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Saint Anthony Mary Claret

“My God, how good you have been to me and how poorly I have responded to your favors! If you had given such graces to any other son of Adam, he would surely have done better than 1. I am so embarrassed and ashamed. How shall I answer you on of your stewardship”? (Luke 16: 2). Mother Mary, how good you have been to me and how ungrateful I have been to you! My Mother, I wish to love you from now on with all my heart, and not only to love you myself, but to bring everyone else to know, love, serve, and praise you and to pray the holy rosary, a devotion that is so pleasing to you. Mother, help me in my weakness and laziness so that I may be able to live up to my resolutions.” -Saint Athony Mary Claret, Autobiography Ch. 7

On October 24th 1870, in a Monastery in France and surrounded by Missionaries and Cistercian Monks, a holy Bishop died a most holy death. This Bishop was one of the greatest saints in the history of the Church. In fact, many in his homeland (Spain) during his lifetime called him a second Saint Vincent Ferrer.

Saint Anthony Mary Claret displayed a zeal for the salvation of souls very early in his life. When only five hear years old he had a most intense realization of just how terrible hell is and how much damned souls suffer there. This spurred him on to a resolution to labor to deliver souls from this terrible fate.

Anthony was the fifth of the seven children of Juan and Josefa Claret. He was born on Christmas Eve, 1807, in the village of Sallent, in Catalonia, Spain.  He was extremely pious as a child but fell away from his first fervor when he moved away from home at 18 years old and began to work in a factory. He advanced in the factory and became very successful, and began to fall away from the faith. He admits in his autobiography that had God not chastised and humiliated him and had not our Lady interceded from him he would have gone down an evil path.

After his conversion he resolved to become a Carthusian Monk, and began to prepare himself to take up that austere life. But he was dissuaded from the path and instead became a diocesan priest.  In seminary he lead a most exemplary life and he was ordained on June 13, 1835.  Life, Saint Alphonsus Ligouri, he resolved never to waste a moment of time and during his 35 years as a priest he wrote 144 books and preached some 25,000 sermons.  On one trip, besides traveling, he preached 205 sermons in 48 days, 12 in one day.  To make sure his efforts might be recognized for what they were, he started off by reminding his hearers that the ordinary motives for labor are money, pleasure or honor. But these were not his motives:

“…not money, for I do not want a cent from anybody…  Nor do I preach for pleasure, for what pleasure can I possibly take in spending myself all day, in being fatigued from early morning until late at night?…  I must be in the confessional most of the morning, the whole of the afternoon; and in the evening, instead of resting, I have to preach.  This is not just for a day, but…  for months and years…  Perhaps I labor for honor…  no, not for honor either…  A preacher is exposed to many calumnies.  If praised by one, he is misunderstood by another, treated as the Jews treated Jesus, Who was calumniated by maligners of His person, of His words and works, before they finally seized, scourged and killed Him by a most painful and shameful means.  But like the apostle St. Paul, I fear none of these things, since I value my soul more than my body.  At any cost I must discharge the ministry I have received from God Our Lord, which is to preach the Gospel…  I have no worldly end in view, but…  that God may be known, loved and served by all the world…  that sins and offenses against Him may be hindered as much as possible…  Another thing that spurs me on to preach ceaselessly is the thought of the multitude of souls which fall in the depths of hell…  Who die in mortal sin, condemned forever and ever…  I see how many live habitually in mortal sin, so that never a day passes without increasing the number of their iniquities.  They commit sin as easily as they drink a glass of water, just for diversion, or for a laugh.  These unfortunate ones run to hell of their own accord, blind as bats…  If you were to see a blind man about to fall into a pit or over a precipice, would you not warn him? Behold, I do the same, and do it I must for this is my duty… You may tell me that sinners will insult me, that I should leave them alone…  Ah no, I can’t abandon them.  They are my dear brothers.  If you had a beloved brother who, sick and in the throes of delirium, were to insult you with all the angry words imaginable, would you abandon him? I am certain you wouldn’t.  You would have even more compassion for him, do your utmost for his speedy recovery.  This is how I feel in regard to sinners.  These poor souls are in a delirium and the more in need of our pity…  You may say the sinner doesn’t think of hell, nor even believe in it.  So much the worse for him.  Do you by chance think he will escape condemnation because of his unbelief? Truth is independent of belief…  I must warn sinners and make them see the precipice which leads to the unquenchable fires of hell, for they will surely go there if they do not amend their ways.  Woe to me if I do not preach and warn them, for I would be held responsible for their condemnation…  How often I pray, with St. Catherine of Siena: ‘O my God, grant me a place by the gates of hell, that I may stop those who enter there saying: Where are you going, unhappy one? Back, go back! Make a good confession.  Save your soul. Don’t come here to be lost for all eternity!” Further he boldly proclaimed: “The sole reason why society is perishing is because it has refused to hear the word of the Church, which is the word of life, the word of God.  All plans for salvation will be sterile if the great word of the Catholic Church is not restored in all its fullness.”

