Booklets on Formation 5
General Prefecture of Formation
SP1RITUAL AND FORMATI VE TEXTS OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY CLARET
Jesùs Bermejo, CMF
English Translation, Joseph C. Daries, CMF
Aut Autobiography of Saint Anthony Mary Claret (ed. Madrid: BAC, 1981).
EA Escritos autobiagràficos de San Antonio Maria Claret, ed. prepared by José Maria Viñas, CMF ( Madrid 1981).
EC Epistolario Claretiano, prepared by José Maria Gil, CMF (Madrid 1970 and 1987) 3 vols.
PC Perfectae Caritatis (Decree of Vatican II on Religious Life).
III. VOCATION AND FORMATION OF THE MISSIONARY
125. Being well Rooted and persevering
‘Happy and blest are they”, says St. James “who remain faithful through out temptation, for the Lord will give them the crown of glory” (cf. Jas 1:12). Happy will you be if you remain faithful throughout this temptation; but woe to her who let herself be carried away by the enemy. This is why Jesus spoke so often of weak and cowardly souls, who he said were like a house lacking a foundation that fell to the ground when the rains carne. (cf. Mt 7:24-27). Or they are like the seed sown on rocky ground, which, since it has no depth, is soon dried up by the heat of the sun (cf. Lk 8:6). Finally, He says that he who puts his hand to the plough and then looks back is not fit for the kingdom of heaven (cf. Lk 9:62). And the expositors say that in this parable He was alluding to go religious men and women who leave community to live with their families…
‘Careful, ladies Under the pretext of looking to your bodily health, don’t loose your spiritual health, for in this case It usually happens that the latter is lost, while the former Is not gained. We tell you frankly that we have never allowed a religious to leave her community for reasons of heath, even when we were a simple director of souls. Still less would we allow it now that we are (however unworthy) a prelate.
“The advice we usually give sisters is that they take the remedies the doctor prescribes for them in their house or convent, and for the rest, that they resign and conform themselves to the will of God, trusting that if it suits them, He will give them health. At the same time they should consider that they are spouses of Jesus, who chose to be born in a stable. What a house! How unfurnished! How unsanitary! He spent seven years in Egypt, and not only without a hearth and home, but even without the necessary food, so that he even had to beg… Throughout the course of his life, what a small and unpretentious house he lived in, in Nazareth! And when he went off to preach, he said of himself: The birds of the air have nests and the beasts of the fields their lairs, but the Son of Mari has nowhere to lay his head’ (Lk 9:58). Finally, he died in a bleak field, at the mercy of the weather, naked on a cross.
Wives who truly love their husbands do not hesitate to dress, live and die as their spouses do and alongside their spouses” (Letter to the prioress and Community of the Ursulines in Puerto Principe; Santiago, Cuba, March 2, 1881: EC 1, pp. 461-62, 463-64).
126. Advice to Sisters
‘Bear in mind the holy counsels we gave you. I will briefly state them:
1. Walk always in the presence of God.
2. All that you do, do always for the greater glory of God.
3. Hold all sin in horror. Small though it may be, it always displeases God, wounds charity and makes it grow cold.
4. Bear everything that is painful to you out of love of God.” (Letter to Sr. Anastasia Congent; Santiago, Cuba, March 16,1851: EC III, p. 74).
127. Plan of Missionary Life
‘If a missionary is to work independently, he must have neither a fixed residence nor any position of responsibility that might offer the least occasion for his being discredited…
‘The missionary needs to recollect his spirit by continual study and by complete withdrawal from the world for or certain periods of the year, so that he might always be disposed at his prelate’s bidding to continue his apostolic tasks fruitfully. To this end, community life, such as is practiced in my residence, is utterly indispensable, because in this way we are able to establish and follow a plan of life in which private and common prayer and study are intermingled by means of conferences, which are most profitable and even necessary, with daily application to the confessional to preaching and to other obligations flowing from the sacred ministry in general and the special character of missionaries.
‘In this way things are so arranged that they keep alternating their forays into different towns, returning from time to time to their principal residence in order to prepare themselves anew, and substituting for one another, so that on the one hand the mission is uninterrupted and fruitful, while they do not lack the necessary rest that this work calls for” (Letter to General Gutiérrez de la Concha; undated but most likely in March or April, 1851: EC I, pp. 492-93).
128. True Motives for Vocation
“In order to ascend to the sublime state of the priesthood, one must have a true vocation, to which one is called, like Aaron, and not enrol in the ecclesiastical state, as some do, simply to enjoy the income of chaplaincies without benefit of learning or virtue, let alone out of more speculation. Now as we can by no means blindly tolerate let alone encourage the fact that there are many lay holders of chaplaincies, we must perforce demand: that each one of these individuals should manifest in particular whether he has a true vocation, lacking which he shall renounce the chaplaincies he holds, so that their title may be given to another more worthy of belonging to the clergy. Such aspirants must be fully aware of their duty to be chaste, since the lustful are unworthy of the clerical state; moreover, they should practice the virtues, frequent the sacraments, have a great love for the affairs of God our Lord, attend church services, devoted to Mary Most holy, zealous for the salvation of souls, edifying the faithful by word and good example; they should teach catechism and apply themselves to studies, for a cleric without learning is like a bell that does not ring” (letter to the diocesan clergy; Puerto Principe, August 4 1951: EC I, pp. 582-83’).
129. The Conduct of Some Seminarians
“While I’m on the subject of seminarians, I must advise you to keep an eye on Borrero. When he carne here last year, he did not behave well at all; as a Camagueyan, he dislikes all Spaniards, but especially me. He showed some signs of lewdness and lack of faith. A well-behaved Spaniard, after seeing and hearing him, told a friend: ‘In time, this fellow will come a great heretic, because he has both the talents and evil ideas for it’. When I was in Santiago I used to observe all of them in chapel noticed that he always kept his lips closed. I once told him that he should be reciting with the others; he did so for a little while, but then grew tired of it.
“As for Mustelier, for the moment I do not intend to ordain him. I want to try him further, because I have learned that not too long ago, when someone suggested that he present himself for orders, he answered that he was still young and wanted to enjoy himself a bit more. What kind of priest will a young man of such sentiments turn out to be? The same as the kind we have, alas! And in that case I don’t want him to be ordained.
It seems well to me that Galan has presented himself. Tell him to attend the conference in Latin” (Letter to Fr. Anthony Barjau; Puerto Principe, September4, 1853: EC I pp. 882-83).
130. Criteria for Selecting Seminarians
“I have no problem with your admitting Louis as a seminarian, because he is recollected and devout, and this can contribute much toward persevering and increasing the clerical spirit among the seminarians. Moreover, when he is ordained, he can contribute to and influence the French to practice their religion more.
“You have done quite well not admitting Garzot in the College, since he has not given up being Chaplain of the Choir. I charge you to watch him and note whether he attends classes or not, whether or not he attends the Communions of the College and other functions, so that you can tell me about it when I come. Up to the present, I have not seen him, except where he was earning money by making clothes…
“See to it also that you spur on the boys you are teaching and make them study” (Letter to Fr. Anthony Barjau; Puerto Principe, November 20, 1855: EC I, pp. 1158-59).
131. Preparation of the Missionaries: Studying Languages
Seeing the Queen’s good desires in favour of religion and good customs, I have considered gathering some priests to give spiritual retreats to the clergy and missions to the people. I would like these priests to know French and English, since at the present these two languages are a necessity for a missionary, as I have observed ever since I left there (Cuba)” (Letter to Fr. Anthony De Gaidàcono; Madrid, June 7, 1857: EC I, p. 1357).
132. Solitude and Obedience
“Yesterday I left the upper room of the retreat, which I made all alone. In other years I used to have the consolation of seeing myself accompanied and encouraged by all of you, my dear family members. Formerly I had so many companions, but now I’m alone! Vae soli! Happy you, who have gained fathers and brothers, while I remain like a tree in winter, without fruit or leaves. But, withal I have not lost trust in God, and so I shall say with holy Job: The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away, for it has so pleased him, may His name be blessed’ (Job 1:21)…
For some time now the Lord has been training and treating me Jesuit style, that is, taking away from me what I like the best, and denying me what I desire the most. I dare say your Father Novicemaster will not give a novitiate as rigorous and severe as the one the Lord is putting me through, for he has left me nothing but spirit and utterly dry bones, like those Ezekiel saw (Ezk 37:3); but I will always trust in the Lord; He is doing it because it suits me.
