Introduction to the Claretian Year

We are living in times in which two phenomena coexist that seem contradictory: on the one hand, a growing indifference to the religious phenomenon (especially in some regions of the world) and, on the other, a spiritual awakening that takes many different forms: discovery of spiritual intelligence, revaluation of indigenous spiritualities, searching for silence and new forms of meditation, appreciation of the commitment to solidarity, etc. The Church is influenced by both phenomena, while facing a credibility crisis which is unprecedented in recent decades. We too, sometimes tempted by weariness and inconstancy, are today still looking for what has attracted us from the very beginning of our life of faith. Like the psalmist, we confess that our soul “thirsts for God, the living God.” (Ps 42:3) On the journey with the men and women of our particular churches, we have realized that, without roots, without spirituality, our missionary life dries up and is not credible. How can we propose in this context of plurality, a path that, drinking from the well of our Claretian tradition, helps us to live a spirituality centered on following Christ, open to the new impulses of the Holy Spirit at this time?

In the last decades, the Congregation has proposed to us some itineraries of spiritual growth that are still profitable. Those that stand out, above all, are the Word-Mission Project (1993-2000), born in response to the chapter declaration Servants of the Word (1991), and The Forge in Everyday Life (2011-2014), the result of the chapter declaration Men on Fire with Love (2009). In both cases, the emphasis was placed on the importance of processes rather than on specific actions. Although it is very difficult to evaluate their effectiveness, both projects helped the Congregation to “qualify our missionary life as servants of the Word” (Word-Mission Project) and to “relive the experience of Fire and grow in missionary zeal.” (The Forge in Everyday Life Project) Now, following the guidelines of the XXV General Chapter, the Congregation invites us to take a new path “to help all Claretians, personally and in community, know and live deeply and passionately our beautiful spiritual patrimony.” (MS 74.1) The General Prefecture of Spirituality has assumed the task of designing this formative and spiritual itinerary, whose fruit we offer to the Congregation with the hope that it will be a timely and effective instrument to continue growing in fidelity to the gift of the missionary vocation.

The Claretian Year that we present now emphasizes the knowledge and experience of our beautiful spiritual patrimony. When the chapter declaration qualifies this patrimony as beautiful, it is inviting us to be surprised and attracted by it. Beauty is a privileged way of accessing the mystery of God. The Lord has given us a beautiful way of encountering Him through the historical mediation of Saint Anthony Mary Claret and the Congregation. The more we admire it, come to know it and make it our own, the better we will serve the people of God and we will find with more ease new motivations to improve our personal and community life. Our charismatic identity does not consist in a closed formula that we must preserve, but rather in a life experience that we must welcome and recreate. This experience puts us in relationship with those who, throughout our history, have embodied the charism we have received. As Father General reminded us in his presentation, quoting Pope Francis, “An institute remains youthful by going back to its roots, by listening to its older members… there is no growth without roots and no flowering without new buds.” The Congregation is a living organism in constant evolution. Its human geography has changed a lot in recent decades. We are declining in Europe and America, continents of long Claretian tradition, and we are growing strongly in Africa and Asia. It has not always been easy to come to know, assimilate and enrich this patrimony in the different contexts. The desire for the Claretian Year is to be an instrument of daily use that accompanies all the Claretians of the world, throughout every day of the year, in this adventure of getting to know our roots better, in order to revitalize our life.

The project is presented in three complementary formats: a book, a website and an application for mobile devices.

The book offers two pages (odd and even) for each day of the year that form a unit. These two pages are divided into several sections that remain fixed throughout the year.

Presented on the even pages are:

– Some significant dates of Claret’s life taken from the various itineraries that have been rebuilt in recent years. They are a dynamic way to familiarize us, day by day, with the life of the Founder and an invitation to read some of the biographies that have been published about him.

– A fragment of the history of the Congregation, articulated in 17 periods that have been considered relevant. In the pages that follow this introduction, these periods are presented concisely so that the reader has an overview.

– The biography of a person (Claretian or not) that had a significant role in the life of Claret or the Congregation.

The necessary conciseness prevents extensive developments which, in some cases, are found on the website. In this way, both instruments complement each other. The names of people that appear in bold indicate that there is a biographical profile of them on one of the days of the year, which – whenever possible – has been matched with the date of their death. The specific day can easily be found by consulting the index of names at the end of the book.

