Saint Anthony Mary Claret



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I) Anti-Claret writings.

We finish this bibliographical section with the anticlaretiana or writings against St. Anthony Mary Claret. They are many and very dispersed. Here we give only some of the most significant, ordered according to the date of publication.



Azorín, La voluntad (Madrid 1913) p. 198.

Bécker, Valeriano-Bécker, Gustavo, SEM - Los Borbones en pelota. At the direction of Robert Pageart, Lee Fontanella and María Dolores Cabra Loredo. Ed. Compañía Literaria (Madrid 1996) 292 pp.

Blasco, Eusebio, Los curas en camisa (Madrid 1906) 182 pp.

Caro Baroja, Julio, Introducción a una historia contemporánea del clericalismo español (Madrid 1990) pp. 197-199.

Funes y Lustonó, Los neos en calzoncillos (Madrid 1868) pp. 113-135.

Jiménez Losantos, Federico, Un verano decente con el Padre Claret: Cambio 16, año 1985, I, n. 708, pp. 88-89; II, n. 709, pp. 80-81; III, n. 710, pp. 66-67; IV, n. 711, pp. 50-51.

López de Sanromán, Santiago, Observaciones al folleto del Señor Claret titulado “Apuntes de un Plan de gobierno para conservar la hermosura de la Iglesia” (New York 1859) 148 pp.

Miras, Domingo, De San Pascual a San Gil: Tiempo de historia 1 (1975) 74-105.

O***, Biografía del Padre Claret (Madrid 1869) 80 pp.

Porcel, Baltasar, Grans ombres damunt el Llobregat: Tele-Estel 2 (1967) 32-34.

Autobiography

Revised edition, introduction

and footnotes by

José María Viñas

and

Jesús Bermejo

__________________________



Introduction

to the Autobiography

Autobiographical literary genre has been recurrent throughout history since the ancient times. Many people, namely philosophers, thinkers, theologians, men of science, noblemen and saints, who have enjoyed elevated mystical experiences, have wanted to leave to posterity a more or less extensive and profound story of their own life. Of these, it is worth mentioning Saint Augustine in his famous Confessions, Saint Teresa of Jesus in her Life, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Mary Michael of the Blessed Sacrament, and, of course, Saint Anthony Mary Claret. All of these saints had much to say from their own imagination, revealing – often restrained by discretion and humility – only a small part of the many wonders that the Lord deemed worthy to bring about in his humble servants.

As is well known, an autobiography is a story, controlled by its own writer, and specified for a possible target audience, based on the sum of experiences lived throughout life from childhood to a point of maturity that usually coincides with the last phase of existence; and which, for this reason, does not encompass nor is able to encompass the entire existence of the person.

Saint Gregory the Great seems to allude in some way to what this literary genre would be when he wrote: “To the eyes of others, the secret of the mind, lies as if behind a wall of the body; but, when we want to express who we are, we go outside as if by the door of the tongue, so that we can make known who intrinsically we are.”121

We are not going to enter here into the latest debates that arose regarding what, above all, a great French specialist has called "the autobiographical pact" that, in his opinion, is best described as a calculated and planned personal decision; one which guides the pen of the writer throughout the story of his own life, to relay only that which can selfishly be beneficial for his own glory; narrowing what happens within the genre of the novel and moving away from what a biographer tries to do, with the greatest liberty, objectivity, and best documentation, by opening a deep gap in the soul and the intimate life of the subject of the biography. The danger of one who writes an autobiography lies in the decision towards the sin of “bias” and, by the same token, of insincerity. Therefore, what arises almost automatically in the reader is a doubt, which for good reason can accompany him throughout the entire reading of the autobiographical story.122

Does this happen with Saint Anthony Mary Claret as well? Does it occur with Saint Augustine, with Saint Theresa, etc.? At least to the first question, a well-thought response will be attempted below.

* * *


To the extent that the history of the Church in the XIX century is being studied, the figure of Saint Anthony Mary Claret continues to attract more attention, because, in one way or another, it corresponds with the most prominent events and people of the Church – hierarchy or founders – and with the most characteristic movements of his century. For this reason, the desire to learn of his true identity, the secret of his apparently contrasting personality - is also continuously growing. And along with this desire, comes the impeccable luck of actually possessing his handwritten BIOGRAPHY that, with every right, we can call and we have been calling AUTOBIOGRAPHY.

For one who only knows the external life of Saint Anthony Mary Claret, it is a revelation that the Autobiography vividly presents the internal genesis of the consciousness of his mission-charisma; of his vocation to serve in the Church as an evangelizer. The foundation of grace that sustained the life of the great apostle appears here freely and spontaneously, without preconceived notions, without artificiality of any kind.

