The Blessed Francis Palau, a Spanish Carmelite born in Aytona in 1810 and died in Taragona in 1871, was a typical person of the XIX century. Fr Alejo of the Virgin of Carmel wrote that he could be counted among the great figures of the XIX century, particularly in Catalonia, and among the apostles of the Christian word, alongside the Venerable Claret, Fr Coll and Fr Planas, but that we must add about Fr Palau that he was the “most afflicted, most maligned, and least well known today, than all the others.”
He was a man dissatisfied with the spirit of the century, longing for the world that had been brought tumbling down by revolutionary processes, and always hoping for the resurgence of a new society in which he could see his hopes realized.
His vocation: Palau discovered that his place was in the cloister, and when circumstances expelled him from there, he reaffirmed his vocation as a religious and Carmelite, to which he remained faithful in facing pressure, prohibitions, prison and exile. Now that the “call of love” in him was stronger that all the difficulties that occurred, he resolved “to live in solitude in the deserts, within the shelter of the mountains.”
Love for the Church, his great passion, would eventually reveal itself as a reality far beyond the structure he initially felt. He came to understand it as a communion of love between God and neighbour. When he discovered this mystery at the height of 1860, he also discovered the definitive meaning of his life: a life spent in service to the Church.
Francis Palau, by vocation a hermit, felt himself an apostle, an evangelizer, willing to spend himself in this cause against all those who wished to discard and silence God. He understood evangelizing to be all activity: preaching, teaching, catechesis, charitable work, using journalism in his own style, propaganda and denunciation, which are helpful to make the environment Christian and to continue bringing it closer to religious principles which, for him, are the basis on which the social edifice ought to be built.
But this passion of his not only addressed Christian indoctrination, but also the care of the needy, the sick, and among these the “crazy”, the insane, who sometimes appeared as having fallen out of God’s hand. In fact he, who from his youth felt that solitude and contemplation – Mary’s vocation – was the natural environment for developing his vocation, recommended to his spiritual daughters the vocation of Martha.
This is Fr Palau, a Discalced Carmelite who, on being expelled from his monastery, discovered his vocation as a solitary hermit, enjoying to be among the caves and solitude of the mountains, who knew how to be a reservoir for the people, as a preacher, reformer of customs, teaching the faith, leading the groups and communities who gathered around him.
Apostolic Missionary: he was the founder of what we today know as two congregations, the Teresian Carmelite Missionary Sisters and the Carmelite Missionary Sisters.
He wrote works of an apologetic and devotional nature. But, above and before all, he was a searcher who always went “in pursuit of what was good and beautiful”.