GENUINE APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION
The mitre came to Claret on the rebound as they had intended to nominate another but he did not accept. It also came to him at a bad time as he had just founded the Congregation of Missionaries and, a little earlier, the Libreria Religiosa and both needed him to guide their first steps. Because of this he delayed two months before accepting. He finally did so in obedience to some testing words of his bishop: ‘you will resist the will of God if your answer is negative, for which reason I command you to accept’ (Epist.Pasivo I, p. 75).
During the months of discernment, many understood the objections of Claret, the principal of which was his missionary vocation; from the beginning he understood that it would divert his path and it was necessary to persuade him. In a curious anonymous letter, that some reckon to be apocryphal, of September 1849, it says: ‘You believe that Cuba is a diocese and yet it is nothing more than a mission, and so we are sending a missionary there. Resign yourself then to leave your biretta, to which you profess too much devotion, as you know perfectly well a mitre is not so tight that a saint would not be able to move his head in it.’ (Epist. Pasivo I, p. 73).
Claret knew that a bishop is, above all, a successor of the apostles who were the followers and imitators of Jesus and later great missionaries. He wanted to form himself in this way. From the start he got together a team of priests and lay-people, 13 persons in total with whom there would be a certain style of community life and share of the evangelizing work. He did not overlook the administrative and government responsibilities but he placed the accent on preaching, catechesis and direct contact with those faithful who were deprived of their pastor for 14 years. In only six years he carried out six ‘missionary’ visits to that immense diocese (today divided into 5).
The ingenuity of Claret knew how to recover the original meaning of the episcopate, to give life to something that he saw as being out of date and antiquated. Do we know how to take advantage of the ecclesial structures and bring them up to date so that they are authentic platforms of evangelization?