In this, there is a notable and perhaps original value, in the autobiographical literature. Autobiographical stories of apostolic men are not abundant, especially with the character of the present one, which so clearly and strongly highlights the interior motive of his life in the apostolate.

If, by his external action, he is a model of the apostolic missionary, he is no less, in his interior life, an example and an interpreter of apostolic spirituality.

Saint Anthony Mary Claret, as founder of religious families in the Church, as initiator of movements of sanctification and of the apostolate, as promoter of so many works of the Church, has received an abundance of grace concerning his mission; and no one is better suited to interpret this gift than he is, having received a special interior light and having been the first one to travel the path. In both aspects – attainment and interpretation – the life and confession of the Saint are very notable.

Together with this aspect, which constitutes the nerve of the story, there are some fundamental points. Of them all, in these introductory notes, we will focus on the ones that help to facilitate a faster and more adequate comprehension. We offer the information that we deem essential for guiding the reader to delve further into the heart of the apostle, so faithfully reflected in the pages of the Autobiography.



Historical Background

Sufficient data has been collected to reconstruct, in general lines, the external history of the Autobiography, although some fundamental points still remain obscure, and others might have benefited from more explanation on the part of the sources.

The point that is most clearly spoken of in the testimonies of contemporaries – and that the author himself mentions in a prior note – is that Claret wrote the Autobiography by mandate of Father José Xifré, his spiritual director and general superior of the Congregation of Missionaries that he founded.123

Precursor of this mandate was Don Paladio Currius, confessor and spiritual confidant of the Saint. Currius was becoming more and more convinced that Claret was a key person in the Church of his time, not only for the works that he carried out, but also for the intensity of his life in Christ, as much on ascetic levels as from mystical experience, and especially since he was entrusted with knowledge of his mission under the apocalyptic signs of the eagle and the angel. To see this more clearly, he was able to get the Saint to write a summary of the interventions of the Lord in his life from childhood until the attack of Holguín in 1856. This writing carries the title Overview and contains, in a still very rudimentary way, the subsequent Autobiography.124

Father Xifré had another motive. As supreme head of the Congregation, he believed that knowledge of the Founder’s spiritual experience on the journey towards his vocation and mission should have contributed, to a large extent, to the clarification of the Missionaries’ vision, to their formation, and to the edification of the Congregation; similar to Father Jerome Nadal’s statement that St. Ignatius’ life was the basis for the Company of Jesus and that to tell it was to truly establish the Company.125 As spiritual director and superior, he asked him many times, by word and in writing, to write the story of his life, without allowing him to decide for himself to do it. However, since this objective was not achieved through his many requests, he decided, very characteristically, to impose an explicit mandate of obedience. The Saint confesses that he would never have conceded to writing it “had he not been ordered to do so. Thus, only by obedience I do it, and by obedience I will reveal things that I greatly wish be ignored."126 There are various witnesses that, in the beatification process, confirm the fact that the Autobiography was written obeying an express mandate of his director.127

Claret obeyed the formal order without hesitation, although this did not lessen the enormous repugnance that he felt, due to his modesty and humbleness, towards revealing such intimate and extraordinary things. He alludes to this in a letter dated February 17, 1862 to Father Xifré: "I am complying in obedience to you, writing it, although with much repugnance."128

It is not only this testimony. His own relatives speak to us of the great fatigue that the Saint experienced in writing these things and how they very often intervened to encourage him to continue writing.129

We can reconstruct the chronology of the composition thanks to the testimony of Don Paladio Currius. Currius, who prompted the Saint to write the Overview, now urged him, for the same reasons, to let him copy the Biography. In the copy, the following title appears: "Biography of His Excellency and The Honorable Don Anthony Mary Claret and Clará, copied from the original that was written in his own handwriting in the year 1861 and concluded in May of 1862, in Madrid, and was delivered by him to the Missionary Sons of the Heart of Mary.” Furthermore, there are the specific testimonies shared for us in two letters from Saint Anthony Mary Claret to Don Paladio. He says from Madrid on January 30, 1862: “I see what you are saying about the Biography; I will let you copy it, as well as the notes on personal matters.”130 And in a letter dated May 21 of the same year: “When you have a chance, I submit to you the Biography, as it is already written.”131

However, while we can specify the date that it was finished – May 21, 1862 –, it is not as easy to determine the date in which it was begun. The only reference – that of Currius – sets the year at 1861, with no further details. Upon verifying Father Postius’ theory that the instruction to write the autobiography was prompted by Father Xifré in an interview that he had with the Saint in October or November of 1861, we can estimate the last months of that year as an approximate date.132

