Proper of the Saints and Feasts |
Wednesday, October 23:
Ferial Day and Traditional Feast of Saint Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop of Cuba, Founder of the Claretians and Sisters of the Immaculate Heart
Saint Anthony Mary Claret
Saint Anthony Mary Claret is the Founder of the Claretian Fathers, or the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Born in 1807 in Spain, he was a very pious child. He later wrote that, already at the age of five, “my little heart trembled at the thought of hell, and I said to myself: Will those who fall into hell never stop suffering? No, never. Will they always suffer? Yes, always. This thought remained profoundly engraved in my mind, and I can say that it is ever present to me. That is what has animated me to work for the conversion of sinners. Why? Because I received [from God] so tender a heart that I cannot see a misfortune without assisting it.” The young Anthony practiced his father’s trade, the weaving of fabrics, in which he excelled, until one day in church, “All the efforts I made not to voluntarily entertain thoughts of my trade were in vain; I was like a wheel turning with great speed, which cannot be stopped all at once... There were more machines running in my head than there are Saints on the altars.” He entered the local seminary in the same year, 1829.
As a young priest he went to Rome to place himself at the disposition of the Congregation of the Propaganda; there the director of a retreat counseled him to enter the Society of Jesus. He did so but was obliged to leave it soon afterwards because of poor health. He returned to Spain, and for nine years preached everywhere the word of God and promoted the Catholic Press. In 1848 he founded a publishing house at Barcelona, and soon afterwards established his Claretian congregation of priests. The six priests of this Congregation had just received the formal approbation of the bishop of Vich, and completed a retreat at the Seminary in July of 1848, with the Exercises of Saint Ignatius; on August 11th, while their new Superior was preaching a mission to the clergy of the diocese, he received a royal decree nominating him Archbishop of Santiago, in Cuba. He was inclined to refuse it categorically and attempted to do so, but was not heard; he asked his five companions to pray for light for several days, then to advise him as to their reply — should he or not accept the nomination? They were unanimous in saying they believed he should accept, and he did.
For six years he dedicated himself to the organization and evangelization of his diocese. In Cuba he founded another new congregation, the Sisters of Mary Immaculate, dedicated to the instruction of the young. A School of Arts and Trades was opened there, and Latin America saw established its first common funds resources. Abuses vanished under his strict and persevering disciplinary measures. In Cuba an attempt was made on his life; he received a severe wound of the head which limited his preaching capacity for a time, and he was recalled to Spain, summoned by Queen Isabella II to replace her deceased confessor. He continued to travel to various places on the peninsula, preaching everywhere in Andalusia and elsewhere. In 1862, from September 12th until October 29th, during one royal visitation, one of the Queen’s servants counted the sermons he had given — two hundred and five: 16 to the clergy, nine to the seminarians; 95 to the various groups of Sisters; thirty-five to the poor in the various houses of charity; and twenty-two others to the people in general in the churches. He created the Academy of Saint Michael for the Catholic intellectuals, called to sustain the influence of the Church; he founded popular libraries and saw to the diffusion of good literature; he accompanied the exiled Queen to Rome and took part in the First Vatican Council, 1869. Finally he settled in France, where he died in 1870. He was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1950.
He was commanded to write his life by his spiritual director; this he did, beginning in 1861. We are fortunate to possess this autobiography of an extraordinary soul, both contemplative and active in the love and service of God. It serves for the formation of missionaries, since his director told him it should be conceived with that purpose. In this book he wrote a paragraph which has become classic, to describe what an apostle of the Gospel should be. In it the paths he followed himself are made articulate:
“A son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a man who is consumed with love and who sets on fire everything in his path. He is a man who unceasingly expends himself to light the fire of divine love in the world. Nothing stops him; he places his joy in privations, he undertakes all works for the glory of God; he embraces willingly every sacrifice, he is happy in the midst of calumnies; he exults in torments. He can think of but one thing — working, suffering, and seeking at all times the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls, to imitate Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Source: Saint Antoine-Marie Claret: Autobiography. Translation from the Spanish by Rev. Léonor-Alban, F.S.C. Preface by Jean-Marie Lozano, C.M.F. (Les Éditions du soleil levant: Namur, 1961). Available in English with a biography, and a book narrating his miracles (Tan Books and Publishers: Rockford, 1985).
