General Considerations in Historical Study

  1. What is History?

It is memeory made present

A “teacher for life”

she is todays mother and tomorrow’s seed

It is an unfinished adventure

No wonder any serious student of history ends up being passionately attached to Life and Truth

“Man is the only animal that stubles on the same stone”, goes a proverb. When … was asked as to when one should begin aducation he said, “before 20 years of birth”. We are all affected by what goes before us.

Fr St. Augustine to know our past is memory and to see present to contemplate and build up future to hope for. History is our teacher of life.

  1. Why is History

Not just to memorize a series of names and dates

Not to obtain a late notice of past events

Not even to inclurse our cultural baggage or to find support for our own iams and ideas


To learn about our own past so that it lights up our present and heps us plan and build our future

To search for the truth until we find it

In a wau it to “look at the eyes of the dead” (Leopold Von Ranke)

If you don’t know your roots, we forget our identity. Of course we tend to look at the events from our point of view. Our own coloured glasses. We need to situate events in their context to learn the right lessons of life.

What for?

In order to know our own limitations

To achieve the wisdom of anyone who fully accepts himself and his own time

To be able to measure oneself up with his predecessors (a kind of security that is both humble and proud: “..on the shoulders of giants” (St. Thomas Aquinas)

To be totally honest while exploring the present and getting to the truth beneath

“Reading he past is betting on the future”

We are all child of our history. We are like the child on the shoulders of our parents in a crowd , lifted up in order to have a glimpse of what is happening around.

Four Golden rules for a history student

Rule of St. Thomas Apostle: See in order to believe. Jn 20.24-29:

Many things are being and retold as historical events. A student needs to verify the factuality. Eg. Xifre was reported to have prohibited eating of sardines for supper to avoid temptation. According to available sources we know for sure that he has prohibited to was to drink cow milk so as to void a kind of fever that was spreading those days causing the death of many seminarians. Another episode is about Martin Luther who pasted the 95 thesis on the board of the university as the agenda of discussion and not on the church door to protest to the church and provoke the public against Pope.

Go always to the essentials: What is history and what makes history are distinct

Events that happened constitute historical accounts. We have to make a distinction between events that make history. Eg. That Nepoleon married twice may be an event of history, but his decision to send the troops at a particular time to Russia changed the course of history.

Do not make verdicts: We try to understand; we don’t judge

One never really knows: becoming both active and passive subjects


Sources: Writen and oral documents: of first and second hand; juridical information

Chronicles, biographies, descriptive materials

Testimonies: oral and written; on the persons and environment

The archives: our own General Claretian archives

The Claretian documents: The autobiography, collected letters, claret in printed news of his time, annales of the congregation.; CMF constitutions, Directory in their several editions; Chapters Circular letters; the history of the congregation (Several authors: Aguilar, Fernandez, Alvarez)

What is history?

Do you still ask me?

History is …. You.

Faith in last 5 centuries

For outsiders it is difficult to understand the transitions in European history

Previously European community was religiously practicing, believing and confessions. Now it is a secular society. The last European Constitution has no mention of Christianity, even though Holy see struggled to include it, but did not succeed. There is no mention of Christian tradtion. But Europe cannot be understood without Christian tradtion. Europe communicated Christianity to many parts of the world by different means, be it by reigous teahing, philosophy and life witness.

            There is an interesting process of transition from a Christian world into a very secular country which has nothing to do with faith. It is a large process. The events of our martyres and the life of founder is to be situated in this context.

            In the 16th century Christian was era of religious wars.

A general scheme of European identiy:

15th Ce. 1400-1551 end of middle age- all euope was Christian and evengelized. Evangelizing process which began in 400 complte by 1400. Christianity bas become euope’s Faith inspite of differing populations. There were different processes of evangelisation. The only enemy was Islam from 8th c. Around 700 on. North of Meditarranean is Christian and south is Islam. When Christianity loses its hld on south due to Islamic conquest,. The history cannot be understood without Christianity.

Confessional identity: 16-17 c

16,, 17 c. After Ltheran reformation (1521) caused a division in western Christendom. In the northern meditaranean there was eastern tradtion. From the time of Luther the Christian tradition is divided on the authority of Pope and Traditions. (scripture, sacraments, role of ZMary, sacraments). Half of western chsitians accepts catholic faith and others reject it.a There were 30 years of tension 1551-. 1555. Two traditions are accepted: Catholic and Protestant. A European is either Catholic or Protestant.. Protestant has personal inspiration to interpret Bible. It causes more divisions and more confessions. We find caths and Lutherans, reformed, Calvinists, Anglicans, Prebytarians etc. Most groups were national. Anglican is English. Being Chrsitan does not unify but divide. No more universal church. One Church against many Churhes. Religious war for about 1555 to 1700 on for about 150 years of war. Famours is the 30 years war. 1618-1648 leading to an agreement: no religion, yes to nation. Not to argue no religion. Bestfalia pact. Religion makes us to fight against each other. It was a political pact, the origin of European secularism which takes religion not a menas for peace but war. Chrstian brother disappears. God divides. Forget God to remain united.

