Magazine article U.S. Catholic

And Now a Word from Our Founder

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

And Now a Word from Our Founder

Article excerpt

No wonder so many follow the path of this saint who was a mystic and a man of action.

ANTHONY MARY CLARET IS THE KIND OF SAINT WHO HAS suffered especially at the hands of traditional hagiographers. He was not a martyr, although he suffered greatly the impositions of both friends and enemies. He wrote prodigiously, but he was not a scholar like Thomas Aquinas or an author whose wisdom, like Augustine's, would echo down the corridors of time. Although a man of affairs on two continents, the dramatic confrontations of a Thomas More were not to be his. Not even the easily conceptualized "little way" of a Therese of Lisieux or a Cure of Ars could be ascribed to him.

So what could his biographers say of him? Predictably, they have said that he was pious, chaste, industrious, unselfish, and humble (some were not too sure about the latter virtue), all good Boy Scout or--less charitably--bourgeois virtues. In viewing him superficially, they, in the words of an American folk song, have "done him wrong."

Saint Claret founded the Congregation of Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, known popularly as the Claretian Missionaries, in 1849. His many followers (more than 3,000 in 56 countries) are thus celebrating the sesquicentennial of that memorable event this month. It is a cause for rejoicing, so widespread and fruitful have missionary sons and daughters of the saint been.

The reputation of a religious-order founder, of course, can sometimes suffer when loyal sons and daughters take pen (or computer) in hand to sing the praises of the holy founder. Overwhelmingly edified, they feel it unnecessary to seek out the truly distinctive attributes of the holy person. The beloved subject of their well-meaning labors is thereby placed at the pinnacle and unenviably required to rise above it.

Of one thing we can be certain. Claret's apostolic labors were of heroic proportions. Reading the accounts of his personal activities, we are reminded of Saint Paul's own accounts of his prodigious apostolate.

As a young priest in Spain, the diminutive Claret (barely five feet tall) begged permission from his bishop to be a roving missionary in addition to his parish duties. Apparently a speaker of exceptional magnetism, he attracted huge crowds, including many who came from great distances. …

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