INSTRUCTION ON THE RENEWAL OF
In its discussion of the question of renewal to the end that the
Church might be enriched with a greater abundance of spiritual strength
and be the better prepared to proclaim the message of salvation to
contemporary man, the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council devoted not
small measure of attention also to those who pursue the divine gift of a
religious vocation, and it set forth in a clearer light the nature,
structure and importance of their way of life. (1) Concerning their
place in the body of the Church the Council of affirmed: "Although
the religious state constituted by the profession of the evangelical
counsels does not belong to the hierarchical structure of the church,
nevertheless it belongs inseparably to her life and holiness". (2)
Besides, since it is the function of the hierarchy of the Church go
nourish the people of God and lead them to the choicest pastures (cf.
Ezek. 34, 14), it devolves on the same hierarchy to govern with wise
legislation the practice of the evangelical counsels. For by that
practice is uniquely fostered the perfection of love for god and
neighbor. Submissively following the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the
hierarchy also endorses rules formulated by eminent men and women, and
authentically approve later modifications. Moreover, by its watchful and
shielding authority, the hierarchy keeps close to communities
established far and wide for the upbuilding of Christ’s body, so that
they can grow and flourish in accord with the spirit of their
It is no less true that the generous vitality, and especially the
renewal of the spiritual, evangelical and apostolic life which must
animate the various Institutes in the untiring pursuit of an ever great
charity is the responsibility chiefly of those who have received the
mission, in the name of the Church and with the grace of the Lord, to
govern these Institutes, and at the same time of the generous
collaboration of all their members. It is of the very nature of the
religious life, just as it is of the very nature of the church, to have
that structure without which no society, not even a supernatural one,
would be able to achieve its end, or be in a position to provide the
best means to attain it.
Wherefore, having learned also from centuries of experience, the
Church was led gradually to the formulation of a body of canonical
norms, which have contributed in no small degree to the solidity and
vitality of religious life in the past. Everyone recognizes that the
renewal and adaptation of different Institutes as demanded by actual
circumstances, cannot be implemented without a revision of the canonical
prescriptions dealing with the structure and the means of the religious
As "the suitable renewal of religious communities depends very
largely on the training of their members", (4) several
Congregations both of men and of women, anxious to work out the renewal
desired by the Council, have endeavored by serious inquiries and have
often take advantage of the preparation of the special General Chapter
prescribed by the Motu Proprio "Ecclesiae sanctae" (II, n. 3),
(5) in order to discover the best conditions for a suitable renewal of
the various phases of the formation of their members to the religious
Thus it was that a certain number of requests were formulated and
transmitted to the Sacred Congregation for Religious and for Secular
Institutes, especially through the "Union of Superiors
General". These requests were intended to secure a broadening of
the canonical norms actually governing religious formation in order to
permit the various Institutes, conformably to the instructions of the
Decree "Perfectae caritatis", n. 3 ff., (6) 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.
It is evident that no new clear and definitive legislation can be
formulated except on the basis of experiments carried out on a
sufficiently vast scale and over a sufficiently long period of time to
make it possible to arrive at an objective judgment based on facts. This
is most rue since the complexity of situations, their variations
according to localities and the rapidity of the changes which affect
them make it impossible for those charged with the formation of the
youth of today to an authentic religious life to determine a priori
which solutions might be best.
This is why this Sacred Congregation for Religious and for Secular
Institutes, after careful examination of the proposals submitted
regarding the different phase of religious formation, has deemed it
opportune to broaden the canonical rules now in force in order to permit
these necessary experiments. Nevertheless, although the juridical norms
are being eased, it is important that this not be to the detriment of
those basic values which the prevailing legislation understood to
safeguard. For "it must be seriously borne in mind that even the
most desirable changes made on behalf of contemporary needs will fail of
their purpose unless a renewal of spirit give life to them". (7)
In order to be authentic, every revision of the means and the rules
of the religious life presupposes at the same time a re-defining of the
values which are essential to the religious life, since the safeguarding
of these values is the aim of these norms. For this reason and in order
to permit a clearer understanding of the significance of the new rulings
set forth in this present Instruction, the Sacred Congregation has
deemed it useful to preface them with certain explanatory remarks.
