THOUGHT FOR TODAY BY
ST. ANTHONY ZACCARIA
If through perfect humility you will be able to know objec tively yourself, only then will you be.
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Bethlehem, PA 18020
In His Own Words
In His Own Words by Angelo Cardinal Scola (March 24, 2012)
This prayer to St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria which in the evening in our communities we recite at the end of meditation hasspontaneously come to my mind. It is, as you know, beyond the biblical exegesis, a paraphrase of verses 15 and 16 of Psalm 80, called the song of the shepherd and of the vineyard. The Lord is implored to come to free and to protect His people with a caring and loving vision from on high, especially in times of distress. In particular the appeal is for God’s visit to bring about a kind judgment of defense and security. A protection that cannot be lacking, because He Himself, with His right hand, has planted this vineyard: it is the free work of His hand. Our Congregations are the vineyard of the Lord; He has raised them in the Church and, along with their history, they have experienced His presence, His visit; still today they feel the need of His help.
With the same faith and conviction of the psalmist, we repeat, on this solemn day, this prayer to our Father and Shepherd, Anthony Mary, in this ancient and beloved church of St. Barnabas, from which has originated our commonly known name as Barnabites, in front of his mortal and glorious remains, which are the goal of pilgrimages especially at the beginning of this Jubilee Year, which sees united in love and jubilation Barnabites, Angelics, Laity of St. Paul, friends and devotees who have come here from all over Italy and the world, animated by the same ideals of spirituality, communication and apostolate. Our Founder is here and we are here with him. It is beautiful and just to imagine, five hundred years after his birth, that he is the good shepherd who guards over his vineyard; that he is the one to speak to us and to guide us with the example of his life, with the testimony of his virtues, with the force and the vividness of his writings, with the modernity of his charism. Today, we celebrate not only an important date, but also an extraordinary grace, enhanced by the gift of the plenary indulgence that the Holy Church has granted to all "religious and faithful who devoutly participate in any celebration or pious devotion in honor of the Saint..." (Penit. Apost., March 21, 2001).
Our families and Congregations are urged to walk together on the path set by our Founder and to live in his light. With this hope and purpose, I am pleased to greet with affection all those who are present, beginning with the Father General of the Barnabites and the Mother General of the Angelics, the confreres and the concelebrant priests, the religious women, the laity committed and affiliated to us, many family members and friends, here united in one heart and soul, in the fullness of joy and praise for the Lord. Heartfelt thanks to the Confreres of the motherhouse who are our hosts and have organized this great celebration.
Look at us from heaven, Father, you who are close to God and to his glory. We need your eyes, your protective wing. To you we confidently address our prayer. You who always wanted the "renewal of the original Christian fervor," make us feel your powerful help and the keen desire to be "not small, but great saints." May we put our feet on your footsteps, walking, or rather running "not only toward God but also toward our neighbor." Let your burning and generous heart inflame our lukewarm hearts, so as to be able to inflame our cities. Draw us to the brightness of your face, transfigured by the vision of Christ. We are small, we are few. We need your continued support, the light of your penetrating eye to keep us up to our calling and to be able to carry on the tasks that you have entrusted to us. Reawaken in us your own spirit. Hold us by the hand and guide us. Let us be able to address to you St. Augustine’s words. "Show your face and we shall be saved. Show us your image that you have imprinted in our hearts. It cannot remain in the dark; send a ray of your image. May it be visible in me and, if it should happen that I have deformed it a little, you who made it, reform it."
However, this is not the time to look back for a verification and assessment, although it is always necessary to examine our conscience and, perhaps, to ask for forgiveness. It has been done very well by the Barnabite Superiors on February 18, 2001 (cf. Unfurl Your Flags, the Message to the Congregation on the threshold of the third millennium). But let us ask ourselves: if the Founder were to visit us today how would he find us? Like the visit by a doctor checking our health, will he find us healthy or sick? The visitor is called not so much to observe, but to investigate, to examine, to judge our being and our work. If the Founder were to investigate us, what do you think would he say about us, his sons and daughters?
Now, Father, however, is the moment to rejoice, certain that you look over us, scrutinize us, encourage us, making sure that your institutes did not have their days; indeed, that they have a promising future ahead. Pope John Paul II, in his Apostolic Exhortation, Vita Consecrata, left to us a beautiful and memorable charge: "You have not only a glorious history to remember and to recount, but also a great history still to be accomplished! Look to the future, where the Spirit is sending you in order to do even greater things." (n. 110).
We also have a promise, indeed, "the promises" made "by various holy men and women" (Blessed Amadeo and the Venerable Panigarola) "about this blessed renewal" that you started and completed: the reform! We also know that, despite your young age, you died "willingly" comforted by the vision and prophecy of the "most glorious father and protector St. Paul," as the Anonymous Angelic recalls in her Memoirs. What remains is especially the inexhaustible power of your charism, the unceasing appeal by you and "our divine father" (Fra Battista da Crema) that resonates within us like a refrain: "Ah! Sons and stocks of Paul, open wide yourselves because those who have planted and are planting you are wider than the abyss!" (Letter VII). Today, we would say that the vineyard of the world has no boundaries, and we are expected to cultivate it with renewed vigor. It is the vision of the New Evangelization that opens before us.
