The proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (December 8, 1854) caught Claret by surprise as he was in Puerto Príncipe (Camagüey), making his third pastoral visit of the archdiocese. The Papal Bull reached Santiago rather late. Taking advantage of the summer break, Claret wrote a pastoral letter to his faithful flock, explaining the significance of this great Marian event. In a few pages, he poured out the ideas that teemed in his head and the joy that filled his heart. This pastoral letter is important not only for its exposition of the dogma, but also for the way it focuses the mystery of the Immaculate Conception within the framework of the Saint’s apostolic vocation.2426
The letter is dated July 16, 1855, but the Saint finished it on the 12th, as we know from his note on the Blessed Virgin’s approval, which is cited here. In the Autobiography (n. 674), he recounts the same grace. The two accounts that follow predate the Autobiography and add one detail not included in it.
The Most Blessed Virgin deigned to approve the pastoral letter on the Immaculate Conception that I wrote in Cuba.
* * *
On the 12th of July, 1855.
At 5:30 in the evening, after I had completed the Pastoral Letter, I knelt down before the image of the Bl. Virgin, an oil painting on canvas which was there in my study and bedroom,2427 and as I was saying three Hail Marys, I heard a clear and distinct voice coming from the picture, telling me: Bene scripsisti [You have written well]. These words made a deep impression on me, along with desires to aspire to perfection.2428
MSS Claret II, 183.
On February 1st of this year, Claret was the victim of a violent attempt on his life, during which he lost massive amounts of blood, after preaching in the city of Holguín, Cuba.2429 Barely recovered, he determined to return to Santiago. His enemies continued hounding him all the way: they burnt down the hacienda of Altagracia, where he was to have spent the night, and planned to burn down the house in which he was to stay the following night. On March 13th he arrived in Santiago, where he led a somewhat retiring life, not only because of his wounds, which had become inflamed, but also because persecutions against him continued unabated. Meanwhile, he was eagerly awaiting a response to the letter he had written to Pius IX on February 23rd, asking the Pope what he wanted him to do under the circumstances. On April 29th he received the sad news that the house in the town of Santo Domingo where he had been received as a guest the first night after he left Holguín, had been burnt down out of spite. It was after this that he received the following locution.
On the 29th of April, the Feast of St. Peter Martyr, at 8:30 in the morning, after receiving the news that my enemies had set fire to the house where we had slept in the district of Santo Domingo,2430 I was looking at the image of Mary Most Holy, and she told me: Your enemies have now burnt down this house. They have already burnt down the house at Altagracia, and in the same way they will burn down the houses in which you are received as a guest. Anthony, withdraw.2431 You may say: “We would have cured Babylon, but she is not healed: let us forsake her, and let us go every man to his own land: because her judgment hath reached even to the heavens” (Jer 51:9).2432
MSS Claret II, 183.
As the year began, Claret was feeling perplexed about his future. On September 23, 1855, as he says in the Résumé of his life, he had felt a mysterious call to a more universal apostolate. The devil’s attempt to block him through the attack on his life at Holguín had failed. The Blessed Virgin had warned him to leave Cuba, whereas the Pope had told him to remain in his post. He generously obeyed the latter, but what was he to think of that strong inner call to a broader apostolate? The Saint prayed for light, but the Lord, as if to purify him of his anxieties, gave him a message of delay. The final answer, however, would come soon enough.2433
On the 15th of January, at 5:00 in the evening. As I was looking at Jesus, I said to him: What do you want me to do, Lord?2434You will be working soon enough, Anthony; the hour has not yet come.2435 For some days, now, I have been having many spiritual consolations, especially at Mass and during meditation.2436
On the 18th of March, I received the order to go to Madrid.2437
About what happened in Havana.2438
About what happened during the voyage.2439
MSS Claret II, 168-169, 184.
