The Reminiscences of
St. Anthony Mary Claret
CATHOLIC TREASURES, Issue No. 33, 1978
THE VILLAGE OF SALLENT
THE THOUGHT OF ETERNITY
HIS FIRST COMMUNION
THE PRODIGY OF THE WAVES
THE HOUR OF GOD
A PROVIDENTIAL INTERVIEW
THE APPARITION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN
AIMING AT PERFECTION
REGENT OF VILADRAU: CURES
THE TECHNIQUE OF THE MISSIONS
APOSTLESHIP OF CONVERSATION
THE DEMON'S IRE
THE CATECHISM OF THE MISSIONS
THE VISION OF SINS
CONDESCENSION OF A SAINT
SIN OF CURIOSITY
DISCERNMENT OF CONSCIENCES
THE ANGEL OF BESOS
ARCHBISHOP OF CUBA
THE PROPHECIES OF CUBA
THE CALL OF THE QUEEN
DOCUMENTS OF MODESTY
ECHOES FROM THE PULPIT
THE LIVING CIBORIUM
THE VILLAGE OF SALLENT
Saint Anthony Mary Claret was born in the town of Sallent on December 24, 1807. Pope Pius VII ruled the destinies of the Church at that time; King Charles IV occupied the Spanish throne. Anthony Claret was to be, as time went on, the great apostle and wise counsellor of both Church and Throne in the midst of the revolution which would break out, volcano-like, in the XIX century.
Sallent is a picturesque village of Spain, in the principality of Catalonia, in the province of Barcelona, and in the diocese of Vich. It has some five thousand inhabitants and is situated on the banks of the turbulent river, Llobregat. Its principal industry is the manufacture of textile goods.
Sallent, in spite of its material progress, would today have shared the fate of so many similar progressive towns-----historical obscurity-----had not a child been born there, a child with a predestined mission, who was to become a Priest, an Apostle, a Founder, an Archbishop, a Confessor of princes and kings, and above all, a Saint. This child stamped the CROSS OF GLORY on Salient, his native town, so that it now shines in a golden frame on the immense map of Spain.
THE THOUGHT OF ETERNITY
John Claret and Josepha Clara, the parents of Saint Anthony Mary, were blessed with eleven children. The fifth of the boys, the Saint, on the day of his Baptism on December 25, 1807, was given the names Anthony, Adjutorio, and John.
On account of his great devotion to the Blessed Virgin he himself added the sweet name of Mary on the day of his Episcopal consecration.
The character of children is usually wanting in reflection. This, however, was not the case in the childhood of Saint Anthony Mary. Grace prevented the impulses of nature in him, and put into his thoughts and acts maturity, profundity, and constancy.
Anthony was five years old-----an age of instinct and not of reason; an age of spontaneous impetuousness and not of reflex conscience; an age of ingenious mirth and not of deep preoccupation of conscience. Even in this infantile age, terrible problems of eternity agitated and disquieted his spirit.
At night, his mother, after putting him to bed with the greatest care, signed his forehead with the Sign of the Cross, and recommending him to his Guardian Angel, kissed him and returned to her occupations. As the child did not fall asleep the mother visited him from time to time to watch him. On seeing that he was not asleep, she worried as only mothers can worry. Why did the child not sleep? What was he thinking of? What were his feelings? "Eternity, eternity! Always, always! Never, never!" These were his thoughts and sentiments.
Days upon days blended and mounted up in his imagination; months upon months, years upon years, centuries upon centuries. Finally he heard, like a sad and distant echo the word: "Eternity, eternity!"
He imagined enormous distances, horizons without limits, immensities without end and without comprehension.
Finally, there in the midst of the shadows, at the motion of a pendulum which came and went into the depths of eternity, he listened to the words: "Always, always!"
Then the child looking Heavenward and thinking of the eternity of the blessed, smiled, but later wept. He wept bitter tears; he wept with a trembling heart, amid unrestrained groans and sighs; he wept because he thought of the pains suffered by the damned.
