Anthony Mary Claret died on this day, October 24th, 1870, after a long, full and adventurous life, demonstrating how much one man can do if he puts his mind and will wholeheartedly at the service of God. Most of the life of the priest, and eventual bishop, was spent in Spain, with eight very fruitful years (amongst other things, reorganizing the seminary, shoring up priestly discipline and validating over 9,000 marriages!) as a missionary bishop in Santiago, Cuba.
In the midst of his near-overwhelming pastoral duties (including confessor to the Queen, Isabella II), St. Anthony Mary also penned 144 (!) books, untold numbers of sermons, drew up rules for religious Sisters, and founded a religious Order, the Congregation of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, commonly known as the ‘Claretians’ – who now number 3100 members in 450 houses across the world. One of his primary works and loves was offering missions wherever he went, which were so well attended a makeshift pulpit had to be set up outside the church, after which he would spend hours in the confessional, with the gift, it is said, of readings souls and hearts. And, speaking of hearts, his own, on fire with such a love for the materially and spiritually poor, was found incorrupt seventeen years after his death.
As he wrote in one of his countless letters, quoted in today’s Office:
The man who truly loves God also loves his neighbour. The truly zealous man is also one who loves, but he stands on a higher plane of love so that the more he is inflamed by love, the more urgently zeal drives him on. But if anyone lacks this zeal, then it is evident that love and charity have been extinguished in his heart. The zealous man desires and achieves all great things and he labours strenuously so that God may always be better known, loved and served in this world and in the life to come, for this holy love is without end.
A life well and truly lived, producing ten talents from what he had been given, quite a different view of evangelization from the South American bishop currently involved in the Amazonian Synod, who apparently boasts – not laments, mind you – of never having baptized a single person in his whole missionary life. Odd.
Anthony Mary fell ill while in Rome preparing to attend the First Vatican Council called by Blessed Pius IX. He withdrew to rest in his native Spain, eventually going to a Cistercian monastery in southern France, whence, quite fittingly, he went to his eternal reward. He was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1950, the same year as he declared the dogma of the Assumption of Our Lady, to whom our saint was so devoted,.
Would that a small fraction of us had a scintilla of the zeal, and did but a smidgen of the work, of Saint Anthony Mary, the fire that Christ desires to be ‘cast upon the earth’ would indeed ‘be already kindled’, so that when He returns He may indeed find firm faith, and charity that, far from gone cold, burning brightly.
We can always hope, for what is life without it?
Saint Anthony Mary Claret, ora pro nobis!
Today, in the calendar of the usus antiquior, is the feast of Saint Raphael the Archangel, who is now celebrated with the Michael and Gabriel on September 29th. But we may call him to mind especially today, especially for any healing or marital issues, or for those readers looking for a good and holy spouse. As mentioned, hope!