Saint Anthony Mary Claret



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133. On our second day out, after the storm had calmed and the rain stopped, I took out my breviary and said Matins and the little hours. When I had finished my prayers, an English gentleman walked over. He said that he was a Catholic and liked priests. After we had chatted awhile he went to his cabin, and in a short time I saw him coming toward me with some silver coins on a tray. When I saw him, I thought, What are you going to do? Will you accept the money or not? I said to myself, You don't need it, but those poor Spaniards do; so take it and give it to them. And that is just what I did. I accepted it, thanked the man, and went to divide it among those poor people, who went at once to the kitchen or refreshment counter to buy whatever food they needed.

134. Other passengers did the same. They gave me money and I distributed it to the others, not keeping so much as a penny for myself although it had been intended for me. I didn't take a mouthful of the food they had bought; I was content with my water-soaked bread. The Englishman was very edified when he saw how poor and detached I was and how the others were eating food that they had bought with the money I'd given them, while I ate none of it. He told me that he was getting off at Livorno387 and traveling overland to Rome. He gave me a card on which he had written his name and the address of the palazzo in which he would be staying and told me to come and see him and he would give me whatever I needed.

135. This whole adventure confirmed what I had already believed: that the best and most effective means to edify and move people is good example, poverty, detachment, fasting, mortification, and self-denial. Since this English gentleman was traveling in Oriental luxury, with his coach, servants, birds, and dogs aboard, one might imagine that my appearance would move him to contempt. But the sight of a priest who was poor, detached, and mortified moved him so deeply that he couldn't do enough for me . And not only he but all the passengers showed me great respect and veneration. Perhaps if they had seen me rubbing elbows with them at table, and ordering rich and elegant dishes, they would have criticized and looked down on me as I often saw them do with others. Virtue, it would seem, is so necessary for a priest that even the wicked want us to be good.

136. After five days at sea we landed at Civitavecchia and headed for Rome, where we arrived without incident, through God's goodness and mercy.388 How good you are, my Father. Let me serve you always with fidelity and love. Give me your constant grace to know what pleases you and the will power to put it into effect. My Lord and Father, I want nothing more than to know your holy will, so that I may do it; nothing more than to love you with all my heart and serve you with all fidelity. My Mother--Mother of Fair Love389--help me!

Chapter V


Arrival in Rome and Entering the Jesuit Novitiate
137. It must have been about ten in the morning when we arrived in Rome. The religious went to a house of their order and we parted company. I and the Catalan ordinand went to the nearest house to ask where any Catalan seminarians might be staying.390 We approached the entrance of the Carmelite priory, the Transpontina,391 and asked the brother porter whether there was a Spanish religious in the house. He told us that indeed the head priest, Father Comas, was a Catalan.392 We went to his cell and were welcomed. We asked him whether he knew of a place where there were any Catalan ordinands. He told us that there were some at San Basilio, and he was charitable and kind enough to accompany us there despite the fact that the Transpontina is about an hour's distance from San Basilio.393

138. The Catalan ordinands received us kindly although they had never seen or heard of us before. I began immediately to apply myself to the task for which I had made my journey. The only letter of recommendation I had was addressed to His Excellency, Bishop Vilardell, a Catalan, who had recently been consecrated bishop of Lebanon394 and had just left for his new post when I arrived in Rome. I then applied to the Cardinal Prefect of the Propaganda Fide,395 but he had just left for a stay in the country and they told me that he would be gone for the whole month of October. I believed that this was providential since it gave me time to make the retreat I had always made since my student days but had been unable to make this year because of my trip.

139. With this in mind, I went to visit one of the fathers of the professed house of the Company of Jesus.396 He praised my idea of making the exercises and gave me a copy of St. Ignatius' Book of Exercises, which I was to follow in making them.397 After some advice that he thought I needed, I began the Exercises. On the days he appointed, I gave him an account of my spirit, and during the closing days he remarked, Since God our Lord is calling you to the foreign missions, it would be better for you to join the Company of Jesus because it would be the means whereby you could both be sent and accompanied by others. For it is a very dangerous business going it alone. I answered, As for me, I know well enough that it would be better, but what could I do that the Company would admit me?

