Booklets on Claretian Formation -7
Prefecture General of Formation, Rome – 1991
FORMED IN THE FORGE OF THE SPIRITAND OF MARY’S HEART
José María Viñas, CMF.
Translation by Fr. Joseph Daries, CM.F.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. The Formative Spiritual Experience of St. Anthony Mary
2. The Formation CandidateClaret, the Formation candidate
- The Claretian in Formation, According to Claret
- The Claretian in Formation, According to Today’s Constitutions
3. The Formation Director
- Claret as Formation Director
- The Claretian Formation Director According to Claret
- The Claretian Formation Director according to the Renewed Constitutions
4. The Claretian Form
- Introduction: The Form
- The Form as Content
1.Christ, Form of the Missionary
2.Mary, Form of the Missionary
3.The Saints, Form of the Missionary
4.Claret, Form for the Missionaries
- A Summing-up of the Form in the Constitutions
Formation as a Process of Initiation
- A.The Spiritual Experience of our Father Founder
- B.The Process of Transformation with Christ the Missionary in the Constitutions
Aut. Claret: Autobiography, ed. BAC, Madrid, 1981.
CCTT Lozano, San Antonio Maria Claret, Constituciones y textos sobre la Congregaciòn de Misioneros, Barcelona, 1972.
CC Constituciones de la Congregacion de Misioneros Hijos del Immaculado Corazon de Maria (different editions specified)
EA. Viñas-Bermejo, San Antonio Maria Claret. Escritos autobiograficos, BAC, Madrid, 1981.
EC. Gil, Espistolario de San Antonio Maria Claret, Madrid, 1970, 1987.
EE Bermejo, San Antonio Maria Ciaret, Escritos espirituales, BAC, Madrid, 1985.
HD Fernndez, EIB.PAntonio Maria Claret. Historia documentada de su vida y empresas, Madrid, 1946.
Saint Anthony Mary Claret saw himself as a missionary in the style of the Apostles. He felt that God the Father had prepared and readied him through the anointing of the Spirit so as to convert him into a man who was on fire with charity who spread that fire wherever he went, as Jesus and the Twelve had done. Apostolic charity was so to speak the element that constituted his personality. When he contemplated the way in which the Lord had prepared him to become a fitting missionary, the best usage he could find for it was the blacksmith’s forge.
For him the forge is the core idea of his formation. Sometimes he understands this forge as the Holy Spirit consecrating and setting him afire with zeal —apostolic charity— and other times as the Heart of Mary — the Mother’s womb in which disciples are shaped or where apostles are formed.
The forge is likewise an image of the process of formation. It begins with the gratuitous and prior experience of the Spirit which prepares the way by making us open and available for mission. This process continues through the action of the Spirit working together with the collaboration of the would-be missionary, conforming him in the likeness of with Christ the Son, who was consecrated and sent to proclaim glad tidings to the poor and to heal the broken-hearted.
In this Notebook, we plan to present Claretian formation, as succinctly as possible, from the starting point of our Father Founder’s own experience and of the Congregation’s self-understanding.
The Formative Spiritual Experience of Saint Anthony Mary Claret
Saint Anthony Mary Claretsums up his formative spiritual experience under the allegorical image of a “forge” (“furnace” or “smithy”). In the prayer he used to say before beginning each parish mission he preached, he would remind the Blessed Virgin: “You are well aware that I am your son and minister, formed in the furnace of your mercy and love.” (Aut.270) In his Autobiography he develops this allegory with reference to formation in humility, but it can easily be extended and applied to formation in general.
“At the beginning of my stay in Vic I was undergoing an experience not unlike what goes on in a blacksmith’s shop. The smith thrusts an iron bar into the furnace, and when it is white-hot he draws it out, places it on the anvil, and begins to hammer it. His assistant joins in, and the two of them keep alternating hammer blows in a sort of rhythmic dance until the iron takes the shape the smith had planned. You, my Lord and Master, thrust my heart into the furnace of the Spiritual Exercises and frequent reception of the Sacraments; and after thus setting my heart on fire with love for you and the Blessed Virgin Mary, you began to hammer away at me with humiliations, and I, too, began hammering away with my particular examen on this virtue that I needed so badly.” (Aut. 342)
Claret’s choice of the allegory of the forge is significant in itself. St. John of the Cross, in his Precautions and Counsels, selects a different figure, drawn from his own personal experience of the stonemason and the sculptor. “The first precaution is to understand that you have come to the monastery so that all may fashion you and try you. Thus, to free yourself from the imperfections and disturbances that can be engendered by the mannerisms and attitudes of the religious and draw profit from every experience, you should think that all in the community are artisans —as indeed they are— present there in order to prove you; that some will fashion you with words, others by deeds, and others with thoughts against you; and that in all this you must be submissive as is the statue to the craftsman who moulds it, to the artist who paints it, and to the gilder who embellishes it.”[i] In his Counse1s to a Religious he adds a few more descriptive touches. “You should engrave this truth upon your heart. And it is that you have not come to the monastery for any other reason than to be worked and tried in virtue, that you are like the stone which must be chiselled and fashioned before being used in the building.”[ii]
Before he experienced the formative action of his fellow missionaries, our Father Founder had above all felt the action of the Father disposing him to accept His action of forming him in love.
We can discern the following elements involved in formation as they appear in number 342 of Claret’ s Autobiography:
- a.The blacksmith’s shop.
- b.. The blacksmith himself.
- c.. The iron bar.
- d.The furnace.
- e.The anvil.
- f.. The smith’s assistant.
- g.The hammer-blows.
- h.The form or shape planned by the blacksmith.
The Saint himself has explicitly or implicitly spelt out the meaning of the different elements of the allegory.
a. The blacksmith’s shop
This is the formative milieu of Vic during the moment of grace the local Church and the Seminary in particular were living through at that time.
b. The blacksmith
Above all the Father, the Son as Lord and Master, and also Mary who, as the first and most exemplary Disciple, was also Claret’s Teacher. Collaborating with the Lord in his formation were: Bishop Corcuera as shepherd and a holy man already been experienced in the formation of seminarians in Siguenza; Father Peter Bach of the Oratory, Anthony’s personal spiritual director; Father Fortian Bres, in whose house Anthony was a guest; the Seminary professors.
c. The iron bar
Anthony, as a formandus, portrays himself as an iron bar, under three symbolic aspects: 1) that of resistance, obediential capacity, docile passivity; 2) that of apprentice or assistant who plays ail active role in his own formation, but in collaboration with the Lord and His mediators; 3) that of the heart or the overall self in its deepest dimension.
d. The furnace
The furnace is immediately, the fervour of charity, but fundamentally, the Holy Spirit. It is also the Heart of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in her role as former and shaper of apostles through her charity.
It also symbolizes the ascetical means used to increase the fervour of charity, such as prayer in its various forms and the Spiritual Exercises. As the Saint notes elsewhere: “Love is like fire, which turns everything combustible into fire. He who truly loves Jesus, turns everything he does, says, thinks and suffers, into love… One who truly loves Jesus lives more in Jesus than in himself, as St. Paul says: Iive, now not I, but Christ lives in me. [iii]
e. The anvil
The concrete situation of life, the trials and temptations that show one what he really is and help him discover what he ought to be.
f. The smith’s assistant
The assistant could signify the collaborators in one’s formation (mentioned in b. above), but he mainly symbolizes the formandus himself from the standpoint of his ascetical efforts and collaboration.
g. The hammer-blows
The hammer blows signify formative actions. All actions aimed at giving the required form or shape are not just haphazard swings in the dark. Not only that, but they are part of a coordinated, alternating and specified work, on the part of both the Lord and the disciple. The Lord acts through the enlightening Word and the inner movement of the Spirit; the apprentice is active in his application of adequate means. Anthony made special use of the particular examen in order to achieve humility.
h. The form or shape planned by the blacksmith
For “the form planned” the Saint chose the symbol of the arrow. In the prayer he used to say at the beginning of each mission, after telling Mary “You are well aware that I am your son and minister, formed in the furnace of your mercy and love,” he added,
“I am like an arrow poised in your mighty hand. Release me, my Mother, with the full force of your arm. ..against Satan, the prince of this world, who has made an alliance with the flesh” (Aut. 270).
The biblical resonances of the arrow immediately come to mind. In Isaiah (49:2), the arrow represents the person of the servant-prophet “He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away.” Thus our Founder applies to himself the key text of this chapter of Isaiah: “You are my servant, in whom I will be glorified” (Is 49:3). In turn, this summons up the image of “war-arrows made sharp over red-hot charcoal” (Ps 120:4) and again, “like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the Sons of one’s youth” (Ps 127:4). Father Claret sees himself as a son of Mary, and in Her hands he is like an arrow in the hand of a hero: “I am like an arrow poised in your mighty hand.”
The 1857 Constitutions (n. 57) State that the only ones who are truly apostolic missionaries are those who, through complete self-denial and continual mortification, have the degree of perfection in which “the Royal Prophet’ s saying —Sicut sagittae in manu potentis acutae— can be said of them.”
In its ultimate meaning, the “form” is none other than Jesus Christ himself, the Head and Model of Missionaries, and through Him, according to their degree, His Mother and the Saints. For us, in a special way, our Father Founder is a form.
2. The Formation Candidate
A. Claret, the Formation Candidate
Claret -in the process of formation— has described himself in terms of the heart, an iron bar and of an apprentice.
a. The Heart
By the first of these symbols he means his person, which he views —with us intentionally in mind— as the heart. In the Well Instructed Seminarian he contrasts University formation with Seminary formation. Universities form only the head, while Seminaries form (or ought to form) the whole person — the heart.
