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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Life of St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria
- The APOSTOLIC LETTER of LEO XIII - with which Blessed Anthony Zaccaria The Founder of the Clerics Regularof St.Paul (Barnabites) andthe Angelic Sisters of St. Paul is accorded the honor of sainthood. - Rome May 27, 1897.
LETTERA APOSTOLICA di LEONE XIII - Con la quale al Beato Antonio Maria ZACCARIA, Fondatore Dei Chierici Regolari Di S. Paolo e Delle Vergini Angeliche, sono decretato gli Onori Dei Santi.
- BIOGRAPHY OF ANTHONY ZACCARIA
I. Biography of Anthony Mary Zaccaria
PRAYER TO SAINT ANTHONY MARY ZACCARIA
Saint Anthony Mary Zaccaria,
lover of the Cross and of the Eucharist,
helper of the poor and of the sick,
you who devoted your life
to promote the glory of God and the salvation of souls,
protect me from heaven,
and be my intercessor.
Obtain from Jesus true contrition for my sins;
inflame my heart with sentiments of faith and love
to embrace my daily cross
and to lead others to Christ.
May your eyes follow me in every step,
your wise counsel enlighten me,
your hand uphold me,
your virtue make me holy.
May I follow your call to holiness and renewal.
Help me to always keep Jesus' love and peace
with my brothers and sisters,
so that I may become worthy of you
and receive eternal glory in heaven.
From recent research of Fr. Franco Maria Ghilardotti* we know now that he received:
1) Subdiaconate on September 19, 1928, Saturday of the Four Ember Days of Advent. There were 30 candidates for various orders: nine for the subdeaconate; six for the deaconate; eight for the priesthood; three for the tonsure; four for the Minor Orders. Zaccaria is the second in the list of the subdeacons.
2) Diaconate on December 19, 1528, Saturday of the Four Ember Days of Winter. The Notary Oldoini announces the ordinations as done for the others, but then he leaves blank the following three pages either because he did not receive the names, or because he was going to do it later, or maybe the list of deacons got lost.
3) Priesthood on February 20, 1529, Saturday of the Four Ember Days of Spring. It is an important and spectacular ordination with 99 candidates: 21 for the priesthood, 26 for the deaconate, 18 for the subdeaconate, 21 for the Minor Orders, and 15 for the tonsure. Zaccaria is the third in the list of those to be ordained as priests. See below (picture) the certificate of the Ordination
For all three ordinations the bishop was Luca di Seriate (Bergamo), who was suffragan of the bishop of Cremona and Ravenna, Cardinal Benedetto Accolti (who was always absent), titular also of Duvno (Erzegovina), suffragan diocese of Spoleto.
All three ordinations took place in the Chapel of St. Joseph, along the left wall of Cremona Cathedral central nave. It is here that Anthony Mary received all the Major Orders and most likely also the tonsure and Minor Orders (June 6, 1528).
Easter, March 28, 1529St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria celebrated
At the solemn moment of the consecration a marvelous light encircled St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria and a multitude of the Angels descended, and surrounding him. This heavenly vision lasted until the end of Holy Communion. A profound and religious silence prevailed among those present. The report of the miracle spread through the city of Cremona.
The transcript of the Latin document of St. Anthony's Ordination
ORDINATIONES GENERALES 1528e t die 20.Februarij
In Christi nomine. Amen. Anno ab Incarnatione Eiusdem Millesimo quingentesimo vigesimo octavo Inditione secunda die Sabbati vigesima quatuor Temporum mensis februarij: Cremone.in Capella S.Joseph adhesa muro Cathedralis Ecclesie Cremone predicte Civitatis presentibus ibidem honesties viris dominis don Nicolao de pellizijs, don Baptista de piperarijs, don Baptista de paterno presbiteris, et Thoma de Groro clerico Cremonensi, omnibus Testibus notis et Idoneis ad infrascripta specialiter adhibitis, vocatis et rogatis.