140. I had formed such a high and overblown opinion of the Company that I would never have dreamed of their admitting me. I thought of all those fathers as giants of virtue and learning and of myself as a pigmy in both--and so I told the priest who was directing me. But he encouraged me and told me that he would write a memorandum to the Father General, who lived in that same professed house.398

141. He did as he said, and on the day after he had received the request, the General asked to see me. I went, and as I arrived at his door, the Father Provincial was leaving.399 The General spoke to me for some time and then said, That father who was leaving as you entered was the Father Provincial, and he lives at Saint Andrea de Monte Cavallo. Go there and tell him that I'm sending you, and that whatever he may do for you I will consider a favor. I went there directly, was very well received, and on November 2 was already living in the novitiate, so that I found myself a Jesuit overnight.400 When: contemplated myself dressed in the holy habit of the Company,401 I could hardly believe my eyes; it all seemed a dream an enchantment.

142. As I had just finished making the Exercises, I was full of fervor. With all eagerness I was bent on aspiring to perfection. And since I saw so many good things in the novitiate, everything attracted my attention. I liked everything and it was engraved on my heart. I had something to learn from everyone, and in truth I learned it, with the help of God's grace. I was deeply embarrassed at seeing everyone else so advanced in virtue and myself so backward. I was most embarrassed and ashamed on the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception, during the reading of the list of good works performed in preparation for the feast, as homage to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

143. Whenever a feast of our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, or a special saint was drawing near, the novitiate followed this custom: Each of the novices, with the permission of his spiritual director, proposed to practice a virtue which he was inclined toward or needed. Each would perform acts of the virtue in question and note down carefully what he did and how he did it. This continued until the eve of the feast, when the list was closed and the virtues practiced were written in the form of a letter and posted in the box on the rector's door.402 Then one of the rector's assistants collected the lists and made a master list of them, like a litany, and this was read at night when all were gathered in chapel.

144. This list began as follows: Virtues which the fathers and brothers of this house have practiced in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in preparation for the feast of her Immaculate Conception. Someone has performed so many acts of such a virtue, in such a manner--and thus it went through the whole catalog. Of all the practices I observed in that holy house, this seemed to me to be one of the best and the one that pleased and profited me the most. As the name of the one who practiced the virtue was not revealed, there was no danger of any one becoming vain; and we all benefited from learning how a virtue had been practiced so that we could do something similar on another occasion. How often I used to tell myself, How well this virtue would suit you! You must put it into practice. And I would, with the help of God's grace.

145. The Jesuit rule calls for no mandatory mortifications, but there is perhaps no other order in which they are more practiced. Some mortifications are seen, others are not, but they must all be done with the permission of the director. On Fridays everyone fasted, and the same almost held true for Saturdays, because that evening when each was served an egg with his salad, nobody took it. Most left their dessert untouched, or else took very little. They also left a great part of the other dishes untouched, and always the ones they liked best. I observed that they all ate very little any day, and that the stoutest fathers were always the ones who ate the least.

146. There was a priest there called the spiritual father of the house,403 who nearly every day, except Sunday, took nothing but bread and water, and did that on his knees, at a low table in the middle of the refectory. He stayed in this posture throughout the Community's dinner or supper. Anyone who saw that venerable man on his knees in front of the little table set with bread and water felt terribly ashamed to be sitting comfortably and enjoying a meal.

147. There was also a Father called the Collector or corporal.404 On Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and the vigils of important feasts, he would pass around a little blank notebook in which each person would briefly jot down the thing he wanted to do: e.g., Father or Brother So-and-so would like to eat off the floor, kiss the feet, say grace before and after meals with arms outstretched in the form of a cross, serve at tables, wash dishes, etc.

All of this was done without breaking silence, in the following manner. When the time came, the collector would make his rounds, knock at each door, open it, and wait outside. The father inside would come to the door, take the notebook back to his table, write on a single line what he wanted to do, and return the notebook to the collector. Thus it was passed around to everyone. Then it was brought to the rector, who would say, X and Y, yes; the rest, no. The Collector would make the rounds again, knocking at and opening the door, and letting each one know, by a movement of his head, whether the answer was yes or no.



148. Besides these external and public mortifications, there were others of a more private character, such as wearing the cilice, small arm-chains, hair shirts; taking the discipline, etc.; cleaning chamber pots, lavatories, sooty lamps, etc. But to do any of these things, permission was always required.

149. Some of the mortifications assigned were unasked for and hardly looked like mortifications. I will mention a few that I experienced. I have never liked playing games, and for that reason they made me play every Thursday when we went to a field. I begged the rector, in all simplicity, to be good enough to let me study or pray instead. He answered me roundly that I should play and play well. I applied myself so thoroughly to playing that I won all the games.

