Founder of the Virgo Flos Carmeli

Pe. João Clá S. Dias

Msgr. João Scognamiglio Clá Dia, a native of Brazil, was born in São Paulo, on August 15, 1939. His parents, António Clá Dias and Annitta Scognamiglio Clá Dias, were European immigrants (his father, a Spaniard from Cádiz, and his mother, an Italian from Rome), in whom the Catholic faith, received from their forefathers, was still vibrant.

This vigorous faith manifested itself early in João. In school, he endeavoured to organize a movement among his classmates to help young people practice a virtuous life. He joined the Marian Congregations, and at the invitation of a teacher, entered the Third Order of the Discalced Carmelites of the Strict Observance, on May 23, 1956 in the city of São Paulo. This event deeply marked his life. He completed his secondary studies at Colégio Estadual Roosevelt (Roosevelt State College) and studied law at the prestigious Largo de São Francisco Faculty of São Paulo. He stood out as an active Catholic university leader during his post-secondary studies in the turbulent years preceding the Sorbonne revolution of May 1968.

Msgr. João S. Clá Dias is an honorary canon of the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major, in Rome, and Protonotary Apostolic. He has degrees in Philosophy and Theology from the Italo-Brazilian University in São Paulo and a Humanities Doctorate from the Pontifical Catholic University Madre y Maestra, in the Dominican Republic. He is also Master of Canon Law at the Superior Pontifical Institute of Canon Law in Rio de Janeiro.

His ardent desire to dedicate his life to the apostolate, in faithfulness to the Magisterium of the Chair of Peter as well as a vivid consciousness of the need for solid doctrinal foundation, led him to the study of Thomistic theology with the renowned university professors of Salamanca (Spain), including Fr. Arturo Alonso Lobo, OP, Fr. Marcelino Cabreros de Anta, CMF, Fr. Victorino Rodríguez y Rodríguez, OP, Fr. Esteban Gómez, OP, Fr. Antonio Royo Marin, OP, Fr. Teófilo Urdánoz, OP, and Fr. Armando Bandera, OP.  Years later, in a gesture of profound gratitude, he wrote short biographies on two of his mentors with editions published in Spain and the United States: “Antonio Royo Marin, master of the spiritual life, brilliant preacher and renowned author”, and “Fr. Cabreros de Anta, CMF, A Solid Pillar of Canon Law in our Century.”

The fruit of these studies was the subsequent foundation of institutes for the intellectual and doctrinal formation of the Heralds of the Gospel: the Aristotelian-Thomistic Philosophical Institute, the St. Thomas Aquinas Theological Institute, as well as the Saint Scholastica Philosophical-Theological Institute of the feminine branch, and the University of the Heralds of the Gospel, which opened with courses in Philosophy and Theology. Seeing music as an effective means of evangelization, he refined his musical knowledge with renowned maestro Miguel Arqueróns, Director of the Paulistano Choir of the Municipal Theatre of São Paulo.

His desire for perfection spurred him to undertake a provisory experience in community life in a former Benedictine edifice in São Paulo, in 1970. None of his first companions persevered; yet, after numerous setbacks, the community took root and blossomed into an evangelizing movement headed by Msgr. João Clá. From this founding house many others developed, in which members dedicated themselves to prayer and study in preparation for works of evangelization. This took the juridical form of a Private Association of the Faithful, The Heralds of the Gospel, in the diocese of Campo Limpo (São Paulo, Brazil). With its implantation in an additional 20 countries it was recognized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, on February 22, 2001, as an International Association of Pontifical Right. Today it is active in 78 countries on five continents. Shortly after the approval, the Vicariate of Rome entrusted the care of the Church of San Benedetto in Piscinula to the Heralds of the Gospel.

Msgr. João Clá Dias is the founder and current General President of the Heralds of the Gospel.

He also formed a feminine branch of the Heralds, which embodies—in a similar manner, but separately from the masculine branch—the ideal of community life as a means of attaining sanctity and worthily preparing for the evangelizing mission. The Society of Apostolic Life Regina Virginum arose from the feminine branch, and was approved by the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, on April 4, 2009.

Stimulated by a desire for greater dedication to Our Lord and his brethren, Msgr. João Clá prepared for the priestly ministry along with some of his companions. Because of the role of the Third Order of Carmel in the distant origins of the Heralds of the Gospel, it was a Carmelite prelate, the Most Rev. Lucio Angelo Renna, then Bishop of Avezzano, Italy, who welcomed the first priests of this Association.

They were ordained to the priesthood, along with Msgr. João Clá, on June 15, 2005, at the same Basilica of Carmel in which, almost 50 years previously, he had begun his activities at the service of the Church and his fellow Christians. Cardinal Cláudio Hummes honoured the ceremony with his presence; seven bishops concelebrated the Eucharist along with seventy priests.

These first priests of the Heralds of the Gospel constituted the Priestly Society of Apostolic Life Virgo Flos Carmeli, approved on April 4, 2009, by Pope Benedict XVI. Currently, as founder of Virgo Flos Carmeli Msgr. João Clá is its Superior General.

Msgr. João Clá Dias has also formed approximately 50 choirs and symphonic bands in the countries in which the Heralds of the Gospel are active. He is the director of the International Choir and Orchestra of the Heralds of the Gospel, which has toured several countries of Europe and the Americas.

He has written widely distributed works (some surpassing one million copies), published in Portuguese, Spanish, English, Italian, French, Polish and Albanian: Fatima, Dawn of the Third Millennium,” “The Rosary, the Prayer of Peace,” “Sacred Heart of Jesus, Treasure of Goodness and Love,” “The Miraculous Medal, its History and the Celestial Promises,” “Via Sacra,” “Jacinta and Francisco, the Chosen Ones of Mary,” “Daily Prayers,” “The Mother of Good Counsel of Genazzano,” “Dona Lucilia” and “Commentaries on the Little Office of the Immaculate Conception.” Msgr. João Clá is a member of the International Society of Thomas Aquinas, the Marian Academy of Aparecida, and the Pontifical Academy of the Immaculate Conception.

He has been honoured in various countries for his cultural and academic achievements, receiving the Medal of Sciences from Mexico and the title of Doctor Honoris Causa, from the Italo-Brazilian University of São Paulo. He is the founder of and a contributor to the monthly magazine Heralds of the Gospel, published in English, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian, with a total circulation of nearly 800,000. Since 2002, he has written a commentary on the Gospel for each issue.

He is also a regular contributor to the academic publication “Lumen Veritatis,” published by the University of the Heralds of the Gospel, which was inaugurated in October 2007, thanks to his initiative.

In order to support benevolent apostolic works, he created the charitable “Mercy” foundation, within the Heralds of the Gospel Association in Brazil, which raises funds by gathering donations.

With his impetus and guidance, the Heralds of the Gospel International College commenced academic activities in 2005. The construction of Our Lady of the Rosary Church, at the Seminary of the Heralds of the Gospel, is his most recent achievement. The Monastery of Mount Carmel, of the Society Regina Virginum is nearing completion, due, once again, to his untiring efforts.

On August 15,  2009, the Holy Father Benedict XVI recognized the work that Monsignor João Clá has undertaken in benefit of the Catholic Church by bestowing on him—by the hands of Cardinal Franc Rodé, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life—the “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” Medal, one of the highest honours accorded by the Holy Father to persons of outstanding performance in favour of the Church and the Roman Pontiff.