Acta Sanctorum: St. Anthony Mary Claret (Oct 24)
October 24, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.
October 24
St. Anthony Mary Claret
Life (1807-1870)

Although later an official in the royal Spanish court, St. Anthony Claret was the son of a weaver, and he himself learned and practiced the craft, as well as the craft of printing.

Throughout this craftman’s period, this deeply religious young man intended to enter the service of the Church. Although ordained a diocesan priest in 1835, he still thought he was called to the religious life. Would it be as a Carthusian hermit or a Jesuit missionary? His own uncertain health eventually provided the answer. The hermit’s life was too rigorous for his frail constitution, and when he became a Jesuit novice and then took ill, the Jesuit superior advised him to go back home and work as a missionary among his own people.

For the next ten years, Father Anthony traveled through his native Catalonia, giving missions and retreats, with the Holy Eucharist and the Immaculate Heart of Mary as his constant themes. Thus he came to be one of Spain’s best-known preachers. To promote home missions still more effectively, he not only aided St. Joaquina de Mas Vedruna, foundress of the Carmelite Sisters of Charity, but also in 1849 founded, to continue his missionary efforts, the “Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” (C.F.M.), better know as the “Claretians.”

In 1850, Father Anthony was named archbishop of Santiago, Cuba. During his initial pastoral tours of this archdiocese, he saw that religious reform was an urgent necessity. There were too many common-law marriages; there were too many children born out of wedlock. But not all Cubans were ready to accept reform. A violent anti-Christian clique tried several times to take the archbishop’s life. One man almost succeeded. He seriously wounded Claret after the archbishop had converted the would-be-assassin’s mistress to a better life. The assailant was condemned to death, but St. Anthony pleaded successfully for his life. Meanwhile Anthony the saint was also helping his Cuban people by promoting modern agricultural techniques and establishing credit unions for the poor.

In 1857, Isabella II, the reigning queen of Spain, called the archbishop home to become her confessor. Actually Anthony stayed away from her court activities as much as possible, and renewed his preaching apostolate. (He is said to have preached 10,000 sermons in his life!) Once again, he also promoted knowledge and devotion by positive means. At Barcelona he established the Libreria Religiosa, which distributed thousands of religious and cultural works. He himself wrote some 200 of these books and pamphlets. He likewise set up a science laboratory, a museum of natural history, and schools of music and languages. But in his efforts as a communicator he continued to be motivated by his deeply charismatic spirituality.

Despite Anthony’s detachment from court life, he became the object of vicious slander on the part of the queen’s enemies. When the latter revolted and deposed Isabella in 1868, the archbishop also had to flee the country. He went to Italy and took an active part in the First Vatican Council. Then he settled, for the time being, at Narbonne, France, hoping that he might be soon re-admitted to Spain. But he died in exile on October 24, 1870. Pope Pius XII canonized this very modern churchman in 1950.

The Claretian Fathers came to the United States in 1902. Since then they have been active in the care of the Spanish-speaking. They likewise do considerable publishing, in the spirit of their founder. (U.S. Catholic is one of their publications.) In 1925 they inaugurated the national shrine of St. Jude in Chicago. American popular devotion to this “saint of the impossible” owes much to the efforts of these disciples of St. Anthony Claret.