‘Take courage, Fr. John; be constant and persevering in your holy resolve, and know that nowhere else you will be so well off, not only in the spiritual and eternal realm, but also in the bodily and temporal. If this Is not so, then tell me: What are you lacking? Sure enough, you will answer as the Apostles did: ‘Nothing, Lord.’ (cf. Lk 22:25). Just look at all you have gained. How many thanks you should be giving God for your vocation! I’m sure you’ll tell me: I am already doing so’. Yet I dare tell you that you’re still doing little, and that insofar as I can I’ll do it for you, asking God continually to keep you in the Society and to give you a heart that is humble and obedient even to death, death on a cross (cf. Phil 2:8).
“Here I go with one of my comparisons which I know will make you laugh, but which you’ll also like, because you’ll see yourself in it. Do you remember how Fr. Galdacano and the students loved to fly kites? The wind carried the kites so high, yet they could be easily held and guided with just a string? Well, there’s Fr. Lobo for you: sometimes he’s carried aloft with a gust of zeal or inspiration; but he needs a string to hold him down and guide him, so that he can be let out or pulled in at discretion. So long as the string of obedience, submission and docility remains intact, he will fly very well and profitably. But if (God forbid!) that string should break, the same would happen to him as happens to a kite when the string breaks: it would come crashing down in a moment: Thus, no matter how many years you remain in the Society, if you grow so old that all the rest are younger than you, it makes no difference: obey, be lifted up by their counsels. Think: ‘This young man is like a boy leaving his house with a kite – namely you- in one hand and a ball of string – obedience and submission – in the other, which will let you out or draw you in, insofar as he knows that it is ad majorem Dei gloriam”(Letter to Fr. John N. Lobo; Madrid, July 12, 1957: EC I pp. 1375-77).
133. Witness of the Religious Life
‘Be so good as to tell the Nuns that for the moment things are going to get worse, as I have been saying for a long time now; and that it is therefore fitting that they exorcise the storm with prayer and virtues, and thus God may perhaps take pity on us.
“But alas I do not see the kind of fervor that one might hope for in religious communities, nor the abnegation and obedience towards higher and lower superiors that are necessary for all religious; and this gives me more concern than do all enemies of religion, for the latter have no more power than God permits them and they are so to speak the stick God uses to chastise our lukewarmness and little observance. So I beg all of them, for the sake of God and the Blessed Virgin, to pray and be as observant as possible; let each of them strive to be as good, obedient, recollected, silent, fervent as if they were at the point of death. Let them see whether the rest are good or not, let each one in particular be good; I have no doubt that the plague that is threatening us would be averted if this were done in all convents” (Letter to Fr. Francis Bofili; Madrid, November 2, 1857: EC I, pp. 1454-55).
134. Dignity of the Missionary
“The greatest service you can render your Lord and God is to devote yourself to mission and to the conversion of sinners. St. Gregory says that there is no honor like that of a man who becomes God’s helper in saving souls; it is so great, adds St. Dionysius, that his dignity is not only angelic, but divine. Yes, how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of peace and of the blessings of the life to come, as St. Paul exclaims with Isaiah (Is 52:7, Rom 10:5)! They are beautiful in the speed with which they race like heavenly spirits through whole peoples. And like angels, they are concerned for the salvation of souls, without looking for anything but the glory of God and the welfare of their fellow human beings. They are beautiful, too, for their strength and courage in overcoming the rough ways, thorns and difficulties of the ministry; beautiful for their purity, which keeps them from being led astray by worldly interests, applause, honors and comforts; beautiful, finally, in the winsomeness of their exemplary lives and in the sweetness and holiness of their teaching, which converts, attracts and wins souls over to love” (Letter to the Missionary, Theophilus; 1858: EC III, pp. 331-32).
135. The Missionary, a Savior of the World
In doing so (incorporating us in the apostolic ministry), says St. Jerome, He has willed that we, too, should be saviors of the world. Ask yourself, then, Theophilus, whether there can be any honor like the one Jesus Christ bestows on us by accepting us into his apostleship and sharing with us his title of savior of the world. We should be greatly encouraged, then, to follow in his footsteps, working day and night at our mission, shedding our life’s blood and spending our life in its flower, as Jesus did, should that be God’s holy will. What I want to tell you is that you must let nothing daunt you or frighten you, but you must keep pressing onward” (Letter to Theophilus; 1858: EC lI, pp. 332-33).
136. God Defends and Rewards the Missionary
“When a missionary undertakes labors, dangers and privations for the love of God, ho also wins God’s protection and so to speak obliges His loving Providence to defend him as He once defended Daniel from falling into the lions’ claws, which are the infernal spirits.
‘Moreover, the missionary is not saved by himself alone; ho enters heaven accompanied by those who have been saved through his zeal” (Letter to Theophilus; 1858: EC Iii, p. 335).
137. Important Advice to a Missionary
“Now… I am going to give you some advice based on my own experience. It will be most helpful to you if you put it into practice.
1.You must be a great friend of prayer. In this, you will be imitating Jesus, who ‘spent the night in prayer to God’ (Lk 6:12), and strongly recommended prayer to his apostles. All renowned missionaries have been men of prayer. He who asks, receives’ (cf. Mt 7:8).
2. Keep all your senses mortified. Speak very little, but when you must speak do so in a serious and affable way. Keep careful watch over your eyes and don’t allow them to wander when women are present, because this is something you will be watched and criticized for. Avoid speaking with them, but when you need to do so, I would offer you this advice:’ Let your conversation with women be short and to the point, ‘and during it, keep your eyes cast down’.
3.. You should never eat or drink outside the house where you are lodging. Let your meals be simple and sparing, and as private as possible. The Italians have a saying that ‘no one gives a credit to saints who eat.’ Bo mortified in everything, and insofar as it does not harm your health, the more you suffer in silence, the more edification you will give.
4. One thing that you should deeply abhor is self-interest and greed. You must be a great friend of poverty. In all things, choose for yourself the poorest, basest and most contemptible.
5. While humility is the foundation of all virtues, meekness is the shield which the soldier of Jesus Christ – I mean, the missionary – must carry on his arm. For persecutions – and great persecutions – await him, and they can only be overcome with patience. Persecutions are so inevitable for missionaries, that they are a sure sign by which one can tell whether they are sent or not, since there has been no exception to this rule up to the present” (Letter to Theophilus; 1858: EC III, pp. 337-38).
138. Silence and Trust In Tribulation
“Who would pay any attention, dear Theophilus, to the persecutions, slanders and other obstacles in a missionary’s way, seeing how Jesus Christ himself, St. Paul, the other Apostles and all true missionaries have had to travel along this same road? Therefore you should recall what the prophet Isaiah says: ‘By waiting and by calm you shall be saved; in quiet and in trust your strength lies’ (Is 30:15). Strive on in silence, then, working and waiting for the Lord to dispel the tempest. And if persecution grows too severe, move on to another city, but never give up or abandon your ministry or mission, because the enemy is only trying to scare you like a frightened child. Happy are you if you suffer to the death!” (Letter to Theophilus; 1858: EC III, pp. 340-41).
139. The Sword of the Word
“Always remember: ‘The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating and dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the reflections and thoughts of the heart,’ says St. Paul (cf. Hb 4:12). To clarify this teaching of the Apostle, I am going to give you a comparison. To be able to cut something, a sword must be well-honed and withdrawn from its scabbard: otherwise it could not cut, even if the scabbard were gilt and jeweled. Even so, if the sword of God’s word, is to cut the enemies of divine and human love with both edges, it must be well honed with purity of intention and withdrawn from the scabbard of human eloquence and flowery rhetoric…
‘Moreover, the eternal Word should be considered as existing in three states: incarnate, consecrated and preached. In order to become incarnate, the Word chose the most humble, but also the most chaste and fervent mother, Mary the Most Holy. And as Mary is the mother of the Incarnate Word, so also, says St. Bernard, the priest is as it were the father and the mother of the Word consecrated and preached. Hence he must strive to be humble like Mary and fervent like Mary. The consecrated Word exists and remains in the Blessed Sacrament as long as the humble species of bread and wine exist and remain, so that if they disappear, the reality disappears as well. Something similar happens in the preached Word. As long as it maintains the humble likeness of Jesus, it produces its effect. But as soon as this likeness disappears and the preacher adopts an arrogant and noisy style, it instantly loses its power. It is no longer a divine word, but only a human word, and it is regarded as merely human. People may admire its artful arrangement, but nobody will be converted by it.