Noverint universi hoc presens publicum Instrumenrum Inspecturi Qualiter Reverendusin Christo paterdominus Lucas de Seriate Episcopus_Dunnensis at Ecclesie Cremone Suffraganeus sacris Pontificalibus indutus missarum sollemnia et alia divina officia necnon generals clericorum ordinaciones celebrando statutis a Jure Temporibus Infrascriptos omnes et singulos in presenti quaterno ut infra descriptos et loco suo annotatos singulariter refferendo ad ordines sacros Coram predicto domino Episcopo et Suffraganeo constitutos et humiliter petentes et acceptantes ad ordines sacros promovit et ordinavit omni in premissis debita sollemnitate servata Juxta ritum Sancte matris Ecclesie consuetum. Mandans prefatus Reverendus dominus Lucas Episcopus et Suffraganeus mihi nobis notarijs Infrascriptis quatenus de predictis publicac conficere debeamus Insrrumenra.
Once upon a time, while browsing the bookshelves at a Barnabite house, I came upon a very worn, pocket-sized book. It was Illustrated Life of St. Antonio M. Zaccaria; Founder of the Barnabites and of the Angeliche, Apostle of the Quarant’Ore. This 16thcentury zealous priest and founder of the Barnabites, the Angelics, and the Laity of St. Paul. Anthony Mary was canonized in May 27, 1897 and the book was published in 1900. It was then translated from Italian into English. What is astonishing is that the book was in print over one-half-century even before the arrival of the Barnabites to the English-speaking world.
The pages that you are about to read are the contents of that small book. What a treasure! Great things sometimes do come in small packages. The language used in the original translation was typical of the 19th century. Therefore, some words and phrases have been edited into a more contemporary phraseology.
Editing the Illustrated Life of St. Antonio M. Zaccaria; Founder of the Barnabites and of the Angeliche, Apostle of the Quarant’Ore was, indeed, a journey in itself. Along the way, I was blessed to meet friends, namely: Angelic Sister of St. Paul, Sr. Rorivic Israel, ASSP, Miss Fran Stahlecker and Barnabite Confrere, Fr. Richard M. Delzingaro, CRSP. Their heartfelt contributions led me to the gratifying completion of this project.
When we plan a road trip, we usually begin by researching the best route to follow. We check a road atlas for an overall picture and the best information.
The atlas has been for years the best place to look for facts about the highways and routes to get us to our destination in the best way possible. However, we often need something a little more compact to take with us. So, we get maps to help us to be better
prepared. Sometimes the roads are clearly marked making our journey easy so that everything goes according to plan. Then, there are times when we come to detours or crossroads that are poorly marked. What then? If we choose incorrectly we become lost and bewildered. The longer we go the worse it gets and the more confused we become. The best thing we can do at this point is to stop and ask for help. We look for someone who is familiar with the area, someone who has traveled these roads before and who can give us the benefit of their experience. So it is with our spiritual journey toward heaven, where Jesus is the Way to the Father. "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (Jn 14:6).
Each day we travel the path of our spiritual journey toward God’s everlasting dwelling place. If we begin by using the "atlas" God has given us, the Holy Bible, we have all the best information at our disposal to make it a worry-free journey. But life is also fill of detours and poorly marked crossroads. It is at these times that we search for help in order to reach our destination without confusion. "People have always needed models to imitate—writes John Paul II—that need is all the greater today, amid such a welter of confusing and conflicting ideas" (Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way, Warner Books, 2004, p.192). Well, when we need guidance, we look to those who have traveled these roads before us, the saints. But where to look for them? One of the surest places, to find those models are in hagiographies. In just a few moments you are about to read one of them. It is going to be a journey into the life-story of a man, who lived in an ordinary place, in an ordinary time but whose life, however, was far from ordinary. The man I am talking about is Saint Anthony Mary Zaccaria. He is the founder of the Clerics Regular of St Paul, the Angelic Sisters of St Paul, and Laity of St Paul. Hopefully, his life story will assist you on your journey toward our Father’s house, heaven. As you travel remember that the road to peace has many crossroads, the most important of these being the crossroad of Love. Without Love there is no Peace. Our wish for you is abundant love —of and for God and humanity. We pray that whatever path you take it always leads you “home.” O Lord, guide our feet into the way of peace.
