Anthony Mary Claret was ordained a priest in Solsona, in the province of Lérida, on June 13, 1835, at age 27. He was ordained three years earlier than prescribed because his ordinary, Bishop Corcuera y Caserta recognized his exceptional giftedness. Unfortunately, Corcuera fell gravely ill, and Claret was ordained by Fray Juan José de Tejada, OFM. Following ordination, Claret continued studying moral theology, while serving pastorally in his hometown of Sallent.
Ironically, Claret’s ordination day was not an entirely joyful occasion. Aside from the fact that Corcuera was not available to ordain him in his own diocese, Claret’s retreat in preparation for ordination had been difficult. Speaking of his first Mass, Claret wrote: “Before my priestly ordination I made a forty-day retreat. I had never made a retreat so full of sufferings and trials but neither, perhaps, so replete with graces. I realized this on the day I was ordained on the feast of my patron, St. Anthony of Padua, and celebrated my first Mass on June 21, the feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a patron of the Congregation” (Aut 102).
At Claret’s ordination to the diaconate, Bishop Corcuera had cited St. Paul: “We do not fight only against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, and against the rulers of the darkness.” To Claret, these were the demons he had encountered during his temptation against chastity. Henceforth, he understood his ministry as his being sustained by the motherly love of Mary to struggle against all that opposes the kingdom of God.
To Claret, priestly ordination was the realization of a childhood dream but, above all, it was the beginning of his career as an apostolic missionary. Unlike many clerics of his time, he regarded priesthood as the ideal confluence of preaching the Word, celebrating the sacraments, and exercising pastoral care. He could not imagine himself confined to a parish, and early on he volunteered for the foreign missions. Unable to pursue that goal, he devoted himself to itinerant preaching throughout Catalonia and the Canary Islands.
The anniversary of our Founder’s ordination should prompt us to thank God not only for Claret’s own priesthood, but for all priests, who have touched and shaped our lives, beginning with the priest who baptized us.
As ordained missionaries, we should be thankful for our own vocation and ask the Lord to anoint others to serve the church as zealously as have Claret and generations of Claretians before us.
As ought to be the case universally, ordination is by no means a destination but a point of departure. Claret needed time to discover his ministerial calling. However, when all is said and done, he ‘lived the priesthood as his own way of surrendering to God, and living united to Christ and the church. In his priestly and apostolic vocation he discovered the need to live evangelically, always imitating the life of the Lord and the Apostles, entirely detached and committed to the proclamation of the Gospel” (General Chapter of 1967. PE 35). .
Of the three classic dimensions of ministry – preaching, sanctifying, and governing – Claret identified primarily with preaching, while not neglecting the other two. The task of preaching is not limited to proclaiming the Word. In his Autobiography, Claret explains: “One day the Venerable Avila was asked by a young priest what he should do to become a good preacher. His ready answer was, ‘Love much.’ Both experience and the history of the Church teach us that the greatest preachers have always been the most fervent lovers” (Aut 440). So for him, “the virtue and apostolic missionary needs most of all needs is love” (cf. Aut 440).
- ALONSO, G., The figure of the Claretian priest in our Constitutions and in the documents of post-conciliar renewal in several, missionary priests in the style of Claret, Madrid 1985.
- ALONSO, G., Meditation in Solsona in Several, missionary priests in the style of Claret, Madrid 1985.
- ARAÚJO OLIVEIRA, A., Reinterpretation of the priestly experience of Claret in the light of the post-conciliar magisterium in Several, missionary priests in the style of Claret, Madrid 1985.
- BOCOS MERINO, A., Claretian Priests. Our ministerial renewal, Madrid 1984.
- VINAS COLOMER, J. Mª., The priestly experience of Fr. Claret in Several, missionary priests in the style of Claret, Madrid 1985.