8 - 11 minutes readJuly 5 – St Anthony Mary Zaccaria, Confessor ~ Dom Prosper Gueranger

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July 5 – St Anthony Mary Zaccaria, Confessor

Later than Cajetan of Vicenza and earlier than Ignatius of Loyola, Anthony was called to be the father of one of those religious families which arose in such numbers during the sixteenth century to repair the ruins of the house of God. Lombardy, exhausted and demoralized by the wars for the possession of the duchy of Milan, was encouraged by the sight of the heroic virtues of Zaccaria to believe, hope and love once again. She listened to his fiery exhortations calling her to repentance, to meditation on the Passion and to more fervent devotion to, and more solemn adoration of, the Blessed Sacrament. [St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria was the first who exposed the sacred Host unveiled for the adoration of the faithful for forty hours, in memory of the time spent by our Savior in the tomb. This pious custom passed from Milan to become the practice of the whole Church, and allusion has been made elsewhere to its special significance during the three days immediately preceding Lent.] Thus he was truly the precursor of St. Charles Borromeo, who in his reform of the clergy, people and monasteries of Milan had as his earnest supporters Anthony’s sons and daughters, the Clerks Regular and the Angelic Sisters of St. Paul.

The Congregation began its life in the Oratory of Eternal Wisdom at Milan, but these new disciples of the doctor of the Gentiles took their name of Barnabites from the Church of St. Barnabas, to which they were moved shortly after the death of the saint and where his body rests. The Congregation soon spread, not only throughout Italy, but also into France, Austria, Sweden, and even as far as China and Burma. The sphere of its activities comprised mission work, instruction of youth and everything which furthers the work of God and the sanctification of souls. On the eve of the octave of the apostles SS. Peter and Paul in the year 1539, the holy founder of the congregation was called to his reward at the age of thirty-six in the very house in which he had been born and from the arms of his saintly mother who had brought him up for God, and who joined him shortly afterwards.

When Urban VIII published his famous decrees in the following century, the cultus of Anthony Mary had only been established for ninety-five years. Since these decrees required that the cultus should have been established for a century before, it could claim to have acquired the right of prescription, and since, on the other hand, the witnesses required for the regular canonization of the servant of God were not forthcoming, the cause was suspended. In 1890, however, Leo XIII reinstituted the cultus of Anthony Mary, and a few years later solemnly inscribed his name among the saints and extended his feast to the universal Church.