I. Some Guidelines and Principles
1—Not only the complexity of the situations alluded to previously,
but also, especially, the growing diversity of Institutes and their
activities makes it increasingly difficult to formulate any useful set
of directives equally applicable to all Institutes everywhere. Hence the
much broader norms set forth in this Instruction give to individual
Institutes the possibility of prudently choosing the solution best
suited to their needs.
It is especially important, particularly with reference to formation
and education, to remember that not even the best solutions can be
absolutely identical both for Institutes of men and those of women.
Similarly, the framework and the means of formation must vary according
as an Institute is dedicated to contemplation or is committed to
2—Questions raised by the faculty granted in this present
Instruction to those Institutes which might deem it opportune, to
replace temporary vows with some other kind of commitment, emphasize the
necessity of recalling here the nature and the proper value of Religious
Profession. Such profession, whereby the members "either by vows or
by other sacred bonds which are like vows in their purpose", (8)
bind themselves to living the three evangelical counsels, brings about a
total consecration to God, who alone is worthy of such a sweeping gift
on the part of a human person. It is more in keeping with the nature of
such a gift to find its culmination and its most eloquent expression in
perpetual profession, whether simple or solemn. In fact, "this
consecration will be all the more perfect according as through firmer
and more solid bonds there will be reflected the image of Christ united
with the Church His Spouse through an unbreakable bond". (9) Thus
it is that religious profession is an act of religion and a special
consecration whereby a person dedicates himself to God.
Not only according to the teaching of the Church but likewise by the
very nature of this consecration, the vow of obedience, whereby a
religious consummates the complete renunciation of himself and, along
with the vows of religious chastity and poverty, offers to God as it
were a perfect sacrifice, belongs to the essence of religious
Thus consecrated to Christ, the religious is at the same time bound
to the service of the Church and, according to his vocation, is led to
the realization of the perfection of that apostolic charity which must
animate and impel him, whether in a life entirely give over to
contemplation or in different apostolic activities. This
notwithstanding, it is important to note that, even though in Institutes
dedicated to the apostolate "the very nature of the religious life
requires apostolic action and services", (11) this apostolic
activity is not the primary aim of religious profession. Besides, the
same apostolic works could be carried quite well without the
consecration deriving from the religious state although, for one who has
taken on its obligations, this religious consecration can and must
contribute to greater dedication to the apostolate.
Hence, although it is in order to renew religious life in its means
and its forms of expression, it cannot be asserted that the very nature
of religious profession must be changed or that there should be a
lessening of the demands proper to it. The youth of today who are called
by God to the religious state are not less desirous than before, rather
they ardently desire to live up to this vocation in all its
requirements, provided these be certain and authentic.
3—Nevertheless, in addition to the religious vocation strictly and
properly so called, the Holy Spirit does not cease to stir up in the
Church, especially in these latter times, numerous Institutes, whose
members, whether bound or not by sacred commitments, undertake to live
in common and to practice the evangelical counsels in order to devote
themselves to various apostolic or charitable activities. The Church has
sanctioned the authentic nature of these different modes of life and has
approved them. Still, these modes do not constitute the religious state
even though, up to a certain point, they have often been likened to
religious life in canonical legislation. Therefore, the norms and
directives contained in this present Instruction deal directly with
religious Institutes in the strict sense. Other Institutes, however, if
they so wish, are free to follow them in the proper organization of
their formation program and in whatever is best suited to the nature of
4—The faculties granted to religious Institutes by this present
Instruction have been suggested by a certain number of considerations
based on experience which it is here in order to explain briefly.
It would appear that in our day and age genuine religious formation
should proceed more by stages and be extended over a longer period of
time, since it must embrace both the time of the novitiate and the years
following upon the first temporary commitment. In this formation cycle
the novitiate must retain its irreplaceable and privileged role as the
first initiation into religious life. This goal cannot be attained
unless the future novice possesses a minimum of human and spiritual
preparation which must not only be verified but, very often, also
In fact, for each candidate the novitiate should come at the moment
when, aware of God’s call, he has reached that degree of human and
spiritual maturity which will allow him to decide to respond to this
call with sufficient and proper responsibility and freedom. No one
should enter religious life without this choice being freely made, and
without the separation from men and things which this entails being
accepted. Nevertheless, this first decision does not necessarily demand
that the candidate be then able to measure up immediately to all the
demands of the religious and apostolic life of the Institute, but he
must be judged capable of reaching this goal by stages. 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
Thus, preparation for entrance into the novitiate proves to be
increasingly necessary as the world becomes less Christian in outlook.
