St. Joaquina Vedruna was born in Barcelona, Spain, on April 16, 1783, and after a life of heroic charity, died there on August 28, 1854, at the age of 71.
Joaquina aspired to be a contemplative Carmelite, but believing it to be God’s will, she acquiesced to the wishes of her parents and married Teodor de Mas, a wealthy landowner from Vic, and an attorney, who had earlier aspired to become a Trappist monk. Their marriage was exemplary. She and Tedor had nine children before she was widowed at age 33. Joaquina earnestly devoted herself to the care of her children, as well as numerous works of mercy.
Determined to pursue a life of more radical commitment, Joaquina once again aspired to the contemplative life. Her spiritual director, however, exposed her to the pressing societal needs of the day, and on his advice, she undertook the establishment of an institution dedicated to the education of abandoned girls and care of the sick.
Impressed with Vedruna’s humility and determination, Bishop Courcuera approved the new institute on February 26, 1826. In 1850, the Institute of Our Lady of Carmel received canonical approval as the Congregation of Carmelite Sisters of Charity.
Anthony Mary Claret and Joaquina Vedruna were from the same locale and were introduced to each other by relatives. Claret offered Vedruna spiritual guidance and became a promoter and protector of the Congregation she founded. Thanks to Claret’s influence, the institute established itself in Catalonia and spread throughout Spain. Claret never failed to defend and support the sisters, who regarded him as their father and brother. Later, other Claretian Missionaries, particularly Estéban Sala, assumed Claret’s role with respect to the sisters.
Joaquina Vedruna’s experience was similar to that of St. Jeanne de Lestonnac and St. Jane Frances de Chantal: the mother of a family, a saintly widow and founder of a religious community. On the occasion of Vedruna’s beatification on May 19, 1949, Pope Pius XII described her in this way:
“Married, she detested the vanities of the world, was submissive to her husband, and diligently fulfilled her duties as wife and mother, educating her children with impressive results and training them in their religious and civic duties.”
Joaquina Vedruna was a mystic, whose focus was the mystery of the Holy Trinity, which she transmitted to her daughters. Joaquina Vedruna was canonized by Pope Pius XII on April 12, 1959.
Claret’s zeal could not be kept in check. In August, 1849, he told the apostolic Nuncio that he had his sights set on the whole world. He lent his considerable support to a number of fledgling religious congregations, which he regarded as instruments of profound and extensive evangelization. He regarded them as an apostolic family, daughters of the Mother Church, distinguished for their care for those most in need.
We should look more closely at the relationship between Claret and Vedruna.
There were reasons of the heart. Claret’s sister María and three of his nieces were Carmelites. So his solicitude for Vedruna’s new Congregation should come as no surprise.
Claret and Vedruna shared hometown roots. Claret grew up near Vic, where the Congregation of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was founded. He and Vedruna first met in Vic, known for its deeply spiritual ambience. Numerous women men of the area have been beatified or canonized.
Claret’s and Vedruna’s relationship began with a retreat he preached in June, 1843. Named spiritual director of the sisters by the bishop of Vic, Claret continued preaching the sisters’ annual retreats. The relationship between Vedruna and her sisters and Claret never flagged.
In 1850, Claret wrote the first edition of the sisters’ Constitutions, suffusing them with a remarkably apostolic and open spirit. He went on to do his utmost to have the Constitutions approved and to assist the sisters in broadening their apostolate. Claret did not take lightly his responsibility toward the sisters. While entrusted primarily with the sisters’ spiritual welfare, he was assiduous in looking after their material security as well, paying their taxes and providing help when scarcity threatened their way of living as well as their apostolate.
In February, 1860, Claret petitioned the Queen to grant civil approval to the Institute: “Lady, the Archbishop Anthony Mary Claret respectfully asks your royal protection…begging you to recognize and declare legal the existence of the Institute of Tertiary Sisters of the Carmelite Order.”
Thanks to Claret, the institute put down roots in Catalonia and quickly spread throughout Spain.
Claret never sought payment from the sisters. All he asked of them was that they pray for him. He regarded the sisters as his angels and watchmen, entrusting them his apostolic works, especially his riskiest undertakings. He and the sisters treated one another as family.
During Claret’s stay in Rome, the sisters kept house for him. When he bade them farewell, he announced humorously that they were bound to see one another again: “People continue to run into each other, mountains don’t.”
Two mountains – but always side by side, St. Anthony Mary Claret and St. Joaquina Vedruna are like Tabor where the Lord is transfigured and manifested in the holiness of his children, and where he continues to reveal this message to all his children: “Collaborate and work together. Listen to your forebears. Work together, listening to one another and committing yourselves without reserve to one another, as your forebears did for the Church and for those most in need.”
- ESCUREDO, R., Giocchina Vedruna voice, in Bibliotheca Sanctorum VI, Istituto Giovanni XXIII della Pontificia Universitã Lateran, Rome 1965.
- GALMÉS, L., Joaquina Vedruna voice, in dictionary of the saints II, Madrid 2000.
- Martin, L., Joaquina of Vedruna, Barcelona 1983.
- NONEL, J., life and virtues of the venerable Mother Joaquina of Vedruna and Mas, foundress of the Institute of Carmelite Sisters of Charity, 2 tt., Manresa 1905.
- SANZ AND FIORE, B., Life of the Mother Joaquina for Mas and Vedruna, Madrid 1892.