ANTHONY MARY was born in Cremona towards the end of the year 1502, of the noble family of Zaccaria, a family which had given to the city in times past, no less than eighteen Governors.
To his father Lazzaro was given only to enjoy the first smiles of his infant son, for shortly after the birth of the child, he was carried to an early grave.
His mother Antonietta Pescaroli, left a widow at 18 years of age, might have accepted any of the numerous suitors for her hand, for with her great attractions, her gifted mind and vast wealth, there was every promise of a brilliant future before her, but she refused every offer in order that she might devote herself entirely to works of charity and the education of her son. Blessed be the mother who imitate such an example!
Anthony Mary, on his part, fully corresponded with the pious care of his mother and grew up a little angel. Never was there a son more obedient, more inclined to piety than he. His biographers assert of him what the Gospel says of the Child Jesus, that "he increased in age and grace before God and man."
Charity for his neighbor, however, seemed to shine conspicuously in him. God had blessed him with such a sweet disposition and a heart so full of compassion for the needy, that these became, very soon, the objects of his anxious care. The following little incidents show us the tendency of the child to piety and his goodness of heart.
In his home, there was a small chapel with an altar of the Madonna. Anthony delighted in adorning it with festive decorations or, otherwise, according to his own devotion of' the feast celebrated by the church. Here he used to come with his mother for morning and night prayers and often passed long hours of the day, and a part also of the night, in devout recollection. The more the love of God increased in his heart, the more also it increased in him the desire to draw all hearts to God. From the desire to the act, in an ardent soul like his, was but the work of a moment; so our child soon became a little apostle. He took great delight in listening to the word of God and meditating on it. It is related of him, that on his return from church he would gather the servants and others in the house into the little chapel and there, not through a childish whim, but seriously, and from his heart, burning with the love of God, he would repeat the truths he had heard in the church, and had meditated on himself. His words bore good fruit, for his hearers went away deeply touched and filled with admiration. Future Apostle! Let us see whether that age of pride and immorality will be able to overthrow the plans of this new Apostle when he is grownup!
The second fact related shows the love of Anthony for the poor.
One winter's day, returning alone from the church, he met on the road a poor half-naked beggar who asked an alms. The sight of the unfortunate man, whose teeth were chattering with cold, touched the child to the heart, but that day he had not even a halfpenny in his pocket, so he passed on with his head bent and his heart aching. He had only gone on a few steps when he felt an inspiration from heaven and turned back. Approaching the beggar, he began to speak words of comfort to him and, then making sure no one saw him, he took from his shoulders his rich silk mantle and threw it over the beggar and ran home as quickly as he could. But arriving at the threshold of his home, he began to fear that he would be severely reproved by his mother for having thus acted without her permission. But no such thing! On the contrary the pious mother listened, deeply touched at his account of what had passed and much gratified at this virtuous act. She praised him for it, and as a reward increased his pocket money, which he made over at once for the relief of the poor. From that day the child seemed to live only to do good to the miserable. If at any time he met anyone in want, he either deprived himself of some object to give it to them or else took them home with him that his pious mother might give them food and shelter.
Such unbounded charity towards his neighbor, combined with tender piety and a spirit of penance, which latter his mother was obliged to restrain, presaged well for him, and all asked, like the relations of the Baptist: “What think you, will this child become?”
But the sons of the rich and noble, if they grow up without intellectual culture becoming their position, notwithstanding the holy principles that have been instilled in them, often allow themselves to be conquered by their passions and abandon the path of virtue to tread that of vice. Anthony Mary, strengthened by grace and already advanced in the path of virtue, would perhaps never have fallen away. Nevertheless his mother, a woman of elevated understanding, wished to remove from her son every danger, and therefore was careful to procure the aid of masters most renowned in science and virtue to give the child a training befitting his position. After he had learned the first elements of Latin, Greek, and Italian and showed himself strong in virtue and firm in his Christian principles, she sent him to Pavia to study philosophy, and from there to Padua for the study of medicine.
