those who are in formation under them.
  2. The study will follow the order established by Fr. Founder, consisting of a Brief Description of the Institute with regard to the end or purpose of the Institute, and of 12 Sections that contain a thorough description of the Institute as the Founder had envisaged it.
  3. The course will consist of 12 sessions in all. Each session will be based on a written document consisting of a simple and clear presentation of the particular section of the Constitutions, and of references to modern Church documents on Religious Life.
  4. The 12 written documents on the Constitutions will be ready by the end of February 2006. It is expected that Formators will familiarise themselves with the content and do some research work based on recommended references. They are intended to be “open” documents, which will be finalised together as a result of contributions, discussions, and conclusions reached during the July 2006 course at Rovereto.
  5. The Constitutions will be studied according to the following topics:
    • Holiness (Brief Description of the Institute of Charity)
    • Indifference (First Probation)
    • Tools of the spiritual trade: Vows and Virtues (Second Probation)
    • Obedience (Scholasticate)
    • Prayer (Third Probation)
    • Qualities of Persons (Presbyters, Coadjutors, Adopted sons, Ascribed)
    • Divine Providence
    • Humility and the Elective State
    • Universal Charity and Love for the Church
    • Superiors as Spiritual Fathers – The spirit of intelligence
    • Fr. General in the Constitutions
    • Justice and Love of God

 

    6.   The list of books necessary for consultation and research during the preparatory work has been kept to a minimum. The books marked with an asterisk will be required also during the course in July 2006.

    • The Constitutions *
    • The Rule of Life *
    • Maxims of Christian Perfection *
    • The Ascetical Letters of Antonio Rosmini (J. Morris)
    • Selection of Rosmini’s letters on Formation* (J.Flynn, to be distributed at a later stage)
    • Antonio Rosmini: His Charism as Founder (A. Valle) *
    • Seeds in Search of Soil (M. Hegarthy)
    • Ratio Formationis *
    • Vita Consecrata *
    • Documents of Vatican II *
    • Pastores Dabo Vobis
    • Novo Millennio Ineunte
    • A Dictionary of Biblical Theology, for example:
      • Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Xavier Leon-Dufour)
      • Dictionary of the Bible (J.McKenzie)
      • The New Jerome Biblical Commentary

 


Session One
HOLINESS
 Constitutions 1-16
(Rule of Life 1-8)

Brief Summary:

The Constitutions issue from a single principle and seed which contains the purpose and nature of the Institute.

The “end” of the Institute is the personal perfection of all its members through the fulfilment of the two great commandments, “Love God with all your heart” and “Love thy neighbour as you love yourself”.

The “persons” belonging to it are Presbyters, Coadjutors, Adopted Sons, Ascribed Members, classified according to the manner of charity exercised by them towards their neighbour.


Mission Statement of the Institute of Charity

Societies are formed with a clear and definite purpose. What is the purpose of the Society of Charity? For what end has it been established? The answer to this question will constitute the “single principle and seed” from which the whole Institute of Charity has been developed:

“The end of this Society is to care lovingly for the sanctification of the members who compose it and, by means of their sanctification, to expend whatever longings and strength it has in all works of charity, and especially for the eternal salvation of every one of its neighbours.”

This mission statement should be made very clear to everyone who wishes to join the Institute or is involved in the various stages of formation. The Institute exists simply and purely to provide every support to members who want to become holy, against a background of universal charity. The Institute, having been approved by the Holy See, has the necessary means whereby members can achieve evangelical perfection.

Great use should be made of this brief description of the purpose of the Institute. It is very common today for organisations and educational establishments to have a clear “mission statement”, a short and clear description of what the organisation is, displayed prominently with the purpose of focussing the minds and the efforts of those who belong to it, and as a means of advertising its own essential nature to those outside.

For reflection:

  • The Institute would be a failure if it does not “care lovingly for the sanctification of the members”: in the light of your own experiences what recommendations would you like to make to help the Institute pursue its end more earnestly?

