Clemente Serrat was born in Gurb, Barcelona, Spain on January 12, 1832. After completing his studies in the seminary in Vic, he was ordained a priest on September 26, 1856. His first assignment was as Vicar of Olost, Barcelona, Spain for one year and then he entered the Congregation on July 3, 1859. On one occasion, Fr. Claret mentioned to Fr. Xifré, “Keep this young man, he will be a treasure for the Congregation.” He made his First Profession in Segovia, Spain, in the hands of Fr. Claret on August 25, 1862. At the age 30, he was appointed Superior of the house of Segovia, where he remained until the Revolution of 1868, in which he took refuge in France.
In 1869, when Fr. Pablo Vallier was assigned in Chile, he was appointed Novice Master, a position he held in Prades, Thuir and Vic from 1870 to 1878. He served as a formator in the colleges of Gracia, Santo Domingo de la Calzada and Cervera. Along with working in formation, he held the positions of local Superior of Vic, Gracia, Santo Domingo de la Calzada and Cervera.
In 1876, he was elected General Consulter and remained in that position until 1888. He was also entrusted with the post of assistant Director General. After the death of the Fr. Xifré, he was elected Superior General in Vic in the VIII General Chapter (December 1899).
Fr. Clemente Serrat wrote a beautiful circular letter to the Congregation focusing on a religious vocation, so as to awaken feelings of deep gratitude within the missionaries, (brothers) reminding them the benefit of the Divine calling.
During his term, some of his achievements include: in 1900, the first General Rules were published, organic and systematic compilation of the general rules of the Congregation emanating from the General Chapters. In addition to ensure the observance of rules, this was to give the Institute an appearance and characteristic of a distinctive seal. They were updated in 1905, 1906 and 1912.
In 1900, a parish was accepted in Andacollo, Chile, at the request of the Bishop of La Serena. This first contract was provisional, to see how to develop a new foundation by the missionaries where the parish was poorly managed. It would become the permanent Marian Shrine in this large rural area. Soon they saw the effectiveness of their work and the need not to be dependent on the parish priest of La Serena. They requested this foundation which was to be the first parish Church of the Congregation.
In 1901, Fr. Mariano Aguilar, who had already published the Admirable Life of Fr. Claret, prepared the first written history of the Congregation.
Fruit of the missions from Mexico, would expand into Texas and California, with the foundation in San Antonio (United States) in 1902, carried out by Fr. Ramón Prat. The tireless missionary work expanded throughout the entire region with the headquarters in San Antonio at their new Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. They also began to take the first steps for the foundation of a community in San Marcos, a small town of 2,000 inhabitants, about 200 kilometers north of San Antonio.
In the IX General Chapter of (1904) the Province of Bética was founded for the Congregation. Formally it was started on October 1906, with Fr. Candido Catalán, as Provincial. The Provincial residence would be in Zafra and would include Extremadura, Andalucía and the Canary Islands.
At this time, the Congregation increased from 1,368 Claretians in 1899 to1,490 in 1907, with 84 communities. The main ministry was still preaching and also offering missions and retreats. Other ministries such as parishes and secondary education schools, of both intern and extern were added. Also during this period a rudimentary publishing house was born in (1903), origin of the future Heart of Mary publishing house. The publication such as The Spanish Guinea or The Missionary (1903) was being shared throughout the Congregation.
Fr. Serrat, using the words of St. Paul, «I strongly pray that you worthily maintain the vocation to which you have been called” (Ef. 4: 1-3). He encouraged the missionaries ” with fidelity in the vocation that they have been called; «Yes, dear brothers, in your oath to God, show you are a faithful servers, worthy imitators of the virtues of the Divine Master who called you, a dignified members of the Religion you belong to […]» (5, p. 231).
Following St. Paul, he encourages faithfulness in showing the means suggested by the Apostle in his letter to the Ephesians: “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, supporting each other in charity, helpful in preserving the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Ib.).
The first and fundamental means of perseverance in the vocation is humility and meekness, two virtues typical of the Claretian missionary.
“The Apostle claims as the first and fundamental means of perseverance in a vocation is humility and meekness. […] Humility shouldn’t be as you want but all-embracing, cum omni humilitate, and encompassing all its aspects. […] It should be born from the depths of the soul, placing others first, considering that our origin is dust, nothing and sinful; the grace of a vocation and many gifts are free benefits which make us administrators, and with which we have to negotiate diligently; the glory and honor of these acts and ministries are exclusively for God; thus diminishing confusion, as the author of the Imitation of Christ, soli Deo honor et gloria, mihi autem confusio […] Such must be the concept if it is to form the religious who loves to move forward in his vocation” (5, pp. 233-234). “One should not only respond to what is great and sublime in the religious state, so as to prevent pride which is destructive of the grace of a vocation, but must weigh what is painful and difficult, and the humiliations that can happen where you least expect, to guard against the discouragement or indignation, which is another stumbling block no less disastrous” (5, p. 234).
“You must, therefore, take into account the continued sacrifices which religious life imposes, such as self-denial, obedience and the other vows, the presence of mind to deal with unfriendly individuals, etc., etc.; It should also reflect that in these critical moments of humiliation are tests from the world. Then there is the seduction of false lights like honor, comfort, freedom, and the appeal of family or friends that will tempt you to leave… But be well-equipped (with humility and meekness); face the sacrifices and the humiliations that can seduce you from Religion and abhor the incentives and enticements of the world…” (5, p. 235).
The second is mutually reinforcing one with patience, charity, avoiding hardness of heart and rejecting your brothers:
“When you see a brother dominated by the vexation of spirit, a victim of an annoying disease or other tests, don’t embitter the situation, making charges or indictments, like the indiscreet friends of Job, quis epiglottidea periit? Nor should we be insensitive to their pain, or passing as the Levite and the priest, but rather like the Good Samaritans. We must come to him with kindness and compassion, healing the wounds of his soul with the wine and oil of consolation. Our Lord doesn’t permit that in any of our communities, one with an afflictions can say: consolantem quaesivi et non inveni me” (5, p. 237).
“Let us pray to Jesus Christ, my beloved brothers, to reflect carefully on this point; because to have hardness of heart with those who suffer, or the impatience and rigor for the faults of a brother, could do harm to his vocation, and wouldn’t it be remorseful to be founded suspicion of having in some way contributed to serious damage” (5, p. 237).
And the third is the request to keep the Spirit in the bond of peace as one.
“Yes, brothers: we should put all our study, our request and desire to “maintain the unity of spirit, the conformity with the spirit, the intimacy of hearts; so that all be of one same thought and feeling, of will and work, about the care and concern, such as those of the early Christians and exemplary of a good religious” (5, p. 238).
1. PALACIOS, J. M., The historical notes about the formation in the Congregation, Rome 1997.
2. POSTIUS, J., Necrology of Rev. Fr. Clemente Serrat in EL IRIS de PAZ 14-1-1906, pp. 21 ss.
3. RUIZ, I., The Rev. Fr. Clemente Serrat, in the Annals of the Congregation, t. 10 (1906) pp. 329-335 and 354-365.
4. SANZ, V., Footsteps of Claret, Madrid 1997.
5. SERRAT, C., Circular of Rev. Father General, Collection of Circulars (ColCC), Madrid 1941, Index by Generalate p. XX.