St Anthony Mary Claret

1435.1024Sant_Antonio_Maria_ClaretThe words spoken by Pope Pius XII on the occasion of the canonization of Anthony Mary Claret sum up the great personality of this apostle of Spain in the 19th century: “Great soul born as if to join together contrasts. He was able to be humble of origin and glorious in the eyes of the world; of small figure and of a giant spirit; of modest appearance, but extremely capable to stir up respect even before the great men of the world; of strong character but with the mild sweetness of one who knows the brake of austerity and patience; always in the midst of his prodigious external activity; slandered and admired, celebrated and persecuted…”

Anthony Claret was born in Spain during the turbulent times in the country of revolutions and anti-Napoleonic uprising in his native region Catalonia in a family of textile weavers. Fortunately, he has left for the later generations his own autobiography written at the insistence of Fr. Jose Xifre and it is a valuable source to know many details of his early life although written with the aim of forming his missionaries apostolically. God’s ways of leading and guiding Anthony Claret are marvelous though unfathomable for human minds. The definitive turn from becoming a proficient textile manufacturer happens when he recollects the words of Mt. 16:26: “What does is profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” His vocational journey is quite interesting and it consists of many ups and downs. He who wanted to be a foreign missionary in a country like China lands up in his own native soil to be an apostolic missionary to provide the water of life to the parched tongues thirsting for the water of divine and life-giving words. His creativity unfolds in many ways especially in startling new ventures in the field of press apostolate, animation of laity and starting an apostolic congregation with five likeminded priests on July 16th 1849 in Vic, Spain. Leaving the newborn child of the congregation (just weeks after the foundation) he had to take up the spiritual animation and administration of a missionary archdiocese in the Central American Cuba for a period of seven years.

Divine providence brings him back to Spain to serve the queen as her confessor and to be of great importance for the spiritual enlivening of Spain again in turbulent times of wars and revolutions. Mystic and man of action, he was in sum and substance. He had to follow the Lord in his passion as one of the most slandered personalities of the 19th century Spain. His own life definition is reflected in the form he left for his missionary sons and daughters: “A Son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a man on fire with love, who spreads its flames wherever he goes. He desires mightily and strives by all means possible to set everyone on fire with God’s love. Nothing daunts him: he delights in privations, welcomes work, embraces sacrifices, smiles at slander, rejoices in all the torments and sorrows he suffers, and glories in the cross of Jesus Christ. His only concern is how he may follow and imitate him in praying, working, enduring and striving constantly and solely for the greater glory of God and the salvation of humankind.”

“My spirit is for the whole world,” was his continuous aspiration which could not be fulfilled by his own life but through the lives of his numerous missionary sons spread through in of all continents.

“I have always wanted to die a poor man in some hospital or in the scaffold as a martyr or to be put to death by the enemies of the holy religion we profess and preach thus sealing the virtues and truths I have taught with my blood,” (Autobiography 467) he said. In fact, God granted him the grace of dying as a poor, exiled and persecuted person in the forsaken monastery of monks, but the grace of martyrdom was preserved for many of his sons in the Spanish revolution of 1936-39 starting with the martyrs of Barbastro. Claret’s ideals and aspirations are lived in and through his missionary sons and daughters who are like the great founder sent to preach the good news to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted and to announce the salvation and liberation of a savior to all creatures in the whole world.

Some important dates…
1807 Dec 23: Born in Sallent, Spain
1825-1829: Worked in a Textile Factory
1829 Sep 29: Entered the Seminary in Vic
1835 Jun 13: Ordained Priest
1839: Volunteered as an Apostolic Missionary
1849 July 16: Founded the Congregation of Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (C.M.F)
1850 Oct 6: Consecrated Archbishop of Santiago, Cuba
1855 Aug 25: Founded with Mother Antonia Paris the Congregation of the Religious Mary Immaculate Claretian Missionary Sisters
1857: Nominated as the Confessor of the Queen of Spain
1868 Sep 30: Sent into Exile to France
1869-1870: Took part in the First Vatican Council
1870 Oct 24: Expired in Fontfroide, France
1934 Feb 25: Proclaimed Blessed by Pope Pius XI
1950 May 7: Declared Saint by Pope Pius XII

St Anthony Mary Claret: What was he?