Thought for the Day – 24 October – The Memorial of St Anthony Mary Claret (1807-1870)
Jesus foretold that those who are truly His representatives would suffer the same persecution as He did. Besides 14 attempts on his life, Anthony had to undergo such a barrage of the ugliest slander that the very name Claret became a byword for humiliation and misfortune. The powers of evil do not easily give up their prey. No-one needs to go looking for persecution. All we need to do is be sure we suffer because of our genuine faith in Christ, not for our own whims and lack of prudence. St Anthony pulled no punches but preached the Truth, fearless in the love of Christ and His Church, His Bride!
From the beginning Anthony wanted to be a priest. His seminary life was exemplary and he was ordained on 13 June 1835. He resolved never to waste a moment of time and during his 35 years as a priest he wrote 200 books and pamphlets and preached some 25,000 sermons.
On one trip, besides travelling, he preached 205 sermons in 48 days, 12 in one day. To make sure his efforts might be recognised for what they were, he started off by reminding his hearers that the ordinary motives for labour are money, pleasure or honour. But these were not his motives:
“… not money, for I do not want a penny from anybody… Nor do I preach for pleasure, for what pleasure can I possibly take in spending myself all day, in being fatigued from early morning until late at night?… I must be in the confessional most of the morning, the whole of the afternoon and in the evening, instead of resting, I have to preach. This is not just for a day, but… for months and years…
Perhaps I labour for honour… no, not for honour either… A preacher is exposed to many calumnies. If praised by one, he is misunderstood by another, treated as the Jews treated Jesus, Who was calumniated by maligners of His person, of His words and works, before they finally seized, scourged and killed Him by a most painful and shameful means. But like the apostle St Paul, I fear none of these things, since I value my soul more than my body. At any cost, I must discharge the ministry I have received from God Our Lord, which is to preach the Gospel… I have no worldly end in view but… that God may be known, loved and served by all the world… that sins and offences against Him may be hindered as much as possible…
Another thing that spurs me on, to preach ceaselessly, is the thought of the multitude of souls which fall in the depths of hell… Who die in mortal sin, condemned forever and ever… I see how many live habitually in mortal sin, so that never a day passes without increasing the number of their iniquities. They commit sin as easily as they drink a glass of water, just for diversion, or for a laugh. These unfortunate ones run to hell of their own accord, blind as bats… If you were to see a blind man about to fall into a pit or over a precipice, would you not warn him? Behold, I do the same and do it I must, for this is my duty… You may tell me that sinners will insult me, that I should leave them alone… Ah no, I can’t abandon them. They are my dear brothers. If you had a beloved brother who, sick and in the throes of delirium, were to insult you with all the angry words imaginable, would you abandon him? I am certain you wouldn’t. You would have even more compassion for him, do your utmost for his speedy recovery. This is how I feel in regard to sin ners. These poor souls are in a delirium and the more in need of our pity…
You may say the sinner doesn’t think of hell, nor even believe in it. So much the worse for him. Do you by chance think he will escape condemnation because of his unbelief? Truth is independent of belief… I must warn sinners and make them see the precipice which leads to the unquenchable fires of hell, for they will surely go there if they do not amend their ways. Woe to me if I do not preach and warn them, for I would be held responsible for their condemnation… How often I pray, with St Catherine of Siena – ‘O my God, grant me a place by the gates of hell, that I may stop those who enter there saying: Where are you going, unhappy one? Back, go back! Make a good confession. Save your soul. Don’t come here to be lost for all eternity!”
Further he boldly proclaimed – “The sole reason why society is perishing is because it has refused to hear the word of the Church, which is the word of life, the word of God. All plans for salvation will be sterile if the great word of the Catholic Church is not restored in all its fullness.”
His own words, are the best description for St Anthony’s life:
“A Son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a man on fire with love, who spreads its flames wherever he goes. He desires mightily and strives by all means possible to set the whole world on fire with God’s love. Nothing daunts him, he delights in privations, welcomes work, embraces sacrifices, smiles at slander and rejoices in suffering. His only concern is how he can best follow Jesus Christ and imitate Him in working, suffering and striving constantly and single-mindedly, for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls.”