Inmost case, in fact, a gradual spiritual and psychological adjustment
appears to be indispensable in order to prepare the way for certain
breaks with one’s social milieu and even worldly habits. Young people
today who are attracted by the religious life are not looking for an
easy life, indeed, their thirst for the absolute is consuming. But their
life of faith is oftentimes based on merely elementary knowledge of
doctrine, in sharp contrast to the development of their knowledge of
Hence it follows that all Institutes, even those whose formation
cycle includes no postulancy, must attach great importance to this
preparation for the novitiate. In Institutes having minor seminaries,
seminaries or college, candidates for the religious life usually go
directly to the novitiate. It will be worthwhile to reconsider if this
policy should be maintained, or if it is not more advisable, in order to
assure better preparation for a fully responsible choice of the
religious life, to prepare for the novitiate by a fitting period of
probation in order to develop the human and emotional maturity of the
candidate. Moreover, while it must be recognized that problems vary
according to countries, it must be affirmed that the age required for
admission to the novitiate should be higher than heretofore.
5—As regards the formation to be imparted in the novitiate in
Institutes dedicated to the works of the apostolate, it is evident that
greater attention should be paid to preparing the novices, in the very
beginning and more directly, for the type of life or the activities
which will be theirs in the future, and to teaching them how 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 societies. The achievement of this unity requires a proper
understanding of the realities of the supernatural life and of the paths
leading to a deepening of union with God in the unity of one same
supernatural love for God and for men, finding expression at times in
the solitude of intimate communing with the Lord and at others in the
generous giving of self to apostolic activity. Young religious must be
taught that this unity so eagerly sought and toward which all life tends
in order to find its full development, cannot be attained on the level
of activity alone, or even be psychologically experienced, for it
resides in that divine love which is the bond of perfection and which
surpasses all understanding.
The attainment of this unity, which cannot be achieved without long
training in self-denial or without persevering efforts towards purity of
intention in action, demands in those Institutes faithful compliance
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
Consequently, in order that novices, while acquiring experience in
certain activities proper to their Institute, may discover the
importance of this law and make it habitual, it has seemed advisable to
grant to those Institutes which might regard it as opportune, the
faculty of introducing into the novitiate formative activity and
experimental periods in keeping with their activities and their type of
It must be emphasized that this formative activity, which complements
novitiate teaching, is not intended to provide the novices with the
technical or professional training required for certain apostolic
activities, training which will be afforded to them later on, but rather
to help them, in the very midst of these activities, to better discover
the exigencies of their vocation as religious and how to remain faithful
In fact, confronted with the diversity of apostolic activities
available to them, let religious not forget that, differently from
secular institutes, whose specific activity is carried out with the
means of the world or in the performance of temporal tasks, religious
must, above all, according to the teaching of the Council, be in a
special manner witnesses to Christ within the Church: "Religious
should carefully consider that, through them, to believers and
non-believers alike, the Church truly wishes to give an increasingly
clearer revelation of Christ. Through them Christ should be shown
contemplating on the mountain, announcing God's kingdom to the
multitude, healing the sick and the maimed, turning sinners to wholesome
fruit, blessing children, doing good to all, and always obeying the will
of the Father who sent Him". (12)
There is a diversity of gifts. Wherefore, each one must stand firm in
the vocation to which he has been called, since the mission of those
called to the religious state in the Church is one thing; the mission of
secular institutes is another thing; the temporal and apostolic mission
of the laity not especially consecrated to God in an Institute, is quite
It is in line with this perspective on his vocation that whoever is
called by God to the religious state must understand the meaning of the
formation which is begun in the novitiate.
Therefore, the nature and the educational value of these periods, as
well as the timeliness of introducing them into the novitiate, will be
evaluated differently in congregations of men or of women, in Institutes
dedicated to contemplation or to apostolic activities.
