Saint of the Day – 5 July – St Anthony Mary Zaccaria CRSP (1502-1539) Founder of the Barnabites, The Clerics Regular of Saint Paul – The First Order Named after St Paul Apostle. He was an early leader of the Counter Reformation and a promoter of the devotion to the Passion of Christ, the Holy Eucharist, Eucharistic Adoration and the renewal of the religious life among the lay people.
He also founded a congregation of nuns which now no longer exists. He was a great admirer of St Paul and was himself imbued with the teaching of the great Apostle, whom he gave to his followers as a model and a patron. He was a zealous and untiring preacher and completely wore himself out at this work – he died at the age of thirty six on 5 July 1539.
Anthony Mary Zaccaria was born of a noble family at Cremona in Lombardy and even in childhood gave signs of his future sanctity. Very early he was distinguished for his virtues, piety towards God, devotion to the Blessed Virgin and especially mercy towards the poor, who he more than once gave his own rich clothing for their relief. He studied the humanities at home and then went to Pavia for philosophy and Padua for medicine and easily surpassed his contemporaries both in purity of life and in mental ability. After gaining his degree in medicine, he returned home, where he understood that God had called him to the healing rather of souls than of bodies. He immediately gave himself to sacred studies. Meanwhile, he never ceased to visit the sick, instruct children in Christian doctrine and exhort the young to piety and the elders to reformation of their lives.
While saying his first Mass after his ordination, he is said to have been seen by the amazed congregation in a blaze of heavenly light and surrounded by angels. He then made it his chief care to labour for the salvation of souls and the reformation of manners. He received strangers, the poor and afflicted, with paternal charity and consoled them with holy words and material assistance, so that his house was known as the refuge of the afflicted and he himself was called by his fellow-citizens an angel and the father of his country.
Thinking that he would be able to do more for the Christian religion if he had fellow labourers in the Lord’s vineyard, he communicated his thoughts to two noble and saintly men, Bartholomew Ferrari and James Morigia and together with them founded at Milan a society of Clerks Regular, which from his great love for the apostle of the Gentiles, he called after St Paul. It was approved by Clement VII, confirmed by Paul III and soon spread through many lands. He was also the founder and father of the Angelic Sisters. But he thought so humbly of himself that he would never be Superior of his own Order. So great was his patience that he endured with steadfastness the most terrible opposition to his religious.
Such was his charity that he never ceased to exhort religious men to love God and priests to live after the manner of the apostles and he organised many confraternities of married men. He often carried the cross through the streets and public squares, together with his religious and by his fervent prayers and exhortations brought wicked men back to the way of salvation.
It is noteworthy that out of love for Jesus crucified he would have the mystery of the cross brought to the mind of all by the ringing of a bell on Friday afternoons about vesper time. The holy name of Christ was ever on his lips and in his writings and as a true disciple of St Paul, he ever bore the mortification of Christ in his body. He had a singular devotion to the Holy Eucharist, restored the custom of frequent communions and introduced that of the public adoration of Forty Hours.
Such was his love of purity that it seemed to restore life even to his lifeless body. He was also enriched with the heavenly gifts of ecstasy, tears, knowledge of future things and the secrets of hearts and power over the enemy of mankind.
At length, after many labours, he fell grievously sick at Guastalla, whither he had been summoned as arbitrator in the cause of peace. He was taken to Cremona and died there amid the tears of his religious and in the embrace of his pious mother, whose approaching death he foretold. At the hour of his death he was consoled by a vision of the apostles and prophesied the future growth of his Society. The people began immediately to show their devotion to this saint on account of his great holiness and of his numerous miracles. The cult was approved by Leo XIII, who solemnly Canonised him on Ascension Day, 1897.
Excerpted from The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger OSB