864. (2) for meddling in politics. To this we would only say: ask any of the government ministers from 1857 to the present whether he has ever done anything in speech or in writing to hinder their plans to rise to power or to pursue their particular policies.1349
865. (3) for distortions attributed to his pious and instructive books. His enemies have gone so far as to rewrite and print scandalous versions of two of the many books Bishop Claret has written. One of them, The Garland, is a select anthology of acts of thanksgiving, petition, and love directed to God.1350
His enemies have issued another book under the same title, illustrated with erotic pictures so obscene that the like of them has never been seen, and they have attributed this work to Bishop Claret.
866. "They have done the same with another work, The Key of Gold. While he was in Cuba, Bishop Claret personally directed a series of conferences for newly ordained priests to instruct them in the theory and practice of the sacraments. With this in mind, he wrote The Key of Gold for them; the book rapidly caught on in Spain and won the applause of the Spanish hierarchy. And how did his enemies react to this? They wrote a booklet under the same title, with obscene pictures and a revolting text that they attributed again to Bishop Claret. For more than ten years1351 the original book had been praised and circulated among the clergy; now, less than a year1352 has passed since the publication of this diabolic book by the same name, which is nothing but an attempt to discredit, if possible, the original book and its author.1353
867. "On various occasions, Bishop Claret's friends have asked him to defend himself, but his answer has always been that the best defense was to ignore his detractors and pray for them as Jesus did on the cross: 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,'1354 for people so misguided cannot know what they are doing or saying.1355
868. "We respect his silence and his prayers; nevertheless, charity and justice demand that we publish these facts, for two reasons: first, to shame the wicked by unmasking them, and second, to warn the unthinking that they should not allow themselves to be deceived by the slanders and inventions Bishop Claret's enemies are always stirring up against him, as the Jews did against Jesus."
This is taken from the Newspaper, La Esperanza of January 12, 1854 and what is said here is true.1356
Containing A Report Published In The Parisian Daily, Le Monde, By Foreigners Who Had Visited The Escorial At The Beginning Of The Year 18651357
Le Monde, Thursday, April 27, 1865.
869. "The revolution and its soldiers of fortune, trained by the Freemasons, are endeavoring to eradicate all Catholic education and belief in Spain, by subordinating its national policies to the commercial interests of England.1358The Spanish Church, despoiled of its goods and deprived of the powerful help of its religious orders, has demonstrated, nonetheless, by its fidelity to the Sovereign Pontiff and by its continuing resistance to the irreligious press, that it has been strengthened by trial and prepared for the decisive battles that will establish the freedom of the Church of Jesus Christ. Among the notable works of the Spanish episcopate, one of the most notable is the renovation of the seminary of El Escorial, which has been carried out by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Anthony Claret, Archbishop of Trajanópolis, under the auspices of Her Majesty the Queen.
870. "This heroic prelate, a bulwark of strength to the queen amid a group of vacillating constitutionalist ministers, has managed to form a model institution of clerical learning and, thanks to his own efforts and those of Don Dionisio Gonzalez de Mendoza, vice president, the seminary of the Escorial holds out the promise of bright hopes. The program of studies offered in other seminaries, namely, two years of philosophy, one of physics, and seven of theology, has been adopted.
871. "Dr. Gonzalez is a man well-versed in the sciences and of an eminently practical bent. Realizing that his young theologians will have to combat a flood of foreign ideas, especially the German philosophers Strauss, Hegel, and Schelling,1359 he has insisted that they make a thorough study of German, and now 60 of the students can read German works fluently. They also receive a thorough grounding in French and English, not to mention Hebrew and Greek. Many are studying Arabic. One of the learned faculty has compiled Greek, German, and English grammars specifically for the use of the seminary.1360 The theologians will presently be taking courses in church archeology and other sciences related to the study of theology.
872. "The excellent dispositions and remarkable intellectual endowments of the students lead us to expect great things of the restored seminary of El Escorial.
