PRAY, WORK AND SUFFER
Why did Claret choose these three verbs when recommending the practices which he considered indispensable for those who desire to reach perfection? Perhaps we may find the answer in the following anecdote from his life. In 1847, Fr Claret received a gift, a French book entitled The lover of Jesus Christ by Fr Jean Antoine Pelissier. This book, which he read in French (or in Italian, according to others), made a great impression on him. He wanted to translate it and it was published in Spanish the following year.
In the introduction of this book, Claret explains, ‘In a similar way, what happened to the prophet Ezekiel (Ez 3:1-3) happened to me: a friend came to see me, he gave me a little book, saying that it was very good… In order to acquiesce to his insistence I accepted the book and, amidst my many great occupations, I tried to read it. But, my Lord!, what did I find?! In this book, as in an evangelical field, was hidden the treasure of divine love. In this book, like a map, I see traced out the way I must follow to love Jesus Christ…’
The book is about an imaginary character who wishes to imitate Jesus Christ. In the first stage, this person begins to discover God in prayer. This deep prayer leads him subsequently, to get in touch with others in order tell them about his experience of God. In the third stage, he suffers a long and heavy series of illness and persecution which led him to identify with the Lord’s Passion, which led him to the heights of holiness.
Around this time, Claret wrote: ‘Every day I dedicate one hour to translating a beautiful little book entitled The lover of Jesus Christ (among the most beautiful I have read in my life).’ In the Spanish publication is found certain ‘Advice for those who aspire to perfection’ (perhaps written by Claret himself). And this is where the three verbs appear: ‘He who aspires to the perfection of the unitive way must practise three things, namely: pray heroically, work heroically and suffer heroically.’