"What! I asked myself then," Saint Anthony wrote later in his autobiography, which, through obedience, he had to publish, "will the pains of the damned never cease? Will they have to suffer incessantly? Yes, always, always! This thought caused me great sorrow, because I am naturally compassionate. It made a deep impression upon me, be it because I conceived it early, or because of the many times I thought of it; but it is certain that nothing was more vivid to my mind. This same idea has made, makes, and will make me work, as long as I live, for the conversion of poor sinners, to procure their conversion by preaching, hearing confessions, and by means of books, pictures, pamphlets, and familiar conversation."
HIS FIRST COMMUNION
Jesus, our Sacramental Lord, is seated on the throne of the Tabernacle, wrapped in mysteries; a host of Angels, veiling their faces with their wings as a sign of reverence, is forming a guard of honor. In Heaven Jesus has the Angels, but while He lives among us in the Holy Tabernacle, He wishes that children, the angels of earth, keep Him company and attend Him. Today, in the days of His Eucharistic life, as yesterday, in the days of His mortal life, our sweet Savior exclaims: "Let the little children come unto Me."
From his most tender years, Anthony felt this allurement of the August Prisoner of the altar, and for this reason the church was his center of attraction and the paradise of his spiritual delights.
Sometimes, on leaving the school, he fled from the games of his companions to hasten to the foot of the altar. He remained on his knees, immovable, with his little hands joined and his eyes fixed on the Tabernacle, giving Jesus the simple confidence of his heart. What was he telling Him?
When on Sunday mornings, and above all, on the great feasts and at Paschal time, he saw so many persons kneeling at the foot of the altar, communicating fervently, and then returning to their places recollectedly, like a rosary of Eucharistic hearts, the soul of Anthony, a prey to holy envy, trembled with emotion, and tears fell stealthily. What were his emotions?
When casually a little book, saturated with Eucharistic devotions, fell into his hands, and he afterwards read another book, also highly spiritual, he ingeniously meditated on the pages of these two books and surrendered himself to their holy suggestive influence. What was he thinking of?
Saint Anthony later expressed, in his autobiography, something of what he then thought, felt, and said. "Oh, with what pleasure," he wrote, "and with what profit to my soul, I read those books. Having read some pages, closed the book, pressed it to my head and raising to Heaven my eyes over flowing with tears, I said: "O Lord What good things am I ignorant of. My God! O, my Love! Would that I had always loved Thee!"
His confessor believed that he was now prepared to make his First Communion. His teachers and his parents judged likewise. At the age of ten-----an age then considered very early for this transcendental act-----he receive, the Bread of Angels for the first time. Jesus made an exchange of Tabernacles; He left the tabernacle of the altar radiant with gold, and entered into the tabernacle of that heart, radiant with virtue. What emotion of joy and fullness of happiness did little Anthony then experience. "I cannot explain," he wrote in his autobiography, "what happened within me the day on which I had the incomparable happiness of receiving, for the first time, my loving Sacramental Lord into my heart."
It is evident that, as practical fruit, he deposited that very day the following bouquet of resolutions at the foot of the altar:
I will receive Holy Communion frequently -----
I will visit the Blessed Sacrament whenever I can -----
I will attend the instructions given on Sunday in the church, and will recite the Rosary there. -----
What did Jesus give him as a First Communion gift in exchange for these generous resolutions? The most precious of graces, the grace to fulfill them with perseverance and with love.
Is not this model of First Communion a contrast with so many First Communions of our day, in which the attire of the body and scenic effect at the altar are given more attention than the adornment of the soul and the fervor of the prayers?
The heart of Anthony was a beautiful golden ring in which God had set a diamond from Heaven-----the love of the Blessed Virgin.
