Saint Anthony Mary Claret
JOSÉ MARIA VIÑAS, CMF
ALFRED ESPOSITO, CMF
The General Prefecture for Religious Life has for some time wanted to bring out a pocket edition of
the Autobiography of St. Anthony Mary Claret to enable all Claretians to enjoy the benefit of personal
contact with the most authentic source of our charism and spirit.
Without discounting the value of consulting other editions, it was felt there was a real need to make
this basic text fully available to all Claretians. The need seemed all the more pressing in view of the
assessment of the General Chapter of 1973: "Although, on the one hand, the essential elements and
rationale of our charism are sufficiently explicit and well defined in the declarations 'On the Charism of
our Founder' and 'On the Spiritual Heritage of the Congregation' (1967), on the other hand, they do not
seem to have been sufficiently assimilated personally or communitarily, or fully integrated into our life"
(cf. RL, 7, a and b).
Our Claretian family's inner need to become vitally aware of its own charism is a matter that
concerns the whole Church. Pope Paul's motu proprio "Ecclesiae Sanctae" prescribes that "for the
betterment of the Church itself, religious institutes should strive to achieve an authentic understanding of
their original spirit, so that adhering to it faithfully in their decisions for adaptation, religious life may be
purified of elements that are foreign to it and freed from whatever is outdated" (II, 16, 3). This norm
reflects the teaching of Vatican II: "It is to the Church's advantage that religious institutes have their own
distinctive character and function. Hence they should know and faithfully maintain the spirit and goal of
heir founders, as well as their own sound traditions--all of which go to make up the heritage of each
institute" (PC, 2, b).
Paul VI recalls these norms and commends them to every religious family: "The Council rightly
insists on the obligation of men and women religious to be faithful to their founders' spirit, evangelic
goals, and exemplary holiness, making this one of the principles for the renewal now in progress and one
of the surest criteria for any course of action an institute should undertake" (ET, 11).
In particular, during the Audience that followed the General Chapter of 1973, Pope Paul offered the
Claretian family the following recommendations: "Appreciate this spiritual heritage of yours; spare no
effort in tending these roots if you wish to be a tree that is always young and flourishing--a tree that is
able to adapt to the environment and to the changing needs of the times, so that it may continue to
provide ripe fruit for the Church, as it has done in the past and still does through its outstanding sons"
(cf. Chapter Documents, 1973, pp. 6 f.). And then he added familiarly, in Italian, "Fidelity to your
traditions! Be Claretians!" (p. 7). These words of the Holy Father touched upon an area that had deeply
preoccupied the recently concluded General Chapter. In its "Open Letter" the Chapter remarks that,
among other things, it has witnessed the Congregation undergoing "a crisis of Claretian identity and of
the sense of belonging to the Congregation, at a time when secularism is obscuring the meaningful
outlines of the Word" (OL, 11).
From yet another point of view, the Claretian Community has a constant vital need, through prayer
and study, to further develop "the Congregation's original prophetic charism in the Church"
(Constitutions, 1974, par. 18). Without this vital growth, the Congregation can neither respond to its
vocation today, nor "engage in the ceaseless and dynamic search for new ways to accommodate its
pastoral structures to the current needs of time and place" (ibid.).
In compliance with the guidelines of the General Chapter of 1973, and acknowledging gratefully the
indispensable help of the Claretian Secretariat, the General Prefecture for Religious Life offers this work
as a service to all Claretians on the one hundred twenty-fifth anniversary of St. Anthony Mary Claret's
great foundation and on the eve of the twenty fifth year of his canonization. We hope that in this Holy
Year it will be a call to genuine conversion and renewal for the entire Claretian family.
Rome, Feast of St. Anthony Mary Claret
October 24, 1974
Alfredo M. Esposito, C.M.F.
