“In these last days it seems that God wants the laity to play an important role in the salvation of souls ” (St. Anthony M. Claret).
The Lay Claretians Movement has its origin in the groups of lay people St. Anthony M. Claret organised for the work of evangelisation. Among these groups stand out: the Fraternity of the Heart of Mary (1847), the Fraternity of Christian Doctrine (1849), the Academy of St. Michael (1858) and the Popular and Parochial Libraries (1864). This same year he planned to create an association with the name of Archconfraternity of the Heart of Mary that he conceived as a great army of evangelisers with three branches: the Missionaries, Sons of the Heart of Mary, dedicated to itinerant evangelisation, the Diocesan Clerics who would carry out their apostolic mission through fixed and stable structures of evangelisation, and the laity.
Claret’s death (1870) and the difficult situation brought to the Spanish Church by the coming of the revolution of 1868 made it very difficult for the lay groups created by Claret to survive. In effect, in the course of a few years all of them disappeared. The groups disappeared, but many lay persons remained who, animated by the spirit of Claret, co-operated in the evangelising work, usually side by side with the Claretian Missionaries.
The process of reorganisation of the Claretian laity began in the year 1938, when the Superior General of the Missionaries created the association of “Claretian Collaborators.” This association that was conceived as a “proper work” of the Congregation, was approved by the Holy See in 1943. In its statutes it is stated that those who wish to live in keeping with the spirit of the Congregation and collaborate in its apostolate may be Claretian Collaborators.
In 1972 the Claretian Collaborators begin to be called Claretian Associates. The General Chapter of 1973 says that Claretian Associates are clergymen and lay people that share in the Claretian charism and commit themselves, in various degrees and in a permanent way, to live that charism in communion with the Congregation of Missionaries.
In 1979 they take the name of Lay Claretians. The General Chapter of this same year gives a new orientation to the Claretian laity. It states that the promotion of the Lay Claretians should not be done for the sake of the needs or the interests of the Congregation. The Lay Claretian vocation has in itself its own inner value and there is a need to support the action of the Spirit who from the beginning has also called the lay people to fulfil the Claretian mission.
The laity and the religious are two different manners of being Claretian. The Lay Claretians do not share in the charism of the Congregation, as used to be said in earlier times, but rather in the charism and mission of Claret.