In 1857, Abp. Claret took up residence in Madrid as the confessor of Isabella II. The Queen agreed to all his conditions which, in view of the sad state of her marriage, were neither few nor easy. Fully aware of the mission to which God had destined him, the Saint strove to mold his spirit and activity to the task. In this work, he was aided by the Blessed Virgin, his Teacher and Director.
He has left us four written notices of extraordinary heavenly favors granted him during this year. The first two are connected with his recollection days: in the first, the Blessed Virgin counsels him to look to his inner life; in the second, she manifests her will concerning his apostolate. The third occurred during his November retreat, when God granted him a love of persecutions, as the cup offered by the Father. The fourth traces out the broad outlines of his apostolate, and advises him to be more tranquil about having to remain in Madrid.
On October 8th, at 12:45, the Virgin told me what I would have to do in order to be really good. You already know it: repentance for past faults and vigilance in the future. Do you hear, Anthony? she told me. Vigilance in the future... Yes, it is I who tell you this.2440
* * *
On the 9th, at 4:00 in the morning, she told me what she had already told me before: that I had to be the Dominic of these times in spreading the Rosary. Later, I wrote a little book on the Rosary.2441
November 25 , recollection day.2442
Love of persecutions and calumnies... God favored me even in a dream that night. I dreamt I was imprisoned for something I was innocent of. I said nothing, believing it to be a gift sent me from heaven that I might be treated like Jesus,2443 so I was silent like Jesus.2444 All my friends abandoned me as they did Jesus.2445 And to someone who wanted to defend me, I said, in the words of Jesus to Peter: Would you not have me drink of the cup my Father has sent me.2446
* * *
Counsels of December 21, 1858. 1) More prayer. 2) Write books... and 3) Direct souls. 4) More tranquility about being in Madrid. God has disposed that it should be so.2447
This year is particularly rich in supernatural interventions (some of which, as the reader will note, are recorded twice, with slight variations). They begin in January, with an infused knowledge of the Saint’s own nothingness, under the image of the earth. Two months later, an illumination on the divinity of Christ through the words, Ego sum (“I am”) clarifies his faith, purifies him, and confirms him in his apostolic mission. In his Retreat Resolutions (1859.10), as if to sum up both experiences, he writes: “Very frequently I will say: ‘May I know myself, may I know Thee.’”
In April, he received the promise of divine love. He does not specify whether the source of this promise was Christ or the Blessed Virgin.
On July 9th, the civil government approved the Constitutions of his Missionaries, and both Christ and the Blessed Virgin told him that he must teach his Missionaries mortification.
There is one particular mysterious locution, which is not altogether new, concerning the Angel of the Apocalypse. It was first manifested to him in Cuba, in September of 1855.2448 At that time, the Saint left this communication in its mysterious form, understanding it as a call to a more universal apostolate. This was followed a few months later by the attempt on his life at Holguín, the sketch of his Notes of a Plan to Restore the Beauty of the Church, his plans for founding the “Academy of St. Michael” (an organization that would specialize in the apostolate of spreading the Word) and finally, his return to Spain.
Now, as his ties to the Archdiocese of Cuba were being severed and his designation as Titular Archbishop of Trajanópolis drew near, this apocalyptic vision emerged again, this time as a new and more explicit call. First, on September 23rd, the Saint had a supernatural awareness of approaching chastisements: Protestantism (or de-catholicization) and its consequences, among which he singles out communism, a great onslaught of the threefold concupiscence, and the great wars.