General Prefect for Religious Life
I N T R O D U C T I O N
St. Anthony Claret wrote his Autobiography at the command of Father Joseph Xifré, his spiritual
director and then Superior General of the Congregation of Missionaries. He began it in 1861 (probably
in October or November) and finished it toward the end of May, 1862. Later he wrote a Continuation
that was completed in 1865, sometime before October 25, the date of his departure for Rome.
The Autobiography is a product of the Saint's mature years. He was 63 years old when
he died, 54 when he began the work, and 58 when he finished it. He had already been back in
Madrid for five years when he completed the first volume, which included the three
fundamental stages in his apostolate: apostolic missionary, Archbishop of Cuba, and Confessor
to the Queen. The Continuation of 1865 rounds out the picture with an insight into certain
aspects of his spirituality and apostolate. It was a period of fullness in his spiritual life; during
this time he had already received his major mystical graces. All of these circumstances put him
in a position to present an authentic interpretation of the major events in his life.
It may be remarked in passing that the tremendous activity of these years forced him to write
very rapidly. Certain repetitions and mistakes can only be explained by his great haste. Without taking
time to reread what he had written, he passed it on to his confessor and confidant, Father Carmelo Sala,
for correction. He asked his Missionaries at Vich to do the same for him when he entrusted the
manuscript to them. It should be noted, however, that what the work loses in precision because of this
haste, it gains in spontaneity and freshness. Its anecdotes and spiritual asides are never marred by that
unintentional sort of insincerity that tends to creep into overly conscious writing. It is this spontaneous
quality that puts one of the main features of the Autobiography in high relief--a faithfully accurate
revelation of an apostolic soul--and this, precisely, is what makes the Autobiography a masterpiece.
The Manuscript of the Autobiography
The two volumes of the manuscript were completed and given to the Community of
Missionaries at Vich in 1862 and 1865 respectively. There they remained, carefully rebound, in the local
archives until the revolution of September, 1868, when the Missionaries were expelled and took the
papers with them to France. When they returned to Spain, they brought back the manuscript of the
Autobiography with them. Here it became part of the Claretian Archives that were set up in Vich after
the death of the Founder in preparation for the introduction of his cause for beatification.
The archives were severely damaged during the Spanish civil war of 1936. Only a fraction of the
original collection survived the fire. Providentially, the Autobiography was saved through the zeal of the
curator, Father Pedro Bertrans, and the astuteness of Mrs. Dolores Lletjos, who hid it carefully in her
When the community was reorganized after the war, the Autobiography, together with a number
of other documents that had been saved, was returned to the Claretian Archives at Vich. There it
remained until 1954 when, by order of Father Peter Schweiger, Superior General of the Missionary Sons
of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it was transferred to Rome. It is presently kept in the General Archives
of the Congregation, along with the greater part of the most important Claretian documents. To assure its
preservation, the manuscript has been chemically treated and rebound in a single volume, the first in the
series of sixteen manuscript volumes by the Saint.
The Present Edition
As was mentioned above, the purpose of this edition is to facilitate frequent personal
contact with the most authentic source of information on the Claretian charism and spirit. A
pocket edition best serves this purpose. It is less cumbersome than B.A.C.'s 1959 edition, but
ampler, because of its notes and indices, than Coculsa's 1949 edition. In addition to the text of
the Autobiography, the present edition contains an appendix of supplementary autobiographical
documents. Moreover, to provide a notion of the Saint's life between 1865 and his death in
1870, a selection from his Correspondence and the Resolutions that he made during the last
years of his life has been included. An account of the Saint's death has been drawn from a text
by an eyewitness, Father Jaime Clotet, who was very close in spirit to the Founder.
How to Read the Autobiography
1. Try to cut through the surface of the work.
The Autobiography was written over a century ago, and feelings and attitudes have changed
profoundly as the world has passed out of the romantic era into an age of existentialism and technology.
Moreover, it has already been noted that the Saint himself regarded the manuscript as no more
than a rough draft that needed to be corrected and retouched before it could be published. A large
number of repetitions and mistakes can be attributed to his haste in writing. Add to this the difficulty he
experienced in Castilian, since for many years he had spoken, preached, and written in Catalan.