Indeed, the effectiveness of this formation, while it is imparted in
an atmosphere of greater freedom and flexibility, will also depend
largely an the firmness and the wisdom of the guidance afforded by the
Novice Master and by all those who share in the formation of young
religious after the novitiate. It is extremely important also to recall
the importance of the role played in such formation by the atmosphere of
generosity provided by a fervent and united community, in the midst of
which young religious will be enabled to learn by experience the value
of mutual fraternal assistance as an element of readier progress and
perseverance in their vocation.
6—In order then to respond to this same need of gradual formation
the question has arisen concerning the extension of the period prior to
perpetual profession in which a candidate is bound by temporary vows or
by some other form of commitment.
It is proper that when he pronounces his perpetual vows, the
religious should have reached the degree of spiritual maturity required
in order that the religious state to which he is committing himself in
stable and certain fashion may really be for him a means of perfection
and greater love, rather than a burden to heavy to carry. Nevertheless,
in certain cases the extension of temporary probation can be an aid to
this maturity, while in others it can involve drawbacks which it will
not be out of place to point out. The fact of remaining for too long a
time in a state of uncertainty is not always a contribution to maturity,
and this situation may in some cases encourage a tendency to
instability. It should be added that in the case of non-admission to
perpetual profession, the return to lay life will often entail problems
of readjustment, which will be all the more serious and trying according
as the time spent in temporary commitment has been longer. Superiors,
consequently, mast be aware of their grave responsibilities in this
field and should not put off until the last minute a decision which
could and should have been taken earlier.
7—No Institute should decide to use the faculty granted by this
Instruction to replace temporary vows by some other form of commitment
without having clearly considered and weighed the reasons for and the
nature of this commitment.
For him who has heeded the call of Jesus to leave everything to
follow Him there can be no question of how important it is to respond
generously and whole-heartedly to this call from the very outset of his
religious life, the making of temporary vows is completely in harmony
with this requirement. For, 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
Yet, perpetual vows can be prepared for without making temporary
vows. In fact, more frequently now than in the past, a certain number of
young candidates come to the end of their novitiate without having
acquired the religious maturity sufficient to bind themselves
immediately by religious vows, although no prudent doubt can be raised
regarding their generosity or their authentic vocation to the religious
state. This hesitancy in pronouncing vows is frequently accompanied by a
great awareness of the exigencies and the importance of the perpetual
religious profession to which they aspire and wish to prepare
themselves. Thus it has seemed desirable in a certain number of
Institutes that at the end of their novitiate the novices should be able
to bind themselves by a temporary commitment different from vows, yet
answering their twofold desire to give themselves to God and the
Institute and to pledge themselves to a fuller preparation for perpetual
Whatever form such a temporary commitment may take, fidelity to a
genuine religious vocation demands that it should in some way be based
on the requirements of the three evangelical counsels, and should thus
be already entirely orientated toward the one perpetual profession, for
which it must be, as it were, an apprenticeship and a preparation.
8—He who commits himself to walk in the path of the Savior in the
religious life, must bear in mind Our Lord’s own words that "no
one, having put his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the
kingdom of God" (Luke 9, 62). Just the same, the psychological and
emotional difficulties encountered by some individuals in their
progressive adaptation to the religious life are not always resolved
upon the termination of the novitiate, and at the same time there is no
doubt that their vocation can be authentic. In many cases, the
permission for absence provided for by Canon law will allow superiors to
make it possible for these religious to spend time outside a house of
the Institute in order to be the better able to resolve their problems.
But in some more difficult cases, this solution will be inadequate.
Superiors can then persuade such candidates to return to lay life, using
if necessary, the faculty granted in No. 38 of this Instruction.
9—Lastly, a religious formation more based on stages and
judiciously extended over the different periods of the life of a young
religious should find its culmination in a serious preparation for
perpetual vows. It is in fact desirable that this unique and essential
act whereby a religious is consecrated to God forever should be preceded
by a sufficiently long immediate preparation, spent in retreat and
prayer, a preparation which could be like a second novitiate.
