Claret, Founder and Model of Apostolic Life

 

Chapter 4

 Claret, Founder and Model of Apostolic Life

            Claret, as the Founder of our Congregation, serves as a paradigm, a charismatic model, for marking out and inspiring our missionary life[1]. But, above all, Claret is our father. He has begotten us by the power of the Spirit, as St. Paul said to the first Christians: I have begotten you by my preaching of the Gospel (1 Co. 4: 15). Our Founder introduced us to a particular understanding and living out of the mystery of Christ, the One anointed and sent by the Father. Thus, Claret exercises the role of father over our missionary family[2].

One of the main objectives of the Claretian novitiate is, as we know, initiation into religious life, according to the charism, spirit and mission of St. Anthony Mary Claret and of the Congregation. Thus, it is indispensable to come to know the Fr. Founder—and from this knowledge springs love.

In order to draw closer to Claret we are going to make a brief presentation of his person and his personal characteristics. The compact summary of the elements that make it up necessarily includes, in a general way, aspects that will be taken up again later and specifically developed in other chapters of this manual.

In developing this chapter, we give particular attention to:

I. Claret’s Experience of Vocation

II. Characteristics of the Person of Claret

III. Ways to Come to Know and Imitate the Person of Claret

I. CLARET’S EXPERIENCE OF VOCATION

Claret’s experience of his vocation unfolded in the following way:

1. The Origin of Claret’s Vocational Experience

Claret’s vocation flows out of a profound experience of God that led him to a radical option for God and for his Kingdom, out of a particular experience of the world, whose good things, relativity and even dangers Claret encountered in his youth[3].

1.1. Childhood

In early childhood Claret had an experience of the absolutness of God and of human fragility, of human infidelity that led to unhappiness, so profound that it disturbed his sleep and left a life-long impression on him.

His compassion for the fate of sinners cannot be explained solely by his having a “tender and compassionate” heart[4]. The experience of eternal damnation has to be attributed to a special intervention of the Spirit, who, from his mother’s womb, destined him for a special mission in the Church, because the idea remained etched into him. It was ever-present to him and was always the wellspring and stimulus for his zeal. Thus we find a precociousness in the activation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The thought of the eternity of the damned, which made him shudder, provokes a two-fold reaction, according to his active-emotional temperament: an intense feeling of compassion for sinners and his resolution to work with all his might to prevent their condemnation[5]. In his childhood years he also started to sense his priestly vocation from a rigorously apostolic perspective, as a means of collaborating in the salvation of his brothers and sisters[6].

Later his vocation suffered an acute crisis. After the death of his Latin teacher and the time he worked in his father’s factory came a crucial and decisive period in his life: contact with the world. The way he viewed work, technology, friendship, human success is very positive and optimistic. The world promises him wealth, rewards and pleasures. But he soon learns of the emptiness, limitedness and dangers of these good things when they are placed at the service of ambition or egoism. He experiences financial insecurity, of being betrayed by a false friend, of the volubility and unsureness of human love that so easily betrays or is betrayed. He also discovers the evilness of the human heart in his fellow workers at the factory who live worldly and superficial live and who curse like demons. And especially on the beach of La Barceloneta, he expeiences the fagility and the feebleness of his life and the always imminent danger of losing it[7].

Contact with the world of technology was especially dangerous because that was his natural calling, because he was well-suited to it and he had an enthusiasm for it. And it immediately entered into conflict with his apostolic vocation. For a long time the brambles were able to stifle the good wheat[8].

This experience of the world was necessary and providential for preparing the apostle’s heart and fostering his vocational decision. These were the blows that God dealt him to wake him up, to make him leave behind the dangers of the world and uproot him from it[9].

1.2. Youth

At the age of 21 he received the decisive call[10]. God broke into his soul with a great light that shone on him, blinded him and left him like St. Paul. He recalled the text of Mt. 16: 26, while he was hearing Mass: What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, if he ends up losing his soul? This sentence made a deep impression on him; it was like an arrow that pierced his heart. His only concern was to seek the truth: he thought and fantasized about what he would do, but he was uncertain. Like Paul, he continued along the road toward Damascus until he met an Ananias who told him what he should do: Fr. Amigó listened to him, congratulated him on his resolve, and advised him to study Latin, which he did immediately. Later, on 30 September 1829, he entered the seminary in Vic.

His disillusionment brought him to a radical decision: to break with the world once and for all and to die to it in a Carthusian monastery[11]. Here his religious vocation appears, but in such a violent way that jeopardizes his priestly and apostolic vocation. This was also providential, because the Lord wanted him to die to the world like the Gospel says in order to better live in apostolic closeness to the world.

It is now that his missionary vocation reappears with power and intensity:

“Ever since I lost the desire to become a Carthusian—which God had used to uproot me from worldliness—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 neighbors”[12].

