(Born in Barbastro 1859– died in Thuir 1880)
In 1869 Spain continued in her revolutionary frenzy. The Claretian missionaries were forced to live in Prades (south of France) in exile except for the two small groups of missionaries who have left for Africa (Argel) and America (Santiago in Chile). In addition to it, there were small cells of clandestine presence in some localities of Spain. In September of the same year the daring Fr. Xifré sent Fr. Diego Gavin to his native place of Huesca to explore the possibilities of a lawful foundation and he found a place in Barbastro, a city which today is filled with strong memories for all Claretians. In a few months the people along the river Vero y del Cinca would know how a Claretian evangelizes.
Iganatius Buil, the first Claretian about whom a biography is written, was born in Barbastro 10 years earlier, on 30th July 1859. This book was given a meaningful title: The practice of little virtues, or the biography of a virtuous young man. (Madrid 1887). Little Ignatius went to the school of Scolapians in Barbastro, already sactifying those class rooms with his little feet, which 66 years later would be witnesses of inexplicable gestures of the Claretian martyrs. There besides going to classes, little Ignatius served as altar boy in the small Church attached to the school and began to feel the call to priesthood.
God leads the steps of each one where He wants, not always in ways that look obvious and logical. For Ignatius the preaching of the itinerant missionaries was more attractive than the exemplary ministry of education by the Scolapians. Thus, Iganius asked for admission in our congregation, as soon as he reached the age to do so. In March, 1874 he entered the big community of Thuir, where a few months later he would start the canonical novitiate. His novice master was Fr. Clement Serrat, future Superior General, while Fr. Clotet was local superior and sub-director of the congregation.
The profession of Ignatius, the first and the final, as done in those days took place on 2nd August 1875, in the hands of Fr. Xifre. Referring to that day, he wrote to his parents, “What a great day for me! I have made to God the offering of my consecration, my vows, of full determination of my will..! If only you knew the greatness and solemnity of this act!”
Ignatius continued the study philosophy and theology in the house in Thuir to prepare himself for a priesthood that he would never exercise. His formator during that period was another renowned Claretian, Fr. James Juanola. It was a time of sanctification, of giving to his person the “form” required for an effective mission, although his physical condition was weak. He did his study, prayer and common life with a sense of freedom, overcoming difficulties and not letting immediate inclinations win over him (“ascesis”). Thus he advanced and persevered, always with great joy and hope.
For a long time he suffered migraines, but did not lose his exterior affability. It was a reason for admiration by all who lived with him. He enjoyed the liturgical celebrations and devotions in the big community of about 70 missionaries. He wrote to his parents, “We are coming to the end of the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, preceded by novena preached with zeal and fervour by the young priests in the house…”
A personal notebook of the seminarian Ignatius showed the way he distributed the seven days of the week for reading of the chapters of the constitutions, practices of evangelical life which he desired to exercise and the small prayers he was to recite. It is a model of the “project of life” for the progress of missionary life.
The life of Ignatius was brief, but intense. He did not have the opportunity to realize great things, but he knew how to ennoble the little and the daily events by carrying them out in an extraordinary and magnificent way. He did not leave the house of formation. On 15th January 1880, at the age of 20, he was ill with a strong pulmonary infection, which must have been affecting him for some time. Medicines did not have any effect on him. He was given the anointing of the sick and he died peacefully on 19th January.
Fr. Clotet was one of those who admired his fidelity in small things, his progress in holiness in a very short time and the serenity with which he welcomed death. The last words of Fr. Founder “my desire is to depart and be with Christ” (Phil. 1.23) was resounding in these last days in Ignatius Buil.
– P. Severiano Blanco