What unite people is nationality. One nation, one faith. All profess the religion of the king. Catholic monarch in spain: all are Catholics. Sweden no catholics. Eg. nitht of Barthelomeo. In Paris 25 of August 1598. Religion dies, nation is bron. But it is a closed unity. Here the battle between Engliand and France over Africa and transmit the rivalry into those colonies. Grandiosity of French, English. It was again cause of division between nations.

18th Century. A critic on religion. Culture of enlightenment. God does not interest us. Critic of revelation and religious traditions. Previously science, art and Philosophy has a balance between religion and culture. Now religion and culture is distanced. Eg. Canal of Panama. Phillip II in 1570 proposed a canal in Panama. He asked theologians and not engineers. Is it theologically licit to wound nature or is it moral. He was a Christian who wanted to respect God’s creation. Not to separate what God united. Noe God oes not matter and we don’t ask theologicans. We decide what we want. If we consult God, we have war. The birth of unbelief and critic of religion.

Enlightenment. All that is spoken of God is obsure and what Church does is obscurantism. Lak of progress, poverty, primitivism, On the contrary it will be illumination by new science, progess, knowledge, critic, growth. Against God. Faith and reason on war. Reason liberates man. Science is saviour. Here people and rulers are agreed. In the third stage a very powerful minority. But they take over by means of books communication. The news paper in 1751 in Paris and London. Diderot, Lambert

Till 1849

Politically spain in a delicate situation

1848 went to Canarias as he could not preach in Catalonia due to political

Till 50 very difficult political situation and it influence the congregation. More worried was ecclesial situation.

1835 on monasteries disappeared. Need for preachers. In Canarias he felt that the situation was similar in other parts of Spain. Some initiatives included laity, religious and priests through various associations, but limited in scope. Evalngelization needs greater and serious intitiative.

He comes with the catch word My spirit is for all the world. It helps us to know his situation and his mission. It is a very charismatic expression of his being. Our spirit is not to closed up to limited scope.

1849 he speaks with the bishop of his plan. This project is our congregation.


Founder, 2 sent by Bishop (Xifre and Clotet) and the three known Stephen Sala, Dominic Fabrgas, Manuel Villaro). He speaks about them

A priest is for him a man of god, Spiritual man and evangeliser.

In those days priests were functionaries in their parish and did not preach. He asked for collaborators who would abandon parishes. Bishop accepted this three and the other 2 were sent by him.

Another detail: Fr. Claret did not have his own house. First house he had was that of Merce. He lived as Jesus without any property. The first house was a gift form Bishop. It was given.

First lived in the bishop’s house, then in parish, then in a room of the sisters, cuba in the bishop’s house. He never had no house. A bihop of 19th C spain as representative of an institution was an important person, had money. Cuba was the richest province of Spain. He had good income by his office. He gave lot of money to the poor and for publication of books and also to congregation. The Barcelona house was bought with him. Claret has no house. He died poor. When he died what was left was one bag for the poor and the other for the congregation (no banks then).

Even now the priests and bishop’s have their own house.

He was giving account to Xifre about his income.

State was giving him 18,000 reales per year

Queen paying 3000 reales per year.

Congregation: fonded in Vic. An expression of founder “aToday begins a great work”. They are only 6, good priests, no house, know to preach, not not how, want to live together, but never live, want to share goodd, but have nothing. Left parishes, but not knowing what is ahead.

Anxious situation. Worldly way not easy to believe it. organize as Claret proposed

Divide the year in 4 parts with the rhythm of rural life

3 months for personal formation (summer) farmers are working.

preach wit people, autumn (sept-Nov)

3 months to work with parishes retreats (winter)

3 months again preaching to people (spring).

The house was of Mercedes and the government held an art hall there which took 30 years of Xifre to get back.

The first rule of life is missing. Claret wrote one in 1857 and again worked on 57 to present Holy see and got back with lot of corrections. 65 it was presented for definitive approval and got it in 1975 before 5 years of ad experimentum.

It was difficult times.

From 30 very difficult states of affairs.

Many mercedarians and a few Benedictines and Jesuits in the congregation. They were expelled fom their cloisters. Claret took with him to Cuba some religious priests: 2 capuchins and a Jesuit. It was a normal thing at that time.

Congregation culd not present itself as a congregation. So no vows. If they take vows they could be persecuted. First vows in 70 when congregation was in France. In spain it would be illegal.

Accoring to French rev. religious life is not useful for society. Only parish could remain. This is why congregation had difficulty

58 after the chapter elected xifre along with Claret wanted to present itself as an association to get civil approval. But not as a religious association.

In 68 in decree of expulsion the name of the congregation also is included. Though it was a civil association. When leave parish, it is not just money and position, ut legal situation.

