Jesùs Bermejo, CMF.
Trans. by Joseph C. Daries, CMF.
| “The important thing is that you fulfil well the sacred duties to which|
you are obliged. For this, it is indispensable that you have the
knowledge you need in order to do so, and that once you have it, you preserve and increase it through study. For, just as studying is the way
to learn, so not studying is the way to lose what one has already
learned”. (CLARET, EI colegial instruido, II, p. 391).
Table of Contents
- I.Claret’s Ongoing Formation
His personal experience
In Rome and Catalonia
In Cuba and Madrid
- II.Ongolng Formation in the Plans of Life Drawn by Claret
His own personal plans
Plans for Others
Characteristics of Claret’s Plans of Life
- III.Personal Study in Ongoing Formation
In Catalonia and Cuba
Characteristics of Claret’s ongoing formation
- IV.Effects of Ongoing Formation
- V.Claret’s Teaching and Guidelines on Ongoing Formation
During his stage as an Apostolic Missionary
During his years as Archbishop of Cuba
In the Capital of Spain
Claret’s initiatives for the ongoing formation of the Clergy
- VI.The Ongoing Formation of the Claretian Missionaries
The formation of the young missionaries The ongoing formation of Ciaretians
FREQUENTLY USED ABBREVIATIONS
- Aut Autobiography of Saint Anthony Mary Claret.
- CPR The Claretian in the Process of Congregational Renewal: Document of the20th Generai Chapter (Rome 1985).
- EA Escritos autobiogrficos de San Antonio Maria C!aret, ed., José Maria Virias, & Jesus Bermejo, (Madrid 1981).
- EC Epistolario Claretiano, prepared by Jose` Maria Gil, (Madrid 1970 and 1987) 3 vols.
- E E Escritos espirituales de San Antonio Maria Claret, ed. Jesus Bermejo, (Madrid 1985).
- LR Libreria Religiosa (publishing house founded by Saint Anthony Mary Claret).
- MSS Claret Manuscripts of Saint Anthony Mary Claret (18 vols)
The 1985 Claretian General Chapter focused its interest on the person of the Claretian: “The Congregation’s richest resource is its members. Each of them is precious for the gift of his unique selfhood.”(1)
In keeping with this general principle, the Chapter stressed the need for achieving a triple objective: to “commit ourselves during the next six years to promote persona! spirituality, the community dimension of the person, and the formation of each Claretian in an ongoing process.”(2)
In reference to ongoing formation, the Chapter noted that “there is a concern for it in the Congregation.”(3) As to its content, the document went on to say that “ongoing formation should not be limited to a renewal in ideas and doctrines, but rather that it should tend to the renewal of our missionary Identity and apostolic action in the face of the challenges of our world in the historic moment in which the Church is living.”(4) “The Congregation feels the need forpersons who are seriously prepared to communicate the Gospel in a competent way to today’s people, and who can at the same time assure our search for new responses.”(5)
I. Claret’s Ongoing Formation: His personal Experience
The Chapter’s observations and its projection toward the immediate future of the Congregation are fully in keeping with the restless yearnings of our Father Founder. These yearnings were born of a personal experience that was consolidated throughout his life and trained totally on missionary evangelization.
In the case of Saint Anthony Mary Claret, it can be said that there was no break in continuity between his initial formation and his ongoing formation.
For him, contrary to what happens so often today, his initial formation did not end with his ordination to the priesthood. He was ordained on 13 June 1835, but did not finish his official studies until 1839. Owing to a set of unusual circumstances, he was assigned as the curate econome of his hometown parish, Sallent, where he had to study his as yet unfinished courses in dogmatic and moral theology on his own, while travelling to Vic from time to time to take his examinations in those subjects:
“Because of the civil war, the students were unable to gather in the seminary and had to pursue their studies in private conferences. At this time, as the Ecclesiastical Governor and Vicar Capitular had no one to fulfil the post of assistant pastor in my parish, he wanted me by all means to go there and study in conference, as I was doing in Vic, for the remainder of my training. I did so out of obedience and finished my studies”.(6)
In Rome and Catalonia
The completion of his studies allowed him to devote himself completely to the pursuit of his missionary vocation, which had been manifesting itself with ever increasing intensity during these years, especially under the impact of the Word of God.(7)
He therefore asked the Vicar Capitular of Vic for the permission needed in order to devote himself to the missions in non-christianized lands. He received this permission, though not without difficulty, and at once, “without seeking human advisers” (Cf. Gal 1:16), he undertook a journey to Rome to offer his services to the Propagation of the Faith, to be sent anywhere in the world. But God put new obstacles in his way, which for the moment prevented him from realizing his apostolic dreams.
Providential circumstances led him to enter the Jesuit novitiate in Rome. Here, while he was being indoctrinated on religious life and the Ignatian spirit, he can be said to have begun his ongoing formation. In the novitiate, located near the Quirinal Palace, ho learned effective methods and strategies for the missionary apostolate:
“lt was there that I learned to give the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius,. and methods for preaching, catechizing, hearing confessions usefully and effectively, as well as many other things that have stood me in good stead.”(8)
Around this time, he began to build up an excellent personal library which were included, besides the Bible, the Ignatian Exercises and various commentaries of them, a number of works on moral theology and preaching, above all, those of Saint Alphonsus Mary Liguori, Saint Francis de Sales and numerous Fathers of the Church.
During his missionary forays throughout Catalonia and later the Canary Islands, Fr. Claret studied diligently and did an in-depth examination of both the religious and social reality of the people he was evangelizing (9). In this way he oriented both his conduct and his ongoing formation with a view to offering an adequate response to the challenges he met:
As I was giving missions, I ran into all sorts of needs, and as each new need arose, I wrote a booklet or pamphlet on the subject. If I noticed that risqué songs were popular in the town I was visiting, I published a song with a spiritual or moral message. This is why nearly all my early pamphlets were song sheets (10).
