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logoMFPFCHARACTERISTICS OF THE APOSTOLIC CHARISM OF CLARET AND PARIS

Introduction

Before we approach the topic of the apostolic charism of St. Anthony Mary Claret and Venerable Mother Antonia Paris, we would like to define the term “apostolic.” According to the Gospel of Luke Jesus departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When the day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also called apostles (πόστολος, apostolos)[1]. The etymological meaning of apostle is “to be sent” as in a mission. In the New Testament the Apostles we have many references to the Apostles’s life and mission, to their successes and many failures in figuring out what it meant to follow Jesus and to proclaim the Kingdom of God. In the formative years with Jesus, from the moment of their call to the resurrection, their interaction with Jesus centers more around who Jesus is and what the Kingdom is about, than what they are supposed to do as apostles. It does show that to be an apostle is not just about doing, but a way of being and a way of carrying out their mission. It implies sharing in a special relationship with Jesus. When Jesus calls them, he invites them to be with him (in community) and sends them to proclaim the Good News (Mk. 3, 13).

            In the history of religious life, to follow Jesus was always intimately connected to some kind of service or apostolate.[2] The first Christians in the midst of great dangers would practice charity and proclaim the kerygma (the basic message of the faith in Jesus). When Christianity becomes a legal religion in the Empire, persecutions stop and martyrdom is no longer the clear way of witnessing radical love for Jesus. In response to this vacuum of radical witnesses, monasticism begins, which in most of its expressions involved also some type of service. In the Middle Ages, the vita apostolica movements renewed the enthusiasm for apostolic life which always entailed some type of charity or preaching work accompanied by a life of poverty lived in community. For these groups it was clear what Karl Rahner has said: Loving the neighbor is more than an expression or result of loving God; it is loving God.[3] Nevertheless, this service to others and even commitment to justice, although essential to discipleship, is not the ultimate reason for religious life. Today more than ever every baptized person can and should commit to the service of the others in the many opportunities open to lay people. The “distinguishing characteristic of Religious Life is the exclusive commitment to the God-quest…[making] Jesus the affective center of meaning.”[4] This implies a life of intimate communion with him who is the center of this life. The document “Starting Afresh from Christ”says that consecrated life is a special following of Christ, “a living memorial of Jesus' way of living and acting as the Incarnate Word in relation to the Father and in relation to the brethren... It is “becoming one with him, taking on his mind and his way of life”, and it is a life “taken up by Christ[5] This total commitment with Christ implies a total commitment with the Kingdom, with the mission, not as a replacement of the love of God, but as its expression. This is how the first Apostles lived the unity of their relationship with Jesus and their mission, they were sent and went because they loved Jesus who also felt sent by the Father: As the Father has sent me, I now send you (Jn. 17, 18).

            This work will focus on the apostolic dimension of our founders encompassing their way of life and evangelizing activity. It will attempt to explain what it means to be “Apostles of Jesus Christ,” especially in two documents that our founders wrote: Letter to the Missionary Theofilus (Claret) and the Apostolic Missionary (Antonia Paris). After introducing both texts, we will try to identify the most significant characteristics of their apostolic charism as they appear in these texts and in other texts, most importantly in their attitudes and options. Finally, we will ask ourselves what it means to be an apostle of Jesus Christ today. This is not an exhaustive work, just an attempt to explore the common vision of our founders on this subject and to offer some points of reflection in order to respond to our reality today.

  1. I.THE SOURCE OF THE PASSION

                  The source of the apostolic passion is the passion for God that is expressed in the love of neighbor. It is the way on making concrete that love that takes all of one’s life. On the other hand, there is a call that comes from reality itself, from the situations that awaken a deep concern, that challenge and demand a response. This call from reality has been a constant in many bible characters. Moses experienced the suffering of his people and even killed the Egyptian, as he tried to protect his own. Later on, that call of reality becomes mission when Yahweh sends him to liberate the people of Israel. [6]

      This experience of the call of reality, this possibly God-given concern for others, shapes to great extent the response that grows out of it. In order to understand the response of Claret and Paris we need to address this originating motivation of their apostolic passion.