One can easily imagine how many dangers a youth might be exposed in these Universities who, noble, wealthy, and his own master, is thrown in the midst of such corrupt society. But Anthony Mary knew how to keep himself from every danger and lead as holy a life at Pavia and Padua as he had, up to this time, led at Cremona. The school, his house, and the church, were the only places he frequented. Of intimate friends, he cared to have few but good ones, his special friendship being for perhaps only one, a certain Serafino Aceti, a youth of great goodness.
The frivolous and impious students did not fail to sneer at him, calling him the "old saint." But he let them talk and went on as usual without showing any difference in his manner towards them, but on the contrary, by his sweetness and his mannered countenance, he forced even the most wicked to respect him, and ended by gaining the esteem of all.
At 22 years of age, Anthnoy Mary won, not by bribes and favor, but by merit, the degrees in medicine; and rich in science and virtue, he returned to his native city in the year 1524. May our youths learn from his example how they can be versed in science, and shine by their genius, without giving up their practices of piety and purity of life.
ANTHONY MARY was not induced to embrace the art of medicine for the love of money, for with the goods of fortune he was more than amply furnished; and even if they had not been so abundant, he would not have cared to increase them. From his youth, he had had the intention of leading a life of celibacy, and now, more than ever, he felt increasing in him the contempt for the things of this world, and the love for evangelical poverty.
The principal reason for which he determined on the study of medicine was the desire to be of greater help to those around him. He thought that a doctor, animated with the spirit of Jesus Christ, could do great good for his neighbor especially at the hour of death. For whilst many keep aloof from the priest, either through an aversion to the minister of Christ, or through a prejudice such as reigns also in our own days, the doctor has always free access, and his advice is generally listened to with respect, and put into practice.
Anthony Mary then, once more back in his native city, applied himself to the art of medicine. He quickly gained a numerous connection. His noble birth, his affability and modesty, and his skill in his art, very soon gained for him the esteem and confidence of all, so much so, that although still so young, he was nominated member of the celebrated College of Doctors, shortly before instituted by the Duke Luigi Sforza, and enriched with many privileges by the sovereign Pontiffs.
His mode of treatment was nevertheless very different to that generally adopted by other doctors in those days, and now used by ours. In these days of pride and incredulity, his plan will seem strange. The wise doctor was persuaded that all evils arise from one cause, which is, sin, and in order to cure the diseases of the body, it was first necessary to cure the soul; so as soon as he was called to the bedside of the sick, he first exhorted them to think of God, obtain his pardon, and receive the sacraments. To the poor, besides the consolation of his kindly words and the skill of his art, he also carried a generous alms; for, of his inheritance, he seemed only to enjoy as much as he was able to bestow in charity, in order to relieve those in distress.
In this way he did a two-fold work, his care embracing both soul and body. But the extraordinary activity of Anthony Mary could not exhaust itself only in visiting the sick, though it was done solely out of a spirit of charity. For having finished his visits to the sick, and to those in the hospitals and prisons, he would gather around him the children whom he often went himself to bring together from the streets, where the carelessness of their parents had left them abandoned, and with great charity and admirable patience he taught them the catechism, and the way to lead a Christian life. Father Marcello, his confessor, a Dominican and a man of great virtue and no less learning, seeing the great good that the children of the humbler classes derived from his instructions, exhorted him to interest himself also in behalf of the sons of the rich and noble, which latter, in fact, were no less in need of instruction and religious training than the former.
Anthony Mary, accustomed to recognize the voice of God in that of his minister, began at once to hold conferences on Sundaysand holidays for young noblemen.
The conferences where held in the church of St. Vitalis afterwards called St. Geroldo. These pious discourses he gave with such a spirit of fervor and such deep learning that the youths willingly left their worldly amusements to go and hear him. Not these only, but persons of every age and rank crowded there, desirous to hear the new missionary (though in layman's dress) who preached so powerfully by his example no less than by his words.
