St Anthony Mary Claret

Romans 5.12,15,17-21; Psalm 39; Luke 12.35-38

Antonio María Claret y Clarà (1807-70) was born in Sallent in the County of Bages in the Province of Barcelona, the fifth of the eleven children of Juan and Josepha Claret. His father was a woollen manufacturer. He received an elementary education in his home village and at the age of 12 he became a weaver. He migrated to Barcelona at the age of 18 to continue in this trade. In his spare time he studied Latin and French.

He entered the diocesan seminary at Vic in 1829. After ordination in 1835 he returned to his native parish, but as he felt called to missionary work he went to Rome. He sought to enter the Jesuit novitiate, but was turned down because of ill health. He returned to Spain and preached missions throughout Catalonia; then for 15 months he delivered retreats in the Canary Islands. Returning to Spain he founded the Congregation of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, better known as the Claretians, in 1849.

At the request of Queen Isabella, Pope Pius IX appointed him Archbishop of Santiago, Cuba in 1850. He reorganised the diocesan seminary, restored clerical discipline, and built a hospital and numerous schools. He preached missions throughout the island. He survived an assassination attempt by a freemason and later obtained a commutation of the assassin’s death sentence to life imprisonment.

In 1857 Queen Isabella asked him to return to Spain and she appointed him as her confessor. After a revolution dethroned her she and her family went into exile in France, and St Anthony followed her there. In 1869 he went to Rome to prepare for the First Vatican Council. Owing to ill health he retired to a Cistercian monastery in the Pyrenees, where he died.

Posted in Daily Reflection.