Thursday, October 24:
Traditional Double Major Feast of Saint Raphael the Archangel
Saint Raphael the Archangel
This holy Archangel Raphael identified himself to the exiled Jew Tobias as “one of the Seven who stand before God” (Tob. 12:15). His name means the healing of God, and he is thought to be the Angel who came down and agitated the water of the pool of Bethsaida in Jerusalem. The sick, who always lay around the pool, strove to be the first to enter the water afterwards, because that fortunate one was always cured. We read of this in the story of the paralytic cured by Jesus, who had waited patiently for thirty-eight years, unable to move when the occasion presented itself. (Cf. John 5:1-9)
Saint Raphael is best known through the beautiful history of the two Tobias, father and son, exiled to Persia in the days of the Assyrian conquest in the eighth century before Christ. In their story, the Archangel plays the major role.
The father Tobias was a faithful son of Jacob and was old and worn out by his manifold good works; for many years he had assisted his fellow exiles in every possible way, even burying the slain of Israel during a persecution by Sennacherib, and continuing this practice despite the wrath that king manifested towards him. Having been stripped of all his possessions, he desired to have his son recover a substantial sum of money he had once lent to a member of his family in a distant city. He needed a companion for the young Tobias. God provided that guide in the Archangel Raphael, whom the son met providentially one day, in the person of a stranger from the very area where he was to go, in the country of the Medes. Raphael to all appearances was a young man like himself, who said his name was Azarias (Assistance of God). Everything went well, as proposed; the young Tobias recovered the sum and then was married, during their stay in Media, to the virtuous daughter of another relative, whom Providence had reserved for him.
All aspects of this journey had been thorny with difficulties, but the wise guide had found a way to overcome all of them. When a huge fish threatened to devour Tobias, camped on the shores of the Tigris, the guide told him how to remove it from the water, and the fish expired at his feet; then remedies and provisions were derived from this creature by the directives of Azarias. When the Angel led Tobias for lodging in the city of Rages, to the house of his kinsman Raguel, father of the beautiful Sara, the young man learned that seven proposed husbands had died on the very day of the planned marriage. How would Tobias fare? The Angel reassured him that this would not be his own fate, and told him to pray with his future spouse for three nights, that they might be blessed with a holy posterity. Sara was an only daughter, as Tobias was an only son, and she was endowed with a large heritage.
During the absence of the young Tobias, his father had become blind when the droppings of a pigeon had fallen into his eyes. When the two travelers returned after an extended absence, which had cost his mother many tears, the young Tobias was deeply grieved to find his father unable to see him and his new daughter-in-law. But Raphael told the son how to cure his father’s blindness by means of the gall of the fish; and after the remedy had proved efficacious, all of them rejoiced time in their blessings.
When Tobias the son narrated his story and told his father that all their benefits had come to them through this stranger, both father and son wished to give Azarias half of the inheritance. Raphael declined and revealed his identity, saying he was sent to assist the family of the man who had never failed to obey and honor the blessed God of Israel. Raphael, before he disappeared, said to the family: “It is honorable to reveal and confess the works of God. Prayer is good, with fasting and alms, more than to lay up treasures, for alms deliver from death and purge away sins, and cause the giver to find mercy and life everlasting... When thou didst pray with tears and didst bury the dead, and didst leave thy dinner to hide the dead by day in thy house, and bury them by night, I offered thy prayer to the Lord. And because thou wast acceptable to God, it was necessary that trials prove thee... I am the Angel Raphael, one of the seven who stand before the Lord.”
Source: The Holy Bible: Old and New Testaments.