VOCATIONAL EXPERIENCE OF CLARET
APOSTOLIC VOCATION AND EVANGELIZING M1SSION
A Vocational Reading of Autobiography of our Founder through the 10 Phases of his Life
Fr. Jesus Bermejo cmf
- It is necessary to re-read and reinterpret the life and vocation of Claret and ours for a greater and growing fidelity towards it, keeping in mind that our Claretian vocation is the unifying key and element of our being and life.
- Likewise it is necessary to make an attempt to give a response to the existing inquietudes regarding our identity in the Church. There is need for us to get convinced that we receive the identity by natural heritage – in a more charismatic level. We are not choosing it; it is imposed on us.
- It is apt to make a historical! reflection with frequency of our sources: ‘memory’ of the received gift by means of a theological reading of the charism and also through a sociological reading of the same. The question is how to actualize our specific gift in the Church and in the world today. We are born to evangelize and we have to maintain this grace until death. Acts 6:2,4. This should be the attitude and disposition of the Claretian if he wants to walk in the footsteps of the Apostles and Claret.
How does our Congregation see today the vocation and life of Claret?
- MCT 52: Our Father Founder’s own experience of his missionary vocation was the organizing principle of his existence and his deep motivation which guided his entire life and apostolic activity. This experience of Claret’s becomes in turn a source of inspiration and incentive for us in the response we must make to our vocation in the Church and the world today.
- MCT 53: Father Claret describes his vocation as the result of a complex experiential process that can be traced through his infancy. This process includes, among other elements, an early sense of friendship with Christ (above all, in the sacrament of the Eucharist), in whose deep sense of Sonship Claret gradually came to discover God the Father, who sent Jesus because he loves the world. Another important element in this process was a special experience of the ‘world’, which Claret as a young man, carne to know in all its goodness, relativity and dangerousness.
- From yet another direction, Claret cultivated his radical experience of God in Christ by persistent meditation on the Scriptures, in which the texts dealing with the vocation of the Prophets and of Jesus impressed him with telling effect. At the same time he kept alive his keen awareness and grasp of what was most urgent for the Church and the society of his times in relation to God’s plan of salvation.
- A very important influence both on his closeness to Christ and his grasp of the ways of salvation for the world, was the presence of Mary, with whom he sensed that his own mission, in its origin and exercise, was closely linked.
How does Claret see his own vocation and life?
As continual presence of Providence (the Autobiography presents a humble and joyful son of the Providence) which has oriented and guided always every step of his life and mission. The divine Providence always protected me in a particular way (Aut 7). We could say, already from the maternal womb. It is a curious ( or perhaps providential) fact that his brothers or sisters of even number die in young age, whereas the odd numbers (Anthony is the fifth one) survive except the last one, Manuel, who died with 13 years(Aut.6) The entire vocational and apostolic experience of Claret develops itself in different stages and at distinct levels of his maturation until his death. All these stages get integrated into his rich personality of missionary and Saint. Today we all know – General Chapter of 1979 emphasized it all the more in MCT -that the authentic vocation of Claret, his most profound identity is that of Apostolic Missionary. The different stages are not to be taken as separate compartments. In reality, everything is germinally in the beginning, in the plan of God traced for him; but as time passes by, one reality or other gets more matured and each one of it is made clearer and obtains specific weight in the conscience of Claret. Let us see the Vocational stages perfecting the personality of Claret which are capable of enlightening the vocational itinerary of any Claretian. We can perceive in each one of them – according to his dynamic and passionate character the graces and gifts of the Spirit, reactions of the Saint, decision, crises and naturally a constant surrender to the will of God at all moments.
We should note that many times one’s life gets into circumstances not always foreseen and opted (or due to decisions not willed by oneself or by one’s personal decisions, but coming from others). Above all in the case of a religious or committed priest or missionary as was Claret, the plans are not made by himself, but traced out by his superiors. However it may be, everything is grace and providence in the perspective of faith.
Genesis of the Vocational Experience of Claret
The missionary vocation of Claret
- dawned already in the infancy with the thought of eternity.
- was born in contact with the Word of God in his youth
- was confirmed with the vision in the house of Tortades’.
- and remained clarified and definitively confirmed in the liturgical-sacramental experience of his ordination to deaconate.
Three fundamental experiences cause and provoke it carrying it towards its true aim among various crises and vacillations.
- 1.The first ideas: the eternity and condemnation of sinners.
- 2.The profound experience of divine marked by the tender devotion to the Eucharist and very cordial devotion to Bl. Virgin; this will lead him to a radical option for God and for the Kingdom of salvation.
- 3.A special experience of the world. He could taste the goodness, relativeness and even the dangerousness of the world already in his adolescent years.
FIRST PHASE (1812-1825)
APOSTOLIC – PRIESTLY VOCATION: ‘Apostle before being a man’
In this first phase everything is found in a germinal form; It is a dimension which comprises the whole existence of Claret; this is the heart of his identity: that of the Apostolic Missionary.
Gifts of Nature
‘I was a boy of happy disposition. I had received a good nature or disposition from God, out of his sheer goodness. ‘(Aut 18) Temperament: emotional, active, passionate
The thought of eternity (Aut 8); that ‘forever, forever’ which took away his sleep and produced a deep concern for the lot of the condemned forever. The precocious ness and intensity of this phenomenon result rather surprising given the fact that it is such a rare phenomenon in the history of spirituality.
In certain sense the grace anticipated the nature in Anthony, the zeal was advancing the reason. For this reason his first biographer Francisco de Asís Aguilar wrote: ‘In some way it could be stated that he was first and foremost an apostle before being a man’ (.. .fue apóstol antes de ser hombre).
It is produced according to his temperament.
The emotionality: “It gave me pain because I am naturally very compassionate”(Aut9,10,20). This sentiment confers on him delicacy and sensibility, compassion and zeal (ardent charity, or in Claret’s words, love in an eminent grade which is translated into efficacious benevolence:
- to God, procuring that he be more known, loved and served in this life and in the next.
- to neighbour desiring and procuring that all be contení in this world and happy ¡n the next; that all be saved, that no one is lost forever (Selfishness overcome)
The activity: The activity places all his natural and supernatural energies in a constant movement. It is converted in Claret into an unbreakable missionary impulse acknowledged unanimously by all who knew him closely. ‘This same idea made me work in the past most and makes me still work’ (Aut 9); It is the source and goad of my zeal’ (Aut 15). Such a precocious experience has in a certain way impact on his character: the indelible and perennial character of the missionary which fits well into his natural character and it integrates well with him. In Claret the zeal advanced the age of reason. That is the reason why his first biographer could tell about him that he had been first and foremost an apostle before becoming a man.
Equilibrium, prudence and heroic resistance are also characteristics of his character. His compassion for the lot of the sinners can be explained because of his strong emotionality which is projected as tenderness in contemplating the disgrace in others: ‘This troubled me deeply, for I am by nature very compassionate. ‘(Aut 9). I am so soft-hearted and compassionate that I can’t bear seeing misfortune or misery without doing something to help'(Aut 10).
But in reality this experience of the eternity is not normal for the age of five and it is to be attributed to a special intervention of the Holy Spirit who had destined him form the maternal womb itself to a special mission within the Church. It deals with an idea which actualises in the most profound part of the conscience
fervour of the offering: ‘I remember telling Him: humanly speaking, I see no hope, but you have the power to make it happen, if you will’ (Aut 40). This prayer manifests in a clear form the immense filial trust the young boy had in the divine Providence. Now the attitude is one of total surrender into the hands of the Lord: ‘I remember that with total confidence I would leave it all in God’s hands, trusting Him to do whatever had to be done which he did..(Aut 40).
SECOND PHASE (1825-1829)
” On the day he was tested he was found faithful” (Sir.44:20)
Initial Grace : Contact with the World
God willed Anthony to pass through an apparently dangerous experience, but it resulted positively in two ways:
- experience in his own body the impetus of the concupiscence.
- getting to know the world he is to evangelize later.
Acute crisis: State of tepidity in Barcelona (Aut 66-68, 82)
Due to the experience as worker in the paternal house (combination of life of work and life of piety), the ways of God and of Anthony begin to get distant, at least apparently. The ‘Homo Faber’ intents to destroy the ‘Homo Religiosus’. The thorn chokes the good grain (cf. Mt.l3:7). Before, the work was full of piety, whereas now the piety is full of work. He admits himself thus: ‘There seemed to be more machines in my head than Saints on the altar. ‘( Aut 67)
A contradiction is taking place: God wants him to be a priest and not a businessman (Aut 64). Anthony, instead confides himself more to his natural inclination: the manufacturing, which was the delirium of this first industrial era ( with new discoveries, new machinery and new perspectives of wealth). In this situation Anthony takes a decision which could be risky and dangerous (although it is providential in fact): go to Barcelona, the great metropolis, golden dream of many ambitious young men to perfect themselves in their trade. ‘Because I wanted to improve my knowledge of manufacturing techniques, I asked my father to send me to Barcelona. He agreed and took me there’ (Aut 56)
Experience of the world (in Johannine sense)
Anthony experiences the vanity and vulnerability:
- of life (Aut 71 and the episode of Jan.20, 1828);
- of unfaithful human love (Aut 72);
- of money (Aut 73);
- of honour (Aut 75). He could think: A good name is better than many riches (Prov.22:l).
It is worth to be mentioned that like Abraham he did not give in to the temptations; he kept fidelity.
This period is crucial and decisive for his vocation: the contact with the world and the shock received from it. This vocational parenthesis converts itself to a vocational crisis which would be overcome through various negative experiences (‘blows’ called by him), by the contact with the Word of God. In this moment Claret has a positive and optimistic vision of the work, technique, which drives him so much in a passionate way, of the friendship and human triumph. The world permits what his heart is longing for: riches, honour and pleasures. Gifted with a great capacity for work, ambition and zeal for conquest, he immerses himself simultaneously in the study and in the work with the unlimited passion characteristic of him. He triumphs in his study (Aut 56-57), in the work(58-60), in the friendship(61) and becomes a leader(62) reaching the fame of technical ability (63) and the proximate possibility of a ‘fortune ‘(63). All this was at the point of changing definitively the direction and sense of his life. Just an affirmative answer to the alluring offer of the father would have been enough; but Anthony declined giving trivial reasons contrary to his natural, strong and dedicated inclination.
The reasons given were:
- it was not yet time;
- he was too young;
- he was short of stature,
- not of age.
‘Just now I didn’t feel inclined towards it (Aut 64). It is to be presupposed that he did not feel inclined to be in charge of a factory because he would say immediately that ‘ it was a delirium I had for the manufacturing’ (Aut 64). But the fundamental reason is not in his heart, but in the heart of God: God wanted him to be a priest and not a businessman (Aut 64). It is then that the crisis of manufacturing gets more acute. The steps of it are the following:
- 1.Before: ‘Everything for piety ‘(which constituted for him the greatest valué even before taking up the manufacturing due to the education received)
- 2.’Everything for the manufacturing’: greatest interest, obsession for acquiring perfection in it. ‘My only goal and anxieties were about manufacturing. I can’t overstate it – my obsession approached delirium. ‘(Aut 66)
- 3.Conflict: The life of manufacturing distracts him from the life of piety. The contact with the world of technique means dangerous for him because his natural vocation – the manufacturing – enters in which moved him most vividly (Aut 15), made him shudder (Aut 8), made a deep impression on him (Aut 9) and had so much impact andduring his whole life. ‘It is surely the thing that to this day I remember best, has stayed with me ever since and that, God willing, I will never forget..'(Aut 15).
