Madrid, Spain. In his Autobiography, Claret shared an allegory about The Forge that provides interesting insight. He compared his own personal development in Vic to a bar of iron in a locksmith’s workshop. Like the bar of iron, Claret was placed on an anvil, heated in the fire, and carefully hammered by a skilled blacksmith until he took on a new shape and purpose – becoming like an arrow in Mary’s mission. (cf. Aut 274)
The Forge, an ongoing formation project, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. It has established itself as an authentic Claretian spiritual journey over the years. Beginning in the former Province of Castilla, it has become a substantial congregational project in which Claretians from all continents participate in Spanish and English. In addition, the Forge Project for the Third Age, open to members of the Claretian Family, was created in response to this journey.
The XXVI General Chapter recognizes their value when it affirms:
“We need to create a culture of spiritual renewal that will help us to take advantage of these experiences as dynamisms of growth in our missionary journey” (QC 40).
In addition, the first part of the congregational dream assumes a commitment: “We will rethink the current meaning of the Claretian places and the CESC and Forge centers as spaces of inspiration and renewal” (QC 48).
With all these in mind, a group of seven Claretians convened at the headquarters of Centro Fragua in Los Negrales, Madrid, from September 26-28, 2023. The meeting was led by Fr. Carlos Sanchez, General Prefect of Spirituality and Community Life, and animated by Fr. Gonzalo Fernandez, CMF. Fr. Fernandez has been closely involved with the project since its inception. Other participants included Fathers Paulson Veliyannoor, Juan Carlos Martos, Salvador León, Félix Ketoglo, and Rodolfo Morales, CMFF. The group consisted of both experienced members who had been part of the animation teams for many years, as well as newer members who brought fresh sensitivities to the project. This combination of experience and new perspectives made for a rich and fruitful gathering.
During the meeting, the participants looked back at The Forge‘s history to identify its strengths and areas for improvement. They also considered the needs and realities of everyone involved. Using this analysis, they determined the focus of the project. They decided to extend the duration from 75 to 80 days and reinstate the four classic stages of the itinerary: Quid Prodest, Patris Mei, Caritas Christi, and Spiritus Domini, which had been changed by the three transformation processes outlined in the XXV General Chapter. They reviewed the contents of each phase and established the most appropriate methodologies for each process. They also evaluated the most impactful experiences and decided to keep only the two most fundamental ones, the Spiritual Exercises and the pilgrimage to Claretian places, to ensure a deepening of knowledge and avoid dispersion. Lastly, they discussed practical aspects for new leaders to consider.
At the end of the meeting, they were pleased with the progress of The Forge. They hoped that more missionaries would be inspired to deepen their Claretian identity and renew their vocational response yearly.
Source: General Prefecture of Spirituality and Community Life