Anthony Maria Claret i Clarà was born in Sallent, in the county of Bages in the Province of Barcelona, on December 23, 1807, the fifth of the eleven children of Juan and Josefa Claret. His father was a woollen manufacturer. As a child he enjoyed pilgrimages to the nearby Shrine of Our Lady of Fussimanya.
Claret received an elementary education in his native village, and at the age of twelve became a weaver. At the age of eighteen, he went to Barcelona to specialize in his trade as a Jacquard loom programmer, and remained there until he was 20 years old.
In his spare time as weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, Anthony learned Latin, French and printing: The future priest and publisher was preparing. Ordained at 28, he was prevented by ill health from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers.
Anthony spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It was said that his rosary was never out of his hand. At age 42, he founded a religious institute of missionaries beginning with five young priests, known today as the Claretians.
Anthony was appointed to head the much-neglected archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba. He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for opposing concubinage and giving instruction to black slaves. A hired assassin—whose release from prison Anthony had obtained—slashed open his face and wrist. Anthony succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term. His solution for the misery of Cubans was family-owned farms producing a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market. This invited the enmity of the vested interests who wanted everyone to work on a single cash crop—sugar. Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: Reflections on Agriculture and Country Delights.Read More »