The retreat resolutions in 1857 reveal a high pitch of spiritual life, but they still contain no concrete plan of life. In 1858 Claret was confirmed in his post as Royal Confessor. The Queen had fulfilled all the conditions Claret had laid down before he would accept his office, and she had made a retreat under his direction from March 21st to the 30th.
Now that he had discerned God’s will for him in this new charge, the Saint set about assuring his own sanctification by fulfilling his duties as perfectly as he could.
There was one point he had to resolve in the light of this retreat: the matter of any apostolic activities he might perform. In Cuba, as a shepherd of souls, he had plenty of clear-cut obligations to attend to. Now, even though his duties as Royal Confessor usually obliged him to remain in Madrid, they still left him considerable free time. Although his temperament and zeal urged him to undertake some enterprise on a grand scale, he was fully aware that an apostolate is a mission, a sending, and not just a matter of personal initiative. During this retreat, his main effort was aimed at subjecting his apostolic fire to God’s will, and his guiding light was the idea that an apostle is the servant of Christ. Now a good servant does only what his master wishes, so the Saint resolved not to be a meddlesome servant.
In Cuba, he generally made his retreat after the strenuous work of Holy Week; now, however, he had to accommodate himself to the comings and goings of the royal court. This year he could not make his retreat until the beginning of October. “The day before yesterday,” he wrote to Fr. Joseph Xifré, “we finished the holy exercises which, because of travels, we were not able to make sooner.”1936 These “travels” were the royal tours through Valencia, Alicante, Valladolid, León, Asturias and La Coruña. For the Queen, they were an exercise in politics; for the Saint, they were apostolic opportunities.1937
We learn from another source that the Blessed Virgin, his “Director,” intervened in a special way during this retreat.1938
Resolutions Made on Holy Retreat in the Year 1858
The same as in former years.
I will take greater care with one of them, namely, never to speak after preaching, or to desire that others speak to me, and if they do, to cut short the conversation.1939
The subject-matter I must most frequently dwell on is Heaven, for reasons that God has given me to understand.1940
I will spend the nights in prayer.
My mortification will be continual and in all things.
My [practice of the] presence of God will be perpetual.
Prayer... Like weights [always tending] toward the center. Like meals, which always need to be prepared.
I will act like a servant who only does what his master wishes. I will imitate Jesus during the thirty years of his [hidden] life;1941 or, if you will, during the three [years of his public life].1942 Not like the meddlesome or forward servant: the latter works a great deal, but his work is not approved, and he must always be upbraided. What a pity! If a lady had a butler or maid and was visited by a great lord and other worthies, yet allowed these servants to speak their mind without giving the others a chance to talk, what then?
It is like that with the soul, which has a body or flesh, and is visited by God and angels.1943
Distribution of Time for the Year 1858
In the morning, hear confessions until 10:00.
From 10:00 to 12:00, writing.
From 12:00 to 1:30, audience.
At 3:00, Vespers and Compline.
Going out to Hospitals, Jails, etc.
Afterwards, to the Forty Hours.
At night, Matins, etc.
Books of doctrine and sermons.
Non plus sapere quam oportet sapere, sed sapere ad sobrietatem.1944
God allows faults in ourselves, so that we can exercise ourselves in humility.
He allows faults in others, so that we can practice zeal, like the master who provides employment at his own loss.
If sinners are converted, the gain is theirs. If they are not converted, the gain is ours, not in vanity, but in humility and heroism.
Sometimes we are persecuted and slandered for something we have not done; but then, we are blameworthy in other matters, and God covers for us. In this way, we win praise for what we suffer innocently and patiently, while we make satisfaction for our hidden or past faults.
MSS Claret II, 81-84
This year the Saint made his yearly retreat from the 5th to the 14th of October.
On his monthly recollection day, November 25, 1858, after he had reviewed his resolutions, the Lord infused in him a love of persecution (cf. Autob. n. 679, where the Saint mistakenly states that it was on December 25, 1857, as opposed to the correct date given in Lights and Graces, 1858). In 1859, he received further favors: In January, greater humility (Autob. n.680; L&G 1859); in April, the promise of divine love (Autob. n. 683, L&G 1859); in September, a call to a more universal apostolate.1945
He soon had occasion to practice patience in the face of slanders and persecutions. When the Royal Order announcing his resignation from the See of Cuba was published, his old enemies went to work again, so that the day before his retreat he could write: “If I didn’t know the world, I would be astonished at the behavior of some men to whom I have shown nothing but favor; but I am exceedingly consoled at being allowed to be persecuted by those whom I have most favored.”1946 Even in Madrid, he was not secure. Between April 25th and May 20th of this year he had been heavily maligned. On the day following this retreat – October 15th, the Feast of St. Teresa – there was an attempt on his life.1947
These events are reflected in his resolutions, where he takes them as incentives to greater holiness. His inner life is expressed in a rather passive mood: “I shall consider that God is looking at me…speaking to me...I will accept the chalice...I will accept...contempt.” For his own part, he stresses humility and patience.
