St Anthony Claret

Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba and Founder of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (the Claretians) (entered heaven in 1870)

Dear Ann,

May I guess what the most common topic of conversation has been for you and your friends during the first two months of school?  Is it, perhaps, guys?  I imagine it is, and I imagine that it has not only been the preferred topic of your conversations, but also of your thoughts.  Have you perhaps fallen once again into the exhausting and fruitless prowling game?  How much time you do tend to waste worrying and fretting about being more attractive than the rest!  My dear niece, return to your roots!  Ah, how fondly I remember your mother’s elegance.  What an example she was for the other girls on campus, and what an inspiration for the young men!  She always looked lovely, but respected herself too much to go out of her way to attract the guys’ attention.  She was classy, secure, confident, and consistent.  Neat, clean, never careless, but never preoccupied; completely free to live college to the full, unhindered by obsessive concern about the “relationship game.”  Of course, this was rooted in her faith, because she trusted that God would lead her down the right path, but she also took it upon herself to break free from the bonds of petty competition and dangerous immodesty.  In fact, she reminds me a lot of today’s saint.

St Anthony was equally at home among Queens and Cardinals as he was among peasants and paupers.  The son of a cloth-weaver in northern Spain, he entered the seminary when he was 22.  After being ordained a priest six years later, he tried to enter some religious orders, but his health debarred him, and he lived the first ten years of his ministry giving missions and retreats to the faithful in his homeland.  Other priests joined him, and the Claretian order was founded.  His next task was to take on the Archbishopric in Cuba, a notoriously anti-Christian and decadent Spanish colony.  Nevertheless, his humble simplicity and intelligent charity enabled him to implement effective reforms against heavy opposition.  More than once attempts were made on his life.  He received a nearly mortal wound at the hand of a would-be assassin trying to avenge the loss of his mistress, who had been won back to clean living by the holy archbishop.  Only St Anthony’s personal appeal saved the man from the death penalty.  After seven years in Cuba, he was recalled to Spain to become court confessor to Queen Isabella.  He combined his royal duties with a continuation of his local missionary work and a tireless promotion of Christian literature and higher learning. When the Queen was exiled after the revolution of 1868 her confessor was sent with her.  He spent his last years in Rome, and died on his way back to his native country.

Wherever St Anthony went, his simple elegance in appearance and speech opened hearts to receive the message of the Gospel.  As you try to walk the narrow line between slavery to fashion and off-putting plainness, you will do well to follow his example, trying first and always to please God in everything you do – after, all, He’s the most important “guy” around.


Uncle Eddy

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