I used the word, “intentionally,” because for our Father Founder the heart is the very core of the person, from which good or evil flow. It is in a special way the personal core of the missionary, who must be all heart — in all his inwardness and zeal.
Our Founder acknowledges that the Lord graced him with a good heart: “For my greater embarrassment I should like to quote the words of the author of the Book of Wisdom (8:19): I was a boy of happy disposition. I had received a good soul. That is, I received a good nature or disposition from God, out of His sheer goodness.”(Aut. 18) God had endowed Father Claret with the kind of natural bent best suited to his apostolic mission, that is, one marked by the predominance of the practical intelligence over the speculative, by a more than ordinarily forceful will, by optimism and faith in his own initiatives, and by an ease in adapting to circumstances. [iv]
b. The Iron bar
This symbolizes a potential that is as yet unformed and one that is also contrary to receiving the new form.
Anthony ‘ s dispositions that ran counter to his receiving a new form were the very ones whereby he had oriented his life in Barcelona: his whole aim was to become a winner. He had a personal project of his own and was bent on carrying it out with all his might. In contrast, he now had to mould himself according to the design of the Father. He was naturally averse to being judged by the public and he was fearful of what people might suspect Mm of. When a friend of his stole a lady’s jewellery, he wrote: “I was so embarrassed and ashamed that I hardly dared show my face on the street. I thought that everyone was looking at me, talking about me, focusing on me.” (Aut. 75) Now God the Father wanted to conform him with Christ, humble of heart and a sign of contradiction.
e. The Apprentice
As a formation candidate, Anthony also had to be an agent in his own formation. He had to acquire an ever-increasing awareness of what he had to be. He attained this mainly by meditating on the word of God and holding all situations up to that measure. Anthony, who was predestined to become a Founder, little by little kept discovering what he was to become: “God willed something else for me: He wanted me to be a priest, not a businessman, although at the time such ideas never entered my head.” (Auto. 64)
Even as a seminarian He could have said, ‘God wanted me to be a Missionary Son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, but I didn’t know that, either.’ Nevertheless, he responded generously to each new degree of enlightenment he received. He often repeated the phrase, “I offered myself…I kept on offering myself.”
Moreover, he kept on putting into effect the means required in order to become what he was called to be.
In the various stages of his life, Claret collaborated in different ways in his own formation. In his childhood, his attitude was passive-active. In his youth, it was active, creative and decisive. In his seminary days, it was again passive-active, but in a new context.
B. The Claretian in Formation, According Io Claret
(See Notebooks on Claretian Formation, volumes 1 and 2)
In the beginning, the Congregation admitted only priests for the apostolic ministry or laymen as “Adjutant Brothers.” When the Founder returned from Cuba in 1857 and saw how urgently the Church in Spain needed evangelizers, he began to recommend to Fr. Xifré that the Congregation should also begin admitting seminarians who were already well advanced in their studies.’ [v]
In 1862, from the 7th to the l4th of July, the Congregation held its first General Chapter. One of its first decisions was to allow Students, as well as Priests and Brothers, to become members of the Institute.[vi] Moreover, the Chapter ordered that all candidates — Priests, Students and Brothers— should spend fifteen days as Aspirants, after which they would be admitted to the year of probation.
After the Chapter, the Holy Founder, accompanied by the two Chapter Members from Segovia (Frs. Serrat and Fábregas), returned to Madrid. He arrived in the capital on July l7th and set out for La Granja with the Royal Family on the 2lst. The peace and quiet of La Granja afforded him more time for prayer and study. On Jul 28th he left La Granja to visit his Missionaries in Segovia, where he handed Fr. Serrat the Rules for Students, so that the latter could copy them and send them to Fr. Xifré. We have spoken of these Rules in Notebooks on Claretian Formation, volume I, p. 10.
The Aspirant Candidate
The Reglamento provides for a brief period of fifteen days between a candidate’s first entry into the Congregation until the beginning of the novitiate. These were days of orientation in view of the new panorama of life they were to undertake. Their occupations during this short time were: to read and come to know the Constitutions and practices of the Institute; to make a Retreat aimed at forming their spirit; to acquire peace of mind through a general confession of their life since they reached the use of reason; and to draft and write down their resolutions in keeping with the kind of perfection required by their new state in life.
These were also days of discernment. The specific disposition required for entry was the apostolic spirit.
The Novice Candidate
The fundamental principle governing the formation of novices was to transform the aspirant priests, seminarians or laymen into Missionaries. But the Father Founder had seen that the kind of Missionaries that the Church needed would have to be “evangelical and apostolic.” The Missionary continues the mission of Jesus, and Jesus lives in the Gospel which the Missionary proclaims. He cannot preach the Gospel of Jesus adequately without living it. For this reason:
“It ìs indispensable that he who has been called by God to a ministry as sublime and important as that of the apostolate should be adorned with the virtues conducive to it” (n. 1). “Nothing is so important to the Missionaries, nothing so essential, as the adornment of all virtues. Without these their talents would be useless, their voice fruitless and all their works vain” (n. 15). For the Founder, this principle was a conviction he had reached from his personal experience, as he states in his Autobiography: “I would say that the apostolic missionary should be a model of all the virtues: he should, in fact, be virtue personified. Following Christ’s example, he should first practice, then preach. Coepit facere et docere (Acts 1:1). By his actions, he [the Missionary] should be able to say with the Apostle: Be imitators of me, as l am of Christ.’ (1 Cor 11:1).” (Aut. 340).
In the same Constitutions of 1857, to which this Reglamento was an Appendix, it was stated that a good missionary must live an entirely apostolic life (cf. n. 72).
The aim of the novitiate is to lay down the foundation of the apostolic virtues (n. 15). The so-called “apostolic virtues” certainly include the evangelical core of poverty, chastity and obedience.
But to lay this foundation, certain attitudes or dispositions are required in order to be able to receive the charismatic gift and develop it, in order to become an apostle: the faith of an apostolic missionary, his trust, humility, prayer, and the kind of obedience that we might call formative, namely, docility, malleability and active collaboration.
Moreover, the aim of the novitiate is to test whether the candidates are decided and resolved on remaining in the Congregation, and whether they have the qualities befitting a good Missionary (n. 24). If they are resolved to remain, the novitiate also prepares them for a commitment to God and to the Institute by means of an Act of Consecration which has the same content as that of vows. The reason for making vows is “so as not to deprive themselves of a twofold merit.” It is not so that they might find a broader or demanding field of apostolate.
The Professed Candidate
As for the professed candidate, if he is a Brother he is instructed in his duties; if he is as student, he resumes his studies and must fit them into the framework of his missionary vocation. The students must atone and the same time cultivate their understanding through studies , and their heart through the virtues, but in order to bear fruit they need grace, which is obtained through piety (cf. n. 169).
The aim of formation is “every day to become more and more suited always to promote the greater glory of God and the good of souls. Therefore in their prayers they must ask the Lord to make them His ministers, powerful in words, deed and examples” (n. 171). In the final, printed version, the text reads: “fitting Ministers of His word, in order to spread His name and His kingdom throughout the world” (28b). This “fittingness” comes from the anointing-consecration of the Spirit, from a fully apostolic lifestyle and from suitable doctrine.
The piety of the professed has certain characteristics of its own. The Father Founder wants this piety to be markedly Christological, especially in its grasp of the Eucharistic celebration; biblical, through the assimilation of the Word; Marian — since the student is a “son of the Heart of Mary” in the line of the Beloved Disciple; and personalized, through meditation.
Although the missionary must be holy because the Lord is holy, the Founder recommends certain virtues as being especially necessary for the Students, in keeping with their situation.
Humility is fundamental to all forms of Christian asceticism, but the students are more exposed to pride and must therefore be aware that “they have received their talents and whatever else they have from God,” and that they will have to render an account of the way in which they have made their talents bear fruit. Hence they should never look down on anyone, no matter what his shortcomings might be. The original statement is ‘por corto que sea’ — literally, ‘however short he may be.’ In an academic setting, the ‘short’ are the marginalized.
The second virtue is the “rightness of intention that they must have in their studies.” This right intention is simply that of becoming suitably equipped for the ministry. The Saint considers application to studies as a virtue, not just as a demand. Application is “tenacity, constancy and perseverance.”
Yet this application, which in itself has a missionary aim, “must not lead the [candidate] to forget the other virtues, nor allow it to suffocate or weaken his piety and devotion” (n. 171). Application must be anchored in obedience and sustained by mortification (cf. n. 172). The Saint furthermore recommends silence, modesty, respect, useful conversations and the profitable use of time.
The Father Founder, mindful that he is dealing with missionary formation, is rather broadminded regarding centers for studies, which may take place, if need be, in the house, in a Seminary or in a University. He insists on the importance of studying languages for preaching and for confessions (cf. n. 178). The Students must be initiated into catechesis and preaching.
C. The Claretian in Formation, according to the Present Constitutions
(See Notebooks on Claretian Formation, vols. 5 and 6.)
