“I have never made a penny’s profit from the Works I have seen through the presses. On the contrary, I have given away thousands upon thousands of free copies. I am still doing so today and hope to be doing so until I die” (Aut 328).
PERSUASIVE POWER OF GRATUITY
In a consumer society like ours, gratuity, more than a value, is a suspect attitude. When anything can be bought or sold, it isn’t understood why anyone would offer something gratis, at least without looking for some kind of non-financial compensation. Nevertheless, the logic of evangelization is governed by other criteria: ‘What you have received as a gift, give as a gift’. (Mt 10,8).
The best of life (life itself, freedom, happiness, friendship, faith) cannot be bought. The best we receive ‘gratis’ (that is to say, as grace). For it to be effective it has to be given in the same way it was received i.e. gratis. Claret understood the words of Jesus very well and tried to apply them to his way of evangelizing and, more specifically, to the printing and distribution of books. Above all, he understood that in his life there must be present the guidelines of Jesus that taught ‘there is more happiness in giving than in receiving’ (Acts 20, 35) and ‘being rich he made himself poor so that we can be enriched by his poverty’ (2 Cor. 8. 9)
Claret reduced his salary as Archbishop of Cuba so that his priests could be better paid. Later, as President of El Escorial he oversaw an admirable administration and granted a good salary to his collaborators of that great enterprise. But he assigned nothing to himself.
Today it is probably difficult to apply these criteria of gratuity to the production of material things given the type of society in which we live. It is, however, always applicable to those things that are the most necessary for life: accepting of others, devotion, beauty, etc. The evangelizer of today has to be an expert in these experiences of grace which are like an oasis in the desert of productivity. There is nothing less productive, but more necessary, than a hug or a supporting word. And, furthermore, there is nothing more gratuitous and more transforming than faith.