Nevertheless this rapid, careless style, free of all artifice, affords a very high degree of authentic personal
contact with the author.
2. Try to grasp the author's point of view.
When St. Anthony wrote his Autobiography, he was writing precisely in his role as founder for
the Missionaries of his Congregation. The work was written, then, with an expressly formative end in
view. He uses the witness of his own life to initiate his readers into a glimpse of the Holy Spirit's action
in the process of forming a missionary, from the beginning of his call to its fulfillment. Because of his
charism as a founder, this action of the Holy Spirit manifested itself with the special intensity required of
one who was to become the leader and model for all those men who were to identify themselves with
him and his work.
In writing of his vocation, he shows us how nature and grace predisposed him to follow
the path that led him from the explicit opening call of "siempre, siempre," when he was a boy
five years old, to the day of his ordination to the deaconate.
He also gives us a description of his process of formation for the priesthood in general and for
the ministry of the Word in particular. This he does in the account of his voyage to Rome and his stay
there, as well as in the report of his initial experiences as a missionary up to the year 1840 when he left
the stability of the parish to begin his ceaseless missionary journeys.
At the outset of his career as an itinerant missionary in Catalonia and the Canary Islands, the
Holy See granted St. Anthony Mary Claret the title of "Apostolic Missionary." The Saint came to look
on this title as his own essential definition, which was enriched, as time passed, with the characteristic
elements of his own charism. As a missionary his life was dedicated to evangelization and the prophetic
ministry of the Word; hence, he did his utmost to avoid other functions of the ministerial priesthood such
as administering the sacraments from a fixed base and on an established timetable. In itself, the
designation "apostolic" simply referred to the Holy See, which had bestowed it on him, but Claret
applied it to himself in the deeper sense of a distinct way of life: an apostolic life in the manner of the
Apostles--a life of the strictest evangelical poverty shared in brotherhood with those God-given
companions who were moved by the same Spirit.
These two essential traits, "apostolic" and "missionary," are a description of his very life, lived
according to the special nuances of his own charism. This meant for him living the mystery of Christ, the
Son who was sent as Master and Redeemer, the head and model of all missionaries. His only
preoccupation was to follow and imitate Jesus Christ in prayer, work, and suffering and to seek always
and only the glory of God and the salvation of men. It meant, furthermore, living the mystery of Mary,
the Woman through whom the Son became man when He was sent to us (Gal. 4:4): Mary, the Mother of
Christ, the Missionary, and mother of all missionaries in Christ; Mary, who became a mother through
love, through her heart. Claret felt that it was in the furnace of this love that he was shaped into a being
of charity that lights and kindles wherever it goes.
In addition to these essential charismatic elements in the Autobiography, Claret enumerates the
various virtues he practiced and the methods he employed in order to live apostolically and fulfill his
mission. He lists the motives for his zeal and the stimulus he received from considering the lives of
Christ, the Apostles, the prophets, and all those men and women saints in whom he saw traits of his own
St. Anthony Mary Claret also describes the way in which his mission was fulfilled throughout
the course of his life--first in Catalonia and the Canary Islands, then in Cuba, and later in Madrid. When
he was forced to accept first the episcopate, and then the appointment as Confessor to the Queen, he
lived up to his missionary vocation in the midst of these situations by taking advantage of every
opportunity for evangelization and by following a way of life characterized by a spirit of poverty and
fraternity. While he was in Cuba, he did his best to disentangle himself from all bureaucratic red tape so
as to be free for the ministry of preaching. In Madrid he turned trips with the royal family into missions.
He thought of the Escorial not just as a seminary and college but as a strategically placed mission house
for spiritual exercises on an international level.