The renewed Constitutions have retained the essential and characteristic elements of the Claretian in formation as found in earlier Constitutions. But they have borne in mind cultural changes and the Church’s new self-understanding. Formative periods are longer. Due value has been accorded the new sensibility toward the person, co-responsibility and participation. Quite characteristic in this connection is the number devoted to the formation of the novices: “In their search for God’s will, our young missionaries should let themselves be led by the Holy Spirit, cooperating responsibly with their novice master and superiors, and accepting their decisions out of faith and love.” (CC.65)
“The renewed Constitutions are written in the plural, and in a form that is dialogic, dynamic and open, involving and integrative. Nevertheless, it should be observed that Chapters IX-X1make use of a direct language, as if the Congregation were taking stock of its role as Mother and Teacher.
“It is likewise worth noting that these traits point to certain attitudes that the Constitutions expect of the candidate: capacity for community life, openness, capacity for making a commitment.
“They also ask that formation be considered as a process and that the values it stresses should only be undertaken by personalizing them, giving them meaning in the kind of unity of life that is demanded by the Claretian, missionary project of life.”[vii]
3. The Formation Director
A. Claret as Formation Director
Strictly speaking, Father Claret never held the “office” of formation director. Nevertheless, by its very nature, his mission as Founder included formative action. Although his personal mission of service to the Church was broader than his role as Founder, its foundation was always his being a Missionary Son of the Immaculate Heart ofMary.
a. Formation Director of Missionaries in the “Pre-Congregation”
Claret could see that as a result of the Spanish government’s suppression of Religious Institutes, the people were not being evangelized because of a lack of evangelizers; he therefore strove to kindle the hearts of numerous secular priests to undertake this work. The main means he used to do this was intense preaching in the form of Spiritual Exercises or clergy retreats. From these retreats he gradually managed to gather a number of collaborators, whom he formed for preaching by means of an adaptation of the Conferences of St. Vincent de Paul. By 1849 he had managed to form some “fifty-nine clerical disciples, some of whom will turn out to be very gifted preachers,” although he avowed that they were “still too weak to stand on their own.”[viii] Some of them already belonged to the Apostolic Brotherhood.
b. Formation Director of the CMF Missionaries
Our Father Founder was a formation director of his Missionaries mainly by his life-witness. He was the living “form” or pattern of the Congregation. He was also its “formator” by his presence and shared living with them in Vic, Cuba, Madrid and Rome. This presence was not as full as he would have wished, because of his other services to the Church, first as Archbishop and later as Royal Confessor. He was a formation director to his Missionaries by the words he addressed them in retreats, conferences, conversations, letters and other writings.
Although our Father Founder lived far away from our most significant communities, he was always lovingly attentive to them and followed all the ups and downs of the Congregation. He participated in all of the important meetings or Chapters in which the Constitutions were formulated and the organization of its government and formation took concrete shape.
He was present in part through his written magisterium. His correspondence with the Congregation is precious not only for its spiritual doctrine, but also for the counsels it offers on the expansion of the Congregation, its spirituality, formation and apostolate. But by far the most important contribution to the formation of his missionary Sons is his Autobiography.
The formative magisterium of our Father Founder is also found in other writings, such as Selfishness Overcome, Letter to the Missionary Theophilus, PastoralLetters, and above all, The Well Instructed Seminarian.
B. The Claretian Formation Director, according to Claret
(See Notebooks on Claretian Formation, vols. 1 and 2)
a) – The Novice master
Our Father Founder had a clear idea of the functions of the Novice master and the Prefect. He did not confuse these with those of a confessor-director, a prefect of discipline or a seminary rector. On this point one need only read what he has to say on these other positions in the Well-Instructed Seminarian, and then compare it with his statements on the Novicemaster. [ix] The main and even sole purpose of the seminary is to serve as a place where formation takes place. The seminarian in some sense lives in a Community, but a transitory formative community. In the seminary, the seminarian’s heart is also formed, but only in order to prepare him to live on his own in the future. In contrast, a religious community is a definitive situation, a full and permanent communion of life.
In the seminary, the role of the prefect of discipline is to safeguard seminary structures, while the spiritual director forms the person inwardly and prepares him to face living on his own.
The role of the Probandorum Magister is to be a guide who teaches and regulates initiation into the missionary life which is not just the activity of the apostolic ministry, but a communion of persons and of a life in the style of the Twelve with the Lord.
The qualities required of the Master are: maturity, kindness, discretion and the knowledge he needs in order to fulfil his role. He must be: a man of God “and most devoted to the Blessed Virgin”; he must also be a man of the superior, to whom he should be “most faithful, working always in dependency on him”; he must be a man of the novices, “for whom he must be a Father and Physician”; he will look to their health and oversee their initiation in piety, detachment and mortification. But his main care must be for beginners, “on account of the special temptations to which they are subject. Let him therefore listen to them patiently, however childish or annoying they may be, exhorting and encouraging them and giving them salutary and wise advice, especially when they seem downcast or sad.” It is also part of his role to discern whether they are truly called to missionary life in the Congregation. “Finally, he should be for all a light, a way, a father, a master and a model.”
b) – The Prefect of Students
At first, there was no house set aside exclusively for formation, since students were still few in numbers. Hence they lived in one of our missionary communities. The whole community had a formative role, but there was one Father especially devoted to caring for those in formation. In the first draft of the Reglamento, this priest was called the “Pedagogue,” and then, later, the “Prefect.” His role was neither that of the ‘spiritual director’ of a seminary, nor that of a ‘prefect of discipline; he was one of the community’s brethren who provided the service of initiation into missionary life and community.
His “assignment” was “to form virtuous, learned and suitable missionaries.” Formation included “piety, virtues and studies,” but in an integrated manner, “all at the same time.”
As for piety, he must see to it that all of them fulfil the required practices of devotion, “and that they fulfil them well.” Hence he must initiate them in mental prayer and the fruitful reception of the sacraments, “not just out of habit, or because they are required, but with love, fervour and devotion.” Piety must be personalized, even when pious practices were held in common. But it must also be balanced: “for some students pay so much attention to studies that they abandon the Sacraments and prayers, or partake in them poorly, distastefully or out of force; while others commit themselves so fervently to frequenting the Sacraments and prayers, that they do not fulfil their studies. These latter should be told to restrain their devotions somewhat, so that they might fulfil their obligations, since they will thereby please God” (n. 183). Their asceticism must be practical. The Pedagogue must see to it that the students “exercise themselves in the virtues.” The virtues most recommended to them are “humility, modesty, mortification of the senses and passions, and in a particular way, of the will.” But practice must be illumined by instructions and readings. Studies must be programmed and organized. Moreover, studies should be pedagogically distributed in such a way as to alternate difficult and easy subjects: “for in this way they will relish their studies and will not tire of them, for variety itself is a kind of rest, and thus they will benefit very much.”
The formation director must also take care of their health, seeing to it that they do not impair their health by indiscreet excesses either in studies or in devotions. In his own person the formation director must always be “so gentle, kind, modest and grave, that he may inspire all with trust and veneration.” He must love all of his charges equally and without exception, and in his personal dealings with them he must never allow himself to become upset or speak haughtily to them, and still less call them names. This does not mean, however, that he should refrain from correcting them whenever it might be necessary.
He must be transparent, “setting such a good example that he shines out among others for his love of the Congregation and his observance of the Constitutions” (Text B, 37). “The Superior must see to it that he is always one of the most observant and virtuous members of the Congregation” (Text A, 180).
The Pedagogue must strive to achieve union between himself and the students and of the students among one another, and also to achieve communion and harmony with the Superior, so that mutual trust exists between them. The Prefect must initiate the young missionaries into the apostolate. One of the proposals that our Father Founder made to Fr. Xifré, was that he distribute the students beyond Vie, to houses near seminaries, where they would be under the care of a formation director, so that “even when the other members are away on missions, there will be a community; thus these [students] will be able to lead Sunday services in honour of the Heart of Mary, recite the Rosary and teach Christian Doctrine in the Congregation’s Church, and thus they will become more practised in such matters. For it is well worthwhile for them to get used to these practices while they are young; indeed, they can even be assigned to a few more things compatible with their studies.”[x]
C. The Claretian Formation Director, according to the Renewed Constitutions.
(See Notebooks on Claretian Formation, vols. 5 and 6.)
“Missionary formation is a matter of such grave concern that responsibility for it rests on the whole Congregation, the province and the formation community” (CC 76).
The Formation Director as Discerner of Vocations
The formation director’s primary function is, through a process of listening to God’ s word, prayer and fraternal dialogue, to help those who feel called to our life to discern their vocation. The latter should be fully informed of what our life and mission entail, and should have some experience of it.’ 17
The renewed Constitutions have not only kept and resumed elements from earlier editions, but have also added certain nuances to adapt them to more recent demands:
“The novicemaster.. .should be a truly spiritual man, filled with love for the Congregation. He should be mature, kindly and prudent, equipped with a sound grasp of the nature and mission of our Congregation in the Church, as well as with suitable apostolic experience.” (CC 68)
By word and action, the Novicemaster must form the novices in the spirit of the Congregation:
“He should give the novices the kind of direction that will help them develop the maturity of judgment and constancy of purpose best suited to their individual needs, encouraging them to grow in those virtues which are generally admired by people and are most becoming in a disciple of Christ. He should be concerned that the novices acquire that distinctive unity of missionary life wherein the spiral of union with God goes hand in hand with apostolic work.” (CC 68)
The Prefect of Students
The renewed Constitutions have summed up in a more concentrated way the traits and functions of earlier legislation regarding the Prefect of Students. The newest elements are the following:
“In his instructions he should hand down the doctrine of our missionary life. He should aim at bringing them more by example than by words to embrace our way of life out of an inner conviction of faith.” (CC. 77)
4. The Claretian Form
A. Introduction: The Form
As we have seen, our Father Founder symbolized his form or pattern by an arrow, since he saw himself as one sent in to evangelize and enkindle hearts like a blazing arrow.
