Once Claret was beatified in 1934, the Congregation immediately set about advancing the cause for canonization, and in July, 1938, Pope Pius XI signed the requisite documents. Between 1941 and 1948 inquiries continued in Rome, Cuba, Cordoba and Barcelona. In February 1948, in a rare gesture, Pope Pius XII dispensed with discussion of the validity of these processes. Fr. Felipe Maroto served as the procurator of the cause for beatification. Fr. Juan Postíus, his successor from 1934 to1948 concentrated on the persecution of the Church during the Spanish Civil War of 1936 – 39. Fr. Anastasio Gutierrez, named procurator in 1948, brought the cause for Claret’s canonization to completion.
On January 12, 1950, Pope Pius XII acknowledged two new miracles: the healing of Sister Josefina Marín of cancer in Santiago, Cuba on May 11-12, 1934, and the healing of Mrs. Elena Flores of hemiphegia in Cordoba on May 9, 1948.
On March 5, 1950, the Pope solemnly declared that the process should proceed to canonization, and on March 26 the Pope affirmed the votes of the Cardinals in previous consistories.
Anthony Mary Claret was canonized on May 7, 1950. St. Peter’s Basilica was packed with pilgrims. The ceremonies began at 8:30 am with the Eucharist presided by Pope Pius XII. Of course, the most exciting moment was when the Pope spoke his magisterial and definitive judgment: “We decree and define that Blessed Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop and Confessor, is a saint and is now inscribed in the catalogue of saints.”
Pope Pius XII described very well the new saint: “A great soul, born to embrace contrasts; of humble origins yet highly esteemed in the eyes of the world; small in stature, yet gifted with a magnanimous spirit; modest in appearance, but commanding the respect of the most powerful and influential. He was of strong character but gentle as the result of austerity and penance; always in the presence of God even in the midst of his prodigious activity; slandered and admired, celebrated and persecuted. Among so many wonders, like a soft light that illuminates everything, his devotion to the Mother of God “(1, pp. 366-367).
This day is an explicit invitation to imitate Claret in living out our own missionary vocation to holiness. “… Anthony Mary Claret has been canonized by the Church. He has been recognized as a paradigm of evangelical life and missionary dedication to all believers. Our Congregation has a holy foundation, recognized as such by the Church. In the canonization of our Founder, the Congregation is likewise canonized. St Anthony Mary Claret is the Congregation born in his holiness, in his utopia. Moreover, Anthony Mary Claret is the initial eschatological fulfillment of the Congregation and from there, into the eschatological future, calling us to walk the path that leads to fullness” (2, p. 49).
To enable the Congregation to celebrate the canonization as fruitfully as possible, the General Council created the Claretian Secretariat, which was responsible for both the approaching celebration as well as the on-going application of the mission and work of our Founder to current conditions. Fr. Arcadio Larraona headed the Secretariat, assisted by Fr’s. Eduardo Fabregat and Anastasio Gutierrez. The Secretariat organized committees to manage pilgrimages, liturgies, lodgings, communications, etc.
Pilgrims numbered in the thousands, most from Spain. Italy, Germany, France, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, the United States, England, Mexico, Peru, Panama, Uruguay, Venezuela and Equatorial Guinea. More than five hundred Claretian Missionaries accompanied the pilgrimages and sought to provide all participants an intense faith experience.
On the morning of May 7, Fr. Peter Schweiger, Superior General, shared a heartfelt reflection with all Claretians lodged in the General Curia on Via Giulia. Following, the Missionaries renewed their vows in gratitude for the gift of our Founder’s canonization.
The 1950 Celebration
More than fifty thousand people flocked to St. Peter’s Basilica for the canonization..
Following the liturgy, the Missionaries celebrated with a banquet at the Salviati Palace.