The Autobiography ends in 1865, and the rest of the Saint's life can be reconstructed from his
Correspondence and Resolutions. As an exile in Paris and as a Council Father at Vatican I in Rome, he
continued his life as an apostolic missionary in his poverty, in his exercise of the apostolate, and in his
desire to return to Latin America, "the tender vine." Since he was unable to return to Latin America, he
used to console himself with visits to the Colegio Pio Latino.
The many "silences" in the Autobiography can be explained by the author's aim of writing it
mainly for the formation of his Missionaries. Thus he passes over a number of historically important
events and lavishes a great deal of attention on apparently minor events that were meaningful to him in
the context of his mission and spirit. For this reason the Autobiography needs to be supplemented by
readings from other sources concerning other events in his life if one wishes to see him in his proper
historical perspective. His humility, of course, was responsible for a number of those silences. His
confessor, Father Carmelo Sala, remarks, "Whoever knew the Servant of God as I knew him can easily
see, upon reading these notes of his, that he leaves unsaid far more than he reports. The reason for this is
doubtless that in writing as he did he could fulfill the precept imposed on him by obedience and yet not
jeopardize his deep humility" (C.M.F. Historical Archives, vol. 1, p. 364).
Another silence in the Autobiography relates to the absence of any structured plan for living his
vocation and mission. For this one must turn to the Constitutions of 1857 through 1870. And for a grasp
of his personal development, the Correspondence is indispensable. The Autobiography contains only the
purest essence of his charism: his life and message, all that attracted his first disciples to him and
continues to attract all whom the Lord has made partakers in the same grace.
A charismatic reading of the Autobiography in our day and age must of necessity be a sort of
rereading, owing to the great historical and cultural differences between our milieu and that of the Saint.
This is the conclusion drawn by the Claretian General Chapter of 1967 in its declaration "On our
Spiritual Heritage": "There are elements in the personality of our Father Founder that belong to his
charism and to his spirit as a founder: to these we must always look as a source of inspiration. But
alongside these traits we find others that belong to his own personal psychology or to his environment
that cannot be transmitted to the Congregation" (par. 11).
3. Try to appreciate the spirit that moved the author.
The Autobiography was written in a climate of prayer, the kind of prayer that discovers the
manifestation of God's love in the happenings of life. St. Anthony Mary Claret examined facts in the
light of the Word of God, and especially in the light of these texts in which the Holy Spirit showed him
the demands of his vocation. If the Autobiography is going to enlighten and move the reader, it has to be
read in the same climate of prayer, which sees things happening in accordance with God's Providence.
When read in this fashion certain passages in which the Saint talks about zeal have a certain holy
contagion all their own.
4. Try to read in personal communion with the author.
A canonized founder is a model whose authenticity has been attested to by the Church and by
his fidelity to his charism and mission. But above all, he is a living model with whom we share the same
vocational gift. What the Council says of our relationship with the saints as our brothers, friends, and
benefactors (Lumen Gentium 49, 50) applies with all the greater force to our relationship with our own
founder, with whom we are united in the same real family and whom God chose and filled with his Spirit
precisely to be our father in Christ.
T R A N S L A T O R'S N O T E
Since the previous English translation of St. Anthony Claret's Autobiography had been long out of
print, I gladly accepted the invitation of my Provincial to undertake a new and somewhat plainer
translation. I have no doubt that the result is far from perfect, but I felt that, in a time of renewal and
return to origins, so valuable a document should be made immediately available to English-speaking
Claretians. Moreover, the edition I used incorporates footnotes and supplementary readings, as well as
an introduction, an index, and a system of enumeration, which make it far more usable than the text on
which the earlier translation was based.
I should like to express my gratitude to all those who encouraged me in this work. But above all I am
thankful for the privilege of having been able to live so closely in thought with a saint who deserves to
be better known than he is. I am sure that he would overlook my having said so hastily what needed to
be said so urgently.
Joseph Daries, C.M.F.