After as short time working most successfully as a priest in his home town he felt called to become a missionary. To achieve this end he went to Rome and joined the Jesuits. However, after some time spend in his novitiate he became ill and his superior suspected this was a sign from God that he did not have a vocation with them. Disappointed he left the house of formation, but very shortly after found himself restored to perfect health and saw in this the clear will of God for him.

He returned to Spain and became a missionary throughout his home country. Later he was sent to the Canary Islands to do missionary work, and eventually he would be consecrated a Bishop and sent to Cuba. In every area he was very successful and his daily life was filled with many miracles.

His missionary activity was very successful in part because he took care to always traveled from mission to mission as the poorest of men. His baggage consisted of a razor, a pair of socks, a breviary, a map of Catalonia, and half a loaf of bread. Father Claret explains the necessity of poverty which he possessed so fervently:

“I knew it was the will of God that I should not have money nor accept anything, except the necessary food, only at the moment in which I should take nourishment, but not receive provisions necessary to take me from one point to another. Noticing that such abnegation edified everyone and made a deep impression, I did all in my power to continue the practice…Putting my hand into my pocket one day, I became frightened because I thought I had a coin in it. I took it out to throw it away or to give it to a beggar, but on looking at it, I found it was a medal.” “If at times,” he said, “money was offered me for sermons, I refused it saying that I did not need it, for on my trips I neither need horses nor coaches; neither do I lack money for clothes or shoes, because God preserves them for me for a long time.”

On May 1, 1848, he opened a 28-day mission in the town of Telde, on Gran Canaria Island.  The place was experiencing a great drought and the farmers were preoccupied with fear for their crops.  He said to them,

“I can promise you, brethren, that before this mission is over there will be a plentiful rain that will revive your plants, quiet your homes, and rejoice your hearts.”

While he was preaching the closing sermon, the rain began.  Morals were lax in Telde; theft was especially prevalent. The mission of Father Claret wrought a great change.  The pastor of Telde wrote to the bishop:

“This town has never seen the like of it.  The bitterest of enemies have made peace.  Scandals, both public and private, have been terminated, and amends made.  Broken marriages have been mended. Restitutions have been made.  Why?  Because no one can withstand the fire of his preaching, the kindness and liveliness of his manner, his forceful reproofs…  and the impact of his reasoning.  The appeal of his words breaks his listeners’ hearts, and everybody, even the proudest nature, falls at his feet weeping.” 

While Archbishop of Cuba, in just his first two years he confirmed 100,000 persons, was instrumental in bringing 300,000 to the confessional, married in the church 9,000 couples who had been living in concubinage, and reunited 300 couples who were divorced. Furthermore, during his first visit alone he distributed free – or in exchange for bad books – 38,217 books, 83,500 holy cards, 20,663 rosaries, and 8931 medals.  As Archbishop, he consecrated the Archdiocese of Santiago to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and established the Confraternity of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Refuge of Sinners, in every parish and mission station. He was so successful that after just 6 years as Archbishop of Cuba he had entirely cleaned up what had been a most terrible situation among the clergy and the faithful.

Queen Isabella II recalled Archbishop Claret from Cuba because she desired a wise and holy confessor.  She believed Archbishop Claret would be the ideal one, but to him the idea of a court post was appalling.  He disliked the worldliness, the intrigue and the idleness of court life. He agreed, however, to accept the counsel of the Papal Nuncio to Spain and that of his personal advisers.  They urged him, for the good of the Church, to accept.  He set three conditions:  He was to reside away from the palace, and need come only to hear the queen’s confession or instruct her children; he was to be exempted from attending court functions and from abiding by court ceremony; he was to be free to preach, to visit hospitals and jails, and to attend to his apostolic projects.  The queen gladly agreed.

Over the course of his various ministries his great holiness and success in converting so many souls and saving so many sinners from hell stirred up a great hatred from him from the demons. The forces of hell indeed went to great lengths to thwart this holy priest and bishop, and there were at least 15 different documented assassination attempts made on Saint Anthony. Though in every case he was miraculously saved.

The holiness of Saint Anthony was so great it is difficult to explain or put into words. The incredible success and the innumerable miracles speak much to this but one particular grace he received stands out above all the rest. For God granted this great Saint a favor which almost no other saint in history as ever been given. Saint Anthony explains this grace in his autobiography:

“On 26th August, 1861, at 7.00 in the evening while I was at prayer in the church of the Rosary at La Granja, the Lord granted me the great grace of conserving the sacramental species and the Blessed Sacrament present always in my breast, day and night. Therefore, I must always be very recollected and inwardly devout, and I must pray and confront all the evils of Spain, as the Lord has told me. To this effect, He brought a number of things to my memory, such as how, without any merit, talent, or human efforts, He has lifted me up from the lower ranks of society to its loftiest point. Alongside the kings of earth; and now, alongside the King of Heaven. ‘Glorify and bear God in your body’ (1 Cor 6: 20).”