Because of his continual itinerancy he could not carry many books about with him. He only brought what was indispensable: the Bible, the Breviary and a Vademecum of sermons (11). In his free time between missions, he buried himself in his library, avidly devouring all those books he thought might be of use to him in the pursuit of his all-absorbing objective, the evangelization of the people.
He achieved this objective both directly, through preaching, and indirectly, through the booklets and leaflets that silently carried on his evangelizing activity. As he was preaching missions in towns and villages, ho also made use of the books that parish priests had in their rectories. In Claret’s library, which is kept in Rome, we find some books that he must have picked up during his missions, since we can still find traces of their former owners’ signatures in them.
In Cuba and Madrid
During the six years of his stay in Cuba, which were spent in a veritable of missionary activity, he put a great deal of effort into building up his personal library, which his household staff (as well as other priests) used during their free time between missions. Proof of this are the numerous letters of his secretary, Don Palladi Currius to the Brothers Lavaliée in Paris and to their agent in Rome, asking for consignments of books which regularly arrived by ship. A great number of volumes also carne from Spain, especially those published by the Religious Library in Barcelona.
Despite his manifold occupations in missioning, making pastoral visits and attending to the governance of his large archdiocese, he took time out to devote many hours to study. He carved out this niche in time by sleeping until, never staying idle, and being very keen on keeping updated in ecclesiastical and natural science. We know that he spent two hours in the morning and another two at night studying Sacred Scripture, and that he also applied himself to ascetical, moral and liturgical studies, as well as natural sciences and agriculture.
We can easily deduce the breadth and depth of his ongoing formation by a rapid review of his pastoral letters, which are crammed with citations from philosophy, theology and above all the Bible. We can reach the same conclusion by running through his correspondence, where he shows considerable erudition, even in matters which at I first blush might seem not to belong within his I field of competency, such as civil law, history and agriculture.
During his long stay in Madrid, with brief periods spent in Paris and Rome, he had more time to devote to his ongoing formation, in an even more systematic form. His plan of studies called for the acquisition of new books, and he spared no expense to obtain them. His library, which he willed to his Missionaries when he died, exceeded 2.000 volumes, not counting the 750 bearing his Ex Libris that are kept in EI Escorial. We do not know whether or not he bought the latter with monies institution. In the Studium Claretianum in Rome, we currently possess 1868 volumes bearing his Ex Libris, his signature or other indications that they belonged to him. Regarding this library of Claret’s we may make two important observations:
1. The books are most varied in content. They include the Fathers of the Church, biblical commentaries by various authors, works on theology, philosophy, morals, mariology, spirituality, oratory, canon and civil law, history, applied arts, agriculture, classic and modem languages, etc.
2. Nearly all al them, with rare exceptions, are very well bound, bear his Ex Libris (a small printed plate reading: + Ex. Iib. Excmi. et I. Dom. Antonii Maria Claret), and show signs of being well used. In many of them there are short pencil strokes, sometimes double, in the margin, whereby the Saint indicated passages that had called his attention and might be re-read when it carne time to prepare himself for preaching or writing booklets or pamphlets.
in summary, we may say that Fr. Claret’s ongoing formation was always either directed Io or closely reiated with his evangelizing mission.
In Viladrau, circumstances led him to study medicine. In Cuba, moved by his concern for human advancement, he felt obliged to collect a bibliography on agricultural topics.
Even in the last stage of his life, when he felt called upon to take a stand against the new ideologies, and especially against “all the ills of Spain,”(12) he dedicated himself to an intense study (not directly, but by way of other authors) of the great German thinkers, Hegel, Schelling, Strauss, etc.
Nevertheless, we should note that the largest section of his library was made up of books on preaching, pastoral theology and spirituality.
II.Ongoing Formation in the Plans of Life Drawn up by Claret
His Own Personal Plans
Throughout his life, Saint Anthony Mary Claret attached great importance to resolutions and personal plans of life, because of their formative and sanctifying impact on one’s scientific, spiritual and apostolic progress. ‘Our progress in spiritual life,” he remarked, “will be in keeping with the resolutions we make and how we make them.”(l 3) A section on intellectual self-education figures in nearly all of these plans of life.
His first known plan of life was written during his days as a seminarian in Vic.(14) lt is of a general nature, but includes studies and piety.
The plan of life he followed during his years as an apostolic missionary in Catalonia and the Canary islands is concretely found in the Retreat Resolutions he wrote in 1843, which remained substantially unchanged until his nomination as Archbishop of Cuba.(1 5) In his Autobiography, he tells us that before embarking for the Pearl of the Antilles, he wrote a plan al life far his own governance.(16) This plan, which is not found among Claret’s manuscripts, is reproduced by Fr. Clotet in his unpublished biography of the Saint, which is kept in Rome.(17)
Upon his return to Madrid, he drew up a new plan, which would serve to help him effectively in his new post as Confessor Royal. “[resolved to follow a plan of life which I have followed most faithfully during the seven and a half years I have been in Madrid.”(l 8) This plan of life appears in his Autobiography.(1 9) Every year during his retreat, which he faithfully practiced, he wrote down his resolutions, correcting -or adding lo the previous ones.(20)
Plans for others
Throughout his apostolic ministry, Fr. Claret offered different plans of life for all classes of persons. He composed some very concrete, wise and prudent ones for lay persons, (21) while those he wrote for seminarians are notable for their practicality and common sense.(22)
But his greatest efforts were spent on behalf of priests, for whom he wrote various plans of life which in one way or another reproduce his own personal experience. The Well-Instructed Seminarian which, as we all know, was an excellent manual of priestly perfection in its day, is most interesting in this respect. Part II, section 3 of this work is devoted to “the enlightenment of the priest,” and contains the following chapters:
- On the knowledge a priest should have.