Regarding its delivery to his Missionaries in Vic, the author himself wrote to Don Paladio on May 26, 1862: “Likewise goes the Biography, which you will have until June 28th, on which date you will bring it to me so that I can carry it to Catalonia on the 30th.”133 From this we also know that the Saint made a brief journey to Catalonia in the summer of 1862, leaving Madrid on July 1st and arriving in Vic on the 4th.134

Saint Anthony Mary Claret wrote a Continuation of the “Biography” that extends to the year 1865. We do not know if the Chapters that comprise the Continuation were written simultaneously, as the facts themselves were happening, or if they were written all at once during the summer of 1865. Saint Anthony Mary Claret withdrew from the court due to the recognition of the Kingdom of Italy – July 15, 1865 – , remaining with his Missionaries of Vic until October 25th, the date in which he went to Rome to request direction from the Holy Father. During those months, he had time to write the Continuation. From chapter 18 forward, he writes facts that occurred in Catalonia. The change in the type of paper, starting from sheet 14, gave Father Juan Postius reason to believe, with good basis, that those chapters were written at the house in Vic.135 This is the case, at least, with the writing of the last chapters and the organization of the remainder of the material gathered, which is evidenced in the fact that this part was written on loose sheets that were then pasted successively into a volume bound beforehand for this purpose; unlike the Biography, which was written in sequence in booklets that the author himself numbered before it was bound.136

It might be interesting to pause for a moment to consider the era in which the Autobiography was written, as this enhances its inner value. It is regrettable that so few autobiographies cover the period of time during which the author was most mature. They lack the most fundamental experiences and the interpretation of many facts, which, for this reason, depict a completely different story. Fortunately, this did not happen with Saint Anthony Mary Claret; the dates in which the Autobiography was edited correspond to the mature years of his life. The Saint began to write it at the age of fifty-four, finished it when he was fifty-eight and passed away at sixty-three years of age. He had been in Madrid for five years already, covering the three fundamental stages of his apostolate: apostolic missionary, archbishop of Cuba, and royal confessor. It was a time of spiritual fullness. It was during this time that he received the greatest mystical graces; undertook the last and most daring apostolic initiatives; and was suffering his greatest trials. These circumstances gave him the opportunity to genuinely interpret the meaning of his previous life.

Of all the rest of the external circumstances regarding the editing of the Autobiography, it is convenient to note, above all, its relationship with various other autobiographical writings, which served as previous examples for the author to apply to his final and extensive editing: Overview, or brief summary of his life, the Lights and Graces, and brief writings in which he confides extraordinary communications from the Lord. Don Paladio Currius explains to us the connection that these papers have with the Autobiography. Loyal reporter of all that the archbishop cited, he copied the entire Autobiography in a private notebook, along with these loose papers, to which he added these two “Notes”:

“1st. All that has been noted thus far from page 217 is copied from the preserved pieces of paper that His Excellency supplied me with before he wrote his Biography, which concluded in the month of May of 1862.

Said expressions and knowledge were spoken to me out loud, and because of the confidence that he had in me, though I was not worthy of it; but because of my begging, he wrote them down and submitted them to me so that I could copy them, with the obligation of returning the originals to him, as I always did comply.

2nd. When he wrote his Biography, he noticed various details on these papers from chapter 19 and the last of the third part; some of which he extended a little, and others which he omitted (perhaps for having digressed), and he added those that are noted on page 329 (in other words, the favors received from June 7, 1860 until 1862)”.



The Manuscript of the Autobiography

We have already stated the external circumstances of the Autobiography’s composition. To complete these external aspects, we provide you with a brief analysis of the modifications and the manuscript description, as well as some critical questions regarding them.

Originally, the manuscript consisted of two volumes that were submitted to the community of the Missionaries of Vic in 1862 and 1865 respectively. There, they remained in the local archive, after being carefully bound, until the Missionaries took them to France upon being expelled due to the September 1868 revolution. This was explicitly evident from a warning that Father Jaime Clotet attached on loose papers to the first page. This note holds the following information: “Thuir, February 1, 1880”. Upon return to Spain, he brought the Autobiography with him, making it part of the Claretian Archive, that, because of the Founder’s death, was being reestablished in the house of Vic in order to introduce the beatification process.

The bad luck this Archive suffered during the 1936 war is regrettable. Only a scarce part could be salvaged from the fury with which the militiamen searched and burned everything that had some relation to Saint Anthony Mary Claret. The Autobiography was saved largely thanks to the diligence of Mrs. Dolores Lletjós, who guarded it safely in her house and managed to hide it, keeping it away from the thorough searches that were being carried out at her residence.

As the Vic community was reorganized when peace returned, the Autobiography was also returned to the Claretian Archive, where it remained until the year 1954, when Father Peter Schweiger, Superior General, decided that it would be transferred to the General Archive in Rome, where it is currently being preserved together with the most important and notable manuscripts of Saint Anthony Mary Claret.