The Odd pages offer the opportunity to read and apply to one’s own life, the two main sources of our spirituality:

– From January to June, the Autobiography of the Founder; from July to December, the Constitutions and some excerpts from recent chapter declarations.

– The selected texts are accompanied by some questions or exercises that help illuminate one’s own life in a section entitled For Personal Reflection.

– The section ends with an inspiring phrase taken from our Claretian sources or other Christian and secular sources.

The website, in addition to containing all the materials of the book, offers expansions, video and audio files and retreat proposals for each month, as well as other supplements for personal and communal prayer and for the celebration of the Claretian feast days. It also facilitates sharing reflections, comments and proposals. It is linked to some social networks to facilitate the speed of communication and, above all, the participation of the Claretians.

The application for mobile devices, offers users a reduced menu that allows access to the main contents of the project when the book or website is not available. It is useful, above all, for the missionary who has to travel frequently and cannot always carry the book with him.

The elaboration of the Claretian Year has been laborious. Having to handle a lot of data and synthesize it in short and precise texts has taken longer than expected. We hope the reader will excuse any possible errors, inattention or omissions. It is obvious, for example, that in the gallery of 366 people, not all of the Claretians are there who should be, but we believe that those who appear – singularly our brother martyrs – represent the rich variety of the Congregation throughout its more than 160 years of history. The predominance of Claretians (all of them deceased) of European or American origin is due to the fact that in its first 100 years, the Congregation developed almost exclusively in Europe and America.

We appreciate the work done by the members and collaborators of the Claretian Spirituality Center (CESC) in Vic and the Forge Center in Los Negrales for their competence and dedication. The Claretians who deserve special mention are Vicente Sanz Tobes (who has prepared the biographical profiles of the people, as well as much of the history of the Congregation), Louie Guades III (who has formatted the book and designed the website) and Maximino Cerezo Barredo (who has designed each section’s logos). The first two are part of the General Curia community and collaborate in its activities.

A project of these characteristics helps to keep the flame of our spirituality burning, but it does not exempt us from a continuous effort to expand and deepen it. As can be deduced from its nature and purpose, the reader cannot expect to find in it a critical biography of the Founder, a complete history of the Congregation or a systematic treatise on Claretian spirituality. The Claretian Year has a more modest but urgent purpose: to help the Congregation of the 21st century, more intercultural than ever, to drink from the same charismatic well in order to enrich our missionary witness in the various regions of the world. The project aims to arouse curiosity, arouse interest, increase love, cultivate gratitude and encourage missionary creativity. It is a beautiful figure, that of a world-wide community on a pilgrimage, meditating on the same contents of our common tradition and enriching them with the variety of our cultures, languages and apostolic experiences. The ongoing translation into the most widely used languages in the Congregation will facilitate its dissemination and habitual use.

Ideally, the Claretians would use this instrument every day of the year, from January 1st to December 31st. Because it follows the style of a year, the Claretian Year can be repeated as many times as desired. Annual updates will be offered on the website. It is recommended that, in addition to this book, we also keep a personal notebook to write out some of the exercises proposed in the section For Personal Reflection.

The book the Claretian Year has an ideal complement in the book Claret with You, edited by the CESC in Vic, which proposes a text from Claret and a brief meditation inspired by him for each day of the year. In this way, the knowledge of our Founder is enriched. Both books also serve as motivation for the communities. Some sections, for example, can be read during community prayer. They can also serve for other moments of permanent formation or community gathering. The animation by the governments of the Organisms and the local superiors will be essential to ensure that the entire Congregation goes forth joyfully “in the path of the Lord, to proclaim with our life and mission the supremacy of God, following the spiritual life journey of our Founder.”(cf. MS 74)

We entrust the fruit of this project to our mother Mary, in whose Immaculate Heart we are forged as missionaries in the style of Saint Anthony Mary Claret. The “revolution of tenderness” that she represents will help us fight the “hardness of heart” (sclerocardia) that sometimes makes us hard and paralyzes missionary life. Our Founder, in his Resolutions of 1870, written five months before his death, said: “I have to be like a burning candle: It spends its wax and its light until it dies.” We too, moved by the Spirit of Jesus, want to strive to reach the full maturity with Christ to communicate more effectively to others the grace of the Gospel (cf. CC 51).

Rome, March 19, 2019
Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Patron of the Congregation

Gonzalo Fernández Sanz, CMF
General Prefect of Spirituality