 

If the end of the Institute is the sanctification of its members, what reason should people have for joining the Institute? What is the fundamental requisite of any one who wishes to become a member of the Institute of Charity? This is Fr. Founder’s answer:

“The Institute consists of faithful Christians who, in their ardent desire of living as disciples of JESUS Christ, our Lord and Master, apply themselves vigorously, with mutual help and encouragement, to their own perfection.”
People who apply to become Rosminians should know that the essential requirement is their desire to become saints in company of other like-minded persons. “Becoming saints together” should be the fundamental purpose, “the one necessary thing”, of joining the Institute. The implication is that “holiness” should be desired, discussed, examined as the central concern of all members, especially in their initial stages of formation. We are in the business of becoming saints together, this is what really matters in the Institute. This should be the yardstick whereby we assess the suitability of those who wish to join us or  remain with us. The simple, pure intention of desiring to become holy with the help of others in an Institute that exists for the purpose of caringly lovingly for the sanctification of its members is the necessary condition for anyone who wishes to be a Rosminian.

In his Apostolic Letters “In Sublimi” by which Pope Gregory XVI approved the Institute of Charity and its Rule, both the mission statement of the Institute and the necessary intention of those who wish to be part of it are highlighted forcefully. Not only does the Pope include the relevant numbers from the Constitutions, but in his own introduction he ratifies the purpose of the Institute, the sanctification of its members, that will be achieved, he writes, “by leaving nothing untried in the endeavour to obtain a store of perfect virtue by cleaving to God through their continuous meditation on heavenly things… and by loving, helping and serving their neighbour in Christ with the utmost zeal.”

Moreover, “to become holy together” must be the intention and desire of all who wish to join the Institute: “The members, seeing the wonderful example of their companions, try to follow in their footsteps; they encourage one another in sound doctrine; they earnestly desire the higher gifts; modelling themselves completely according to the will of holy people, doing nothing of their own volition, depending in all their actions on their decision and command, they can more easily irradiate the brightness of every virtue.”

Fr. Founder affirmed and clarified the “end” or purpose of the Institute in many of his writings, and especially in his letters. Writing, for example, to Fr. Luigi Schlor in 1837, he says: “The end of the Institute of Charity is absolutely simple: it is goodness, that is, moral perfection, in all its extension, which consists in fulfilling completely the law of the gospel, summed up by our divine Master in a single word, charity. For this reason the Institute takes its name from this divine word which expresses its end and characterises the school of Jesus Christ” (Ascetical Letters, Vol.3, n.37). And again, “I want to remind you about your calling to the holiness of love. I beg each one of you to press on to your calling, that is, to holiness, which does not consist in brain-power, nor in human glory or achievement, nor in outward success, but in the practice of the virtues manifested in JESUS Christ, our Saviour and example, especially when He hung upon the cross: humility, poverty, abnegation, obedience, mortification, patient and burning love which contains them all…” (EC 6:440).

Recommendation:
It would be most beneficial for postulants and novices to do extensive research on this theme in the Ascetical Letters (J. Morris) of Fr. Founder. They should receive guidance by their Formators who should themselves become very familiar with the main references.

 

The Common Rules take their inspiration from the description of the “end” of the Institute, inscribed right at the beginning of the first chapter in Rule 2: “The end of this Society is the salvation and perfection of our souls”; and the same single principle and seed is the starting point of our Rule of Life (nn.1-4).

From a didactic point of view it could be useful to display in a prominent place in our Houses of formation the following:

 

“The end of this Society is to care lovingly for the sanctification of the members who compose it and, by means of their sanctification, to expend whatever longings and strength it has in all works of charity, and especially for the eternal salvation of every one of its neighbours.”

“The Institute consists of faithful Christians who, in their ardent desire of living as disciples of JESUS Christ, our Lord and Master, apply themselves vigorously, with mutual help and encouragement, to their own perfection.”

 

The Constitutions and the Maxims on holiness

We know that the call to perfection is universal, addressed to all persons. Fr. Founder is very clear: “All Christians, that is to say, all disciples of JESUS Christ whatever their state or circumstances, are called to perfection: for all are called to the gospel which is a law of perfection, and our divine Master was speaking to everyone when He said, “You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Max.1.1); “The disciple, then, must go on longing for holiness, until it comes about that he is consumed in charity, and he can say like St. Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Max.2.5); “He needs to understand that all things must be subordinated to this desire for pure holiness. In other words, his desire for anything must derive solely from its capacity to make him more holy, and not because it has any value in itself apart from this” (Max.2.8).