1.3. An Explicit Call

Once the ground is prepared, the explicit call comes; the fructifying action of God’s Word intervenes. Reading the Bible, which moves and excites him so much, Claret feels personally involved and inserted into the mission of Jesus. He senses the voice of the Lord that is calling him to preach, deeply impressed by various passages from the Prophets[13]. But in a very specific way his prophetic vocation is revealed in the words of Isaiah (61: 1) that Jesus applies to Himself at the beginning of his public life: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…,He has sent me to proclaim the Good News to the poor” (Lk. 4: 18-19). He sees himself in the same line as Christ the Evangelizer, the apostles, the prophets, the great missionaries. At the same time he becomes aware of being an instrument of salvation[14].

1.4. Temptations

In the same way that Jesus’ messianic vocation was subjected to temptation, so also was Claret’s, winnowed by the devil, who, at all costs, wanted to keep it from blossoming. But a supernatural intervention stopped satan: the vision in the casa Tortadés[15]. This is a decisive moment of vocational clarification and reinforcement, not only for stengthening Claret’s chastity, but also for the apostolic significance that it contained. It is in this vision where his concept of Marian sonship in an apostolic perspective was born, conceiving evangelization as collaboration in the Virgin’s battle against Satan and his offspring.

But it was especially in his ordination to the diaconate that he understood the full meaning of that supernatural intervention:

“At the ordination the bishop read those words of St. Paul in the Pontifical: ‘For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the Sovereignties and Powers who originate the darkness in this world…’ At that moment the Lord made me understand clearly the meaning of the demons I saw during the temptation”[16].

This is the moment of his apostolic investiture, of receiving the Gospel as his weapon of war. Claret is anointed by the Spirit by the imposition of hands, and sent forth into battle. Thus he becomes incorporated into the lineage of the Virgin to whom he has dedicated himself as son and missionary so that she might send him as an apostle and hurl him with all the power of her arm, like an arrow poised in her mighty hand[17].

2. Formation for Mission

Paralleing Claret’s experience of his vocation was his general and specific formation for his mission. God had already laid the groundwork. He had granted Claret honorable and God-fearing parents, good qualities and good character[18] most appropriate for his apostolic mission. His practical knowledge took precedence over the theoretical, he had extraordinary willpower, an optimism about his own initiatives, the ability to adapt himself to circumstances, a retentive memory, a great capacity for work and great physical and moral resistance.

His personality was being built on this natural groundwork since childhood, guided by his teacher and his parents, who joined together to form his understanding in knowledge of the truth and his heart in the practice of goodness and of all the virtues[19].

His experience as a worker, especially in Barcelona, where he simultaneously combined technological training with intellectual and scientific formation, also had a positive influence on his future mission[20].

Later, in the seminary in Vic, the official courses he took over a 7-year period, along with the reading he chose to do, left a deep impression on him. This was time of searching and of assimilating sound doctrine oriented toward missionary activity. As he himself tells us: “All my daily prayers, studies and spiritual reading were directed toward this”[21].

Bible reading not only clarified his vocation and was an aposotlic impetus, but also nourished his mind and heart to be able to communicate the message of salvation with power and conviction. He says the same thing about his reading of the lives of the saints that were distinguished for their zeal for the salvation of souls, noting the passage that interested him most because of their usefulness and benefit[22].

But his most powerful vocation experience was undoubtedly his trip to Rome and his stay in the Company of Jesus. On his trip he identified himself with the missionary Jesus and became more convinced of the need for poverty and good example[23]. His entrance into the Jesuits made him experience a spirituality at the service of a universal apostolate and allowed him to learn various efficacious methods of apostolate. At the same time, he confirmed the value of the consecrated life and need for community life to make mission effective[24].

Once the formative phase was completed, the same missionary experience opened new horizons to him and gave him guidelines for renewal and for ongoing formation. His formational concerns were especially manifested in the importance he gave to study[25] and in the quantity and quality of the books in his library.

In his own day some people admired Claret as a man outstanding in all the branches of learning[26] and a man of the “broadest and deepest” knowledge[27], being “a contemporary voice in ecclesiastical circles into whom missionary knowledge was infused and who was a living miracle of God”[28]. But he said of himself: “It is clear to me that what little I know on that subject is due to many years and long nights spent in study”[29].

Claret’s formation in philosophy and theology was solid and thorough, as was his Scriptural formation, thanks to his frequent reading of the Bible and of the best Scripture commentaries of his day. His patristic formation was also outstanding. The same can be said of his spiritual formation, through his continuous reading of the best classical and contemporary Spanish authors, as well as others.

All this, although very important, was not decisive. Claret was formed, above all, by a deep experience of God and of the Virgin; by imitation and conformation to Christ, whom he encountered in the Eucharist and in the Word, in the neighbor and in events, in evangelization and in his soul where he lived and realized the experience intensely. That human and spiritual formation was what led him to live a perfect union of all his life experiences[30].

3. Claret, Apostolic Missionary  

3.1. Claret’s Vocational Identity

Apostolic missionary was not simply a juridical title for Claret, one that legitimated his apostolic activity. He understood it in a novel way, packed with evangelical and theological meaning. Fr. Claret lived every situation in his life as an apostolic misisonary, both by the importance he gave to evangelization and by his poor and fraternal lifestyle.

