St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria
A Saint in the Making
Anthony Mary was born in Cremona towards the end of the year 1502 of the noble family of Zaccaria. The Zaccaria clan had served the city in times past with no less than eighteen governors. His father, Lazzaro, died shortly after Anthony’s birth. His mother, Antonietta, refused numerous suitors in order that she might devote herself entirely to the education and upbringing of her son and to works of charity.
Anthony grew up in the faith through the pious care of his mother. He was described as an obedient and pious child. At an early age, he had a great love for his neighbor. He had been blessed with such a profound disposition and a heart full of compassion for the needy.
Anthony was taught with the fundamental elements of Latin, Greek and Italian. He had shown exceptional strength in virtue and firmness in his Christian convictions. Later on, his mother sent him to study philosophy. From there to Padua, he studied medicine. As a student, the school, his house and the church were the only places Anthony frequented. He cared to have few but good friends. He was able to avoid things that might compromise his dreams.
A Physician of Body and Soul
Eventually, due to his diligence and focus, Anthony became a doctor at age twenty-two. He was determined to be of greater help to those around him. He thought that a doctor who is animated by Christ could do great help for his neighbors. He then returned to his native city in the year 1524. He quickly gained a numerous connection in his city. His nobility, modesty and skill soon gained him the esteem and confidence of all.
Anthony’s way of practicing medicine was quite unusual. He was persuaded that all evils arise from one cause: sin. For him, in order to cure the body, it was necessary to cure the soul first. When he went to the sick, he first exhorted them to think of God, ask for forgiveness and receive the Sacraments. He would also carry with him generous alms for the poor.
As a young boy, Anthony desired to become a priest. While he was exercising his profession, Anthony was attracted to the religious apostolate. He renounced his rights to any inheritance in the future and worked as a catechist. He would often gather young and abandoned children in the streets and taught them about the Christian faith. Soon, his confessor, Father Marcello, exhorted him to also teach children from wealthy families.
In the year 1528, at the age of 26, Anthony was ordained to the priesthood. He was called to Milan in a few years where he laid the foundations of three religious congregations: one for men, one for women and an association of married couples. His days were filled with preaching in churches and on street corners. He dedicated much of his time in assiduous study of the Scriptures as well as the writings of the Holy Fathers, most specially the Epistles of St. Paul. From these, he drew up his deep and triumphant eloquence.
After the Example of St. Paul
Soon after, Anthony took St. Paul as his model and patron. His apostolate has won over several men who wanted to join him in his work. And so, Anthony founded a religious order dedicated to this task according to the spirit of St. Paul, whose zeal they should imitate. Thus, the Congregation of Clerics Regular of St. Paul was born.
Anthony’s congregation lived in poverty and simplicity. They also practiced mortification at a higher level. They instructed children and the ignorant about the faith. They spent long hours in the confessional, drawing many people to frequent the churches and to approach the sacraments. They also devoted a part of their time taking care of the sick in the hospitals.
Anthony made himself all to all by his zeal. However, his body had become weak. His labors coupled with great mortifications had greatly affected his health. Being seriously ill, he was moved to Cremona, to his mother’s house. On July 5, 1539, after having received the last sacraments, Anthony died peacefully. He was beatified by Pope Pius IX in 1849, and declared a saint by Pope Leo XIII in 1897. His feast day is July 5.
Five Interesting Facts About St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria
- The Congregation of Clerics Regular of St. Paul are also known as the Barnabites in honor of St. Barnabas, the companion of St. Paul.
- St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria introduced the forty-hour devotion to lay people. He encouraged people to join him in praying for forty hours before the exposed Blessed Sacrament.
- St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria’s first Mass included a miracle. A heavenly light surrounded him during the consecration. It is also said that angels appeared beside him.
- Tradition says that during his last moments on earth, St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria saw visions of St. Paul the Apostle.
- Nearly three decades after his death, St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria’s body was found to be incorrupt.
Prayer to St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria
Grant, O Lord, that in the spirit of the Apostle Paulwe may pursue the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ,for, having learned it,Saint Anthony Zaccariaconstantly preached your saving word in the Church.Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,God, for ever and ever. Amen.