Peace and Reconciliation in Claret
Sebin Babu Mundackal, cmf.
Member of CESC-Vic
Peace and reconciliation are relevant and widely discussed topics in the current scenario. Claret, in his life, encountered and lived several moments of conflicts that were not going to facilitate the establishment of peace in different areas, such as political, social, religious, or psychological. In this brief article, we will see how Claret responded to certain conflictive situations to establish peace and if the method he used to achieve reconciliation was effective.
Claret was born in 1807, a time of great political turmoil in Spain. A situation that, although with relatively calmer moments, was to last all his life. In one of his writings, he says, “War without quarter is a barbaric means, and he who authorizes it will give a terrible account to God of all the blood that has been shed.”[i] Here, we can see a constant attempt to create an atmosphere of peace as far as possible and thus avoid situations that would endanger her.
Reading his book Avisos a un Militar Cristiano, it is evident his recommendation aimed at restoring peace and never losing the concern for humanitarian values. We know the obligations of a military man. Still, even when advising him to fulfill his duties, Claret emphasizes the importance of the value of life: “When entering an enemy country, the military man of honor must not only respect but also protect the honor of women, the innocence of children, the weakness of the elderly and of all those who do not want to or cannot do any harm.”[ii] As we know that a soldier must finish off his enemies, Claret insists on establishing peace with conquest.
As a result of the preaching of Mossen Claret and his interventions in Sallent as parochial vicar and bursar from 1835-1839, we can see how he tried to keep the civil authority and the people united and at peace. In a letter written on May 15, 1838, to the Town Council of Sallent, we see his concern for keeping the people of Sallent united and in peace and unity. “Let us unite then, Sores. With the Escma. Diputación is taking refuge in the shade of our sacrosanct Religion, beseeching the God of the armies and the Virgin Mary, Mother of peace, to assist us in such straits, granting us peace and charity, which we need so much.”[iii]
This was his procedure of action in the face of conflictive political situations. During his life in Catalonia as an itinerant missionary (1841-1850), he always considered it decided not to ally himself with any political side and maintained his objective of sharing the love of God for all. But he had to face many problems, which did not prevent him from being misunderstood by others, who accused him of being favorable to a particular political side. The best example of his attitude to bringing peace and avoiding conflicts and misunderstandings in his missions and his great appreciation for political tranquility can be seen in his Autobiography. “In those calamitous times, not only did he have to proceed with such caution, but also the function could not be given the name of a mission, but of a Novena of souls, of the Virgin of the Rosary, of the Blessed Sacrament, of such and such a saint, in order to avoid conflicts and misunderstandings in his missions and his great appreciation for political tranquility. Sacramento, of such a saint, so as not to alarm the constitutionals, who had the authority and governed in those cities and towns where he preached.” [iv]
Claret’s intentions and actions were always to pacify and avoid favoring a specific political group and its particular objectives: “General Manzano told me himself later when we were both in Cuba, I as Archbishop and he as Governor General in the city of Santiago, that he had this commission to arrest me, not because the Government knew anything about me against the government, since the rulers knew that I never got involved in political things, but because I gave them fear when they saw the multitude of people that from everywhere gathered when I preached…at the smallest insinuation that I made, everyone would rise up.”[v] This shows his conviction about the position he had to take in this area in order to maintain peace in society and continue to carry out his mission of revealing the peace of Christ to them.
He was convinced that peace can only be achieved by a society that eradicates the unjust and discriminatory practices that prevail there. When there is an educated and formed society, peace and tranquility can be achieved. His Cuban mission as archbishop from February 16, 1851, revealed this to us later, as he became involved in different social issues. Alleviating poverty, empowering women, educating children, eradicating slavery and providing pastoral care without discrimination was to create in the long run a peaceful and just society. Claret worked hard to this end, because peaceful people create peaceful families and these groups create a peaceful society. The whole social project he had in Cuba was to raise the individual’s standard of living and his moral and psychological formation and thus prepare him to be able to experience and enjoy peace.[vi]
Claret considered it fundamental to establish peace in the community or family. In Cuba he lived with a group of collaborating priests in his residence. He was very clear about the harmony and unity of the group, both while they were at home and when they went out to preach. No one can impart the experience that he has not lived; then, to transmit peace with others, the missionaries needed to live it and experience it. Claret in his Autobiography explained some methods he put into practice to live that peace in the community. Claret proposed the following means to create peace in the community: common prayer and meal times, spiritual exercises together, no exclusive friendships, loving everyone equally and not reading anonymous accusations.[vii] What I would like to emphasize is not these means, but how he managed to create an atmosphere of peace in the small group that lived with him in Cuba.