- What the priest should know concerning the canonical dispositions aimed at putting his life in good order.
- – What the priest should know in order to promote the glory of God.
- – What the priest should know for the salvation of souls.
- – On the study or library a priest should have.
- – Catalogue of books a priest should strive to have.
- – On the class or hall of pastoral theology.
- – On ecclesiastical conferences.
Everything that Fr. Claret suggested for the secular clergy of his time, he desired still more for his own Missionaries, with a view of their becoming fitting ministers of the Gospel.
For his Missionaries, who where in some degree called Io share in his evangelizing restlessness, he wrote various regulations, which figure among his first projects for the organization of the Congregation.(24)
Characteristics of C!aret’s Plans of Life
The plans of life which Claret made for himself and others possess certain distinctive characteristics which should be pointed out. These are the main ones:
1. They arise or should arise in the context of a strong faith experience, in situations particularly favourable of giving one’s personal life a new thrust.
2. In general, these plans tend Io be very concrete, at least the ones presented in developed form, as was the case with his own plans and those he proposed for priests and missionaries.
They are not just about general principles, but contained detailed and even minute programs, which often include a daily timetable and provisions for what should be accomplished every year, month, week or even day.
3. They are or should be in perfect accord with the psychology, state of life and concrete situation of those who make or follow them, in an effort lo incarnate them in their own lives.
4. They should be periodically adapted to new situations as the latter arise. In general, the favourable moment for making this adaptation would be during one’s yearly retreat.
5. As for their content, they vary according to the different sorts of persons who make them, their age, physical condition, degree of maturity, etc. But at least when they are directed to the clergy or to missionaries, they never omit two key points which form, so to speak, the two pillars of ongoing formation: an intense programming of their spiritual life and their studies, since – as our Saint used to tell the members of the Congregation
– “Holiness and learning are, so to speak, the two feet of the Missionary; hence, both are essential.”(25)
6. Periodic review. Although he does not always mention this, the need for it can easily be deduced, since it is impossible lo adapt one’s earlier plan unless one first evaluates it, at least in a general way, in order to revise it.
III. Personal Study in Ongoing Formation
Saint Anthony Mary Claret always attached great importance to personal study. Toconfirm this, one need only note his eagerness to provide himself with books, which he read and practically devoured during his long vigils.
In Catalonia and Cuba
Concerning his days as a seminarian in Vic, he tells us that he devoted himself most earnestly to his spiritual life, but “without slacking off in my studies, to which I applied myself to the utmost of my ability.”(26)
In one of his retreat resolutions for 1843- which, as we know, were the basic resolutions for his whole time as an apostolic missionary in Catalonia and the Canary Islands – we read: “I am effectively resolved never to lose an instant of time, but rather to use it in prayer, study and works of charity to my neighbours.”(27)
The same is true of his resolutions of 1850, which served as a guideline for his years as Archbishop of Cuba: “I resolve never to lose an instant of time. Thus I will always be occupied in study, prayer, administering the sacraments, preaching, etc., etc.”(28) The following statement figures among his spiritual notes for this time: “Dedicated all time possible to the study of Sacred Scripture, canons and laws, moral and (dogmatic) theology, preachable authors, mystical and ascetical theology. Frequently read the lives o! Saints who have been most outstanding for their good governance and holiness.”(29)
In his distribution of time he assigns two hours daily to the study of Sacred Scripture, one hour to dogmatic theology, one to discipline, canons and laws, and another to languages; at night, with no set time limit, mystical theology:
Distribution of Time
1. I will rise at 4:00; private prayers arid preparation for Mass.
2. At 4:15, mental prayer.
3. At 5:00, Mass and thanksgiving.
4. At 6:00, Sacred Scripture.
5. At 8:00, breakfast, Hours…
6. At 9:00, Dogmatic and Moral Theology.
7. At 10:00, Discipline, Canons and Laws.
8. At 11:00, Audience and Languages.
9. From 1:00 to 3:00, dinner and rest.
10. At 3:00 Recitation and Natural Sciences.
11. At night, Prayer and Mystical Theology.
12. On Saturday evening and vigils, sermon preparation.”(30)
This minutely regulated daily plan, which he obvious)y could not follow with complete fidelity because of his continual travels, missions, pastoral visits and other urgent occupations, nevertheless reveals something of Saint Anthony Mary Claret’s desire to subject himself to a rigorous formative discipline, both in his spiritual life and in studies.
A few years later, when he was living in Madrid, he renewed his resolution not to lose an instant of time.(31) Since his circumstances had changed, he found himself obliged to modify his program. In 1861, for example, he added the following resolutions: “I will devote myself to the confessional until eleven. in the afternoon, to preaching in convents, institutions, etc. And the rest of the time to studying, writing and praying.”(32) As a general rule, in the evening and at night, when he had finished his pious practices, confessions and audiences, he would “study, and write booklets and Ieaflets.”(33) “i spend the atternoon preaching, studying, writing, or doing something else. The same holds true of the night, for I strive never to have an idle moment.”(34) After his afternoon meal ‘until 8:30…, I busy myself with prayer, study, preaching…”(35)
This concern for studies was a vital necessity for a man consecrated to the proclamation of the Gospel. He indicates this through a revealing comparison: “Before he crows, the cock first beats his wings; I, before preaching, should move and beat the wings of study and prayer.”(36)
He arrived in Rome from Paris on April 2, 1869. After the turmoil of the Spanish Revolution of 1868 had subsided, he had more free time to devote himself to study, in preparation for the beginning of the First Vatican Council. Writing from the Eternal City to Fr. Xifré, who was in Paris, be says: My occupation is study and prayer, entirely ready for whatever God our Lord may dispose.”(37)
Characteristics of Claret’s ongoing formation
Summing up the characteristics of Claret’s own formation, we can say that, throughout his life, it was continual and persistent, organized and programmed, concrete and inculturated, polarized around and fundamentally oriented toward mission.