At 9:00 pm, Vatican Radio broadcast a message from Fr. Peter Schweiger, Superior General, who.said: “… Claret is equally great as Saint, Bishop and Founder. He is chronologically the tenth Spanish bishop to be declared a saint, fourth among the saintly Spanish founders (like Guzman, Loyola, and Calasanz), and the first of the Fathers of I Vatican Council to attain the honor of the Altar … “
In an audience the next day, Pius XII addressed the Claretian pilgrims with a splendid portrait of the Founder: “A great soul, born to embrace contrasts; of humble origins yet highly esteemed in the eyes of the world; small in stature yet gifted with a magnanimous spirit; modest in appearance, but commanding the respect of the most powerful and influential. He was of strong character, yet gentle as a result of austerity and penance; always in the presence of God even in the midst of his prodigious external activity; slandered yet admired, celebrated yet persecuted. Among so many wonders, like soft light that illuminates everything, his devotion to the Mother of God”(1, pp. 366-367).
The Canonization, a Spark of Life for the Congregation
The year 1949, celebrated the 100th anniversary of the great work begun by Claret and five companions. As a sign of openness on the part of the Congregation, the Sixteenth General Chapter, meeting in Castelgandolfo, elected as Superior General Fr. Peter Schweiger, a German national, and the only non-Spanard attending the Chapter. In his acceptance, Schweiger said: “It seems to me that the glorification of our Father will be the reward that Heaven and the Church have reserved for our centennial year, and indeed, we could not desire something greater for our blessed Father and our beloved Congregation … the canonization of its founder is the highest honor a religious institute can receive… “(1, pp. 103-104).
In 1950, the Congregation was still recovering from the severe blow it had been struck during the Spanish Civil War of 1936 – 39, during which 270 missionaries were martyred. Nonetheless, the testimony of the martyrs, as well as the canonization of our Founder, presaged a second century of life, joy and hope.
Guided by Claret to Open New Horizons for Missionaries
In the midst of the festivities, the Congregation felt impelled to embrace new ministries and to expand its missionary horizons.
In his final words to the Claretian Missionaries in Rome for the canonization Fr. Schweiger emphasized that the future would demand that the Congregation must pursue with even greater intensity holiness, catholicity, and a distinctively Claretian apostolate. Holiness, as it is modeled by Claret. Catholicity, demonstrated by the number of nationalities of the pilgrims and proof that our ministry must transcend national and racial boundaries. The Claretian apostolate, which calls us to avail ourselves of all possible means to make God known, loved and served.
The canonization inspired many Claretians to live their missionary calling more faithfully. Many of Claret’s sons and daughters felt obligated to intensify their efforts to share the rich legacy of the Founder. Fr. Schweiger believed the time was ripe for launching new ministries, particularly ad gentes, and the General Government agreed to establish a mission in Japan, though not much consideration of practical details went into the decision (cf. 1, p. 234).
It remains for us to allow ourselves to be animated by the same missionary dynamism awakened by the canonization of our Founder. As missionaries, we are called to be holy as Claret was holy and to commit ourselves to expanding the horizons of our evangelization.
The anniversary of the canonization of St. Anthony Mary Claret should impel us to renew our commitment as missionaries in the legacy of Claret. “… Anthony Mary Claret has been canonized by the Church and recognized as a paradigm of evangelical life and missionary dedication for all believers. Our Congregation has a holy foundation, recognized as such by the Church. In the canonization of our Founder, the Congregation is protologically canonized with him. Saint Anthony Mary Claret embodies the nascient Congregation in its holiness, and its embrace of Claret’s utopian dream. Moreover, Anthony Mary Claret is the first eschatological realization of the Congregation and from there, from the eschatological future, calls us to walk the road to its fulfillment”(2, p. 49).
- CLARETIAN MISSIONARIES. Annales Congregationis, t. 39 (1949-50), pp. 234, 355-424.
- CLARETIAN MISSIONARIES. Our project of missionary life. Comment to the Constitutions, t. II. p. 49.
- CLARETIAN MISSIONARIES. Iris magazine of Peace, number of the Canonization, 1950, n. 2,268, pp. 185-220.
- CLARETIAN MISSIONARIES. The Missionary Magazine, extraordinary number of the Canonization, 1950, n. 2,268, pp. 161-285.
- VINAS, J. M.ª and BERMEJO, J., St Anthony Mary Claret. EA, Madrid 1981.