On the very next day, he saw the role that he was to play in warding off these evils. Filled with the spirit of Christ and Mary, he would spread the gospel throughout the world, and his Missionaries would be the echo of his own thundering voice. This sublime vision awakened his enthusiasm, but he was quite sober in his interpretation of it. Not so, however, his confessor, who at the time was Fr. Palladio Currius. Influenced by reading “The Coming of the Messiah in Gory and Truth” (a rather wild-eyed interpretation of the Scriptures by Fr. Lacunza, S.J.) and the private notes of Mother Antonia París, Currius interpreted this vision to the effect that Claret was called to carry out a quite public reform of the Church, and strove to convince the Saint of the validity of this interpretation, assuring him that it was the will of God. Claret, who on the one hand was wary of being deluded in this matter and, on the other, wanted to obey God’s will in all things, thought the whole matter over during his yearly retreat. Taking advantage of Currius’ journey to Rome to seek the approval of the Constitutions of the Claretian Missionaries, the Claretian Sisters and the Carmelites of Charity, he determined that he should consult the Pope on this matter. Pius IX frowned on Currius’ exaggerated interpretation, so Claret held to the interpretation he had given this vision in the first place. The following year, when he began writing his Autobiography, he again set the vision down in writing, so that his Missionaries might become aware of it and draw from it some practical consequences for their sanctification – zeal, chastity, and love for God and their apostolate – thereby making their evangelizing voice thunder throughout the world.2449He also notes, as a grace from heaven, the persecutions he bore this year, as well as a new attempt on his life which failed, however, because the would-be assassin was converted.
6th day of January. I realized that I am like the earth. And, in fact, I am earth; the earth undergoes tilling and thus bears; so should I. Moreover, the earth needs water, and I need grace. The earth is trod upon and is silent, thus I should be trod upon and be silent.2450
* * *
6th day of January, 1859. I realized that I am like earth and, in fact, I am earthen; the earth is tilled and bears; ita [=so should] I; [the earth] needs water, ita I need grace; the earth is trod upon, ita I be and remain silent.
* * *
March 21, 1859. What I felt in prayer concerning the Samaritan Woman.
On those words: Ego sum qui loquor tecum.2451
Ego sum, he told the Jews in the garden. What then...?2452
Ego sum, he told the disciples on the sea. What...?2453
Ego sum, he told Moses.2454What?...; and Saul.2455
Ego sum, he told the Samaritan Woman and gave her faith, whereupon she believed; sorrow for sins, grace and zeal to preach Jesus and make him known.2456
Jesus communicates himself to the humble and hides him-self from the proud.2457 He manifests himself to sinners, more, sometimes, than to the just.
* * *
21st day of March. During the meditation on the Samaritan Woman, at those words: Ego sum qui loquor tecum. He gave her faith, whereby she believed; he gave her sorrow for her sins; he gave her the grace to preach Jesus...; and so, to me.
Ego sum, he said to Saul, and what happened?2458
Ego sum, he said to the Apostles on the sea, and they took heart.2459
Ego sum, he said to Judas and the Jews in the garden, whereat they fell to the ground.2460
Ego sum, he said to Moses, and he sent him into Egypt.2461
I understood great things in these words, Ego sum.
* * *
From April 25th to May 20th, I have undergone very great sufferings, slanders and persecutions.2462
* * *
27th day of April, 1859. He [she?] promised me the love of God. He [she?] called me my little Anthony.
* * *
While I was in Segovia on Sept. 4, 1859, at 4:25 in the morning, Jesus Christ told me: You must teach your Missionaries mortification, Anthony.2463
Here I remembered some Missionaries in Segovia, who were found eating and thus bore no fruit.2464
My voyage to Lanzarote.2465
No heed is paid to Saints who eat.2466
A missionary who used to stare at women, as St. Liguori says.2467
* * *
4th day of September, at 4:25 in the morning, in Segovia. Jesus Christ told me: You must teach your Missionaries mortification, Anthony.
And a few minutes later the Blessed Virgin told me: In this way you will bear fruit, Anthony.2468
* * *
In Segovia they told me that some missionaries whom the former bishop had sent out had borne no fruit because they had been found eating along the road.
