Friday, December 3, 2021

Saints for Today: Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop (1807-1870)

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Jean M. Lee, M.A., D.Min., is a licensed behavioral health and substance abuse counselor, founding a nonprofit, state-licensed behavior health counseling agency and Christian gift/book store. Volunteer work includes: Jail ministry, Legion of Mary membership, door-to-door evangelization, and writing a weekly newspaper column titled “Faith and Inspiration: Encyclopedia of Saints for Today.” A Catholic revert after 32 years away from the Church, she is devout in the Catholic faith, loves the saints, and lives a deeper spiritual/religious and more joyful life since returning to the Church.

Feast Day: October 24

Anthony was born at Salent in the Diocese of Vich in Catalonia, Spain, in the year in which Napoleon invaded Spain. He was the son of a Spanish weaver, but decided to enter a seminary and was ordained a priest in 1835. He joined the Jesuits in Rome, but ill health prevented him from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers. He spread the message of Christianity widely, was a keen speaker, and a successful and prolific writer, preaching some 10,000 sermons.

He spent ten years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her rosary, it was said, was never out of his hand. At forty-two, beginning with five young priests, Anthony founded the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (the “Claretians”), an order that still flourishes today.

All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press. He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain and wrote approximately two hundred texts during his lifetime. Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: “Reflections on Agriculture” and “Country Delights.”

In 1850, Queen Isabella II requested Anthony serve as the Archbishop of Santiago in Cuba. He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for giving instruction to black slaves and opposing concubinage. Anthony’s reforms angered many, resulting in an attempt on his life. A hired assassin (whose release from prison Anthony had obtained) slashed open Anthony’s face and wrist. He succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term.

At Vatican I, where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, Anthony won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, “There goes a true saint.”

After seven years in the post as Archbishop in Cuba, he was recalled to be Isabella’s chaplain and confessor, where he reluctantly went, yet used his powerful position to fund educational institutes. In 1868, a revolution drove Queen Isabella into exile, and Anthony went with her. At the insistence of the Spanish ambassador, Anthony was placed under house arrest in the Cistercian monastery at Fontfroide near Narbonne, France, where he died at the age of sixty-three.

Queen Isabella II once said to Anthony, “No one tells me things as clearly and frankly as you do.” Later she told him, “Everybody is always asking me for favors, but you never do. Isn’t there something you would like for yourself?” He replied, “That you let me resign.” The queen made no more offers.

“Humility, obedience, meekness, and love are the virtues that shine through the Cross and the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. O my Jesus, help me imitate you!” – St. Anthony Mary Claret

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Foley, Leonard, O.F.M., and Pat McCloskey, O.F.M. “Saint of the Day-Updated and Expanded.” Cincinnati: Franciscan Media, 2013.
Lodi, Enzo. “Saints of the Roman Calendar-Updated and Revised Edition.” New York: Alba House, 2012.
Paul, Tessa, and Consultant, Reverend Ronald Creighton-Jobe. “An Illustrated Dictionary of Saints.” Wigston, Leicestershire: Anness Publishing, 2011.

Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons

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