--Father Robert F. McNamara

Scripture (Isa 52:7-10)
How beautiful upon the mountains
  are the feet of him who brings glad tidings,
Announcing peace, bearing good news,
  announcing salvation, and saying to Zion,
  “Your God is King!”
Hark! Your sentinels raise a cry,
  together they shout for joy,
For they see directly, before their eyes,
  the Lord restoring Zion.
Break out together in song,
  O ruins of Jerusalem!
For the Lord comforts his people,
  he redeems Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm
  in the sight of all the nations;
All the ends of the earth will behold
  the salvation of our God.
(Year A). In the Sacred book of Tobit, we read that the Archangel St. Raphael said, Bless the God of heaven, because he has shown you his mercy. For it is good to hide the secret of a king, but honorable to reveal and confess the works of God (Tob 12:7). On this point, Fr. Scio says: “The good outcome of a prince’s plans and of his council’s resolutions depends on impenetrable secrecy. But this is not so of the works of God’s providence, kindness and power, which his faithful servants should reveal and publish, not only to show their own thanks, but also that others, seeing the great wonders He works for His chosen, may praise the Lord, put their trust in Him, and merit His protection in recompense for their fidelity in keeping His law.” Hence, for the greater glory of God and of Blessed Mary of the Rosary, I will say that my parents, who are now in glory, instilled in me from early childhood the devotion to the Most Holy Rosary, bought me a pair of beads, and enrolled me in the Confraternity of the parish.
When I was still a very young man, they sent me to Barcelona. One Summer day as I was walking along the shore and bathing my feet, a great wave came in and sweptme out to sea, some distance from the shore. As I had no notion of how to swim, I was astonished to find that I could not touch bottom with my feet, so that there was no way I could escape drowning. Blessed be the kindness and clemency of Mary Most Holy! For, having commended myself to this good Mother, she – not for any merits of my own, but out of her sheer mercy – drew me out of that imminent danger, so that not a single drop of sea water entered my mouth. Besides this bodily danger, she freed me from two other threats that were even greater, one of them moral, the other spiritual. No shepherdess ever took greater care of her flock than Mary Most Holy shows toward the souls she has taken into her care.
Mary Most Holy protected me so well, that she always saw to it that I had very good companions and always lived in good households where the people, besides looking after my bodily needs, also attended to those of my soul by their good example. I had a good spiritual director, good and very wise teachers, all the books I needed and time to study. Thus it was quite clear that Mary Most Holy had a special providence for me and treated me as a very pampered son, not for any merits of my own, but out of her pious care and kindness.
On the second day of February – the day when she went to the Temple with her Son Jesus in her arms and offered Him to the Eternal Father1843 – it can be said that She herself presented me in the temple and offered me to the Eternal Father as a cleric, for this was the day when the Bishop gave me clerical Tonsure and when the Vicar General of Vic conferred on me the benefice of St. Mary of Sallent, a benefice I renounced when I was named Archbishop of Santiago, Cuba.
Here is yet another great grace from Mary: On August 4th, the Feast of St. Dominic, founder of the Holy Rosary, I was named Archbishop by Her Majesty the Queen and her Government. I turned down this appointment, but Her Majesty and the Papal Nuncio, then Signor Brunelli, kept insisting that I accept it. Finally, the Bishop of Vic formally commanded me, as my superior, to accept it. Out of obedience I complied on October 4th and was consecrated the following year on October 6th, the day on which we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Rosary that year. It was as if the Virgin was letting me know that this was not just a chance occurrence, and that it was not through any merits, talents or virtues of my own (for I had and have none), but only by the will of God and Blessed Mary of the Rosary, that I became an Archbishop.
The moment I was consecrated, I left for my assignment. And five years later, on the Vigil of February 2nd, the day when the Blessed Virgin presented her Son to the Eternal Father, she also presented me and preserved me from the death I should surely have undergone at the hands of an assassin. Not only did the Blessed Virgin save me, but she gave me such joy and happiness that I have never had the like on this earth. And this was all through Mary’s grace.
Thirteen months later, Her Majesty summoned me to be her Confessor and Spiritual Director. And one of the greatest graces I have received from Mary Most Holy is the fact that, notwithstanding Her Majesty’s great appreciation of me, I have never felt attracted to the Court, nor has my heart ever become attached to distinctions, titles and honors. The only favor I have asked of Her Majesty time and time again, has been to allow me to retire from Court and devote myself to Missions. These and many other things that might be told are all graces I have received from Mary Most Holy, not for any merit of my own, but only out of her great kindness. Behold, then, all creatures, praise Mary, thank Mary, and all of you be very devoted to Mary. ("Graces Granted by the Blessed Virgin Mary to the Most Unworthy and Ungrateful of Her Sons")
Musical Selection (Benedictines of Mary)
O Heart of Mary, pure and fair,
There is no stain in thee.
In Adam's fall thou hadst no share,
From every sin thou’rt free.
O Heart of Mary, pure and fair,
No beauty can compare!
From every stain of sin thou’rt free,
O make us pure like thee.
As some fair lily ‘midst the thorns,
Thou ‘mongst Eve’s daughters art:
Celestial purity adorns thy chaste and loving Heart.
O chaste abode of fairest love,
In thee the King reposed.
Thou art the spouse, the mystic dove,
The font, the garden closed.
Dear Heart, within thy holy realm,
We'll dwell and ne'er depart,
Till thou hast deeply placed
our souls In Jesus' Sacred Heart.
Lord our God,
you strengthened the holy bishop Anthony Mary
with outstanding charity and patience
in preaching the gospel;
grant through his intercession
that we may seek those things that belong to you
and give ourselves wholly to winning others for Christ.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever. Amen. (ICEL; 1998)