When I was about three years old I used to play unconsciously with an object similar to the known “metal badges” for tapping soda bottles; but it must have been glass. My grandmother Irene, making an exception with me, allowed me to do so, despite the fact that there was inside something very precious for her: “the relic of Fr. Gil”. Years later I understood that it was a teak wood piece that contained a relic of Fr. Claret. This happened around 1951, months after his canonization; surely the Claretians who ran my parish (San Vicente de la Barquera, Cantabria, Spain) were making some propaganda of their holy founder. The young Fr. Julián Gil (+ 28.6.2012) had baptized me on January 1, 1948, and he frequently went to console my grandmother for a family misfortune occurred in 1950.
In my childhood I barely knew priests not Claretians; I seldom saw a Jesuit from the nearby university of Comillas, a Trappist from the nearby monastery of Cóbreces, or a diocesan priest from neighboring towns; I never talked to any of them. The really known ones were “those of the Heart of Mary”, who, besides the parish (they baptized me and gave the first communion in the branch church of La Acebosa), had a small school; but I was going to a neighborhood school. When I was about ten years old I followed very actively a popular mission preached in La Acebosa by the Frs. Andrés Plaza and Cruz Ripa; I think it marked me considerably. I was the protagonist in some children’s representations, v.gr., I acted out as the mayor of all the boys and girls schoolmates and “I consecrated them to the Immaculate Heart of Mary”. There must have been more than fifty of us; poor teacher, the excellent and dearest Mrs. Felisa Lastra, passed away, already largely nonagenarian, about five years ago.
Shortly after the “holy mission” I became an altar boy; Fr. Valentín Pascual trained me. Maybe at that time I was thinking about being a priest and saying the Mass; “Claretian” was not a known concept. The first “son of the Heart of Mary” to whom I expressed my intention was the most kind-hearted and popular Fr. Angel Fdez. Bartolomé, while accompanying him from one village to another to serve him as an altar boy in both villages. I think he liked it, and he told others in the community, because they soon gave me some vocational information. They spoke with the meritorious and influential Fr. Cristóbal Fernández, who used to spend part of the summer in San Vicente, and he worked out some difficulties. In the school year of the 11 to the 12 years I changed the school by the “school of the Fathers”; I went with Fr. David Herrera. In the summer of 1960 he himself took me to Beula’s “postulancy” (a word unknown to me).
IN MY INITIAL FORMATION
During this period, I got to know Founder Father rather little. The excellent formators of my 5-year “postulancy” (Frs. Gregorio Riaño and Fco. L. de Dicastillo, now nonagenarians) were regarded by me as “experts in humanity”, but perhaps only grosso modo in Claretianism. At that time I caught a brief glimpse of the Saint Miracle Worker who turned tobacco into beans or whom the Virgin rescued from being dragged away by a wave. They also introduced me to “the new triumphant”, as we sang in a hymn. In the novitiate I was unable to read the Autobiography; I found it boring, nobody gave me the keys. It was not a specifically missionary novitiate; perhaps it would have served the same for a monk (although at that time the Council had just ended, but it was so early for its assimilation!); we used some texts or missionary prayers that contrasted with the dominant mentality and the kind of life we were leading.
I have great affection and gratitude to my professors of philosophy and theology (Frs. José L. Uranga, Asterio Niño, Aquilino Bocos, and, already in Rome, Ángel del Molino), all responsible and dedicated men. But I did not see them as explicitly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the figure of Claret. Maybe I opened my mind a little to the specifically Claretian through the Declaration on Spiritual Heritage, from the special Chapter held in 1967.
In my years of Rome (1973-76) in specialization studies, it did not occur to me, nor did anyone suggest it, to look for the Claretian corners. What I loved was to make contact with the footprints of St. Paul on Via Apia Antica. On the other hand, 15 years later, when I returned to the city for doctoral courses, I did look for the Claretian traces.
IN ADULT AGE
I do not know how it was. But in the 80s, ten years after my ordination, I took pleasure in reading the Autobiography; and from there I passed to other Claretian writings. The volume edited by Fr. Viñas in 1959 was very useful for me: Autobiography, some letters by Claret, resolutions, etc. And I have continued on that line. I directed exercises for Claretians and they noticed my familiarity with the texts of the Founder. I was making headway in his intellectual and experiential knowledge; the apostolic exercise made me know that I was not the monk that I could have figured out during my increasingly distant and forgotten novitiate. In the seminary of Colmenar Viejo I organized a Claretian library, the “Aula Claret”.
My new Claret was no longer that of the “little miracles” or of the resound triumphs, but that of apostolic dedication, inventiveness and sacrifice. I understand that I left in the background, and follows in it, the praying, contemplative and crucified Claret; pending tasks! And I became fond of visiting places of Claretian activity, in Madrid and in Catalonia. I conducted pilgrimages. What a disappointment when, having spent a few days in Gran Canaria, invited by friends expressly to know Claretian routes, upon my return a companion asked me if I had seen the Playa de las Canteras!
It was already around 1990. I was getting deep into the Claretian Collection of Letters. And I was reading with assiduity and passion the articles of detail that Fr. Juan Sidera used to publish in Arxiu Claret – Vic; I started writing to him. I also started to publish something, and he stimulated me. A different future was opening up, complementary to my biblical-teaching tasks. I was asked to participate in symposia, and I did it with pleasure. In 2008, at the suggestion of Fr. José M. Abella, the Claretians of Havana asked me to teach there for a four-month period. I learned later that Abella had told them: “a stay in Cuba is not going to be a disgusting thing for Severiano”. He was right. I looked for the Claretian corners of Havana (which are not few), and, in the holiday week of Easter, I went to Santiago. I visited the city and some nearby towns, guided by the Autobiography and by the wise company of Fr. Jesús Bermejo, who was there doing some research. I noticed that the Autobiography read in Santiago has another flavour, a very particular freshness.
NOW IN RETIREMENT
As of 2004, and more especially since 2009, the Frs. General Abella and Vattamattam have asked me to collaborate with the CESC of Vic, and there I work a few months each year, preparing publications, organizing the library, the archive, materials for the web, etc. I have been fortunate to work there with the wise Frs. Juan Sidera and Jesús Bermejo, whom both the Lord has already called to his glory. And I do not want to hurt from these lines the modesty of current colleagues.
In addition, during the rest of the year, in my community (Madrid), I continue to do personal studies, preparing articles, guiding Claretian visits to the city and other nearby Claretian places … I perceive that, in a modest and analogical way, what St. Juan de la Cruz says of the divine mystery can be applied to Claret: “it is like an abundant mine with many breasts of treasures, so that no matter how much they deepen they never find an end”. And it is exciting to immerse yourself, with your mind and your heart, in those scopes.
Vic, May 2019
I was born in Abaño, a “semi-autonomous” neighborhood of
San Vicente de la Barquera (Cantabria, Spain),
on December 22, 1947.
I entered the minor seminary of Beire (Navarra)
in 1960 and I professed in Salvatierra in 1966. I studied
philosophy and theology in Sto. Domingo de la Calzada,
Colmenar, Salamanca and Madrid (time of changes),
and in Rome I specialized in Holy Scriptures.
I was ordained a priest in 1974.
I have dedicated myself fundamentally to the teaching of
the Bible in our higher centers of Colmenar
Viejo and Madrid and at the Comillas University, plus
some getaway abroad: Argentina and Cuba.
I have lived through an exciting time of changes
(not all of them equally pleasant), and therefore I have been a member of
three different Provinces: Cantabria, Castilla and Santiago.
Severiano BLANCO PACHECO, CMF.