II. Special Norms
The Sacred Congregation for Religious and for Secular Institutes, in
its desire to promote necessary and useful experiments in view of the
adaptation and renewal of religious formation, having examined these
questions in its plenary meetings of June 25-26, 1968, by virtue of a
special mandate from the Sovereign Pontiff, Pope Paul VI, has seen fit,
by this Instruction, to formulate and to publish the following norms:
10—I. Religious formation comprises two essential phases: the
novitiate and the probationary period which follows the novitiate and
lasts for a period adapted to the nature of the Institute, during which
the members are bound by vows or other commitments.
II. A preliminary Period of varying duration, obligatory, in certain
Institutes under the mine of postulancy, usually precedes admission to
11—I. This preliminary probation has as its purpose not merely to
formulate a tentative judgment on the aptitudes and vocation of the
candidate, but also to verify the extent of his knowledge of religious
subjects and, where need be, to complete it in the degree judged
necessary and, lastly, to permit a gradual transition from lay life to
the life proper to the novitiate.
II. During this probationary period it is particularly necessary to
secure assurance that the candidate for religious life be endowed with
such elements of human and emotional maturity as will afford grounds for
hope that he is capable of undertaking properly the obligations of the
religious state and that, in the religious life and especially in the
novitiate, he will be able to progress toward fuller maturity.
III. If in certain more difficult cases, the Superior feels, with the
free agreement of the subject, that he should have recourse to the
services of a prudent and qualified psychologist known for his moral
principles, it is desirable, in order that this examination may be fully
effective, that it should take place after an extended period of
probation, so as to enable the specialist to formulate a diagnosis based
12—1. In Institutes, where a postulancy is obligatory, whether by
common law or in virtue of the Constitutions, the General Chapter may
fellow the norms of this present Instruction for a better adaptation of
the period of postulancy to the requirements of a more fruitful
preparation for the novitiate
II. In other Institutes it belongs to the General Chapter to
determine the nature and the length of this preliminary probation, which
can vary according to candidates. Nevertheless, if it is to be genuinely
effective, this period should neither be too brief nor, as a general
rule, be extended beyond two years.
III. It is preferable that this probation should not take place in
the novitiate house. It could even be helpful that, either in whole or
in part, it be organized outside a house of the Institute.
IV. During this preliminary probation, even if it takes place outside
a house of the Institute, the candidates will be placed under the
direction of qualified religious and there should be sufficient
collaboration between these latter and the Novice Master, with a view to
assuring continuity of formation.
13—I. Religious life begins with the novitiate. Whatever may be the
special aim of the Institute, the principal purpose of the novitiate is
to initiate the novice into the essential and primary requirements of
the religious life and also, in view of a greater charity, to implement
the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience of which he
will later make profession, "either through vows or other sacred
bonds which are like vows in their purpose". (13)
II. In those Institutes where "the very nature of the religious
life requires apostolic action and service", (14) the novices are
to be gradually trained to dedicate themselves to activities in keeping
with the purpose of their Institute, while developing that intimate
union with Christ whence all their apostolic activity must flow. (15)
14—Superiors responsible for the admission of candidates to the
novitiate will take care to accept only those giving proof of the
aptitudes and elements of maturity regarded as necessary for commitment
to the religious life as lived in the Institute.
15—I. In order to be valid, the novitiate must be made in the house
legitimately designated for this purpose.
II. It should be made in the community or group of novices,
fraternally united under the direction of the Novice Master. The program
as well as the nature of the activities and work of the novitiate must
be organized in such a way as to contribute to novice formation.
III. This formation, conformable to the teachings of Our Lord in the
Gospel and the demands of the particular aim and spirituality of the
Institute, consists mainly in initiating the novices gradually into
detachment from everything not connected with the kingdom of God, the
practice of obedience, poverty, prayer, habitual union with God in
availability to the Holy Spirit, in order to help one another
spiritually in frank and open charity.
IV. The novitiate will also include study and meditation on Holy
Scripture, the doctrinal and spiritual formation indispensable for the
development of a supernatural life of union with God and an
understanding of the religious state and lastly an initiation to
liturgical life and the spirituality proper to the Institute.
16—I. The erection of a novitiate does not require the
authorization of the Holy See. It belongs to the Superior general, with
the consent of his council and conformably to the norms laid down in the
Constitutions, to erect or to authorize the erection of a novitiate, to
determine the special details of the program and to decide on its
location in a given house of the Institute.