“The Blessed Virgin Mary, says St. Thomas of Villanova, ‘pleased God through her chastity, but conceived Him through her humility.’ Through her chastity she pleased God, and through her humility she conceived Him in her virginal womb. Scarcely had she given birth to Him at midnight, when she wrapped Him in poor swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, near to the entrance to the cave at Bethlehem, where He was adored by angels, shepherds and kings.
“Learn from Mary Theophilus. By your chastity you,too, must please God, and by your humility in studying the Scriptures and praying God, you will conceive what you must say. The Virgin wrapped the Word in poor swaddling clothes; you must wrap the Word in a simple and natural style. The Virgin placed Him in a manger with all reverence; you, while not neglecting the decorum fitting your sacred ministry or the reverence due the Divine Word, must so place it that the most uneducated and even stupid people can grasp and understand it – even the beasts could reach the manger, since they were at home there. The preached Word should be treated the same way: ‘His communication is with the simple’ (Prov3:32). ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, therefore… He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor’ (Lk 4:18; Is 61:1).” (Letter to Theophilus; 1858: EC III, pp. 351-52).
140. The Word and the Coin
‘You should use words as you would coins:
1. As you would use coins of the realm, you should use the language of the realm, so that everyone can understand you.
2. The money given to the poor and to servants and the kind most commonly used, is small silver coins, while the rich use large denominations of silver and gold. Therefore, when you are dealing with poor and common people, use ordinary talk that everyone can understand; but if you should sometime have to speak with learned folk, you should then use words that befit their literary wealth.
3. Money also comes in paper form. You should use this form in leaflets, booklets, etc., and thus you will do great commerce for heaven” (Letter to Theophilus; 1858: EC III, p. 353).
141. Devotion to Mary and Love of God
“Finally, remember that Mary, the Mother of the Incarnate Word, is also the Mother of Fair Love: Ego mater pulcrae dilectionis (Sir 24:24, Vulgate).
“This, Theophilus, is the last and main acquisition you must make in order to be good missionary: Be devoted to Mary and love God very much. If you do this, you will preach well, as the Venerable (St. John of) Avila says, and indeed you will do all things well, for, as St. Francis of Sales teaches, all that is done out of love is love” (Letter to Theophiius; 1858: EC III, p. 353).
142. Fidelity to Vocation
“I have received your letter, with the news that you have renounced your deanery. I give thanks to God and you for it: to God, because He has called and chosen you ‘you have not chosen me; I have chosen you’ (Jn 16:16). And to you, because you have corresponded to the divine vocation.
But the business is not over yet. Recall what St. Peter said: ‘Behold, we have left all things and have followed you’ (Mk 10:28). But Jesus made little or no account of the former part letting the full accent fall on the latter, when He said: ‘You who have followed me…’ Well, then, my friend, you must follow Jesus, you must deny yourself, you must take up your cross every day and follow Jesus. Imagine that you’re like a handkerchief in your superior’s pocket; that you’re an old walking stick; that you are like a statue that is dressed or undressed, put on an altar or put in a corner where it is covered with dust and cobwebs…,etc., etc.” (Letterto Fr. John N. Lobo; Madrid, May 4, 1859: EC I, pp. 1759-60).
143. Vocational Discernment
“I am writing to you as a friend and hope you will be so good as to show me the courtesy one might expect of a friend. You yourself saw and witnessed the letter my nephew Valerio wrote to me. The way I feel about this boy, he’ll either not become a priest or else he’ll become one like so many others who only want spent their life as they would any social career – and I would find either of these cases very painful.
lf he’s not going to be a priest, it would be a pity for him to lose his youth and later, as they say, drown his sorrows, because he would have neither a job nor a habit of working. ‘If ho becomes a priest, I don’t know what will come of him, because, I don’t see much talent in him judging from the letters he has written me at various times. Moreover, last year he skipped his examinations, which means he has either little talent or little application, both of which are no recommendation. Sometimes a middling or small talent is compensated for by abundance of piety and fervor; but alas, I don’t believe that he has this piety and unction, which are the very nub of the priestly spirit. I don’t know that he is actually bad, but I do know that he is not very fervent.
‘More than this: he wants to enter the seminary as a boarder, but why? Because he lacks time to study? No: his time is all his own; all ho needs to do is to apply himself. I believe he’s like those sick people who think that if they change beds they’ll feel better; but, since health is in the body, not in the bed, once they achieve their aim, they feel the same as they did before.
Moreover, in view of the many seminaries I’ve seen and seminarians whose confessions I’ve heard, I’m still of the opinion that it is better to be a day student than a boarder, because the former are better behaved than the latter” (Letter to Fr. Joseph Xifré; San Ildefonso, July 13: EC I, pp. 1812-13).
144. On the Vocation of His Nephew
Here is the letter that my nephew Valerio has written me. You and Fr. Passarell may do what you deem suitable. What I would like to know is what his true vocation is, because I’m afraid that after they’ve lost their youth, pujaran los habits a la figueira (Catalan: they’ll hang their cassocks on a fig tree), or else they will be priests for the sake of a meal, as so many – alas, too many – are actually doing; and this would cut me to the very quick” (Lettar to Fr. Joseph Xifré; San Ildefonso, August 12, 1859: EC Il, p. 19).
145. The Formation of the Clergy, a Means of Saving the World
‘I see that the world is lost, and I can find no other remedy than to form a good clergy who by their example and preaching may guide the flock of the heavenly Father. And I have no doubt that this will be achieved if what I teach in the ‘Well-Instructed Seminarian’ is put into practice. The second means is look to the formation of young people of both sexes” (Letter to Mother Antonia Paris; San Ildefonso, August 31, 1860: EC Il, p. 174).
146. Strength and Gentleness in Formation.
‘If in time some other shows himself to be unruly, throw him out, whether he is a student or a priest. Search out well to see who is sowing tares, and once you know who it is, throw him out, no matter who he might be. Don’t be all patience and prudence; be energy as well, for, as St. Bernard says, you don’t break iron chains with files made out of wool. Thus, we must work suaviter et fortiter.’ lf it’s one of the priests, If it’ is one of the older Fathers, tell him on my behalf that from today on he should reckon himself to be outside the community” (Letter to Fr. Dionysius Gonzàlez; Madrid, February 6, 1861: EC Il, p. 231).
147. A “Pronounced Vocation”
“Regarding my nephew, I am of the opinion that during the summer we see how he performs in some office, because, if he does not have a pronounced vocation, it is better that he not be a clergyman” (Letter to Fr. Joseph XIfré; Madrid, January 30, 1862: EC Il, p. 436).
148. Witness of Poverty
“Regarding holy poverty… I know quite well what is called for by the holy canons of the Church, and what Is commanded by the laws of the kingdom; but that is for common and ordinary cases, where I deem it well and good. But what is happening among us Is an exceptional case willed by God, an I will prove this to you by two simple reasons: the first is that experience has shown, as you yourself have seen, that you have lacked nothing and will lack nothing in the future, if you put your trust in God; the second is that God wants a public witness to be given to poverty, since today, unfortunately, people trust in money than in God. I will tell you to shift as you may, but let holy poverty reign in and through all things, for it is a virtue so clearly loved by Jesus and Mary” (Letter to Mother Antonia Paris; Madrid, January 30, 1862: EC Il, pp. 440-41).
149. Advice to the Claretian Missionary Sisters
l am very happy that the number of that community is growing. Keep on forming all of them in a true spirit of humility, poverty, charity and zeal for the greater glory of God and the good of souls (Letter to Mother Antonia Paris; Madrid, February 23, 1863: EC Il, p. 626).
150. Looking for Firm and Constant People
‘As for founding a third or even more convents in the south, in my opinion you shouldn’t do so if they’re going to be for natives of that region; for by reason of the climate they would be lazy and this would lead to laxity. I would prefer you to found in Catalonia, Navarre or Biscay, where the people are naturally more firm and constant, and where there are more vocations. Although there are more women than men, especially for the missionary life, each one costs us a fortune, and indeed, bearing this burden makes heroic demands on us” (Letter to Mother Antonia Paris; Madrid, March 23, 1863: EC Il, p. 640).
151. Need for Devotional Images
“In both the Seminary and College of EI Escorial, I would very much like to have devout images, to set piety before the eyes as well as to instill devotion in the hearts of the young men and priests. St. Thomas is of the same opinion. We have procured fine cabinets for teaching them the sciences; they should also have good images for teaching them religion” (Letter to Fr. Pailacii Currius; August 2, 1864: EC Il, pp. 803-04).
