Lifelong CatechesisForming Catholic identity across generations
For a large part of the liturgical year, we devote ourselves to listening to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects unfolded as we seek God's truth and understanding.
Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop, 1807-1870
Born in the north of Spain, this saint started out working in cloth weaving, his father’s trade. He used his spare time to learn Latin and printing. When he was twenty-two, Anthony entered the seminary where he was ordained six years later.
For ten years, he devoted himself to giving missions and retreats in his native Catalonia. These proved so popular that he inspired other priests to join him to help carry on this work. In 1849, with these other priests, he formed the congregation of Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary which became known as the Claretians.
As his work in Spain was coming to fruition, Father Anthony was sent by the pope to Cuba where he was to be the Archbishop of Santiago, the largest archdiocese in Cuba. This assignment proved to be a challenge for all of his speaking and management skills. Most of the priests were no longer living in their rectories, many had taken mistresses, and the churches were run down. With the clergy in such a state, the laity could hardly be expected to be more sanctified. Many of the faithful had not been confirmed and thousands of marriages had not been blessed in the Church.
Within his first year, Bishop Claret had instituted reforms, given retreats for his priests, confirmed 100,000 people, and blessed 40,000 marriages. All of this was not without opposition, of course. Several attempts were made on the life of the archbishop, and he was seriously wounded by a would-be assassin who was infuriated by the loss of his mistress who had returned to the Church. It was only the intercession of the archbishop that kept the death sentence on this man from being executed.
In 1857, the pope again called on Anthony Claret, this time to return to Spain to become confessor to Queen Isabella. When his presence was not required at the court, Anthony again devoted himself to the missionary work which had been the basis of his career.
The revolution of 1868 drove the royal family out of Spain, and the bishop, also exiled, went to Rome where he participated in the First Vatican Council. It was here that he spoke eloquently in favor of the doctrine of papal infallibility which was adopted at this council. An attempt was made to bring the bishop back to Spain, but a fatal illness came to him before he could return. He died on October 24, 1870.
Anthony Claret is credited with writing over 10,000 sermons, as well as 200 books and pamphlets, for the instruction of his priests and people. As rector of the Escorial, he established a science laboratory, a museum of natural history, schools of music and languages, and other foundations.
Saint Anthony Claret is the patron of weavers. His optional memorial is celebrated on October 24.
Anthony's message today: God sometimes throws us into seemingly impossible situations and asks us to straighten things out. Such was the dilemma which Anthony found himself in as the archbishop of Santiago. With God’s grace, he dug in and cleaned up the mess that he found. We can also accomplish much in a bad situation if we rely on God’s grace to see us through.