In a general sense, what we mean by form is the “outward shape or determinant of some matter,” or “the disposition or expression of potentiality or faculty of things.”[xi] In a philosophical sense, “form is that which constitutes being, as well as that which gives it its intelligibility.”[xii]
For our purposes two concepts may help us clarify what we mean by form: figure or shape, and soul or spirit.
- Form is NOT an ideal as a goal.
- Form is NOT group-identity seen as a kind of uniformity achieved by manipulation.
- Form is the result of our Founder’ s spiritual experience, as expressed by him and communicated to his disciples by the Spirit.
ü -This “form” is transmitted, lived and co-lived in the Congregation.
ü The Congregation knows its form. It discerns whether it is present in a formation candidate, and it accompanies the process of its initiation and growth.
B. The Form as Content
In the Latin text of the Constitutions, the “definition” of the Missionary” is called the forma. And the word “form” suits it better than that of “definition,” since our Founder was not trying so much to offer a definition, as he was to express a dynamic awareness of the gift of God. He himself called it a Reminder. Hence the Constitutions state: Missionarii formam prae oculis semper habeamus oportet ‘(CC.9)
The Latin text also uses the word forma to refer to Jesus’ way of life: Huic divinae vocationi respondentes, formam vitae lesu, quam Virgo Maria fide amplexa est nostrum facimus (CC.5) .
Forma is also implicit in the verb informare as applied to some of the virtues of Christ: informari debemus mansuetudine Christi [we must.. .be so imbued (=in-formed) with the gentleness of Christ] (CC 42); informetur nostra vita et actio spiritu paupertatis [our life and activities should be imbued (=in-formed) with the spirit of poverty] (CC 25).
Forma is also used of the Congregation’s way of life. The Prefect should bring the students by example more than by words to embrace our way of life –huius vitae formam (CC 77). Forma also refers to different kinds or expressions of a virtue, e.g., formae paupertatis (CC 25).
Christ is implicitly called the form in those passages which speak of conformitas or configuratio with Him. We are made conformable to Christ through obedience (CC 28); through prayer we are conformed to Christ (CC 34); Chapter VI is titled “Conformity with Christ”; we aim to attain conformity with Christ through profession and the practice of apostolic virtues (CC 39); our priests are conformed through the Sacrament of Orders to Christ the Priest (CC 83); through Mary’s maternal care we are conformed to the mystery of Christ (CC 8). In this connection, the Blessed Virgin Mary is said to have a special care for directing the formation of apostles: apostolorum formatricem (CC 73)
When Christ is referred to as the form, this is not to be understood merely in the sense of His being an exterior model, but in the deeper sense of His being, through the Spirit, a forma formans– a form that shapes us.
In the Constitutions we are reminded that Christ emptied himself, taking the form of a slave (CC 41). He became a slave through the Incarnation and served us —as an expression of love— even to the point of giving his life. Jesus Christ took our form of a slave in order that He might give us His form of Son.
1) Christ, the Form of the Missionary
a) In our Father Founder’s Life and Writings
Jesus of the Gospel
In his childhood, Saint Anthony Mary Claret began to know Jesus through the Catechism and by the recitation of the Rosary. The image of Christ that stood out before him was evangelical.
Jesus living in the Eucharist
At ten years of age, when he made his First Communion, Claret experienced Christ in the Eucharist. This discovery added a new dimension to his meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary and his studies in Sacred History. For him, Christ was not just a person from the past. Christ, as risen, was the Victim offered yet ever living, glorified in heaven and ever-present on earth. He saw Christ as priest, hidden day and night in the Eucharist.
Jesus the Redeemer
The well-known trial he went through in Barcelona would have ended in total failure if it had not been for the loving presence of his childhood “Friend” (cf. Aut. 66-76). After the young Claret, like Paul on the Damascus Road, had been temporarily blinded by the Light, he began little by little to rediscover his sight and vision as he became accustomed to the new brightness (cf. Aut. 69). He felt that he was a person who had been saved in every sense: from death at sea, from the dangers of the world and from his ambition to succeed in business. Christ was his redeemer, the Redeemer.
Jesus the Missionary-Son
The Lord kept arousing his zeal and kept calling him by means of the Bible (cf. Aut. 113-120). The Jesus of Salient, the priest hidden in the Eucharist, now appeared to him in a new form, in the style of the ancient prophets, but in a unique fullness. Jesus was the Son Sent by the Father who put his whole life in service of his Father’s business (Lk 2:48-49; cf. Autob. Doc. IV). Jesus, in keeping with this option, left everything behind in order to proclaim the kingdom of God in a life of itinerant poverty: “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Lk 9:58; Autob. Doc. IV). These two traits —the Son dedicated wholeheartedly to his Father’s concerns and the Son effectively dedicated to proclaiming the kingdom in itinerant poverty— appear in the handwritten list of biblical texts influencing his vocation which he carefully wrote down while he was still a young seminarian, or as he says, an “estudiantito.”(Autob.Doc. IV)
These two fundamental traits were to be reaffirmed and enriched throughout his life. In February of 1857, before he left Cuba, he handed his confessor, Fr. Palladi Currius (who had requested it), a second list of biblical texts affecting his vocation, along with a chronology of the most significant events since his first calling at the age of twelve up to the recent attempt on his life at Holguin in 1856. This list ends with the two Lukan texts on the Son dedicated to his Father’s concerns and on the Son proclaiming the kingdom in itinerant poverty.
In his Autobiography, the Saint offers a more thoroughgoing exposition of his spiritual experience relating to the mystery of Christ, and he perfects the initial image sketched out in his earlier jottings. As regards his experience of the itinerancy of Jesus, he writes:
“I am ever more deeply impressed at the thought of Jesus moving from town to town, preaching everywhere — not just in big cities, but in little villages and even to a single woman. When he spoke to the Samaritan woman, he was tired and thirsty from travelling, and the moment was as inconvenient for him as it was for the woman” (Aut. 221).
Jesus travelled along the highways and by-ways proclaiming the kingdom, not of his own initiative, but because he had been sent.
Jesus is the Son who was Sent:
“All the Old Testament prophets were sent by God. Jesus Christ himself was sent from God, and Jesus in turn sent his Apostles. As the Father has sent me, so also I send you.” (Aut. 195).
For our Father Founder, being sent like Jesus Christ was a deep and fundamental experience, one which he always expresses in terms of special endearment, as we can see, for example, in chapter ten of the second part of the Autobiography:
“The care I took to see that the superior sent me to preach, since I was well convinced that to be effective, a Missionary must be sent” (Aut. 195 — the long title of chapter ten). “This need for being sent to a particular place by the prelate was something that God himself helped me understand from the very beginning” (Aut. 198)
In his Autobiography our Founder offers us a third list of biblical texts relating to his vocation. Nearly all of them coincide with the ones cited in earlier lists, but there is one new and strongly emphasized trait:
“And in a most particular way, God our Lord gave me to understand those words: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and the Lord has sent me to bring good tidings to the poor, and to heal the broken-hearted” (Aut. 118 accidentally omitted from the 1976 English version]).
The Saint, citing both Luke and Isaiah from memory, merges them, retaining the words that are most significant to himself. Surely, this experience derives from the illumination he received in 1859 concerning the Angel of the Apocalypse, as we can surmise from numbers 686 and 687 of his Autobiography. Jesus Christ was anointed prophetically in order to proclaim the Good News, and the Saint testifies that the Spirit had also given, both to himself and to us, a sharing in this prophetic fullness:
“The Lord told me both for myself and for all these missionary companions of mine, You yourselves will not be the speakers; the Spirit of your Father and of your Mother will be speaking in you. So true is this that each one of us will be able to say, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore He has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good tidings to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted.” (Aut. 687).
Jesus, Sign of Contradiction
Father Claret knew from personal experience that because of his fideity to the Gospel, he had been subjected to persecution, even to the extent of shedding his blood. In this experience of persecution, he was shown another characteristic trait of Christ the Evangelizer, namely, that of being a sign set for contradiction:
“And how He [Jesus] was persecuted! He was set for a sign of contradiction, persecuted for his teaching, his works, and his very person. Finally, they took his life amid affronts, torments and insults, making him suffer the most shameful and painful death imaginable” (Aut. 222). “Don’t imagine for a moment, dear Theophilus, that all persecutions ended with Jesus… No, the opposition is still on the attack, and contradictions and persecutions will continue… Persecutions are so inevitable for missionaries, that they are a sure sign by which they can judge whether they are sent or not, since there has been no exception to this rule up to the present.”[xiii]
By combining these elements, we can set before our eyes the image —or form—- of Christ the Evangelizer re-presented to us by Father Claret the missionary, following the pattern that the Holy Spirit had first traced out in his own heart.
b) In the Congregation
The Congregation has kept this image of Christ in its spirituality and has gathered it into its constitutional code, especially in the Fundamental Constitution and in the Gospel motivations it offers in each chapter of the Constitutions.
In their very opening page, the Constitutions have set the image —the form— of the Christ of the Congregation: Jesus Christ the Son, “sent from the Father and become incarnate of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit.” They emphasize the missionary being of the Son, representing him as being “anointed by that same Spirit to announce glad tidings to the poor.”
