FIFTH PHASE (1839 – 1849)
Dimension of Universality : ‘My Spirit is for the Whole World”

P.Jesús Bermejo

1. Initial Grace : Explosion of Missionary Longings

His entire desire was to go far, proclaim the Gospel and to shed his blood for Jesus Christ.

2. Operative Decision : Go to Rome for Being Sent

Once finished his studies (May of 1839) Claret decides to offer himself to ‘Propaganda Fide’ so that he might be sent to foreign missions (Aut 111) to any part of the world (Aut 120).

3. Formative Preparation

• The Journey to Rome: In his journey from Marseilles to Livorno he experiments poverty, the efficacy of evangelical witness, above all the poverty, detachment and generosity for the Benedictines who flee Spain via Vargara (Aut 135).
• The entrance into the Novitiate of the Jesuits (November of 1839), once the attempt to go to missions failed. This serves as a stimulus and exercise of consecrated life. This contributes to keep alive in him the flame of apostolic zeal.

‘.. .the flame of zeal for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls took fire in my heart and totally consumed me. I offered my all to God without reserve. I was continually thinking and planning what I could do for the good of my neighbour, and since the time had not yet come for me to set out on my work, I busied myself with prayer’ (Aut 153). The stress on a passionate zeal coloured with Romanticism appears thus in the prayers offered to the Bl. Virgin. He learns to live and lives: the values of evangelical life (above all the obedience: Bible is removed from him, they order him to play and he is not permitted to celebrate the holy Mass, substituting an old priest who had to fast to a later hour).

He knows and experiments also the value of community life
‘It was there that I learned how to give the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, and methods for preaching, catechising, hearing confessions usefully and effectively…'(Aut 152)

4. Crisis of Health

There exists certain parallelism with the failed entrance to the Carthusian monastery, also this time caused by the inclemency of weather. A stabbing rheumatic pain is felt on the right leg (Aut 166) due to the many rains and humidity of that year. It is interpreted as a negative vocational sign.’

With regard to this episode it is not known whether there were other motives for abandoning the novitiate in addition to the real sickness. Did his formators find out that he was hardly fitting into the Jesuit line for being a made personality already – because of his vivid genius, for suggesting certain things against the blind obedience? We do not know. The only reason which is given in the chronicle of the house is lack of health. Whatever the reason be, God did not want him to be a Jesuit, but missionary, as he did not want him to be a businessman but a priest.

5. Renouncing the Dream to Be a Missionary

Here his cherished dream of foreign missions came to a blank end and he sees himself obliged to accept humbly and trustingly the will of God, manifested through his Superiors: dedicate himself to the missions, not in the land of pagans, but faithful not evangelized (Aut 166, 193).

6. Formative Parenthesis of Training:

On 13th of May 1840 Claret is appointed as Regent of Viladrau. Here he sees himself favoured by the circumstances, since there is an old priest of difficult character, who dies soon and another one who substitutes him in his absence (Aut 170, 191). The Providence opens a missionary horizon to him; and the vocation of Claret remains totally clarified and defined. Thus he was able to start his first missionary endeavours in the same parish. He began a mission on 15thof August and on the same day he requests the diocesan Administrator, Luciano Casadeval, that he might be exempted from the office of the Regent to devote himself totally to the missions. In the autumn he gives mission in Espinalvas and later in Seva: This was the start of my fame as a missionary’ (Aut 172). In November he preaches a novena for the souls in Igualada and Santa Coloma de Queralt with ‘great enthusiastic acceptance’ (Aut 173). The parish of Viladrau offers him much pastoral experience although he sees himself considerably blocked for having to do medical assistance also. Finally arrives the definitive liberation, on 23rd January 1841 ‘with deep feelings on the part of the people for the cures our Lord had worked through me'(Aut 174). All these experiences will be very useful for him in his continuous missionary activities in Catalonia.

7. Vocacional Response(cf. Palacios, J.M. Los signos vocacionales en San Antonio María Claret: Claretianum 11 (1971) 117ff.)

The response has to be in the same line of the call and has to have the same characteristics. Unconscious calls will receive unconscious responses and the conscious calls will receive conscious responses, at times not immediately, bound to concrete circumstances of time, place, atmosphere, age and family.

a. Unconscious responses of Claret:
Can be resumed in the word ‘Fidelity’:
1. to his parents, teachers and directors (Aut 29,26,22,52)
2. to the demands of Christian life (Aut 36-55) 8

• in piety and religion (36)
• in religious sacramental faith (37)
• in the living of sacramental life (38)
• in the purity of his conversations (53)
• in the assimilation of the truths of Credo in the catechism (39)
• in the exquisite care he had for the readings (Aut 41-42)

3. Fidelity and love to Mary most holy, his Mother, Protectress, with constant recital of the rosary, personally and in the family and his affectionate visits to the sanctuary Fussimanya(Aut 43-44, 49-51)

4. Fidelity to the Holy Spirit, who awakes in the Saint fear of God inspiring him besides a love for solitude where he speaks to his heart (Aut 8, 47)

5. Fidelity to moral and religious principles which help him to overcome the temptations, to get away from sinful situations and not to seek anything else than the fulfilment of the will of God in all things (Aut 72,73, 64).

b) Conscious responses ‘indicate the ‘enormous generosity’ of the soul of St. Anthony Mary Claret, his promptness in the service of God and his detachment from the things of the earth, all this united to his firm decision of following Christ In spite of all the difficulties of his life’.
At 12 years: decision: ‘I answered him that I wanted to be a priest’ (Aut 30). The circumstances don’t allow him to continue and he had to stop although the decision continues to be firm. ‘Humanly speaking, I see no hope, but you have the power to make it happen, if you will’ (Aut 40). Faith in the impossible like the Bl.Virgin: ‘For God, nothing is impossible'(Lk.l:26).