Its continuity appears throughout his resolutions and decisions. He never fails to indicate concrete options aimed at intensifying his personal formation. Moreover, it Is surprising to note not only his persistent resolve never to waste a moment’s time, but also his unflagging eagerness to enrich his spiritual and intellectual life by all means within his grasp.
In all the texts we have cited thus far, we can see how much organizing and programming he put into seemingly insignificant details.
From yet another point of view, we note the practical and concrete nature of all his programing, due at least in part to the Catalan ‘seny” (common sense), which was so characteristic of our Saint. At the same time he shows how keen he was far inculturation and adaptation to the different cultural milieu he passed through, living them and incarnating them in his evangelizing activity. This is yet another characteristic of his formation.
In his formative endeavours, Fr. Claret has two basic aims: on the one hand, to grow in the knowledge of God in order to become ever closer to His Lord and live in communion with Him; and on the other, to become an ever more effective instrument of salvation for his brothers and sisters, since he was aware that his specific mission, willed by God, was universal evangelization.
IV. Effects of Ongoing Formation
Almost unanimously, those who knew and conversed with Claret or heard him preach recognized the moral grandeur and holiness of a man who was all for God. They saw him as a person “of great virtues, of much erudition, and a truly apostolic man.”(38)
In Catalonia “always and everywhere, everyone… praised him for his learning, virtues and holiness.”(39) All had an opportunity to witness and admire “his piety, burning zeal, evangelical unction, tireless work and his mortified and even penitent life, as well as the enlightened mind that all his writings reveal.”(40) As another witness declared, “He possessed an utterly wisdom, a burning zeal and a holiness that was far from common.”(41) One witness states that, neither in that time in Catalonia “nor later, has Spain had a more hardworking priest, a more worthy missionary and more exemplary prelate who, through the unction of his word, through the simplicity and purity of his teaching and his writings, or through his presence in the pulpit and the confessional, has done more to advance the glory of God and the salvation of souls.”(42)
The people, who came to his missions with simple and hope-filled hearts, acknowledged that his evangelizing was full of unction and learning. “His sermons, although they were not perfect specimens of oratory, were nonetheless instinct with sound doctrine, filled with cites from the Bible and the Fathers, and adorned with a host of comparisons and similes which, while simple, were also timely and varied, yet unfailingly delicate and ingenious.”(43) This Is why some of Fr. Claret’s contemporaries described him as a man eminent in all fields of learning, and of “vast and deep” knowledge, so that it was commonly held in Church circles that the great missionary’s knowledge was infused and was a living miracle of God.”(44) The pastor of Aguilar de Segarra, Fr. Joseph Pujolar, stated roundly: “I believe that his knowledge was infused.”(45) Fr. Dominic Corna, OP, relates the following incident:
“Since I admired the excellence and abundance of his doctrine and wanted some share in it, I asked him one day where he got his doctrinal talks and sermons. Opening a book, he showed me on one page an image of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and on the other, one of the Blessed Virgin. And he told me: “Here is my book; this is where I get my doctrine. Our Lord has given me such great grace that I retain everything I have read.”(46)
This reputation for infused knowledge may have been true in some cases, but Claret himself, referring to himself, offers a humbler and more credible reason when he says: “I am sure of this: that the little I know of this matter, I owe to many years and nights spent in study.”(47) One would add that a contributing factor that, as some have testified, God had endowed him “with a very clear intelligence, high skill, and great perspicacity and penetration.”(48)
Prescinding from this possible gift of infused knowledge, what is certain is that Claret was held to be a man of extraordinary parts in sacred sciences. Even his adversaries acknowiedge this publicly. Proof of this may be seen in the following testimony by Santiago Lòpez de San Romàn, in his defamatory booklet, “Observations on Mr. Claret’s leaflet entitled ‘Notes for a plan to preserve the beauty of the Church” (New York 1859):
“Contrary to what I had been led to believe before meeting him, I found that he has a felicitous memory, uncommon in one of his age; he is not lacking intelligence and is very well versed in ascetical theology and holy scripture, and rather well in dogma, though perhaps more in moral theology. I consider him quite industrious and highly desirous of leaning, and I believe that he has read much and well.”(49)
One thing that everyone noted in his teaching was its utter integrity and fidelity to the Church – a trait which is today, unfortunately, held in little esteem by some evangelisers. “His doctrine,” one witness declares, “was wholly orthodox and completely submissive to our Holy Mother, the Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church, and to the Supreme Pontiff. (5O)
V. Claret’s Teachings and Guidelines on Ongoing Formation
As we indicated above, in reading Fr. Claret’s works, even those meant far the broader public, we note his insistence on proposing plans of life for all classes of persons, and the fact that he rarely fails to indicate the need or usefulness of devoting a period of time to study or reading for personal enrichment. His insistence on this point is still greater when he Is addressing seminarians, priests or religious.