It deals with a motivating idea: ‘It is the mainspring and goad of my zeal for the salvation of souls’ (Aut15). It makes him run and shout. This thought robs me of rest, and I feel like running and crying out, and makes him work always: ‘The power of this idea has made me work in the past, still makes me work, and will make me work as long as I live in converting sinners..'(Aut 9), by using all means: ‘¡n preaching, in hearing confessions, in writing books, in distributing holy cards and pamphlets and in having familiar conversations’ (Aut 9).
We find ourselves before a precociousness in the actuation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit similar to what is found in St. Teresa of Avila. But whereas the reaction in her was the desire to retire to the hermitical life or face the martyrdom, in Claret the reaction was exclusively apostolic. The reaction provoked in him through the thought of the eternity is double according to his emotional-active temperament: an intense sentiment of compassion for the sinners and the resolution to work with all the strength to prevent them to be condemned. The theological impulse of the Father offended would come later as he himself states: ‘In time I felt a further stimulus for zeal, namely, the thought that sin not only condemns my neighbour but is an offence against God, my Father'(Aut 16).
Characteristics of this stage: piety, devotion, fear of offending God. ‘He had a deep experience of the
absoluteness of God and the fragility of man, his infidelity in his first infancy and on account of that, his own unhappiness which robbed him sleep and marked him in his entire life..'(EA p.88-89)
Operative Decision: Become a Priest (aut 30): Fundamental Option
The immediate decision responding to this first call, born from the stimulus of the idea of eternity, is the offering which he makes for the 12th year, in 1820: ‘God called me, I heard him and offered myself to Him’ (Aut 701) ‘1820: Twelve years. God called me, I offered myself to his most holy will'(Resumen of his life EA p.427). ‘A thousand times over I would offer myself to his service'(Aut 40). And this offering is apostolic. He considers his sacerdotal vocation as means to collaborate in the salvation of his brethren. The priestly vocation is clear and his generous offering to it well thought and decided.
The priestly call goes back to his early infancy: ‘When I was still a small boy in elementary school, a distinguished visitor to the school asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I answered that I wanted to be a priest’ (Aut 30). It was a decision emerging from the persisting idea of eternity. Later, when he was 12 it is still more confirmed and he defines it with clearly apostolic features and entirely: ‘I wanted to become a priest so that I could dedicate myself to his service day and night’ (Aut 40). This vocation and priestly action will get slowly concentrated in the missionary priesthood with the characteristics of prophetic-evangelizing, not cultic, administrative. Thus he would grasp it in his
ordination to deaconate as fight against the powers of evil with the sword of the Word of God, and he would clarify it with more precision in 1846 in the second edition of his booklet ‘Advice to a priest’ while commenting on the Gospel parable of the talents.
- Eucharistic devotion (Aut 36-50);
- Marian devotion;
- Study of Latin (Aut 30)
His parents did not object to the priestly vocation of Anthony. Indeed they saw it as the most natural of the world seeing his piety. They favoured it all the more and facilitated the means to lead it to a happy end. ‘When I had successfully completed my elementary school, 1 was enrolled in the Latin class taught by a very holy and learned priest, Dr. John Riera. From him I learned and memorized nouns, verbs, genders, and a bit more..(Aut 30).
Stoping the study of Latin as the tutor died who taught him only for one year. The circumstances get complicated for Anthony. The professor dies in 1819 when Anthony was only 11 years: ‘….as the class was discontinued I could no longer study and had to give it up'(Aut 30).
He could have asked his father at this juncture to take him to the seminary of Vic as he had the suitable age for this step. We don’t know the reason for not doing so. Perhaps John Claret saw in his son the inclination and exceptional aptitudes for the manufacturing. Then what he did was to enrol him in the work of the factory and Anthony obeys ‘without uttering a word’ (Aut 30).
Formative Parenthesis: work in the paternal factory(Aut 30)
We have here not at all a vocational crisis, but a parenthesis of growth and maturation. The idea and decision to become a priest was alive in his heart (perhaps kept alive more through the experience of eternity), but the circumstances begin to get complicated. The following short prayer is relevant in the the ‘homo religiosus’ and the ‘homo apostolicus’. And during some time the thorns managed to choke the good grain(Aut 65). ‘During those first three years in Barcelona, the fervour that I had had at home began to cool’ (Aut 66). Faithfulness to the precepts of the Church and other devotions of the infancy ‘were not so fervent as before’ (Aut 66). The manufacturing absorbed him completely. At the end of the third year of his stay ¡n Barcelona the crisis worsened more and got dramatical heights reaching the climax.
- 4)Aggravating factors: various human deceptions make him return from the divine to the world. The vanity and complacency in himself and in his triumphs, a certain luxury in dressing himself which favoured this vanity make him lose the main value until then: the piety. ” I had been so preoccupied in Barcelona with sketches, machines and other such foolishness that my head was quite swollen with vanity and my tainted heart was flattered at hearing all the praise and compliments I received”(Aut 341). ‘I liked to dress – I won’t say luxuriously – but with a certain elegance, perhaps too much’ (Aut 72).
Passing from ‘Homo Faber to ‘Quid Prodest’
With the purpose of getting him out of personal vanity, the Lord made him experiment the vanity of the world and gave various ‘blows’ in his Providence to detach him from the world and to make him rediscover his vocation. At the same time these experiences which were worldly (not in the sense of sinful) helped him to discover the enemies he had to confront in his future apostolate. Probably it was in his last year of stay in Barcelona when he experienced the vanity, limitations and dangerousness of the human goods when they were placed at the service of the ambition or of egotism. The sequence of the events was the following:
The evil woman: this was the first ‘blow’ because he says, ‘I was fairly young then’ and was before the incident at La Barceloneta as he affirms: ‘Mary also saved me from a worse danger..'(Aut 72) The episode of La Barceloneta: That last summer….” The swindling of the false friend: ‘But it took an even harder blow…’ Anthony discovers then in the first place the inconstancy and insecurity of human love which easily deceives or is deceived (Aut 72): the fragility and vulnerability, caducity of one’s own life and the danger, always imminent of losing it.
The misfortune of Sallent happened in the night of 1916 to 20th of January, 1828 where 27 persons perished while dancing as the house collapsed could have also influenced this. It was a tremendous lesson which he never forgot in his entire life and indicated as warning in many of his booklets: ‘Advice to young ladies’, Vic 1845; ‘Advice to the married’, Vic 1846. This event was known in Catalonia and some attribute even to this incident his entrance to the Seminary(HD, I, p.54).
Young Claret also experiences the insecurity of money and friendship when he was cheated by his unfaithful friend, thief and liar (Aut 73). This last incident wounds him very much in his personality and his values: the friendship, sincerity and above all, honour. At the same time he had occasion to discover the maliciousness of the human heart in his companions of the factory who were leading a worldly and superficial life and blaspheme like devils. In the three episodes we can see a direct reference, although negative to religious life which he will soon decide to embrace:
- Insecurity of life and freedom before death (obedience)
- Insecurity of wealth which can be lost with facility (poverty)
- Insecurity of human love which deceives and degrades (chastity)
This experience of the world (not sinful) was necessary or at least convenient and certainly providential to prepare the heart of the Apostle. It was providential in 3 senses:
- 1.as disillusion of the world;
- 2.as purification of the heart;
- 3.as realization of the reality to evangelize.
‘God dealt me all these blows to wake me up and help me escape from the dangers of the world’ (Aut 73) to uproot me from it ‘ (Aut 76). The world which seemed so marvellous and pure from the simple and innocent view point of a child presents itself to him under the dominion of concupiscence, as dangerous reality which puts the heart of man and his eternal salvation itself in danger. Thus Claret could see his mission with more clarity:
- liberate the world from the selfishness and the power of human passions,
- liberate the people from the dangers he himself has experimented and above all
- liberate the human being from the danger of his own condemnation.
The Impetus of the Word
It is in this moment that the ‘arrow’ of the Word of God strikes him down like St. Paul on the way to Damascus; Text of St. Mathew 16:26 which converted St. Francis Xavier takes Claret out from his state of tepidity and will induce him later to take a radical decision. Just now his mind and heart remain purified from so many foolishness and Anthony makes a Copernican turn.
Return of the Prodigal Son
Anthony has entered into himself, listening to that distant voice of the Father and decides to offer himself totally to God and the old fervour of Christian life (Aut 70) returns.
Characteristics of this stage: the force of the natural vocation (thorns choking the good grain), crisis of
identity, providential blows, the decisive ‘quid prodest’ and the return to the former fervour. ‘Homo
religiosus’ takes upper hand over ‘homo faber’, which had so much weight and priority in his psychological world.
TH1RD PHASE (1828-1830)
The Presumed and Longed Religious Vocation: Predominance of
‘Homo Religiosus’ and ‘Fugamundi’
Initial Grace: ‘Quid Prodest’ (Aut 68)
The worldly experiences with its corresponding deceptions, had not been enough so that Claret would take a radical decision. A determining element had been his contact with the Word of God, ñor read but evoked in the Eucharistic celebration: ‘In the midst of this whirligig of ideas, while I was at Mass one day, I remembered reading as a small boy (in the pious book ‘Bon Dia’of D.Pedro Roquer?) those words of the Gospel: What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?(Mt.!6:26)'(Aut 68). The Spirit is once again in action, not only to remind him of the Word read in his infancy, but also that his Word is a penetrating weapon which succeeds to break the crust of the worldliness which had taken power of his heart and tarnished his mind. The force of this Word is impressive like those passages from the Prophets which determine his missionary vocation. The power and impact of this passage is revealed by Claret himself: This phrase impressed me deeply and went like an arrow to my heart'(Aut 69). It is interesting to see that the word ‘arrow’ is used by Claret to indícate his aposte himself as arrow in the hands of Mary (Aut 270). This impact and this profound impression leave him disconcerted without knowing what tura to take. ‘I tried to think and reason what to do, but to no avail’ (Aut 68). Later, after having decided to surrender himself totally to God, he would ask advice and his decision once confirmed will begin to be effective with the study of Latin like in his infancy to return to the path of sacerdotal life.
The crisis has been overcome thanks to 3 means of discernment, which he himself would inculcate in those who desire to make a suitable vocational discernment.
- Reflection (enter into oneself like the prodigal son)
- Prayer (which opens the heart and mind to the will of God)
- The advice (to see the divine will in an adequate mediation and not to suffer from imaginations which could become dangerous).
Reaction and Radical Decisión: Fugamundi’
In this moment he decides to offer himself entirely to God. But he has to leave the manufacturing for this purpose. The deception in 3 levels (money, love and freedom threatened by the death and possible damnation) leads him to take a radical decision: break definitively with the world, flee from it and die to it in a Carthusian monastery: ‘Disenchanted, weary and bored with the world, I considered leaving it for the solitary life of a Carthusian… ‘(Aut 77).