In order to ensure its preservation, the manuscript underwent technical treatment, and in this process, was bound into one single volume – the first of the volumes of the manuscripts of the Saint.137

The 4th volume, bound in red leather, holds the following inscription on the back cover stamped in gold: “S.A.M. / CLARET / VOL. I. It consists of 540 numbered pages. The preceding blank pages are not included in this numeration; nor is the album sheet with a crimson border, whose center shows a pasted photograph of the Saint that was taken in 1868 by the Laurent house, of Madrid, nor the page with the note written by Father Jaime Clotet in Thuir. The Biography begins from the first numbered page to page 424, and the Continuation, from page 433 to 540”.

In the manuscript, chapter 17 of the Continuation is missing and the original numeration of the sheets skips from 18 to 20, and the numeration of the chapters, from 16 to 18, which indicates that the author wrote it or had the intention of writing it. In its place, Father Clotet included a sheet of paper with a note that says the following: “The signer, superior of this mission-house of Vic, certifies that the sheet that corresponds to page 19 and chapter 17 of the Continuation of the “Biography” of the Archbishop don Anthony Mary Claret was lost; we do not know how it got lost or what were its contents.

And so, in witness hereof, I sign in the same mission-house, on the third of April of eighteen-eighty-nine.

Jaime Clotet, priest superior” (Signed and sealed).

The absence of this chapter had much to do with the beatification processes. Father Juan Postius, who extensively studied this problem at length, conjectures that this chapter, following the disclosure of matters of former years, should correspond to the account of conscience of 1865.138 This had either not yet been done, or, if it was submitted, it could have been misplaced by Father Xifré, to whom the Saint was charged. When Don Paladio Currius copied this part, he skipped from chapter 16 to 18 without the slightest warning, which proves that, when he created his copy, it was either not written or the author did not submit it.

This is the greatest difficulty of internal criticism that the manuscript presents. Apart from this, the text is very clear. In the corrections or amendments, it can be noted without difficulty that they are from the same author, being able to be read the corrected words the majority of the time. The strangely written additions or corrections – by Father Jaime Clotet, judging by the handwriting –, always respect the original phrase, and are so few and so clear, that they do not convey the slightest confusion.



Literary Form

By the circumstances and the manner in which the Autobiography was written, we know that Saint Anthony Mary Claret considered his manuscript a rough draft that should have been corrected and revised before its publication. This explains why the author did not review the writing, nor pay attention to the repetitions and mistakes, most likely caused by the haste of the writing and the difficulty created for him of having preached and written for so many years in the Catalonian tongue.

This haste and incorrectness, that, on one hand, reduces the perfection of the work, can, nonetheless, be beneficial, on the other. A work of this kind actually turns out to be more appreciated and of greater value in terms of learning about the person when it is far removed from any deception he might be able to hide from us. Saint Anthony Mary Claret was a man of extreme simplicity, a stranger to society’s sophisticated customs and set ways, so much so that in each page, he appears just as he is, with his direct, passionate, provocative way of speaking. The pages do not suggest to us a retouched work or an interest in softening aspects that might be viewed as harsh. The stories and reflections emerge with the utmost spontaneity. It would have been difficult to request of him more immediacy in the most challenging existential analysis. All of his conscience, psychology, and supernatural concerns, are offered to us in a spotlight, full of clarity and vigor.

The virtue, the force of supernatural grace that dominated him, is communicated so freely that it is difficult to open these pages and not feel perplexed before a man so literally evangelical, so without pretenses, without comfortable and easy commitments. Before him, many apostolic works seem to be a veneer, timid concealments of the supernatural rather than free and brave passages to the virtue of God who is salvation for all who believe in it.

With enormous sincerity and veracity, Saint Anthony Mary Claret tells us of his faith in the saving power of God. Before this force, he was not stopped by prudent calculations, by courtesies and personal demands, or by well-meaning intentions. This great faith launched him towards the most daring pursuits and did not let him rest. The paragraphs in which he refers to the salvation of the souls or the love of God reveal a soul enraptured by the divine force of charity.

Furthermore, his style presents very valuable aspects even as a literary consideration. The intensity with which he expresses himself is reflective of his temperament and it gives us an idea of his oratory that moved the most reluctant audiences. Other times, his speech becomes contemplative, in heights filled with anointing and spirit. With regards to descriptions, there are chapters known for the grace with which he narrates some events. Thus, the joyous ways and picturesque details in which he tells us of his first trip to France or his travels through the mountains of Cuba.

The simplicity of his stories, at last, gives us a familiar image of the author, in which we are amazed by a casual chat with his Missionaries or an intimate conversation with God, up to the most spontaneous moments of freedom with himself, in which the Saint asks himself questions and makes observations with ingenuity and unique openness.


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