This was the call God addressed to Fr. Claret at the core of his being. And this was his unique and true vocational identity. This repeated phrase echoes the conviction of the many people who knew Fr. Claret and of Claret himself, who always considered himself an apostolic missionary[31]. His first biographer awarded him this title as the one that embodied his most essential quality, even more than did the title of Archbishop[32]. The many facets of Claret’s complex personality were linked together and converged in his vocation as an apostolic missionary. This essential definition explains everything in his being, in his life and in his action: his spirituality, his priesthood, his episcopacy, his concept of religious life, his apostolic activity and the enterprises he organized.

3.2. The Traditional Image of the Apostolic Missionary

Since the 12th century, missionaries have always enjoyed broad faculties and privileges, which they receive directly from the Apostolic See.

Apostolic missionary was a juridical title granted by the Apostolic See to certain itinerant preachers to the faithful or to non-believers, who requested it. The adjective apostolic refers specifically to the one granting the request: the Apostolic See, who vouches for the mission. The Apostolic See, besides giving official backing to the missionary, granted him certain privileges, especially of a liturgical and devotional kind. On his part, the missionary made the commitment to dedicate himself to itinerant preaching, leading a poor and detached life.

3.3. The Apostolic Missionary According to Claret

Claret obtained the title of apostolic missionary for himself on 9 July 1841. This was an honorific title that legitimated and commended his preaching from the Apostolic See. We do not know the faculties that were granted to him, but they must be similar to the ones that he requested for his companions in 1845[33]. For Claret this title was not something honorific or merely juridical, rather it defined his entire being. He gave it a theological and evangelical interpretation that indicated a specific lifestyle: an apostolic one, one like the apostles lived with Jesus, in strict evangelical poverty and in fellowship shared with the brothers. The title of Apostolic Missionary that he received encapsulated his ideal of living in the manner of the apostles. This way of life involved being a disciple and following the Master, living the evangelical counsels in community of life with Jesus and with the group of those called, to be sent and to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom[34].

By the word missionary he wanted to indicate his conformity to Christ, the One anointed and sent in order to be the leader and model for other missionaries. Claret, also anointed and sent by the Spirit, felt called to imitate Jesus, to live in an intimate relationship with Him, to bear witness to Him, to proclaim his message of salvation. At the same time the word expresses his specific function: evangelization, the prophetic service of the Word, giving up as much as he could the other functions of the ministerial priesthood: running a parish and administering the sacraments.

The adjective apostolic alludes to the lifestyle of the apostles, called to share friendship and intimacy with Jesus and to proclaim the Good News to the ends of the earth. It refers to a lifestyle centered on poverty, itinerancy and fellowship at the service of evangelization, understood as the Scriptural and prophetic service of the Word.

4. Claret, Always an Apostloic Missionary

Claret was so intensely and radically an apostle that there was an apostolic dimensions to every facet of his personality and at all stages of his life. This is the charactersitic that both his biographers and the tradition of the Congregation has emphasized, because that is the characteristic that appears most strongly in his makeup. The apostolate dominates his entire personality:

“As pastor, as Missionary, as bishop, as confessor, as spiritual director, as teacher, as social worker, as writer, as master of the spiritual life, as founder of religious orders, all was directed toward the apostolate”[35].

Claret was an apostolic missionary not only in Catalonia and the Canary Islands, but also in situations of government and residence. In Cuba he was more a missionary than an archbishop. Contrary to the general trend of his times, that made the bishop almost exclusively a bureaucrat, he entrusted the day-to-day functions of government to his most trusted collaborators, reserving for himself the role of chief executive officer. Thus he could be free to dedicate most of his time and energy to missionary preaching. The idea that he then had of the apostolic missionary reveals to us his essential characteristics: mobility and availability, community life, missionary preaching, the ongoing need for renewal[36].

In Madrid, without neglecting his duties as royal confessor, he dedicated a great portion of his time to evangelizing all classes of people and converted his travels with the queen into true popular missions. On being named president of the monastery of El Escorial, he thought about covnerting it into a center for evangelization and the formation of evangelizers, as an inter-diocesan seminary, university college, a mission house and an international retreat center[37].

In París, exiled by the revolution, and in Rome, during the 1st Vatican Council, he continued being an apostolic missionary by his poor and fraternal lifestyle, by his tireless preaching and by his yearnings to fly to the young vineyard of America[38].

At the end of life, as he was summing everything up, he states that he has fulfilled his mission because he has been faithful to the two main characteristics of the apostolic missionary: poverty and preaching[39].

