by Herbert Kramer, SM
Venerable William Joseph Chaminade (1761-1850) was one of the very few forerunners of today’s Secular Institutes. Born in Perigueux, France, he devoted half a century after the French Revolution to the expansion of a prosperous Marian Sodality and to the direction of two religious congregations, the Institute of the Daughters of Mary and the Society of Mary. But his true plans had been to unite certain young men and women within the ranks of his Bordeaux Sodality in the observance of the traditional vows of evangelical perfection while remaining in the secular world. . . . The time has come however for his pioneering initiatives to be presented to the modern Church in which Secular Institutes have become an approved vocation to evangelical perfection. That is the purpose of the present study.
I – First Step—Projects for Groups without Promises or Vows
In approaching the writings concerning Venerable Chaminade’s ETAT, we should keep in mind that he was stepping onto an untrodden field, unaware of any precedents for his plans for “religious life in the world.” He had necessarily to advance cautiously and build upon gradually-obtained experience, as well as inspiration from above.
The diversity of his approaches will impress us. We have to remember that not all his writings represent plans that actually came into existence. Some of the thoughts he confided to paper, some of the plans of organization that he dreamed up never saw the light of day. It is fortunate however that these document have been preserved, for they show us today his line of thought as he progressed. What is unfortunate is that all documents no longer exist, especially those which were actually used by members of his groups.
Example: 46 (e) Religious State Embraced by Christians Dispersed in the World
. . . The points that distinguish them especially are:
The greater union between them, loving each other sincerely, ready to render service to each other at all times, in health and in sickness, praying and having praying said for those who are dead.
Their submission to the Director and to the Center. They should have the greatest openness of soul toward the Director; the Director should be as their father, they should be as his children.
Their devotion to the Blessed Virgin. All the motives of this devotion are included in the act of their Consecration.
The practices: 1. Meeting every 8 days, when the Little Office would be recited [and] a short instruction or a spiritual reading would be made. 2. Office privately every day. 3. Every day, direction of one’s intention in order to put all the works of the day in common. 4. Reunion in spirit at 3 o’clock of the afternoon, in the Heart of Mary, pierced by a sword of sorrow. 5. Rule of life which moreover should be proper to each one. 6 General Communion every month, in common as much as possible.
The sacrifice of their tastes, of free time and of a part of their superfluity, under the influence of the Director and of the Center.
Introduction: Historical Influences
I First step–Projects for Groups without Promises or Vows
"Reunion of the Twelve"–c. 1806
Father Lalanne's Memorial–1809
Document 46 (b): "On the Proximate End of the Sodality"
Document 46 (a): "Notes on the Institute" (for young men)
Document 46 (e): "Religious State Embraced by Christians Dispersed in the World" (for young men)
Document 46 (f): "Religious State Embraced by Young Christian Men Dispersed in Society"
II Second Step–Promise of Obedience
Document 46 (x1): "Special Reunion in Honor of the Ten Virtues of the Blessed Virgin" (for women)
Document 46 (n3 and n2): Formulas for Profession of a Promise of Obedience (young men's ETAT).
III Third Step–Groups with a Vow of Obedience
Document 46 (c): "General Observations for All Religious States"
Document 46 (y): "Reunion of the Decades" (for women)
Document 46 (m): a brief note on the Vow of Obedience
Document 46 (n1) Formula of Promise of Obedience, etc. (for young men)
IV Fourth Step–Vow of Obedience (with Possibly a Vow of Chastity)
Document 46 (g): "Center of the Sodality" (for young men)
V Fifth Step–Vows of Chastity and Obedience
1. Documents 46 (t), (u), and (s, pages 2 to 3): Formulas for Vows of Chastity and Obedience (for young ladies)
2. Explanations on the Vows Document 46 (s, pages 3 to 4): "On the Vow of Chastity. Its Limitation") (probably for young ladies)
Document 46 (s1): Consecration and Obedience in the Special Reunion (for women)
Documents 46 (m1) and (s, pages 1 to 2): Limitation of the Vow of Obedience
Document 46 (m2) and (m3): Authority within the group
VI Vows for Only Three Months until December 1814
VII Chronological Overview up to This Point
VIII Correspondence between Venerable Chaminade and Adèle de Trenquelléon (1814)
IX The ETAT for Men: Annual Vows
Document 46 (h): "Statutes for Young Religious Sodalists"
Document 46 (i): "Extract from the Institute of the Children of Mary"
Document 46 (j): "Extract from the Regulation of the Institute of the Children of Mary"
X The ETAT for Women: Perpetual Vows
Document 46 (r): "Statutes or Notes for the Young Religious"
Document 46 (q): "Religious Sate Embraced by Young Ladies Dispersed in Society"
Document 46 (z): "Institute of Lady Religious Sodalists" Commentary on these Three Texts
Two Virtues in Honor of the ETAT
A–Document 46 (k): "Practice of Watchfulness over the Heart"
B–Document 46 (l): "Rules of Christian Modesty"
XI The Year 1816: Document 46 (o) and the Society of the Fifteen
Appendix I–Documents Concerning the Sodality
Document 46 (d): "Works of Zeal"
Document 46 (s 2): "Practices of Zeal"
Appendix II–Documents on Other Groups Besides the ETAT
Early Orientation toward a Feminine Third Order
Document 46 (a a): "Institution of the Perpetual Cult of Mary"
Document 46 (c c): "On the Third Order of the Daughters of Mary"
Document 46 (b b): "Statutes for the Perpetual Cult of the M. Bl. Virgin"
Recapitulation: a Marianist Orientation