The content of the Autobiography was made available to all by means of the “Lives,” written by Francisco de Assisi Aguilar,195 by Father Clotet,196 and other biographers; however the Autobiography, as such, was considered as a spiritual patrimony of the Congregation, having been composed with the thought of the author, so directly and in so many ways, placed in it. For almost one hundred years, it has been treated as a private document. The character of doctrine for the missionaries, the familiar tone of many reflections, and some mistakes caused by the haste with which it was written, have all contributed to accentuating its character. Until 1915, at which time it was published in the Historical Archive CMF, the Autobiographywas known, within the Congregation, by way of manual copies. In 1951, to commemorate the canonization of the Founder, a manual edition was made, as a personal book for all of the members of the Congregation.
The canonization opened new horizons. Pope Pius XII said that Anthony Mary Claret was a saint to all, and that his gifts were for the edification of the Church; gifts that he had received and lived with the intensity proper to his charism and his mission, that could help others to experience what is common in these gifts, but according to the particular needs essential for their particular vocation.
The desire to get to know the “Saint of all” and to make all, especially the priests and the secular apostles, participants in the spiritual richness enclosed in such a notable document, has prompted the need to give it to the public.
The two first editions (1915, 1951) presented the pure text, dispensing with any critical apparatus, because the text did not require the clarity of the original. In the 1981 edition, as well as the present one, we follow the same criteria. Dealing with an edition for the general public, however, presents another difficulty: the express desire of the Saint that the writing be corrected and revised before being made public, reserving furthermore some chapters as delicate cases for experienced confessors. This is explicitly evidenced in a note that Father Jaime Clotet attached to the first page of the writing: “Warning: His Excellency Archbishop Claret left us the manuscripts of his Biography in rough draft; not that they be read, and less that they be published in their current state, but before all else that the diction be corrected, leaving the substance intact. Nor was it his wish that everything be given to everyone, but rather that certain things remain reserved for the oldest and most prudent Fathers. Thuir, January 1st, 1880. – JAIME CLOTET, CMF” (Signed).”
Because it is a rough draft, edited with great haste and not reviewed by the author, some mistakes and repetitions occur. The task of correcting it, however, is not easy, being the sacred document that it is. Hence, we prefer to present it just as it left the hands of the author, limiting ourselves to the minimal corrections necessary for reading, noting the correction in a footnote, if it is a phrase.
With regards to the cases meant for the instruction of confessors, the most confidential have been suppressed, while the remainder has been published. We, therefore, omit the publication of the last part of chapter 12 and all of chapter 15 of the Continuation of the “Autobiography.” We indicate the omissions and refer to the source in the footnote.
The division of the Autobiography into paragraphs, as well as its numeration, was introduced in the first edition of the collection from the Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos (BAC) [Library of Christian Authors].197
How to Read the Autobiography
Those who have a technical, historical, or psychological interest in reading the Autobiography already have their reading methodology. We refer here to the reader who wishes to read for his own edification; the following is directed to such a reader:
1) Go beneath the surface. Written more than a century ago, much has changed in terms of cultural sensitivity, transitioning from romanticism to existentialism and vernacular. Furthermore, Saint Anthony Mary Claret is not a classic speaker of the Castilian language; nor does he write literature. He communicates simply his experience with the haste of a man that wanted to dedicate all of his time to the mission of a preacher.
2) Delve into the intention of the author. The author is a founder, and writes about his original and creative experience. Through the testimony of his life, he introduces the reader to the secret of the Holy Spirit’s action in the formation and consecration of the one chosen for the mission, from first enlightenment to completeness. As founder, this transforming action instilled in him the intensity of one who was meant to be a leader and a model; but, also in being a founder, he has the grace of transmitting, of being the message, the beginning of identification for those who have received, although to a smaller degree, the same grace.
3) Harmonize with the spirit of the author. The Autobiographyis written in a spirit of prayer; or better yet, it’s a prayer spoken aloud. It is from this prayer that he discovers, in the events of his life, the expressions of love of the Father. Saint Anthony Mary Claret shares these sentiments in light of the word of the Lord, especially in light of those texts in which, through the movement of the Spirit, he discovered the demands and the meaning of his vocation. So that the reading of the Autobiography serves the author’s purpose, one must read it in prayer; in the same climate of prophetic and providential prayer in which is was written. There are other passages, such as when he speaks about zeal that can be contagious in and of itself.
4) In communion with the person. A canonized saint is a living example, authenticated by the Church. He is our brother, friend, and benefactor.198 Dealing with the Founder unites us to him in the community dimension of the vocational gift and his living presence in the family of God, which the Spirit raised-up through him for the life and the mission of the Church.