At 21 years: situation of tepidity
• provoked through the Word of God (Mt. 16:26: Quid prodest..?)
• impression: ‘it was like an arrow which went through my heart’ (68)
• Reaction of offering himself: ‘Quid me vis faceré?’ I tried to think and reason what to do, but to no avail'(68)
• Decision: search for orientation in one Ananias (Fr. Amigó) (68-69)
• Taking up of a radical vocational conscience. Carthusians.
• Effective decision, putting in practice the apt means to achieve the goal: Study of Latin (79), Spiritual purification (85), Entrance to the seminary (1829) (79-84)

8. Interpretation of vocational signs from the part of Claret

‘The personal interpretation of the vocational signs and facts in the light of faith is essential for havingsubjectively certitude of one’s vocation’.

The facts, significant in themselves, possess a vocational internationality which the called should interpret in that same line. Seemingly, Claret interpreted all the extraordinary facts of his infancy and youth in a global way, as providential signs from God who wanted him to be a priest, without stopping to analyse the theological and pedagogical content of each one ñor its vocational significance.

He starts to relate his life considering everything under this perspective and providentialist perspective:

‘Divine providence has always watched over me in a special way'(Aut 7). After narrating how he was saved from death at the collapse of the house of his wet-nurse, he writes: ‘Blessed be God’s Providence! I owe so many thanks to Mary most holy, who preserved me from death in my childhood and has freed me since then from so many predicaments'(Aut 7). Vocational signs:

1. a good nature or disposition from God out of his sheer goodness( 18).
2. Good intelligence
3. Good memory(22-26)
4. Good education (26-29)
5. Inclination to piety – towards the Eucharist (36-42); to the Bl. Virgin (43-55)
6. Human formation in manufacturing techniques which even prepared him technically for the future apostolate(56)
7. The dangers from which Mary most holy freed him (71-72)
8. The blows which God was providing him to awakerl him and to get him out of the dangers of the world (73).

All these facts become signs in the light of the verse Mt. 16:26: ‘I opened my eyes and recognized the dangers to soul and body I had been passing through’ (70).
Therefore he concludes this phase of seeking with the words: ‘My God, how good and wonderful you have been to me! You surely used strange means to uproot me from the world and an odd kind of aloes to wean me from Babylon'(76).

9. Total and Definitive Offering to the Evangelizing Mission

On 9″” July 1841 Claret receives the title of ‘Apostolic Missionary’ from Propaganda Fide. This was a juridical title which he converted into theological reality. This is the official recognition and the authorized ratification of his profound identity: to be, to live and to do like Jesus, the apostles and other great missionaries of all times. As St. Therese of Child Jesus would do later reading the chapters 12 and 13 of the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians (I have found my vocation in the Church: my vocation is love), Claret found his true identity, his clear and defined vocation (and ours):

Apostolic missionary, which won’t be just a coloured title but totalizing reality, with 3 principal traits as in Christ, like in the Apostles: 1) radical poverty; 2) evangelical fraternity; 3) full time evangelization.

Apostolic Missionary: Missus a Patre (Christ sent). Apostolicus: style of life at the style of the Apostles, in communion with the Lord, in fraternity, in fidelity to the command: ‘Go to the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to all creatures'(Mk 16:15). It indicates also the Missio canónica (canonical mission): ‘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 192).

The missionaries, like the Bishops are ‘successors’ of the Apostles; not in the hierarchical line, but in the charismatic line of prophetism. From Jesus, Priest, Prophet and King, by the grace received from the Holy Spirit we stress the prophetic dimension: the evangelization. The present Constitutions state it clearly: ‘In the various areas of ministry such as governing, sanctifying and evangelizing, our chief duty as missionaries is to collaborate in the evangelization of the people. For this reason, none of us should accept positions in Church governance, except by the consent of the Superior General or a mandate from the Holy See (CC 50).

The missionary vocation of Claret will expand itself to the plains of Catalonia and Canary Islands for various years (1841-1849). He feels anointed and sent to evangelize the poor; he lives in austerity and poverty. At the beginning of each mission he says to the Bl. Virgin: ‘You are well aware that I am your son and minister, formed in the furnace of your mercy and love. I am like an arrow poised in your mighty hand. Release me, my Mother, with the full force of your arm..'(Aut 270).

And he adds in his Resolutions for 1843: ‘I entrust myself totally to Mary, as her son and her priest. …. She will be my Mother, Teacher, and Directress and everything I do or suffer in my ministry will be done for her, for because she has planted the tree, the fruit belongs to her’ (EA p. 253).

He speaks clearly about his rectitude of intention in the missionary works in the chapter of the Autob. Titled: The goal I had in mind whenever I went to a town to which my Superior sent me'(Aut 199-213). Claret has given us an account in his Autobiography about the sufferings of moral and physical kind which were coming from his tireless efforts to the ministry of salvation, from his tiredness, inclemencies of the weather, resistances, persecutions, dangers (Aut 460-467; 518-520; 575-578).

He presents the ideal missionary animated by a very strong love which is expressed in work and in the suffering for the glory of God and salvation of the neighbour (Aut 494).

10. Characteristics of this period:

Search for his own identity according to the will of God – formation for mission – apostolic rule -Stimulus, virtues, love of God and neighbour, vibrant force of the Word of God, Means of apostolate, continuous apostolate in poverty and itinerancy, apostolic initiatives: prolific writer and propagator of truth through the Religious Library.