I understood the story of Gideon, who had 32,000 men. 22,000 of them left, and of the remaining 10,000, only 300 were left after they came to the river. The Midianites were 135,000 strong. 120,000 of them died, while the rest fled (Jgs 7).2469
* * *
Sept. 23, 1859, at 7:45 in the morning.2470
“You will fly throughout the earth or walk with great speed and you will preach the great chastisements that are approaching for those whose hearts are tied down to the things of the earth.”2471
On that passage: “And I beheld and hear the voice of an eagle flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, by reason of the three chastisements that are yet to come!” (Apoc 8:13).
Qui spirant in Domino mutabunt fortitudinem, assument pennas sicut aquilae (Is 40:31).2472
1. Protestantism and its consequences.2473
2. The four archdemons. IV.
3. Wars, their consequences and the dragon (XII-12).
I. The first archdemon will foster the love of sensual pleasures.
II. The second archdemon will foster love of gain. The golden calf.
III. The third archdemon will foster independence of reason.
IV. The fourth archdemon will foster independence of will.2474
“And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud, and a rainbow was on his head, and his face was as the sun, and his feet were as pillars of fire” (Apoc 10:1).2475
“And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot upon the earth.2476First in Cuba, and afterwards... “And he cried out with a loud voice as when a lion roars. And when he had cried out, seven thunders echoed their voices.”2477That is, other preachers (the number seven is indeterminate; Saints James and John are called sons of thunder)2478 who will follow me.
Jeremiah was a type of St. John.
I must follow and imitate Jeremiah and St. John in chastity, in zeal, and in devotion to Mary Most Holy.2479
* * *
Thus the Lord gave me to understand on September 24, 1859, at 11:30 [a.m.] on the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy.
Sermo quem audistis non est meus.2480
Ecce dedi verba mea in ore tuo.2481
Non vos estis qui loquimini, sed Spiritus Patris vestri qui loquitur in vobis.2482
Spirtus Domini super me: propter quod unxit me, evangelizare pauperibus misit me, sanare contritos corde.2483
* * *
On October 15, 1859, the Feast of St. Teresa, I was to have been assassinated, but the assassin was converted. That morning he had passed in front of St. Joseph’s Church and entered to scoff. He saw a young priest celebrating Mass with great devotion, and went to speak with him to lead him astray. The assassin himself told me this when he came to speak with me, and he explained it all to me: where he had come from and how, and the plan that he had been going to carry out. In prayer, the Lord made me understand that He had delivered me through the intercession of St. Joseph.2484
* * *
On the 24th, during the meditation on the conversion of St. Peter, I understood... The cock crew..., and nothing happened. Jesus glanced at him, the cock crew again, and then Peter... .2485 God, who qui respicit terram et facit eam tremere.2486You should preach a first and a second time, and at the same time pray, so that the Lord may deign to look with eyes of pity and clemency on earthly men, and make them tremble and shudder and be converted.2487
MSS Claret II, 186, 169, 168, 171.
This year Claret was fully engaged in the organization of a very promising apostolic work: the Royal Monastery and Church of El Escorial. With due respect for the will of Philip II, who founded the huge, grid-shaped monument to St. Lawrence, Claret wanted not only to restore the splendor of the liturgy in the burial place of the Kings of Spain, but also to make of it a bulwark of Spanish Catholicism. It was his aim that El Escorial should become a center from which missionaries could be sent out to all of Spain. It would also have a central seminary in which the best seminarians from all dioceses could have the best formation. There would also be a colegio (grammar/high-school) made up of select young lay students. The seminarians and high-school students would thus assure a new generation of priestly apostles and lay leaders.
At the same time, Claret set about restoring and readying the building, which was in a sad state of disrepair. He also wrote, at the request of the Blessed Virgin, a book on priestly formation for the seminarians. The Lord himself approved this book.
This vast organization, which he could hardly see to singlehandedly, let alone regularly reside at, was to cause him much heartache. In fact, he received a warning to prepare for martyrdom. But when the demands of his task were at their heaviest, the Lord comforted him.