Claret expressed his apostolic vocation in a special way in the founding of our Congregation, a Congregation of Apostolic Missionaries[40]. In 1849, through long missionary experience, Claret projects his spirit, creating a Congregation of apostolic missionaries totally consecrated to evangelization. Thus his spirit, which was “for the whole world”[41] could be incarnated and prolonged throughout space and time, because he wanted to extend the light of the Gospel to the whole world; he earnestly longed to preach and catechize everywhere until the end of time and “he had a burning desire to save everyone, because all are made in the image of God and ransomed by the blood of Jesus Christ”[42]. He was moved to do this for various reasons, all of them of an apostolic nature: the lack of evangelical and apostolic preachers, the people’s desire to hear the Word of God, the many requests he received to go and preach the Gospel and the desire to do with others what he could not do alone[43]. It is clear that the Congregation sprung up not only from the Founder’s idea, but also from divine inspiration[44].

II. CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PERSON OF CLARET

In order to broadly describe the characteristics of the person of Claret we will focus on three dimensions that must be understood as deeply inter-related and that interact with one another: spirituality, lifestyle and mission.

1. Spirituality[45]

1.1. The Centrality of Jesus[46]

Claret lived his vocation as a complex experience of deep friendship with Christ (arising above all from the sacrament of the Eucharist). Through intimacy with the Son, he gradually discovers God the Father, who out of love sends Jesus to save the world.

His ideal was configuration to Christ through external imitation of the so-called apostolic virtues and through the living out of his interior attitudes and full transformation: It is Christ who lives in me. The characteristics of Christ that Fr. Claret emphasized are:

• The Son concerned about the things of the Father (cf. Lk. 2: 49).

• The Son anointed to evangelize the poor (cf. Lk. 4: 18).

• The Son who has nowhere to lay his head (cf. Lk. 9: 58).

• A sign of contradiction (cf. Lk. 2: 34).

• Son of Mary (cf. Lk. 1: 38; 2: 7).

• Sent by the Father and anointed by the Spirit, he shares his life and mission with the apostles.

1.2. Experience of the World[47]

Claret also has a specific experience of the world, whose goodness, relativity and even peril he tasted in his youth. His vocation, affected by historical circumstances, was God’s response to the cries of his people (cf. Ex. 3: 7-12). It opened his eyes and heart to contemplate and discern the evils that beset the Church and society, while at the same time providing him with means to remedy them.

1.3. The Primacy of the Word of God[48]

Claret was always very fond of the Bible and his daily Bible reading. Having become familiar with the Bible while still a boy, he deepened his love for the Scriptures in the Seminary in Vic so much so that the Bible came to occupy a preeminent position throughout his life. He read it and meditated on the example of Mary, his Mother and Formatrix, and he assimilated it from a vocational perspective.

He cultivated his vocation by assiduously meditating on the Scriptures, which kept his sensitivity alive and helped him to understand what was most urgent for the salvation of the Church and society of his time. For Claret the Scriptures were a lynchpin of his spirituality. In them he found stimuli for discovering his vocation and for developing it, following the model of Jesus, of the apostles and of the prophets.

The Word of God shaped Claret’s personality according to the manner of Jesus and the apostles in order to act as an Apostolic Missionary. He lived it and experienced it in order to proclaim it. Distribution of the Bible, recommending daily reading of the Scriptures and preaching the Word of God express Claret’s program for carrying out this proclamation[49].

1.4. The Abiding Presence of Mary

In his approach to Jesus and in understanding the paths to the world’s salvation, Claret drew on the intense presence of Mary. He always felt he was intimately bound to her[50]. His loving, filial communion with Mary reaches its fullest expression when Claret says: “Mary Most Holy [is] my mother, my patroness, my mistress, my directress and my all, after Jesus”[51].

He dedicated himself to her as son, minister and priest[52]. He felt he was an arrow in Mary’s powerful hands[53], and it is she who animates him, comforts him and attracts God’s blessings to his ministry[54]. Later he will see the Virgin from the perspective of the tenderness of her Immaculate Heart, the refuge of sinners, font of salvation and, above all, as the companion of her Son and his incomparable collaborator in his work of salvation.

2. Lifestyle

Prophetism, evangelization, existentially conditions the lifestyle of the prophet and of the evangelizer. For this reason his life must be a sign revealing the Kingdom, a gospel of Christ as Christ is of the Father. He must live a truly evangelical life: fellowship like the Twelve, chastity, poverty, obedience—in other words, a life that is truly apostolic. Thus Claret says that “the apostolic missionary should be a model of all the virtues”[55].

 2.1. Animated by Apostolic Love

The apostolic motto of Claret “Caritas Christi urget nos” (“The love of Christ impels us”) (2 Co. 5: 14). He considered love to be the primary virtue of the missionary because the apostolic ministry is all an exercise of love: “If he lacks this love, all his talents, however fine in themselves, are for nothing. But if, together with his natural endowments, he has much love, he has everything”[56]. Convinced that this was true, he tried to seek this hidden treasure through various means that he put into practice[57].