II. If necessary, in order to make more effective provision for the
formation of the novices, the Superior General may authorize the
transfer of the novitiate community during certain periods to another
residence designated by himself.
17—In case of necessity, the Superior General, with the consent of
his council and after consultation with the interested provincial, may
authorize the erection of several novitiates within the same province.
18—In view of the very important role of community life in the
formation of the novices, and when the small number of the novices would
prevent the creation of conditions favorable to genuine community life,
the Superior General should, if possible, organize the novitiate in
another community of the Institute able to assist in the formation of
this small group of novices.
19—In special cases and by way of exception, the Superior General,
with the consent of his council, is empowered to allow a candidate to
make his novitiate validly in some house of the Institute other than the
novitiate under the responsibility of an experienced religious acting as
20—For a reason which he regards as just, the major superior may
allow first profession to be made outside the novitiate house.
21—In order to be valid, the novitiate as described above must last
22—I. Absences from the novitiate group and house which, either at
intervals or continuously, exceed three months render the novitiate
II. As for absences lasting less than three months, it pertains to
the major superiors, after consultation with the Novice Master, to
decide in each individual case, taking into account the reasons for the
absence, whether this absence should be made up by demanding an
extension of the novitiate, and to determine the length of the eventual
prolongation. The Constitutions of the Institute may also provide
directives on this point.
23—I. The General Chapter, by at least a two-thirds majority, may
decide, on an experimental basis, to integrate into novitiate formation
one or several periods involving activities in line with the character
of the Institute and away from the novitiate, in the degree in which, in
the judgment of the Novice Master and with the consent of the major
superior, such an experiment would seem to be a useful contribution to
II. These formation stages may be used for one or several novices or
for the novitiate community as a whole: Wherever possible, it would be
preferable that the novices take part in these stages in group of two or
III. During these stages away from the novitiate community, the
novices remain under the responsibility of the Novice Master.
24—I. The total length of the periods spent by a novice outside the
novitiate will be added to the twelve months of presence required by
Art. 21 for the validity of the novitiate, but in such a way that the
total duration of the novitiate thus expanded does not exceed two years.
II. These formative apostolic periods may not begin until after a
minimum of three months in the novitiate and will be distributed in such
a way that the novice will spend at least six continuous months in the
novitiate and return to the novitiate for at least one month prior to
first vows or temporary commitment.
III. In cases where Superiors would deem it useful for a future
novice to have a period of experience before beginning the three months
of presence required at the start of the novitiate, this period could be
regarded as a probation period and only after its completion would the
25—I. The nature of experimental periods outside the novitiate can
vary according to the aims of various Institutes and the nature of their
activities. Still, they must always be planned and carried out in view
of forming the novice or, in certain cases, testing his aptitude for the
life of the Institute. Besides gradual preparation for apostolic
activities, they can also have as their purpose to bring the novice into
contact with certain concrete aspects of poverty or of labor, to
contribute to character formation, a better knowledge of human nature,
the strengthening of the will, the development of personal
responsibility and, lastly, to provide occasions for effort at union
with God in the context of the active life.
II. This balancing of periods of activity and periods of retreat
consecrated to prayer, meditation or study, which will characterize the
formation of the novices, should stimulate them to remain faithful to it
through the whole of their religious life. It would also be well for
such periods of retreat to be regularly planned during the years of
formation preceding perpetual profession.
26—The Major Superior may, for a just cause, allow first profession
to be anticipated, but not beyond fifteen days.
27—In Institutes having different novitiates for different
categories of religious, and unless the Constitutions stipulate
otherwise, the novitiate made for one category is valid likewise for the
other. It belongs to the constitution to determine eventual conditions
regulating this passage from one novitiate to the other.
28—The special nature and aim of the novitiate, as also the close
bonds which should be found among the novices, really demand a certain
separation of the novice group from the other members of the Institute.
Nevertheless the novices may, according to the judgment of the Novice
Master, have contacts with other communities or religious. Hence it will
be the task of the General Chapter, taking into consideration the spirit
of the Institute and the demands of special circumstances, to decide
what kind of contacts the novices may have with the other members of the
29—I. The General Chapter may permit or even impose during the
regular novitiate year certain studies which may be useful for the
formation of the novices. Doctrinal studies must be put at the service
of a loving knowledge of God and a deepening of the life of faith.
