The experience that Fr. Claret has of the Eucharist can be drawn as a path of respect, admiration, devotion, need, intimate union and full communion. The action that he followed can illuminate the meditative-spiritual path which the Founder received. But what really matters, is this progressive path of an intimate union with Christ-Eucharist. What it comes down to, is that St. Anthony Mary Claret was sharing his entire life to the fullest, and this is a clear invitation to participate.
The Eucharistic itinerary of Claret, as a Claretian itinerary.
“On August 26, 1861, at 7:00 in the evening while I was at prayer in the Church of the Rosary at La Granja, the Lord granted me the great grace of keeping the sacramental species intact within me and of having the Blessed Sacrament always present, day and night, in my breast. Because of this I must always be very recollected and inwardly devout. Furthermore I must pray and confront all the evils of Spain, as the Lord has told me (…) “Glorificate et portate Deum in corpore vestro” 1 Corinthians 6:20″ (Aut 694). And later, “On the morning of May 16, 1862 (…) saying Mass, Jesus Christ told me that He had indeed granted me this grace of remaining within me sacramentally” (Aut 700). The Lord wanted Anthony to face, in an effective way the evils of the Church in Spain and empowered him with His sacramental presence on August 26, 1861:
“The Eucharist, as the sacrificial sacrament of the real presence of Christ, occupied an important place in the spiritual and apostolic life of St. Anthony Mary Claret. The Eucharistic celebration was the most intense personal union with Jesus Christ, offered to the Father for the salvation of men, receiving the ardent desire to sacrifice his life to Christ for the good of the Church and all men. Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament helped him keep these feelings and the ability to form his activities in a profound spiritual sacrifice with the redemptive mystery of Christ and the Church (cf. Aut. Nos. 265, 694, 756 and 767)” (Heritage spiritual 14).
This allows us to ask: What did it mean for Fr. Claret -missionary servant of the Word- the ministry of sanctification, especially the Eucharist? How were these ministries integrated into his persona, life and apostolate? To what extent does the experience of the Eucharistic mystery of the Founder affect us, or should influence us to profoundly live it and keep it?
In response to these questions, we begin by reflecting on the Eucharistic initiation of Fr. Claret, like his experience in adoration and celebrating the Eucharist. Thus, we try to understand what this relationship meant for Fr. Claret with Christ through the Eucharist and subsequently the apostolic spirit which comes from this experience. This will help us to encounter the deeper significance of the act.
As a young boy, Anthony Claret experienced the Eucharist as the sacrament of the real presence of Christ in the tabernacle and as the presence of Christ in him through Communion. In his Autobiography (N. 36, 37, 38) he left us a record of his faithfulness in fulfilling the Sunday obligation and devotion in Mass attendance; when he speaks of the “functions of the Blessed Sacrament,” he says that the devotion was “extraordinary” of which “he enjoyed very much.” When he was around 10-12 years of age, he offered himself as a servant to serve Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. This offering didn’t come to fruition until almost 20 years later. As a seminarian, -while preparing for the priesthood- he was an acolyte for Mosen Fortián Bres and it was then he experienced a more profound understanding of the Mass.
Claret as celebrant
In his priestly ordination, he perceived a new dimension as celebrant: the word becomes real in the sacrament. Jesus is really present in giving his body and blood. Priestly consecration gave Fr. Claret the capacity to celebrate the Eucharist, and the ability from that time as a servant of God and the people (cf. Aut 110 and 150). In being an Apostolic Missionary, he celebrated Mass in countless towns.
After his Episcopal Consecration and new assignment, while traveling in the Cuban steamer, he was able to celebrate the Eucharist (cf. Aut 506). In Cuba, he felt as a Pastor, the desire and obligation to intercede for his people. “I will celebrate Holy Mass and afterwards spend a half hour in thanksgiving and in asking graces for myself and others” (cf. Aut 645). After the attempt on his life in Holguin, he felt a spiritual intensification. In Madrid, the celebration of the Mass was preceded and accompanied by much prayer. Don Manuel Bertran de Lis, Minister of the Crown, even said that when he heard the Mass of Fr. Claret, he experienced an inexplicable devotion.