In the missionary, love is dynamic. It is converted into zeal and thus attains its fullness and perfection. Zeal, according to Claret, is an “ardent and violent love”[58] that gives rise to action. In the missionary the concrete way of loving God is working and suffering for the salvation of his brothers and sisters. And love of neighbor, that resounds so deeply in the heart of Claret[59], is the love of the Spirit that takes possession of the heart of the evangelizer.

Zeal is a gift of the Spirit. It is a communication of the same Spirit that anointed, guided and motivated Jesus of Nazareth. Filled with burning zeal, Claret could say that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him and upon each one of the missionaries, speaking through them[60].

2.2. The Way of Apostolic Poverty

Poverty plays a major role in the life and spirituality of Fr. Claret, the apostolic missionary. Through his sense of the Gospel and his missionary experience, he intuited that poverty and the apostolic vocation went hand-in-hand. He saw this in Jesus and the apostles and he verified this in the prophetic texts that nurtured his vocation. In Christ he saw, above all, the Son of Man who had no place to lay his head (Lk. 9: 58), anointed and sent to evangelize the poor (Lk. 4: 18). Also desiring to evangelize the poor, Claret had to imitate Christ and live in a spirit of poverty in order to enter into the heart of Jesus. Thus he always summarized the life of Jesus in terms of poverty: “I always remembered that Jesus had become poor Himself; he chose to be born, to live, and to die in the utmost poverty”[61].

Throughout the Autobiography, Claret keeps on indicating his norm of conduct in fidelity, even literally, to the Gospel: he travels on foot, accepts no payment for his ministry, nor royalties for his books; meager clothing and possessions, total divestiture, lack of self-interest, insecurity. His witness as an itinerant missionary can be summarized in this sentence: “I had nothing, wanted nothing, refused everything”[62].

He lived this way in Cuba, Madrid and Rome and he left Prades in poverty for Fontfroide where he died. He always wanted “to die a poor man in some hospital, or on the scaffold as a martyr”[63], and the Lord granted him the gift of dying exiled and persecuted in a cell not his own.

Claret’s poverty was the result of a heroic decision, because, in a position to make himself wealthy, he preferred to live a poor man until the end of his life. And he lived in poverty with the Gospel joy of the Beatitudes: “The joy I experienced in feeling poverty was so great that the rich could never enjoy all their riches as much as I enjoyed my beloved poverty”[64]. The Fr. Founder’s apostolic poverty, as he lived and bore witness, was a basic component, bcause it freed him[65] and made him available for mission.

2.3. Missionary Itinerancy

Carrying on the mission of Christ and the apostles, Claret was a man possessed by the Spirit, homeless, itinerant and lauched to proclaim the Kingdom of God. From 1843 to 1850 he had no fixed abode. His desire was always to move from one place to another, like Jesus, like the apostles, and like his ideal model, St. Paul[66].

And as part of the line of great apostolic missionaries, he followed the example of St. John of Ávila and of Blessed Diego of Cádiz, who devoted their whole life to apostolic ministry without rest[67]. His decision not to accept appointment as bishop arose from the desire not to be limited and tied down. And, upon being relieved of the archdiocese of Cuba, this is what motivated him not to accept another residential see. Even in Madrid he continually expressed his desire to go all over preaching the Gospel, seeing the need and the hunger the people had to hear the message of salvation[68].

2.4. In Missionary Community

During his years in Catalonia, Claret lived his mission virtually alone, although he strove to go on mission with other companions, especially with Blessed Francisco Coll and Fr. Manuel Vilaró. Little by little his reflection on the Gospel and personal experience led him to consider fellowship as an efficacious sign of witness and a power for evangelizing.

Already in 1846, in one of his essays for the Apostolic Brotherhood, he says that the missionaries should be united in spirit; and in 1847 in the Association of Brothers of Jesus and Mary he calls for community life under a rule[69]. The common apostolic vocation necessarily leads to the communion of fraternal life. The Congregation founded for an apostolic purpose requires fraternal community. “Thus we had begun,” says the Founder, “and thus we continued, living together strictly in community”[70].

In Cuba, under his wise direction, the missionaries led a strictly community life, that the saint, with a deep pedagogical meaning, is pleased to describe. The community of the Missions in Cuba was practically equivalent to a house of the Congregation. The Founder himself said as much: “I made myself and all my companions live the way they live in La Merced”[71].

Obliged to live apart from the Congregation during his time in Madrid, he created and animated a fraternal and apostolic community like those of his missionaries in everything. He always also contrived to be able to share the gift of fellowship among his missionaries, in Segovia, in Vic, in Gracia and in Prades, and he kept in touch with them all the time.

2.5. The Adornment of Other Missionary Virtues

1. Rightness of intention: The primary element that makes the motive for evangelizing clear and assures that it reveals the Kingdom is rightness of intention. Fr. Founder indicates to us that it was not honor or money or pleasure that motivated him to evangelize. And he added these basic motivations: that God may be known, loved and served by all; that people may be prevented from committing sin and desire to make their neighbors happy[72].