150. Once I noticed that one of the priests of the house had to celebrate Mass very late on feast days, and I realized that having to wait that long fasting must have been very inconvenient for him, although he never complained about it. Out of compassion for him I went to the Superior and told him that, if it was his good will and pleasure, I would say a late Mass because a late breakfast didn't bother me. Thus, the other priest could say Mass earlier at my assigned time, which was much easier. The Superior said he would see, and the result was that from then on I was scheduled to say Mass even earlier.

151. I have already mentioned that when I left for Rome the only books I brought with me were a one-volume breviary and a small-print edition of the Bible, which I could read every day, since I have always been a great reader of the Scriptures. When I got to the novitiate, they assigned me a room supplied with all the books I would need except the Bible, which I was so attached to. When they came to get my regular clothing they also took the Bible I had brought. I asked for it and was told, "Very well." But the fact is that I never saw it again until the day I had to leave because of sickness; only then was it returned to me.405

152. The Lord did me a great favor in bringing me to Rome and introducing me for however short a time to those virtuous fathers and brothers. I only wish that I had profited more by it.406 But if I haven't, my neighbor has. It was there that I learned how to give the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius,407 and methods for preaching, catechizing, hearing confessions usefully and effectively, as well as many other things that have stood me in good stead.408 Blessed be you, my God, for being so good and merciful to me. Make me love and serve you with all fervor; make all creatures love and serve you. All you creatures, love and serve your God. Taste and see by experience how sweet it is to love and serve God.409 My God, my only good!
Chapter VI
Prayers I Wrote during the Novitiate
153. Since during our recreations we talked of nothing but virtues, devotion to Mary, and means for winning souls for heaven, the flame of zeal for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls took fire in my heart and totally consumed me. I offered my all to God without reserve. I was continuously thinking and planning what I could do for the good of my neighbor, and since the time had not yet come for me to set out on my work, I busied myself with prayer. Among others, I composed the following two prayers.410

154. First Prayer. "O Mary most holy, conceived without original sin, Virgin Mother of the Son of the Living God, Queen and Empress of heaven and earth: Since you are the Mother of pity and mercy, deign to turn your eyes toward an unhappy exile in this vale of tears, anguish, and misery who, though unworthy, has the great happiness of being your son. O my mother, how much I love and esteem you, and firmly trust that you will grant me perseverance in your holy service and grace until death.

155. "I beseech and beg you, my Mother, to destroy at the proper time the heresies that devour the flock of your most holy Son. Remember, O most gracious Virgin, that you have the power to end them all. Do so out of charity for that great love you bear toward Jesus Christ your Son. Look upon the souls redeemed through the infinite price of Jesus' Blood,411 who are falling once more under the power of the demon, and neglecting your Son and you.

156. "What is lacking then, my Mother? Would you perhaps avail yourself of some instrument with which to remedy so great an evil? Here is one who however vile and contemptible he knows himself to be, is yet assured that he will serve the better for this end, since your power will shine forth all the brighter, and all will see that it is you who are at work, not I. Come now, loving Mother, let us lose no time. Here I am: dispose of me as you will,412 for you know that I am wholly yours. I trust that you will do this out of your great kindness, pity, and mercy, and I ask you this through the love you bear for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen."

157. Second Prayer. "O Immaculate Virgin and Mother of God, Queen and Mistress of grace: Deign out of charity to cast your compassionate glance upon this lost world. Consider how all have abandoned the way413 that your most holy Son deigned to teach them. His holy laws have been forgotten and so much has been perverted that one might well say: Non est qui faciat bonum, non est usque ad unum.414 The virtue of faith has been extinguished in them, so that it can scarcely be found upon the earth.415 Ah, once this godly light goes out, all is dark and shadowy, and men cannot see where they are falling.416 And yet they rush with headlong strides along the broader path that leads them to eternal loss.417

158. "And would you, my Mother, have me, who am a brother of these luckless ones, look on indifferently at their utter ruin? Ah, no! Neither the love that I bear God, nor that I bear my neighbor, could stand it. For how can I say that I love God if, seeing my neighbor in this plight, I do not come to his rescue?418 How can I have charity if, knowing that thieves and murderers are set to rob and kill all those who pass along a road, I do not warn all those who are heading there? How can I have charity if, knowing that ravenous wolves are devouring my Master's flock, I hold my peace? How can I have charity if I am silent at the theft of those most precious jewels that cost the lifeblood of a God, or at the sight of people setting fire to the house and heritage of my most loving Father?

159. "Ah, my Mother, I cannot still my voice on such occasions. No, I shall not be silent, even if I knew it meant that I should be cut to pieces. I shall shout, cry out, and lift up my voice to heaven and earth to remedy so great an evil. I shall not be silent, and when my voice is hoarse or mute from all my crying I shall lift up my hands to heaven, make my hair stand on end, and stamp my feet upon the ground to make up for my lack of speech.