Faced by the troubling spectacle of the rapid de-christianization of Europe and Spain during the second half of the l9th century, Fr. Claret realized that the touchstone for an in-depth regeneration lay with the clergy. Writing of Mother Mary Antonia Paris in 1860, he observed:
“I can see that the world is lost, and I can find no better means to remedy this that the formation of a good clergy who, by their example and
preaching may direct their flock Io the heavenly Father.”(51).
In an effort to counter unbelievers’ accusation that priests, who “should be the light of the world…, fill it with darkness because of their ignorance,”(52) he wrote:
“I have often, or rather constantly, wondered what remedy there might be for such an evil. After much thought I have come to the conclusion that the remedy consists… of training a good, leaned, virtuous, zealous and prayerful clergy. . .“(53)
During his stage as an Apostolic Missionary
Fr. Claret’s efforts along these lines were extraordinary, even during his years as an itinerant missionary in Catalonia and the Canary Islands. He focused his energies first of all on preaching numerous retreats to the clergy and on forming various more-or-less lasting clerical associations in which he always highlighted certain fundamental aspects of priestly life: intellectual and spiritual formation, apostolic zeal, and prayer. The parish priests of his day were generally busied with their pastoral occupations almost exclusively during morning hours. Hence our Saint suggests that each of them make the following resolutions: “I will spend the afternoon and evening in study.”(54)
During his years as Archbishop of Cuba
In Cuba, where his responsibility for priest was direct and immediate, he took a bold and imaginative stand against the three most serious problems of the diocesan clergy: poor salaries, immorality and ignorance.
Limiting ourselves Io the last point, it suffices to point out the initiative he took through a circular letter of May 27, 1851, addressed to all pastors in his diocese. in it he states:
‘It has also come to my attention that, since your respective territory is so vast, the exercise of your care of souls does not allow you time to open a book of moral theology for many days at a time. Now, to remedy this shortcoming, I have so arranged matters that by sending you a substitute, you will be able to move to this city every year for a whole month. During this time, assembled at St. Basil’s Seminary, you will be exclusively occupied in commending yourself Io God, and in daily conferences on liturgy and moral theology.
And so as to make this project practicable, you will come to this city by turns, as we will establish, so that the substitutes may go from one parish to another, and that by the end of the year everyone may have enjoyed this benefit (55)
Not only did he create this overall “recycling “program, but he also set up weekly conferences (three days a week), beginning with the clergy at Puerto Principe (Camagùey).(56)
“Besides these general courses in formation for all the clergy of the diocese, the archbishop established periodic conferences, to be held wherever it was possible to gather three or four priests. They generally met three or at least two times a week (preferably the former). They were characteristically practical and closely regulated, and their main object was to translate sacred and liturgical texts, to rehearse the rubrics and administration of sacraments, and to study and resolve concrete cases in moral theology. Each care group had its own set of regulations, drawn up by the archbishop with a view to the circumstances of their parishes.”(57)
In the pastoral letter to the clergy published in 1852, as well as in several later appendices, he set forth the obligations of priests and the means whereby they might live their vocation in a holy way and perform the mission that the Church had entrusted to them. Among these means were daily mental prayer, a monthly day of recollection and a yearly retreat, together with frequent Bible reading, the study of moral theology, and the conferences established in every parish. All of this tended, naturally, to foster the spiritual and intellectual advancement demanded of priestly ministry.
To facilitate these parish conferences, he published two important works: Fr. Làrraga’s MoraI Theology, and the Handbook for Celebrating the Sacraments.
In the Capital of Spain
The same aims led him Io found something similar in Spain. For the clergy of Madrid, he wrote a short work setting forth the details of the periodic meetings they had to attend.(58)
As we have already pointed out, The Well-Instructed Seminarian is of special interest here. It was written not only for seminarians, but also for the junior clergy, especially Part Three of Volume Il, which deals with “the enlightenment of the priest” and contains the chapters we alluded to in our remarks on Claret’s plans of life. We will limit ourselves here to indicate the motivations given at the beginning of Volume II and at the start of the part just referred to:
When a blazing lg begins to the buried under an ashen crust, we must scrape away the ashes, blow on the embers, add kindling to them, and by such attentions revive the fire that seemed to have died out, so that it not only begins again, but grows and leaps up into an even higher blaze. St. Paul uses this comparison to remind his dear disciple Timothy and us, that the fire of sacramental grace we received in priestly ordination begins in time to be encrusted with the ashes caused by the coldness of the world around us, by our own lukewarmness, by our laziness at work, by our fear of persecution and by our inconstancy to our resolutions. All of these have produced ashes which encrust our fire, making it seem dead. We must, then, scrape, blow and kindle, to make it revive and increase. For this, we must avail ourselves of the bellows and kindling of prayer, meditation, spiritual reading, inner joy and vigilance, study, and greater effort al practicing the virtues, especially those of work and zeal, striving with the greatest earnestness and fervour for the salvation of the souls which the Lord has entrusted to us”.(59)