2. Assiduous prayer: Claret was a man of assiduous and constant prayer. In all of his presentations of the Exercises he always expressed his concern for prayer to which he joined the exercise of the presence of God. He talks about “the night I will spend praying” (1859), “to sleep little and pray a lot” (1862)[73], etc.

For Claret, prayer is the primary and greatest way to make the apostolate fruitful[74]. His prayer was apostolic prayer. He prayed[75] and made other Christians pray[76] to ask the Lord for his presence and action in the apostolic works that he was carrying on. He imitated Christ the Evangelizer, who “by day preached and cured the sick and by night prayed”[77].

3. Profound humility: Humility is the basis for the virtues needed to be a true apostolic missionary[78]. Claret kept a particular examen on humility for 15 years in order to combat what he called his vanity. He strove above all to imitate Jesus, contemplating Him in the manger, in the carpenter shop, and on Calvary. He meditated on Jesus’ words, his sermons, his actions and asked himself how Jesus would act on different occasions[79].

4. Gospel meekness: Claret knew that, after humility and poverty, meekness was the virtue that a missionary needed most[80]. Moreover, through experience he reached the conclusion that meekness “is one sign of a vocation to be an apostolic missionary”[81]. He also tried not to confuse lack of meekness (crossness, anger, etc.) with the apostolic zeal so needed by the missionary and which he painstakingly cultivated. This was a temptation he could easily fall into[82].

Claret had a strong character and had to control his personality. Thus he made a particular examen on meekness from 1861 to 1864. References to meekness appear in his presentations of the Exercises[83].

5. Modesty and mortification: Other important virtues are modesty and mortification that, because of their witness value, make the preached word effective[84]. In communion with Christ, Claret tried to reproduce his lifestyle as directly and radically as possible, asking himself in each case what Jesus would do[85]. He was motivated to practice mortification not only by God’s grace but also by considering the need for it in order to achieve results in the apostolate and to pray well[86].

6. Invincible courage: In Claret, the apostolic mission involved great courage, a characteristic gift of apostolic holiness. It took courage to bear joyfully the privations, work, persecutions, slanders and torments inherent in his mission or that arose because of it. “All the apostles were persecuted and died carrying out their ministry”[87]. Claret had a combative spirit, like St. Paul, wielding the word of God like a two-edged sword in order to pierce hearts, lead them to God and fill them with the energy and courage that comes from knowing the truth.

3. Mission

3.1. Evangelization, as Missionary Preaching of the Word

Claret’s whole life was dedicated to evangelization. Thus he devoted all his energy to missionary preaching of the Word. Since this ministry is “at once the most exalted and invincible of all ministries”[88], it took precedence over other priestly functions of administering the sacraments and running a parish.

In a society in an advanced state of dechristianization, Claret tried to sow the Word that could convert and tranform it. A universal evangelizer in the manner of Jesus with the Twelve and in fellowship with them, Claret, from the very dawn of his vocation, understood evangelization as a service in the most biblical and prophetic sense of the word, especially as it appeared in the Servant Songs in Isaiah and in St. Paul[89]. Above all he looked to Christ, the prototype of the Servant, and took Him as his role model for his evangelizing activity.

Claret was, first and foremost—and one can say almost exclusively—an apostolic missionary, an evangelizer. This is his charism and that of the Congregation[90].

3.2. Universality

1. First of all, universality is conceived of spatially, in fidelity to Jesus’ command: “Go out to all the world and proclaim the Gospel to all nations” (Mk. 16: 15). Anointed by the Spirit and anointed for universal love, “the narrow boundaries of a parish became too confining for his zeal”[91]. He was moved to renounce his office as Bishop of Cuba because of the universality of his missionary spirit: “Thus (accepting obediently) I tie myself down and settle into a single archbishopric, when my spirit is for all the world”[92]. The borders of a single nation were never broad enough for him. His desire was “to go and preach to the whole world”[93].

2. Universality also pertains to the recipients of his mission, without any prejudice whatsoever, and without any kind of bigotry or discriminatry exclusion. He wanted to convert and evangelize everyone: the hierarchy and the people, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, priests and laity[94], religious and soldiers, children and old folks, the evangelized and the evangelizers.

3. Universality also pertains to the means of evangelization and of human advancement. Claret never rejected any means for the missionary preaching of the Word. In every instance he adopted the means that were most effective for meeting the demands and challenges he encountered on his evangelizing mission[95]. These means were always in keeping with the missionary service of the Word: ways to make inroads, ways to more firmly establish, ways to foster growth. The means he used most often and most intensely are indicated in the Autobiography[96].

3.3. Prophetic Mission

Claret’s evangelizing mission was prophetic. He received from the Holy Spirit a special sensitivity for picking up the signs of the times in the Church and in the world. He had a prophetic vision of the needs of the Church and the world and intuited how to meet them.

Claret, with a prophet’s vision, dedicated himself to studying and getting to know the ills of society. And he advised all who wished to commit themselves to evangelization to do the same[97]. This made him live his evangelizing mission paying close attention to the signs of the times.