"Mother," says the man of every age, invoking in his sorrow the one who gave him his natural life. "Mother," says the Christian in every crisis of his spiritual life, invoking the sweet co-redemptrix, who is the channel through which all graces come to us. The relation between son and mother is, in human life, something consubstantial and necessary. For this reason, devotion to the Blessed Virgin is an essential attribute in the life of the practical Catholic.
Anthony used to play with children of his own age on a plaza in Sallent, very near the parish church. Often he suddenly heard a mysterious interior voice saying, "Come, Anthony." Then with the haste and the docility of another Samuel he replied, "I am coming, Mother." Leaving his games and companions he entered the church, knelt at the foot of Our Lady's altar, and there spent his hours of recreation in sweet colloquies with his Mother.
His father was a weaver by profession. In his shop were several men who worked under him in the manufacture of cotton textiles. Seeing the seriousness of Anthony's conduct, and the dexterity and the skill which his son showed at the task, he placed him in charge of the shop and made him overseer of the men. He soon won the goodwill of all. Taking advantage of the moral ascendancy which he had acquired over them, he permitted himself to remind them of some maxims bearing upon a Christian life, such as the precepts of Confession, of annual Communion, of Sunday Mass and Feast Days of obligation. On seeing that the simple laborers listened to his counsels so willingly, he took another step on the road to spiritual conquest. He invited them to recite the Rosary with him every day while they worked in the shop. They accepted the invitation, and this practice converted the factory into a public oratory where fervent prayers to Our Lady flowed from the lips of Anthony and the workmen.
THE PRODIGY OF THE WAVES
An immense crystal mirror presents itself to view. It is the sea. Its deep waters assume suavity in the reflection of the blue skies. The sun's rays spread a conflagration of glory over the waters. Its waves, agitated by the breezes, break over the sand and spread a mantle of lace work.
In his hours of rest Anthony delighted in contemplating this spectacle. In the summer time, when his health began to fail through excess of work, he went to the beach frequently to breathe the fresh air and thus to restore his strength.
One day, as at other times, he went, accompanied by some friends, to wade in the water at Barceloneta, a solitary and abandoned beach, which now attracts crowds because of the marvelous transformation made by engineers. Anthony had seated himself there when suddenly a terrific wave took hold of him and dragged him into the sea, submerging him into the agitated waters. His companions, on seeing it, wept and cried for help. Unable to give him assistance, they ran home hurriedly to tell of the tragedy. Anthony, struggling in mid-sea with the tempest, remained serene amid grave dangers. While the waves were tossing him on high and submerging him, Anthony,
from the depth of his heart, cried to Our Lady, "Holy Mother, help me!" Instantly a wave seemed to carry him in its arms. Without any effort on his part, he floated on the water. Soon after, without knowing how, he found himself safe on shore. His face was calm; his clothing dry. He did not
doubt but that it was a miraculous intervention of Our Lady, whom he had invoked in the hour of danger.
The storm at sea continued. The waves rose mountain-high and opened again, forming deep abysses; striking furiously they threw a water-spout into space. Anthony then understood his imminent danger. He began to weep. He wept because he thought of his unpreparedness to die, and exclaimed amid sobs: "O, my God! What would have been my fate, the fate of my soul if I had been drowned now! Thanks to thee, Holy Virgin, my Mother, for having saved me. I will try to live better and be more fervent in the future." He looked about but saw no one. His companions had fled in consternation. Anthony, finding himself alone, went to his rooming-house. On seeing him, his friends who had supposed that he was already a corpse in mid-ocean, were amazed, especially at seeing him tranquil. They cried out: "A miracle! This is a great miracle!" They questioned him, but he was silent.
After a lapse of years, Anthony, with supreme simplicity, wrote in his autobiography: "Since I did not know how to swim, I was on the point of drowning. The thought of invoking the Blessed Virgin came to me. I did the best I could, and without knowing how, I found myself instantly on shore. I became frightened when I thought of the imminent danger of death through which I had passed and how Our Lady had delivered me."
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