Antonius Maria Zaccaria, Cremonæ in Insurbria nobili genere natus, jam a puero qua futurus esset sanctitate portendere visus est. Eximiarum enim in eo virtutum significationes mature eluxerunt, pietatis in Deum ac beatam Virginem; insignis præsertim in pauperes misericordiæ quorum inopiæ sublevandæ vel pretiosa veste sibi detracta, haud semel præsto fuit. Humanioribus litteris in patria excultus, Ticini philosophiæ, Patavii medicinæ addiscendæ operam dedit: utque omnibus vitæ integritate ita et æqualibus acumine ingenii facile antecelluit. Lauream adeptus ac domum reversus, ubi intellexit se Dei monitu ad animorum magis quam corporum morbis medendum vocari in sacris disciplinas percipiendas sedulo incubuit. Interea ægrotos visere, pueros christiana doctrina informare, juvenum cœtus pietate excolere, ætate etiam provectos ad mores emendandos frequenter hortari non destitit. Sacris initiatus cum primo literaret, cœlesti oborto lumine, Angelorum corona circumdatus stupenti populo apparuisse traditur. Exinde animarum saluti impensius consulere, depravatis moribus summa ope obsistere curæ fuit. Ad hæc advenas, egenos, afflictos paterno complexus affectu, piis adloquiis atque subsidiis recreatos ita solari, ut ejus domus miserorum perfugium haberetur ipseque pater patriæ atque angelus meruerit a suis civibus appellari. Anthony Mary Zaccaria was born of a noble family at Cremona in Lombardy, and even in childhood gave signs of his future sanctity. He was early distinguished for his virtues, piety towards God, devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and especially mercy towards the poor, in order to relieve whom he more than once gave his own rich clothing. 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 he returned home, where after understanding that God called him to the healing rather of souls than of bodies, he gave himself earnestly 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 labor 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.
Mediolani, cum secum agitaret uberiores in rem christianem manare posse fructus si in vinea Domini sibi laborum socios ascisceret, re communicata cum Batholomæo. Ferrario et Jacobo Morigia nobilissimis viris, Sodalitatis Clericorum Regularium fundamenta jecit; quam, ob suum in gentium Apostolum amorem, a Sancto Paulo nuncupavit: quæ Clemente Septimo Pontifice Maximo approbante et Paulo Tertio confirmante, brevi per complures regiones propagata est. Sanctimonialium quoque Angelicarum Societas ipsum Antonium Mariam parentem et auctorem habuit. Qui tamen adeo de se submisse sentiebat, ut nullo pacto præesse suo ordini unquam voluerit. Tanta vero fuit patientia, ut formidolosissimas tempestates in suos commotas constanti animo perferret; tanta caritate, ut piis adhortationibus religiosos viros ad Dei amorem inflammare, sacerdotes ad apostolicam vivendi normam revocare, patrumque familias sodalitia ad bonam frugem instituere numquam intermiserit; imo interdum prælata Cruce per compita plateasque cum suis pregressus, fervida ac vehementi oratione aberrantes improbosque homes ad salutem reduceret. Thinking that he would be able to do more for the Christian religion if he had fellow-laborers 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 organized 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.
Illud etiam memorandum quod in Jesum crucifixum amore flagrans, crucis mysterium ab omnibus, ad statum æris campani indicium, sexta quaque feria sub vesperas, recolendum curavit; sanctissimum Christi nomen in suis scriptis passim usurpabat et in ore semper habebat; ejusdemque cruciatus, vere Pauli discipulus, in corpore suo præ se ferebat. In Sacram Eucharistiam singulari caritate ferebatur; cujus et frequenter percipiendæ consuetudinem instauravit; et morem e sublimi throno publice in triduum adorandæ invesisse perhibetur. Pudicitiam adeo coluit ut etiam in exsangui corpore, reviscere visus, ejus amorem testaretur. Accessere cœlestia dona extasis, lacrymarum, futurorum eventuum cognitionis, scrutationis cordium, virtutis in humani generis hostem. Tandem magnis laboribus ubique exantlatis Guastallæ, quo pacis sequester accitus fuerat, gravi morbo correptus est. Cremonam adductus, inter suorum fletus, et complexus piissimæ matris, quam proxime obituram prædixit; superna apostolorum visione recreatus, sodalitatis suæ incrementa prænuntians; tertio nonas julii anno millesimo quingentesimo trigesimo nono, sanctissime obiit, annos natus sex supra triginta. Cultum tanto viro, ob eximiam ejus sanctitatem et signorum copiam a christiano populo statim exhibitum Leo Decimus tertius Pontifex maximus ratum habuit et confirmavit; eumdemque anno millesimo octingentesimo nonagesimo septimo, in festo Ascensionis dominicæ, solemni ritu sanctorum fastis adscripsit. 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 the bell on Friday afternoon 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 is said to have 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 labors, 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, which took place on the third of the Nones of July, 1539, when he was thirty-six years of age, 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 canonized him on Ascension Day, 1897.

During this octave of the holy apostles, thou dost appear, O faithful servant of God, as a precious jewel enriching their crown. From thy place of honor, whither the homage of the Church rises to thee, deign to bless those, who, like thee, are engaged, here below, in apostolic labors, without thought of self, without hope save in God, and without being discouraged by the havoc wrought by the ministers of Satan, who force them perpetually to make new beginnings.

In our days, as in thine, the enemies of the Church congratulate themselves upon the prospect of the speedy overthrow of the House of God, and now as formerly everything appears to justify their sinister hopes. However, in our days, as in thine, the teaching of the apostles, upheld by the example and prayers of the saints, is able to save the world. If more than ever the world can see only foolishness in the Cross and those who preach it, yet for all that, it is more than ever the power of God. The saying, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the prudence of the prudent I will reject” is fulfilled once more before our eyes. At this moment where are the wise? Where are the learned and the clever who promise to adapt the word of salvation to the needs of the present? Never to alter the Word of God, to announce it before God as God gives it, without claiming to make it acceptable to those who insist upon being lost, is to fulfill the first condition for gaining that triumph which St. Paul says will never be wanting to the faithful of Jesus Christ.

Disciple and faithful follower of St. Paul, the knowledge of Christ learnt in his school changed thee from a doctor of the body into a pastor of souls; that love which surpasseth all knowledge made thy short yet full life fruitful even beyond the grave. May God arouse in us that desire for the salvation of souls and spirit of reparation which the Church asks for by thy intercession. May thy sons and daughters drawn up under the apostolic banner do honor to the great name of the Doctor of the Gentiles.


This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)