Antonio María Claret y Clará was born in Sallent, in the province of Barcelona, on December 23, 1807, as the fifth of the eleven children of Juan and Josefa Claret. As a child, he enjoyed visits to the nearby Shrine of Our Lady of Fusimanya where began his filial love for the Blessed Virgin Mary whose name he adopted as his middle name. At age 5, he was fascinated by the truth of eternity, but shocked by the suffering of sinful souls in eternity, which made him resolute to do his best to save souls. His vocation had its tangible beginnings in this meditation on eternity.
As a young man, Claret devoted himself to specialized training in becoming a weaver in the footsteps of his father. However, the call to priesthood finally won him over and Claret entered the seminary at Vic in 1829 and was ordained a priest on June 13, 1835. However, he had a restless spirit that longed to do missionary work beyond the confines of a diocese, which led him to take up ministry as apostolic missionary in Catalonia and Canary Islands, before founding the Order of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CMF) on the Feast of Mount Carmel, on July 16, 1849.
Claret was soon appointed Archbishop of Santiago, Cuba, where he plunged into diverse ministries, pastoral and social, for the spiritual and material welfare of the people. Claret was a spirit-filled preacher, discerning confessor, prolific writer, innovative educator, and above all, a missionary with a pastoral heart. While being an Archbishop, he continued to tend to his missionary congregation, closely following its growth and working on its constitutions and advising the Superior General, Fr. Joseph Xifré. In 1855, he founded the Religious of Mary Immaculate (RMI), together with Venerable Mother Antonia Paris. In 1857, Claret was recalled to Spain and made confessor to Queen Isabella II. In 1868, a new revolution dethroned the Queen and sent her into exile where Claret accompanied her. In 1869, he attended the First Vatican Council in Rome. Due to his declining health, he retired to the Cistercian abbey at Fontfroide, Narbonne in Southern France, where he died on October 24, 1870, aged 62. As his last request, he dictated to his missionaries the words that are to appear on his tombstone:
“I have loved justice and hated iniquity; therefore I die in exile.”St. Anthony Mary Claret
Anthony Mary Claret was beatified in Rome by Pope Pius XI on February 24, 1934. He was canonized 16 years later by Pope Pius XII on May 7, 1950. Two loves of Claret were the Eucharist and Blessed Virgin Mary. These loves defined his personality and mission.