II. Excluded from the novitiate year described in No. 21 are all
formal study programs, even of theology or philosophy, as also studies
directed toward the obtaining of diplomas or in view of professional
30—All tasks and work entrusted to novices will be under the
responsibility and direction of the Novice Master, who nevertheless may
seek the aid of competent persons. The Chief aim of these various tasks
must be the formation of the novices, not the interests of the
31—I. In the direction of the novices, particularly during the
periods of formative activity, the Novice Master will base his direction
on the teaching so clearly enunciated by the Second Vatican Council.
"Therefore, in order that members may above all respond to their
vocation of following Christ and may serve Christ Himself in His
members, their apostolic activity should result from their intimate
union with Him". (16) "To this end, let the members of all
Institutes, seeking above all only God, unite contemplation, whereby
they are united with Him in mind and heart, with apostolic love, whereby
they strive to associate themselves with the work of redemption and to
spread the kingdom of God" (17)
II. With this in mind he should teach the novices
- to seek in all things, as well in apostolic activities or the
service of men as in the times consecrated to silent prayer or
study, purity of intention and the unity of charity toward God and
- when the apostolic activities of their Institute lead them to
become involved in human affairs, to learn how to use this world
"as though not using it";
- to understand the limitations of their own activity without being
discouraged and to work at the order of their own life, bearing in
mind that no one can give himself authentically to God and his
brethren without first getting possession of himself in humility;
- to bring about in their lives, along with a will which is firm and
rich in initiative, and conformable to the demands of a vocation to
an Institute dedicated to the apostolate, the indispensable balance
on both the human and the supernatural level between times
consecrated to the apostolate and the service of men and more or
less lengthy periods in solitude or in community, devoted to prayer
and meditative reading of the Word of God;
- in fidelity to this program which is essential to every
consecrated life, to ground their hearts gradually in union with God
and that peace which comes from doing the divine will, whose demands
they will have learned to discover in the duties of their state and
in the promptings of justice and charity.
32—I. Unity of heart and mind must reign between Superiors, the
Novice Master and the novices. This union, which is the fruit of genuine
charity, is necessary for religious formation.
II. Superiors and the Novice Master must always show toward the
novices evangelical simplicity, kindness coupled with gentleness, and
respect for their personality, in order to build up a climate of
confidence, docility and openness in which the Novice Master will be
able to orientate their generosity toward a complete gift of themselves
to the Lord in faith, and gradually lead them by word and example to
learn in the mystery of Christ Crucified the exigencies of authentic
religious obedience. Thus, let the Novice master teach his novices
"to bring an active and responsible obedience to the offices they
shoulder and the activities they undertake". (18)
33—As for the habit of the novices and other candidates to the
religious life, the decision rests with the General Chapter.
34—I. The General Chapter, by a two-thirds majority, may decide to
replace temporary vows in the Institute with some other kind of
commitment as, for example, a promise made to the Institute.
II. This commitment will be made at the end of the novitiate and for
the duration of the probationary period extending to perpetual
profession or to the sacred commitments which are its equivalent in
certain Institutes. (19) This temporary commitment may also be made for
a briefer period and be renewed at stated intervals, or even be followed
by the making of temporary vows.
35—I. It is altogether proper that this temporary bond should have
reference to the practice of the three evangelical counsels, in order to
constitute a genuine preparation for perpetual profession. It is of the
utmost importance to safeguard unity of religious formation. Although
the practice of this life is realized definitively at perpetual
profession, it must begin quite a long time before this profession.
II. Since, therefore, the one perpetual profession assumes its full
significance, it is fitting that it should be preceded by a period of
immediate preparation lasting for a certain length of time, and serving
as a kind of second novitiate. The duration and details will be
determined by the General Chapter.
36—Whatever may be the nature of this temporary commitment, its
effect will be to bind whoever makes it to his congregation or his
Institute and it will entail the obligation of observing the rule,
Constitutions and other regulations of the Institute. The General
Chapter will determine other aspects and consequences of this
37—I. The General Chapter, after careful consideration of all the
circumstances, shall decide on the length of the period of temporary
vows or commitments, which is to extend from the end of the novitiate
until the making of perpetual vows. This period shall last for no less
than three years and no more than nine, counting the time continuously.
