Reminiscences of the Congregation
This appendix presents various reminiscences and customs of the Congregation dating from the time of the Fr. Founder and that lasted for a long time. Our interest in gathering them here is so that they will not be forgotten.
1. Praying the Little Office in the Novitiate
“On 14 November 1863 I had to preach a sermon on Mary Most Holy during the holy exercises I was giving in the novitiate of the Carmelite Tertiary Sisters in Madrid […] I read that the Carthusian Order was in dire straits for vocations because no one wanted to be professed in the habit of an Institute with such an austere, lonely and silent way of life. The best remedy they hit upon was to consecrate themselves to the Mary Most Holy by taking a public vow to recite her office (the Little Office) daily […]”.
“On this day it occurred to me that if the Congregation said the Little Office to Mary Most Holy in addition to the Divine Office every day, Mary would provide the Congregation with all the vocations it needs in order to grow, spread and endure”.
“At prayer that very morning it seemed that the picture of the Virgin over the altar spoke to me, saying that it would be all right, but with this proviso, that it would be enough if only one member should recite it by obligation, while the rest could say it only out of devotion, if they wished to and had time. Those engaged in the missions should not be allowed to, however, because they would be too busy preaching and hearing confessions. It might also be arranged that the Little Office be recited by the novices [and] by those students not yet in major orders.”
Fr. Clotet, in the biography he wrote of Fr. Claret, tells us regarding this that the Founder’s advice, “through the mercy of God continued being practiced by Students and Brothers.” Later, the Little Office was recited in our novitiates for vocations up to the time of Vatican II.
2. The Salutation to the Virgin, Our Mother
A deeply rooted custom in the Congregation was the salutation to the Virgin, Our Mother, every hour of the day. The Constitutions of 1857 said that “every hour one should strive to take upon himself saluting the Virgin and making a spiritual communion”. The salutation was to be made by taking a break from one’s work, whenever possible, and reciting the Hail Mary.
3. Mary’s Intervention in the Founding of the Congregation
There has traditionally been a firm belief that Congregation was inspired and founded by the Virgin Mary.
Writing some notes on the origin of the Congregation, Fr. Clotet offers these beautiful lines:
“One of the things that is so easy to see when one reads the sacred books and the history of the Church is God’s fidelity to His promises. And, since He is always preserving, consoling and increasing his beloved Bride, the Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church, He always shows His beneficent hand bestowing His graces and consolations in proportion to the need or affliction He finds her in. This age-old truth is confirmed in our own day by deeds such as the founding of new religious Institutes.
Persecuted since Protestantism first appeared, but especially since the middle of the last century, the ancient religious orders, looking at them at the present time, are, generally speaking, suffering from aging and are on the brink of extinction […]; but the God who has compassion for people gone astray, providentially raised up, and continues to raise up, in the bosom of His Beloved Church other religious families […].
One of these religious families is the Congregation of Missionaries, Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, born in Spain in one of the most perilous times this Church, so rich and glorious in other times, has ever gone through.
[…] Great and worthy of perpetual remembrance are the works carried out as Pastor, as Missionary and later as Archbishop by the Most Excellent and Illustrious Fr. Antonio María Claret y Clará, commonly called Father Claret (and in upper Catalonia called Mosén Claret).
The regulation of worship and clergy on the Island of Cuba and his very effective and astutely employed influence in the Court so that the Church in Spain would have worthy Shepherds, are works truly worthy of his zeal. But the work dearest to his heart and the one through which God would carry on his spirit in the world is the Congregation of Missionaries, Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It was founded (see note) through Mary’s inspiration and therefore must share as her offspring in the graces she possesses.
The heart of this Mary whose name it bears and whose spirit animates this Congregation will always and undoubtedly endure with the help of God’s grace and the efficacious protection of its more exalted and generous Mother.
Note: He who writes these lines heard this from the Father Founder’s own mouth. Preaching to the Vic community (1865) on the occasion of spiritual exercises directed to the Most Holy Virgin he said in a conference: “Yours is the Congregation. You founded it. Don’t you remember, My Lady? Don’t you remember?” He said it with such feeling and so naturally that it was easy to see that he keenly remembered at that moment the command, the words and the presence of the Mother of God.”
4. Inspiration of the Rule for Formation
The 2nd General Chapter (1862), at which the Fr. Founder presided, officially accepted the category of students into the Constitutions and promulgated the first directives for their formation and entry into the Congregation. As soon as the Chapter ended, the Fr. Founder began to draw up a formation document for the Congregation. According to a letter to Fr. Xifré dated 2 August 1862, the Fr. Founder gave the rule for Students and the rule for the Teacher or Prefect to Fr. Clemente Serrat on 28 July in Segovia.
The chapters on the aspirants, novices, novice-master and assistant were revised a few months later, between August and December 1862. The Fr. Founder actually sent to all the final documents to Fr. Xifré on 20 December 1862 with the title A Rule. Together the documents made up a collection entitled A Rule for Aspirants, Those Being Tested and Students in Our Congregation and Their Respective Masters. He told Fr. Xifré:
“This letter serves to tell you that, considering how appropriate it is for the young men God calls to the Congregation to be well formed in knowledge and virtue, I thought to write this Rule that I have the pleasure of sending along with this letter, so that it all may be implemented, since it is the will of God and Mary Most Holy, our beloved Mother.”
5. Definition (Ideal) of the Missionary
In the Constitutions the Definition (Ideal) of the Missionary is given in the following text:
“We must always keep this model of a missionary before us: ‘A Son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a man on fire with love, who spreads its flames wherever he goes. He desires mightily and strives by all means possible to set everyone on fire with God’s love. Nothing daunts him; he delights in privations, welcomes work, embraces sacrifices, smiles at slander, rejoices in all the torments and sorrows he suffers, and glories in the cross of Jesus 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.”