The Bicentennial Edition
This new edition of the Autobiography, which we can call “official,” is presented to our entire Congregation and to the Claretian Family as a manual of the Claretian Missionary, to pay homage and brotherly respect to Saint Anthony Mary Claret in the bicentennial of his birth.
Up to now, of all the editions that have been published, this is the richest and most complete. In it, the manuscript text that we inherited from the Saint has been purified as much as possible, as a faithful reflection of his spirit and evangelizing mission. The biblical foundation that runs through its pages has been taken very much into consideration and all or almost all of the quotes – literal or allusive – of the sacred books have been incorporated within them. Some contents of the spiritual notes have been expanded and some appendices have been introduced that contribute to complete the gaps in the last years of the life of the Saint, as well as the dramatic and glorious weeks of his final illness and holy death. Errors have been corrected, gaps filled-in, and critical devices expanded with new data. Moreover, the bibliography and indexes, above all, those of subjects, have been enhanced.
It is true that this is not a completely perfect and definitive work, because it is known that in the world of human things, few things can reach the quality of finality or accomplished perfection. But, it is also true that we have incorporated, on our part, not only the affectionate love and brotherly affection that connects us to our Founder and Father, but also the “five senses,” so that this gift offered to Claret is worthy of his person and of his work.
In this task, we have been guided, at all times, by the desire that our Saint be increasingly more loved and known, and that, through the great missionary of the XIX century – just as Claret himself said – that the Lord Our God be better known, loved, served, and praised each day by all creatures.199
God wishes that the Autobiography of our Founding Father Saint to be for all Claretians what it has been for the generations that have preceded us: an “inexhaustible quarry” of evangelical life and of strong apostolic commitment.200
Editions of the Autobiography
Autobiografía del Venerable P. Antonio María Claret: Historical Archive of the Congregation of Missionaries Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, l (Madrid 1915) 432 pp.
Autobiografía de San Antonio María Claret (Madrid 1951) 418 pp.
Biografía del arzobispo Antonio María Claret. In: Escritos autobiográficos y espirituales. Ed. prepared by José María Viñas, BAC (Madrid 1959) pp. 179-423 (numbered: from 1 to 872).
San Antonio María Claret: Autobiografía. Ed. manual prepared by José María Viñas; prologue by Alfredo Espósito (Barcelona 1975) 550 pp.
San Antonio María Claret: Autobiografía. Ed. prepared by José María Viñas and Jésus Bermejo, (Barcelona: Ed. Claret 1985) 530 pp.
San Antonio María Claret Mi propia vida. Un servicio de amor al Evangelio. Selections of the Autobiography revised and footnoted by Jesús Bermejo. Gráficas Diamante, Ed. Claret (Barcelona 1979) 358 pp.
Biografía del arzobispo Antonio María Claret. In: Escritos autobiográficos. Ed. prepared by José María Viñas and Jesús Bermejo, BAC (Madrid 1981) pp. 102-403 (numbered: from 1 to 872).
Autobiografía de San Antonio María Claret. Tomada de los escritos del Santo. Edition presented by Fr. Eliécer Sálesman. Apostolado Bíblico Católico. Printed by Editorial Centro Don Bosco (Bogotá 2003) 320 pp.
Claret. Recull autobiogràfic. Traducció, selecció i ordenació dels textos, amb comentaris, a cura del P. Manuel Vilar i Bassas (Barcelona 1981) 206 pp.
Sant Antoni Maria Claret, Autobiografia. Versió de l’original castellà per Miquel Peix Missioner Claretià. Presentació: Ramon Olomí i Batlle (Barcelona 1996) 486 pp.
Autobiography of Blessed Anthony Mary Claret, translated from the original Spanish by Louis Joseph Moore (Compton, California, 1945) 258 pp.
Saint Anthony Mary Claret. Autobiography, edited by José María Viñas; forward by Alfredo Espósito, translation by Joseph Daries (Chicago 1976) 354 pp.
The Autobiography of St. Anthony Mary Claret. Edited by Miles Jesu (Chicago 2004) 228 pp.
Saint Antoine-Marie Claret: Autobiographie, textes traduits par Léonor-Alban, choisis et annotés par Jean-M. Lozano (Namur 1961) 182 pp.
Saint Antoine-Marie Claret, Autobiographie. Éditions Clarétaines (Victoriaville, Québec, Canada 1994) X+332 pp. Avec la collaboration des PP. Claude Drolet, François García, Denis Jutras et Segundo Alonso - 2ème ed. (Victoriaville, Québec, Canada 2003) X+374 pp.
Santo António Maria Claret: A minha Vida. Tradução e notas de Abílio Pina Ribeiro. Gráfica Claret, Colégio dos Carvalhos (Pedroso - V. N. Gaia ) 186 pp.
