After having his desire to join both the Carthusian and Jesuit orders thwarted, St Anthony Mary Claret founded his own religious order, the Claretians, who have carried on his work of mission and education to the present day.
Born in 1807 in the Catalan town of Sallent, Anthony’s natural destination seemed to be in the textile industry. His father owned a factory and Anthony worked as a weaver as a child. At 17, he was sent to Barcelona, where he honed his skills and was offered jobs with large textile companies. These he rejected, however, feeling called to serve God as a missionary priest.
Originally, Anthony desired to become a Carthusian monk. But due to poor health, he discerned that he was not suited for the monastic life. He was ordained in 1835 in his home diocese. Yet after a few years Anthony felt called to be a missionary. He left for Rome in 1839 and entered the Jesuit novitiate. Once again, his health failed him, and he was forced to return to Catalonia.
On July 16 1849, Anthony gathered a group of priests to found the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, commonly known as the Claretians. Given the order’s missionary charism, it was quite appropriate that Anthony was immediately appointed by Pope Pius IX as Archbishop of Santiago, Cuba.
During his six-year tenure, Anthony did much for the practical and spiritual welfare of the Cuban people. He set up vocational schools, akin to modern-day apprenticeships, for disadvantaged children, as well as credit unions for the poor. In his first few years he confirmed 100,000 people and validated 9,000 marriages. His exploits led to some opposition and he survived an assassination attempt when he was stabbed in the cheek.
In 1857, Anthony was recalled to Spain to serve as confessor to Queen Isabella II. He used the opportunity of travelling with the Royal court to evangelise communities throughout the country. He accompanied the Queen into exile following the 1868 revolution.
Anthony attended the First Vatican Council in 1869. His weak health cut short his involvement and he retired to France, where he saw out his days at a Cistercian abbey in Fontfroide. He died on October 24 1870 and was buried in the Catalan city of Vic.
He is the patron of textile merchants and weavers.