  1. A.In St. Anthony Mary Claret

            Among the first memories that Claret narrates in his Autobiography we find his early concern for the salvation of souls, how he used to think about eternity.

I would think "forever, forever, forever." I would try to imagine enormous distances and pile still more distances on these and realize that they would never come to an end. Then I would shudder and ask myself if those who were so unhappy as to go to an eternity of pain[7]

This recurrent idea explains the fire that burs in his heart and leads him to proclaim the Gospel by all means available:

It is surely the thing that to this day I remember best. The power of this idea has made me work in the past, still makes me work, and will make me work as long as I live, in converting sinners, in preaching, in hearing confessions, in writing books, in distributing holy cards and pamphlets, and in having familiar conversations. [8]

            We can say that since his childhood he experiences the apostolic impulse that will last all of his life; it will not let him to be still thinking how he can transmit the message of salvation. This zeal for the salvation of souls is intimately connected to his love of God and the desire that everyone knows him and loves him.

In time I felt a further stimulus for zeal of which I shall speak later, namely, the thought that sin not only condemns my neighbor but is an offense against God, my Father.[9]

            For the Founder, the image of Christ with which he always identified was that of Christ evangelizer: I am ever more deeply impressed at the thought of Jesus moving from town to town, preaching everywhere.[10] In his Autobiography, Chapter XII is dedicated to naming all the different examples of evangelizers that inspirted him.

           

  1. B.In Antonia Paris

            In M. Antonia, the first documented experience of her apostolic concern is the Initial Vision. Mother Antonia is moved to prayer by the concrete situation that the Spanish Church is going through. It is her concern about the surrounding situation of the Church that lead her to cry to heaven for help, but at the same time offering her life. Her prayer is not void of commitment. God will not leave her offer unanswered. The Lord takes her beyond her offer, not only inviting her to live radically the Gospel and Evangelical Counsels, but to invite others to do so (new order), and later on create a movement of renewal based on the same desire of renewal.

The original movement is from the Church to Christ. (2, 19) She considers her love for the Church a gift from God[11]. But as a result of it, her relationship with Christ reaches a different level. She herself tells us in the Autobiography “since then I have the Lord always present and a very intimate communication” It is such a deep experience that sometimes she has to tell the Lord “enough”[12].

            Even though she often says I saw it all in Christ crucified, pointing to the cristocéntrica aspect of her experience, it is undeniable that the starting point is the concern for the Church. Therefore it is a movement from the Church’s external situation to Christ and not the other way around, Christ leads her to an understanding of the internal situation of the Church –the real cause of the ills that afflict it.

Then it comes full circle, because the Lord gives back to her what she had originally brought to Him: the Church. He associates her to the Church in two ways: He invites her to share in his sufferings for the Church finding rests in her and espousing her with the Church.

  1. C.Responding to the passion
  1. Claret

           We can say that Claret’s early childhood experience of eternity will be the source of his missionary vocation. It is his way of responding to his concern for the salvation of souls. It implies a life that is coherent with the message he announces in a profound identification with Christ.    

  1. Paris

                        Antonia’s response translates in a response at three levels:

  1. Personal; The Lord showed me the Holy Law and asked me to practice it in all perfection. But He did not only show her this divine law, but impressed it in her heart.

I was very attentive, overwhelmed to what was happening, and it seemed to me that I was reading the Holy Law of God, but without seeing any book nor letters; I was seeing it written, and I was understanding it so very well, that it seemed to me it was imprinting in my soul but in a particular way the book of the Holy Gospel [13]

In many instances the Lord invites her to SUFFER mystically for the ills of the church.

