St. Anthony Mary Claret (1807–1870) was born in Spain, the fifth of eleven children, the same year Napoleon invaded the country. He took up his father’s trade of weaving before entering the priesthood. He served as a parish priest with a missionary’s zeal for the salvation of souls. He often preached multiple sermons in a single day, traveled to preach parish missions and retreats for the clergy, and heard confessions for hours on end. His labors were rewarded by many people returning to a fervent practice of the Catholic faith, especially as a result of his meek and gentle manner. He was made Archbishop of Santiago and sent to Cuba from 1849-1857. His great reforms of the neglected diocese, both ecclesiastically and socially, were so sweeping and effective that his life was threatened. He was recalled back to Spain as confessor to the queen, where his tireless and fruitful priestly work continued. To increase his apostolic efforts he founded the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, known today as the Claretians. He also founded a major Catholic publisher in Spain, and wrote or published hundreds of books. He was so opposed in his efforts that he was severely persecuted and eventually exiled to Paris, along with the Spanish queen, by revolutionary enemies of religion. He took part in the First Vatican Council, his wisdom and sanctity being evident to all, before suffering a stroke and dying in exile in France. During his life St. Anthony Marie Claret had the gift of prophesy and reading of consciences, in addition to performing many miracles. A resplendent light was also observed to shine from his face as he offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. His feast day is October 24th.
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[the national shrine of st. jude – a claretian initiative]
History of the Claretians and the National Shrine of St. Jude
Claretian Fr. James Tort founded the National Shrine of St. Jude in 1929 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Chicago. Fr. Tort was pastor of the parish and had been sent there by the Claretians to organize the construction of the church for a parish in need of hope and support. Many of his parishioners were laborers in the nearby steel mills, which were drastically cutting back their work forces in the late 1920s.
Fr. Tort had a strong devotion to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hope and hopeless or difficult causes, who was relatively unknown to the general Catholic population at that time. Night after night, however, he asked St. Jude for his intercession to help the workers of the parish. In an effort to lift the spirits of his parishioners, Fr. Tort began regular devotions to St. Jude, including the first Solemn Novena which was held on February 17, 1929.
The congregation at Our Lady of Guadalupe showed such great response to the devotion to St. Jude that an overflow crowd attended services on the final night of a Solemn Novena that ended on the Feast of St. Jude, October 28, 1929. More than 1,000 people stood outside the church to hear the service. Word of the devotions to St. Jude gradually spread from that tiny corner of Chicago to other parts of the country. During the Great Depression and World War II, thousands attended novenas at the National Shrine, and the devotion to the Patron of Hope grew throughout the country.
To this day, the Claretians maintain the National Shrine of St. Jude, which receives petitions of need and gratitude from thousands of St. Jude devotees each year. These special intentions are delivered to the altar of St. Jude at the National Shrine, where the Claretians remember them in their Masses and prayers.
Danny Thomas and St. Jude
“Thomas began talking about his devotion to Saint Jude and how he believed the saint had helped lift him to prominence in his career. ‘It was like a miracle, the way it happened,’ he said. ‘You believe in miracles, don’t you?’”
Perhaps the most nationally recognized devotee of Saint Jude during the last half of the 20th century was Danny Thomas, once a little known nightclub entertainer who soared to countrywide popularity as the star of the television show “Make Room for Daddy” from 1953 to 1964.
Thomas never hid his attachment to Saint Jude, and origins of that devotion date back to the spring of 1940 when Thomas first heard of Saint Jude from a stagehand in Detroit. The stagehand told him his wife had made a seemingly miraculous recovery from cancer, and that recovery, he insisted, came through his prayers to Saint Jude.
At the time, Thomas was struggling to make a go of it in show business. He had done some radio and nightclub work, having gone to Detroit from Toledo, Ohio, where he had grown up in a large family and had changed his name from Muzyad Amos Yakhoob to Amos Jacobs. He was averaging about $45 a week, and when his wife, Rose Marie, delivered the first of their three children, he knew he needed help. So, remembering the stagehand’s profession of faith, he began making short prayers to Saint Jude, asking for the saint’s intercession “to show me my way in life.” He prayed for strength to succeed in his profession and promised he would “do something big” in Jude’s name if he managed to gain a measure of economic security.
Before long he traveled to Chicago, where he landed a $50-a-week job doing radio commercials. Shortly thereafter, talent agent Leo Salkin booked him into the 5100 Club on the city’s north side for $75 a week. At that juncture, he again changed his name from Amos Jacobs to Danny Thomas. He soon became a nightclub sensation, earning $500 a week and drawing customers from all over the city to listen to his outrageously funny stories, which he told in different dialects while deftly skewering human vanity and stupidity. And, although he had his audience laughing uproariously, he never resorted to using vulgar language.
His lengthy night shows on Saturdays ran far into the morning hours, and when he was finished, he went to 6 a.m. Mass at St. Clement Church on his way home. It was at the church one day that he noticed a leaflet on a pew. He read the leaflet and learned about a solemn novena to Saint Jude that was then held four times every year at the National Shrine of St. Jude at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on the far southeast side of Chicago. It was the first he knew that St. Jude’s home was in Chicago. In reading about the Shrine he realized, in the midst of his newly-found professional success, he had completely forgotten his earlier prayers and promises to Saint Jude. While renewing his devotion to the “forgotten apostle,” he planned on somehow showing the church appreciation for his prayers being answered.
Thomas’ life changed dramatically again a few weeks after that. His agent persuaded him to take his comedy routine to New York City, where he was booked into the Club Martinique. From that point on, he moved into the entertainment world’s big time. After USO tours in both Europe and the Pacific, Thomas was engaged to perform at New York’s Roxy Theater at $3,750 a week. He later performed in the most popular nightclubs from coast to coast, broke into movies, playing in “I’ll See You in My Dreams” and “The Jazz Singer” and finally, starting in 1953, he achieved his greatest fame through his starring role in the long-running television comedy series “Make Room for Daddy.”
Thomas’ “big gift” to St. Jude included devotion through the National Shrine of St. Jude and the Claretians in Chicago, and ultimately the world-famous St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
Thomas died in California of a heart attack at age 78 in 1991.