"The notebook entitled Notes contains many more extensive reports about El Escorial.''1361
Besides his Autobiography, Saint Anthony Mary Claret left us several other Autobiographical Documents dealing with a great number of subjects. Some of them relate to the apostolate, others aim at fostering his personal piety, others are meant to serve as an aide-mémoire, while others are connected with the demands of his office. All of them serve to round out the Autobiography which, since it was written to set an example for the formation of Claret’s Missionaries, often passes over some otherwise important events, while dwelling at great length on the traits of an ideal Missionary.
This volume contains sixteen autobiographical documents derived from various sources that are specified in their respective places. With respect to their content, they can be classified (although not quite adequately) in two groups: historical and spiritual.
Of mainly historical interest are Documents V-VIII, XII-XIV and XVI. Among the spiritual documents, some are of an intensely personal character (e.g., Documents IV and X), while others aim primarily at setting an example (e.g., Documents I-III and IX).
What do these Documents add to the Autobiography? For one thing, they complete it chronologically. The Autobiography ends in 1865, while some of these Documents come from 1860 and even 1870, the year of the Saint’s death. More importantly, they round out our psychological and spiritual picture of the Saint, adding new traits to those already known, and they reveal a good deal more of the sufferings he bore during the last stage of his life.
In the appendix to one of his short works, The Lover of Jesus Christ, Claret offered three counsels to those aspiring to the perfection of the unitive way, summed up in three phrases: Pray heroically, Work heroically and Sufferheroically. These counsels correspond to three aspects of conformity with Christ: Jesus in his inner life, Jesus as sent, and Jesus crucified.
In the Autobiography, the main stress is on conformity with Christ sent by the Father. There are also traits of the suffering Christ, but seen in the overall context of Claret’s life, they are but a prelude to the suffering that was yet to come. From 1868 on – the year when he offered himself as a victim for the sins of Spain – his sufferings increased with unwonted intensity: illness, poverty, slander and exile. His apostolic enterprises were either completely destroyed or changed from being instruments of action to instruments of passion. To view these trials simply as passive purifications would be to lose sight of the fact that Claret’s apostolic vocation entailed not only the mission preaching the gospel, but also of dying crucified, for the world’s salvation.
The only thing that remained for him was to be conformed to the glorified Christ. In this connection, one of the most telling aspirations he kept uttering during his last agony was: Cupio dissolvi et esse cum Christo – I long to be freed from the bonds of this body and be with Christ.1362
On Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary
Written ca. 1856 in Method of Missioning,
(Santiago Cuba, 1857, pp. 63-67)
This Document may be considered as a complement to Chapter 7 of the First Part of the Autobiography. Claret first published it in the Origin of the Trisagion (Vic, 1856), as the Example for the 7th Day. A year later he included it with a few changes in wording in his Method of Missioning, Example 7.
Written in the third person, it is aimed at fostering devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Just as the Saint’s written sermons supplemented and amplified his oral preaching, so this written example supplements and amplifies his lived example. The Saint speaks (anonymously) of his own devotion to Mary during his childhood and adolescence. He tells what he did to honor Our Lady and how she in turn responded to his love, and he ends with an exhortation to practice devotion to Mary.
Behind this veil of anonymity, free of the restrictions that humility imposed on him in speaking of this event in his Autobiography (95-98), the Saint can write with greater ease and freedom, unwittingly revealing the degree of heroic sanctity he had already reached in his early years.