Jesus, “in utter dedication to the concerns of his Father,” fulfilled his mission by “proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom.” But he did so not as a solitary prophet, but in a communion of life:
“Since it was his will to associate people with him in this saving work, he called together those he desired, appointed twelve of them to be with him, and sent them out to proclaim his message. Then, when he himself had accomplished the work of our redemption, he founded the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation and sent the Apostles and others to bear witness to the resurrection” (CC 3).
In the ensuing chapters, the Constitutions bring us more deeply into the mystery of Christ for us, and they spell out these essential traits more explicitly:
- – Christ prays, works and suffers, always and only to bring about the greater glory of God and the salvation of humankind (CC 9).
- – Christ [the Missionary] is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit (CC 10).
- – By his words, and above all by the witness of his life, Jesus teaches chastity forthe sake of the Kingdom of Heaven (CC 20).
- Jesus, though he was rich, became poor for our sake, that we might be enriched by his poverty (CC 23).
- – While he was preaching the Good News, Jesus had nowhere to lay his head (CC 23).
- Jesus Christ was sent to do the will of the Father.. .and for our sake he became obedient unto death, even death on a cross (CC 28).
- – Jesus [the Missionary] prayed assiduously and recommended and taught that we should pray without ceasing (CC 33).
- – Christ the Lord in the Eucharist proclaims words of life, offers himself up for us, honours the Father and builds up the Church (CC 35);
- he is the sign of unity and the bond of charity; he signifies and fully realizes fraternal life (CC 12).
- Christ knew no sin (CC 38).
- Jesus Christ, urged on by an ardent love for the Father and for us, gave himself over to labour, to suffer and even to death (CC 40).
- Jesus was driven into the desert by the Spirit, in order to be tempted by the devil (CC 53).
- Jesus emptied himself and took the form of a slave (CC 41); he did not come to be served but to serve (CC 81).
- Jesus is meek and humble of heart (CC 42). – The Lord identifies fully with those who suffer, and invites us to recognize him suffering in them (CC 41).
- Jesus Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example (CC 45).
- Jesus Christ will come again (CC 46).
- Jesus exhorts us: ‘Pray the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest’ (CC 58).
This ‘icon’ of Christ the evangelizer presented to us in the renewed Constitutions corresponds faithfully, as we have seen, to the evangelical experience of our Father Founder, and it is the form whereby the Holy Spirit wishes us to be formed in the Congregation, so that the Pilgrim Church will not be lacking this sign of the presence of its Spouse.
The Mission of the Claretian Today(nn. 54-62) has also put together a description of the Christ of Claret, the form and model of the Missionary.
To go into this theme more deeply, see the Commentary on the Constitutions, vol. I: In our Charism, pp. 168-177. In the Bible, p. 248 ff. In Theology, p. 307 ff.
2) Mary, the Form of the Missionary
a) In the Experience of our Father Founder
As a child, Anthony saw Mary in various religious images: that of Our Lady of the Rosary in his parish church, the statue of the Virgin and Child in the hermitage of Fussimanya, the various religious images in his home. He grew better acquainted with her in studying the Catechism and Sacred History. In his recitation of the Rosary, he contemplated her associated as Mother in the life and mission of her Son. His whole childhood was so to speak illumined by the smile of Our Lady of Fussimanya.
As a young man entering into the perils of life, Anthony constantly experienced the presence of Mary as Protector (Aut. 71- 72).
“And you, my Mother: what proper thanks can I show you for saving me from death in the sea? If I had drowned, as by all rights I should have done in that condition, where would I be now? You know quite well, my Mother” (Aut 76).
When, sad and disillusioned by the world, he arrived in Vic, he enrolled and professed in the Servite Third Order, (Aut. 94) and the image of our Sorrowful Mother cradling her dead Son (which dominated the retable of the high altar in the Església dels Dolors) might have been the image of his own earthly mother, had not his Heavenly Mother saved his life at La Barceloneta.
As the apostolic vocation of Anthony the seminarian kept unfolding, he experienced the presence of Mary as his Teacher in discipleship and the following of the Master, and as the formation director of apostles, not just through her outward example, but by her inward power: “formed by you in the furnace of your mercy and love” (Aut. 270), and as the Mother of the Beloved Disciple.[xiv]
In his second year of philosophical studies, he had an extraordinary Marian experience (Anthony the seminarian calls it an apparition), in which he saw Mary as the Mother who with her Offspring —Jesus and the Church— overcame the mystery of iniquity. Throughout his life he kept probing more deeply into the meaning of this grace in order to reach a better understanding of Mary’s person and mission. He kept discovering the ecclesial impact of the mystery of the Immaculate Conception and that of the Woman-Mother clothed in the sun and locked in struggle against the Serpent and against the world rulers of this present darkness” (Aut. 95-98 and 101; Autob. Doc. I and II).
Anthony, now a priest and an Apostolic Missionary, saw himself as a prophetic arrow poised in the mighty hand of the “Virgin and Mother of God,” and let fly “against Satan, the prince of this world, who has made an alliance with the flesh” )Aut. 270).
He felt as if animated by the spirit of his Mother, who inspired him in his preaching and enkindled him .with maternal love for sinners and the needy. In the Jansenist, fire-and-brimstone milieu in which he carried out his apostolate, he saw the marvellous effects of conversions of people drawn by the mercy of God as manifested in the Heart of His Mother. This led him, moreover, to discover the person of Mary as “heart,” as Mother of Charity:
“Mary is all charity… Mary is, then, the heart of the Church. This is why all works of charity spring from that heart. It is well known that the heart has two motions, which specialists call ‘systole’ and ‘diastole.’ Through the former, the blood is gathered in and absorbed, and through the latter it is spread out and diffused through the arteries. Thus Mary, too, is continuously performing these two motions: absorbing the grace of her Son and pouring it forth into sinners” (SAMC, Selected Spiritual Writings, Mary, the Heart of the Church).
Father Claret used to call Mary, by reason of her Heart and of her eminent charity, Queen of Apostles (1845). On more than one occasion he shows us of how Mary, as Heart, kept leading him on to face new needs as they arose: those of combating poverty and suffering in Cuba, or those of combating the rising tide of idealist, rationalist and materialist atheism in Europe.[xv]
Independently historical situations, sonship is inline with the sonship of the Son sent by the Father and with that of the Beloved Disciple. It is sonship-mission or mission born of filial consecration, that of the Son and that of those who are consecrated in the Son.
Toward the end of his life, the Saint had an illumination in which he understood that the Congregation was like and instrument of the spiritual maternity of Mary in its begetting new sons of God through the Gospel.[xvi]
Mary, the first disciple by reason of her faith and her faithful generosity, was also the first missionary, who gave the world the Word made flesh. Mary is the exemplary form of the Son of her Heart, of the Missionary. Through her maternal function, this form is in some way formative , in keeping with the different explanations of theologians.
b) The Congregation Takes Up this Marian Heritage
The spiritual experience of our Founder is transmitted to the Congregation by a kind of osmosis. The Congregation grows in its reflex awareness of this grace, and formulates it in its life and in its constitutional and formative texts.
The Congregation, too, feels that it is formed in the forge of the Heart of Mary.
In the opening paragraph of the Constitutions, we define ourselves as a Congregation of Missionaries (CC 1), and we are called and truly are Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CC 8).
Mary appears as an essential collaborator in the Father’s gracious design. The Word begotten in eternity is sent, and takes on a temporal mode of being, through the incarnation. He “became incarnate of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit” (CC 3).
Later, Mary is said to be “associated with all her heart in the saving work of her Son” (CC 36). As the Lord’s servant, Mary elevated herself entirely to the Son and to his work” (CC 28).
Mary is our form as Mother and Teacher, inasmuch as she was the first disciple of Christ (CC 61). Mary is also our form as an exemplar in following and imitating Christ. Thus, imitating Christ, and following the example of the Virgin Mary, we too embrace chastity as a gift (CC 20). “Through our profession we share in [Jesus’] poverty and, keeping in mind the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was foremost among the poor of Yahweh, we leave all things behind” (CC 23). Imitating Jesus Christ, “and following the example of the Virgin Mary…we.. .strive to fulfil the will of the Father in the Congregation” (CC 28). Like Mary (Lk 2:19), we meditate daily, pondering the word of God in our hearts (CC 37).
3) The Saints as Form for the Missionary
a) In the Spiritual Experience of our Father Founder
Our Father Founder saw in the Saints a form of life, as being exemplary imitators of missionary life. This was not just a desire to imitate others, but a personal calling, in the framework of his own unique originality, to be like: Isaiah, the servant, tried in the furnace of poverty; Ezekiel, the sentry; the Beloved Disciple ; the Apostles the eagle of the Apocalypse; the angel of the Apocalypse; St. Michael and the Angels ; the great apostolic Saints.
In his Autobiography he speaks specifically of the Saints as a form and incentive to missionary zeal (nn. 214-263).
He also had an experience of the “communion of saints.” He explains it through St. Paul’s saying that in Christ Jesus we are but one body and one family (cf. Gal3:28). This body lives by God, and the spirit and charity of God circulate through it like blood or like sap (cf. Catecismo explicado, Barcelona 1862, p. 159).
Saint Anthony Mary Claret assigned the Saints as exemplars and protectors of all his apostolic works. As Founder, he placed his Congregation of Missionaries under the exemplary patronage of the Heart of Mary, St. Joseph, St. Michael, the Holy Angels, the Apostles, and of four other Saints who, from different points of view, played an identifying role in forming his own apostolic vocation: St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Teresa of Jesus and St. Catherine of Siena.(Const. 1857,1; Const. 1865,1).
