Promoter of Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary: Saturday, October 24, 2015

J.M.J. Saint Anthony Mary Claret (1807-1870) promoted devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Who could seriously argue that Our Lady did not play a decisive role in the following story, whose author is unknown?

"In December of 1850, St. Anthony Claret was saying good-bye to friends in Spain before leaving to take charge of the Archdiocese of Santiago, Cuba.  At dawn one day he took a stagecoach to go to visit the Archbishop of Tarragona. When the coach drew into Villafranca del Panades, about seven A.M., all the priests of the town were there to meet it and begged Archbishop Claret to interrupt his journey and come to their aid. As soon as he heard their story he dismounted and sent word to his host that he had met with a delay.

"Four criminals were to be executed there that morning--three boys in their late teens and a man of forty--and all four had absolutely refused to confess and receive Communion. 

"The pastor of the town pressed Archbishop Claret to have a quick cup of hot chocolate and hurry over to the prison. No, said the Archbishop, they must first go to the church and place the affair in God's hands. When they had done this, they went to the prison, and the missionary was at once admitted to see the condemned men.

"St. Anthony Claret's warm, fatherly pleas soon conquered the three younger criminals. They made their Confessions, and the chaplain prepared to administer them Viaticum, the last Communion. He asked the young men, according to the custom, if they forgave all who had injured them. Two replied yes. The third said 'yes,' he forgave everyone except his mother. Archbishop Claret prostrated himself and kissed the boy's feet. 'My son,' he said, 'if you do not pardon your mother you will be damned.  For God's sake and for my sake I beg you to forgive her.' 'No,' the young man said, 'it is on her account that I am in this trouble. If she had punished me in time I would not be here. I do not forgive her.' The four prisoners were covered with execution robes, mounted on mules, and led to the scaffold. The moment before his sentence of death was carried out, the unforgiving youth shouted, 'I forgive my mother from my heart. Pray for me!'  Then the older man, the toughest of the four, held up his arms and asked to confess. Seated on the bench, with his head covered, he confessed and was absolved. Then the four men were put to death. Some time after, God revealed to Anthony Claret the judgment the four had received. In a public conference he emphatically stated: 'The four criminals of Villafranca were saved.'

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