Anthony Mary, you do not worry about working in extension, careful as you were to dig deep. You did not go out of Italy, but now that the world has become so small, the mustard seed that you sow has flowered and borne fruits “everywhere,” from Europe to America, from Africa to Asia. The harvest is still abundant and in need of many workers. Yes, we are confident that our vocation and our mission are from God, that He calls us, loves us, and sends us. We are comforted by the extreme topicality of your message, of your speech of October 4, 1534, when, "with great fervor," you urged your first disciples, fearful of the persecution, not to be "cowards and deserters," but to fight the good fight of faith.
Well, you have planted us in the field of the Holy Church, protect these sprouts of yours who today want nothing more than "to grow continuously, " as you said, to "pass from virtue to virtue, " to acquire "a stable and holy fervor, " to give priority to charity, which "is the only thing worthy. " We would like, with a flick of your right, for you to push us forward, to the top. To use a saying of our time, effectively relaunched by John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation, Novo Millennio Ineunte: Duc in altum (Lk 5:4), following your words we are ready to throw the nets into the sea to really be fishers of men. We do not care for success, even if we believe in miracles; we do not crave for the riches of this world, because we cannot serve two masters; we are not to look for effectiveness, but we aim to remove mediocrity from our lives, to proclaim and bear witness to the vividness of the Spirit, to trade the most precious talent. At the present time, so meaningful for our history, when the Lord inflames our hearts, permeates them with your spiritual fervor and ignites them with your apostolic zeal, we want to satisfy your desires, making them integral part of our lives. From your writings we can guess what your desires are: we have chosen four, which we want to make our own. Two are taken from the letter to Fr. Battista Soresina and two from the letter to the Omodei couple.
The second desire of Anthony Mary is like the first: he longed for his disciples to be "simple, fervent subjects, lovers of gaining the neighbor, not frightened by the noise of passions or temptations," able to remain unaffected, "when you are troubled, like when you are quiet and cherished." If you are found to be so, "just think that you are my joy," but doing the opposite, "you will cause me death and grief." We are called to respond to these heartfelt warnings. In the second reading of this liturgy, Paul has reminded us that there are not many wise men according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble (cf. 1 Cor 1:26). Anthony Mary wants us to be like him: lovers and preachers of the cross of Christ, and even of Him Crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles, but to those who are elected it is power and wisdom of God (ibid. vv. 22-24). Are we really convinced of this Pauline and Zaccarian logic?
In Athens, Paul was trembling in his spirit to see the city full of idols; Anthony Mary saw Milan in the grip of the decline of faith and morals. At the cost of being accused, our saints reacted like Jesus Christ: in silence, with humility, without fear, rejoicing to be persecuted! Are we capable of being persecuted? Are we able to combat the idols of our time? Woe to us when we are "caressed" a lot and not that much "troubled" by the world. This is the real protest we Barnabites, Angelics and Laity need to make.
The third desire of the Founder is in his last letter, written on June 20, 1539, to a couple, fifteen days before his death, perhaps "the most precious letter," "the warmest with both spiritual and human friendship,” a synthesis and seal of the fight to the bitter end against lukewarmness, which is the recurring theme of his life and his teaching (cf. Virginio Colciago, SAMZ, Gli Scritti, Rome 1975, p.48). Here are the words of the Saint: “I desire that you do not fall into lukewarmness, but that you grow continuously, because if you were hooked up by lukewarmenss… you would rather be Pharisees than Christians and spiritual.”
There is no need to remember the bitter fight Anthony Mary wedged all his life against that “most deadly and greatest enemy of Christ Crucified, which reigns in our modern times: I mean that incredible lukewarmness.” (Letter V) and which the Angelics in particular are called upon to destroy. He has clearly identified the causes and effects, the signs that he has manifested, our reaction and the needed remedies (see Gentili-Scalese, Prontuario per lo spirito, Milan 1994, pp. 323).
Woe to us if we are afflicted with a disease from which we must be healed at any cost for the integrity of our forces.
The fourth and last desire of the Founder is a true spiritual testament as the three previous ones; "I would like you—and you are able if you want—to become great saints, as long as you want to increase those gifts and graces and return them most beautiful to the Crucified Lord, from whom you have received them." Anthony Mary writes this to lay people and does not want them to be “small saints.” As if to say that the doors of holiness are wide open to all and that there are no restrictions. During his time there were not many saints among the laity, and even among the clergy and the religious. Here is the need for reform, a return to the essence of Christian life and religious life. The universal call to holiness is not a discovery of the Vatican II, but a clear and unmistakable indication by our Founder; not only for this, but for many other ascetic-mystical teachings that he could be considered a Doctor of the Church.
The second invitation is: to go back to our homes, wherever we are, and to our ordinary occupations. Every day we will meet in deep communion through the recitation of the intentions for the 2002 Zaccarian Jubilee Year. At the school of Anthony Mary certainly such a teacher will create disciples like himself. (Constitutions, XII) Amen.
Bishop Andrea Maria Erba