The example I am about to relate to you comes from our own times. It happened to a friend of the writer, as he himself has told me. It involves a young man who from his earliest years had always had a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Before he reached the age of reason, he used to kneel down and say one part of the Rosary everyday, and afterwards, as a grown-up, he has said the three parts everyday. When still a boy, he enrolled in the Prayer-Schedule of the Most Holy Rosary and fulfilled its requirements most exactly, confessing, receiving Communion and performing all the other duties required by this Schedule.1363
He was also a member of the Confraternities of the Rosary, of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, of Our Lady of Sorrows and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and fulfilled all their obligations.1364 He attended processions on first Sundays, confessing and receiving Communion, as he also did on all Feast Days throughout the year.1365 On all Vigils of these Feasts and on all Saturdays of the year, he fasted in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Every day of the year, he addressed to her his morning, noon and night prayers, as well as the prayer for the souls of the faithful departed. On all Feast Days, while other young men sought amusement in games, dances, camaraderie and other diversions, he occupied himself with reading good books. He particularly liked reading books about the Blessed Virgin Mary and spent a great deal of time praying before her image, speaking to her with all the warmth and trust possible on this earth, because he was firmly convinced that the Blessed Virgin, who is soul and body in heaven, could hear him from behind the image before which he was praying. To enliven his devotion, he would imagine that electric telegraph wires ran between the image and its heavenly original, bearing a message from one end to the other. Thus he spoke to her with the same faith, trust and devotion as he would have done if she were really present before him.1366 In homage to Mary he abstained not only from mortal sins, but also from venial sins, faults and imperfections, and even from lawful things, so as to mortify himself and have something to offer the Blessed Virgin. In honor of Mary he often received the sacraments, attended church services, visited the sick and gave alms to the poor, and did all the good that he could.
It seemed to him that he used to hear her voice asking him: Do this or that out of love for me, and he would do it with the greatest promptness and perfection. He loved Mary, but Mary loved him even more, because she always granted him what he asked, and many other things as well that he had never asked for or even thought about.
She freed him from sicknesses, dangers and even death, many times, both on sea and on land.1367 She also freed him from temptations and occasions of sin.
Once he found himself in the same situation as that of the chaste Joseph,1368 indeed, a more troubling one, but with the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary he was freed from it and, fleeing from the temptress, he escaped.1369 But the most critical trial befell him on a day when those in charge of the house where he was living had ordered him to go to bed because he was somewhat indisposed.1370 At 10:30 in the morning he felt so tempted against purity that he didn’t know what he could do to overcome the temptation. He turned to the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer, called on his holy Guardian Angel, prayed to his Patron Saints and to those whom he was especially devoted to, and tried to fix his attention on harmless matters so as to distract himself and thus forget the temptation. He made the Sign of the Cross on his forehead that the Lord might free him from evil thoughts, but all in vain.
Finally, he turned toward the other side of the bed to see whether that would rid him of the temptation, when lo and behold, he saw the Blessed Virgin, most beautiful and gracious, holding in her hand a crown of roses. She told him, This crown is yours if you overcome. The young man, quite astonished at seeing Blessed Mary speaking to him and placing the crown on his head, could not so much as utter a word until the vision vanished, leaving him so consoled that he could hardly contain his joy.
The temptation vanished completely and he was never again tempted against purity. In fact, it was from this good effect that he realized that the event had really happened and was not an illusion.
Now you can see how important it is to have devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She will free you from all evils and misfortunes of body and soul. She will obtain for you all good things, both temporal and eternal.
Imitate this young man. Enroll in one of her Confraternities, resist temptations as you have heard, and you will see how the Blessed Virgin will console you.
Receive the Sacraments frequently, deprive yourself of something in Mary’s honor and fervently pray the Rosary to her everyday, and you will see that Mary Most Holy will be your mother, your advocate, your mediatrix, your teacher, and your all after Jesus. In a word, if you are truly devoted to Mary, you will be happy now and happy for all eternity in Heaven, which is what I desire for all of you. Amen. Hail Mary most pure, conceived without sin.”
A Student Devoted to Our Lady
of the Holy Rosary (1831)
(Written ca. 1865. Handwritten Original: Mss Claret II,
227-230, in Historical Archives CMF I, 398-400)
The manuscript of this Document is undated, but from the handwriting it seems to have been written not before 1865. The event related occurred in 1831, when the Saint was 24 years old. Like the account in Document I, it is cast in the third person and is aimed at fostering devotion to the Blessed Virgin; but since it is intended for seminarians, it contains a greater wealth of spiritual nuances. We know, in fact, that Claret told this story to the seminarians of El Escorial.
Document II is important for the insight it provides us with into one aspect of Claret’s Marian life and devotion, namely, its pronounced filial character, as evidenced by the Saint’s choice of the Beloved Disciple as a model.
