Weaver, archbishop, and writer
St. Anthony Claret (bishop and missionary) was born in 1807. He was a Spanish missionary priest and bishop who became known as the “Spiritual Father of Cuba.” His father was a weaver, and Anthony initially followed in his father’s footsteps. However, while working in the textile mills of Barcelona, he studied Latin in preparation for the priesthood. Anthony was ordained at the age of twenty-eight.
Ill health prevented Anthony from undergoing the formation needed to become a Jesuit or a Carthusian, so he devoted himself to giving missions and retreats throughout Spain. During his missions, he emphasized the importance of Jesus’ Presence in the Eucharist and the beauty of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Anthony and five other priests founded a religious order, the Claretians, in order to continue their ministry in Spain.
In 1849 Anthony, through the influence of Queen Isabella II, was appointed archbishop of the archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba. Anthony responded vigorously to the spiritual needs of his flock, giving attention to special causes such as religious instruction for blacks, stamping out concubinage, and promoting efforts to diversify the island’s agriculture.
Wealthy slaveholders and plantation owners reacted violently to Anthony’s social justice endeavors, and there were fourteen attempts on the bishop’s life. One attempt on his life — by a man who slashed Anthony’s face and wrist — resulted in the death sentence for the perpetrator, but Anthony arranged for the man’s sentence to be commuted to a term in prison.
In 1857, to the saint’s great reluctance, Queen Isabella recalled Anthony and made him her court chaplain. However, the new appointment did allow him the opportunity to promote the Catholic press in Spain — and he himself wrote over 200 books and pamphlets.
When the royal family went into exile in 1868, Anthony accompanied the queen to France. From there he went to the First Vatican Council in Rome, where he won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Anthony died soon afterward, in 1870, and was canonized in 1950.
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