Christmas Day, 1975
PRAYER BEFORE READING THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY
renew in our Congregation
the spirit that moved
St. Anthony Mary Claret,
so that filled and strengthened by it
we may come to love what he loved
and put into practice
what he taught us.
We ask this
through Jesus Christ,
BIOGRAPHY O F ARCHBISHOP ANTHONY MARY CLARET
J M J
1. Although Father Joseph Xifre, Superior of the Missionary Sons of the Heart of Mary, 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.1
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 Mary and for the embarrassment of this poor sinner.2
I Shall 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
The second part will contain events pertaining to the missions (184-50).
The third part will deal with the most notable events that occurred after my consecration as
archbishop (1850- 62).
1 Father Joseph Xifre (1817-99) was a cofounder of the Congregation of Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and its
third Superior General (1858-99). He was also the Saint's spiritual director, and in virtue of both positions of authority he first
requested and later (1861) commanded him to write the Autobiography.
2 Some of the Saint's expressions might seem to contradict this note of humility. During the informative process for beatification, his
confessor, Fr. Carmelo Sala, remarked, "Whoever knew the Servant of God as I knew him could easily see, upon reading these notes
of his (the Autobiography), that he leaves unsaid far more than he reports. The reason for this is doubtless that in writing as he did he
could fulfill the precept imposed on him by obedience and yet not jeopardize his deep humility" (Informative Process, Tarragona,
session 8, a, 134).
MY BIRTH AND BAPTISM
3. I was born3 in the village of Sallent, deanery of Manresa, diocese of Vich, province of
Barcelona.4 My parents, whose names were John Claret and Josephine Clara,5 were married, upright, and
God-fearing people, very devoted to the Blessed Sacrament and Mary Most Holy.
4. I was baptized in St. Mary's Parish, Sallent, 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.
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. My father's sister, Mary Claret, 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,
my mother, my patroness, my mistress, my directress and my all, after Jesus. Thus my name is Anthony
Mary Adjutor John Claret y Clara.6
6. I was one of eleven children, whom I shall list in order, giving the year of their birth:
1. My sister Rose, born in 1800. Formerly married, she is now a widow. She has always been hardworking,
upright, and pious. She is the one who has loved me the most.7
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.8
4. My brother Bartholomew (1806) died when he was two years old.
5. Myself (1807 or 1808).
6. One sister (1809) died shortly after birth.
7. My brother Joseph (1810) married and had two daughters who became Sisters of Charity or
8. My brother Peter (1813) died when he was four years old.
9. My sister Mary (1815) became a Tertiary Sister.10
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
3 The interpretation of a phrase in the Saint's birth record has given rise to a controversy as to whether he was born on December 23
or 24, 1807. The commoner and more probable opinion holds for December 23. (Cf. Autob., par. 3, note 1, B.A.C. edition, hereafter
referred to as Writings.)
4 Sallent is located about 51 kilometers from Barcelona. During the Saint's childhood it had a population of about 2,000. There
were many family-operated textile works in the vicinity. Water power from the river Llobregat, which flows through the town,
coupled with the drive of the hard-working inhabitants has made Sallent an expanding industrial center. Claret's episcopal coat
of arms includes a souvenir of his birthplace: "The bridge, the river and the waterfall indicate my birthplace, Sallent. My father
is from one side of the river, my mother from the other, and that is the symbolism of the sun, Claret, and the moon, Clara"
(Correspondence, Letter 145).
5 John Claret Xambo (December 22, 1774-April 11, 1854) was, like his ancestors, a weaver. Josephine Clara Rodoreda (September
10, 1771-October 25, 1842) came from a working-class family.
6 He added the name Mary to Anthony at the time of his episcopal consecration (October 6, 1850) and included her device on his
shield: "The name 'Mary' indicates my spiritual origin, for she is my mother and the patroness of the Church I was baptized in. Mary
saved me from the waves of the sea when I was a little boy, etc." (Correspondence, Letter 145).