We could ask how being so active he decides to enter a life of solitude and enclosure, totally contemplative. The reason is that those of passionate temperament are extremes and radical minded in their resolutions. The greatest contempt for the world will lead thém to the greatest abandonment of the world. Here the religious vocation, supposed, imagined and longed for emerges in such a violent way that his priestly and apostolic vocation is put into danger. Now the ‘homo religiosus’ had prevailed over the ‘homo faber’ and wants to prevail over the ‘homo apostolicus’.
But also this was providential because the Lord wanted him dead in an evangelical way to the world so that he could live in a wider and more committed way in apostolic nearness regarding the world, realizing this experience of interior desert. God did not want him as worldly and purely contemplative, but apostle: for that purpose he made him know the world and desire the contemplation to prepare himself for the apostolic action. God not only granted him the character most suitable to his evangelizing mission, but also uproots him sociologically and spiritually from the world, and at the same time he is placed in contact with the technique which would be useful for him in the task of evangelization. He would apply the same technique which the world used to propagate evil for the diffusion and penetration of good.
Receive the permission of his father (Aut 77-78) who reacts in an admirable manner, with a great Christian spirit, and ask permission from a wise and holy person: Fr. Canti (Aut 81). His entrance to the seminary of Vic on 30th Sept. 1829 was considered by him as something provisional, not a definitive one. His decision was to become a Carthusian and he had to maintain it at any cost(Aut 77). This is the reason why he did not go for an interview with Bishop Corcuera ‘because I was afraid that he might upset my plans for becoming a Carthusian'(Aut 81). He asks advice and he is convinced by the reason given by Fr. Canti: If the Lord Bishop knows that it is God’s will that you enter the Carthusians, far from opposing you, he will be your protector (Aut 81).
Intensive study – The objective is: to become a Carthusian and Anthony directs his studies for this purpose (Aut 77); above all he needed the study of Latin (Aut 79).
Intense spiritual direction by Fr. Bach (Aut 85) – The direction with this father of St. Philip Neri confirms him more and more in his supposed and cultivated vocation of a Carthusian, which was his cherished dream (Aut 85).
Very strict plan of life, more of a Carthusian than of a seminarian if we consider the strictness of his spiritual life and his penances (Aut 86-87). The idea and the desire to embrace the religious life constitute a decision which in no way seemed irrevocable as he was cherishing this idea all throughout the first year of philosophy (1829-30). He continues with the firm idea of becoming a Carthusian kept alive with the help of a devotional picture of St. Bruno, Founder of the Carthusian Order. He speaks often about it with his Confessor, who comes to convince himself of the seriousness of the project. What he planned becomes a reality with letters of recommendation to be carried by Anthony and with the trip to the Carthusian Monastery at Monte Alegre at the end of July 1830 (Aut 88-89).
The idea so much cherished and consulted is about to become a reality. That is why he says that he undertook the journey quite happy (Aut 89). He was about to realize his dream; but the Providence intervenes through a natural phenomenon: ‘A hurricane came up, so dreadful that I was terrified’ (Aut 89). This storm gave rise to a suffocation which Anthony attributed to his weakness in the chest as he had studied so much that year as he stated earlier: ‘ Without slacking off in my studies to which I applied myself to the utmost of my ability'(Aut 87). A negative vocational sign emerges then: the sickness. His reflexive spirit helps him understand the will of God at this moment: ‘I thought, ‘perhaps God doesn’t want you to join the Carthusians’. This thought alarmed me greatly. What is certain is that I didn’t have the will to go on..” (Aut 89).
He understood the meaning and his interpretation of this episode is given in the following way: ‘After that first year of philosophy I no longer thought about becoming a Carthusian and realized that that vocation had only been temporary. The Lord had been calling me away so that I would come to detest the things of the world and, once detached from them, might remain in the clerical state as the Lord has given me to understand since ‘(Aut 93).
This does not mean that Claret was a feather-brained person. On the contrary, these things were so much reflected and thought about. The crisis of identity carne up thinking about his delicate health, evident sign for him that God did not want him in this type of life.
There is no doubt that God had given him this temporary vocation with some special aim; take up with more detachment the things of this earth, until reaching the total separation from the world, to perceive a major attraction for the renunciation, mortification and things of this world (Palacios, J.M., Los signos vocacionales..)
Humble and Trustful Acceptance of the Will of God
He decides to continue in the Seminary to become a simple priest, renouncing the ideal of Carthusian radicalism (Aut 93) and awaiting for the will of God to become manifest with more clarity (Aut 93).
FOURTH PHASE (1831-1841)
Vocation of Apostolic Missionary : Clarification of
In the first stage of search and being an extrovert, Anthony child, adolescent and young man had two very strong and determining experiences as we have seen:
- Strong experience of God, or in general, of Christian religion experienced in a lively way.
- Strong experience of natural world with all the values and demerits, relativity and danger. Now through manifold deceptions in aspects very much affecting in his sensibility and the parenthesis of a presumed religious vocation, he enters into a new stage of illumination and confirmation of his vocation, also through a triple experience:
- a)The strong impact of the reading of the Bible (Aut 113-120) which will have its climax at the end of this stage with the ritual of the ordination to the deaconate similar to the experience of ‘quid prodest’. The Word of God caught his heart and inflamed himself. For his reason he could say with St. Paul: ‘Caritas Christi urget nos'(2 Cor.5:14).
- b)The beautiful vision of the Tortadés house (Aut.95.98). An experience of not a natural world, but of the supernatural world, only accessible to the eyes of faith, but here seen with his own eyes, and above all experienced in his own body with the confirmed effects which he himself indicates as he is relating it in Autobiography.
Now his missionary vocation will come up with irresistible force: ‘Ever since I lost the desire to become a Carthusian – which God had used to uproot me from the worldliness – I not only thought about becoming holy myself, but I was continuously trying to imagine what I could to do to save the souls of my neighbours’ (Aut 113). He knows that he has to become a priest, but yet he doesn’t know what type of priesthood he should embrace ( he says therefore: what I could do – as when we ask ourselves: what am I going to do when I become a grown-up? What will I do as an adult?) And ‘how I could do’ means what style of life and what means and options his missionary life will have?
- c)The enlightenment during the ordination to diaconate (Aut 101)
Initial Grace : The Irruption of the Word
Once the ground has been prepared and decisión is taken to embrace the priesthood and not the life of the recluse the fruitful action of the Word of God intervenes. The begin of this vocational experience – so intense that it can be compared with the great prophetic vocations has to be situated at the beginning of his stay although he while redacting the autobiography speaks first about the visión of the house of Tortadés. He does the same in his ‘Resumen of Life’. He says in the Aut.: ‘Ever since I lost the desire to become a Carthusian..’ In 1830 these desires disappeared definitively.
The Word of God actuated as ‘arrow’ to break the crust of the worldliness which covered the heart of Claret, and as ‘dissolvent’ to do away with the concupiscence which invaded and corroded that heart which was getting more passionate to vanity and pride, not to sin. Another effect of the Word of God will be the ‘reconstruction of the Christian’ broken into pieces by such series of worldly experiences. At the same time he will be reconstructed psychologically because reconstruct the Christian is to reconstruct the man in his dignity, equilibrium and fullness.
In those years, from 1830 to 1834, and afterwards till he frees himself totally from the parochial obligations to dedicate himself completely to evangelize, the Word of God will have another decisive effect: ‘to create the evangelizer’, constructed according to the Gospel to be able to proclaim the Gospel
with the preaching, which is realized through the ‘Word of Christ’ as St. Paul says(Rom.!0:17).Claret was well aware that he himself needed to be fully evangelized, impregnated with the Gospel, to be the word capable of actuating in the others as arrow, dissolvent reconstructing the Christian personality he had to incarnate in himself reading and meditating it assiduously in the heart, in such a way that his preaching, rooted in the Word could be a sort of overflowing of the Gospel, force of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16).
Something very important and transcendental in the life of Claret is his passion for the Holy Scriptures which made him assimilate and preach it and made him to propagate it. In this, in fact, he was a pioneer in his times. We can say that Fr. Claret is a man of one Book only and this Book is Bible. Therefore his whole spirituality is eminently biblical. His books and his sermons, his prayers and his own mystical experiences emanate from the Word of God source and goal in everything.
This explains his biblical apostolate, not so frequent in his times. He makes a carefully edited version of Vulgata, propagates the Gospel, recommends with insistence the reading of Bible to priests and lay people. He goes always in front with his example. Bible with a very small print never fails to be in his small luggage. In his resolutions and plans there never fails a time devoted to read various chapters from the Holy Scriptures to nourish his mind and the heart and to be a man not only evangelizer, but also fully evangelized. Biblical quotations abound in his books – sometimes literal and other times more or less explicit references. In all his books and booklets, beginning with the Autobiography there is a real biblical subtract rather difficult to find in the spiritual authors of his times.
Fr. Lobo says about Claret in his letter to Fr. Xifré on 22nd January 1880: ‘He never excused himself in
reading daily two or three chapters from the Bible, and with this practice, with the exception of the psalms he succeeded to conclude happily every year. He preserved this custom right from his ordination to priesthood.’
How did Claret read the Holy Scriptures?
- Assiduously ( perhaps not so much in the Jesuit novitiate since his Bible was removed immediately and given back only at his departure from Rome due to sickness – Aut 151)
- Charismatically: from the perspective of his missionary vocation
- In an ingenuous way: in a pure and simple search for the will of God.
- Under the action of the Holy Spirit and with the attitude of humble docility to Him.
- With Christ, in Christ and through Christ the Evangelizer of the Father.
- Meditating on it continuously in the heart
- Assuming it as norm of evangelical life
- Assimilating it as continuous nourishment of spiritual ity and missionary life
- Using it for evangelization of the poor in his preaching and in his writings
Fr. Casals speaks about his innate inclination, or better expressed his most noble passion for the Holy Scriptures (‘Devoción a la Sagrada Escritura’: Ilustración del Clero, 1934, 237). The Saint himself says: ‘I have always been very strongly attracted to the Holy Bible'(Aut 113). Speaking about the novitiate in Rome, he mentions the Bible ‘to which I was so attracted to'(Aut 151). He states that he used to read it daily from the days of his seminary where Bishop Corquera had instructed that the seminarians read three or four chapters daily from the Bible. Various times he says that he devotes himself to reading the Bible when he gives the account of his conscience to Fr. Xifré: ‘I read the Scripture'(Aut 637), or he makes the resolution to read it. ‘I will read the Holy Bible until time for meditation'(Aut 645). He affirms that he prefers it to the newspapers because he reads the truth in it (Aut 399). He used to carry with him a small Vulgate edition of small print. He used to carry in Rome a Bible of small print to read every day during the journey (Aut 151). Only during the novitiate the Bible was removed and returned only when he departed due to ailment (Aut 151). He read the Bible also using the best commentaries: Calmet, Cornelio Alápide, Tirino, etc.
He Recommends it Often in his Writings:
To priests: the first place will be reserved to reading the Holy Bible. Every priest should insist every day in three things: Bible, Theology and Ascetical Theology and it should not be omitted except for a grave reason (Carta Pastoral al Clero, 1855, pp.23-24); ‘…without neglecting the reading of 2 chapters from the Holy Bible in the morning and two in the afternoon..'(Apuntes de un Plan, 1857, p.85). To the Seminarians: The students are to read the Holy Bible in Latin, 2 chapters in the morning and two in the afternoon, and with this distribution in every year they will read the whole Bible (Apuntes de un plan, pp.89-90). In ‘the well-instructed seminarian’, besides indicating the Bible as necessary material in the priestly carrier (vol.I, 1860, p.202) he indicates what the seminarian has to do every day: ‘Read also every day the Holy Scriptures starting with the Holy Gospels and Acts of the Apostles’ (ibid. p.345). During the retreat: read every day two chapters from the Holy Bible and from the ‘Imitation of Christ’ noted there (ibid.pp.358,361).
