History of St. Anthony Claret
The life of St. Anthony Mary Claret is full of variety. This 19th-century saint was a missionary, religious founder, organizer of the lay apostolate, social reformer, queen’s chaplain, writer and publisher, Archbishop, target of persecution, and a promoter of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Anthony Mary Claret was born on December 23, 1807 in Sallent, Spain. Claret wanted to follow Christ from a very young age, but contributing to his family’s weaving shop took priority. Eventually, he went to seminary in Barcelona and became a priest on June 13, 1835 at the age of 28. Claret was extremely dedicated to his vocation, often spending all day preaching sermons and hearing confessions for as long as he could throughout Spain and the Canary Islands. This resulted in the conversion of many people along the path he covered.
To help spread spiritual and physical miracles, Claret founded the Congregation of Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, later known as Claretian Missionaries, on July 16, 1849. On October 6, 1850, Claret became Archbishop of Santiago in Cuba. It was at this time that he added the name Mary to his own. Throughout his time as Archbishop, Claret did everything he could to help the poor and troubled territory. He opened co-op farms, parish credit unions, a hospital, schools, and a library. He illustrated a simple Catechism and came up with a system for teaching religion that was later approved by the Vatican for the whole Church.
All this good work caught the eye of Queen Isabella II of Spain. Upon her request, Claret was appointed as the royal household spiritual director by Pope Pius IX in 1857. However, there were those in power who did not appreciate Claret’s teachings and took every chance to attack him and his name. Claret was banished from Spain in 1868. He continued on to Rome and became highly involved at the Vatican Council. Claret suffered a stroke in 1870, from which he never fully recovered. He died on May 7 of that year. Claret was beatified by Pope Pius XI on February 25, 1934 and canonized May 7, 1950 by Pope Pius XII.
Legacy of St. Anthony Claret and the Claretians
The Claretian Missionaries are still thriving to this day, evangelizing to Catholics who have left the church, young adults, Hispanic communities, immigrants and refugees, and those dealing with family-life issues. They also help to operate the National Shrine of St. Jude in Chicago.