e-mail us

Cover story

St. Anthony Claret: the man and his order

Anthony Mary Claret was born near Barcelona, Spain, in 1807. His father was a weaver, and young Claret became skilled in every aspect of the manufacture of cloth. He once wrote it was the one thing in life he really knew something about.

Ordained in 1835, he became a preacher in Catalonia, Spain, first; then the Canary Islands. He founded a publishing house (as did the Claretians in the United States: U.S. Catholic magazine became their best- known product).

Claret founded the Sons of the Heart of Mary (CMF), today popularly known as Claretians, based on his name. In 1849 Claret was named archbishop of Santiago, Cuba (1850-56). He was called to Madrid as confessor to Queen Isabella II (he wrote he detested court life); was exiled to France, attended Vatican Council I, and died in exile in France in 1870.

Never a huge congregation -- perhaps 3,000 at the peak, and just over 2,000 today -- the Claretians lost three entire provinces of priests, brothers and seminarians during the slaughter of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39).

During the Great Depression in the 1930s in Chicago, Fr. James Tort began a St. Jude League and built a national Shrine to St. Jude the Apostle, patron saint of the distressed -- and hopeless causes -- in the city’s slums. Today it remains the leading U.S. center of devotion to St. Jude.

It is said Claret, who was named a saint in 1950, helped found a second U.S. congregation. When preaching in Rome at the time of the First Vatican Council, Archbishop Anthony Claret so inspired a young bishop’s secretary and recent convert that the secretary returned to the United States, determined to found his own order. The young priest was Fr. Isaac Hecker, who founded the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle, known today as the Paulists, [in 1858].

-- Arthur Jones

National Catholic Reporter, February 28, 2003 [corrected 03/14/2003]