On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the death –Easter- of Fr. Claret in Fontfroide (France, October 24, 1870), a good number of events have taken place in the preparation and execution of which the CESC has participated directly.
First of all, the Triduum of Prayer in preparation for the Solemnity of Saint Anthony Mary Claret. A 24-page booklet was prepared, offered to the entire Claretian Family, divided into three parts, one for each day, with biblical readings and others taken from Claret’s writings, prayers, comments, some videos and songs.
On the first day, the General Prefecture of Spirituality of the Congregation of Missionaries collaborated in this work with the theme taken from a phrase by Claret: “Little is enough for me”. The “La Fragua” Centre of Los Negrales on the second day with the saint’s phrase: “A candle that burns until it dies”. And the CESC on the third day with the expression also of the saint: “I have fulfilled my mission.”
On the 23rd, eve of the Festivity, at 6:30 p.m., a “Prayer Vigil” was held in the crypt of the Temple-Sepulchre, in Vic, prepared by the General Prefecture of Spirituality, under the slogan: ” Like a candle that burns until it dies”. It was broadcast in Spanish and English, on-line. It was chaired by Fr. General, Mathew Vattamattam, and Fr. Vicar General, Gonzalo Fernández. The technical part was carried out by Fr. Louie Guades III. The three of them had come expressly from the General Curia, in Rome, for these days. At the beginning, Fr. General lit a candle that was also going to accompany us during Mass the following day, intending to symbolize that, although Claret died, his flame is still alive in his sons and daughters.
In this Vigil prayers, readings, songs, comments were mixed. Several videos deserve special mention, among them the ten short messages of participation from various groups of the Claretian Family, the presidents of the continental conferences of the Congregation of Missionaries and the members of the Government who were able to attend. A significant moment was the “dialogue” between Fr. General and Fr. Vicar General addressed to Fr. Claret at his open tomb. It ended with a prayer of the faithful in various languages, the Lord’s Prayer, recited by each of those present in their own mother tongue, and the final blessing of Fr. General to the present assembly and to those who were following us online.
The following day, the 24th, first a cultural event took place at 10:30 am, in the conference room of the House of Spirituality. It was presided over by Fr. General and Fr. Provincial of the Sanctus Paulus Province, Fr. Ricard Costa-Jussà. The latter began by greeting those present and those who were following the celebration online from different parts of the world. This was followed by a conference by Fr. Carlos Sánchez, Director of the CESC, entitled: “From exile to the final Easter”, focused above all on the historical reality and the spiritual experience of Claret during his last months of life. This was followed by a video prepared by the CESC on the nine tombs that have contained the remains of Claret. Afterwards, a video message from Cardinal Aquilino Bocos from Madrid was shown; and the Provincial Father read a written message sent by Bishop Josep Maria Abella, current bishop of Fukuoka (Japan). Both had been in the last decades Superior General of the Congregation of Missionaries, from 1992 to 2003 the former, and from 2003 to 2015 the latter. The present Father General concluded the act.
At 1:00 p.m. The solemn Eucharist was celebrated in the Temple-Sepulchre, presided over by the Bishop of Vic, Mons. Romà Casanova i Casanova who, in his homily, glossed the life of Claret as a universal apostle, poor and persecuted to the end. This rather late hour was chosen so that it could be followed simultaneously, on-line, not only in Europe and Africa, but also in Asia and America. The texts of the Solemnity of the Saint were used. More than twenty Claretian concelebrants from different parts of the Sanctus Paulus Province (Catalonia, Euskal Herria, France and Italy), some diocesan priests and a good number of faithful participated who, taking into account all the sanitary regulations against the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be said that they filled the Temple. To represent the numerous languages of the Claretian Family, seven languages were used throughout the celebration, from Latin to Chinese. A mixed choir solemnized the celebration with selected pieces. Before ending the ritual, Fr. General addressed a message and handed over to two young people the candle that had been lit at the Prayer Vigil, and with which he intended to signify that Claret’s apostolic fire was continuing. Indeed, at 3:00 p.m. the on-line pre-launch of the youth project “Claret Way” that the Claretian Family started on this day and time.
On the morning of the 25th, Fr. General accompanied by Frs. Gonzalo Fernández, Carlos Sánchez and Louie Guades III went on a pilgrimage to Fontfroide Abbey, representing the entire Congregation. At 10:00 am. they celebrated the Eucharist in the Chapel of San Bernardo, very close to the place where Claret’s remains rested for 27 years. They then went to the old tomb to pray together for the entire Claretian Family. They ended the pilgrimage by visiting the Claretian community of Narbonne with which they shared a fraternal meal.
(Photographs 1-5 courtesy of Laura Mor; Photograph 6, courtesy of Louie Guades III)