7 Rose (1800-74) married Joseph Muntanola and had four children by him. She used to accompany Anthony to the shrine of
Fussimanya. (Cf. par. 49.)
8 John. Cf. par. 80.
9 Joseph (1810-70), who married Manuela Sola, had a factory in Olost where his brother was an occasional guest. (Cf. par. 121)
Joseph's two daughters, Dolores and Mary, became Carmelites of Charity.
10 Mary (1815-94) accompanied Anthony when he was made Administrator of the parish of Sallent. When he embarked on his fully
apostolic career, she entered the Carmelites of Charity, where she became Mistress of Novices. She was a witness in Vich at the
Informative Process for her brother's beatification and revealed many details of the psychology and virtues of Claret as a seminarian
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.11 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 !
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. The
power of this 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.12
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, too, 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 saw 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
11 "Humanly speaking, it is interesting to note how long the child lived among strangers, for this must have had an influence on his
character. That impressive humility of his, that marked sense of obedience and respect may well be the consequence of this period of
displacement and lack of understanding, and of the many hours when he must have felt smaller than anyone else" (J. L. Acevedo de
Blixen: Alto camino [Montevideo, 1955], p. 10).
12 St. Anthony Mary Claret underlined a passage in his personal copy of the Life of St. Teresa of Avila where she, at the same age,
used to repeat "por siempre, por siempre." Nevertheless the effect on her was personal, whereas the effect on Anthony was
apostolic-for others. His first biographer was quite right in saying that Claret "was an apostle before he was a man" (F. Aguilar, Life,
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.13
14. I wonder too how the laity, men and women who have the faith, can help crying 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?
15. This idea of a lost eternity that began to move me so vividly at the tender age of five14 and that
has stayed with me ever since 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 an offense against God, my Father15. 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? Wouldn't it 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 to 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 goodness16.
19. I remember that during the war of independence, which lasted from 1808 to 1814, the people
of Sallent were so frightened of the French--and with good reason, since the French had burned the city
of Manresa and the town of Calders, near Sallent17--that everyone fled when they heard the news that the
French army was on its way. During the first evacuation I recollect being carried on someone's
shoulders; but during the last evacuation, when I was four or five, I went on foot and gave grandfather
Clara, my mother's father, a helping hand18. It was at night, and his eyesight was failing, and I guided
him through the obstacles with such patience and kindness that the poor old man was very glad to see
that I hadn't run off to join my brothers and cousins who had abandoned the two of us. I always showed
him a great deal of affection until he died, and not only him but also all those who were elderly and
20. I couldn't stand for anyone to make fun of them, as young boys are often wont to do, despite
13 The reason is, of course, their lack of faith. To live a life like Claret's, consumed by zeal, requires a special movement of the Holy
14 "I used to think frequently on eternity and it made an even greater impression on me then than it does now" (Claret, Resume,
Collected Writings, vol. 7, p. 446).
15 In the mature years of his apostolic life, Claret reveals the motives for his zeal according to a more objective scheme, in which the
glory of God and love for the Father take precedence over the desire for his neighbor's happiness. (Cf. pars. 203 ff.)
16 "God gave Anthony Mary Claret the nature that best suited his apostolic mission: practical intelligence dominating the speculative;
extraordinary willpower; optimism and faith in his own initiatives; ease in adapting to circumstances; balance and dynamism" (J.
Puigdesens, The Spirit . . ., pp. 405,145).
17 Manresa was three hours from Sallent by railroad; Calders, six. Manresa was taken and burnt by the French in 1810 and 1811. In
1812 they returned, and the Saint, who was a little more than four years old at the time, refers to this attack
18 John Clara Reguant (1738-1814) was, at this time, seventy-four years old.
the exemplary punishment meted out to the boys who made fun of Elisha19.
Moreover I remember that when I was seated in church and an old man would come in, I would
stand up gladly and give him a seat. I would always greet old people on the street, and if I had the
pleasure of talking with one of them, I enjoyed it immensely. God grant that I have known how to use
the advice of these elderly gentlemen to advantage20.
