S. Antonio Maria Claret
Born into a deeply Christian family of Catalan weavers with ten children. He was ordained in 1835, at the age of 28. He goes to Rome in 1839 and turns to Propaganda Fide to be sent as a missionary anywhere in the world. Unable to achieve this goal, he enters the Jesuits as a novice, but after a few months he has to return to his homeland because he is ill. For seven years he preached numerous popular missions throughout Catalonia and the Canary Islands, gaining immense popularity, also as a miracle worker. He knows how to bring people together by creating associations and groups. In 1849 he founded an apostolic congregation: the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, today also known as the Claretian Missionaries. At the beginning of the third millennium, they are working in 65 countries on five continents.
In 1936-39, during the Spanish Civil War, 271 were killed for their faith. Among these, the 51 Martyrs of Barbastro stand out, beatified by John Paul II in 1992.
Named archbishop of Santiago de Cuba in 1849 (at the time belonging to the crown of Spain), he arrived in the diocese in February 1851.
In his strenuous apostolic work he tackles the serious moral, religious and social problems of the island: concubinage, poverty, slavery, ignorance, etc., to which are added two calamities which strike the population: epidemics and earthquakes.
He retraced his vast diocese four times tirelessly missioning with a group of missionary saints. His pastoral concerns also largely poured into the strengthening of the seminary and the reform of the clergy. In the social sphere, he promotes agriculture, also with various publications and by creating a model farm in Camagüey. In addition to this, he creates a savings bank in every parish, a pioneering work in Latin America. He promotes education by seeking religious institutes and creating the congregation of the Religious of Mary Immaculate Claretian Missionaries together with the Venerable Maria Antonia Paris. His strenuous strength in defending the rights of the Church and human rights creates them numerous enemies among politicians and the corrupt. And so he suffers threats and attacks, including one in Holguin, where he is seriously wounded in the face. In 1857 Queen Elizabeth recalled him to Madrid as her confessor. In this stage he continues to announce the Gospel in the capital and throughout the peninsula.
Exiled to France in 1868, he arrived with the queen in Paris and, even here, he continued his preaching.
Then he participates in the First Vatican Council in Rome where he ardently defends the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff.
Still persecuted by the revolution, he took refuge in the monastery of Fontfroide near Narbonne, where he died a holy death on 24 October 1870.
On his tomb are carved the words of Pope Gregory VII: “I loved justice and hated iniquity, for this I die in exile“. His body is venerated in the Mother House of the Claretians in Vic (Barcelona, Spain).
And on May 8, 1950, Pius XII proclaimed him a saint, and said of Claret: “A great spirit, born as if to smooth out conflicts: he could be humble by birth and glorious in the eyes of the world; small in person but with a giant soul; modest in appearance, but very capable of imposing respect even on the great of the earth; strong in character but with the sweet sweetness of one who knows austerity and penance; always in the presence of God, even in the midst of a prodigious external activity; slandered and admired, celebrated and persecuted. And among so many marvels, what a soft light that illuminates everything, his devotion to the Mother of God“.