152. Prudence and Demands on Young Men Who Are Called
“Hell has good reason to persecute me, since God uses me to make continual war to it…
As for EI Escorial (another reason for hell’s fury against poor Claret) it is doing very well, thank God, both in virtues and in studies. When I was at the retreat I preached to them, as is my custom every year, I often lifted my heart to God, thanking Him a thousands time for what I saw and sensed…
“I have seen seminaries that are not like this. I have seen Jesuit novitiates; but I dare say that they did not surpass us in virtue. In novitiates one must have a certain prudence and consideration for the young men, because of the many temptations wherewith Satan strives to make them leave; but in EI Escorial their major threat is that if they don’t behave well, they may be thrown out.
‘Last year during Holy Week, they threw one fellow out because he had not attended morning prayer. Thus all of them are most punctual at all the acts; and everything is done most painstakingly. It is the work of God, not of men” (Letter to the Bp. of UrgelI; Madrid, March 10,1865, EC Il, p. 863).
153. “Friar Fly”
“Outside the hours for recreation and walking, the priests will not only keep silent but also recollection in their rooms. St. Francis of Assisi, when he saw one friar flitting from one part of the house to another, called him Friar Fly.’ We ourselves might call one who goes from one room to another, ‘The Reverend Mr. Fly,’ for as flies bother and pester us, so this sort of fellow bothers us, pesters us, waist our time and might even lead us to sin by his tale-bearing, which is common with such lazy and restless outs” (Interior Regulation for Chaplains of EI Escorial; January 1, 1867: EC Il, pp. 1097-98).
154. Norms for the Students
“The students will keep silence, especially in the church, sacristy, refectory, dormitory and study hall. They will only speak during recreations…
“They will strive to be always busy, and will apply themselves with all earnestness to virtue and studies…
‘They will obey those in charge promptly and joyfully, imitating Jesus, who was perfectly subjected to Mary Most Holy and Saint Joseph (cf. Lk 2:51). Moreover, they should strive to grow like Jesus who, in proportion as he grew in age, also grew in grace before God and men (cf. Lk 2:52)…
They will not know that they have attained goodness: if they are humble, obedient, and mortified in their faculties and senses, especially the tongue; if they are lovers of spiritual reading, mental prayer and the frequent and fervent reception of the sacraments; if they have constant devotion to Mary the Most Holy; if they love God with all their heart and walk continually in His divine presence; and finally, if they have an ecclesiastical spirit, which is none other than a participation in the spirit of God, which leads a man to perform ecclesiastical functions gladly, decorously, modestly and aptly.
They will know whether they have discipline: if they keep the Regulation faithfully, even in small matters, and moreover, if they dot the things there prefects and other superior order them to do promptly and joyfully, without murmuring, groaning or pulling a long face.
Finally, they shall make an effort to become learned, which they will do if, besides asking God and Mary the Most Holy for it, they apply themselves to studies and attend classes with a desire to profit from them, and with the intention of becoming suitable ministers of the Lord” (Interior Regulation for Students of EI Escorial; January. 1, 1867: EC il, pp. 1101-02).
155. Advice to a Novicemistress
‘I give thanks to God for the good results produced by the counsels the Lord placed in my mouth when I was in that city (Vic). Strive always to be faithful to grace, and thus you yourself will advance from virtue to virtue, and your novices will profit as well. You must strive to inspire in them an eagerness to learn and practice Christian doctrine and virtues” (Letter to Sister Dolores PalIés; Madrid, Aprii 24, 1867: EC Il, p. 463).
156. On Cultivating a Vocation
“Since I think It will bring you joy in the Lord, I will tell you a bit about one of my works on which I am very busy. This work is a plan for the Church, though is still in embryonic form… It has four parts… The fourth and finial part is the way to instruct the understanding and to form and educate the heart of boys whom the Lord may call to the religious life, so that they might become good religious.
When a gardener wants to plant a garden, he prepares a flat of seedlings beforehand, and when they reach a certain point, he transplants then in the right place, and thus he comes to have a well-planted and beautiful garden.
I will say no more. May the Lord let the physical heat of the weather bring you the warmth of spiritual love May you ally truly love God and the Most Blessed Virgin” (Letter to Mother Antonia Paris; San lldefonso, July 20, 1868: EC il, pp. 1277-78).
157. Devotion to the Heart of Mary
…You ask me to say something that will help you grow more and more each day in devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Dear friend, you couldn’t ask me anything more to my liking. I only wish that all Christians hungered and thirsted for this devotion. Love Mary, my friend, and love her very much.
“…We should all love Mary Most Holy: 1) because God wants us to do so; 2) because she deserves; 3) because we need devotion to her, since it is such a powerful means whereby to obtain all bodily and spiritual graces, and at length that of eternal salvation” (letter to a Devout Client of the Heart of Mary; undated, EC Il, pp. 1497-98).
158. Love for Mary
‘We should love Mary Most Holy and be truly devoted to her, because devotion to Mary is a most powerful means to attain salvation. The reason why Mary can save those who are truly devoted to her is because she wants to do so and she in fact does it. Mary can do so because she is the Gate of Heaven; Mary wants to do so because she is the Mother of Mercy; Mary does so because she obtains justifying grace for sinners, fervor for the just, and perseverance for the fervent. …For this reason it has been said that devotion to Mary is a sign of predestination, just as it would be a mark of reprobation to be undevout or averse to Mary.
The reason is very clear. No one can be saved without the help of grace, which comes from Jesus, who Is the Head of the Church His Body, and Mary Is as it were the neck that joins the body to the head; and just as the influence of the head must pass through the neck to the body, so the grace of Jesus must pass through Mary and are communicated to the body or the devout, who are its living members” (ibid., EC Il, pp. 1504-05).
159. Trust in Mary
The Holy Fathers call Mary the ladder of heaven because by means of Mary God has come down from heaven, and by means of Mary men go up to heaven…Therefore, my friends, after Jesus we must put all our trust and hope of eternal salvation in her. O, happy is he who calls upon Mary, who turns to the Immaculate Heart of Mary with trust, for he will obtain the pardon of his sins, however many and grave they may be. He will obtain grace and finally the glory of heaven” (Ibid., EC Il, pp. 1505-06).
IV. VARIOUS THOUGHTS
160. Explanation of Hs Episcopal Shield
“I am enclosing a copy of my seal, and will give you a brief idea of this design of mine. It is divided into two parts: the upper part signifies my spiritual birth, the lower part my corporal birth. The bridge stands for the bridge in my hometown, and the falls for the falls that are there; because of the leaps or saults the river makes as it passes by, the town is called Sallent. My father, Claret, is from the eastern side of the river, and my mother Clarà, is from the western side. These two names and places are symbolized by the sun and the moon.
My spiritual birth is symbolized by the most sweet name of Mary, Mother of God, since she is the patroness of the parish of Sallent and of my own name; the palm is there because St. Stephen is also a patron of the town; the lily refers to St. Anthony, my patron saint, and to St. Aloysius, the patron of our sodality in the seminary, and also because I was ordained a priest on St. Anthony’s feast day and celebrated my First Mass on St. Aloysius’ feast day. Besides, these things are also hieroglyphics for Mary, “like a palm tree,” like the lily,” ‘as fair as the moon, elect as the sun” (Letter lo the Bp. of Vic; Barcelona, January 23, 1850: EC I, pp. 347-48).
161. Another Explanation of His Episcopal Shield
“Here is my Episcopal seal to help you remember my counsels and commend me to God. If you want to show it to the other sisters, it’s all right with me, but wouldn’t like you to talk about it to anyone outside the house.
‘I’ll explain it a bit, because it’s somewhat enigmatic. The bridge, river, waterfall and houses stand for Sallent, my hometown; my father is from this side of the river and my mother from the other, symbolized by the sun, Claret and the moon, Clarà. The name of Mary signifies my spiritual origin, since she is my Mother, for Mary is the patroness of the church where I was baptized. Mary freed me from the waves of the sea when I was young man, etc. The host, which she has in her bosom, signifies that she is the Mother of God, and it also indicates the faith and devotion, which I want to have towards the Blessed Sacrament. The palm alludes to St. Stephen, patron of my parish and of myself. The lily alludes to St. Anthony, St. Aloysius Gonzaga and St. Catherina of Siena my patrons. They are also symbols of Mary the Most Holy, “pulchra ut luna, electa ut sol, sicut palma exaltata sum in Cades” (cites from Sirach and Song)… the motto that reads ‘Charitas Christi urget nos’ (2 Cor 5:14), means that it is not the love of gold, silver, etc., that impels one to run from one part of the world to another, but the love of God, as St. Paul said, since these words are taken from him” (Letter to a Religious; March 24, 1850 (?): EC I, pp. 41 3-14).
