Saturday, October 24, 1998
Saturday October 24:
Twenty-ninth Saturday in Ordinary Time and
Feast of Saint Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop and Religious Founder and
Observance of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday
Green or White vestments
First Reading: Ephesians 3: 14-21
Psalms: Psalm 33: 1-2, 4-5, 11-12, 18-19
Gospel Reading: Luke 12: 49-53
Feast of Saint Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop and Religious Founder
This humble son of a weaver Saint Anthony Mary Claret founded the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1850. He was born in Salent, Spain, part of the Diocese of Vich in Catalonia on December 23, 1807. It was the same year Napoleon invaded Spain. Having entered the diocesan seminary there at the age of 22, he was ordained in 1835 and immediately assigned pastor of his home parish. But the lure to Rome and to become a Jesuit got the best of him and he entered the Jesuits Novitiate in Rome in 1837. But God had other plans for Anthony as he became very ill, forcing him to leave the novitiate and return to Salent where he devoted the next ten years to preaching missions and retreats throughout Catalonia, as well as writing publications for he wrote more than 150 books, chief among them his well-known work The Right Way. As so often is the case, his success brooded jealousy and envy within the ranks of the clergy, and they were successful in getting him sent to the Canary Islands in 1848. There, under Bishop Codina, he preached feverishly and, after almost two years later, returned back to Vich to found the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary known throughout the world today as the Claretians dedicated to preaching missions. Though there were still ill feelings with fellow priests who resented his success, the Holy Father recognized his accomplishments and that same year Pope Pius IX appointed Anthony the Archbishop of Santiago in Cuba. In his efforts to preach against slavery, reform the diocese and because some in his own diocese plotted from afar, an assassination attempt was made on his life in 1856. Narrowly escaping, Anthony was recalled to Spain where he was appointed personal confessor to Queen Isabella II in 1857 while maintaining his duties of overseeing his fledgling order of priests. This new appointment also enabled him to be in a better position to appoint good bishops and other assignments throughout the various dioceses of Spain. In order to achieve total autonomy and work toward recognizing Religious Orders throughout Spain, he resigned his episcopate in 1858 while setting up a center of ecclesiastical studies in liturature, arts and the sciences at the Escorial in Madrid as rector of the seminary there. He specifically promoted Catholic publications and a devotion to Saint Michael the Archangel some 20 years before Pope Leo XIII's famous vision and subsequent decree of the protective prayer to St. Michael. In 1868 a revolution broke out and Isabella II fled to France while Anthony was in Rome helping prepare for the First Vatican Council (1869-70). When the Council concluded, Anthony discarded the idea of going back to Spain where persecution was mounting greatly and opted instead to join the deposed Spanish queen in Prades, France. However the Spanish ambassador, spurred on by those who had life-long vendettas against this holy man, insisted on his arrest and so Anthony fled to the Cistercian monastery near Narbonne, where under house arrest, he died on October 24, 1870. This leading light in the Catholic revival of Spain was honored years later when his remains were returned to the Diocese of Vichs and his fruits are proliferated today through the active missionaries who compose the Claretian Fathers. Pope Pius XII canonized St. Anthony Mary Claret in 1950.
Observance of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday
Honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary is a custom first promoted by the Benedictine Monk Saint Alcuin back in the days of Charlemagne (see archives December 23, no. 25 issue). He composed different formulas for Votive Masses for each day of the week, with two set aside to honor Our Lady on Saturday. This practice caught on with great enthusiasm and eventually the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday became the Common of the Blessed Virgin. This Mass was a favorite with retired priests and those whose sight was failing for most had memorized this Mass and were able to say it by heart without having to read the Lectionary or Sacramentary. One reason Saturday was dedicated to Mary was that Saturday held a special meaning in Mariology. First of all, as Genesis accounts for, God rested on the seventh day. In the Old Testament, the Sabbath was Saturday. Jesus, Son of God rested in the womb and then, when He became incarnate, in the loving arms of Mary from birth until she held His lifeless body at the foot of the Cross. Thus the God-head rested in Mary. It was also on Saturday after Good Friday that Jesus gave His Mother a special gift and reward for keeping her faith in His Divinity intact by making an exceptional appearance to her. Thus, because of these reasons, the devotion spread by St. Alcuin and other liturgies that evolved within the Church, Saturday took on a special Marian significance. Saturday took on even more significance in honoring Mary when Our Lady imparted to visionary Lucia in her third apparition at Fatima on July 13, 1917, "Our Lord wishes that devotion to my Immaculate Heart be established in the world. If what I tell you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace; the war will end...I ask the consecration of the world to my Immaculate Heart and Communion of reparation on the First Saturday of each month...If my requests are granted, Russia will be converted and there will be peace...In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph, and an era of peace will be conceded to humanity." As we draw nearer to that wonderful event, it is more important than ever to honor Mary's request on the First Saturday as well as each Saturday that her feast is commemorated in the Church calendar, not to mention responding to her call daily with the Rosary and attending Daily Mass, nourished by her Divine Son present body and blood, soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament. It is in the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary where she remains in the background in the liturgy of the Word so that her Divine Son's words and His Presence take the spotlight as He should while Mary remains the chief intercessor before the Holy Trinity as she should and serves as the ideal for all Catholics to strive for, as we should. The Dictionary of Mary states quite succinctly, "Through these liturgical acts, (honoring Mary on Saturday) Christians exalt the person of Mary in the action that renews the sacrifice of Christ and in the action that prolongs His prayer."