Cry my daughter the ills of the Church that pierce my heart.[14] Many times he has told me that He rests giving me part of the injuries he receives from sinners specially those he has chosen for his service.[15]

For Claret, to embrace the passion of Christ means to embrace the apostolic sufferings to which the missionary will be exposed. Although, we know that Mother Paris did not shy away from the sacrifices implied by the mission; it is evident in her willingness to cross the Atlantic to begin the Order in Cuba.

b. Congregational: Antonia receives a call to transmit this radical way of living when the Lord asks for a New Order, not new in doctrine, but in practice. The new order is the first instrument which God suggests for the renewal of the Church. Later on, she will also receive the inspiration to write the Points for the Reform of the Church.

c. Ecclesial: From the beginning her apostolic concerns engulf the whole church. She feels called to “raise the Gospel” or restore gospel living through the renewal of the Church which will be carried out by this Plan of Reform, as well as by the life and work of the new order. Given that the Plan of Reform will be addressed by another author, we will concentrate in what it means to be Apostles of Jesus Christ.

                       

II.        APOSTLES OF JESUS CHRIST

 

  1. A.In the title of the New Order

               When Mother Antonia receives the inspiration to found the new order, she is told by the Lord what its title would be: Here (at this moment) our Lord gave me the traits of the whole order and told me that I should be called: “APOSTLES of JESUS CHRIST IN IMITATION of THE BLESSED VIRGYN MARY”[16]This title will be used until 1860, it will be modified after that to Apostolic Institute of the Immaculate Conception of Blessed Mary which appears for the first time in the Constitutions of 1862.

 

  1. B.The apostles in the experience of Antonia Paris

 

In the morning, on the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, after communion our Lord told me that Fr. Claret together with his sons in the order of the Apostles of Jesus Christ.[17]

            In a feast day of the Apostles Meter and Paul she sees the Apostles walking with the Lord: St. Peter and St. Paul were always at my left side, giving me much consolation; even now, when I remember I get much courage in the difficulties that I encounter. [18]

In the Constitutions it is stipulated that the Acts of the Apostles be read during meals.[19] All the sisters will be asked to add the name of an Apostle to their name.[20]

  1. C.In Imitation of the Holy Apostles

The Aim and Goal states that the way of carrying out the mission of “working until death” has to be “in imitation the Holy Apostles.” This is one of the modifications introduced by M. Antonia to the Aim and Goal of the order. The Company of Mary calls the sisters to carry out their mission in imitation of Mary. In the second part of the Aim and Goal which describes the form and manner of life, we find additional references to the apostles. Like the apostles, the purpose of being “stripped of all inordinate affections and passions” is to be able “to follow in the footsteps of Christ our highest good.”

            But, what does it mean to be “Apostles of Jesus Christ”? To answer this question, we will refer to two texts of our founders where we find a description of their apostolic ideal.

  1. III.TWO TEXTS, ONE SAME SPIRIT

                  The following two documents offer us a clear portrayal of what the founders envisioned for their missionaries. These texts that seem written by the same hand are certainly inspired by same Spirit. We are referring to the Apostolic Missionary written by Antonia Paris and The Letter to the Missionary Theophilus written by St. Anthony Mary Claret.

  1. A.The Apostolic Missionary
    1. Origin of the text

      The shortest of Antonia Paris’ writings and the one we have less information about the time, place and circumstances that led her to write it. Her authorship is undeniable, since the original handwritten document, ten pages long, has been preserved. Since other Antonia was very busy writing the Autobiography between the years 1856 and 1857, there is a possibility that she wrote this before leaving for Spain in 1859, while Fr. Currius was still with her pressing her to write her experiences and ideas. [21]

  1. Content of the text

              It is composed of two parts:

  1. B.Letter to the Missionary Theophilus
    1. Origin of the text

           This text served as a foreword to a collection of Mission Sermons that were published by Claret in 1858. The text can be found in the modern publication of the Works of St. Anthony Mary Claret, volume III Selected Spiritual Writings.[22] It is directed to a priest “who not only loves God (hence the name Theophilus –like addresse in Luke/Acts or St. Francis de Sale’s feminine God-lover, Philotea), but also on fire with zeal for his neighbor that he feels called to exercise the prophetic dimension of hispriesthood in mission preaching”.[23] The text offers a mini-treatise of pastoral theology in simple and practical language.