21. My God, how good you are! How rich in mercy you have been to me! If you had given others
the graces you have given me, they would have cooperated with them so much more. Mercy, Lord: I'll
begin to be good from now on, with the help of your grace.
22. I was barely six when my parents sent me to school. My first schoolmaster was a very active
and religious man, Mr. Anthony Pascual21. He never punished or upbraided me, but I was careful not to
give him any cause for doing so. I was always punctual, always attended classes, and always prepared
my lessons carefully.
23. I learned the catechism so well that whenever I was asked to I could recite it from beginning to
end without a mistake. Three of the other boys learned it as well as I had, and the teacher presented us to
the pastor, Dr. Joseph Amigo. This good man had the four of us recite the whole catechism on two
consecutive Sunday nights. We did it without a single mistake before all the people in the church. As a
reward he gave each of us a holy card, which we have treasured ever since.
24. When I had mastered the catechism, I was given Pinton's Compendium of Sacred History22 to
read, and between my reading and the teacher's explanations, the work was so deeply fixed in my
memory that I could repeat it and discuss it with ease and without getting confused or flustered.
25. Besides having a very good elementary teacher, which, as I have said, is no small gift from
heaven, I also had good parents who cooperated with my teacher in molding my understanding in truth
and nurturing my heart in the practice of religion and all the virtues. Every day after lunch, which we ate
at a quarter past twelve, my father had me read a spiritual book, and at night we would sit for a while
around the table, where he would always tell us something edifying and instructive until it was time for
us to retire.
26. Whatever my parents or teacher told me or explained to me, I would grasp it perfectly,
notwithstanding the fact that I was a very small boy. I didn't really comprehend the wording of the
catechism although, as I have said, I could parrot it extremely well. Nevertheless, I can see now the
advantage of knowing it by heart, because in time, without quite knowing how or adverting to it, those
great truths that I had rattled off without understanding them would come back to me so forcibly that I
would say, "Ah! That's what that meant! How stupid you were not to understand that!" Rosebuds open in
time, but if there were no buds there would be no blossoms. The same holds for religious truths: if there
are no catechism lessons, then there is complete ignorance of religious matters, even among those who
otherwise pass for intelligent persons. How useful my catechism lessons and the advice of my parents
have been to me!
27. Later on, when I was living alone in the city of Barcelona and witnessed so much evil, I would
imagine those good people speaking to me: That is evil, you should avoid it. You had better rely on God,
your parents, and teacher than on these unhappy people who don't know what they're doing or saying.
19 1 2 Sam. 2:23-24.
20 In the Constitutions of 1857, Claret counseled his younger Missionaries to go on walks with the elderly. In his Rule for Clerics
Living in Community he says, "The young lack prudence, and the old lack drive; put them both together and each will have the
advantages of the other."
21 Pascual received his bachelor's degree from the University of Cervera and was Anthony's teacher throughout his elementary
schooling. (Cf. par. 45.)
22 Toward the end of his life the Saint was still recommending this work to the Spanish bishops assembled in Rome for Vatican I as a
suitable text for minor seminarians. (Cf. Writings, p. 504.)
28. My parents and teacher not only instructed me in the truths I had to believe but also in the
virtues I needed to practice. With regard to my neighbor, they told me never to take or covet what
belongs to others and that, if I ever found something, I should return it to its owner. It just so happened
that one day after school, as I was walking along the street toward home, I saw a quarter23 lying on the
ground. I picked it up and wondered to whom I should return it. Since I couldn't see anyone on the street,
I decided that it must have fallen from the window of the nearest house. So I went up to the house, asked
for the head of the house, and gave him the quarter.