Thus Saint Anthony Maria Claret preserved continually in his body, from one Communion to the other, the sacramental species, from August 26th, 1861 until the date of his death on October 24th, 1870.

Just three years later on Christmas night, during the thanksgiving after the Midnight Mass, in the Convent of the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Saint Anthony had a vision of Mary holding the Infant Jesus and, like his patron Saint Anthony of Padua, was privileged to receive the Child in his arms. A letter preserved by Sister Angelica, a religious of Perpetual Adoration, is proof of this fact.

“That Christmas night the five hours we remained in the chapel listening to and seeing Father Claret seemed but brief moments to us.  No one tired.  We felt as though we were in a region of happiness.  The Sisters said that during his thanksgiving Father was in ecstasy and had received the Child Jesus in his arms.  The Blessed Virgin had given the Child to him.”

Upon his death his body, having become somewhat withered in his final illness rebounded into a state of freshness. On June 11, 1897, his tomb was opened and the caskets extracted.  The outer casket of timber was in an advanced stage of decay, a result of the water which, as shown by the sediment it contained, had, in submerging the cemetery, invaded the crypt.  Even the zinc inner casket was badly perforated so that there was little chance his remains were still intact, but in fact what was found was that “…the body and facial features, were perfectly preserved, the latter, however, a little wasted.  The two Narbona doctors who examined the corpse verified the muscular intactment and, in the abdomen, the tension or resistance that indicated the incorrupt state of the internal organs. All who witnessed the exhumation certified that the body gave off no noxious or disagreeable odor.”

In 1899, Pope Leo XIII declared him venerable.  In 1934, Pope Pius XI pronounced him blessed and on May 7, 1950, Pope Pius XII declared Anthony Mary Claret a saint.

Holy Mother Church provides the following brief account of his life in the Divine Office for his feast day on October 23rd:

Antony María Claret, was born at Sallent in Spain, of pious and respectable parents. As a youth he practiced the weaver’s trade, but later became priest. After some time in the parochial ministry, he went to Rome, hoping that the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith would send him to the foreign missions. But God disposed otherwise, and he returned to Spain, where he traveled throughout Catalonia and the Canary Islands as an apostolic missionary. Besides writing many worthwhile books, he founded the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Having been appointed archbishop of Santiago in Cuba, he was conspicuous for the virtues of a zealous shepherd. He restored the seminary, promoted the teaching and the discipline of the clergy, started projects for social welfare, and founded the teaching Sisters of Mary Immaculate for the Christian education of girls. At length having been summoned to Madrid, to become confessor to the Queen of Spain and her adviser in the most serious affairs of the Church, he gave an outstanding example of austerity and of all virtues. At the Vatican Council he strenuously defended the infallibility of the Pope. He was responsible for a remarkable spread of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and her Rosary. Finally he died in exile at Fontfroide in France in the year 1870. Renowned for his miracles, he was beatified by Pope Pius XI and canonized by Pius XII.

One can read further on this incredible saint in the following three books:

The Autobiography of St. Anthony Mary Claret

The Life of St. Anthony Mary Claret, by Fanchon Royer

The Miracles of St. Anthony Mary Claret, by Fr. Juan Echevarria


We would also do well to contemplate the propers of Holy Mass for the Feast of Saint Anthony Mary Claret which were well chosen for him and which provided for his us ample material for mediation…

Introitus – Ps 131:9-10, 1
Sacerdotes tui induantur iustitiam, et sancti tui exsultent. Propter David servum tuum non avertas faciem christi tui. Memento, Domine, David, et omnis mansuetudinis eius:
Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto.   Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculórum. Amen. Sacerdotes tui…
May Your priests, O Lord, be clothed with justice; let Your faithful ones shout merrily for joy. For the sake of David Your servant, reject not the plea of Your anointed. Remember, O Lord, David and all his meekness. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. May Your priests…
Collect

Deus, qui beatum Antonium Mariam Confessorem tuum atque Pontificem, apostolicis virtutibus sublimasti, et per eum novas in Ecclesia clericorum ac virginum familias collegisti: concede, quaesumus; ut, eius dirigentibus monitis ac suffragantibus mentis, animarum salutem quaerere iugiter studeamus. Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, Filium tuum: qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

 