In introducing section three, he remarks:
“The important thing is that you fulfil well the sacred duties to which you are obliged. For this, it is indispensable that you have the knowledge you need in order to do so, and that once you have it, you preserve and increase it through study. For, just as studying is the way to learn, so not studying is the way to lose what one has already learned. See what happens in the various walks of life. For example, a lawyer, a doctor or a ship’s captain study throughout their lives in order to perform their duties well. And should a priest not study? Are a priest’s duties less important than a lawyer’s are? A lawyer defends earthly goods, whereas a priest defends heavenly and eternal goods. A doctor strives to heal the body, whereas a priest must bring healing to souls, which are called to eternal weal or woe. The ship’s captain must have the required knowledge to bring his ship safely into port, whereas a priest must bring souls through the stormy sea of this world to the port of eternal salvation. Woe to the priest who does not strive to have the knowledge required for the fulfilment of his sacred ministry! This knowledge must be in keeping with the states or offices in which a priest is engaged. And as he has three main offices, there are likewise three main kinds of knowledge he must have. The priest must know how to live well and holily. The priest, since he is a minister of public worship, must know how to direct the worship we owe to God. The priest, finally, must guide along the way of salvation those souls whom Jesus Christ has ransomed with his precious blood, and the greatest proof of love that he can show these souls, is to feed them with heavenly doctrine”.(60)
Saint Anthony Mary Claret speaks repeatedly of the overriding need priests have to cultivate leaning and above all sacred learning. “The Priest without knowledge is like one blind person leading another .“(61) “Virtue and holiness are not enough; leaning is demanded in a cleric. The reason is, that he must enlighten and guide people.”(62) “The priest is, or should be, like a fountain or spring of water for the orchard or garden that supports a town. Alas, if the fountain dries up! What then?”(63) “Our work, after the fulfilment of our ministry, is study… Learning is the undying crown of the Church. One must study in order to acquire learning and to preserve what one has already learned.”(64)
Elsewhere he tersely states: “Study and silence make the preacher. Prayer and the altar make the converter.”(65) Finally, enlightened by his own observation, he observes: “The world Is lost by lack of lights and virtues.”(66)
According to one well-qualified witness, Fr. Claret declared that the preacher must prepare himself “by study.” “He was no friend of those who preach sermons merely leamed by rote… The preacher ought to have made a prolonged study before mounting the pulpit; hence he strongly frowned of improvisers, of whom he said that they both tempt God and profane God’s word.”(67)
This is possibly the reason why, as another witness testifies, “he insisted on the study of theology, especially that of St. Thomas, to which ho was strongly attached, and could repeat or recite to the letter long passages taken from the Summa, and why he bemoaned the heresies he had heard from certain renowned preachers because of their lack of theological learning.”(68)
As we conclude this part, we should at least allude to the “catalogue of books which a priest should strive to acquire,” which should include the following subjects: “Sacred Scripture, philosophy, dogmatic and moral theology, canons, laws, controversial theology, councils, the Fathers, history, lives of the Saints, mystical and ascetical theology, sacred oratory, catechism, sermons, spiritual exercises, liturgy, books for hearing confession and for First Communion, meditations, spiritual readings, languages, natural sciences, mathematics, and all books published by the Religious Library as they are issued.”(69)
Claret’s Initiatives for the ongoing formation of the Clergy
Summing up, one may say that Saint Anthony Mary Claret adopted basically three types of initiatives aimed at the ongoing formation of the clergy of his day:
1. Spiritual Exercises, of which he himself led many throughout his life, as well as the establishment and direction of conferences for priests, over which he himself often presided, both in Cuba and Madrid.
2. The publication of a key work for the formation of seminarians and junior clergy: the two ample tomes of The Well-Instructed Seminarian, which won the approval of the Lord Himself on the Feast of Corpus Christi, 1860 and 1861.
3. The creation of various priestly associations, and above all, the publication in 1864 of the Rules to which he wished to add a third order made up of lay missionaries.
VI. The Ongoing Formation of the Claretian Missionaries
lt should come as no surprise that Saint Anthony Mary Claret, as the founder of a Congregation of evangelisers, was concerned for both the initial and ongoing formation of its members.
The formation of the young missionaries
From the moment the institute began to have student members, he foresaw the need o! forming them adequately to be effective instruments in work of the salvation of the whole world.
In a letter to the Superior General, Fr. Joseph Xifré, he speaks of the need “to form well in learning and virtue those young men whom God may call to the Congregation.”(70)
For the novices, he wrote a special chapter which would later form part of the second Constitutions. And, seemingly under the inspiration of the Blessed Virgin, he drafted another chapter for the students, which was also incorporated into the Constitutions. He sent it to the Superior General “so that it may be put in practice everywhere, since this is the will of God and of Mary Most Holy, our dear Mother.”(71)
The ongoing formation of Claretians
The founder felt, it possible, even more keenly that his missionaries who were in full-time evangelizing work should undergo a continuing “recycling” process, through an ongoing formation that was both systematic and well programmed.
