October 22, 2010

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Wisdom of the saints: St. Anthony Claret

John F. FinkIt is difficult to decide what to choose from the wisdom of St. Anthony Mary Claret because he wrote 144 books. He also founded a religious publishing company that distributed 11 million copies of his books, and a religious institute of missionaries called the Claretians.

He was born in 1807, and died in 1870. His feast is on Oct. 24, although it won’t be observed this year because it falls on a Sunday.

A native of Spain, he became a popular preacher in Catalonia before being named archbishop of Cuba. Today, he is known as the “spiritual father of Cuba.” He was in Cuba for only six years, though, before he was called back to Spain to be chaplain to that country’s queen.

St. Anthony Claret was a missionary at heart so the Church assigned something that he wrote about missionaries to the Office of Readings for his feast. But it strikes me that what he wrote applies to all people, not just missionaries.

He wrote that, just as the Apostles were driven by the fire of the Holy Spirit, the Church’s missionaries continue to reach the ends of the Earth, from one pole to another, to proclaim the word of God.

“The love of Christ arouses us, urges us to run, and to fly, lifted on the wings of holy zeal,” he wrote. All those who truly love God also love their neighbor, he said, but truly zealous people “stand on a higher plane of love” so that “the more they are inflamed by love” the more urgently that zeal drives them on.

It is possible to lose that zeal, he said, which means that somehow love and charity have been extinguished in that person’s heart. But truly zealous people “desire and achieve all great things and labor strenuously so that God may always be better known, loved and served in this world and in the life to come, for this holy love is without end.”

Because zealous people are concerned for their neighbors, St. Anthony Claret wrote, they work hard to make sure that everyone is content on this Earth as well as happy and blessed in their heavenly homeland. Zealous people must try to help others to never offend God or remain even for a moment in sin.

St. Anthony had a particular devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and to the rosary, which never seemed to leave his hand. It was natural, therefore, for him to write that those who burn with the fire of divine love are the sons or daughters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

They desire and work to inflame all people with the fire of God’s love, he wrote. And, he emphasized—if we can ignore his language which can seem sexist—“Nothing deters him: he rejoices in poverty; he labors strenuously; he welcomes hardships; he laughs off false accusations; he rejoices in anguish.”

Zealous people think only of how they might imitate Christ by their prayers, labors and sufferings, “and by caring always and only for the glory of God and the salvation of  souls.” †

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