“I have loved justice and hated iniquity, therefore I die in exile.”
Saint Anthony Mary Claret was born in 1807 to Juan and Josephina Claret, the fifth of twelve children. Growing up he did very well in school, but if he was missing from a game with friends they knew that they could find him in the church. Even as a young boy St. Anthony wanted to become a priest, but his father seeing his ability for design and mechanics wanted him to follow in the family business of weaving. He did as his father had asked of him even to the point of becoming the head of the shop his father owned.
With the workers at the shop St. Anthony would pray the Rosary and often go to daily Mass with them. At 18 years old his father allowed him to go to school in Barcelona to learn more advanced ways for weaving. It was in Barcelona that he began thinking about his vocation to the priesthood. Under the direction of the Oratorian fathers he started to study Latin, and at 21 he began to study to become a priest.
St. Anthony had a strong devotion to Our Lady since he was young. “Our Blessed Lady is my Mother, my Patroness, my Mistress, my Directress, and –after Jesus-my All!” He saw Our Lady several times throughout his life. She often came when he was in need of her help. This is why the sweet name of Mary is a part of his name.
At 28 years old St. Anthony was ordained a priest. He spent some years in Spain fulfilling his vocation as a priest, but then in 1839 noticing that Spain had many priests he asked permission to be sent as a missionary elsewhere. He almost joined the Jesuits, but soon recognized that this was not the path Our Lady was leading him on. He went by the invitation of the Bishop to the Canary Islands where his apostolate was very fruitful. He later returned to Spain and converted thousands because of his zeal.
After he returned to Spain he took a special interest in the instruction of children and adults in the faith. He wrote four catechetical study books that were for different age levels. He greatly desired that all children and adults even the smallest understand their faith completely. St. Anthony also founded three different religious institutions and helped women who were blocked from entering religious life to enter.
In 1849 St. Anthony was named the Archbishop of Cuba. He knew that this diocese was a field for missionary work. He was able to reform their seminary and in the time that he was archbishop over 200 men were ordained when before that it had been 30 years since an ordination had taken place. He was able to find a Christian resolution for every challenge he faced. He totally won over the confidence of the people. Although he was loved by many there are always a few who see saintly people as a threat and there was an assassin who got close enough to cut him with a knife, but none of the wounds were serious.
Queen Isabella II in 1856 asked St. Anthony to come back to Spain to be her personal confessor. He did not want to live a life in the court, but Pope Pius IX expressly asked him to go so he obeyed. While he was on the court he was offered many bribes because he was close to the queen and others thought he could influence her, but he did not accept any. He wished to resign, but again obeying the Holy Father he remained in Spain until he was exiled in 1869.
While he was on the Spanish Court he did many other things in addition to his duties on the court. He wrote, preached, and taught. He also organized many clubs for all people, and was the president of the Escorial which was an educational institution. He knew that missionaries couldn’t be sent everywhere in those times and so he wanted to send them good books to the people could be their own missionaries.
After he was exiled from Spain he went to Rome to participate in the Vatican Council. While he was there he had great influence in helping the others to understand the doctrine of papal infallibility which was the main concern of the council at the time.
St. Anthony Mary Claret died October 24, 1870 in exile from Spain in a Cistercian monastery. He was beatified in 1934 and canonized in 1950.
Source: Modern Saints Their Lives and Faces Ann Ball