“Besides my unfailing love for poor sinners, another force that has driven me to work for their salvation is the example of the prophets, of Christ himself, of the Apostles, and of the many men and women saints whose lives and histories I have read, noting down some of the more salient passages for my use and profit and as a stimulus to work harder” (Aut. 214).
Quite characteristic is this quotation from the Foundations of St. Teresa that Claret copied in his very late work, Selfishness Overcome:
“And thus it happens to me that when I read in the lives of the saints that they converted souls, I feel much greater devotion, tenderness and envy than over all the martyrdoms they suffered. This is the inclination the Lord has given me, for it seems to me that He prizes a soul that through our diligence and prayer we gain for Him, through His mercy, more than all the services we can render Him” (Selfishness Overcome, ch. IX).
b) In the Congregation
The process of renewal of the Constitutions has respected this will of our Father Founder and has preserved it in the chapter on prayer, treating of communion with the Blessed Virgin Mary and with the Saints (CC35).
4) Claret, Form for the Missionaries.
Everything we have said thus far applies in some manner to Saint Anthony Mary Claret, because we have contemplated Christ, Mary and the Saints as they appear in the spiritual experience of our Father Founder. However, in his own person, Claret shaped a personal synthesis of the different dimensions of the grace he received. He himself glimpsed what he wanted to be and was in fact becoming, and in hi Autobiography he strove to give us the outlines of this image.
But it seems that he himself wanted to compose a kind of summary of it all to keep before him always, and so he wrote the Reminder that has been incorporated into number 9 of the Constitutions.[xvii] The Saint later transcribed it in his Autobiography, n. 494.
a) A Form through Charity
Our Father Founder sees himself as a Missionary Son of the Heart of Mary, and from the standpoint of his charismatic experience, to be a Missionary Son of the Heart of Mary is to be a person who ‘desires mightily and strives by all means possible to set the whole world on fare with God’s love” (Aut. 494).
Father Claret, the Missionary, is not a theoretician of Christianity, but a collaborator of Christ the Evangelizer. Christ evangelizes by enkindling the whole world with the Father’s love. Christ carne to cast fire on the earth. “This fire of zeal is the same one that burnt in the Heart of Jesus. This fire is what Jesus brought down from heaven, and his whole desire is that it take fire in your heart and leap up in great flames.”
The priest cannot set fare unless he is himself on fare, incandescent, aflame with charity. This presupposes a whole process that has its start in the Holy Spirit, who consecrates him for mission as He consecrated Jesus in his baptism and as He consecrated the Apostles on Pentecost. This process continues through us when it is received in faith, developed in prayer, and incarnated in our life, until it brings us into such living conformity with Christ, that it can truly be said of each of us that a Son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary’s “only concern” is how he can best follow Jesus Christ and imitate Him in working, suffering, and striving constantly and single-mindedly for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls.”
Charity not only makes us like Christ, but becomes a dynamic inner principle: the apostolic spirit. As our Father Founder says:
“In the course of meditating…, I used to feel such a burning within me that I couldn’t sit still. I had to get up and run from one place to another, preaching continually. I can’t describe what I felt within me. Nothing tired me; I wasn’t terrified at the awful calumnies being levelled against me, or afraid of the greatest persecutions. Everything was sweet to me, as long as I could win souls for Jesus Christ and heaven and save them from hell” (Aut. 227).
Our Founder felt identified with the Apostles at Pentecost, and with Paul and his joyous city: “The love of Christ impels us!” (2 Cor 5:14).
“The fire of the Holy Spirit sent the holy Apostles racing throughout the world… Aflame with this same love, apostolic missionaries have reached, are reaching and will continue to reach to the ends of the earth, in order to preach the word of God. Thus they can rightly apply to themselves the words of the Apostle Paul: Charitas Christi urget nos. The charity or love of Christ spurs and impels us to run and fly on the wings of holy zeal.”[xviii].
Zeal is not just a “pious” desire; it is effective: “A person who has zeal is always yearning and striving by all means possible to make God better known, loved and served both in this life and in the next, since this sacred love knows no bounds. He does the same for his neighbour, yearning and striving to make everyone content in this life, and happy and blessed in the next; to see to it that all of them are saved and that none of them is eternally lost, that none of them offends God or lives for even a moment in sin”(ibid.)There is no need (or room) to list here what Father Claret did under the spurring of Christ’s love. In order to set the whole world on fire with God’s love, he above all made use of the word of God, so that God should be known and therefore loved. And he used the word of God in all its forms: preached, written, pictured, sung, but above all lived and witnessed to. This love, once lit, was contagious; it set fire to others.
This love was as strong as death, because it had to face up to all kinds of difficulties: natural weakness, illnesses, inclement weather, misunderstandings and persecutions of all sorts: defamation, slander and even attempts on his life.
b) A Form through imitating and Following Christ the Evangelizer
Son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, precisely because he is afire with charity, is drawn by the Spirit to follow and imitate Christ. “His only concern is how he may follow Christ and imitate him in praying, working, enduring, and striving constantly and solely for the greater glory of God and the salvation of humankind” (CC 9).
This attitude led our Father Founder to an asceticism:
- 1.of earnest prayer in order to encounter Christ personally in faith, leading to personal friendship nourished mainly through the Eucharist. Since he was drawn to action both by temperament and by zeal, the asceticism of prayer freed him both from dissipation and from activism.
- 2.of active mortification in order to deny himself and follow the Lord in communion of life with the Twelve, in chastity, poverty and obedience; also, in order to renounce bis own sentiments and put on those of the Heart of Christ.
- 3.of passive mortification, mainly by opposing the mystery of iniquity through his missionary ministry, which meant putting up with hard work, fatigue, sickness and even conformity in death. He also did so out of compassion for and identification with those who suffer violence, either through human malice or through natural disasters.
c) A Form for Missionaries through their very Mission
The mission which Saint Anthony Mary Claret received in the Church was a very great grace, but it was also a very demanding one by reason of all the relationships it involved: demands relating to the Father who missioned him by means of the Church, demands relating to the Word he had to proclaim, demands relating to missionary community, demands relating to the people to whom he was sent.
Above all, our Father Founder had need of great faith and purity of heart, in order to discern the saving plans of the Father, and in order to see with the eyes of Christ the needs of humanity. He exercised and increased this faith in intercessory prayer, in the prayer of discernment and in welcoming the Word in his heart so as to be able to announce it.
Our Father Founder embraced mortification with a view to witness, with a view to becoming a transparent shining-through of the Gospel. He had to renounce things which of themselves would be licit in one who had not received this mission, but which might diminish the transparency or availability of one who had received it. This fidelity to witness led him to the brink of martyrdom.
For our Father Founder, dedication to ministry was not just a bureaucratic duty, or a career, or much less a hobby. It was a wholehearted and fulltime service. Since the glory of the Father andthe salvation of the world were at stake, he could not afford to think of himself or his own convenience.
Our father Founder had to deny himself in order to be all things to all persons, in order to become inculturated and incarnated without half measures, so that he could always remain a sign of the transcendence of the Kingdom.
C. A Summing-up of the Form in the Constitutions
The Constitutions offer us this summary statement:
“They should pray God…to make them fitting ministers of the divine word…to spread his name and the kingdom of heaven throughout the world” (CC 73).
Ministers (not masters) of the Word (not of power or authority, even church authority), to make the Father known, and to spread the Kingdom, throughout the world.
Fitting. consecrated by the Spirit; formed in the forge of Mary’s Heart; conformed with Christ, the Son-Evangelizer; living together the same fraternal and evangelical lifestyle; according to the example of Mary, the “first disciple,” of the Beloved Disciple, of the Apostles, and of our Father Founder.
5. Formation as a Process of initiation
A. The Spiritual Experience of Our Father Founder
In various writings, our Father Founder has left us an account of his own process of formation. We have a self-portrait of those years in the short document, A Student Devoted te Our Lady of the Rosary”[xix]
In his Autobiography, too, he has given us several insights into his formation, and there are also a few autobiographical references strewn here and there in the Well-Instructed Seminarian. Here, we are going to gather up those elements in the field of formation on which the Saint focuses in the primitive Reglamento for the Students: piety, virtues, study and the apostolate.
1. The discovery of the forma.
When Anthony arrived in the Seminary, he had completed his process of discernment regarding the priesthood. We might say that he had made this discernment when he was twelve years old, although at that moment he could see no possibility of realizing his vocation. Once the matter of his vocation had been cleared up, however, he cantered his whole interest on how he could fulfil the offering he had made on his service to the Eucharist: how to form and prepare himself in order better to respond to God’s call.
During his first year of philosophical studies, while still under the influence of his disillusionment with the world, his mind was set on a contemplative form of the priesthood in the Carthusian Order, but during summer vacation of that year, he permanently ruled outthat option. Little by little he began discovering that his priesthood would have to be missionary in character. After the initiatory vision he had during his second year of philosophical studies, and above all through his transforming and vocational reading of the Scriptures, he saw this clearly during his ordination to the Diaconate. Perhaps he had not yet reached the point of fully formulating his experience, but I believe that he had come to identify with the idea! that he later wrote for his young missionaries: to become a fitting minister of the Word of God in order to make his Name known and to spread the Kingdom of Heaven throughout the world. Or, in other words, to set the whole world aflame with the fire of God’s love.