  1. Content of the text

The letter is divided into four chapters: the excellence of mission, advice on the life and spirituality of the missionary, an understanding human nature, maxims and topics to be stressed in the missions.

  1. Excellence of Mission: This reflection is based on the text of Is. 52,7: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news.” In this chapter Jesus appears as the head of the other missionaries. To be a missionary is to share in the mission of one sent by the Father. The missionary is given four motives to spur him on:
    1. The worth of the soul which is the image of the Blessed Trinity. Here Claret shares what has been his driving motivation: the conversion of sinners, the salvation of souls.
    2. To demonstrate one’s love for God: It is interesting that here again it appears as a second motive and covers it very briefly.
    3. Predestination: Quoting St. Augustine, it presents the connection between one’s salvation and the salvation of others.
    4. Describes the consequences of not giving all to the mission: “Most priests will be condemned for sins of omission.”[24]
    5. Chapter II: Important Advice to a Missionary. Here Claret proposes some guidelines for living in such away that one’s life will be greater source of inspiration than one’s words. The following topics are addressed: prayer, poverty, combating love of pleasure and honors, humility, acceptance of persecutions. It presents Jesus, St. Paul and the rest of the Apostles as examples of in living up to the demands of the mission.
    6. Chapter III: Who is the human person, or the knowledge of the human nature that the missionary needs. This is a brief theological anthropology presented in fifteen points. It is an incredible analysis of human nature and the moral ills that affect the human person and how to remedy them. How does Claret see the human person in this chapter?
      1. First of it addresses the ultimate vocation of the human person.

   God made man in His image and likeness, so that he might know, love and serve Him here on earth, and afterwards be eternally happy there in heaven with the same God who created him.[25]

  1. In second place, it presents the unity of body and soul and the triple faculties, memory and will which liken the person to the Blessed Trinity.
  2. Sin and its effects. “The primary cause of sin is the willful love of independence: the abuse of the dominion God gave man.”[26]
  3. Chapter IV: This chapter lists the topics that should be covered in the missions and the maxims that should be stressed. These topics are: the commandments, prayer, good works, the sacraments, devotion to the Blessed Trinity, to Blessed Sacrament, the passion of our Lord, the way of the cross, the rosary, reading of good books, works of mercy, the Word of God.

 


[1] D. Senior, Stuhmueller, C., The Biblical Foundations of Mission, Maryknoll: Orbis, 1983, p. 266

[2] VC 9

[3] Sandra Schneiders, Finding the Treasure (New York: Paulist Press), 2000, p. 298 referring to K. Rahner’s work, “The Unity of Love of God and Neighbor” (152) in The Content of Faith: The Best of Karl Rahner’s Theological Writings, Ed K..Lehmann and Al. Raffelt (New York: Crossroads, 1992).

[4] Schneiders, p. 313.

[5] Caminar desde Cristo, 22

[6] Exodo 3

[7] Aut. PC 8  

            [8] Ibid, 9b.

[9] Aut. PC 16.

            [10] Ibid 221

            [11] Aut. AP 35

[12] Ibid 12

[13] Ibid 5

[14] Ibid 14

[15] Ibid 13

[16] Aut. MP,7.

[17] Aut. MP, 32

[18] Aut. MP. 36

[19] Constitutions 1869, Trat. I, cap. 18, 4

[20] Constitutions 1869, Tratado I, cap. 20, 6

[21] Escritos de María Antonia París, Barcelona 1985, p. 349

[22] Prepared by Jesus Bermejo, cmf, translated by Joseph Daries, cmf. Claretian Publications: Quezon City, 1991.

[23] Ibid. 411.

[24] Ibid I, 3 p. 419.

[25] Ibid III, 2. p. 426

[26] Ibid III, 7. p. 427.