In order to confront this whole situation (signs of the times and needs) he gave the witness of an evangelical life and carried on the fight with a wide variety of apostolic initiatives: preaching, founding the Congregation, the laity, the press and social action[98].

3.4. Missionary Sending

Claret was totally convinced of the need for a missionary to be sent in order to be fruitfull[99]. He came to this through an historical and theological view of the mission in which he himself felt involved: “All the Old Testament prophets were sent by God. Jesus Christ Himself was sent from God, and Jesus in turn sent his apostles”[100]. The missionaries, called to collaborate with the bishops in the salvation of the world, must also be sent. “This need to be sent to a particular place by a Bishop was something that God Himself helped me understand from the very beginning”[101]. The Bishop’s voice was intepreted as “a command of God Himself”[102], capable of producing miracles even in adverse circumstances. Thus one always obeyed with the utmost submission[103]. He always followed this norm in Catalonia, in the Canary Islands, and, later, in Cuba and Madrid when, on various occasions, he asked the Pope to indicate the path he should follow.

The experience confirmed his deepest convictions. He was clearly aware that the missionary’s universal openness and complete availability had to be specified at each moment by the command of the superior, which is the Church’s sending and ultimately the command of God Himself. Thus Claret will inculcate obedience into his missionaries in a special way because “in this way he will know that he is a true missionary and not a faker”[104].

III. WAYS OF KNOWING AND IMITATING THE MODEL OF CLARET

Claret is our Founder and our model[105]. He founded the Congregation along with several priests to whom God had given the same spirit which he himself felt animated by. Moved by the same spirit, we also have been called to the Congregation. Thus anything that draws us close to the model of Claret will help us to better know and live our Claretian identity. In order to do this we have to put into practice various means even while still in novitiate. Among them we suggest the following[106]:

• Becoming familiar with, studying and meditating deeply on the Autobiography.

• Getting to know and deepening one’s knowledge of the meaning and application of the allegory of the Forge.

• Studying the life of the Fr. Founder in depth.

• Reading and studying his writings, especially the ones that are most autobiographical and those relating to the Congregation.

• Imitating the charismatic, not the personal, aspects of the Fr. Founder, those that are related to his missionary vocation.

• Fostering and carrying on his work, especially the Claretian Family.

• Celebrating with a congregational spirit the feasts and special days in the Claretian calendar.

• Making the Church more aware of Claret’s life, his spirit and his apostolic work.



                 [1] Cf. CPR 9; GPF, ch. 3, 2.1.1.

                 [2] Cf. Dir 21.

                 [3] Cf. MCT 53.

                [4] Aut 10.

                [5] Cf. Aut 8, 9, 15.

                [6] “A thousand times over I would offer myself to his holy service. I wanted to become a priest so that I could dedicate myself to his service day and night” (Aut 40).

                [7] Cf. Aut 71-75.

                [8] Cf. Aut 63-66.

                [9] Cf. Aut 73, 76.

                [10] Cf. Aut 67-69, 79-82ff.

                [11] Cf. Aut 77.

                [12] Aut 113.

                [13] Cf. Aut 113, 114, 120.

                [14] He likewise calls himself: an arrow in the hands of God or the Virgin (cf. Aut 156, 270), a trumpet (cf. PIT, session 3), a minister of jawbone of an ass in the hands of the Lord (cf. PIV, session 82).

                [15] Cf. Aut 95-98.

                [16] Aut 101.

                [17] Cf. EA, p. 523; cf. also Aut 160-161, 270.

                [18] Cf. Aut 3, 18.

                [19] Cf. Aut 22, 25.

                [20] Cf. Aut 56; letter to Don J. Caixal, 28 May 1847, EC I, p. 219.

                [21] EA, p. 427; cf. also Aut 113.

                [22] Cf. Aut 215, 226.

                [23] Cf. Aut 135.

                [24] “The Lord did me a great favor in bringing me to Rome,… It was there that I learned how to give the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, and methods for preaching, catechizing, hearing confessions usefully and effectively” (Aut 152).

                [25] Cf. Aut 87-88, 637, 665, 764, 801.

                [26] Cf. Claretian Archive of Vic, n. 2.164, VIII, p. 21.

                [27] PIV, session 42.

                [28] PIB, session 46.

                [29] Claretian Archive of Vich, l. c.

                [30] Cf. CMC, p. 50.

                [31] Cf. Aut 341.

                [32] Cf. F. AGUILAR, Vida del Excmo. e Ilmo. Sr. Don Antonio María Claret, Misionero Apostólico, arzobispo de Cuba y después de Trajanópolis (The Life of the Most Excellent and Illustrious Bishop Anthony Mary Claret, Apostolic Missionary, Archbishop of Cuba and Later of Trajanopolis), Madrid 1871.

                [33] Cf. EC I, pp. 147-149; C. FERNÁNDEZ, El Beato…, I, p. 525.

                [34] Cf. Dir 26.