162. Complete Detachment
‘You should always strive towards a total detachment from self and from all creatures, even those which seem necessary to you, for a thread is enough to tie a bird down and prevent him from flying. Anything is enough to prevent us from flying to perfection and union with God. If you have the Exercises of St. Ignatius, read the three degrees of humility many times, until you become enamored of the third degree” (Letter to Sister Dolores Sànchez; Vic, July 25, 1850: EC I, pp. 411- 12).
163. Roses Surrounded by Thorns
“Take courage in doing the work that has been entrusted to you, which is a great glory to God, and even though we must for the moment pass through some labors, the payment will be forthcoming. Besides, we know that all God’s works are like roses, that is, they are always surrounded by thorns, and therefore anyone who wants to get by without suffering will undertake no good” (Letter to Canon Joseph Caixal; Vic, September 18, 1850: EC I, pp. 41 9-20).
164. Life on Board the Good Ship “La Nueva Teresa Cubana”
“Every day the divine office was recited in choir; we had mental prayer, as well as morning and afternoon conferences. I celebrated Holy Mass every day and gave Communion to all the priest but one, who celebrated Mass while I made my thanksgiving with the other priests. During this Mass a priest reads the prayers and the meaning of the Mass, and thus the other travelers and the sailors were being instructed.
“The sisters received Communion four times a week, as their rule allows, without counting a few more times that I added for them. The rest received every eight days. “There were sermons for the priests, for the sisters, for the other voyagers and the sailors. This was done at night on deck, after reciting the holy rosary at which the mysteries were sung. After the rosary, the sermon began, ending with the singing of the “Holy God” accompanied by the organ. It seemed that the angels of heaven had come down to the ship. The result of these evening sermons was that everyone, without exception, made their general confession and received Holy Communion. Perhaps such a complete mission had never been seen” (Letter to Don Fortian Bres; Santiago, Cuba, February 18, 1851: EC I, pp. 454- 55).
165. Mission of Peace
“You know quite well that my mission is purely one of peace, and that my longing is to dry up tears, cause old resentments to be forgotten, to take care not to offend anyone even indirectly, whether corporations or individuals. Rather, it is to render everyone due respect and utmost consideration, to ask for grace most constantly, using all resources rather than avail myself of my rights; in a word, to imitate as best as I can my divine Master Jesus Christ, who brought his love to his ungrateful children to the point to becoming incarnate and dying on the cross to save them. His disciples followed in the footsteps, becoming all things to all men, in order to win all of them…
“I know the extent of my responsibility before God, in virtue of the thorny task I fulfill, and that it is not lawful for me silently or negligently to sacrifice the cause of God and the Church, simply out of human respect” (Letter to General Gutiérrez de la Concha; Santiago, Cuba, March 28, 1851: EC I, pp. 474-75).
166. A Résumé of the Christian Life
“None of you can be ignorant of the noble and excellent end for which we are created, which is to know, love and serve God here on earth, and afterwards to behold and enjoy Him eternally in heaven. And as a means for us to attain this end better, God has also created all things. But as we were deprived from attaining this ultimate end by the sin of our first parents Adam and Eve, the eternal Father, moved by compassion, but also by the great love He has always had for us, sent us His beloved Son to redeem us and save us and give us an example of life. And this most holy Son, humbling himself and becoming obedient even to death on a Cross (Phil 2:11) wrought our redemption.
“When he was preaching; this same Son of God said: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6). And the fact He is the way through the good example he gave us, going before us in the practice of virtues, and we, if we are truly Christians, can do no less than follow and imitate him. He is truth itself, and teaches us this truth in his holy Gospel. And finally, He is the life, who makes us live the life of grace if we observe his teaching and receive the sacraments he instituted.
“And not only does the eternal Father give us Jesus Christ as model and exemplar of the virtues; He also gives us Mary the Most Holy and the Saints to be our models and intermediaries and to encourage us to do as they did, so that we might all attain the same eternal lot of salvation. For this reason, every day of the year our Holy Mother the Church, ruled and governed by the Holy Spirit and desirous of our salvation, makes us consider the mysteries of the religion and life of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin and the Saints in the feasts she celebrates, so that we might always keep them present in our minds and imitate them’ (Letter to the People of His Diocese; Santiago, Cuba, May 20, 1851: EC I, pp. 503-04).
167. A Just Recompense
In all states of life, a material recompense serves as an incentive, or is at least as an added attraction. I fully realize that a clergyman should be the last to make material welfare his aim in practicing the ministry; but I am like wise aware that every laborer is worth of his hire, and that nobody is obliged to be a hero simply by the reason of his office” (Letter to Queen Isabella Il; undated, but probably May, 1851: EC I, p. 518).
168. The Treasures of Providence
“I have received an official note… in which you are pleased to ask me what resources I am relying on for the establishment of a House of Charity in Puerto Principe. They are none other than part of my Episcopal salary that I have saved up, together with the inexhaustible treasure of the Providence of God, in whom I trust that, since the work is only for His greater glory and the good of the faithful, He will provide whatever I need, by the means I least expect. 0ff hand, with the savings from my salary I will be able to make a start by obtaining the land and raising the building. Throughout all ages so many pious foundations have been established in this way, that they are the most human traces that Catholicism has left everywhere.
‘In purely human enterprises prudence would suggest a greater combination of resources; but in God’s enterprises, He alone suffices, and, if He chooses to avail himself of human beings, it is simply as instruments, not that He needs them, to carry out His kindly intentions towards his creatures, above all towards his beloved poor” (Letter to the Captain General of Cuba; May 29, 1854: EC I, p. 1004).
169. Happy in the Lord and in Mary
We must strive to be always happy and conformed to the will of God and to rest in the arms of Mary the Most Holy, our loving Mother.
“Don’t you remember how it was back in Spain? The moment a crying baby was picked up and held in his mother’s arms, he quieted down and began to laugh, so that his face bore traces of both smiles and tears at the same time. There’s no doubt that you’re a cry-baby, and I’m sure that if you place yourself in the arms of your Mother and in mine, the Virgin Mary, you’ll soon be laughing.
I remember that one time Brother Juniper saw his Father Guardian, who was very fat, crying about some suffering he was going through. The simple Brother Juniper told him: ‘Don’t cry, Father, because it isn’t good for fat people to cry since they make such ugly faces’. Those of us who are fat, like you and me, must only cry for our sins, and we should always be happy in the Lord” (Letter to Fr. Anthony Barjau; Puerto Principe, January 12, 1855: EC I, pp. 1069-70).
170. Wolves in the Sheepfold
“Bad priests provoke the wrath of God… We must be very much on the lookout to see whom we’re laying hands on, so that we don’t make ourselves partakers in their crimes, and so that we don’t let wolves into the sheepfold, thinking them to be sheep” (Letter to the Bp. of Urgeil; Santiago, Cuba, June 30, 1855: EC I, p. 1120).
171. Working for the Lord’s Flock
‘I have the honor of sending your Excellency two copies of the little book, Delights of the Country’ which I wrote in free moments and have just had printed…
‘My object in writing this work is clear and its aim is self-explanatory. Your Excellency’s penetrating eyes must realize how many sacrifices it cost me, especially given the constant and grave occupations of a prelate who wishes to fulfill his ministry. Fortunately, they never tire me, neither do I ever think of resting, since I am disposed to sacrifice everything and ever to deprive myself of sleep insofar as that is possible, so as to have more time to spend in works that are useful to the spiritual needs of my flock, which is the first concern, but also with to their material welfare insofar as it may depend on me” (Letter to the Captain of Cuba; October 18, 1855: EC I, p. 1150).
172. Temperament and Spiritual Life
“Self-knowledge of one’s temperament, so as to build on its good qualities and correct its bad ones…
“The (spiritual) director must have a firm character in order to direct this (sanguine) temperament; not, his directee will be like what Rodriguez says about the man was carrying stones up a hill: halfway up he set one down and went for another, but mean while the first stone role down, so that no stones reached the top. The director must tell you to be like a rock or crag by the seashore, which, tough battered by waves of bitter water, stands firm. The storm passes; the waves withdraw and grow still, while the rock stands there, proclaiming its victory. If the director is weak or temporizing, he will view his directee like those little shells that are the playthings of even the tiniest waves: in one minute, out the next, never sure.
