“I have seen this era as one in which selfishness has made men forget their most sacred duties to their neighbors and brothers–for all of us are images of God, children of God, redeemed by the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ, and destined for heaven.”
ALTERNATIVE TO EGOTISM
Claret here describes his personal option for poverty in his time as a popular missionary in Catalonia. The egotism to which he refers is the search for riches, blind ambition. Given this degradation of the human soul that makes us a slave to things instead of their master, he presents his personal freedom; he was so free that he had no needs. So he had no use for money, to the point of being taken aback at the possibility of finding a coin in his pocket. When he started publishing or embarked on other social enterprises his poverty took on other characteristics. His preoccupation was to imitate the Jesus of the Gospel as literally as possible and that nobody could interpret his apostolic work as a means to enrich himself.
But, discovering this at a distance includes a social preoccupation: the search for riches frequently brings with it the exploitation of neighbour. The well-known comic ‘Mafalda’ once asked his father, ‘how is it possible to amass a fortune without making mincemeat of others’. Without doubt, Claret knows something of this. He already knew in his infancy and in his own family the burgeoning industrialization. In his years in Cuba (1851-1857, he knew at first hand the enslavement and exploitation of the poor, above all the blacks by the whites. Speaking of the Europeans who did business on the island he wrote that ‘they do not value any other god but interest….’ (EC, I, p. 705).
Seeing such abuse, Claret does not present himself as a union agitator but as a believer filled with charity: ‘My neighbour, I love and cherish you… To prove my love for you, I will strive and suffer; I will undergo any work or pain, even death if necessary, for your sake.’ (Aut 448)