Claret’s way of achieving peace, whether political or social, is through reconciliation. He considered it as one of the effective tools. Claret tells about a group of revolutionaries in the city of Port-au-Prince: “In those days the troops caught four insurgents or revolutionaries, sons of the same city, with weapons in their hands, and they were condemned to death. And the confidence that the prisoners and even their relatives had in me was so great that they called me to go to the prison to confess them, and, in fact, I went and confessed them”.[viii] But, taking into account the situation of their families and the willingness of the guilty to lay down their arms, Claret wrote a letter to the Captain General asking him to commute the sentence to death to avoid that instead of peace, the spirit of revenge would arise, which would last for generations, and explained that the pardon of capital punishment would give a certain level of trust and fidelity to authority, and implicitly urged him to use the method of reconciliation instead of punishment. Through this, he emphasized once again the importance of reconciliation and forgiveness to bring peace: “…Therefore I say that it is not convenient that the death sentence be given to those convicts. In the first place, the faction is already concluded, and now such a penalty would have more the appearance of revenge than of justice. In the second place, if this sentence is carried out, the spirits will always remain rancorous, and never again will their hearts be Spanish.”[ix]
Peace in his personal life
In his personal life he emphasized the value of forgiveness and reconciliation at various times in his life. He was sure that peace is a gift from God and only through a life of prayer can absolute peace be achieved; but God blesses the methods and actions that we put into practice to achieve it. “I once thought how could it be that so much peace, so much joy, so much good harmony reigned in so many subjects and for so long, and I could not give myself any other reason than to say: Digitus Dei est hic. This is a singular grace that God dispenses to us by his infinite goodness and mercy. I knew that the Lord blessed the means that we put on our part to obtain this very special grace.” [x]
At many times he was accused and persecuted; but the method of attaining inner peace was by following the method of reconciliation: “I will always strive for inner peace. Therefore, I will not get angry, nor speak, nor make a bad face, nor indicate grief or displeasure no matter how much they say or do against me, nor how much people burden me.”[xi] As royal confessor, when the recognition of the kingdom of Italy took place, on July 15, 1865, he had to make this process of reconciliation with Queen Elizabeth II since, as a consequence of that decision, she showed that she was not in full communion with the Pope. But Claret returned to his post as confessor on December 22 of the same year, after consulting with the Pope and after the Queen had fulfilled the conditions imposed by Rome. [xii]
Claret could have easily taken revenge on the assassin Antonio Abad Torres, who tried to kill him on February 1, 1856; but he forgave him and helped him financially to go ahead: “The assassin was caught in the act and was taken to jail. A cause was formed for him and the judge gave the sentence of death, notwithstanding that I, in the statements I had taken, said that I forgave him as a Christian, as a priest and as an archbishop.” [xiii]
Claret considered it a great grace, together with that of Eucharistic permanence (Aut 694) to have received the gift of loving his enemies; this grace, together with other elements, helped him to live in peace in the midst of tensions and conflicts. He himself testifies that on September 12, 1869 at 11:30 a.m. the Lord gave him the grace to love his enemies. [xiv]
All this took place through a long process of searching for inner peace. It is a great truth that the peace of a group depends entirely on peaceful individuals. If citizens and administrators love and work to establish personal, religious, social and political peace, the world will be a paradise.
It is impossible to write down in a small space all the interventions of Claret to create peace at different levels. His intense desire for peace and the means he put into practice to establish it, especially reconciliation, would convey to today’s society an example in bringing peace. Each individual is important; his personal and social views, and his love and desire for peace can certainly open wide the possibility of eradicating national and international conflicts as a whole and social and family conflicts in particular.
Sebin Babu Mundackal, cmf.
[i] Claret, Avisos a un Militar Cristiano, Barcelona (1858), p. 24; El Beato I, p. 249.
[iii] EC I, 84.
[iv] Aut, 292.
[v] Aut, 458.
[vi] Cf. SÁNCHEZ MIRANDA Carlos, “Claret, evangelizer of the peripheries of his time” in Studia Claretiana, XXXIV (2019) pp. 75-103.
[vii] Cf. Aut, 610-613.
[viii] Aut, 523.
[ix] EC I, 586.
[x] Aut, 609.
[xi] Purposes of the Exercises made in St. Gabriel with the Missionaries of Segovia, which began on August 26, 1867. (Mss. Claret, II, p. 117, edited in the Autobiography of the bicentenary, p. 716.
[xii] Cf. EC II, 954-955.
[xiii] Aut, 583.
[xiv] Cf. Mss. Claret, II, 216, edited in the Autobiography of the bicentennial, p. 825.