‘Question: What remedy?
- 1.Answer: Firmness, constancy and strength even to death in small matters and in great, in all things, however they may appear to you. The director, and not you, is the one who has to introduce changes, and that in evident cases.
- 3.Answer: Practice yourself a great deal in the love of Jesus, Mary and your neighbor. This is the valve through which the heart should let off steam; it not, the pot will boil over into other loves that are less chaste, more worldly and carnal.
“When someone is content with himself and takes delights in himself, it is a sure sign that he is very far from true humility.
“And as Jesus, meek and humble of Heart, wants you to learn from Him to become humble of heart (Mt 11:29), he goes about disposing things for you each day in such a way that they seem to come without your being able to foresee them; most of the time they take you by surprise, and when they have passed, they always have you disgusted, since when you examine what you have done you find that it was more or less not as it ought to have been.
“Jesus has disposed things this way so that you will never be content with what you do, as I said above, and that you may be truly humble.
Question? What remedy?
“Answer: Humble yourself and say: Lord, never expect anything good from me. You have to do it all yourself. I don’t know how you can put up with me doing your works. I’m like those naughty little children who spoil everything they set their hands to. Lord, amend my errors. Pardon my faults.’
And thus you will go on pulling and tugging until death.
‘You must be like people waving a tapestry: so long as they are working on it they see only the reverse side, and will only see the right side when it is finished” (Letter to Saint Mary Micaela of the BL Sacrament; February 28, 1858: EC I, pp. 1526, 1527-29).
173. Advice in Time of Tribulation
‘What shall I tell you? What? To have humility, patience and charity. Moreover, when you feel tried and troubled, I order you to go before the Blessed Sacrament. Tell the Lord that I am sending you there to accompany him. Then, together with Jesus, say: My Father and my spouse, if it is possible, let this chalice pass from me; nevertheless let your will, not mine, be done’ (cf. Mt 26:39). You will repeat these words not just two or three times, but many times, until you are sated” (Letter to Saint Mary Micaela of the Bl. Sacrament; Gijòn, August 25, 1858: EC I, pp. 1633-34).
174. The Power of Example
“It seems that even bishops are beginning to hanker after work, either because of what they see me doing or because of what I tell them by word of mouth or in writing in my Apuntes (Notes of a Plan to Conserves the Beauty of the Church’)” (Letter to Don Dionisio Gonziez; Madrid, October 3, 1858: EC I: p.1 645).
175. The Chastisement of the Lazy
One who in time of famine hides grain and money is guilty of those who die in misery. One who sees a child fall into the fire and leaves him there to die, though he might easily draw him out, is guilty of his death. One who sees another bleeding from an open artery and does nothing to stanch the flow, though he might easily do so, is guilty of his death. How many priests there are who could, by catechizing, preaching, hearing confessions and giving missions, attend to spiritual needs of their neighbors, yet do not, thus leaving them to perish and be condemned! Woe to them!…
‘Dear Theophilus, I hope you can now see that, in order to free yourself from an eternity of suffering and attain the great glory that will never end, you should devote yourself to the holy missions, in keeping with your calling, and persevere in your sacred ministry” (Letter to Theophilus; 1858: EC III, p. 386).
176. Advice to Some Sisters
“Consider, dear Ladies, that it behooves you to pray much. The times are evil and those to come will be even worse. It behooves you not to fall asleep or become careless. Happy those sisters who will be humble, patient, obedient, who will be detached from every worldly thing, and will be lovers of recollection, silence and prayer, for in the midst of the tempest they will save their souls” (Letter to the Magdalen Sisters of Barcelona; Madrid, February 15, 1859: EC I, p. 1728).
177. Apostolic Prudence
‘I am most happy that you are moved by the desire to do good, especially among the young. Nonetheless, let me offer you a bit of advice, namely, that you bear in mind that you’re still young, especially in dealing with young persons of the opposite sex, and that you should hence proceed with great caution, so that the envious enemy might not cause you to fail into one of those snares which, under pretext of doing good, he prepares so astutely for young and zealous priests. Yet I trust in the Lord and in the Blessed Virgin that if you are humble and remain a man of mental prayer, you will come through victoriously” (Letter to Fr. Anthony M. Iglesias; EI Escorial, November 6, 1859: EC ll, p. 58).
178. Experience of Loving Communion with Christ
“I am very pleased with the three and the two vows, which make five, in remembrance of the Five Wounds of Our Lord which, as you know, is my favorite devotion. And to practice this devotion more perfectly, you should do it in the following manner. In the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, whether exposed or in tabernacle, consider that you see Our Lord nailed on the cross (one day St. Michael told a devote soul that this is how Jesus liked to be contemplated in the blessed Sacrament). Then reverently and devoutly take his right hand into yours, adore it and slowly recite the Our Father and Hail Mary, offering Him your vow of poverty. Next, do the same with His left hand, offering Him your vow of chastity. Then move on to the wound in His right foot, and offer Him your vow of obedience. Moving onto the wound in His left foot, offer Him your vow of always doing the better thing. Note well what I am telling you : these two vows correspond to the feet. As we walk on our feet, all your progress must be according to obedience if you wish to obtain God’s blessing; moreover, if you would be most meritorious in all things, you must always walk with the most upright intention of doing the better thing.
Finally, you will approach the wound in His side, which is the wound of the heart. Tell Him that you truly love Him that you prefer to suffer a thousand deaths rather than knowingly commit a fault, however slight. Finally, you will recite an Our Father and Hail Mary, which, together with the first five, will make six, thus comprising a major station. At this point you will desire to receive Communion and in effect will make a spiritual communion, and consider that only Jesus lives in you, and that you are like a bar of iron placed in the forge, to be melted and modeled according to the will of the blacksmith. Thus you must be heated in the love of God, and melted and modeled completely to the will of God. Do this and you will see what happens to you; you yourself will not understand it or know how to explain it to me, but I already know what will happen to you, although not always, no matter how many times you may repeat it” (Letter to St. Mary Michaela of the Blessed Sacrament; Madrid, November 19, 1861: EC ll, pp. 396-97).
179. Abuses of Religion
I am herewith sending you a précis of the notes that the Father of the Pious Schools, friends of mine, have given me so that I and Her majesty might obtain permission from the Pope to amend certain abuses of religion…
‘The spirit of independence, insubordination and rebellion have infiltrated themselves everywhere” (Letter to Fr. Joseph Xifré; Madrid, January 5, 1863: EC ll, p. 610).
180. Thinking about Death
“God our Lord has chosen to take this religious (Antonia Esperanza) to Himself for two reasons: first, to give her an early entry into eternal glory, and second, that she might be an exhortation to the other sisters to think continually about death, since they can see that death neither respects youth, nor is detained by medicines or by the skill of doctors. Tell all the sisters on my behalf to think on death, so that they may do good works while they have time» (Letter to Mother Antonia Paris; Madrid, March 5, 1863: EC ll, p. 633).
181. Message of Condolence
Through Mother Alberta (the nun), I learned of the death of your mother Prisca, so that you are now orphans. But no, Alberta, no; you have not been left orphans. God is your true Father and Mary the Most Holy is your Mother. You must be her true children, and doubtless you will be if you remember and constantly follow the counsel and example of your parents and grandparents, and especially of your mother Prisca, who was so good…
I commend all of you to God, that He may keep you in His holy grace, and I hope that you will all commend me to the Lord. Since you were the eldest (When I had the pleasure of being your houseguest), you have been uppermost in my mind, and for this reason I would like you to do me a favor of paying my respect to your brothers” (Letter to Mrs. Alberta Fuster; Madrid, January 22, 1864: EC ll, pp. 754-55).
182. Patience and Charity
I am sorry to learn of the sad condition of Sister Angela, but see in this a great and admirable disposition of Divine Providence that you might all be sanctified: she by her patience, and you by your patience and charity.
“Suffering, labors and crosses are signs of brides of Christ and daughters of Saint Teresa, so I congratulate you on these tokens and signs that I see you are experiencing in that convent. I, you may be sure, will not ask the Lord to take them away from you – I would thus be doing you great harm – but I will pray most earnestly that He may give you all patience, charity, resignation and conformity to the will of God, for I know that this is best suited to advance your welfare” (Letter to Mother Petra of St. John of the Cross; Madrid, January 22, 1864: EC ll, pp. 756- 57).