While speaking on the means to obtain the ecclesiastical spirit he says: the sixth means is the reading of the Holy Scriptures and books of piety’.(vol.II, 1861, p.274). While speaking about the way of conserving the ecclesiastical spirit he says: you will engage yourself in the study of the Holy Bible’ (vol.II, p.278). Speaking on the books which a good priest has to obtain for himself he indicates in the first place the ‘Sacred Bible (Biblia Sacra) of the Religious Library and various Commentaries: Lamy, Jansens, Wouters, Torres Amt, Scio, Trino, Cornelio Alápide, Dutripon y Duclot'(vol.II, p.388-399).
To the Missionaries: The book every priest should have is the Bible. Every day he should read one chapter from the NT. In the missions: At 12 they will take meals reading a chapter from the Bible and another from Kempis (CC 1857, no.117). During meals they may read some part from the Holy Bible or Imitation of Christ if the circumstances permit (CC 1865, no.69). The missionary students: chapters from the Holy Bible can be added lo the spiritual reading according to the disposition of the superior'(CC appendix of 1862, no. 27; CC 1865 no.94).
To the women: they should learn the psalms from the age of 7 years and later the Wisdom Books and the NT. Reaching the 701 year the girl child should learn by heart the Psalter, until! the age of puberty they should take care that the Books of Solomon, the Gospels, the Apostles and the Prophets become the treasure of their hearts(Mss. Claret X p. 714)- This quotation is taken from St. Jerome. To the Soldiers: He prepared a liliputan edition with four chapters for those who left for the Moroccan war: one from each Gospel (Advice given by a mother to his son at the time of farewell going to the war in Africa and the Holy Gospels, Barcelona, 1860).
To the Members of St. Michael’s Academy: He imposed on them the obligation to read the Gospel: ‘Every day read a chapter from the Gospel'(Plan of St. Michael’s Academy). And he writes in their Rules: Every member will read every day or at least weekly a chapter from the Gospel according to St. Mathew, translated and with notes by the Archbishop of Cuba (Art.4, ibid. p. 28). Claret not only advised and ordered to read the Bible, but worked hard to propágate it: In 1856 he published ‘El Santo Evangelio según San Mateo’ with notes.
In 1862 he published the ‘Biblia Sacra Vulgata’ (Librería Religiosa, 894 pp.) and he gave 5 copies to each seminary as a gift in 1863.
He made arrangement that the Religious Bookshop publish the Bilingual Bible with the commentaries of Scio in 6 volumes and presented one copy of it to all priests in his diocese: ‘Every day you will read 4 chapters from the Holy Bible, two in the morning and two in the afternoon; and as we provide the Bible translated by Scio to all, the reading of the Holy Bible will occupy the first place’ (Carta Pastoral al Clero, 1855, p.23). The edition of Scio was published ¡n the years 1852-1853. There is no wonder that the writings of the Saint are filled with literal quotations from the Bible and references.
We find in the Autobiography:
From OT: 3 from Genesis, 3 from Exodus, 1 from Numbers, 2 from III Book of Kings, 1 from Job, 16 from the Psalms, 1 from the Proverbs, 2 from Wisdom, 2 from Sirach, 13 from Isaiah, 1 from Jeremiah, 3 from Ezekiel, 1 from Joel, 1 from Sophonias.
From NT: Mt: literally 14, alluding 18; Mark 4 and 2; Lk 9 and 3; John 10 and 16; Acts 9 and 0; Rom. 2 and 2; 1 Cor.3 and 3; Gal.l and 1; Eph.l and 2; Phil.3 and 1; I Thess.l and 0; 1 Tim.l and 1; 2 Tim.2 and 1; Tit.l and 0; Heb.2 and 1; James 2 and 1; IPet.O and 1; Un 2 and 1; Rev.2 and 0. Total: OT: 49; NT: 78 literal and 55 allusive = 133 quotations.
Since the autumn of 1830 Claret begins to perceive the call of God forcefully through the Holy Scriptures. Already before, the text Mt. 16:26 had taken him out of the tepidity in Barcelona: This phrase impressed me deeply.. It was like an arrow which went through my heart’ (Aut 68).
The Word of God uproots him from the world and gives him impetus to the prophetic-evangelizing mission every time with more insistence and clarity from 1831 to 1839. Different experiences provoked the emergence of his apostolic vocation and its later development and confirmation, among them, prayer, reading of the Lives of the Saints and spiritual readings; but the contact with the Bible was the determining factor. ‘What moved and stimulate me most was reading the Holy Bible, to which I have always been very strongly attracted. There were passages that impressed me so deeply that I seemed to hear a voice telling me the message I was reading’ (Aut 113). ‘In many passages of the Bible I felt the voice of God calling me to go forth and preach'(Aut 120). An extraordinary charismatic phenomenon is at play here. The force, insistence and persistence of the movements and his prophetic character give proof of this. The Saint applies the same expressions which he used to denote his mystical phenomena: 1 understood…, God gave me to understand…( Compare Aut 114-119 and 680-681, 687). During 9 years he went on receiving impulses and illuminations above all from the Bible. One could affirm that it was the Word of God which made out of Claret an Apostle of the Word.
The Word of God:
- pushed him to consecrate himself totally to the apostolate;
- made him foresee prophetically his ministry and the sufferings caused to him;
- made him see the efficacy and force which God was going to confer on his mission with His presence.
The Saint has left 3 lists of these texts of vocation partly coinciding and partly diverging: one in the Autobiographical Document IV: ‘This I understood as a student’ which might go back to 1831-1835. In his ‘Resumen of Life’ written in 1856; and in the Autobiography: nos. 114-119, written in 1861. The Saint says: ‘There were many such passages, but the following stand out’ (Aut 114). Globally taken we can divide them into 2 categories: prophetical and evangelical. But we are facing a surprise in two ways:
- 1.The texts from OT abound more than those of the NT.
- 2.In the Autobiography he has excluded the evangelical texts and this fact makes us know that the prophetic texts above all awakened in him the vocation.
We can say however, that he sees these texts not under the perspective of Old Testament or Jansenism but in a New Testament and Christological perspective. In fact, the principal text is Isaiah 61:1: ‘Spiritus Domini super me et evangelizare pauperibus misit me Dominus et sanare contritos corde’. God made him understand this text in a very particular way (Aut 118b). And this is the text which Christ is applying many times to himself to justify his mission (cf. Lk.4:18). Contemplating Christ, the Preacher, Claret saw himself invaded by the Holy Spirit like him sent to preach. Here he has felt himself personally involved in the mystery of the mission of Jesus. This word is for Claret ‘substantial word’ which has touched the most intimate fibres of his being and goal. The other texts make the modalities of his vocation clear: Is.41:9
- Gratuity of the vocation (Aut 114) Is 41:10
- Providence of God about his future in stock (Aut 115)
Is 41:11-13 – Enemies, persecutions and confirmation of the assistance of God (Aut 116)
Is41:16– Effects of his mission (Aut 117)
Is 41:17-18 – Recipients: mission directed to the needy and poor (Aut 118)
Ez. 3:17 – Mission of the Sentry (Aut 119)
Ez.3:18-19 – Obligation to announce the message(Aut 119)
Nevertheless, it seems strange that Claret has not indicated such important texts as he gave in the Doc.Autob. IV and in his ‘Resumen of his life’: ‘I have to be busy in my Father’s affairs’ (Lk.2:49) and ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head'(Lk 9:58). There exists besides another detail: Claret has identified himself more with the Prophets of the OT than with the Apostles themselves with the exception of St. Paul. Everything seems to indicate that Claret had the conscience of an extraordinary prophetic character as Prophet chosen by God in a crucial moment of the Church, to respond to determined historical circumstances and demands. Claret seems to feel as Prophet of OT and NT. Those of the OT anticipate: those of NT are discovered and realize themselves. But they coincide in the essential:
- Extraordinary character of their vocation
- Conscience of speaking in the name of God
- Desire of interior purity
- Clairvoyance in judging the situation of the people and indicating the remedies
- Return to the sources: to simplicity and poverty
- Insistence in recording the primacy of love
- Invitation to the consecrated so that they may Uve their consecration
All these appear in Claret in a very significant way:
- 1.Extraordinary character of his vocation: not only for the mode of being called (through biblical lights and graces), but also for the extraordinary mission confided to him: regenerate the Church, to be Father of the Apostles.
- 2.Conscience of speaking in the name of God. He feels himself elected as instrument of salvation: arrow in the hands of God and Blessed Virgin (Aut 156, 270), minister of Mary (Aut 270); Donkey loaded with jewels, horn…. ‘ I am like a donkey loaded with jewels, like a stick in the hands of God, to whom it has pleased to make me a priest and missionary’ (Aguilar, F., Vida…p. 104). ‘Do you know what I think of myself: that I am the jawbone of the ass in the hands of Samson; God is Samson, 1 the jawbone’ (Letter of Luis Sauquer to Fr. Clotet, 11 Feb. 1880; HD I, p. 149). The numerous prophesies which were escaping to him speaking, preaching or even writing give witness to this prophetic spirit in the sense not so much of foreseeing the future: the earth quakes and cholera in Cuba, the facility with which he used to read the consciences of his penitents, etc.
- 3.Desire for interior purity: in himself can be seen through ascetical effort maintained all along his life; in others, through the expression on the sinners away from God as also the desire to conserve the beauty of the Church.
- 4.Clairvoyance in judging the situation of the people and in indicating opportune remedies: this remains clear in the study of the society in different parts and situations through which he passes in his life and in the apt application of apostolic, effective and modern means. He had clairvoyance also to see what God was asking from the Church of the future: the total apoliticisation of the clergy, the apostolate of the lay people, the necessity of the Councils, the creation of Secular Institutes, the more efficacious influence of the Blessed Virgin in the Church, return of clergy and religious to a tenor of more evangelical! life by means of an efficacious reform.
- 5.Return to the sources: to simplicity andThis is precisely one of the fundamental preoccupations of Claret: Although being capable of leading a rich and luxurious life, he prefers to lead a simple and poor life to incredible extremes: clothing, footwear, journeys, accommodation etc.
- 6.Insistence in reminding the primacy of love: that is demonstrated in his insistence of speaking of love of God and fraternal charity, and in the apostolic zeal of the missionary.
- 7.Invitation to the Consecrated so that they may live their vocation: think about his life with the missionary community in Cuba, the norms given to the Congregation founded by him and his efforts to re-establish the common life in the cloistered convents of Andalusia, and restore the community life of the clergy with his ‘Rules of the Institute of Secular Clergy who live in community'(1B64). The vision of the Angel of the Apocalypse in 1855 and the prophetic intuitions of Mother París came to ratify this prophetic vocation of the Saint which partly found place in his ‘Notes of a Plan’ published in 1857.