O God, Who glorified blessed Anthony Mary, Your Confessor and Bishop, because of his zeal for souls, and through him established in the Church new households of men and women religious, we beseech You to grant that, with his counsels as a guide, and through the merits of his prayers, we may continually apply ourselves to seeking the salvation of souls. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Lectio Epistoli beati Pauli Apostoli ad Hebraeos – Heb 7:23-27
Et alii quidem plures facti sunt sacerdotes, idcirco quod morte prohiberentur permanere: hic autem eo quod maneat in aeternum, sempiternum habet sacerdotium. Unde et salvare in perpetuum potest accedentes per semetipsum ad Deum: semper vivens ad interpellandum pro nobis. Talis enim decebat ut nobis esset pontifex, sanctus, innocens, impollutus, segregatus a peccatoribus, et excelsior caelis factus: qui non habet necessitatem quotidie, quemadmodum sacerdotes, prius pro suis delictis hostias offerre, deinde pro populi: hoc enim fecit semel, seipsum offerendo.
R. Deo gratias
Lesson from the letter of St Paul the Apostle to the Jews
Brethren: The priests were numerous, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but Jesus, because He continues forever, has an everlasting priesthood. Therefore He is able at all times to save those who come to God through Him, since He lives always to make intercession for them. For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, set apart from sinners, and become higher than the heavens. He does not need to offer sacrifices daily – as the other priests did – first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people; for this latter He did once for all in offering up Himself, Jesus Christ our Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
Graduale – Ps 131:16-17
Sacerdotes eius induam salutari, et sancti eius exsultatione exsultabunt. Illuc producam cornu David; paravi lucernam christo meo.

 

Alleluia – Ps 109:4

Alleluia, alleluia. Iuravit Dominus, et non poenitebit eum: Tu es sacerdos in aeternum secundum ordinem Melchisedech. Alleluia.

Her priests I will clothe with salvation, and her faithful ones shall shout merrily for joy. In her will I make a horn to spout for David; I will place a lamp for My anointed.

 

Alleluia, alleluia. The Lord has sworn, and He will not repent: You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedec. Alleluia.

Evangelium – Matt. 24:42-47
Lectio sancti Evangelii secundum Matthaeum

R. Gloria tibi Domine!

In illo tempore: Disxit Iesus discipulis suis: Vigilate ergo, quia nescitis qua hora Dominus vester venturus sit. Illud autem scitote, quoniam si sciret paterfamilias qua hora fur venturus esset, vigilaret utique, et non sineret perfodi domum suam. Ideo et vos estote parati: quia qua nescitis hora Filius hominis venturus est. Quis, putas, est fidelis servus, et prudens, quem constituit dominus suus super familiam suam ut det illis cibum in tempore? Beatus ille servus, quem cum venerit dominus eius, invenerit sic facientem. Amen dico vobis, quoniam super omnia bona sua constituet eum.
R. Laus tibi, Christe!
S. Per Evangelica dicta, deleantur nostra delicta.

 

Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to Matthew
R. Glory be to Thee, O Lord.

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Watch, for you do not know at what hour your Lord is to come. But of this be assured, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would certainly have watched, and not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, because at an hour that you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. Who, do you think, is the faithful and prudent servant whom his master has set over his household to give them their food in due time? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, shall find so doing. Amen I say to you, he will set him over all his goods.”
R. Praise be to Thee, O Christ.
S. By the words of the Gospel may our sins be blotted out.

Offertorium – Ps 88:25
Et veritas mea et misericordia mea cum ipso, et in nomine meo exaltabitur cornu eius.
My faithfulness and My kindness shall be with him, and through My name shall his horn be exulted.
Secreta
Sancti Antonii Mariae Confessoris tui atque Pontificis, quaesumus, Domine, annua solemnitas pietati tuae nos reddat acceptos: ut, per haec piae placationis officia, et ilium beata retributio comitetur, et nobis gratiae tuae dona conciliet.
Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, Filium tuum: qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.
May the annual festival of blessed Anthony Mary, Your Confessor and Bishop, we beseech You, O Lord render us pleasing to Your loving kindness, so that this service of sacred propitiation may be a blessed recompense for him and secure for us the gifts of Your grace.
Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Communio – Matt 24:46-47
Beatus ille servus, quem cum venerit dominus eius, invenerit sic facientem.
Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, shall find watching. Amen I say to you, he will set him over all his goods.
Postcommunio
Orémus.
Deus, fidelium remunerator animarum: praesta; ut beati Antonii Mariae Confessoris tui atque Pontificis, cuius venerandam celebramus festivitatem, precibus indulgentiam consequamur.
Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, Filium tuum: qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.
Let us pray.
O God, Who reward faithful souls, grant that, through the prayers of blessed Anthony Mary, Your Confessor and Bishop, whose hallowed feast we are keeping, we may obtain pardon for our sins.
Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

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