It also reveals much more clearly the nature and scope of the temptation, which was extraordinary for several reasons: the manner of its onset, without previous warning or occasion; its intensity, which withstood all ordinary means of resistance; the striking way in which it was overcome; finally, the lasting effects of the moral victory involved in overcoming it.
In a personal sense, one could regard the event as a passive purification of the Saint’s sensuality and affectivity. More importantly, however, this vision should be regarded not so much as the end, but rather as the beginning of a major new phase in his life: the apostolate.
At first, the Saint believed that St. Stephen had helped him in this struggle simply as one of his Patron Saints. But during the ceremony of his ordination to the diaconate, he understood that the protomartyr had been present to show him that, from then on, his struggle was not to be against mere flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness. Moreover, he not only learned who his enemies were to be, but also the tactics he must use in vanquishing them.
He was allowed to experience within himself God’s merciful plan to overcome the Serpent by means of the Woman, to destroy the power of the devil and his followers by means of the Immaculate Virgin and her offspring. Thus Mary figures in his vocation not only as the Mother who forms him, but also as the power of God’s almighty arm hurling him like a fiery arrow against His enemies.
His liberation from temptations against chastity would give him a great freedom of spirit for the apostolate. The perfect purity which the Immaculate Virgin had just given him would broaden his zeal with unlimited generosity and fruitfulness.
In the year 1831, in the city of Vic in Catalonia, there was a young student who was studying philosophy in the seminary. He applied himself earnestly to his studies and was quite punctual in attending all his classes.1371 He had neither friends nor companions, so as not to interfere with his plan of life, a plan in which he had included all his obligations and devotions.
He arose early at a set time, so as not to be misled by laziness. The moment he awoke, he would kneel down and offer all his actions, words and thoughts to God and the Blessed Virgin. He followed this with a half-hour’s meditation on the life, passion and death of Jesus Christ. After this he went to Holy Mass and returned to study until eight, when he took a cup of chocolate. Then he reviewed his lessons and went to class. On leaving class he took notes on the main points he had heard in class, and then rested until eleven, when he began preparing his afternoon lesson, which he did until twelve noon. At the stroke of twelve he ate and rested (a little), did some spiritual reading, reviewed the upcoming lesson and went to class. On leaving class he went to visit the Blessed Sacrament in the Forty Hours Chapel, and then went directly to visit Our Lady of the Rosary in St. Dominic’s Church. Whether it rained or snowed, he never omitted these two visits to the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of the Rosary. And on days when he had no classes, he increased and prolonged these visits, since he had no other friends but Jesus and Mary, and entered no other houses except churches.
Every week he received the Sacraments of Penance and Communion, and as he was a sodalist of the Congregation of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, he made the Spiritual Exercises every year in the Seminary Chapel, led by the bishop, Don Pablo de Jesús Corcuera, who loved his students dearly and wanted all of them to turn out to be holy and wise priests.1372
This student sodalist had a great devotion to St. Aloysius Gonzaga, and as he realized that true devotion to a Saint means imitating his virtues and being prompt and careful to do whatever is for the greater glory of God, this young man took great care in all he did, but especially with regard to the virtue of chastity. Moreover, since he loved Blessed Mary as his tender and affectionate Mother, he was always thinking what he might do as an offering in her honor.
It occurred to him that what he should do was to read and study the life of St. John the Evangelist and imitate him. In doing so he discovered that this son of Mary, given to her by Jesus on the Cross,1373 had been distinguished for his virtues, but especially for his humility, purity and charity, and so this young student set about practicing these virtues.
Despite the care he took to avoid all dangers, God allowed him to undergo a most strong and violent temptation against holy purity, which he esteemed so highly. It happened as follows: Toward the beginning of 1831 he caught a severe cold. He was ordered to bed and obeyed. On one of those days, at ten-thirty in the morning, he had such a fierce temptation against chastity he did not know what more he could do to overcome it. He called upon his Holy Guardian Angel, St. Aloysius Gonzaga and other Saints he was devoted to, but found no relief. He made the Sign of the Cross on his forehead, saying, “By the sign of the Holy Cross, deliver us from our enemies, O Lord.” But it was all in vain; he felt even more powerfully driven by passion.
