1. Today a great Work begins.
“At three o’clock in the afternoon we were gathered in a cell of the seminary. Before beginning the inauguration exercises, the then Mn. Antón Claret said: “Today begins a great work.” Fr. Manuel Vilaró replied with a festive air and smiling: “What can we do, being so young and so few?” “You will see,” said the Servant of God, “if we are young and few will shine forth the power and mercy of God.”
Indeed, those beginnings were so humble that not everyone present understood the prodigious results that this meeting would have, for as the Founder said: “Today a great work begins,” one of them smiled, thus expressing the fear which inspired him to consider the difficult circumstances in which he was. What, observed by the Father, returned to him, said in a spirit of prophecy: “Do not you believe? You will see it.” And he has indeed seen it.
- Claret, Father Conciliar in Vatican I and confessor of the faith
The First Vatican Council began with a solemn ceremony, presided over by Pope Pius IX, on December 8, 1869, feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and provisionally ended on July 18, 1870.
In the speech given in the conciliar hall on Tuesday May 31, 1870, Claret said literally:
“Would that in confessing this truth I might shed my blood and undergo death itself! Would that I might consummate the sacrifice that began on the Vigil of the Presentation of Mary Most Holy in 1856, as I descended the pulpit after preaching on faith and seemly customs. For I bear in my body the Wounds of the Lord Jesus, as you yourselves can see on my face and on my arm. Would that I might finish my course while confessing, out of the abundance of my heart, this great truth: I believe that the Roman Pontiff is infallible!” (EA 490-4891).
- Why is the Congregation great?
In my visits to the formation centers of the Congregation, in telling the fact of the words of the Founder, I asked the novices and students: “Why is the Congregation great?” The answers were very varied and some very picturesque, but almost never hit the spot and what I think is the right answer.
The Congregation is great because it has a great and sublime missionary project. It is a project of such a nature that it has been able to sanctify us and sanctify others in the most generous and sublime way by giving our lives for the Gospel and shedding our blood for God. It is a project that engenders Martyrs. The beatification of our brothers by the Church as Martyrs of Faith is telling us that what Claret told us was a true and true prophecy.
Claret always wanted to be a martyr, he wanted to be the first martyr of the Congregation. Claret, a few weeks before the martyrdom of Fr. Crusats, being in Vic, said: “This, [Crusats], will pass me by in the glory of martyrdom.” (Claretian Epistolary, E.C. II, p.1298). When the sacrifice of Crusats was consummated, Claret wrote to Fr, Xifré, in October 1868: “Let us give thanks to God: the Lord and his Blessed Mother have already deigned to accept the firstfruits of the martyrs. I very much wanted to be the first martyr of the Congregation …” (E.C. II, p.1297). And he was willing to shed his blood by faith, by the infallibility of the Pope.
Those who followed in their footsteps included in the missionary itinerary in the style of Claret the martyrdom dimension as it was in the mind of the Founder. And so, they performed the great work in giving their lives for the evangelizing mission.