Tag Archives: Bishop

St. Anthony Mary Claret

October 23, 2020

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(1807-1870), Bishop, Missionary, Founder

Anthony was born in Sallent in the Diocese of Vich in Catalonia, Spain in 1807. His father was a weaver, and he learned his father’s trade as a young man. He made a major shift in 1829 when he entered the seminary in Vich, and he was ordained to the priesthood in 1835.

Statue of St. Anthony Mary Claret

Statue of St. Anthony Mary Claret located in the Courtyard at the Church of Our Lady of Montserrat. Mount Montserrat. Catalonia. Spain. Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Anthony had a great desire to become a missionary, and after serving briefly at his home parish, he went to Rome to seek missionary work at the Propagation of the Faith. He also explored a possible calling to the Jesuits, entered the novitiate, became ill, withdrew, and returned to his native Spain.

Father Anthony was assigned to a parish, but his main ministry over the next ten years was as a missionary traveling from one parish to another throughout the rural areas of Catalonia. He preached retreats and conducted parish missions and clergy conferences. He spoke with incredible zeal, attracted large crowds, and it is estimated that he preached twenty-five thousand sermons over his life. He also was a prolific author and wrote over two hundred books and pamphlets. His most famous book was The Right Way which promoted fidelity to the gospel.

His popularity aroused the jealousy and animosity of the local clergy, and in 1848 he was forced to flee to the Canary Islands where he spent the next year. He returned to Catalonia in 1849, resumed his preaching, gathered a group of five priests, and founded the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Claretians, who have a special charism for missionary work.

In 1850 he was appointed the archbishop of Santiago, Cuba, which proved to be an incredibly difficult assignment. The diocese had been without a bishop for fourteen years, laxity had crept into the clergy, and he conducted a vigorous reform which was not well received. He was a Spaniard, and there was a strong movement within the country against Spain as it strove for independence. He preached against the slavery of the Negroes which was opposed by slave owners. He had a warm pastoral heart, made regular visits to the parishes, had a sincere compassion for the poor, and worked to establish credit unions to help the poor build savings. He was unsuccessful in establishing a school of agriculture but was able to found the Apostolic Institute of Mary. There was a strong anti-Christian sentiment within the country, and resistance to his initiates was so intense that he received numerous death threats and there was one assassination attempt. He resigned in 1857 and returned to Spain.

Archbishop Claret became the personal confessor to Queen Isabella II. While at the royal palace most of the time, he was able to preach on a limited basis. He was a strong proponent of education, served as rector of the seminary at the Escorial in Madrid, founded the Academy of St. Michael for artists and writers, established a science laboratory, a museum of natural history, and an association of artists and writers. The Spanish Revolution took place in 1868. Queen Isabella II fled to France. Archbishop Claret was in Rome to prepare for the First Vatican Council, he departed and followed his queen to France, took up residence at the Cistercian Monastery in Fontfroide, was placed under house arrest, and died there on October 24, 1870, at the age of 63. He was beatified in 1934 and canonized a saint in 1950. He is the patron saint of weavers, savings banks, and the Claretians.

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St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

January 11, 2019

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St. Hilary was born in Poitiers, a town in southwest France, in 315, into an upper-class, non-Christian family. He was raised as a pagan, given a solid liberal education, and was fluent in both Latin and Greek. He was married as a young man, and had a daughter named Apra.

St. HilarySometime later he became aware of the Bible, and out of curiosity, and with his facility in the biblical languages, he began to read Scripture. He was fascinated with the prologue to the Gospel of John (Jn 1:1-18), and developed a deep appreciation for Jesus, the gospels, and the wisdom and truth of the Bible, which led to his conversion and baptism in 350.

Three years later, in 353, Hilary was elected bishop of Poitiers, over his objections, while still a married layman. He was a staunch defender of the Trinitarian doctrine of the Council of Nicaea (325) which declared that Jesus is divine, eternal, and consubstantial, of the same substance, as the Father. Furthermore, he strenuously opposed Arianism which held that Jesus is the greatest of human beings but less than God, created, and not eternal.

Arianism had many adherents, both in France and throughout the West. The emperor, Constantius II, himself an Arian, called a synod in Milan in 355 which Hilary refused to attend. The synod produced a document that condemned Athanasius, the chief proponent of Nicaea in the East, which all bishops were required to sign. Hilary defiantly refused. The synod of Beziers followed in 356, comprised mainly of Arian bishops, which condemned Hilary for his orthodox beliefs. Subsequently, Constantius exiled Hilary to Phrygia, a region in Asia Minor.

Upon his arrival in the East, Hilary was invited to attend the Council of Seleucia in 359, where he, like Athanasius, remained insistent about the divinity of Jesus. He was deeply disappointed that so many resisted him and clung to their erroneous ideas, and that so many bishops who supposedly were his allies remained silent and in effect yielded to the opposition. The Arians detested his presence, regarded him as “the sower of discord and the troublemaker of the Orient,” and petitioned the emperor to end his exile and allow him to return to Poitiers, and they were overjoyed when he departed in 360.

Hilary was warmly received upon his return. He convoked a synod of Gallic bishops in Paris in 361 to unify and solidify their support of Nicaea. He exerted his leadership, not only in France, but throughout Europe, and he traveled extensively, constantly a vigorous proponent of the Nicene Trinitarian doctrine. In 364 he publicly denounced Auxentius, the Arian bishop of Milan. He also objected to the emperor’s interference in the church, and insisted on separation between the church and government.

Hilary wrote De Trinitate, his most famous work, a multivolume treatise on Trinitarian theology, as well as De synodis and Opus historicum. He also wrote scripture commentaries, most notably on the gospel of Matthew and the Psalms, and composed a number of liturgical hymns. Hilary died at the age of 53 of exhaustion, worn out from his travels, his exile to the East, and the relentless bitter wrangling. St. Augustine called him “the illustrious doctor of the churches,” and in 1851 Pope Pius IX declared Hilary a Doctor of the Church.

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