29. I was trained so well in obedience and resignation that I was always content with whatever
was done, decided, or given to me by way of food or clothing. I never remember saying "I don't like
this" or "I want that." I was so used to thinking like this that even later, when I was a priest, my mother,
who was always very fond of me, used to say, "Anthony, would you like this?" I would always answer,
"I always like what you like." "But," she would say, "there are always some things we like better than
others." And then I'd say, "Whatever you give me is what I like best of all." And so she died without
finding out what material things I liked the best24.
AT WORK IN THE FACTORY
30. When I was still a small boy in elementary school, a distinguished visitor to the school asked
me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I answered that I wanted to be a priest25. Accordingly, when I
had successfully completed my elementary school, I was enrolled in the Latin class taught by a very holy
and learned priest, Dr. John Riera. From him I learned and memorized nouns, verbs, genders, and a bit
more, but as the class was discontinued I could no longer study and had to give it up26.
31. Since my father manufactured thread and cloth, he set me to work in his factory27. I obeyed
without a word, a long face, or any sign of displeasure. I set to work as hard as I could and never spent
an idle, half-hearted day. I did everything to the best of my ability so as not to displease my dear parents
in the slightest, because I loved them very much and they loved me.
32. What used to hurt me the most was to hear that my parents would have to scold a worker for
not doing his job properly. I am sure that I suffered more than the one who was being corrected because
I am so tender-hearted that when I see someone hurt I feel it more than he does.
33. My father set me to work on every job available in his well-equipped little thread and textile
factory. For a long time I and another young man were in charge of putting the finishing touches on the
work of everyone else in the shop. Whenever we had to correct anyone, it upset me a great deal; yet I did
my duty. I always tried to find something good to say about the piece of finished work. I would praise its
good points, saying that this or that about it was very good but that it had such and such a defect and if
these little defects were corrected, it would really be a perfect job.
34. I didn't know why I did things this way, but in time I came to see that it was the result of a
special grace of kindness that the Lord had granted me. This is why the workers always took correction
from me and mended their ways. My friend, however, who was a better worker than I but lacked this gift
of kindness, always got upset when he had to correct anybody. He would scold the workers harshly and
they would get angry, and often they wouldn't know what it was they were supposed to correct. I learned
from this that everyone, even the rudest people, should be treated kindly and affably and that much more
may be gained by kindness than by harshness and irritability.
23 A quarter was worth three centimos.
24 The Saint's mother died in 1842, when he was 35 years old.
25 The distinguished visitor was probably the Archbishop of Palmyra and Abbe of la Granja, Bishop Felix Amat, who had retired in
Sallent, together with his sister, the mother of His Excellency, Torres Amat. Bishop Felix conferred the sacrament of Confirmation on
Anthony on December 12,1814.
26 Anthony attended only one course, and perhaps not a complete one, because his teacher died and the Latin school closed in
1819. (Cf. Sola, History of Sallent, pp. 323-32).
27 His first job in the little family factory was tending the spinning jenny, loading the bobbins that had to be fed into the shuttles of
the looms. (Apostolic Process, Vich, session 69.)
35. My God, you have been so good to me! I have been very late in understanding the many great
graces you have given me28. I have been a useless servant and have not properly invested the talent you
have entrusted to me. But Lord, I give you my word that I will work. Be a little patient with me. Don't
take my talent away; I'll invest it wisely now. Give me your holy grace and your divine love and I give
you my word that I will work.
36. Ever since I was a small boy I have been attracted to piety and religion. I used to attend Mass
on all feasts and holy days and on other days, too, when I possibly could. On feast days I usually
attended two Masses, a Low Mass and a High Mass, always together with my father. I cannot remember
ever playing, looking around, or talking in church. On the contrary, I was always so recollected, modest,
and devout that when I compare those early years with the present I am ashamed because, to my great
embarrassment, I must admit that even now I lack the fixed attention and heartfelt fervor that I had then.
37. I attended all the functions of our holy religion with great faith. The services I liked best were
those connected with the Blessed Sacrament, and I attended these with great devotion and joy. Besides