79. During initial formation every Servant of Mary will acquire a personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus (see Phil. 3, 8). Like Mary of Bethany, every Servant will sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to his Word (see Lk 10, 39). It is necessary to be a disciple in order to be an apostle. Evangelization is a matter of proclaiming the Word you’ve heard and of witnessing an experience you’ve had. “If we live in Christ and experience him as the Absolute of our life we feel the compelling need to give him to others” (1989 General Chapter, n. 301). To fracture this fruitful dialectic of receiving and giving would mean failing into a sterile personalism and a useless activism.
80. For this reason formation must take into account the two dimensions of the life of faith: concentration and expansion. This includes, on the one hand, the grounding of mission in faith experience; and, on the other hand, the opening of faith to the missionary call. And this holds for both the Order’s clerics and all other members. Initial formation places the accent on “being with” Jesus in community (see Mk 3, 14b), but this has to be developed in stages of apostolic service toward the “sent-forth-to proclaim” (see Mk 3, 14c), as Jesus did with his disciples in the first mis sion (see Mk 6, 7-12).
81. The pastoral experiences of the formation years aim at producing in the candidates more of an immanent, i.e. a specifically formative, effect than a transitive or pastoral one. For this reason, the apostolic activities of those in formation have to be care fully reflected upon in times of prayer, celebration and study so they can be purified and perfected according to the reflective and sapiential model of Mary of Nazareth, who “kept and reflected on all these things in her heart” (Lk 2, 19.5 1).
82. It’s important that candidates be initiated a spirituality in which faith and life, prayer and ion, discipleship and apostolate, are intimately related. This dialectic must be pursued of course in the period of ongoing formation. Each stage unfolds with its own accents and rhythm.
83. From the very beginning of formation there two aspects of evangelization that must be clearly marked out in all pastoral activity, two aspects to which the contemporary world is very sensitive: incarnation in the life and culture of a people and attention to the liberating dimension of the gospel. The latter is crucial today for the credibility of Christian proclamation (see OA 5 1) and the first is basic for “the foundation and growth of the local church, ” which is the objective of missionary activity (see 1989 General Chapter, n. 93).
84. The vocation to the mission “ad genres” will be fostered in candidates through various means:
– intercessory prayer;
– visits from missionaries, hearing of their experience;
– exchange of news with missionaries through letters and bulletins;
– missionary experiences;
– taking part in promotional missionary drives.
Questions for community reflection
1. How can we help those in formation to develop both a prayer life open to missionary involvement and an involvement rooted in prayer?
2. How do the two aspects of authentic evangelization, inculturation and liberation, get developed in the years of first formation?
3. What can be done in our communities and especially in our formation communities to arouse and increase interest in the mission “ad genres”?