Santo António Maria Claret: Autobiografia. Tradução e notas de Abílio Pina Ribeiro (Lisboa 1970) 184 pp.
Santo Antônio Maria Claret: Autobiografia. Edição para Língua Portuguesa (Brasil) preparado por Brás Lorenzetti y Oswair Chiozini.(São Paulo: Ave Maria 2008) 637 pp.
Santo António Maria Claret por ele mesmo. Traços biográficos. Ed. Ave Maria (São Paulo 2004) 208 pp.
Autobigraphie des Heiligen Erzbischofs Antonius Maria Claret, vom Spanischen in Deutsche Übersetzt von Josef Wetzstein (Würzhurg 1978) 282 pp.
Antonio Maria Claret: Autobigraphie. Trans. by Berthold Lipp and Wolfgang Deiminger. Pro manuscript gedruckt (Würzhurg 1988) 458 pp.
Antonio Maria Claret: La mia vita. Note autobigrafiche. Trans. from Spanish by Franco Maria Stano; introduction by Pietro Maria Peana (Rome 1980) 254 pp.
S. Antonio Maria Claret, Autobiografia. Trans. by Fr. Giuseppe Matteocci. Claretian Missionary (Rome 1991) 278 pp.
Sw. Antoni Maria Klaret, Autobigrafia, trans. by Malgorzata Wykrzynska, OCD, (Cracow 1977).
Sw. Antoni Maria Klaret, Autobigrafia. Uzupelniona naukowym opracowaniem Jose M. Viniasa i Jesusa Bermejo w tlumaczeniu Ruiz Orge (Wroclaw 1987) 732 pp.
Swiety Antoni Maria Klaret, Autobiografia. Przeklad: Halina Lubicz-Trawkowska. Misjonarze Klaretyni (Warszawa 1992) 496 pp.
Sei Antonio Maria Kuraretto Jijoden, trans. by Pedro de Grandis. Shinseisha (Nagoya 1977) 592 pp.
Antonius Maria Claret, Autobiografi. Edisi saku yang disediakan oleh José María Viñas. Diterjemahkan dar Bahasa Spanyol oleh Tim Seminari Tinffi Claret Kupang di bawah bombingan P. José Miguel Celma, CMF, 406 pp.
1. Although Father Joseph Xifré, Superior of the Missionary Sons of the Heart of Mary,202 has frequently spoken and written to request that I write a biography of my insignificant self, I have heretofore always excused myself. I would not have agreed to do so even now had I not been ordered to.203 Thus I am doing this only out of obedience, and out of obedience I am going to reveal several things that I would rather have left unknown. At any rate, may it all be for the greater glory of God and my sweet mother Mary204 and for the embarrassment of this poor sinner.205
I will divide this Biography into three parts.
2. The first part will include the principal events of my life from my birth until my departure for Rome [1807-39].
The second part will contain events pertaining to the missions [1840-50]. The third part will deal with the most notable events that occurred after my consecration as archbishop [1850-62]
My Birth and Baptism
3. I was born206 in the village of Sallent,207 deanery of Manresa, diocese of Vich, province of Barcelona. My parents, whose names were John Claret and Josephine Clara, were married, upright, and God-fearing people, very devoted to the Blessed Sacrament and Mary Most Holy.208
4. I was baptized in St. Mary's Parish, Sallent,209 on December 25, Christmas Day, 1807, although the parish books say 1808. The reason for this is that they counted the year as beginning on December 25, and so it is that mine is the first entry in the books for the year 1808.210
5. I was christened Anthony Adjutor John. My mother's brother, Anthony Clara, was my godfather, and he wanted me to be named after him. Mary Claret, (my father's sister), was my godmother. She was married to Adjutor Canudas, so they gave me her husband's Christian name. My third name, John, was my father's name. Later, out of devotion to Mary Most Holy, I added the sweet name of Mary, because Mary Most Holy is my mother, my patroness, my mistress, my directress and my all, after Jesus.211 Thus my name is Anthony Mary Adjutor John Claret y Clara.