                [35] N. GARCÍA, Circular Letter on the most Notable Characteristic of the Son of the Heart of Mary: Christmas, 1945: Annales CMF 38 (1945-1946), p. 248.

                [36] Cf. Jesuit Provincial Archive of Toledo, n. 189, fol. 29-30.

                [37] Cf. Aut 638-639, 702-708, 869-872.

                [38] Cf. Letter to Fr. J. Xifré, 16 Nov. 1869: EC II, p. 1431.

                [39] Cf. Letter to Fr. Curríus, 2 Oct. 1869: EC II, p. 1406.

                [40] Cf. Dir 26.

                [41] Letter to Nuncio G. Brunelli, 12 Aug. 1849: EC III, p. 41.

                [42] J. XIFRÉ, Chronicle of the Congregation: Studia Claretiana 17 (1999) n. 32, p. 34.

                [43] Cf. Letter to Nuncio G. Brunelli, 12 Aug. 1849: EC III, p. 41.

                [44] Cf. Aut. 488-489; CCTT, pp. 27-29; J. XIFRÉ, Chronicle of the Congregation: Studia Claretiana 17 (1999) n. 32, p. 34.

                [45] A summary of the characteristics of his spirituality appears in NEM, II, 1, a) y b).

                [46] Cf. MCT 53-62; EA, p. 521.

                [47] Cf. MCT 53, 63.

                [48] Cf. MCT 53.

                [49] Cf. IPM 20-25.

                [50] Cf. MCT 53.

                [51] Aut 5.

                [52] EE, p. 523.

                [53] Cf. Aut 270.

                [54] Cf. Aut 161.

                [55] Aut 340.

                [56] Aut 438; cf. also 440.

                [57] Cf. Aut 442-444.

                [58] Aut 381.

                [59] Cf. Aut 448.

                [60] Cf. Aut 118, 687.

                [61] Aut 363; cf. also Aut 428-437; EE, pp. 298-300, 435.

                [62] Aut 359; cf. also EE, p. 425; aims of 1843: EA, pp. 522-523.

                [63] Aut 467.

                [64] Aut 363.

                [65] Cf. Aut 371.

                [66] Cf. Aut 221-224.

                [67] Aut 228.

                [68] Cf. Aut 620-624, 762.

                [69] Cf. CCTT, pp. 87, 103.

                [70] Aut 491. In a letter to his friend Bishop J. Caixal he wrote: “We practice all the virtues, especially humility and charity, and we live in community in this school a truly poor and apostolic life” (letter of 5 Sept. 1849: EC I, p. 316).

                [71] Letter to the Bishop of Vic, 24 Nov. 1851: EC I, p. 608. Actually that community fully lived up to the ideal Claret had in mind. It was a community that was a beehive (Cf. Aut 606-613).

                [72] Cf. Aut 199-213.

                [73] On the presentations of the Exercises cf. EA, pp. 520-588.

                [74] Cf. Aut 264-265.

                [75] “Hence in my meditations, Masses, recitation of the Breviary and other devotions, as well as in my aspirations, I always asked God and the Blessed Virgin Mary for those three intentions…” (Aut 264).

                [76] “I not only prayed myself but asked others to pray—nuns, Sisters of Charity, Tertiaries and all virtuous and zealous people” (Aut 265).

                [77] Aut 434.

                [78] Cf. Aut 341, 351.

                [79] Cf. Aut 356.

                [80] Cf. Aut 372.

                [81] Aut 374.

                [82] Cf. Aut 378-383

                [83] On the presentations of the Exercises cf. EA, pp. 520-588.

                [84] Aut 384-427.

                [85] Cf. Aut 387.

                [86] Cf. Aut 392, 406.

                [87] CMT, in EE, p. 352; cf. also Aut 494.

                [88] Aut 452.

                [89] Cf. EA, pp. 427-429.

                [90] Cf. MCT 161-162.

                [91] Letter to Nuncio L. Barili, 2 Feb. 1864: Selected Letters, BAC, Madrid 1996, p. 399.

                [92] Letter to Nuncio G. Brunelli, 12 Aug. 1849: EC III, p. 41.

                [93] Aut 762.

                [94] Cf. J. XIFRÉ, Chronicle of the Congregation: Studia Claretiana 17 (1999) 34.

                [95] Cf. MCT 67-68.

                [96] Cf. Aut II, ch. XVI-XXII.

                [97] Cf. CMT, p. 353.

                [98] Cf. Aut 357, 528, 562ff., 685, 694-695; El egoísmo vencido (Self-centeredness Overcome), in EE, p. 410.

                [99] Cf. Aut 192, 198.

                [100] Aut 195.

                [101] Aut 198.

                [102] Aut 195.

                [103] Cf. Aut 118, 456.

                [104] CC 1857, 65; cf. also 64 y 62.

                [105] Cf. GPF 118-127.

                [106] Cf. GPF 354, 361-363 (123-127; NEM, II, 1, a); cf. also GPF 23, 50, 55-56, 118-122, 165.