In his writings, Fr. Claret repeats how he always sought the best, aspiring to the highest goals. We find this intention in countless testimonies. The saint recalls that as a child: “I learned the catechism with such perfection, that I recited it whenever I wanted from the beginning to the last without any mistake” (Aut 23), or when as a young man, in the family workshop, he obeyed his father without grumbling, or making a bad face, or showing displeasure and “worked as much as I could without ever having a day of laziness or reluctance” (Aut 31), or about his pious practices, his confession is obvious: “I never got tired of being in the Church” (Aut 48). It is well known his delirium for manufacturing in his youthful years in Barcelona, of which he recalls how a “continuous thinking about machines, looms and compositions had me so absorbed that I could not think of anything else” (Aut 65). He maintained that imprint during his mature years, as evidenced by many of his resolutions: “I propose to do ordinary things well and in the way that seems best to me” (Aut 649), or in his desire to imitate Jesus exactly and literally (Aut 428-437), or by stating: “I will take the greatest care to do each particular thing well, as if I had nothing else to do” (Aut 791), or in proposing to “never lose an instant of time: and so I will always be occupied in study, prayer, administration of sacraments, preaching, etc. ” (Propósitos 1850. 16). The testimonies multiply and it is not the case to overwhelm with a collection of quotations. It is more interesting to understand what message is hidden in this very Claretian attitude.
To set high goals is optimal. To crown difficult summits brings joy, healthy pride and satisfaction. But when effort, diligence and meticulousness are transformed into perfectionism, they end up either in the dead end of anxiety, exhaustion and depression or in the dry dock of contempt for others and rigidity. Did our Founder suffer from any of this? Was he an obsessive perfectionist who sought to do his work with the utmost correctness, beating records or trying to be better than anyone else? It is not so difficult to distinguish a neurotic perfectionist from a self-sacrificing missionary who spares neither care nor dedication to his apostolic work.
Perfectionism (vice) is not the same as excellence (virtue). The difference is evident when analyzing reactions to failure. If in the face of imperfection there are obsessive symptoms of overwhelm, tension, anger, intolerance, etc., we are possibly dealing with victims of perfectionism. If this is not the case, we are dealing with disciplined and tireless people who, in trying to achieve their goals, integrate their own imperfection even with humor and accept the mistakes and failures of others with magnanimity and patience.
In the case of Claret, his goal was holiness, a gift of God, which he was contagiously infected in his contacts with Jesus, with Mary and with a multitude of saints (cf. Aut 214-263). His holiness was also purified by an astonishing lack of presumptuous exhibitionism. He grew under the sign of proximity, as he himself expressed and always tried to achieve: “I thought not only of sanctifying my soul, but I also thought continually about what I would do and how I would do it to save the souls of my neighbors” (Aut 113). This explains his proven preferential option for the poor and for sinners. For both. Without discarding above all the latter. They measured the spiritual stature of Father Claret.
Fr. Juan Carlos Martos, cmf