183. A Letter of Condolence
“You can well imagine the impression that the news of your son’s death made on me, because of the suffering it must have brought not only to you but also to your dear wife and your father…
”Out of the love and affection I have for you, I can do no less that join you in your feelings, and offer you some small reflection for your comfort. We must think that nothing happens by chance, but that everything is disposed by God our Lord. Well then, if He has so disposed, we should resign and conform ourselves to the will of such a good Father and Lord. Every day you say, Thy will be done,’ and He is now testing you to prove whether you truly mean what you say. Happy are you if you learn to imitate the resoluteness of the patriarch Abraham, when the Lord asked him to sacrifice his son. True, the Lord gladly accepted his sacrifice and gave it back, but He has accepted and kept yours.
‘But tell me, dear sir, if you lent a precious gem to a friend and, after he had enjoyed it for seven years, you asked it back from him, shouldn’t your friend thank you for leaving the gem with him for seven years? Let us apply this here. God our Lord left you, who are his friend, the jewel of a son for seven years, and at the end of this time He has asked to return this jewel to Him. You should therefore thank God for the favor he did in letting you enjoy It for the space of seven years.
“You must all have felt the death of your son so quite deeply; but for your son, it is the best thing that could have happened to him, for now he is certainly in heaven, which he might have lost had he survived. You yourself know that we are living in evil and dangerous times. And in Holy Scripture, speaking of the death of the just, it says that he has been carried off before his time so that the devil of this world might not corrupt him” (cf. Wis 4:11).
Now since God has done this, we must think that it is the best thing that could possibly happen” (Letter to the Marquis del Arco; San Idelfonso, July 21, 1864: EC Il, pp. 796-97).
184. Leaving Ourselves in the Lord’s Hands
It is the Lord who disposes for us, giving us health and life for his greater honor and glory and our own welfare, or taking us out of this exile and valley of tears to give us eternal glory. Therefore the only thing for us to do is to leave ourselves in His most holy hands so that He may deal with us according to His most holy will and good pleasure. And it is mainly in this disposition of will that perfection consists, promptly, joyfully and perseveringly doing the things He keeps demanding of us, no matter how repugnant they might be to our nature” (Letter to Mother Antonia Paris; Madrid, March 12, 1865: EC ll, p. 866).
185. Condolence on the Death of St. Michaela
“I have received your letter informing me of the death of Madre Sacramento… Her loss is most painful, yet you have not lost her; from heaven she will help you even more. Courage; don’t taint away. God will not abandon His work.”
“Be so good as to tell this to all the superiors and sisters of the Congregation. This very day I am beginning the spiritual exercises with this whole community of the Congregation of the Sons of the immaculate Heart of Mary, and we will commend all of you to God and Mary Most Holy” (Letter to the Superior General of the Sisters Adorers of Madrid; Vic, August 28, 1865: EC Il, pp. 924- 25).
186. Taking Advantage of Periods of Truce to Preach Missions
“It highly behooves us to take advantage of the occasion to give missions, since the Lord has granted us this truce, which will not last long. I will only tell you that there are those abroad who are seeking pretexts in order to begin quarreling. What is happening is like the table of the lamb and the wolf” (Letter to Fr. Xitré; San Ildefonso, August 4, 1866: EC Il, p. 1036).
187. Effects of Devotion
“Devotion does for young people what sugar or syrup does for fruit: it preserves and sweetens them” (Letter to Mrs. Alberta Fuster; Madrid, September 27, 1866: EC ll, p. 1060).
188. Changing Skins
“I can see what you’re telling me about your illness. Offer it to God, who has sent it to you for your own good, so that you may more and more resemble your spouse Jesus, who wished to be prophesied as a leper. Courage, then. Rejoice and give him very many thanks for this little gift.
“In the Holy Gospel Jesus Christ tells us that we should be as wise as serpents. Well, serpents change their skin every year; you have changed yours at least once in your lifetime with this outbreak of blisters, so that you might be a better person and might every year grow spiritually better by means of your retreat and renewal of vows” (Letter to Mother Antonia Paris; Madrid, May 2, 1867: EC Il, pp. 1146-47).
189. Love is Repaid with Love
“I am most delighted to learn that your illustrious Ladyship and the other Lady Nuns are keeping as whole and holy as when I left you, and indeed that you are not only keeping holy, but are every day growing from virtue to virtue, to reach at length the perfection of heavenly glory. To this end I direct my poor prayer daily, and I have greatest confidence in the Lord that I will have the joy of seeing all of you in heaven. Courage, ladies. Constancy and perseverance to the last. The Lord loves us dearly; let us love Him as well
“Love is repaid with love. He give Himself to us entirely in the Blessed Sacrament – reason enough for us to trust ourselves totally to Him. Yes, let us give him our heart with all its affections, our soul with all its faculties and our body with all its senses, so that we may truly say with the Apostle Paul: ‘I live, now not, but Christ in me’ (Gal 2:20)” (Letter to the Abbess of Las Huelgas; San lidefonso, July 5, 1867: EC ll, pp. 1167-68).
190. Doing Everything in Order to Please God
“When you know that something is for the greater glory of God, you ought to say so…, without aiming to please or fearing to displeased anyone but God alone. Nor should you be hurt if what you say is not done or is omitted… Don’t imagine that you are infallible; rather, be fearful of making mistake” (Letter to Fr. Palladi Currius; San lidefonso, July 14, 1867: EC ll, p. 1175).
191. The Community Iike the Ass and the Ox of Bethlehem
‘I have received news that you are in the town of Reus. Blessed be God! Hell has been hard at work to prevent that foundation, but Mary Most Holy has triumphed. Long live Mary! And so that you may see that it is the work of Mary, note that it took place on Saturday, the Eve of St. Bonaventure, who was most devoted to Mary and who is not only praising God and Mary in heaven, but is also praying for those on earth who work for the glory of God and devotion to Mary. Oh, how much you owe this Saint! Fulfill your mission, for this is the gratitude that he expects of this foundation..
“lt seems to me that in that Church of Reus I can see the Blessed Sacrament, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Bonaventure and the Saints. Yes, I see the cave of Bethlehem, and you must represent the little donkey through your humility, so that you may say with the prophet David, ‘Ut jumentum factus sum apud te, et ego semper tecum’ (Ps 73:23: I was like a brute beast in your presence; and I am continually with you). The community must imitate the ox through their patience, constancy and love of work, and, with the breathing or painting of affections of the love of God, they must warm the Infant Jesus, who is shivering with the cold.
“Doubtless you’ll laugh at my simplicity. It doesn’t matter. It’s simply that I’m quite content. As David leapt before the Holy Ark, I too babble these simple things in the presence of the All Holy who is present in this cave” (Letter to Mother Antonia Paris; San lidefonso, July 21, 1867: EC Il, pp. 1179-80).
192. Religious Obedience
What is most important is that you should all be very humble and fervent, always thinking on God and loving Him with all your heart, being better and more fervent every day.
”The essence of the religious life is obedience. For this reason, Jesus Christ, who is the best religious, was ‘obedient to death on a cross (PhiI 2:8). And it is not only Jesus who teaches us obedience; indeed, the whole universe cries out to us clearly, saying: ‘Obey God as I do; observe His law as I do…’
“Would that all of us were obedient as the universe, and as loving as the Saints and angels of heaven, and like Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, who obeys the voice of the priest and obeys all his orders without answering back lf he is enclosed in the tabernacle, he is silent; if he is set forth for public adoration, he says nothing; if he is brought to villages and hamlets, he approves and will be obedient in this way until the consummation of the ages. Who, then, would not be obedient?…
“Mothers and Sisters: Like Jesus, the spouse of our souls, we must learn obedience let us also; learn gratitude and continually give him thanks for having created us, redeemed us and called us to the religious state” (Letter to Mother Antonia Paris; Madrid, September 24, 1867: EC Il, pp. 1202-04).
193. The Spirit of Advent and Christmas
In these days of the Lord’s Advent and Nativity, you must join together with the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph in the house of Nazareth, in Bethlehem and in their journeys, with interior recollection, doing all things with the utmost perfection, even the smallest and most insignificant ones, always contemplating this Holy Family. Within a few days they will begin the way to Bethlehem, let them play the part of the little donkey in the cave” (Letter to Mother Antonia Paris; Madrid, December 10, 1867: EC Il, p. 1226).