Even in the different sets of regulations he wrote for the successive apostolic associations that formed, so to speak, the ‘prehistory” of the Congregation of Missionaries, ongoing formation was always a matter of prime importance. Sometimes the Saint indicates the books which the missionaries should use.(72) At other times he establishes a detailed regulation, specifying what is needed by way o! ongoing formation. Thus, for example, in the “Rules that should be observed by one who would become a perfect missionary,” he writes: “Every day he will read a chapter of the New Testament and if he is at home he will add a chapter from Rodriguez, and on Saturdays and vigils of Our Lady, the Glories of Mary. When they are gathered as a group they will keep busy during the tree time they have while giving missions or retreats. In the morning, sermons and doctrinal talks. in the afternoon and evening, moral and mystical theology. Holding a conference every day.”(73)
“For his firstmissionaries, Saint Anthony Mary Claret prescribed a yearly period for ongoing formation which lasted for four months, over and above a continual rhythm of renewal through daily periods of evaluation, monthly days of recollection and yearly retreats.”(74)
In the first Constitutions, published in 1857, there is one regulation for the time of recycling and another for the time of missions. In the former, the following is determined: “At noon, they will have a conference of moral theology which all must attend, unless the Superior judges that they are legitimately excused.”(75) “At the hour assigned by the Superior, there will be a conference of preaching, which will last for an hour.”(76) “At eight, there will be a conference on mystical theology.”(77) “The above mentioned conferences will be held every day except one each week, which is granted for their ease of spirit. On feast days, when the evening conference will be suppressed, they will have in its stead a half hours meditation in common, and one of the older priests will give a talk on the duties of their state and the virtues they most need.”(78)
In the regulation for the time of missions, the only item prescribed is spiritual reading during meals: “With their noon meal, a chapter from the Bible and one from a Kempis will be read.”(79) But the possibility of other formative activities is provided for: “When they do not have to spend the whole time prescribed for hearing confessions, they shall, insofar as possible, distribute their remaining time according to the dispositions br when they are at home.”(80)
On August 12, 1859, the Founder sent Fr. Xifre “Plan of Studies for the Congregation of Sons of the immaculate Heart of Mary.” in number 5 of this plan we read: “Thus they shall continue studying and working, taking advantage of all free time during the year; moreover, during the first days of the mission when they are fewer confessions to hear, they will be able to study, and to this effect they will always bring a book wfth them.”(81)
During these years, Claret, from his post in Madrid, always showed a lively concern for his missionaries, and followed the progress of the few communities concentrated in Catalonia, as well as that of the single house located in the interior of Spain, in Segovia. Ho was overjoyed when he saw that the Superiors of the institute were as concerned as he was about this aspect that was so vital far their mission. In the postscript of a letter he sent from Aranjuez to the Superior General on May 3, 1861, he wrote:
I am very happy you have set up classes in canon law, and that Fr. Sors is going to teach it; but see to it that all of the priests do three things:
1. Writing out their sermons, doctrinal talks and retreats.
2. That they learn French in order to hear the confessions of foreigners whenever they come to confession, or of the sick who request it. Nowadays this is a necessity, seeing the number of people who are travelling.
3. Review or conferences on moral theology”.(82)
Also belonging to this time are certain “counsels given by our venerable Father Founder so that the Sons of the Immaculate Heart al Mary may advance in virtue and leaning.” They were delivered to the community of Segovia around 1864 and copied down by Fr. Michael Aineto as follows:
“1°. They will walk in the presence of God.
2°. Interior and exterior recollection.
3°. Silence, which they shall keep most carefully.
4°. They will not enter each other’s rooms; except that of the Superior, when it is necessary. When they must speak with another, they will knock at the door and say what they have to say without entering.
5°. They will make their general and particular examen with great care, far which purpose they will make use of The Well-Instructed Seminarian, 4th ed., pp. 233 and 291.
6°. Care to do ordinary things well.
7°. They will make their prayer with the greatest possible care.
8°. They will take their spiritual reading from Rodriguez.
9°. All will keep the HoIy Rules with the greatest perfection.
As far the sciences:
1°. Each one will take care to provide himself with the arms he needs for battle; these arms are talks, sermons, etc., for missions and retreats.
2°. The Superior will give beginners a talk to copy; he will read or have it read by one of the brighter ones and, if he finds it well done, he will have it learned and recited. He will do the same with the sermons, until each one has the necessary store of them.
3o• Until they have much experience and are well versed in missions, they should not be allowed to compose, but only to copy, the sermons, talks and other sorts of address.
4°. They will recite these talks and sermons and speak most formally in the conferences assigned to this effect, which must be attended only by the one assigned to preside aver or direct them, together with those who have not yet finished writing and reciting all of the talks and sermons.
5°. All will attend the other conferences on moral, ascetical, rubrical matters, etc.
6°. When the missionaries have amassed a stare al written talks and sermons for missions arid retreats, they will busy themselves with matters far which they have the greatest inclination, far example, dogmatic, moral, mystical and ascetical theology, canon law, history, rubrics, writing, etc.
7°. Far these studies, they will use The Well-Instructed Seminarian,
4th ed., tome 1, from p. 205 to p. 225.
8°. The missionaries will busy themselves in copying, studying and writing always, and not just during the time they are not giving missions, but even during the first days of the missions when they do not have to hear confessions, and they will therefore bring along a book for this purpose.
9°. From time to time, the Superior will make the rounds of the rooms and become informed al the work that each has done in copying, studying or making notes.
10°. When a beginner has mastered a talk or two, he can already go on mission, provided his companions can supply far him until he has completed his whale stare of talks.
11°. Each talk or sermon must be outlined, in order to facilitate the memory of it”.(83)
In the second Constitutions, which appeared in Castilian in 1871, the norms given are similar to those of the 1857 Constitutions: Every day but one each week, they will have one or more conferences on the subjects they should know.”(84) “On holy days of obligation they will have a half hour of mental prayer more that on other days, and one of the priests will give talk an religious discipline and regular observance.”(85) “Let them study the matters assigned by the Superior, and at the appointed time let them have one or more conferences on the most necessary matters, especially in moral and mystical theology.”(86) “Every week, on the appointed days, they shall also have some lessons in Sacred Scripture and casuistry, according to the decree al Clement VII; likewise on liturgy, and on the way of preaching perfectly and profitably to souls.”(87) “Every year they will be diligently examined on the manner of celebrating Holy Mass, preaching the word of God and administering the sacraments, but principally that of Penance.”(88) During missions, “the time remaining after the services and confessions must be spent in study and prayer as is usually done when they are at home.”(89)
The same Constitutions provide far the ongoing formation of the Brothers: “They shall also have some instructions on Christian Doctrine, reading, writing, arithmetic and spelling. Moreover, on specified days, let them also be instructed on the manner al making their spiritual exercises well, such as prayer, examen and other acts, on the devout and fruitful reception of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, and on the perfect discharge of their domestic duties. “(90)
According to Saint Anthony Mary Claret, the ongoing formation that is necessary for a priest and still more for an apostolic missionary, is not and can never be self-centred or narcissistic, but must be open to and centered on mission.