Retreat of the 5th to the 14th of October, 1859
I resolve to observe the Constitutions of the Congregation.1948
Every year, I will make the holy exercises.
Every month, a day of recollection.
Every week, I will be reconciled.
Every day, I will make three hours of mental prayer. I will remember that in the Garden Jesus prayed three times:1949 for sinners, for the just, and for the souls in purgatory.1950
In all things I will strive for simplicity and purity: simplicity of intention and purity of affection. See Marin, p. 211.1951
Everything is done either to please God or to please self-love. I will direct myself more and more to God and not to myself.
I will consider that God is watching me. I will think that He is speaking to me through inspirations and dispositions...
I will answer Him with ejaculatory prayers.
I will offer Him everything that I do or that I abstain from doing.
I will accept the chalice of the passion when it is offered to me in any suffering or work.1952
I will recall the words: In silentio et spe erit fortitudo vestra (Is. 30:15).1953
I will never give way to any complacency or vain thought; I will never say a word in self-praise; I will never do anything out of vainglory.
I will accept silently and gladly the contempt that may come to me from any quarter.
Very frequently I will say: Noverim me noverim Te.1954 Ah, I am nothing! Of myself I have nothing, except sin. If there is any good in me it is from God. I am a donkey ill-burdened with jewels.1955
Ah, if others had received the graces I have received how good they would be...!
Ah, if I were in the same circumstances as others, how perverse I would be, what crimes I would commit! I should rank myself after all others and be ashamed to see myself ranked before anybody. I am like the dust on tables, cabinets and rags that needs to be removed, shaken out and thrown into the dustbin. That is where I belong. I will continually recall that humility is a moral virtue that inclines our will to sincere abasement and contempt for self, regulated by the knowledge of what we are, and to manifest this self-contempt in outward actions.1956
A venial sin is an act of contempt toward God. For this thing one has sinned in, he will be tormented in like vein. Thus, one who has spurned God will himself be spurned. But how? He has spurned God, who is infinite, and thus he deserves to be spurned infinitely by all and forever.
And thus I know and say that I, who have offended and spurned God so much, deserve that all in heaven, on earth and in hell should spurn me continually. Hence, when I am spurned, I will rejoice, and should I ever be loved and praised, I will be afflicted.
Every week I will make my meditation on the third degree of humility.1957
Abstine, from gluttony and even from every lawful taste.
Sustine, work, illness, calumnies, persecutions.
Continual presence of God, offering everything to Him.
Four main things:
Silence, patience, prayer, hope.
For there is merit for one who, with a good conscience, endures pains while suffering unjustly (1 Pt 2:19).
MSS Claret II, 85-88
On October 29, 1860, Claret wrote to Fr. Jerome Pagés: “I am going to begin the holy exercises alone – quite alone.”1958 He felt certain nostalgia for the community retreats he had enjoyed in Cuba. In 1857 he wrote to Fr. John Nepomucene Lobo, who had since joined the Jesuits: “In former years I had the joy of being accompanied and encouraged by all of you members of my beloved family. Before, so well accompanied, and now, alone... Vae soli!1959Happy you, who have gained fathers and brothers, whereas I remain like a tree in winter, without fruit or leaves. But withal, I have not lost confidence in God, and so I will say with holy Job: ‘The Lord gave them to me and the Lord has been pleased to take them away; blessed be His name.”1960 Claret began this retreat after he returned from the royal tour of the Balearic Isles, Catalonia and Aragon, which had lasted from September 9th to October 15th.
The spiritual content of these resolutions is rich. They lay greater stress on recollection and on union with God by way of the faculties of the soul. The Saint attempts to systematize his devotions. Along ascetical lines, he concentrates on perfecting himself in the performance of ordinary things and on imitating Christ heroically, by striving to be the poorest (like Christ in Bethlehem), the most humiliated (like Christ passed over for Barabbas), the most suffering (like Christ crucified). Through this imitation of Christ, he hoped to win others for Christ and to act as a counterpoise to the worldly.