Taking refuge in the Monastery of Fontfroide, “Father Lorenzo Puig said, he attended daily Mass […], and often would go down to the Church to visit the Blessed Sacrament” (1, p. 683). It seems that on October 7, he celebrated his final Mass and “on the morning of the 17th, taking advantage of the hours while caring for the Archbishop, Father Prior was with the whole community. He again administered the devotion of the Blessed Sacrament, which he received with faith and fervor” (1, p. 690). This was his last Communion.
Claret as adorer
Fr. Claret entrusted to us from his childhood his strong faith belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist (cf. Aut 40). As a seminarian, since he was not living at the seminary, he never omitted his visits to the Blessed Sacrament (cf. Aut 86). Over the years, he kept the living experience of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. “Before the Blessed Sacrament, I feel such a lively faith that I cannot explain” (Aut 767). In his moments of adoration, he feels that God assists him and there he learns to know what God asks (1, p 581). In exile -Paris- he proposed; “In bed I turn my heart to the nearest temple, to think of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament” (1, p. 581). In 1870, during the stay in Rome for the Council he proposes: “Visit the Blessed Sacrament every day” (1, p 587.)
From his spiritual experience of adoration of the Eucharistic, Fr. Claret insists that the priest be a man of Eucharistic prayer, and a worthy minister of the Eucharist. For him, both are closely related.
Configuration with Christ through the Eucharist
The turning point for Fr. Claret’s life was the day when he truly understood the Eucharist.
Fr. Claret not only tried to imitate Christ in lifestyle but also in the sense of his priestly and Eucharistic heart. As difficulties and persecutions arose in his apostolic ministry, he took on a spirit of charity in the sacrament of love. He made a Eucharistic sacrifice throughout his life. This led him to discover the priestly heart of Christ. For Claret, to have a Eucharistic heart signified living with an attitude of active oblativity which he assumed in thanksgiving for all his situations through love and transforming them in the Eucharist, by giving his life for love.
The evangelical and sacrificial configuration of Fr. Claret with Christ lead him to believe that Christ lived in him. This experience was expressed as a Eucharistic presence. Fr. Claret told us this spiritual experience of the Eucharistic Mystery -from the dimension of the transformation with Christ, in many of his writings (cf. Aut 754 755 756).
In this conservation experience of the sacramental species, Fr. Claret joined the Eucharistic adoration (mystical) with prophecy (the proclamation of the Gospel). The Eucharist for Fr. Claret was not only a profound moment of a deep encounter with Jesus (by means of contemplation), or a meeting with the Christian community (in celebration of a rite) but also the time where the revelation of the Word occurs with greater intensity and effectiveness.
Eucharist and Apostolic sense. His Eucharistic pastoral
For Fr. Claret, the Eucharist gives efficacy to preaching and ignites ones’ zeal. He tells the priests that if they want to have actions for their charity works, they should increase the fire of Divine love in their hearts by receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist. The missionary also needs the help of grace and prayer, which is received in the Eucharist and through the Eucharist, which culminates in Christian life. The conservation experience of the sacramental species which the Founder had was a special union with Christ, which guides the missionaries. Thus, Fr. Claret was able to face the evils of the Church in Spain.
The sacramental ministry of Fr. Claret was a result of his missionary preaching. Fr. Claret primarily felt called to evangelize, but not only through the Word. For him, the Word itself leads one to the sacraments and the people. As for the Eucharist, we are able to distinguish three aspects in its pastoral application: catechetical illumination, promotion of popular piety and the formation of priests as ministers of the Eucharist.
The experience that Fr. Claret has of the Eucharist can be drawn as a path of respect, admiration, devotion, need, intimate union and full communion. What really matters is this progressive path of intimate union with Christ-Eucharist that St. Anthony Mary Claret passes and makes us sharers by inviting us to explore it as a great Claretian itinerary.
- CLARET. EA, Madrid 1981.
- CLOTET, J., Life edifying of Father Claret, missionary and founder. Transcription, revision and notes of Jesus Bermejo, Madrid 2000.
- LOZANO, J. Mª., A mystic of the Action, St Anthony Mary Claret, Barcelona 1983.
- FERNANDEZ, C., The Blessed Fr Anthony Mary Claret, t. II, Madrid 1941.
- JUBERÍAS, F., The permanence of the Eucharist, Grenada 1975.