194. Patience and Prayer
‘The sufferings of this world are the spurs that push us along the road to heaven. Sufferings are like waters of the Deluge; the higher they rose, the higher Noah’s Ark rose with them. Well, the sufferings of this world take our hearts and souls by the hand and lead us to heaven. O how good God is!.. He treats us like His children. See how He treated His first-begotten son, Jesus. Hardly was he born when he had to flee into Egypt to save his life. Later, when he had grown up, he was arrested, scourged, crowned with horns and crucified between two thieves. He is called Man of Sorrows (Is 53:3). And what shall i say of Mary, Mother of God and our Mother? Ah! She is called and is the Queen of Martyrs.
“I am not surprised that those who meditate continually on the torments of Jesus and the sorrows of Mary and love them greatly, desire nothing so much as sufferings, labors, persecutions arid calumnies. They are like St. Teresa, who told God: ‘Either to suffer or to die.’ St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi used to say: Lord to suffer, not to die,’ so that she might suffer more, although she was already suffering very greatly.
“We must consider that the works and sufferings God allows, He allows as work assigned us that we can win the glory of heaven, and the more we suffer with grace and patience and for the love of God, the more we will win. O, if the Saints in heaven could return to earth, they would do so only in order to suffer and gain more degrees of glory. And if the angels were capable of envy, they would envy us because we can suffer and they cannot. Oh what a great good fortune is to be able to suffer
‘Let us take courage, then, dearest sister Jacoba. Prayer and patience: these are the two things I would most impress upon you” (Letter to Mrs. Jacoba Balzola; Pau, October 10, 1868: EC Il, pp. 1300-02).
195. Meditation on the FIight into Egypt
When we left Spain, I was very busy meditating on the Second Sorrow of Mary: the flight into Egypt and the sojourn there. How many sufferings, labors and privations. I meditated on all this, yet the Blessed Virgin has not allowed me to suffer any of these pains, while you are truly suffering. I deeply sympathize with you and will commend you to God” (Letter to Mrs. Leonor de Mélida; Paris, November 22, 1868: EC Il, p. 1321).
196. Counsels to the Carmelite Sisters of Charity
God our Lord is so good, wise and powerful, that he knows how to draw good things out of evil… Courage, then. Have trust in the Lord and in the Blessed Virgin…
Walk always in the presence of God and direct all that you say and do to His greater honor and glory. Be lovers of silence and speak a great deal in your heart, making fervent acts of love to God, to Jesus and to Mary Most Holy. Always, but especially during this days when the Church recalls the infancy of Jesus, consider that the blessed Virgin entrusts the Baby Jesus to each one of you… O, what would you say to him! What happy times you would have! Revive your faith when you receive Communion” (Letter to the Sisters at Montserrat Hospital in Madrid; Paris, December 26, 1868: EC Il, pp. 1335-36).
197. Good Figs and Bad Figs
We are living in times made for practicing the virtue of patience. The way we make our way to a blessed eternity is by doing and suffering. Jesus, Mary Most Holy and all the Saints have followed this way. Woe to us if we do not suffer! This is our assigned work. What good would it do for a person to have some great ability, while he had nothing to use it for? What would we do if we did not have to bear slanders, persecutions, etc.?
“When the good praise us, there is danger of our becoming vain or complacent; but when the wicked praise us, there is no such danger. But perhaps you may ask: When do the wicked praise us?’ They praise us when they persecute and slander us. To help you understand this, I will make use of a comparison. Have you seen a fig-tree covered with figs in a garden, with many birds eating away at them? Do you want to know which figs are the best? The birds will tell you. They are the ones they most seek out and peck at. This is completely in accord with the Gospel. Our divine Master, Jesus Christ, has said: lf you were of the world, the world would love you; but because you are not of the world but are mine, the world hates you’ (Jn 15:19)… ‘When they say all manner of evil things against you, lying, rejoice and be glad…’ (Mt 5:11-12). Let us rejoice, then, and say: Long live Jesus” (Letter to Mother Antonia Paris; Paris, February 28, 1869: EC Il, pp. 1366-67).
198. The Meaning of Suffering
“I desire that you should advance more and more each day in perfection. To this end you should desire most fervently to please God more each day, by practicing humility, patience, love and other virtues, for the Lord will take good care to provide you with work in this field if you are good workers. I mean that when the Lord sees that a person has great desire to be good and very good, he allows her a humiliation, something unpleasant, and if this soul is silent, suffers and think to herself: God has arranged or allowed this to happen to you for your own good;’ and then, instead of complaining or pulling a long face, as worldly people do, she puts on a happy face and gives thanks to God and, if she can, does some favor to the person who has troubled her, commending that person to God, in imitation Jesus who prayed to his eternal Father for those who crucified him – O how much God would appreciate that!. Do the same, then and you will grow in virtue and advance in perfection” (Letter to the Carmelite Sisters of Charity; Rome, June 18, 1869: EC ll, pp. 1395-96).
199. God’s Pedagogy
“God – says St. Augustine – acts like a human father: when his children don’t obey, he takes a switch and whacks this one or that; the children cry and mend their ways, and finally, once they have mended their ways, their father lets them come back to the table and throws the switch into the fire. God makes use of the wicked to chastise children who do not obey their heavenly Father; but when they correct themselves or mend their ways, God will admit these children to his house, and perhaps even the wicked will mend their ways, just as the Good Thief, Longinus and Saul did. Let us all mend our ways, then, and earnestly pray the Lord for the conversion of all sinners so that we may all one day see each other in heaven” (Letter to Mother Catherine Miralda; Rome, July 14, 1869: EC Il, p. 1404).
200. The “Young Vineyard”
“I tell you that in America there is a very great and very fruitful field, and that in time more souls will go to heaven from America than from Europe. This part of the world is like an old vineyard, which does not bear fruit, and America is a young vineyard. The bishops who have come from there, whom I have had the pleasure of dealing with and visiting, are well instructed and virtuous and inspire great confidence in me. I am already old, for I will be 62 years old by Christmas, and more than once my broken health discourages me, for all it takes is a change in the weather and l feel at deaths door, and if it weren’t ’ for this, I would fly over there. But since I can’t go there, I travel over to the college the Jesuit Fathers direct for Americans studying for the priesthood. I have preached to them and given them Communion, and they are being trained very well in virtue and learning, much better than in Spain. Some have already been ordained priests and even bishops… Old Europe is getting worse every day; sects have completely eaten it away” (Letter to Fr. Joseph Xifré; Rome, November 16, 1869: EC Il, pp. 1430-31).
201. The Testimony of the Religious Life
“Tell all the sisters that now is the time we most need to pray fervently and be at pains to grow more and more in the practice of the virtues, especialty humility, obedience, chastity, mortification and charity: these are the fruits which we should produce and which the Lord expects.
“These -repeated threats against priests, and against men and women religious, are like threats we read of in the Gospel about a tree that did not bear fruit. The Lord said of it: ‘Why should it clutter the earth?’ (cf. Lk13:7)… Ah! What if we’re cluttering up the earth of the saints without producing the fruits of sanctity!… That’s why we’re threatened… Let us all be encouraged to produce fruits of holiness.
‘Tell this to our friends to instill confidence in them; tell it to sisters; tell them both, to encourage them. For God told Abraham that if there were only ten just men in the five cities of the plain, he would spare them (Cf. Gen 18:32), so now, too, if some priests and sisters strive to be as they ought to be, then God will hold back the chastisement… Otherwise, woe, woe, woe!” (Letter to all Sisters; undated: EC lll, p. 556).
III. VOCATION AND FORMATION OF THE MISSIONARY
125. Being Well-Rooted and Persevering
126. Advice to Sisters
127. Plan of Missionary Life
128. True Motives for Vocation
129. The Conduct of Some Seminarians
130. Criteria for Selecting Seminarians
131. Preparation for Missionaries: Studying Languages
132. Solitude and Obedience
133. Witness of Religious Life
134. Dignity of the Missionary
135. The Missionary, a Savior of the World
136. God Defends and Rewards the Missionary
137. important Advice to a Missionary
138. Silence and Trust in Tribulation
139. The Sword of the Word
140. The Word and the Coin
141. Devotion to Mary and Love of God
142. Fidelity to Vocation
143. Vocational Discernment
144. on His Nephew’s Vocation
145. Formation of Clergy: Means of Saving the World
146. Strength and Gentleness in Formation
147. A “Pronounced Vocation”
148. Witness of Poverty
149. Advice to Claretian Missionary Sisters
150. Looking for Firm and Constant People
151. Need for devotional images
152. Prudence and Demands on Young Men who are Called
153. “Friar Fly
154. Norms for Students
155. Advice to a Novicemistress
156. on Cultivating Vocation
157. Devotion to the Heart of Mary
158. Love for Mary
159. Trust in Mary