Retreat of the 29th of October to the 7th of November, 1860
Union with God, making use of the three faculties of the soul.
With my memory, I will be mindful of God and walk in His divine presence.
With my understanding, meditating on His divine attributes and works.
With my will, loving him with all my heart: doing and suffering for love of Him.1961
I will do each thing with the greatest care; I will remember Jesus, who omnia bene fecit,1962 and I will say: Ad majorem Dei gloriam.1963For You, Lord.
In sufferings, labors, slanders, contradictions, persecutions, etc., I will not complain or grow impatient or manifest displeasure. Inwardly I will say: May it be for You, my Jesus. Mérito haec patimur quia peccavimus.1964 I will think of hell.
I will think of Heaven. Non sunt condignae passiones hujus temporis ad futuram gloriam.1965
I will think on Jesus, of Mary, of St. Catherine,1966 St. Teresa,1967 St. John of the Cross,1968 St. Martin,1969 St. Francis de Sales.1970
In my recitation and other devotions, I will avoid haste. I will avoid distractions. I will think of the reproof which the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Paul gave St. Catherine of Siena over distractions.1971
In silentio, et spe erit fortitudo vestra (Is 30:15).1972 Silence. Patience, meekness, humility, hope and charity.
God told St. Arsenius: Fuge, tace, quiesce.1973In silentio et quiete proficit anima devota, et didicit abscondita scripturarum (à Kempis, bk. 1, ch. 20).1974
Speaking with God and speaking with men are incompatible acts. Even after her death, St. Teresa would knock at the doors of those who were speaking.Sapo[riti].1975
God told St. Arsenius: Fuge, tace, quiesce. Haec enim sunt radices non peccandi et principia salutis.1976
The whole ambition of a soul that loves God must consist in surpassing others in humility.
St. Liguori says: The poor man regards himself as needier than others.
He who loves God, does God’s will.
God’s will is known through obedience, need and charity.
In order to advance in perfection, one must have devotion:
1. To the Blessed Trinity.
2. To Jesus Christ, the Passion and the Sacraments.
3. To the Blessed Virgin Mary.
4. To the Patron Saints.
5. To the Holy Angels.
6. To the Souls in Purgatory.
7. To the Poor.
Sundays, to the Blessed Trinity. Mondays, to the Holy Angels. Tuesdays, to the Patron Saints. Wednesdays, to the Poor. Thursdays, to the Blessed Sacrament. Fridays, to the Souls in Purgatory. Saturdays, to the Blessed Virgin Mary.1977
Three Loves and Three Hatreds
1. Love of God; hatred of all that separates us from God.
2. Love of God’s will; hatred of sin.
3. Love of my neighbor; hatred of myself.
God’s will is known through His Law.
Evangelical counsels, Superiors, inspirations, need and charity.
Means: Silence, Prayer, Almsgiving, Fasting, Mortification, Particular Examen, and directing everything to the object of the examen.
Desire three things: 1. The poorest. 2. The most humiliating. 3. The most painful. To this effect, look at Jesus in the manger, passed over for Barabbas, nailed to the cross. In these three things, desire and strive to advance and win the hand of others, in contrast to the worldly, who do just the opposite.
[Year of Eucharistic “Great Grace”; Particular Examen on Meekness]
MSS Claret II, 89-92
“I beg you all,” Claret wrote to Don Dionisio González, “to keep me in your fervent prayers, that the Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary, my Mother, may grant me the graces I need to do well in the special private retreat I am beginning on the 9th of this month, in preparation for the Nativity of the Lord. Ne forte cum aliis praedicaverim, ipse reprobus efficiar.1978
One of the most noteworthy items in these resolutions is the change of subject matter for his particular examen. These resolutions were the fruit not only of this retreat, but also of the lights he had been receiving throughout the year. On April 6th, he had received a warning not to lose meekness (cf. Lights and Graces, 1861). Besides this, persecution against him was mounting: “The persecution they are waging against me grows greater every day.”1979
One is struck by the passive way in which he states one resolution: “I will be advised of the fact that God will give me matter for practice [in meekness]” (n. 6).
Here, suffering is no longer simply a matter of imitating the suffering Christ; rather, it is a matter of suffering out of love, and “in union with what Jesus suffered for me.”
Another resolution that shows he was traveling an even more heroic path, is the one in which he promises to be silent not only about the good he does, but also about persons or things that cause him to suffer.
Resolutions Made on Retreat from the
9th to the 18th of December, 1861
Every year, holy retreat.
Every month, a day of recollection.