2. Initiation in piety.
Anthony relived, in an intense way, the piety of his childhood: the Eucharist as the sacrament of the real presence, loving and trust-filled visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and Holy Mass. His longings for silence and recollection continued or awakened with even greater intensity. But according to his testimony in The Well Instructed Seminarian, the experience of the indwelling and absorbing presence of God developed within him. This is how he describes it, speaking of himself in the third person: “This cleric remembers the words of the Apostle, who said: In God we live and move and have our being (Acts 17.28). Thus he considers that as a fish is at home in water or a bird is in the air, in the same way he is always in the presence of God, whom he fears as his ever-watchful Lord, whom he loves as his all-providing Father, whom he calls on continually, and serves and praises unceasingly, directing all things to His greater honour and glory.”[xx]
“This cleric is a great friend of prayer and has a great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and when he prays to the Lord, whom he visits every day, he speaks to Him as a son would to his father..”[xxi]
He spent a half-our daily meditating on the life, passion and death of Jesus. He attended Mass every day and faithfully made a daily visit to the Blessed Sacrament in the Chapel of the Forty Hours Devotion. Every week, he received the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Anthony’s piety was also Marian, corresponding to Mary’s presence in his living of the mystery of Christ, but he now began to discover a new aspect of Mary’s maternal! role, namely, that of her function in forming him as a disciple and an apostle:
Since he loved Blessed Mary as his tender and affectionate Mother, he was always thinking what he might do as an offering in her honour.
It occurred to him that what he ought to do was to read and study the life of St. John the Evangelist and imitate him. In doing so he discovered that this son ofMary, given to her by Jesus on the Cross, had been distinguished for all virtues, but especially for his humility, purity and charity, and so this young student set about practicing these virtues. (Autob. Doc. II)
Anthony experienced the way that Mary fulfilled in him the mission that had been entrusted to her, to care for her disciple-son:
Mary Most Holy had a special providence for me and treated me as a very pampered son, not for any merits of my own, but out of her pious care and kindness. On the second day of February —the day when she went to the Temple with her Son Jesus in her arms and offered Him to the Eternal Father— it can be said that She herself presented me in the temple and offered me to the Eternal Father as a cleric, for this was the day when the Bishop gave me clerical Tonsure.[xxii]
He also manifested his Marian piety by a daily visit to “Our Lady of the Rosary in St. Dominic’s Church. Whether it rained or snowed, he never omitted these visits…and on days when he had no classes, he increased and prolonged these visits” (Autob. Doc. 11).
3. Process of initiation into the fundamental virtues
The Saint avows that when the Lord had prepared him in the forge of fervour, the work of his transformation began. The first virtue that He produced in him was humility, a fundamental humility that set him in his true place regarding God, regarding his superiors and teachers, and regarding his classmates. Moreover, it led him to accept serenely the place where he belonged. Anthony, who had held the first rank in manufacturing, was now regarded as just average in his grades for philosophy. In contrast, in mathematics and physics he led all the rest, but these sciences were not valued very highly in the seminary. Now he had to try to change his whole direction: in Barcelona he longed and strove to be recognized and number one; now, God was number one, and Anthony’s whole life had to be directed to Him, seeking God’ s glory, not his own. Now he could no longer belong to himself, but felt called more and more to identify with the prophet-servant.
Gradually this fundamental humility allowed his charity to assert itself with growing intensity. Through it Anthony kept growing in conformity with Christ, the Son who reveals and glorifies the Father, the Son of Man who is meek and humble of heart.
Obedience to God began taking on the aspect of availability for his evangelizing mission. Obedience to others had never been a problem for him, since he had already practiced it at home, at school and at work. Since his early childhood, his motivation had been love, pleasing others, not offending anyone.
His relationship with his fellow seminarians was not very difficult for him. Anthony was a day-student, not a seminary boarder. He lodged the house of a kindly priest, Don Fortian Brés. Besides, if he had managed to get along well with all those unknown factory workers in Barcelona, it was a good deal easier for him to get along with those who shared the same vocation and the same ideal.
To grow in virtue, he had frequent recourse to spiritual direction, and to the devotions and retreats that were more accessible to him by his belonging to the Congregation (or Sodality) of the Immaculate Conception.
4. The process of initiation into studies
Anthony had already been formed in the technical sciences, and in Castilian, Catalan and French Grammar, but the sciences of the spirit —philosophy and theology— were new to him. Although “he applied himself earnestly to his studies and was quite punctual in attending all his classes,” and had “a plan of life in which he had included all his obligations and devotion” (Autob. Doc II), he had to make a notable effort in order to make headway. Besides attending classes and faithfully reviewing his subjects on his own, he also acted as a sort of tutor in regular gatherings with some of his classmates.
He also strove to broaden his knowledge by taking advantage of the Bishop’s excellent library:
After classes at the seminary, he used to go to the Episcopal library, where he was seen to be one of the most assiduous readers; it often happened, in fact, that the only ones who remained there for hours on end were the future archbishop and the celebrated philosopher Jaume Balmes. (HD I, p.69)
In the Well-Instructed Seminarian and in his Correspondence, Claret has left us the fruit of his experience in the process of initiation in different disciplines.
5. Initiation in the apostolate
In his Autobiography, our Father Founder tells us: “Ever since I lost the desire to become a Carthusian —which God had used to uproot me from the world— I not only thought about becoming holy myself, but I was continually trying to imagine what I could do to save the souls of my neighbours” (Aut. 113).
Anthony began his initiation into the apostolate among his seminary classmates. He used to give French lessons to those who wanted to take them, and one of these students tells us that Claret used to end them with a kind of spiritual conference, “where he gave me counsels on virtue and perfection, and very timely instructions on the general and particular examen, on mortification and the presence of God, and most especially on meditation.” (HD I, p. 73) Another form of the apostolate was lending or borrowing books in which he ‘accidentally’ left some fitting maxim or prayer as a bookmark.
Among his classmates and companions he formed an association made up of fine ‘choirs’ with the names and duties of the angels, in such a way that in keeping with their classification, the members would practice acts of religion, asceticism and apostolate. For this purpose he wrote out fine letters which each of the corresponding choirs of angels were supposed to have sent to the respective choir of students. These letters were full of affectionate unction and practical guidelines, already nuanced by those beautiful comparisons and apt quotations from Scriptures that would become the main hallmark of Claret’s later writings.” (HD I, p. 73)
He was initiated into the apostolate of the word by being assigned to teach catechism to children, as he himself confides to us in the Well-Instructed Seminarian:
When I was in Minor Orders in the Seminary of Vie, I was assigned to teach doctrine to the boys of a church in that city. Would that this were practiced in all dioceses! What great good would come of it! The faithful would be instructed, the ordained would become practiced in this ministry, and afterwards they would be quite apt in catechizing and preaching. When he was rector of the seminary of Vic, Dr. Jaume Soler, who later became the Bishop of Teruel, used to say that he had done this, and he assured us that he had observed that young clerics who had practiced teaching Christian doctrine nearly all turned out to be good and zealous priests. For this reason he exhorted his seminarians most warmly to do likewise. We would tell you the same, beloved seminarian. Exercise yourself as much as possible in teaching doctrine to children. Do it during your courses, if your superiors allow you and without neglecting your study obligations and others. But do so especially during vacations in your own town or wherever you may be, and oh! how much good you will do and how much merit you will gain! Remember what Jesus Christ tells you: Qui autem fecerit er docuerit, hic magnus vocabitur in regno coelorum (Mt 5:19).” [xxiii]
He also broadened his apostolic action by speaking with textile workers, among whom he enjoyed a certain prestige because they knew of his abilities in their field; he even sat down at the loom and shared with them some of the techniques he had learned in Barcelona.” (HD I, p.74)
Anthony had his initiation into charity by attending to the needs of the sick in the local hospital. He visited them frequently, and while he attended to their personal tidiness, he took advantage of the situation to teach them Christian doctrine, spurring them on to do good and to strive after conformity with the will of God.
6. The process of ordination
The process of Anthony’s ordination followed its own special course. He received tonsure earlier than usual, because “in those days a vacant benefice in Sallent was being claimed by a priest who lived in the town though he was not born there. Unfortunately, the man was not all that one would have liked… To prevent his entering the community, they had me claim the benefice since I, as a native son, should have preference. I obtained the position, and on February 2,1831 the bishop gave me tonsure, the vicar general gave me my stipend, and on the following day l went to Sallent to take possession of the benefice. From that day on, I always wore the cassock and had to recite the Divine Office” (Aut. 90). It was commonly . held that Bishop Corcuera had a supernatural gift of discernment regarding seminarians. One day he told Father Brés: “Don Fortian, I want to ordain Anthony now because there is something extraordinary about him.”[xxiv]’ In two years, from 1833 to 1835, he received all Orders Particularly significant were his ordination to the diaconate, during which he received a special insight into his missionary vocation (Auto. 101), and his ordination to the priesthood.
Before my priestly ordination I made a forty-day retreat. I have never made a retreat so full of sufferings and trials, [xxv] but neither, perhaps, so replete with great graces. I realized this on the day I said my first Mass. (Aut. 102)
Our Father Founder —precisely because he was called to be a Founder— did not find his path traced out and ready-made for him. Within the formation structures tailor-made for a diocesan priest, the Holy Spirit initiated him in a formation process for missionary and universal service of the Gospel in an apostolic life. Later on, when the Congregation decided to admit young seminarians to become missionaries, he only had to look back on the road he himself had embarked upon, not knowing where it would lead, but always under the guidance of the spirit.
