Written by Michael Fones
Thursday, 05 July 2007 09:36
Today is the memorial of St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria. The Saint of the Day e-mail I receive from the St. Anthony Messenger Press has this to say about him:
"At the same time that Martin Luther was attacking abuses in the Church, a reformation within the Church was already being attempted. Among the early movers of the Counter-Reformation was Anthony Zaccaria. His mother became a widow at 18 and devoted herself to the spiritual education of her son. He received a medical doctorate at 22 and, while working among the poor of his native Cremona, was attracted to the religious apostolate. He renounced his rights to any future inheritance, worked as a catechist, and was ordained a priest at the age of 26. Called to Milan in a few years, he laid the foundations of three religious congregations, one for men, one for women and another for laity. The three foundations met regularly and engaged together in various forms of apostolic action. Their aim was the reform of the decadent society of their day, beginning with the clergy and religious. The Laity of St. Paul died out soon after Anthony's death but experienced a rebirth in the 1990s.
Greatly inspired by St. Paul (his congregation is named the Barnabites, after the companion of that saint), Anthony preached with great vigor in church and street, conducted popular missions and was not ashamed of doing public penance.
He encouraged such innovations as the collaboration of the laity in the apostolate, frequent Communion, the Forty Hours devotion and the ringing of church bells at 3:00 p.m. on Fridays.
His holiness moved many to reform their lives but, as with all saints, it also moved many to oppose him. Twice his community had to undergo official religious investigation, and twice it was exonerated.
While on a mission of peace, he became seriously ill and was brought home for a visit to his mother. He died at Cremona at the age of 36. "
According to the Barnabite website, the charism of the order - clerics, religious, and lay - is similar in vision to that of the Institute:
"Both church and society were in need of reformation, that is, "a renewal of Christian fervor" that had lost its vitality on account of lukewarmness and mediocrity.
Anthony Mary envisioned a reformation movement to bring "everywhere the vital energy of the Spirit" (Letter 5) by the concerted involvement of priests living in community under a rule (the Clerics Regular of St. Paul - Barnabites), religious women actively committed to apostolic ministry (the Angelics of St. Paul, the first uncloistered order of nuns), and lay persons, especially married couples, committed to both spiritual life and pastoral work (the Marrieds of St. Paul)."
You might check out their website, linked in the title of this post. I'll leave you with a brief quote from a letter of this saint:
"Do not think that my love for you or the good qualities you are endowed with, may have me desire that you be just little saints. No, I greatly desire that you become great saints, since you are well equipped to reach this goal... All that is required is that you really mean to develop and give back to Jesus Crucified, in a more refined form, the good qualities and graces He has given you" [Anthony Mary Zaccaria, Letter XI]