Why is there a need for religious life in the Institute of Charity given that the call to holiness is common to all disciples of Christ? Fr. Founder answers this question in the Maxims1, 3-6, where he says that the three vows are very useful means to achieve more readily perfection. The vows are evangelical counsels not meant for everyone but only for “those generous disciples of JESUS who actually divest themselves of wealth, pleasures and their own will in order to be more free to give all their love to God and their neighbour”. It can be said, therefore, that all Christians are called to perfection but that some Christians want to pursue their call to perfection by taking the three religious vows in the Institute. It is important to stress the “unique quality” of the vocation to the Institute, which, apart from the profession of the three vows, is very much the vocation of every Christian.

This unique quality rules out as primary aim the direct intention of joining for a specific work of charity, “I wish to join because I want to be a teacher, a doctor, a missionary, a priest, etc.”  Instead, we must indeed have “a great love for all works of charity”, but it will be through the vow of obedience that God will manifest to us His divine Will. We shall study later, however, both the “universality” of obedience and its “reasonableness”.

 

For reflection
Given that Fr. Founder himself firstly “chose” to become a priest and secondly “chose” the religious life, undoubtedly moved by God and carefully listening to His voice, what should a Formator’s approach be to postulants or novices who declare their attraction to the priesthood?

 

The Constitutions and Vita Consecrata on holiness

All baptized Christians are equally called to follow Christ. For some, on the basis of a special vocation and in virtue of a particular gift of the Spirit, their baptismal consecration develops into a radical response in the following of Christ: “By professing the evangelical counsels, consecrated persons not only make Christ the whole meaning of their lives but strive to reproduce in themselves, as far as possible, that form of life which he, as the Son of God, accepted in entering this world” (VC, 16). The call to consecrated life is an initiative coming wholly from the Father, who asks those whom He has chosen to respond with complete and exclusive devotion.

The deepest meaning of the evangelical counsels is more clearly seen in the light of the Holy Trinity, the source of all holiness: “Chastity is a reflection of the infinite love which links the three Divine Persons, Poverty proclaims that God is man’s only real treasure and it becomes an expression of that total gift of self which the three Divine Persons make to one another. Obedience shows the liberating beauty of a dependence which is not servile but filial, a reflection of the loving harmony between the three Divine Persons” (VC, 23).

Fr. Founder identifies in Baptism the source of the universal call to holiness. Vita Consecrata equally states that “everyone in the Church is consecrated in Baptism and Confirmation” and such consecration “common to all members of the people of God” is the foundation of the call to holiness. But diversity is also a work of the Spirit. It is the Spirit that establishes the Church as an organic communion in the diversity of vocations, charisms and ministries. There is a vocation to the lay life, a vocation to the ordained ministry, and a vocation to the consecrated life. Three types of vocations, all directed harmoniously towards the establishment of the Kingdom of God. Postulants and novices should have a clear view of the three possible types of vocation in order to establish more securely, with the help of their Formator, their own personal vocation. It would be plainly wrong, for example, to use the consecrated life as purely a means to become priest.

They should also be made aware of the excellence of “religious perfection” which commits them to making their own – in chastity, poverty and obedience – the way of life practised personally by JESUS and proposed by Him to His disciples: “As a way of showing forth the Church’s holiness, it is to be recognised that the consecrated life, which mirrors Christ’s own way of life, has an objective superiority” (VC, 32).

For research:
The Virgin Mary is the perfect model of consecration and discipleship. What has Fr. Founder to say about devotion to Mary in the Institute of Charity? (see the Ascetical Letters (J.Morris), and the Maxims, in particular, Instr.6.7)


The universal call to holiness in recent Church Documents

Many recent documents of the Church stress the importance of the universal call to holiness. What follows is a recommended list of documents for special study by Formators in preparation for the course in July 2006. This is clearly a fundamental part of the course and Formators should be prepared to give a detailed account of the recommended chapter or numbers, possibly based on brief written documents, to the whole group during the summer session at Rovereto.

 

  1. Lumen Gentium, in particular chapter five “The call to Holiness” (nn.39-42). The text is rich in biblical references which Formators should know in order to help those in formation (postulants, novices, scholastics) do their own research work in the Bible. The chapter establishes the source of holiness for the Church, Christ who “alone is holy”, and provides theological foundations for holiness in the various states of the Christian life.
  2. Perfectae Caritatis, in particular nn. 1-5-6-15 that deal specifically with holiness and means for achieving it.
  3. Evangelica Testificatio, in particular n.7
  4. Pastores Dabo Vobis, in particular nn. 19-20, “A specific vocation to holiness”, and 33, “Renew in them the outpouring of your Spirit of Holiness”
  5. Novo Millennio Ineunte, in particular nn.30-41, “Holiness”
  6. Vita Consecrata, in particular nn.14-15-35-41-42-72-75. Of great relevance is the foundation of the religious life “in the mystery of Christ and of the Trinity”, with the teaching that religious life is a reflection of the life within the Blessed Trinity.