On January 2, 1860, at 5:15 in the morning, the Blessed Virgin told me to put in order the Counsels she had inspired me to write in Cuba and had suggested for the students there, and which she now wanted to be used for all the students here.2488
Her Most Holy Son also told me to do so, since this would be very advantageous...
* * *
April 25, 1860. It seems to me that the time for martyrdom is approaching. I have spoken several times to Her Majesty. Today, Jesus told me: Anthony, prepare yourself. The Blessed Virgin also told me: Yes, Anthony, prepare yourself.2489
* * *
On [June] 7th, the Feast of Corpus Christi, after Mass at St. Mary’s but before the procession, as I was kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament the Lord told me: “It is good, I like the book you have written” (this book is volume one of The Well-Instructed Collegian or Seminarian, which I had finished the day before).2490
On November 22, 1860, I was rather weighed down at the thought of having to shoulder the whole burden of El Escorial. This suffering would not allow me to sleep at night. I got up and set myself to prayer, and as I was showing God all my sufferings, I heard the Lord speaking to me in a very clear and intelligible spiritual voice from the image of the crucifix that is in the oratory of the priory: Have courage; don’t be disheartened; I will help you.2491
MSS Claret II, 169, 187, 171, 189, 169.
This was a most important year in the spiritual life of Saint Anthony Mary Claret. During it, the Lord granted him the “great grace” of keeping the Eucharistic species within him from Communion to Communion. The scope of this favor was noted in the general introduction to Lights and Graces. Although it was undoubtedly a great and extraordinary grace, it somehow seems like an autumn fruit that had budded and flowered ever since the Saint’s childhood. From the way he expresses himself, we would say that he saw it as the culmination of his life. Like all the other graces Claret received, this, too, was aimed at fulfilling his missionary apostolate, which had now become more effective and universal.
The counsel not to lose meekness was meant to prepare him for a painful apostolate. In his leaflet on the Passion, he expressed a longing to experience the presence of Christ, his Master and Redeemer, and from now on, his apostolate would be increasingly touched by the Passion. For this reason, ‘meekness’ came to mean for him ‘patience’ with a social or apostolic thrust.
On March 2, 1861, at a quarter to five, Jesus Christ approved the paper on the Passion that I had just written.2492
* * *
April 6, 1861. I was advised not to rush. That I should do each thing as if I had nothing else to do. Without losing meekness.2493
On the 7th, at 8:15, while I was before the image of St. Anthony, he told me: I preached in Italy, and you must go there to preach.2494
* * *
On Corpus Christi, 1861, in St. Mary’s Parish, Madrid, Jesus Christ deigned to approve the little work, the [Well-Instructed] Collegian or Seminarian.2495
* * *
My Anthony, Jesus told me at a quarter to five in the afternoon of June 15th, have patience; you will be working soon.2496
* * *
(Separate page: Original: CESC-Vic: AC-A!)
On the 26th of August, 1861, while I was at prayer in the Church of the Rosary at La Granja at 7:00 in the evening, the Lord granted me the great grace of conserving the sacramental species and of having the Blessed Sacrament present always in my breast, day and night. Therefore, I must always be recollected and inwardly devout, and moreover I must pray and confront all the evils of Spain, as the Lord has told me.
To this effect, He brought a number of things to my memory, such as how, without merit, talent or human efforts, He has lifted me up from the lower ranks of society to its loftiest point.2497 Alongside the Kings of Earth; and now, alongside the King of Heaven. Glorificate et portate Deum in corpora vestro (1 Cor 6:20).2498
* * *
On the 27th, in the same Church, during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, which I gave after Mass, He made me understand the three evils that are threatening Spain: Communism, the Republic and Protestantism. To attack these three evils, three devotions must be promoted and practiced: the Trisagion, the Blessed Sacrament and the Rosary.
In the morning, the Trisagion.
During the day, frequently visiting and receiving the Blessed Sacrament.
At night, the Rosary and, if possible, the three parts.2499