In summary: through the lights and graces received from the Spirit in the reading of the Bible, Claret grasped the overall meaning, depth and breadth of his missionary vocation in the contemplation of Christ, the Evangelizer, the Son anointed and sent, incarnate of the Virgin Mary, offered to the salvific will of the Father, Servant destined to proclaim the Good News to the poor with the preaching, testimony of his own life and suffering. Claret sees himself in the Une of the Prophets, Apostles and great Missionaries as prophet of modern times, raised by God to be apostle, evangelizer and father of apostles.
Grace of a M1ld Light Enlightening All: The Vision of the ‘Casa Tortadés’
It is a kind of Tabor experience which confirms him in his vocation. There exists a surprising parallelism between the experiences of his youth in Barcelona and this visión. In those ‘the natural world’ revealed itself to him and in this vision ‘the supernatural world’ reveals itself to him. Here there is a woman but is not seductive or tempting (‘She is a warm and yet she doesn’t give you any evil thoughts; on the contrary, she has taken them all away from you’ Aut 96), but just the opposite: protective and saving. Here he meets friends who do not deceive (Saints: one is St. Stephen) but protect; there the waves conquered by Mary; and here a group of demons conquered also by her.
As the messianic vocation of Jesus was submitted to the temptation of the evil one, also that of Claret is
sifted through the demon who wanted to burn it still as a blossom. But a glorious supernatural intervention prevents it.
The vision of the House of Tortadés (Aut 95-98) which should have occurred in February 1831: It deals with a decisive moment of clarification and strengthening of vocation, not only for having been confirmed in chastity (Auto 98) but due to apostolic significance which it contained (Lozano, Mystic and Man of Action, pp.73-81).
It is the second temptation against this virtue. The first one at least theoretically should have been stronger (Aut 72) because: he had the object (wife of his companion) right in front of him; for being a young man and less defended and more vulnerable as he was in a state of tepidity. This temptation should have been more violent because the devil caused it to get him away from his vocation The temptation -Claret himself says- was terrible (Aut 95); in fact all natural and supernatural means failed. He overcame that of Barcelona by invoking the Blessed Virgin; but this not at all, al least in the beginning.
Reality of the Phenomenon
The Saint himself tries to affirm that it was not dealing with a dream or an illusion and gives three reasons:
- He was well awake. ‘I am quite sure that I was neither asleep..'(Aut 98)
- He was well clear in his senses. ‘..nor suffering from dizziness or anything else that could have caused a state of illusion'(Aut 98)
- He perceives the effects of the vision well. ‘I felt free of the temptation'(Aut 97). ‘….from that moment on I was free from temptation against chastity. If later there have been any such temptations, they have been so insignificant that they hardly deserve to be called temptations’. (Aut 98).
‘The temptation disappeared completely and he was no more affected by temptation against chastity; and the veracity of this good effect was given him to understand by the ‘truth of the cause which was not an illusion’ (Doc. Aut.VIII; EA p. 427).
Another effect was the joy: ‘filled with joy so deep that I couldn’t grasp what had been going on within me’ (Aut 97). The visión disappeared and the young man stayed so consoled and he was filled with so much joy… (Doc.Aut.I: EA p.410). ‘Thus the vision and temptation concluded, and the student stayed very joyful and animated’ (Doc.Autob. II EA, p.414).
Supernatural Character of the Phenomenon
The extraordinary character could be stated:
- Through the way of insinuating, motive without being given;
- Through the intensity, where the ordinary means of resistance could suffice;
- Through the way of overcoming it: the Virgin overcomes it in him;
- Due to the results: joy, confirmation in chastity;
- For the presence of the demons, Saints and the Bl.Virgin.
Importance of the Phenomenon
It deals with the typical initial vision as the prophets, apostles, saints had to be collocated in their way and give them the spiritual physionomy.
- a)For Claret: he gave it much importance, because he relates it four times in his writings:
- in the ‘Resumen of his Life’: 1856(Doc.Autob.VllI: EA, p.427) in a very short summarized way.
- In 1856 in ‘Origin of Trisagion'(Vic 1856, example for the 7th day) and with small changes in ‘Method of Evangelizing’ (Santiago de Cuba 1857, pp.63-67 reproduced in Doc.Autob.I, EA pp.408-411).
- In 1861 in the Autobiography, with few changes with regard to the example published in 1856 and 1857: here in the first person, there in the third person. In the Autob. He relates it with less details: colour, dimensions etc.
- Towards 1865 in third person to preach about it in sermons of retreats. He gives many details and already interprets the vision of the Saints and demons in apostolic key. (Mss. Claret II, pp.227-230: Doc.Autob.II: EA pp.411-414).
We know that he preached about it in Escorial to the seminarians, always in the 3rd person. It is hinted in one of the outlines of the spiritual exercises on chastity: ‘My example. Blessed Virgin appeared’ (Mss.Claret X, p.469). Testimony of José Fernandez Montana (PIM sess.4)
Testimony of Antonio Barjau: ‘The Servant of God had preached many times about this happening and I myself heard him and in spite of his preaching about it in the third person, commonly the listeners attributed it to him ‘(PIV, session 33; cf. PAV.session 15,18,48, 118, 126, 128, 131). Also Francisco de Asis Aguilar writes about it: “The face of Father Claret got enlivened gradually as he was referring to this event; his eyes seemed to search or contemplate still the Blessed Virgin; his voice was moved, and one could notice something extraordinary in him. We who were close to the preacher saw the firmness with which he was speaking, the vividness with which he was describing the pain of the adolescent and his efforts to resist the temptation and the joy in seeing the Bl.Virgin made us all believe that the adolescent was none else than himself although he would be silent about it due to humility. We shared about our sentiments with one another as we came out of the chapel”. (Vida… p. 29)
It is to be taken into account that the times he narrates this incident he does it almost identically, with small changes not affecting the substantial content.
b). The Phenomenon in itself
It doesn’t seem that Claret would have given an apostolic interpretation to the event, at least until his ordination to the deaconate, when already 3 years have passed. And probably he never took time to analyse its meaning. Perhaps he thought that it was a reward for his Marian devotion of the infancy and those first years of seminarian. One has to understand this grace naturally as a passive purification of his entire sensuality and affectivity.
But it is much more:
Here the filial nature of his devotion to the Blessed Virgin appears: Spiritual infancy: ‘.. .I saw myself as a beautiful white child kneeling with hands joined'(Aut 96). ‘I saw myself crowned with roses in the person of that little child'(ibid.) This evoked his devotion which he had in his infancy to the Mother of God. Claret would maintain this filial attitude during his whole life. AS a youth he proposes ‘to read and study the life of St. John the Evangelist and imitate him. He saw to this effect that this son of Mary, given by Jesus from the cross, had distinguished himself because of his virtues, but singularly due to his humility, purity and charity, and thus this young student was also practising them'(Doc.Autob.II: EA p.413). The attributes he uses the most while speaking of the Blessed Virgin from the beginning of the Autob. Until the last Resolutions of his life is that of Mary, my sweet Mother. But the most important fact is that his concept of Marian filiation is born from this vision in an apostolic key considering the evangelization as collaboration of the evangelizer in the fight of the Virgin against
Satan and his descendence. Precisely in this period his apostolic vocation had started to be revealed through the reading of the Holy Scriptures.
God grants permission to the demons to test the solidity of Claret’s vocation. His vocation is confirmed in the fight. The future of the apostle and all his apostolic undertakings of evangelization are placed at risk. Yielded to the temptation would have meant failure for the work of God taking root in him. But the Bl.Virgin intervened in him to save him from sin, save his vocation, to make it emerge with force and confirm it in a definitive form. The grace of confirmation in chastity has an evident vocational intention. It need not be explained just as a reward, but as a preparation. Liberating him from intimate fights the Lord put him in disposition of consecrating himself with all his psychological energies to his apostolic vocation(Lozano, Mystic..p.77).
‘The liberation from the temptations against chastity gave him a great freedom of spirit for the apostolate. The perfect purity which the Immaculate just gave him would provide an expansion and a generosity and unlimited fecundity to his zeal'(EA pp.411-412)- From this experience comes out the Claretian concept of apostolate as collaboration in the fight of the Blessed Virgin against Satan and his descendants. And the vision itself is a fight which reflects the vision of the Song of Songs as seen by Lozano: ‘Who is this coming like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the Sun, majestic as bannered troops'(Song of Songs 6. 10 – cf. Lozano, Mystic.p. 75).
Claret saw in this vision besides the Bl. Virgin and the child kneeling ‘a group of Saints’ in prayer., among them St. Stephen, and ‘a great crowd of demons in battle array, like soldiers who fall back and close ranks after a battle’ (Aut 97). The last words of the narration are shouts of triumph through the realized battle: ‘Glory to Mary, Victory through Mary'(Aut 9g).
Grace of Clear and Distinct Vocational Enlightenment: At the Ordination to Deaconate
Claret was ordained to deaconate on 20th December 1834. And it was a day of vocational revelation. It was on this occasion that he understood the full meaning of the supernatural intervention of the Bl. Virgin in the house of Tortadés: ‘At the ordination the Bishop read those words of St. Paul in the Pontifical: ‘For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the Sovereignties and Powers who originate the darkness in this world..’ At that moment the Lord made me understand clearly the meaning of the demons I saw during the temptation…’ (Aut 101).
It is to be noted that he speaks of ‘clear understanding’. Not only the enemies were revealed to him but also the tactic to overcome them. It was granted to him to experiment in himself the plan of divine mercy to defeat the serpent through the Woman: destroy the power of the demon and his followers through the Immaculate and her descendents. Mary enters in his vocation not only as Mother who forms him, but also as force of the powerful and omnipotent arm who lets out like an arrow drawn against the enemies of God (EA.p.411).
The entire apostolate of Claret will be developed under this spirit of combat, fight and war against the enemies of God. Some significant events:
- The atmosphere of war, already in his infancy, against the French, and later the Civil War above all in the Catalan period and at the end ‘the Matines’.
- The temptation at Vic: Mary Victorious and the demons like soldiers who withdraw
- The ordination to diaconate: Our fight is not against…. :’
- The apostles described in the key of persecution and war (Aut 223 ff.)
- The ‘Long Live’and ‘death’ cries before the Missions (Aut 269).
- The biblical vocational texts which speak about persecutions.
- The prayers he wrote during the novitiate in Rome (Aut 154-156; 157-164)
- The prayer he used to recite before starting the mission (Aut 270-272) and the exorcism he used to practise (Aut 273).
Fr. Lozano (Mystic..p.78f.) saw the relation existing between the narration of the temptation – vision of Vic and the enlightenment of the ordination to deaconate on one hand and the prayer he used to recite before the mission, on the other: Texts of the Prayer Elements of the Prayer-Enlightenment
I am ‘Son’ and your minister formed by you
Against ‘Satan’, Prince of this world,
Who has made an alliance with the flesh
May the ‘Victory’ be yours; you shall overcome… Crush the pride of Satan
You areQueen of the ‘Saints’. Command them
To pray for me
I begin to do battle, not only against ‘flesh and Blood’, but against ‘rulers of darkness’, as The Apostle says
I saw myself as a ‘ child’ white and very Beautiful kneeling
Aut 95, 97
I saw a crowd of ‘demons’. I felt a terrible temptation
Victory through Mary! A special grace from Mary
I sawabafld of ‘Saints’… in an attitude of. Prayer.. praying and interceding for me
At the ordination the Bishop read those words: Our battle is ‘not only against flesh and blood,. But against Principalities and Powers, against the powers of darkness..’ The Lord made me Understand clearly the meaning of demons I Saw during the temptation
In both we find the text of Eph. 6:12: ‘Our battle is not against…. ‘ and other coincidences: Satan made an alliance with the Flesh, Victory through Mary, intercession of the Saints, battle against the princes of darkness and Marian sonship.