Biblical research on Holiness:

It is recommended that Formators research the word “holiness” in one or all of the following books:

 

  1. Dictionary of biblical Theology (Xavier Leon-Dufour)
  2. Dictionary of the Bible (J. MacKenzie)
  3. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary

 

The idea is not to produce an exhaustive piece of biblical research, with quotations and scholarly opinions, but to write down the main theological concepts arising from the biblical use of the word “holiness” as outlined in one of the biblical dictionaries. For the purpose of our course, a general understanding of the various meanings attached to the word will be sufficient.

However, a detailed biblical study of the topics should prove very useful to postulants, novices, and scholastics not only for the actual investigation, but also as a means of acquiring that love for Scriptures that is the foundation of any authentic formation (see Rosmini’s Five Wounds of the Church, chapter 2, on the importance of the Bible during the period of formation).

What follows is an example of the approach that is suggested for Formators. It could serve as a pointer for subsequent research work on other topics.  This brief work on holiness is based broadly on the Dictionary of Biblical Theology by Xavier Leon-Dufour.

  1. The liturgy acclaims God, “holy, holy, holy”; all Eucharistic Prayers proclaim the holiness of God: “Lord, you are holy indeed, the fountain of all holiness”. “Tu solus Sanctus”, we repeat to JESUS when we say the Gloria. We also speak of the holy gospels, of holy week, of holy places, we are called to become holy, and we celebrate the feast of all saints. Holiness, then, appears to be a complex reality which touches on the mystery of God, but also on worship and morality.
  2. The Hebrew word kds or qodes (holy thing, holiness) has the basic meaning of “to cut off, separate”, expressing the separation from the profane: holy things are those which one does not touch or approach except on certain conditions of ritual purity, they evoke a feeling of mixed terror and fascination (mysterium tremendum et fascinans) which makes man aware of his utter unworthiness before the manifestation of the divine (the numinous).
  3. In its common usage, however, the word stands for the essence of God, for God Himself. In Am. 4:2, God swears by His holiness (i.e. by Himself) and in Ho. 11:9 God affirms that He is God and not man, the Holy One. Isaiah created the title, “The Holy One of Israel”. The force of this title is seen in the inaugural vision in Is. 6: the Angels cry out in adoration, “Holy, Holy, Holy”, but for Isaiah the presence of the Holy One generates great fear and a profound sense of moral unworthiness, and yet also a powerful attraction.
  4. In creature, the quality of holiness is derived from God through some fearful experiences of the divine: God is the very source of holiness, and all holiness is derived from Him. God’s presence makes persons, things, places “sacred”: thus it is often an “external” holiness imposed on persons or things by the manifestation of God. This derived holiness will become real and interior only by the gift of the Holy Spirit Himself, through the Sacraments, especially Baptism and the Eucharist, that make man a “temple of the Spirit”.
  5. God communicates holiness: all places “visited” by God become holy (see the stories of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, for example); persons become holy according to their proximity to God (priests, levites, first-born, prophets), even objects (vestments, offerings) and times (Sabbaths, jubilee years). It is the holiness of God that engulfs people, places, objects, sacrifices, seasons making them holy by participation.
  6. Israel becomes the “holy people”, the “priest-people” because chosen and set apart by God.  Thanks to an inexplicable love, God lives and walks in His people’s midst (Ex.33, 12-17); He manifests Himself to them in the cloud, the ark, the temple. This active presence of God confers a holiness on the people which is not simply a ritual holiness, but a genuine dignity, calling for moral holiness. It is in order to sanctify His people that God promulgates the Law (Lev.22,31ff).
  7. In the New Testament, the holiness of JESUS is intimately bound up with his divine Sonship and with the presence of the Holy Spirit in Him: “Conceived by the Holy Spirit, He will be holy and will be called the Son of God” (Lk 1,35). In JESUS, the “Holy One” is in our midst: the Father calls Him His “well-beloved Son” as He receives the anointing of the Holy Spirit. He drives out demons and they refer to him as “the Holy One of God” or “the Son of God”. JESUS manifests His holiness by His mighty works and His preaching, but especially by His perfect and constant union with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
  8. The sacrifices of the Old Testament conferred only “external” holiness (He 9,11), but the obedient death of the Son of God brings about “true”, “interior”, holiness. The Christian participates to the inner life of Christ by faith and by baptism, and becomes “holy in Christ” through the presence of the Holy Spirit. They are the “temple of the Spirit”, they abide in JESUS, and through JESUS, in the Father. They participate in the divine holiness itself; they are the true “holy people”, the true “royal priesthood”. They must give God true worship by offering themselves with Christ in “holy sacrifice” (Rom.12,1; Ph.2,17).
  9. It is to the Church and its members that the term “holy” is more frequently applied. The basic meaning is derived from the idea of Israel as a people holy to Yahweh (Ex.19,6 quoted in 1 Pet.2,9), which refers both to the union of the Church and its members with the Father through JESUS, and to the moral quality of the Church. Christians are those who have been made holy (Acts 20,32; 26,18). The common designation of the members of the Church in Acts and in the letters is “the saints”. The primary agent of the sanctification of the Christians is God (1 Th.5,23), through whose Will the sanctification is accomplished. God sanctifies through JESUS, who is Himself called the sanctification of the Christian (1 Cor.1,30) in the Spirit. The means of sanctification are faith (Rom.15,16) and baptism (1 Cor.6, 11) and union with Christ.
  10. The holiness of the Christians demands that they cut themselves off from sin; they must act “according to the holiness which comes from God and not according to the wisdom of the flesh” (2 Cor.1,12; 1 Cor.6,9; Eph.4,30-5,1). This demand for holy living is the basis of the whole Christian ascetical tradition; it rests not on the ideal of a law which remains exterior, but on the fact that the Christian “captivated by Christ” should “share his suffering and death in order to arrive at His resurrection”.