This text is merges twp, almost identical versions done by the Fr. Founder. One of which is in the Autobiography (494); the other, sent in a note from the Fr. Founder to Fr. Xifré telling him:
The Constitutions, echoing the desire of the Fr. Founder, says thatwe must always keep [it] before us.
6. The Daily Renewal of the Resolution to Progress in Fidelity
“We should daily renew our resolution to advance in the way of the Lord”, the Constitutions tell us. Our journey or pilgrimage to the Father goes on daily, i.e., in the course of each day. Each day when we wake up we have to be aware that we are pilgrims and take to the road with a new effort. The Constitutions urge us to renew each day our resolution to advance in the way of the Lord. We cannot assume that we have already done this when we began to respond to our vocation or on the day of our religious profession. Given our condition of being travelers or ones journeyers toward eternal life, we need to frequently renew our decision to go forth into a new life, into directing our hearts toward God. This means that our entire life must be marked by concrete actions that express and foster directing our lives toward God.
Once again we recur to the old Constitutions in order to exemplify that ongoing effort of directing everything toward God throughout the day.
1. The day’s first prayer was an act of thanksgiving, followed by a set of acts directed at making sure everything was directed toward God:
“The brother appointed to summon them knocks at the dormitory or room of each one, saying: Deo gratias et Mariae (Thanks be to God and to Mary), and the answer is given: Semper Deo gratias et Mariae (Thanks be to God and to Mary always).”
“Upon awakening, let them call upon the names of Jesus and Mary; and, without giving room to any other thoughts, let them recall the meditation they must do and the emotions that go along with it.”
“Hearing the hour or signal to get up, they should all do it promptly, modestly and fervently, as if it were God himself calling them (…). Then, let them give thanks to God with the established prayers, offering God their thoughts, words and actions, and let each one resolve to correct a dominant vice or to acquire the virtue he needs most, calling upon the Virgin Mother of God, the Angels and the Saints.”
2. Another recommendation for sanctification was:
“It is also recommended that every hour they briefly examine their conscience, salute the Mother of God, make a spiritual communion and praise the Lord many times, directing each of their works to His glory and enduring all adversities out of love for Him.”
3. The day ended this way:
“At night, before going to bed, let them briefly make an examination of conscience and say night prayers; let them read or hear read the points for the next day’s meditation; then let them go to sleep modestly, their minds fixed on the time to get up, recalling the points for the morning’s meditation and offering God their dreams.”
These actions helped so many Claretians to animate their daily life with the Spirit. The novices of the Congregation should take note of these examples, not to literally do what is said there, but to be encouraged to awaken their creative fidelity along the way of sanctification on which God has set them.
7. Thanksgiving After Holy Communion
“With respect to thanksgiving after Mass, he said to us one day at recreation:
– For thanksgiving after Mass, I don’t use books, but I follow the wounds of our Lord Jesus Christ, and each day I focus on one of them, making acts of thanksgiving, of adoration, or petition, etc.; and… how quickly the minutes go by for me and all the time I spend!
He also told us that in giving thanks we should spend at least 15 minutes, even when many people are waiting to go to confession; because, when the faithful know that the priest is giving thanks after Mass, they don’t get tired of waiting and they are even given an example of what they should [do] after holy communion. In extraordinary cases, as, for example, if at the conclusion of Mass we are called to attend someone who is dying, he charged us to make up the thanksgiving at the first moment we are free. He used to freely open his spirit at the foot of the tabernacle; there he expressed his needs and his doubts; there he showed his desire to please God and make Him happy; there he sought illumination and grace; there he showed forth his most ardent fervor.
“He lived in this city of Málaga –the priest Fr. Francisco de Paula Rodríguez says, talking about Father Claret- as long as the queen reigned, giving us a rare example of piety and extraordinary fervor in all his religious acts, but especially in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass […]. After celebrating his very devoted and edifying Mass, he heard that of his chaplain, remaining on his knees the whole time, and, even long after, in he same posture, we would see him with his eyes wet with tears, and so deep in meditation that he was unaware of anything going on around him.”
8. The Consoling Promise
Belief in the consoling promise has been a tradition in the Congregation. Through it the hope of salvation of those who persevere in the Congregation is known and encouraged.
Fr. Xifré was the Fr. Founder spiritual director for many years. In a circular letter he wrote, he tells us that he heard from the Fr. Founder’s own lips the following prophecy:
 Cf. A. LARRAONA, Los Capítulos de las Constituciones relativos a los estudiantes y al Prefecto: Studia Claretiana, 1 (1963), pp. 8-41 J. M. LOZANO, CCTT, pp. 271-298; J. Mª VIÑAS, La Formación del Misionero en la Congregación según el Padre Fundador San Antonio Mª Claret: Cuadernos de Formación Claretiana, 1, General Prefecture of Formation, Rome 1987, 24 pp; La formación de los novicios misioneros según el Padre Fundador, San Antonio Mª Claret: Cuadernos de Formación Claretiana, 2, General Prefecture of Formation, Rome 1988, 20 pp.
 Cf. M. AGUILAR, Historia de la Congregación de Misioneros Hijos del I. Corazón de María, vol. I, Barcelona 1901, p. 109; P. Clemente SERRAT, PAV. Session 55, art. 90; p. Lorenzo FONT, PAV. Session 55, art. 95.
 CC of 1924, II, 32. In the cities of the time, when clock on the town hall or the campanile tolled the hour, families had the custom of praying the Hail Mary; the Congregation accepted this practice and completed it with the examen, renewal of intention and spiritual communion.