Today is the feast day of St. Anthony Mary Claret, a Spanish archbishop and missionary, who founded the congregation of Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, known as the Claretians. He was also the confessor of Queen Isabella II of Spain.
St. Anthony was born in Barcelona on December 23, 1807. He became a weaver at the age of twelve, following a path similar to his father, who manufactured wool. Anthony left Barcelona to enter the Seminary at Vic, continuing to study theology for the next ten years. He was very interested in missionary work, traveling to Rome, but he became ill and had to return to Spain.
St. Anthony had a great disposition for serving the needs of the poor, especially through missions. In 1848, he was sent to the Canary Islands, where he gave retreats for fifteen months. Furthermore, when he returned to Spain, he founded Congregation of Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He did not stop there, he even founded a religious library in Barcelona, which has issued several million copies of ancient and modern Catholic works.
St. Anthony was rewarded for these great works, for Pope Pius IX appointed him as the archbishop of Santiago, Cuba, in 1849. He accomplished many great works as Archbishop of Santiago, including reorganizing the Santiago seminary, erecting a hospital and numerous schools, and validating over 9,000 marriages.
In February 1857, Anthony was appointed as confessor of Queen Isabella II. He continued to serve the poor and teach, while establishing a scientific laboratory, a museum of natural history, a library, college, and schools of music and language. He always focused on living a frugal life and taught the poor the importance of savings.
Today the Claretians have over 450 houses and 3100 members, with missions in five different continents. St. Anthony also formed the rules for many communities of Religious Sisters. Many different schools are named after Claret and run by Claretians, in South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia.
St. Anthony Mary Claret dedicated his life to serving the poor and helping those in need. He also understood the value of education and the role that it plays in faith. St. Anthony is a great example of true disciple of Christ. We should all realize the talents that God has bestowed up on us, and use these gifts to help other that are in need just like St. Anthony did.