For Reflection:
God alone is holy. It is God that communicates holiness.  What idea of holiness do we have and how do we rate the teaching we have been given about achieving the only “end” of the Institute and of our vocation?

The Persons of the Society (Const. 6-16; Rule of Life 5-8)

Holiness is the end of both the Institute and its members. In the Constitutions, Fr. Founder will explain in a variety of ways what is the “content” of this word, what is the essence of holiness. But already in these preliminary pages he indicates clearly that holiness is first of all the fulfilment of the two commandments of love: “Love God with all your heart and love your neighbour as you love yourself”. The quotation from the Bible chosen by Fr. Founder as the frontispiece of the Constitutions is, “He who loves is born of God” (1 Jn.4,7).

All members of the Institute must be consecrated to Charity, must be burning with love for God and neighbour. But in the practicality of life not all members will be required by the Will of God to exercise charity in the same manner. Some will be asked by obedience to exercise charity towards their neighbour in a pre-eminent manner, the pastoral care of souls; for others the Will of God will demand that they exercise charity in a more restricted manner, by working in a hospital, or by teaching, etc.; others will find that their state in life, established for them by Divine Providence, will allow them to exercise charity in a even more limited way.

But since they are all longing for universal charity and they are all intending to pursue it in accordance with the Will of God, then all can be members of the Institute of Charity, in different degrees. Hence, Fr. Founder lists four categories of persons that belong to the Institute:

  1. The Presbyters, who make a full profession of charity and exercise charity in a general way, ready at any moment to give up their life for the sake of obedience in the exercise of charity. They belong to the Institute in the strictest sense.
  2. The Coadjutors, who follow the Will of God in a more limited exercise of charity, either in the pastoral care of souls or in temporal works of charity. With the Presbyters they belong to the Institute in a strict sense.
  3. The Adopted sons and daughters, who are prepared internally to live the full religious life and to dedicate themselves fully to whatever work of charity obedience may decide for them, but are impeded by some just reason; and yet they practise charity to the extent they can possibly master in their situation in life.
  4. The Ascribed Members, who share the desire for universal charity and who wish to be united with the members of the Institute, fulfilling at the same time the precepts of love as best as they can in their state of life.

 

We shall return to the four categories later in our study of the Constitutions, and we shall then discuss characteristics and qualities, also in the light of more recent documents. It is sufficient for now to understand the profound link between categories and the exercise of charity. The desire for universal charity, i.e. the desire for perfection, is common to all: the distinctions are simply at the service of charity, according to the Will of God.

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