160. "Therefore, my Mother, I shall start this moment to speak and cry out. I come to you, yes, to you, Mother of Mercy. Deign to offer me your aid in my great need. Never tell me that you cannot, for I know that in the order of God's grace you are all-powerful. Grant all men, I beseech you, the grace of conversion, for without it we can do nothing; then send me and you shall see how they will be converted. I know that you will give this grace to all who truly seek it. Yet even if they do not seek it is only because they fail to see how much they need it, and because, being so near death, they cannot tell what remedy is best for them. It is this, above all, that moves me to even deeper compassion.

161. "Hence I, the first and foremost sinner, plead for all the rest, and offer myself as an instrument for their conversion. Although I am bereft of every natural talent for this end, it matters not, mitte me:419 thus it will be all the better seen that gratia Dei sum id quod sum.420 Perhaps you will say that they, sick madmen that they are, will not listen to the one who wishes to heal them and would rather despise me and persecute me to the death. It matters not. Mitte me,421 because cupio esse anathema pro fratribus meis.422 Or perhaps you will say that I will not be able to support the many hazards of cold, heat, rain, nakedness, hunger, thirst, and all the rest. Doubtless, of my own I can bear nothing, but I trust in you and say: omnia possum in ea quae me confortat.423

162. "O Mary, my Mother and my hope, consolation of my soul and object of my love, consider all the graces for which I have asked you in the past, all of which you have granted me. Shall I find that this ever-flowing stream has only now gone dry? No, no, it has never yet been heard, nor shall it ever be, that anyone who turns devotedly to you has ever yet been turned away.424 My Lady, you can see that all these things I ask you are for the greater glory of God and you, and for the good of souls. Hence I hope to obtain them and I know I shall obtain them. That you may grant this all the sooner, I do not offer you my merits, for I have none to offer. Rather I shall say that, since you are the Daughter of the Eternal Father, Mother of the Son of God, and Spouse of the Holy Spirit, it is most becoming that you be filled with zeal for the honor of the Blessed Trinity, whose loving image man's soul is--an image, furthermore, that has been washed in the blood of God made man.

163. "Since both Jesus and you have done so much to enrich this image, will you now abandon it? True, it has deserved to be abandoned, but I ask you out of love not to forsake it. I beg you by all that is most holy in heaven and on earth; I beg you by Him who, despite my unworthiness is a daily Guest beneath my roof, to whom I speak as to a friend, who obeys my voice and comes down from heaven at my word. This is that same God who preserved you from original sin, who became incarnate in your womb, who crowned you with glory in heaven and made you Advocate of sinners. And this same Being, although He is God, listens to me and obeys me every day. Listen to me then, at least this once, and deign to grant me the grace I ask of you. I am confident that you will do this, because you are my Mother, my relief, my consolation, my strength and my all, after Jesus. Long live Jesus and Mary! Amen."

164. Aspiration. "O Jesus and Mary, the love I bear you makes me long to be joined with you forever in heaven; but this same love is so intense that it causes me to ask for a long life, in which to win souls for heaven. O Love, O Love, O Love ! "

These two prayers, as I have said, I wrote while I was in the novitiate in Rome. The Father Minister read them and was pleased with them.425 May it all be for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.


Chapter VII


Departure from Rome and arrival in Spain
165. I was very happy in the novitiate where I was always occupied with our classes in catechizing,426 preaching, and hearing confessions. Moreover, on Fridays we always went to the hospital of San Giacomo to hear the confessions of the sick,427 and on Saturdays to preach in the prison. I entered the novitiate on November 2, 1839, All Souls' Day, and four months later,428 on February 2, 1840, Feast of the Purification of Mary, we began the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, which lasted for a month. I began them with great joy and with a firm desire to derive much profit from them.

166. I was making great progress when suddenly one day I felt such a stabbing pain in my right leg that I couldn't walk. I had to go to the infirmary. Appropriate remedies relieved the pain somewhat but not totally, and it was feared that I might be permanently lame.429 When the rector saw my condition, he said, What is happening to you is not natural. You have always been so content, happy, and healthy, and just now, during these days especially, this has happened. It makes me think that the Lord wants you for something else. He added, If it's all right with you, the General should be consulted because he is so good and has so much godly knowledge. We shall consult him. I replied that the plan seemed very good and so I went to see the General. He listened to me attentively, and after he had heard my account of the whole matter he told me, without any hesitation, It is God's will that you go quickly to Spain. Have no fear. Courage!

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