The light received in the ordination to deaconate is very important from the vocational point of view, since he comes to reflect on the vision of Vic and lights and graces received in the prophetic texts which impressed him so much. It is the moment of the apostolic investiture at the time of receiving the Gospel as weapon of battle: the double-edged Word which wounded himself and enlightened also and was destined to pierce through the heart of the sinners. Claret remains anointed by the Holy Spirit, with the imposition of the hands and is sent against the evil spirit. He remains thus incorporated to the descendents of the Virgin to whom he would entrust himself as son and priest (Resolutions 1843 – EA p. 523) so that she may send him as apostle (Aut 160-161) and send with all force of the arm as arrow placed in her powerful hand (Aut 270).
He grasped the meaning of the vision at the House Tortadés during the ordination ceremony to deaconate. In this liturgical act he will understand that he should be like St. Stephen: – man ‘full of grace and power'(Acts 6:8) ‘full of Holy Spirit’ (Acts 7:55).
He should be like him also man of the Word, in such a way that those of the Synagogue could not resist the wisdom and the spirit with which he was speaking (Acts 6:10). Claret receives the unction of the Spirit in the ordination with the laying of hands, and from the Bishop he receives the Gospel: the Word he has to proclaim without fear, as witness and messenger of truth, guarantee of presence and of the power which God himself will give to his voice.
Fight boldly against the powers of the evil, against the soldiers who fall back and close ranks again after a battle (Aut 97), fighting and winning with Mary: Victory through Mary (Aut 98).
Dedicate himself for the salvation of the neighbour: ‘Ever since I lost the desire to become a Carthusian… I not only thought about becoming holy myself, but I was continuously trying to imagine what I could do to save the souls of my neighbours’ (Aut 113).
Now formation for mission is still lacking to him after the priestly ordination (13 June 1835). His stay at Sallent serves him to continue his formation., studying the years of career until he finishes them and doing as a missionary the charge which was entrusted to him as assistant pastor and administrator of Sallent. Obligation to finish the studies was the only factor which was braking his missionary longings His plan of life and action is clearly missionary.
Characteristics of this period: passing from ‘homo faber’ to ‘homo apostolicus’, flight from the world, self-denial, fertile earth, Word of God, call, consecration and sending to evangelize the poor, future mission as apostolic fight.
FIFTH PHASE (1839 – 1849)
Dimensión of Universality : ‘My Spirit is for the Whole World”
Initial Grace : Explosion of Missionary Longings
His entire desire was to go far, proclaim the Gospel and to shed his blood for Jesus Christ.
Operative Decision : Go to Rome for Being Sent
Once finished his studies (May of 1839) Claret decides to offer himself to ‘Propaganda Fide’ so that he
might be sent to foreign missions (Aut 111) to any part of the world (Aut 120).
- The Journey to Rome: In his journey from Marseilles to Livorno he experiments poverty, the efficacy of evangelical witness, above all the poverty, detachment and generosity for the Benedictines who flee Spain via Vargara (Aut 135).
- The entrance into the Novitiate of the Jesuits (November of 1839), once the attempt to go to missions failed. This serves as a stimulus and exercise of consecrated life. This contributes to keep alive in him the flame of apostolic zeal.
‘.. .the flame of zeal for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls took fire in my heart and totally consumed me. I offered my all to God without reserve. I was continually thinking and planning what I could do for the good of my neighbour, and since the time had not yet come for me to set out on my work, I busied myself with prayer’ (Aut 153). The stress on a passionate zeal coloured with Romanticism appears thus in the prayers offered to the Bl. Virgin. He learns to live and lives:
the values of evangelical life (above all the obedience: Bible is removed from him, they order him to play and he is not permitted to celebrate the holy Mass, substituting an old priest who had to fast to a later hour).
He knows and experiments also the value of community life
‘It was there that I learned how to give the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, and methods for preaching, catechising, hearing confessions usefully and effectively…'(Aut 152)
Crisis of Health
There exists certain parallelism with the failed entrance to the Carthusian monastery, also this time caused by the inclemency of weather. A stabbing rheumatic pain is felt on the right leg (Aut 166) due to the many rains and humidity of that year. It is interpreted as a negative vocational sign.’
With regard to this episode it is not known whether there were other motives for abandoning the novitiate in addition to the real sickness. Did his formators find out that he was hardly fitting into the Jesuit line for being a made personality already – because of his vivid genius, for suggesting certain things against the blind obedience? We do not know. The only reason which is given in the chronicle of the house is lack of health. Whatever the reason be, God did not want him to be a Jesuit, but missionary, as he did not want him to be a businessman but a priest.
Renouncing the Dream to Be a Missionary
Here his cherished dream of foreign missions came to a blank end and he sees himself obliged to accept humbly and trustingly the will of God, manifested through his Superiors: dedicate himself to the missions, not in the land of pagans, but faithful not evangelized (Aut 166, 193).
Formative Parenthesis of Training:
On 13th of May 1840 Claret is appointed as Regent of Viladrau. Here he sees himself favoured by the circumstances, since there is an old priest of difficult character, who dies soon and another one who substitutes him in his absence (Aut 170, 191). The Providence opens a missionary horizon to him; and the vocation of Claret remains totally clarified and defined. Thus he was able to start his first missionary endeavours in the same parish. He began a mission on 15thof August and on the same day he requests the diocesan Administrator, Luciano Casadeval, that he might be exempted from the office of the Regent to devote himself totally to the missions. In the autumn he gives mission in Espinalvas and later in Seva: This was the start of my fame as a missionary’ (Aut 172). In November he preaches a novena for the souls in Igualada and Santa Coloma de Queralt with ‘great enthusiastic acceptance’ (Aut 173). The parish of Viladrau offers him much pastoral experience although he sees himself considerably blocked for having to do medical assistance also. Finally arrives the definitive liberation, on 23rd January 1841 ‘with deep feelings on the part of the people for the cures our Lord had worked through me'(Aut 174). All these experiences will be very useful for him in his continuous missionary activities in Catalonia.
Vocational Response (cf. Palacios, J.M. Los signos vocacionales en San Antonio María Claret: Claretianum 11 (1971) 117ff.)
The response has to be in the same line of the call and has to have the same characteristics. Unconscious calls will receive unconscious responses and the conscious calls will receive conscious responses, at times not immediately, bound to concrete circumstances of time, place, atmosphere, age and family.
a. Unconscious responses of Claret:
Can be resumed in the word ‘Fidelity’:
- to his parents, teachers and directors (Aut 29,26,22,52)
- to the demands of Christian life (Aut 36-55) 8
- in piety and religion (36)
- in religious sacramental faith (37)
- in the living of sacramental life (38)
- in the purity of his conversations (53)
- in the assimilation of the truths of Credo in the catechism (39)
- in the exquisite care he had for the readings (Aut 41-42)
- Fidelity and love to Mary most holy, his Mother, Protectress, with constant recital of the rosary, personally and in the family and his affectionate visits to the sanctuary Fussimanya(Aut 43-44, 49-51)
- Fidelity to the Holy Spirit, who awakes in the Saint fear of God inspiring him besides a love for solitude where he speaks to his heart (Aut 8, 47)
- Fidelity to moral and religious principles which help him to overcome the temptations, to get away from sinful situations and not to seek anything else than the fulfilment of the will of God in all things (Aut 72,73, 64).
- Conscious responses
‘indicate the ‘enormous generosity’ of the soul of St. Anthony Mary Claret, his promptness in the service of God and his detachment from the things of the earth, all this united to his firm decision of following Christ In spite of all the difficulties of his life’.
At 12 years: decision: ‘I answered him that I wanted to be a priest’ (Aut 30). The circumstances don’t
allow him to continue and he had to stop although the decision continues to be firm. ‘Humanly
speaking, I see no hope, but you have the power to make it happen, if you will’ (Aut 40). Faith in the
impossible like the Bl.Virgin: ‘For God, nothing is impossible'(Lk.l:26).
At 21 years: situation of tepidity
- provoked through the Word of God (Mt. 16:26: Quid prodest..?)
- impression: ‘it was like an arrow which went through my heart’ (68)
- Reaction of offering himself: ‘Quid me vis faceré?’ I tried to think and reason what to do, but to no avail'(68)
- Decision: search for orientation in one Ananias (Fr. Amigó) (68-69)
- Taking up of a radical vocational conscience. Carthusians.
- Effective decision, putting in practice the apt means to achieve the goal: Study of Latin (79), Spiritual purification (85), Entrance to the seminary (1829) (79-84)
Interpretation of vocational signs from the part of Claret
‘The personal interpretation of the vocational signs and facts in the light of faith is essential for having
subjectively certitude of one’s vocation’.
The facts, significant in themselves, possess a vocational internationality which the called should interpret in that same line. Seemingly, Claret interpreted all the extraordinary facts of his infancy and youth in a global way, as providential signs from God who wanted him to be a priest, without stopping to analyse the theological and pedagogical content of each one ñor its vocational significance.
He starts to relate his life considering everything under this perspective and providentialist perspective:
‘Divine providence has always watched over me in a special way'(Aut 7). After narrating how he was
saved from death at the collapse of the house of his wet-nurse, he writes: ‘Blessed be God’s Providence! I owe so many thanks to Mary most holy, who preserved me from death in my childhood and has freed me since then from so many predicaments'(Aut 7). Vocational signs:
- a good nature or disposition from God out of his sheer goodness( 18).
- Good intelligence
- Good memory(22-26)
- Good education (26-29)
- Inclination to piety – towards the Eucharist (36-42); to the Bl. Virgin (43-55)
- Human formation in manufacturing techniques which even prepared him technically for the future apostolate(56)
- The dangers from which Mary most holy freed him (71-72)
- The blows which God was providing him to awakerl him and to get him out of the dangers of the world (73).
All these facts become signs in the light of the verse Mt. 16:26: ‘I opened my eyes and recognized the dangers to soul and body I had been passing through’ (70).
Therefore he concludes this phase of seeking with the words: ‘My God, how good and wonderful you have been to me! You surely used strange means to uproot me from the world and an odd kind of aloes to wean me from Babylon'(76).
Total and Definitive Offering to the Evangelizing Mission
On 9″” July 1841 Claret receives the title of ‘Apostolic Missionary’ from Propaganda Fide. This was a juridical title which he converted into theological reality. This is the official recognition and the authorized ratification of his profound identity: to be, to live and to do like Jesus, the apostles and other great missionaries of all times. As St. Therese of Child Jesus would do later reading the chapters 12 and 13 of the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians (I have found my vocation in the Church: my vocation is love), Claret found his true identity, his clear and defined vocation (and ours):
Apostolic missionary, which won’t be just a coloured title but totalizing reality, with 3 principal traits as in Christ, like in the Apostles: 1) radical poverty; 2) evangelical fraternity; 3) full time evangelization.
