In his bull establishing our Congregation, Pope Urban VIII of happy memory deigned to write a truly incomparable commendation of it. Something greater than this could not be imagined nor desired from the mouth of a Vicar of Christ. “[It is] an institute most acceptable to God, most useful to the Christian people, and truly necessary for God’s Church.” (12 January 1632) How important, therefore, is the responsibility of its members who have the good fortune to be called by God to such an institute, and especially of those young men who are beginning to prepare themselves to become trained in being able to preserve always that same spirit which would elicit such a commendation.
Should by some misadventure a disregard of their own duties or a lazy indifference toward the good outcome of its functions come to be introduced in its members then that commendation would soon turn into rejection and the institute would no longer be pleasing to God but displeasing. It would no longer be useful to the people, nor any longer be necessary to the Church. It would thus become harmful and deserving of being suppressed and abolished.
Woe to that person who would cause such a ruin! In various assemblies of our Congregation it has already been established and decreed that the houses of study to care for future workers should soon provide a method of education and truly virtuous training that they [the candidates] might succeed in serving the Congregation fruitfully.2
For some reason, a decision of such importance has not yet had any result; and so candidates continue to be formed on their own, at random and without method. This is a disorder and occasions many other disorders for the candidates themselves, for the entire Community, and, in general, for all those who profit from our exertions.
To avoid this disorder in some way, and at the request of and moved by those who have the right to my instruction, I have determined to draw up this brief document to help our candidates, our Congregation and our dear Holy Mother Church. Amen.
F. De Andreis
of the Congregation of the Mission
- Letter 3. Preface taken from the printed copy of the book. Italian. This booklet was printed only in 1887, after the clerical students of the Congregation of the Mission had used it in manuscript form for many years. It can, however, be dated to around 1814, when De Andreis was involved in the education of Vincentian students in Rome. Norme ed Avvisi per formare ed esegu ire le principali funzioni della Congregazione della Missione proposti ai suoi giovani studenti dal Signor Felice de Andreis, Sacerdote della medesima Congregazione. Con Appendice del Sig. Almeras, Sup. Generale, out metodo nostro di predicare (Turin: Giulio Speirani e Figli, 1887), 127. This volume is a printed copy of “Trattino Didascalico Pratico ossia Instruzione Concionatoria”; the original is in the archives of the Roman Province, (14.3.15), entitled “De Andreis, Parte II.”
- The author seems to be referring to the decrees of the 16th General Assembly, held in 1788. If so, the reason why the Congregation did not put the decrees into practice was the French Revolution. The text of the decree of session 14 reads: “The superior general proposed several matters to regulate better the method of studies followed in the houses of Saint Lazare, Lyons and Cahors. The assembly judged them to be of great importance. He proposed: (1) That in the seminaries for our men two years be given to the study of philosophy, of which the second should also be spent in the study of the physical sciences; (2) that three years be given to theological studies, and that the last six months should be given over to learning preaching by studying how to compose sermons and clerical conferences, and by learning other branches of knowledge which are necessary to form a Christian preacher; (3) that those who present themselves for examinations, to be held twice a year, should be prepared to answer questions put to them during the examination concerning one historical book of the Bible. The assembly heartily approved the matters proposed by the superior general, especially the last two points. They are necessary to keep the word of God from growing stale in our mouths. Rather, it should grow in dignity in our apostolate and become efficacious to heal sinners. The assembly asked the same superior general to communicate immediately to our confreres other matters that he believes would improve the education for our apostolates.” (Collectio Completa Decretorwn Conventuum Generalium Congregationis Missionis [Paris: Fillet et Dumoulin, 1882], no. 416,146-47.)