B. The Process of Transformation with Christ the Missionary in the Constitutions.
In the Constitutions, Christ the Missionary is presented as the formaof the Claretian, and the personal assimilation to Christ is referred to as “initiation” or “conformity” (Lat., configuratio). In the first five chapters of the Constitutions, the concept of “imitation” predominates, but from the fifth chapter onwards, “conformity” is the common denominator under which the Virtues of the Missionary Christ and the Suffering Christ are set forth. Even the living of the religious vows is considered under this aspect.
Although in biblical terms imitation and conformity are interchangeable, the Constitutions choose to take conformity in a more progressive, deep and interior sense. Whereas imitation tends to deal with the exterior, conformity tends toward inner attitudes and leads to full transformation in Christ.
The virtues of Christ the Missionary “according to our distinctive charism in the Church,” are charity-zeal, humility and meekness (or gentleness). Moreover, since they are associated in the work of Redemption, the Missionaries are conformed to Christ through both outward and inward, active and passive mortification, in hopes of a definitive and consummated glorification with Christ in glory, our resurrection and our life.
Number 39 offers us a summary of this process of transformation:
The anointing of the Holy Spirit, (Acts 10.38; 1 Jn 2.20; Is 61.1) whereby we are anointed to preach the good news to the poor, is a sharing in the fullness of Christ (Jn 1.16; Col 1.19). For this reason, we who have been called to follow the Lord and collaborate with Him in the work assigned Him by the Father, must keep our gaze fixed on Christ, imitate Him, and be so steeped in His Spirit that it will no longer be we who live, but Christ who truly lives inus (Gal. 2.20). This is the only way in which we will become forceful instruments in proclaiming the kingdom of heaven.
We aim to attain conformity with Christ by professing religious vows in a missionary community. We also pursue this conformity by the practice of other virtues and express it according to our missionary gift in the Church
As can readily be seen, this number speaks in the first place ofour objective consecration-conformation, a sharing in the prophetic anointing of Christ. It then describes for us the subjective process of transformation through contemplation and imitation, always under the movement of the same Spirit. We attain this imitation-conformity through the vows and the apostolic virtues.
a. Objective conformity-consecration
Our Father Founder, speaking of the need for consecration by the Spirit, writes:
Jesus Christ himself received the Holy Spirit (Is 61.1; Lk 4.18) …. …Here are the very words of Holy Scripture: Spiritus Domini super me. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me (invisibly in the hypostatic union, and visibly in the baptism in the Jordan)… Other Saints are anointed through grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but Jesus Christ was anointed by the Holy Spirit Himself, as the font and fullness of all graces, so that we might all receive from His fullness, as from a most abundant source poured forth upon the Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors and Virgins.[xxvi]
In his Autobiography, our Father Founder describes his experience of the consecration-anointing of the Spirit, when he reconsiders the biblical texts in which his apostolic vocation was disclosed to him: “And in a very special way God our Lord made me understand those words: Spiritus Domini super me, et evangelizare pauperibus misit me Dominus et sanare contritos corde” (Aut. 118).
Initially, our Father Founder mainly experienced the effects of the action of the Holy Spirit in his life; but as he reached full spiritual maturity, he became more aware of the person of the Spirit, as we can see from the following rich statement:
The Lord told me both for myself and for all these missionary companions of mine: Non vos estis qui loquimini, sed SpiritusPatris vestri et Matris vestrae, qui loquitur in vobis (Mt 10:20). So true is this that each one of us will be able to say, Spiritus Domini super me, propter quod unxitme, evangelizare pauperibus misit me, sanare contritos corde (Is 61:1; Lk 4:18)” (Aut. 687).
b. Subjective conformity
This anointing-consecration was above all a conforming — one might say an ontological, objective conforming— with Jesus Christ the Evangelizer, but it was also the action of the Spirit which led Anthony to become subjectively, “in life,” what he already was through this grace.
“Send upon me your Holy Spirit…,” he writes, “to guide, send and govern me along the straight path of my divine Master Jesus Christ and of the Virgin Mary” (Spiritual Notes, “RoyalConfessor,17).
He also asks that the Spirit “enlighten and set me afire with divine love,” to such a degree that this flame can become the password that identifies him — the same flame that burns and sets fire in the “reminder” of his missionary identity that he used to repeat to himself (cf. ibid., also Aut. 494).
The Spirit impels him to speak “like those who were gathered in the Cenacle” (Apuntes de un plan, “Principales deberes,” 6).
The Spirit of Christ gives him the strength he needs in order to bear up under persecution and to forgive others out of love:
Anyone who has the Spirit of Christ understands this precept [to love one’s enemies] well and fulfils it. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ neither understands nor practices it (Spiritual Notes, “Council Father,” 2).
c. The process of transformation
The Constitutions describe for us the process of collaboration with the Spirit. First, we “must keep our gaze fixed on Christ.” Our Father Founder believed in the transforming power of this kind of contemplation and explained it through the example of a photographic plate: if we stand before the Lord with our hearts open, the Spirit will reveal and develop His image in us. This revealing of Christ’s image in a living human heart is in fact our process of being conformed with Christ.
Of its very nature, this contemplation leads us to imitation: to the predominance of the Spirit’s motion and action within us.
Number 39 of the Constitutions is founded in a very special way on the spiritual experience of our Father Founder, as distinctively stamped by the role of God’s word in it and by the impact of his lifestyle. Accepting this distinction between conformity and imitation, in keeping with the nuance that the Constitutions give these terms, we may say that Archbishop Claret’s step from a preponderance of following-imitating Christ to a preponderance of conformity with Him took place when he returned to Spain in 1857 to take up residence in Madrid as Royal Confessor. The change of situations provided him with an opportunity to serve the Church in a way that was at once broader in scope, yet more orderly and calm. In this setting, his spiritual experience took on a new dimension.
The first thing we note in his autobiographical writings at this time is the change of perspective in his relationship with the person of Jesus. In 1855, he is still speaking of Jesus as a model set before him: “I will always keep my gaze fixed on Jesus Christ, meek and humble of heart” (Retreat Resolutions 1855, n.8). Now, just two years later, we see an interiorization of Christ in his heart or, in Augustinian terms, a discovery of the Master within:
I will build a little chapel in the centre of my heart, and in it I will adore God day and night with spiritual worship. I will be continually making petition for myself and others. My soul, like Mary, will sit at the feet of Jesus listening to his words and inspirations, while my flesh or body, like Martha, will go about its humble concerns, doing all that it knows to be for the greater glory of God and the good of my neighbours: My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God [Ps 84:2] (Retreat Resolutions 1857, n. 1).
Elsewhere, Saint Anthony Mary Claret states that when we experience Christ in our heart, everything becomes unified and interiorized:
Love begins by unifying and centering our whole inner being; then it spreads outward until it finally comes to possess the whole man. It is a fire that spreads from the centre to all sides, overcoming and converting all it touches into itself, after devouring everything that stands in its way (Temple and Palace of God, ch. 7, n.5).
The Saint, using two Pauline texts, tries to explain the process of conforming presence on the basis of an intense and active love for Jesus Christ:
I pray to the eternal Father to grant that Christ live in your heart by a living faith and by works, and that you may persevere, in cantate radicati et fundati [cf. Eph 3:17], until Christ be wholly formed in you [cf. Gal. 4:19] (Spiritual Notes, “Royal Confessor,” 5. “The Presence of Jesus Christ Within Us,” nn. 4-5).
In his customary fashion, the Saint immediately goes on to explain this process by a simile, drawn from photography: “as a photograph requires the presence not only of the film, but also of the light, which is grace.” Christ, contemplated and imitated as standing before us, is “revealed” within our heart by the working of the Holy Spirit. Our heart is transformed by love in the Heart of Christ. In our heart, Christ now lives His sentiments, attitudes and love. The charity of Christ impels, urges and enkindles us from within. This presence is intensified in the Eucharist:
After Holy Mass, I want nothing but His holy will: I am utterly annulled. I live by Jesus’ own life. In possessing me, He possesses nothing, while I possess everything in Him (Aut. 754; also Retreat Resolutions 1860).
This living was intensified by the “great grace” of the enduring Eucharistic presence within him. Though theologians may strive to explain this grace according to their various schools, there can be no doubt that it really and definitively transformed our Father Founder. Through this grace, Claret’s whole life became a Eucharist. Claret’s very presence was Christ-bearing. The love of our Founder became the love of Christ, especially when he received the infused gift of love for enemies (cf. Lights and Graces, 1869).
Thus the ministry of Claret became a distinctive continuation of the ministry of Jesus. Never was his action in confronting the evils of the Church more effective than it was from this moment on.
[xiv] “Thus it was quite clear that Mary Most Holy had a special providence for me and treated me as a very pampered son” (Autob. Doc. IX). “It occurred to him that what he should do was to read and study the life of St. John the Evangelist and imitate him. In doing so he discovered that this son of Mary, given to her by Jesus on the Cross, had been distinguished for all virtues, but especially by his humility, purity and charity, and so this young student set about practicing these virtues” (Autob. Doc. Il).
[xv] “In the middle of the 19th century, when in Germany Strauss, Hegel and Schelling were spreading Pantheism, and when in France Renan was writing against the divinity of Jesus Christ, in Spain the Blessed Virgin founded her sacred Congregation, so that her Heart might be a Noah’s Ark, the Tower of David, the City of Refuge and the sacred Propitiatory” See SAMC: Notes of the retreat preached to the Congregation in 1865, ch. IX, “Zeal for the Salvation of Souls,” In CCTI, ed. J.M. Lozano [Barcelona 1970] p. 602.