He pointed this out to his missionaries during the retreat he preached to them in Vic and Gracia in the summer of 1865: “You will direct your study to missioning.”(91) The missionary, in the Founder’s own words, must be like a nurse who should nourish others “with the breasts of wisdom and love.”(92)
There is no doubt that holiness can work wonders in a missionary, but it is likewise true that if he lacks due doctrinal preparation, above all in Scripture and theology, the effectiveness of his missionary action will ordinarily be less incisive and less lasting.
To sum up, Saint Anthony Mary Claret always earnestly cultivated his own formation, stressed it “in season and out of season,” and worked doggedly so that the priests of his time, above all the members of his own Congregation, should reach the high level demanded by their vocation and mission in the service of God’s people. in the measure that they are initially well formed and later commit themselves to an ongoing formation as intense as Claret’s was, the Sons of the Heart of Mary will be able to attain “in all things the glory of God, their own sanctification and the salvation of people throughout the world.”(93)
Rome, 24 October 1988
1- CPR, 49.
2- CPR, 50.
3- CPR, 27.
4. CPR, 28.
5- CPR, 30.
8- Aut., 152.
9- Aut., 315, 357.
10- Aut., 315.
11- CI. Aut, 359.
12- Ct. Aut., 694; EA, p. 654.
13- MSS Claret Il, 156.
14- Ct. Aut., 86-87; EA, p. 412.
15- Ct. EA, pp. 522-525.
16- Ct. Aut., 498.
17- Clotet, J., Vida edificante y admirable…, pp. 261-269.
18- Testimonio de la verdad, EA, p. 439.
19- Ct. Aut., 637, 764-65, 801.
20- Ci. EA, pp. 509-88.
21- Cami dret(1843), pp. 2-3; La verdadera sabiduria(1 847), pp. 337-38,340- 42, 350-57.
22- Cf. EI colegial instruido (LR, Barceiona 1860), I, pp. 37-39.
23- Ct. Avisos a un sacerdote (1844), in EE, pp. 250-53; Elcolegial, i, pp. 357- 61.
24-Ci. Lozano, J.M., Constituciones y textos sobre la Congregaciòn de Misioneros (Barcelona 1972), pp. 107-09, 237-45, 501-09, 245-47, 523-27.
25- “Sanctitas et inteiiigentia sunt veluti duo missionarii pedes, utrique proinde essentiales” Constitutiones 1865, pars prima, n. 104, 4°).
26- Aut., n. 87.
27- EA, p. 525.
28- EA, p. 533.
29- EA, pp. 593-94.
30- Retreat Resoiutions 1851: EA, pp. 535-36.
31- Ci. Aut., 647.
32- EA, p. 561.
33- Aut., 637.
34- Aut., 764.
35- Aut., 801.
36- Aut., 665, 7°.
37- 38- Clotet, J., Resumen de la admirable vida… (Barcelona 1882), p. 209.
39- lb., p. 207.
40- lb., p. 227.
41- lb., p. 177.
43- Ib., p. 243.
44- CI. Informative Process of Barcelona, sess. 48.
45- Clotet, J., Resumen de la admirable vida…, p. 206.
:CIaan Archives of Vic, n. 2164.
48- Clotet, J., op. cit., p. 204. Letter of May 2, 1869: EC Il, p. 1383.
49- L6pez de San Romàn, S., op. cit., p. 15.
50- Clotet, J., op.cit., p. 204.
51-Letter of August 3l, 1860:EC Il, p. 174.
52- Aut, 733.
53- Aut., 735.
54- Claret, St. A.M., Avisos a un sacerdote, in EE, p. 251.
55- EC I, pp. 51 3-1 4.
56- Cf. EC I, pp. 596-97; cf. also Letter to Caixal, December 29, 1851, in EC I pp. 841-42.
57- Femndez, C., EI Beato… (Madrid 1941), I, pp. 841-42.
58- Conferencias de San Vicente de Paùlpara los señores eclesiasticos (Barcelona 1857).
59- Claret, Si. A.M., EI colegial instruido (Barcelona 1861), II, pp. 6-8.
60- Ib., pp. 391 -92.
61- MSS Claret XII, p. 105.
62- Ib., p.106.
64- Ib., p. 108.
65- MSS Claret XII, p. 369.
67- Clotet, J., Resumen de la admirable vida…, p. 264.
69- Claret, St.A.M., EI colegial instruido (Barcelona 1861), II, pp. 398-402.
70- Letter of December 20, 1862: EC Il, p. 576.
71- lb., p. 577.
72- CI. Lozano, J.M., Constituciones y textos…, pp. 47-48, 73-74, 91.
73- Ib., pp. 108-09; MSS Claret X, p. 37.
74- Viias, J.M., in EI apóstol claretiano seglar(Barcelona 1979), p. 61.
75- Const!tuciones para los Misioneros de la Congregación, Barcelona 1857), n. 100.
76- Ib., n. 104.
77- Ib., n. 106.
78- Ib., n. 107.
79-Ib., n. 117.
80- lb., n. 122.
81- Lozano, J.M., op.cit., p. 610; MSS Claret IX, p. 97.
82- EC Il, n. 1.
83- CMF General Archives: CF 11, 21(8): EC Il, pp. 811-12, note.
84- Part Il, n. 35.
85- lb., n. 40.
86- lb., n. 50.
88- lb., n. 52.
89- lb., n. 67.
90- Part III, n. 1. 91- Lozano, J.M., Constituciones y textos…, p. 582.
92- EA, p. 665.
93-Ch. I, n. 1.