6. I was one of eleven children, six boys and five girls, whom I shall list in order, indicating the year of their birth:
1. My sister Rose, born in 1800. Formerly married, she is now a widow. She has always been hard-working, upright, and pious. She is the one who has loved me the most.212
2. My sister Marian was born in 1802 and died when she was two years old.
3. My brother John (1804) was heir to all our goods.213
4. My brother Bartholomew (1806) died when he was two years old.
5. Myself (1807 or 1808).214
6. One sister (1809) died shortly after birth.
7. My brother Joseph (1810) married and had two daughters who became Sisters of Charity or Tertiaries.215
8. My brother Peter (1813) died when he was four years old.
9. My sister Mary (1815) became a Tertiary Sister.216
10. My sister Frances (1820) died when she was three years old.
11. My brother Manuel (1823) died when he was thirteen years old, after studying humanities in Vich.217
7. Divine Providence has always watched over me in a special way, as will be seen in this and other instances I shall relate. My mother always breast-fed her children, but in my case she could not do so because of ill health. She sent me to stay day and night with a wet nurse who lived in our town.218 The owner of the house of which the wet nurse was mistress had made a fairly deep excavation beneath it in order to enlarge the cellar. One night when I happened not to be there, the foundations, weakened by the digging, gave way. The walls buckled and the house collapsed, killing my wet nurse and burying her and her four children under the rubble. If I had been in the house that night, I would surely have suffered the same fate as the rest. 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. How ungrateful I am!
8. The first ideas I can remember date back to when I was five years old. When I went to bed, instead of sleeping – I never have been much of a sleeper – I used to think about eternity. I would think forever, forever, forever. I would try to imagine enormous distances and pile still more distances on these and realize that they would never come to an end. Then I would shudder and ask myself if those who were so unhappy as to go to an eternity of pain would ever see an end to their suffering. Would they have to go on suffering? Yes, forever and forever they will have to bear their pain!219
9. This troubled me deeply, for I am by nature very compassionate. The idea of an eternity of torment made such a deep impression on me, either because of the tenderness it evoked in me or because of the many times I thought about it, that it is surely the thing that to this day I remember best. This same idea has made me work in the past, still makes me work, and will make me work as long as I live, in converting sinners, in preaching, in hearing confessions, in writing books, in distributing holy cards and pamphlets, and in having familiar conversations, etc.220
10. The reason is that, as I have said, I am so soft-hearted and compassionate that I can't bear seeing misfortune or misery without doing something to help. I would take the bread out of my own mouth to give it to the poor. In fact, I would abstain from putting it into my mouth in order to have something to give to those who are asking for it. I am even scrupulous about spending anything at all on myself when I think of the needs I can remedy. Well, then, if these momentary physical misfortunes affect me so much, it is understandable what I feel in my heart at the thought of the everlasting pains of hell – not for me, but for all those who willingly live in mortal sin.
11. I often say to myself: It is of faith that there is a heaven for the good and a hell for the wicked. It is of faith, that the pains of hell are eternal. It is also of faith that a single mortal sin is enough to damn a soul because of the infinite malice of mortal sin, which is an offense against an infinite God. Since these principles are all so certain, the thought of the ease with which people sin – as if it were like taking a glass of water, as if it were something funny or amusing – the thought of the crowds that stay continuously in mortal sin and are thus on the road to death and hell – this thought robs me of rest, and I feel like running and crying out. And I tell myself:
12. If I were to see someone about to fall into a pit or a fire, I would surely run and cry out a warning to save him from falling. Why shouldn't I do the same to save someone from falling into the pit and fire of hell?221
13. I simply can't understand how other priests who believe the same truths that I do, and as we all should, do not preach and exhort people to save themselves from falling into hell.222
14. I wonder too how is it that the laity, men and women who have the faith, do not cry out. What if a fire broke out in a house in the middle of the night and the people in the house and in the neighborhood were asleep and unaware of the danger? Wouldn't the first person who noticed the fire run through the streets shouting "fire, fire in such and such a house!" Well, why not shout "hellfire!" to awaken those who are asleep in their sins, lest they awake to find themselves burning in everlasting fire?223
15. This idea of a lost eternity that began to move me so vividly at the tender age of five and that has stayed with me ever since224 and that, God willing, I will never forget is the mainspring and goad of my zeal for the salvation of souls.
16. In time I felt a further stimulus for zeal of which I shall speak later, namely, the thought that sin not only condemns my neighbor but is mostly an offense against God, my Father.225 This idea breaks my heart with pain and makes me want to run like… And I tell myself, "If a sin is infinitely malicious, then preventing a sin is preventing an infinite offense against my God, against my good Father."
17. If a son had a very kind father and saw that he was being maltreated for no reason at all, wouldn't the son defend the father? If the son saw that this good father was being led to execution, wouldn't he do all that he could to set him free? Well, then, what should I be doing for the honor of my Father, who is offended with such indifference and who, though innocent, is being led to Calvary to be, as St. Paul says, crucified anew by sin? Would it not be a crime to remain silent? What would be the sense of not doing everything we could? My God, my Father! Help me to prevent all sins, or at least one sin, even if I should be cut into pieces in the attempt.
18. For my greater embarrassment I should like to quote the words of the author of the Book of Wisdom (8:19): I was a boy of happy disposition. I had received a good soul as my lot. That is, I received a good nature or disposition from God, out of his sheer goodness.226