Apostolic Missionary: Missus a Patre (Christ sent). Apostolicus: style of life at the style of the Apostles, in communion with the Lord, in fraternity, in fidelity to the command: ‘Go to the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to all creatures'(Mk 16:15). It indicates also the Missio canónica (canonical mission): ‘The care I took to see that the Superior sent me to preach, since I was well convinced that to be effective, a missionary must be sent'(Aut 192).
The missionaries, like the Bishops are ‘successors’ of the Apostles; not in the hierarchical line, but in the charismatic line of prophetism. From Jesus, Priest, Prophet and King, by the grace received from the Holy Spirit we stress the prophetic dimension: the evangelization. The present Constitutions state it clearly: ‘In the various areas of ministry such as governing, sanctifying and evangelizing, our chief duty as missionaries is to collaborate in the evangelization of the people. For this reason, none of us should accept positions in Church governance, except by the consent of the Superior General or a mandate from the Holy See (CC 50).
The missionary vocation of Claret will expand itself to the plains of Catalonia and Canary Islands for various years (1841-1849). He feels anointed and sent to evangelize the poor; he lives in austerity and poverty. At the beginning of each mission he says to the Bl. Virgin: ‘You are well aware that I am your son and minister, formed in the furnace of your mercy and love. I am like an arrow poised in your mighty hand. Release me, my Mother, with the full force of your arm..'(Aut 270).
And he adds in his Resolutions for 1843: ‘I entrust myself totally to Mary, as her son and her priest. …. She will be my Mother, Teacher, and Directress and everything I do or suffer in my ministry will be done for her, for because she has planted the tree, the fruit belongs to her’ (EA p. 253).
He speaks clearly about his rectitude of intention in the missionary works in the chapter of the Autob. Titled: The goal I had in mind whenever I went to a town to which my Superior sent me'(Aut 199-213). Claret has given us an account in his Autobiography about the sufferings of moral and physical kind which were coming from his tireless efforts to the ministry of salvation, from his tiredness, inclemencies of the weather, resistances, persecutions, dangers (Aut 460-467; 518-520; 575-578).
He presents the ideal missionary animated by a very strong love which is expressed in work and in the suffering for the glory of God and salvation of the neighbour (Aut 494).
Characteristics of this period:
Search for his own identity according to the will of God – formation for mission – apostolic rule -Stimulus, virtues, love of God and neighbour, vibrant force of the Word of God, Means of apostolate, continuous apostolate in poverty and itinerancy, apostolic initiatives: prolific writer and propagator of truth through the Religious Library.
SIXTH PHASE( 1841-1849, 1855 & 1858)
Fundamental Dimensión: ‘do with Others What He Alone Couldn’t Do
Grace of Apostolic Fecundity
God granted Claret a particular charism in the Church through the Holy Spirit: that of a special apostolic fecundity. Charism of a founder is mediation through the work of the Holy Spirit and it moves him to form missionaries and create numerous institutions to promote Christian faith and charity and to spread the Good News.
- Germinal stage: towards 1839, according to the testimony of Luis Sauquer (Vida., p. 412).
- Decision to found a missionary association: towards 1846
- Gestation: towards 1849
Found an Association of lay people (1847) and of priests both dedicated completely to missionary
- Spiritual Exercises and Conferences to priests (Aut 308)
- Founding of Religious library in 1847 (Aut 476)
- Various attempts and plans of founding: the Apostolic Confratemity as Pre-Congregation
- Solitary apostolic experience and with some collaborators (among them Fr. Manuel Vilaró) in Catatonia (Aut 454-476) and Canary Islands (Aut 480-487).
Realization of the Project Which God Inspired in Him
Claret carries to happy realization the plan to form a Congregation of priests who would both be, and be called, Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Aut 488) shaped with the five Co-Founders in Vic on 16th of July 1849 (Aut 489) and living strictly in Community (491) for which he gives praise to God and Blessed Virgin (Aut 492-493) and offers & beautiful portrait of the Claretian Missionary : the so-called definition of the missionary (Aut 494), or ‘Reminder which Anthony Claret makes for himself (EA p.619), which is a squeezed Christological synthesis of the Pauline spirit. The missionary’s only concern is how he can best follow Jesús Christ and imítate him in working, suffering and striving constantly and single-mindedly for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls’ (Aut 494). The ‘homo apostolicus’ enamoured in Christ is a portrait of St. Paul: man on fire with love, spreads its flames, desires to set the whole world on fire, nothing daunts him, rejoices in privations, welcomes work, embraces sacrifices, delights in calumnies, rejoices in suffering.
Why did Claret found the Congregation?
Because he saw the scarcity of evangelical and apostolic preachers (ECIII, p. 41).
Founded for what purpose?
‘To be able to do with others what he alone could not do’; this doing is nothing else than evangelise.
It is caused by the appointment as Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba which compels him to abandon his two favourite enterprises: ‘the Religious Library and the Congregation just coming into being”(Aut 495).
Acceptance of the Archbishopric in Humble and Trusting Obedience
- Because it is told to him that it is the will of God (Aut 496).
- Because the Bishop Casadevall imposes it on him (Letter of 1 Oct. 1849, EC I p.74).
His charism as Founder extends itself also to Cordimarin Filiation (which can be situated between 1846 and 1850, in which year he will publish the book of founding) and to the Congregation of Religious of Mary Immaculate – Claretian Missionaries in Cuba together with Venerable Mother Antonia París (25 August 1855). ‘Although the intervention of Fr. Claret in the foundation of the Institute could seem little late as he was not the one who had the inspiration to put into practice the plans, still we have to affirm that he is present – according to the eternal plans of God – in the first genesis of the idea itself of the Instituto.’ (Alvarez, J., Historia de las Religiosas de María Inmaculada Misioneras Claretianas, Roma, 1980, p. 738). This charismatic fecundity has extended itself posteriorly in a mediated form, to other 4 Religious Institutes which with CMf, RMI, FC and SC, conform the Claretian Family which has in Claret the Father and source of inspiration of missionary life.
This fecundity is prolonged in some way through the effective collaboration given to the foundation of other various Congregations emerged in Spain in XIX Century, above all the following:
- Carmelites of Charity (founded by St. Joaquina de Vedruna)
- Daughters of the Heart of Mary (Joaquín Masmijá)
- Tertiary Dominicans of the Anuncíala (Blessed Francisco Coll)
- Tertiary Capuchines of Good Shepherd (Fr. José Tous)
- Franciscan Religious Missionaries of Mother of Divine Shepherd (Blessed Maria Ana Mogas Fontcuberta)
- Adorers of Most Blessed Sacrament (St. Maria Michaela del Smo.Sacrament)
- Missionaries of Teaching (Marcos and Gertrudis Castaner)
- Slaves of the Heart of Mary (Esperanza González)
- Servants of Jesús (Bl.Mary of of Sagrado Corazón Sancho Guerra)
Two important observations:
- 1.The Founder doesn’t exhaust himself in responding to the challenges of his times, but responds also the actual challenges, because the spirit of his responses is maintained in his sons and daughters; the ecclesial sensibility changes, the circumstances of the world change, but the force of the command can’t be changed at least in us: proclaim in the whole world the Good News of Salvation through all possible means: life, word, prayer, sacrifices.
- 2.The origins of the Institute are decisive: the experience of the Founder and Cofounders (style of life and action) is normative for the identity of the Congregation as were the origins of the Church (Christ as Founder and the first disciples). As Claret was telling to Mother Sacramento referring to the Institute of Adorers: ‘How deep are the roots, so loafty will be the tree.'(Barrios, A., Mujer audaz, p.591).
This demands a continual return to the source of charismatic grace (spirit), to its source (the Founder) and to the flow of the current all along the history until the today with an eye in the project of God, other in the Church and another in the concrete world surrounding us (inculturation). After the French Revolution (1789), according to Audisio, it is a very difficult thing to be a man of modern times and a man of olden times.’ (quoted by Alvarez, J….)
Our Directory states in a synthetic form what a missionary is while explaining our name: The word ‘missionary’, understood in the light of the spiritual experience of St. Anthony Mary Claret, defines our charismatic identity. The title of ‘Apostolic Missionary’ which he received synthesizes his ideal of life according to the style of the Apostles. This way of life implies being disciples and to follow the Master, to live the evangelical counsels in a community of life with Jesus and the group of those who are called, to be sent and to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom to the whole world.’ (Dir.26) We are born to evangelize. Our Founder affirms it to us all along his life with word and example. His Episcopal motto reminds us of this: ‘Caritas Christi urget nos’ and with the first coat of arms of our Congregation. Both were sketched by the Saint and have oval forms with the inscription: ‘Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary; a heart appears above (that of Mary) pierced through a sword (double edged sword of the Word of God?), and at its side a cross and a staff; underneath an open book with two columns in each page (4 Gospels); and beneath it a small St. Michael with the sword raised tramping the devil.
The very intense apostolic life of Fr. Founder is the best testimony of the evangelizing finality of the Congregation as he after having discerned the spirit of every one of those who were to become his companions or co-founders (Clotet, Notes for the Annals), came to the conclusion that the Lord had given them the ‘same spirit that motivated him.'(Aut 489)
The Congregation was founded as Fr. Xifré told, for the missionary preaching (Xifré, J., Crónica de la Congregación: AC-CMF 1915, p. 304)
If the Founder, born for preaching, to be the continuator of the mission of Jesus at the style of the apostles and great saintly missionaries reformed in the preaching whatever he touched, the conclusion drawn is clear: the first missionaries of the Imm. Heart of Mary and all those to whom the Holy Spirit granted the ‘same spirit’ in the course of times which was given to Claret, were born to preach, for the ‘missionary preaching’, were anointed by the Holy Spirit for the preaching of the Word of God to the poor.
Characteristics of this stage:
Apostolic fecundity as the Founder promoter of religious and secular life.
SEVENTH PHASE (1850 – 1857)
Pastoral Dimension : Missionary Pastor or Pastoral Missionary
Claret receives a special grace the content of which we are not aware of, but is in connection with his pastoral mission, as he is doing mission in Gerona in April 1850: ‘During those days God our Lord made me understand some very special things for his greater glory and the good of souls.’ (Aut 498)
Make immediately a plan of pastoral action in Vic in Sept. 1850 which has the title: ‘Synoptic Plan of the duties of a good Prelate’ (copied by Fr. Clotet in his work: Vida edificante.., Rome, pp.261-69).
- Episcopal Consecration (Aut 499)
- Recruitment of missionaries for Cuba (Aut 502)
Regenerate and re-christianize the island of Cuba using all possible means, both spiritual and social (Aut 510-572).
Crisis (Of Identity?)
A crisis is caused by:
- the difficult situation of cult and clergy
- the numerous persecutions directed against him and his missionaries from the part of the civil and military authorities (Aut 518-520)
- by the unjust laws regarding the mixed marriages
Desire to Resign
The desire for resignation from the bishopric is there especially in the first years 1853 and 1854 (see his Resolutions for 1854, EA, p. 540). In his letter to Nuncio Brunelli, 20th April 1853 he urges him to support his resignation before the Holy Father and adds: ‘I was planning to write to His Holiness and the Queen to be able to resign and retire to my College of Catatonia, or to the Society of Jesus, if they accept me, because I am tired of being an Archbishop and I have already fulfilled my mission in this Island.’ (Cartas selectas, p. 192) How to interpret this attitude?