II. The prescription still stands that perpetual profession must be
made before the reception of Holy Orders.
38—I. When a member has left his Institute legitimately, either at
the expiration of his temporary profession or commitment or after
dispensation from these obligations, and later requests re-admission,
the Superior General, with the consent of his council, may grant this
re-admission without the obligation of prescribing the repetition of the
II. The Superior General must, none the less, impose on him a certain
period of probation, upon the completion of which the candidate may be
admitted to temporary vows or commitment for a period of no less than
one year or no less than the period of temporary probation which he
would have had to complete before perpetual profession at the time he
left the Institute. The Superior may also demand a longer period of
III. Application of the Special Norms
In the implementation of these present decisions the following
directives shall be observed:
I. The prescriptions of common law remain in force except in so far
as this present Instruction may derogate therefrom.
II. The faculties granted by this Instruction may not in any way be
III. The term "Superior General" also includes the Abbot
President of a Monastic Congregation.
IV. In case the Superior General is incapacitated or legitimately
impeded from acting, these same faculties are granted to the one who is
legitimately designated by the Constitutions to replace him.
V. In the case of nuns dedicated exclusively to contemplative life,
special regulations shall be inserted into the Constitutions and
submitted for approval. Nevertheless, the norms indicated in Nos. 22, 26
and 27 may be applied to them.
VI. 1. If the special General Chapter prescribed by the Motu Proprio
"Ecclesiae sanctae" has already been held, it will belong to
the Superior General and his council, acting as a body, after due
consideration of all the circumstance, to decide if it advisable to
convoke a General Chapter to decide the questions reserved to it, or to
await the next ordinary General Chapter.
2. Should the Superior General with his council, as above, deem it
too difficult or even impossible to convoke a new General Chapter and
if, at the same time, the implementation of the faculties reserved to
the decision of the Chapter is regarded as urgent for the welfare of the
Institute, the Superior General and his council, as before, is hereby
authorized to implement some or all of these faculties until the next
General Chapter, provided that he previously consult the other major
superiors with their councils and obtain the consent of at least
two-thirds of their number. The major superiors in turn should make it a
point to consult first their perpetually professed religious. In
Institutes having no provinces, the Superior General must consult the
perpetually professed and obtain the consent of two-thirds.
VII. These directives, issued on an experimental basis, take effect
as of the date of the promulgation of the present Instruction.
Rome, January 6, on the Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord, in the
I. Card. ANTONIUTTI
Tit. Archbishop of Tagaste
(1) Cfr. Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen gentium, n. 43 ff. (Ed.
Abbot, p. 73 ff.) and Decree Perfectae caritatis (Ed. Abbot, p.
(2) Lumen gentium, n. 44; ed. Abbott, p. 75.
(3) Lumen gentium, n. 45, ed. Abbott, p. 75.
(4) Perfectae caritatis, n. 18, ed. Abbott, p. 478.
(5) Ecclesiae sanctae, II, part 1, n. 3.
(6) Perfectae caritatis, n. 3, ed. Abbott, p. 469.
(7) Perfectae caritatis, n. 2, ed. Abbott, p. 469.
(8) Lumen gentium, n. 44, ed. Abbott, p. 74.
(9) Lumen gentium, n. 44, ed. Abbott, p. 74.
(10) Perfectae caritatis, n. 14, ed. Abbott, p. 477.
(11) Ibid., n. 8, ed. Abbott, p. 477.
(12) Lumen gentium, n. 46, ed. Abbott, p. 77.
(13) Lumen gentium, n. 44, ed. Abbott, p. 75.
(14) Perfectae caritatis, n. 8, ed. Abbott, p. 742.
(15) Ibid., ed. Abbott, p. 472.
(16) Perfectae caritatis, n. 8, ed. Abbott, p. 472.
(17) Ibid., n. 5, ed. Abbott, p. 470.
(18) Perfectae caritatis, n. 14, ed. Abbott, p. 477.
(19) Cfr above, n. 3.