Saint Anthony Mary Claret

Saint Anthony Mary Claret
Born: 23rd December 1807, Catalonia, Spain
Died: 24th October 1870, France
Feast Day: 24th October
Patron Saint: Textile Merchants, Weavers, Savings, Catholic press, Claretians Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Diocese of the Canary Islands, Claretian Students, Claretian Educators, Technical and Vocational Educators
Shrine: Vic, Spain
Beatified:  24th February 1934 by Pope Pius XI
Canonised: 7th May 1950 by Pope Pius XII

Saint Anthony is a little-known saint and yet his story is remarkable, as Founder, prophetic and missionary, with lots of accounts of miracles attributed to him.

Saint Anthony was born in 1807 in Salient Catalonia, Spain.  He was the fifth of eleven children born to Juan and Josefa Claret; his father was a weaver.  The family were pious, and he went on pilgrimages to the Shrine of our Lady of Fussimanya several times when he was young. He took up weaving at twelve, following a limited education in his local village to help the family.  At eighteen he moved to Barcelona to learn loom programming. 

In his spare time, he learnt Latin, French and engraving. At around the age of twenty it is said that he was wading in the sea when a wave took him out.  He could not swim but prayed to Mary and found himself safely back on the shore.  At this point he realised that he was not following his calling to the religious life and felt he was dishonouring God. Soon after he wanted to be a Jesuit, missionary work appealed to him but due to ill health was turned down so served as a priest following his ordination on 13th June 1835.  He continued to study theology until 1839.  He soon became known for his help with the poor.

He was recalled to Vic and sent as a missionary through Catalonia which had suffered from French invaders.  He walked everywhere and was an eloquent preacher, attracting the attention of people from miles around.  Following lengthy masses, he would spend hours in the confessionals, where it is said he had the gift of discernment of consciences.

Following anti-clerical threats on his life, he was sent to the Canary Islands where he ran retreats, he often had to make improvised pulpits outside of the church, as his events were so well attended.

In 1849 he established the Claretians (Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) and the Apostolic Training Institute of the Immaculate Conception - Claretians nuns.  Anthony was made Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba from 1850 to 1857 at the request of Queen Isabella II of Spain.  The Santiago neglected seminary’s discipline was brought into line.  Anthony opposed concubinage and 9,000 marriages were validated in the first two years.  He erected a hospital and numerous schools.  During his local missions he encouraged trade among the disadvantaged, opposed slavery and established credit unions.

In 1855 he established the Religious of Mary Immaculate with Maria Antonia Paris.  He visited prisons and hospitals and defended the poor and denounced racism.  He stirred up opposition and during this time, he survived 15 attempts on his life including a cheek to cheek stabbing.  Despite this vicious attack on his life, Anthony managed to reduce the life sentence of the attempted murderer to a term in prison.

Many miracles were attributed to him during this time including stopping earthquakes by placing his palms on the earth, stopping storms by holding his hand in the air and levitating 6 feet off the ground.  He was seen walking on water and had visions of Mary and Jesus.  A supernatural light that came from his body when he was saying mass was seen clearly by many people – including by Queen Isabella II who wrote a written statement to testify to having witnessed it.

Anthony claimed he heard Jesus talk in 1859 about 3 great evils coming upon mankind; firstly, approaching wars, secondly the demons of pleasure, love of money, false reasoning, and a will to separate from God, thirdly, communism. In 1861 he again heard Jesus say that communism was a great evil and devotion to the Eucharist and rosary were the remedies.

Anthony was summoned as Queen Isabella II’s confessor in 1857, he continued to help the poor and to propagate learning; he lived frugally and took up his residence in an Italian hospice. For nine years he was rector of the Escorial monastic school, where he established a scientific laboratory, a museum of natural history, a library, college and schools of music and languages. Following a new revolution where Queen Isabella was dethroned, and Anthony’s life was also under threat he went into exile with her in France in 1868. 

After preaching in Paris for a while, he moved on to Rome where he was received by Pope Pius IX. He participated in the First Vatican Council in 1869 and 1870.

Anthony, like many saints, was tormented by the devil. “The demons,” Anthony wrote, “. . . persecuted me terribly. Sometimes [Satan] would afflict me with terrible maladies. But oddly enough, as soon as I realized that the malady was the work of the enemy, I was totally cured without medical aid.”  One such affliction was a gaping wound in the saint’s side that exposed several ribs. When he invoked the aid of the Blessed Mother the wound was instantly healed. “If hell’s persecution was great,” Saint Anthony added, “heaven’s protection was greater. I experienced the visible protection of the Blessed Virgin and of the angels and saints, who guided me through unknown paths, freed me from thieves and murderers, and brought me to a place of safety without my ever knowing how. Many times, the word was sent out that I had been murdered, and good souls were already having Masses said for me.”

Anthony died in Cistercian monastery of Fontfroide in Southern France on 24th October 1870. During the funeral and the Mass, a mysterious little bird appeared in the Church.  It fluttered over the remains of the archbishop and sang sweetly, joining the psalmody of the monks.  The little bird was silent while the celebrant officiated, but when the choir intoned the responses it gave full power to its voice.  At the end of the funeral rites it disappeared from the church in the same mysterious way in which it had made its appearance at the beginning. Anthony wrote 144 books and many miracles are attributed to his intercession since his death.  His relics were transferred to Vic in 1897 when his heart was found to be incorrupt.

A short Youtube video on Saint Anthony can be found here: -