‘With this mysterious phrase he doesn’t seem to indicate the intention of joining the Jesuits as his episcopal character would prevent it, but rather – in case his resignation is accepted – the desire to remain as a guest in the College of the Jesuits at La Habana with the aim of evangelizing the rest of the Island.’ (Cartas selectas, p. 192, note)
Continue fighting titanically to remove the obstacles which are placed against his pastoral action (already indicated such as: situation of Clergy and cult, concubinages provoked by the unjust laws etc.) above all by means of large and detailed expositions to the General Captain of Cuba, to the Queen, to the Ministers etc. (see Vol.I of Ep.Claretiano).
Characteristics of this Phase
Plan of life as missionary pastor (Reading of Scriptures, Lives of Saints, spiritual reading, prayer, celebration of the liturgy, examen, resolutions, etc.), attention to the evangelization, good of the diocese, to the clergy and people, social promotion).
EIGHTH PHASE (1855 – 1860)
Fight for the Body of Christ Which is His Church
- The definition by Pius IX of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception (8 Dec.1854). Claret sees in it a confirmation of his idea of the apostolate as fight against the forces of evil, trampling the head of the serpent with Mary and like her ( cf. Pastoral Letter on the Immaculate: EE 435-485)
- The vision of the Angel of the Apocalypse (2nd and 23″1 Sept. 1855 EA pp.430, 646)
- The wounding at Holguin (1 Feb. 1856) (Aut 573-584); the Powers of Evil let loose at Claret.
Apostolic Reaction and Operative Decision
Continue fighting with the sword of the Word of God ‘to conserve the beauty of the Church and to preserve it from errors and vices’ contrary to truth and charity so that the Spouse of Christ be holy and immaculate without stain or wrinkles (cf. Eph.5:27).
The problem of the Church was not so much to keep the Pontifical States; but above all the conservation of the beauty of faith and revitalization confronted with the grave problem of unbelief.
Owing to the wounding at Holguin, a physical as well as psychological crisis is produced. His state of mind, crushed and undecided can be noticed from the correspondence of this period.
New Crisis (of Identity?)
His appointment for the office of the Confessor to the Queen (5 June 1857) which prevents him to give nourishment to his dominating passion: unceasing missioning and preaching (Aut 620-624).
- The publication of the book ‘Notes of a Plan to conserve the beauty of the Church and preserve it from Errors and Vices'(Madrid 1857). It deals with a plan of pastoral action at ecclesial level directed to the Bishops, but with the desire and intention of bringing to completion a profound renewal ‘in capite et in membris’ (in the head and members).
- The founding of the Academy of St. Michael (Aut 581-582) to ‘re-baptize the culture’ with three fundamentally lay hierarchies: writers, artists and propagandists.
- The creation of popular and parish libraries (1864). In the booklet he says with profound prophetic intuition: ‘In these last times it seems that God wants the lay people to have a greater role in the salvation of souls.’ Promotion of laity – promotion of women: their dignity, role in the family and parish apostolate.
Any Amount of Persecutions
It is happening above all in Madrid, to such an extent that he comes to write: ‘all heü has conspired against me’ (Aut 689).
Humble and Trusting Acceptance of the Will of God
- Continuing in the office of the confessor to the Queen for two reasons:
- oThus he is advised, being told to him that this would be the will of God.
- oFrom the position of this office, he would be able to do great good for the Church at large.
But the Saint doesn’t give himself rest: at the same time he tries to continue with carrying on with his mission heaping up his desires for evangelization as Apostolic Missionary. The numbers of the Autob. 620-624 reflect this attitude quite well: ‘centrifugal and centripetal forces: …. The balance of these two forces holds them in their orbits. …. this will of God is the centripetal force that keeps me chained here like a dog on his leash.’ (Aut 623)
- With a detached and poor style of life (Aut 623-636).
- Intervening, with the Nuncio Lorenzo Barili, in the appointment of Bishops (Aut 630).
- Making use of all the opportunities which are offered for visioning, not only in Madrid, but also in his journey with the Queen through different regions of Spain.
- Writing books, booklets, leaflets etc. (Aut 637-640)
- Working in the reform and restoration of the Church. He sends Fr. Paladio Currius to Rome with a volume of his manuscript ‘Mi Libro’ which contained a plan of Reform of the Church to present it to Pope Pius IX. The family circle of Claret, above all Dionisio González and Paladio Currius came to believe (and seemingly they were convinced of it) that the Saint was predestined to be the Successor of Pius IX and finish from the top the reform of the Church committing the entire People of God to the primitive poverty, simplicity and evangelizing capacity. Conceited idealism or true apostolic ardour or burning love for the Church?
Characteristics of this stage:
Generous dedication in favour of the Church, active collaboration in the reform of the Church ‘in capite et in membris’; prophetic initiatives about the active apostolate of the laity in the Church.
NINETH PHASE ( 1856 & 1861 – 1868)
Martyrial Dimensión : “In Cruce Vivo et in Cruce Cufio Morí” (aut 658)
(On the cross I have lived and on the cross I wish to die)
This phase started already at Holguin in 1856 – but in these last years the martyrial aspect would be increasing considerably converting itself to a kind of persecutionist wave.
The conservation of the Eucharistic Species (grace obtained at the Church of St. Ildefons of La Granja on 26 Aug. 1861: Deep configuration with Christ in the mystery of his redeeming sacrifice.
- ‘Pray and confront all the evils of Spain'(Aut 694).
What were those evils? Claret himself tells about them in Aut 695 and tells also to Mother París: ‘At present 3 great calamities are threatening Spain: Communism, Protestantism, and the Republic. God our Lord gave me to know in a very clear manner the necessity to pray and to promote the devotion of Trisagion, the Blessed Sacrament visiting and receiving it frequently and the Rosary.'(Letter dt. 27 August 1861,EC II p. 360)
He writes almost the same to Rev. Fr. Xifré and adds: ‘I know in a very special way that God our Lord wants that the good and fervent souls promote these three devotions.'(Ibid. pp. 358-359)
- Intensify the evangelization, prayer and sacrifice:
‘I knew that I would have to preach again and again and at the same time pray that the Lord would turn his kind and merciful eyes on worldly men that they may tremble, shudder and be converted.'(Aut 697)
Total Offering as a Victim
‘On May 11,1862 …. I offered myself to Jesus and Mary to preach, exhort, labour and suffer even death itself, and the Lord accepted my suffering.'(Aut 698)
The urgency of evangelization: ‘It is necessary that missionaries be sent there…'(Aut 728) And from here a desperate cry of prayer becomes loud: ‘Heavenly Father, send missionaries!'(Aut 728)
Sketch a plan similar to that of Jesus for himself:
- to eat little and work much
- to sleep little and pray much
- to speak little and suffer many sorrows and slanders without complaining or defending myself, but rather rejoicing in them (Aut 745)
‘I with the help of his grace, am resolved to suffer pains, fatigue, contempt, and mockery, complaints, slanders, persecution – even death.'(Aut 752
- Make himself fully available to the will of God:
‘I will tell the good God, ‘Lord, if you want to use me, a miserable instrument, to convert sinners here I am.’ (Aut 788)
- Offer to God … the souls that repent before the pulpit or confessional. (Aut 753)
- Innumerable calumnies and persecutions in 1864 (Aut 798), and even before because on 13 Jan. of the same year he wrote a letter to the Minister of Governing, Florencio Rodríguez Vaamonde, complaining about the persecution campaign in the press (ECII, pp.742-745).
- The recognition of the Kingdom of Italy from the part of Queen Isabel II (Aut 832-852), a big cross almost unbearable for the Saint.
Decision in Martyrial line
- Suffer with Jesus: ‘I considered the example of Jesus and realized how far I was from suffering what he suffered for me…’ (Aut 798 EA, p.446)
- Suffer like Jesus: not with the intention of defending himself but to get animated to suffer through the meditation of the texts of Holy Scriptures. He writes the booklet ‘El consuelo de un alma calumniada’. Thus it will be easier for him to follow the example of the Master, who suffers like the Redeemer of the humanity.
Characteristics of this stage:
passion for Christ and passion with Christ in Eucharistic victimation, great missionary longings and incredible austerity of life.
Outside the Autobiography
Note: The Autobiography comes to a close in August 1865. The last stage of Claret’s life will be reconstructed with texts of autobiographical nature: letters, Resolutions, spiritual notes, etc.
TENTH PHASE (1868-1870)
Eschatological Dimension: “Cupio Dissolví Et esse cum christo”
(I long to be dissolved and be in Christ)
- Possible spiritual marriage (22 July 1868: EA p. 662)
- The ‘Great Grace’ of love of enemies (12 Oct. 1869: EA p.663)
Proceed with the work of evangelization: ‘which I will inculcate more ‘opportune et importune’; third point of particular examen (EA pp584-586)
Vision of Missionaries
He sees them through revelation from above as arms and breasts of Mary (E A p. 665)
Preparation to Reach the Goal
The Conciliar works in Rome (1869-1870) in defence of the Church and of the Pope.
Crisis of Physical and Psychological Pain
Attitude of some Bishops in the Council: ‘Hearing the blunders and even blasphemies and heresies they were uttering, I felt such indignation and annoyance that the blood rushed to my head and it caused a cerebral haemorrhage.'( To Fr. Xifré, 1 July 1870: ECII, pp. 1481-82)
- Fight boldly to defend the truth and if its is necessary, die for it, as he said in the Conciliar Aula on 31 May 1870, connecting his sentiments with what happened in the wounding at Holguin: ‘Grant the Lord that I could shed all my blood and suffer death itself in confessing this truth! Would that I could consummate the sacrifice started in 1856, coming down from the pulpit after having preached about the faith and good customs on the 1st of February, Vigil of the Purification of Mary most Holy! I carry the stigma and scar of our Lord Jesus Christ in my body, as you see in my face and arm. Would that I could consummate my carrier confessing and proclaiming from the abundance of my heart this truth: I believe that the Supreme Pontiff is infallible.'(Discourse in I Vatican Council, 31 May 1870; EA, p. 490-91
Joy at the Mission Fulfilled
He has vivid and clear conscience of having fulfilled his mission ( cf. Letterto Paladio Curríus, 2 October 1869 EC, II p. 1423)
Longing for the Union
He doesn’t desire anything else than to be united definitively with Chríst like the membrs to their head (cf. The beautiful aspirations on the Feast of the Ascension, 26 May 1870; EA p. 588)
Desires of Union with Jesus Christ – Eucharist and with Mary
‘I desire to be united with Jesus in the Sacrament and in heaven.’ I long to see myself freed from the ties of this body and to be with Christ. Like Mary, my sweet Mother. (Ibid.)
Note how the most affectionate to the Eucharist and Blessed Virgin makes the whole life of Claret, from the infancy (Aut 37-39, 43-51, 55) until his death.
Characteristics of this phase:
- vEvangelizer until death;
- vIntimate joy of having fulfilled faithfully his mission;
- vArdent desire of definitive transfiguration:
- vContemplate Jesus and Mary without veils or chains of the traveller:
- v At full light.