Every week, I will be reconciled.
Every week, three days of fast, three of taking the discipline, three of wearing the little chain or something equivalent.
In recitation [of the office] and other devotions, I will avoid haste and distractions. I will think on the reproof for this that was given to St. Catherine of Siena.1980
My particular examen will be on the virtue of meekness. To this end I will join my prayer, Mass and Communion.
I will be advised of the fact that God will give me matter for practice, just as a teacher gives a boy paper on which to practice writing. And so, when sufferings, work, slanders, persecution, ill-humor, demanding people, etc., come my way, I will think: This work is an official duty. I will treat them with affability, love and affection, without growing peeved or scowling or pulling a long face. If I can please them I’ll do so, or if I can’t, I’ll tell them that I’m sorry I can’t.
Non erit tristis (Is 42).1981
I will regard others as superior to myself, and I will think that they are more virtuous than I.
Just as every poor man thinks he is poorer than everyone else, so I will regard myself as being poorer in virtue and knowledge than everyone else.
Aside from the particular examen, I will exercise myself in obedience, humility, meekness, patience, charity and silence. To this effect, every week I will read Meditation 20 (p.264).1982.
I will also keep silent, never speaking of the good I do, or of those persons or things that make me suffer; and I will bear this in mind in my particular examen. I will read Meditation 28 (p. 356).1983
All that I do, I will direct to the greater glory of God. And all that troubles me, I will suffer out of love for Jesus and in union with what He suffered for me.
I will devote myself to the confessional until eleven. In the afternoon, to preaching in convents, institutions, etc. And the rest of the time to studying, writing and praying.
I will strive to distribute books, holy cards, medals, rosaries, etc.
Perforce, and sadly, I will remain in Madrid; but during this retreat God has given me to understand that for the present it is His will for me that I should suffer, like St. Joseph in Egypt, usque dum dicam tibi.1984
He has told me the same regarding El Escorial.
I will not complain of the poor,1985 or of impertinent folk. Rather, I will quietly assess what is most fitting for the glory of God, according to the circumstances.
Enemies and... I will think that they are to me what carpenters are to wood, what blacksmiths are to iron. Like stonemasons, statue-makers, sculptors. Like surgeons who operate on us. They should be repaid with favors, thanks and prayers.1986
Sundays, to the Blessed Trinity. Mondays, to the Holy Angels. Tuesdays, to the Patron Saints. Wednesdays, to the Poor. Thursdays, to the Blessed Sacrament. Fridays, to the Passion of the Lord and the[Suffering] Souls. Saturdays, to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph never complained of the people of Bethlehem, of Herod, or of the Egyptians. Nor did they complain, later, of Judas, Caiaphas, Herod, Pilate or the Jews.1987 In all these things they saw the dispositions of God.1988Learn.
Before meals I will say, “Lord, I am eating in order to gain energy and serve you better.”
Before retiring I will say, “Lord, I am taking this rest to restore the energy I have spent and to serve you better. I am doing this because you have so ordered.”
If I study, “I do so in order to know, love and serve you, and in order to better serve and help my neighbor.”
MSS Claret II, 93-96
This year’s setting is reflected in the “Continuation” of Claret’s Autobiography (nn. 702-774). Outwardly it was marked by the royal tour through Andalusia, which became, for Claret, a single, continuous mission. Earlier, he had gone to Catalonia to preside over the second General Chapter of his Missionaries, where they decided to take an oath of permanence in the Congregation, a consecration to the Heart of Mary, and private vows. The circumstances of the time did not allow them to do more. The Saint himself received the oath of permanence from his Missionaries stationed in Segovia.
A rich inner landscape can be glimpsed in a few brief phrases of the Autobiography: “For some time now, God in His infinite goodness has been favoring me with many telling insights when I am at prayer, and arousing in me many desires to do and suffer for his greater honor and glory and the good of souls (n. 761).
The aridities of 1859 were now far behind him. Moreover, he felt inwardly drawn to choose the poorest, humblest and most painful things for himself.1989
All of this inner movement is crystallized in these resolutions, which would be quite daring for one who had not been strengthened, as Claret had been, by the Holy Spirit. To human nature Claret grants the bare minimum for survival, while to grace he always and in all things grants the maximum.
The grace of preserving the sacramental Species within him, which had been granted him the preceding year and is confirmed here, is represented in these resolutions less from the viewpoint of recollection, than from that of being a victim.
The Saint made this retreat in El Escorial, at the same time as he was preaching it to the seminarians and chaplains of the Royal Monastery.