Alabar, servir, amar, conocer. La oración apostólica. Meditaciones, Claretian Missionaries, Province of Santiago. VV. Madrid 2016, pp. 249.

The Claretian Province of “Santiago” began to publish some books, in the form of meditations, on some particularly typical and significant text of Saint Anthony Mary Claret. The first one that we are presenting now is the prayer that the Saint wrote at the end of Chapter XII of Part II of his Autobiography (Aut 233). In this chapter he writes “About the stimuli that compelled me to mission, which were the example of the Prophets, of Jesus Christ, the Apostles. Holy Fathers and other Saints” (Aut 214-233).

It is an “apostolic prayer” well known among the members of the Claretian Family. Many of them know it even by heart; and it has even been put to music. “It synthesizes the Claretian charism in a simple but admirable way” (J. M. VIÑAS – J. BERMEJO, San Antonio María Claret. Autobiografía y escritos complementarios, Buenos Aires 2008, p. 238 n. 177; acronym: AEC).

“Santiago” has lately continued publishing a second volume, following the same pattern: history and meditations. In this case it is nothing less than the so-called “definition of the missionary”: AA. VV., El fuego del amor. La definición del misionero. Meditaciones, Madrid 2020, pp. 242. As J. R. SANZ says when introducing the volume: “… the apostolic prayer and the definition of the missionary constitute, in their own right, the Principle and Foundation of Claretian spirituality” (Alabar…, p. 9).

These two volumes with no doubt, represent a great and competent service that the Claretian Province of “Santiago” render, not only to its members, but also to the entire Claretian Family. It is highly appreciated. Let us hope that they are not the only ones, but that they continue with other particularly significant Claretian texts.

Let’s go back to the first volume.

The book is divided into two parts: I) “Historical-biographical introduction. Claret’s ‘apostolic prayer’, autobiographical prayer” (pp. 17-107), by Fr. Severiano Blanco Pacheco, one of the best experts in Claret’s life and spirituality. And II) “Meditations”. In total there are ten reflections, written by nine Claretians, and the last one by a Jesuit (J. A. García Monje). The nine Claretians who are deepening and commenting phrase by phrase on the text of the “prayer” are: A. Bocos Merino (currently cardinal), P. Largo Domínguez, J. C. R. García Paredes, J. C. Rioja Bonilla, A. de Prado Postigo, B. Fernández García, A. Bellella Cardiel, C. Martínez Oliveras and A. Esteban González. All of them known as professors or writers, even internationally.

In his long historical study, Blanco presents a detailed synthesis of Claret’s life, based on numerous quotations, especially taken from the publications and letters of the Saint. He shows how the various contents of the “prayer” in Claret’s life and ministry were emerging little by little, in his personal and apostolic aspects, that is, in his personal experience as well as in his preaching and writing in favour of others, so that they could also live and experience what he lived and felt. He concludes by saying that the “apostolic prayer” is an “admirable summary of his way of living” (p. 107); “… It contains a miniature autobiography”, it is “an intimate and unitary definition of his person” (ibid.).

Then, the ten meditations follow. They are much shorter texts and each one on the phrase or paragraph that each author was entrusted to comment on, and looking at Claret from his philosophical, theological or experiential specialty. The result is a multifaceted and complementary vision, not only of the text of the “prayer” but – and, ultimately, I think that is what is intended – of the human and above all spiritual figure of Claret.

In a publication of this type, it is obvious that there must occur some repetitions, particularly with regard to quotes from the Saint. But, first of all, it must be taken in mind that it is a book of meditations, written by various authors, and not a book with a well-defined progressive thematic structure, as works by a single author tend to be. Let us also bear in mind that everyone has “prayer” as a point of reference. Secondly, we can fairly consider it as a test book that allows us to verify which are the aspects and texts of Claret that have become part of or have been more assimilated by a group of particularly qualified Claretians.

It might have been useful to add at the beginning or at the end of the book an annex with a brief biographical notice and the specialty of each of the collaborators, as it is often done in books written by several authors.

It is a book that honours and enriches all Claretians, and the entire Claretian Family. The final questions that some of the authors add at the end of their contributions facilitate the meditative reflection intended by the volume.

 

Fr. J. Rovira Arumí, cmf.

(Director of “Studia Claretiana”)