As he could not get out of bed, he made a violent effort to resist by turning to the other side of the bed, and at the every moment he had finished turning, he saw four things: Blessed Mary, himself, the Saints he was devoted to, and the demons.
He saw Blessed Mary, most beautiful, wearing a rose-colored gown (of a deep red hue) and a blue mantle. In her left hand she held many garlands of roses, while in her right she held a very pretty crown of roses, and she told him: This crown is yours if you overcome.
She had barely finished saying these words when she placed the crown on his head. Here it should be noted that the student remained in bed all this time, as if enchanted by what was happening. The Virgin was in mid-air, without any support, about a yard and a half higher than the bed. The student could see himself in the form of a lively and very beautiful child about two years old, with the crown of roses on his head, kneeling, with his hands joined in an attitude of fervent prayer. He understood perfectly, as he was given to know, that the child was a portrait of his own soul. He was about a yard’s distance from the spectator, to his right. On the same side, about two yards away, but higher in the air, he saw a group of Saints, his Patrons, who were all praying for him. The one nearest him was St. Stephen, wearing a deacon’s dalmatic. As this Saint is the Patron of the Saint’s town, he believed that this was why he had helped him in his combat. But when the student was ordained to the diaconate some years later, the Lord gave him to understand, during the very rite of ordination, why St. Stephen had stood so near, helping him, when the Prelate read those words of the Apostle: Non est nobis colluctatio contra carnem et sanguinem, sed adversus principes et potestates... (Eph 6:12 and the Pontifical ).1374
After gazing at length on the Blessed Virgin and his Patron Saints, the student turned his eyes to the left, and there in the air, some three yards away, he saw a great army of demons forming, like soldiers regrouping after a battle.
Thus both the vision and the temptation ended, leaving the student quite happy and encouraged. Be devout, all of you, to Mary.
A Model Seminarian at Prayer
(Written in 1859. The Well-Instructed Seminarian
[Barcelona, 1860] I, 60-61)
This short, clearly autobiographical Document occurs at the end of Part I, Ch. 3 of Claret’s El Colegial o seminarista teórica y prácticamente instruído (The Theoretically and Practically Well-Instructed Collegian or Seminarian, hereinafter referred to as The Well-Instructed Seminarian, abbreviated as WIS), dealing with prayer. WIS is a handbook on the theoretical and practical formation of seminarians, and was the most commonly used handbook of its kind in Spanish-speaking seminaries well into the early 20th century. It is not surprising that Claret, while speaking of Jesus as Model and Master of prayer, should recall his own years as a seminarian in Vic, presenting his own prayer life at that time as a model for his own seminarians. It is interesting to note his use of the then-modern invention of telegraphy as an imaginative device to bolster his own faith in prayer, while encouraging others to the practice of trusting prayer. Claret tells us of his use of the same image to enliven his childhood prayer in his Autobiography.1375
It seemed to us that it would be quite useful to relate what a cleric we know does. This cleric is a great friend of prayer and has a great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and when he prays to the Lord, whom he visits everyday, he speaks to Him as a son would to his father. But when he prays at home or in some other place where the Blessed Sacrament is not present, but where there is an image of Jesus, Mary or some Saint, he likes to imagine that he is in a telegraph station with a line to heaven, where Jesus, Mary or the Saint he is praying to can hear him perfectly. And just as earthly telegraph messages reach from the farthest part of the realm to the king’s court in the shortest time, so his prayers travel instantly from the image before which he is praying to the court of the King of Heaven. And in this way he prays with great devotion, knowing that he is being heard and that his prayers are being written down in heaven, just as words are transmitted by telegraphs on earth.
This cleric remembers the words of the Apostle, who said: In God we live, and move, and have our being.1376 Thus he considers that as a fish is at home in water or a bird is in the air,1377 in the same way he is always in the presence of God, whom he fears as his ever-watchful Lord, whom he loves as his all-providing Father, whom he calls on continually, and serves and praises unceasingly, directing all things to His greater honor and glory. Do the same yourself, and you will see how you advance in perfection.