Civil situation had impact in community. Less vocation as entrance was difficult. It is to be a second class situation. Till 75 there was great vocational crisis in the whole of Spain. From then there was a rise in vocation and many congregations were founded. Till them very few founded. After 75 was so great that the state in 1902 made a law prohibit founding new religious association. In 27 years with the freedom of chuch many vocations associations and congregations. Congregation grew a lot in this time. Same with all congregations.

          early moment: the will to be apostles. The corrections changed the style of authority proposed by congregation. Xifre proposed a Jesuit model. Superior General life long and provincials appointed by General and local superiors appointed by provincial and authority of superior is strong. The Dominican in charge changed the Jesuit syle into Dominican style. Provincial elected by Chapter. General not life long. Community elects superior.. more democratic. Shared approach not absolutist. Congregation accepts it in letter but not in Spirit. Esp. Xifre. Did not want much changes in matters of authority.

          Congregation to be subjected to a functionary of Holy see.

          Our CC wanted to wrok of rsalvation of all in the whole wolrd. Hly see said few members and cannot work for all in the world. Salvation of souls. Xire did not accept it. At least the soul of all in the world. Holy see accepted. This is typical of 19th c. The officials of Holy see imposed themselves on all congregations. Vat. II invited all to go back to their origins.

          Cong. Is a child of its time. In 62 cong presented cc in model Jesuit. It is returned. Xifre and Claret came together to discuss it. They changed the Jesuit to redetorist model. As it is an spostolic congregation, but life Jesuits and was similar to what Claret and Xifre wanted. But did not want dominical style. In 1922 after canon law of 17 we changed the Cc approved by holy see.

          Xifre asked life long General , but holy see did not accept. He died as General after 41 years.

First community had to miss Claret. It meant a lot. In September received the house of Merce, it had to live together and plan for mission. Bishop calls and tells him the appointment. He had to abandon the new community. He was just 42 years, young to be a bishop. He was known and appreciated much. Claret did not belong like others to Carlist party. Regina wanted to rely on him the richest diocese with the confidence that he would ot pass on money to the rebels Carlists. He did not enter into political questions, only a man of God.

– cong. Had to take care of itself. A complicated thing. First claretians one went to Cuba: manuel Villaro. Others remained. Why Manuel as he was the youngest and did not have capacity to live in community and claret took him with him. Clotel narrates in the writing of founder, as Claret say

A great work Is begun as member started to laugh. A great work with us, how? It was Villar. Another was angry with him. It was Xifre. Xifre was serious, hard working, a natural leader. He knew that the work they began needed much force and big work. He liked what Claret said. So he was angry.

Villaro goes with Claret. Villaro was very sick in Cuba. 1853 came back to spain back to Vic. He did not return to community as he needed more care which community could not give. He went to his house and died shortly. In the 3rd year of foundation, theoretically outside of community. Some claretians interpreted that Claret founded the second community in Cuba and lived community life with people. In that sense he was destined by Claret to that community. When Claret was inMadrid, he lived in acommunity with 2 Claretians, but not official communities of cong. Think of the legal difficulties to found religious communities.

Xifre as General he considered Vilaro has abandoned the cong. So in the first history, Xifre did nto want Vilaro to be in the foto. 1901 the photo of Vilaro is absent. The spiri of Xifre culd not permit it. It remained till death of Alsinain 1922.

Chapter 1922. cong decides after much discussion that Claret had reason and Villaro was accepted as co-founder and took 5 co-founders.

Community life was difficult. Economic , absence of funder, new members came from other congregations, a Benedictine, 1 jesuit 2 mercedarians. A Dominican living with us, a dicocesian priest and a brother. Too many charisms together to create a new constitution. Many problems.

Very pastoral, but community life was diffiult as in a context, lack of common bonds etc. no common formation. Sala was superior. He could not harmonize the community. In 858 when he died the community had a big tension. Some even said to end the project. It happened in 1868 when rev. expelled the cong. Some thought to end up with the goup.

          financial situation. The members gave p their economic possibilities with ease. Did not have parishes. Did not accept any return for preaching. Some worte books, but not selling much. Very poor. Serious financial crisis. Sala worked much with Vedruna sisters ans some were criticized. But it was the only money coming into community. Chaplaincy was helping. Xifre was critcizing Sala saing that Claret was not liking chaplaoncy for sisters, but preaching the Word to people. Mass stipends were only income. Lived in poverty, but did not die. Could not accept students. Some seminarists form Vic attracted by the missionaries wanted to live and work and enter the cong. But could not enter as cong could not maintain them. When Xifre became General 1858 he realize that we have to admit studnts who wold be the future who could imbibel the spirit and be formed in community living and learn to preach.

          One of the first decison of Ch was to accppt the money people gave fr missions, but not ask for it. The stipends were the only incme, the othe money was to be used for the formaton of missionaries. To receive vocations, published an advertisement in cath magazine.

          Admitted students and grew.


Antonio Bellella cmf