And marvelous it must indeed have been for the people of Cremona to see a wealthy young nobleman who, humble and forgetting himself, seemed to have at heart nothing but the spiritual welfare of his neighbor and the glory of God, of(,) whom he spoke with such learned eloquence; whose life, so pure and holy, was withdrawn from every amusement and pomp; and contented with spare and simple food, gave up his body to mortification and his heart to the love of God.
If doctors in our days would only imitate him, who could tell the good that would not thereby accrue to society?
God, who was guiding all in the ways of his Divine Providence, allowed Anthnony Mary this experience in the cure of bodily infirmities in order that he might have a better insight into those of the spirit, which are much graver and require a prompt and efficacious remedy. But the time had now come for him to take up the work for which he was destined, namely, the reform of morals. God, whose hand was guiding all, led him step by step as we shall here see.
Anthony, who had a most sensitive nature and delicate conscience, began to fear that he might at any time be the cause of the death of others; this thought made him first suspend his medical practice and then entirely withdraw from it. The thought next occurred to him that he might sanctify himself better and be more pleasing to God if he were to labor for the salvation of souls in the sacerdotal state, thus devoting himself entirely to the sacred studies and works of mercy.
But in his humility, he looked upon himself as unworthy of embracing a state of life which calls for such sanctity. In this perplexity, he turned to God, imploring light and guidance from the Holy Spirit. He then opened his heart to his spiritual director, laying all clearly before him and asking his advice. The latter asked for time to reflect and pray, and some days after said to him, “God calls you not to labor for the cure of the body but for that of souls. Go and prepare yourself by the study of the sacred sciences for the great mission God will entrust to you.”
The young doctor did not hesitate to obey, recognizing the divine call in the words of his director. He laid aside his medical books and devoted himself to the study of Theology, the writings of the holy Fathers, Canon Law and Church History. He delighted, above all, in reading and meditating on the Epistles of St. Paul, and from these he drew the most efficacious arguments to excite in himself and others an ardent love for Jesus Crucified, the devotion so dear to his heart.
In the year 1528, the 26th of his age, he was ordained. How dear this new priest was to God was shown by the following miracle, which was recorded by all the contemporary Cremonese historians, and attested in the process of canonization.
It was the custom in those days, as it is now, that a priest's first mass should be celebrated with great pomp and solemnity and that a banquet should then be given in the house of the newly-ordained. Anthnony Mary, an enemy to all show and pomp, requested that all exterior solemnities should be avoided, for he longed to be alone to celebrate for the first time in quiet and recollection these Divine Mysteries. Absorbed in meditating on the great Sacrifice, and his heart burning with love for God, he went to the foot of the altar. A profound and religious silence prevailed among those present, and all eyes were turned on him, a presage as it were, of the great event about to take place, and behold, at the solemn moment of Consecration a marvelous light encircled him and a multitude of Angels descended, and surrounding him, assisted reverently at the August Sacrifice. This heavenly vision lasted until the sacred species were consumed. The joy and astonishment of those present may be imagined. The report of the miracle was quickly spread through the city and each one blessed God in his heart, sure that the new priest must be the Angel sent from heaven for the salvation of the people, and so indeed it proved to be.
In the space of time that elapsed between 1499 and 1533, the city of Cremona, devastated by continual wars, had changed rulers six times. In the midst of such tumults (to which may be added, internal discords, want, and misery) corruption of morals had made rapid and appalling progress. The churches were abandoned and profaned, the use of the sacraments neglected, gross errors combined with superstitions of every kind universally prevailed, and vice reigned in all classes of society. The sacred pastors either stood aloof from their flocks, or kept silent with regard to this state of things. Such was the sad spectacle that the city, formerly evangelized with so much zeal by St. Omobono, now presented to the world.
Invested with the sublime power of the priesthood, Anthony Mary forgetting all that he had done up to this time, proposed to himself to labor with new and increased energy to repair such ruin.
And as a reformer, to base his reform on a solid footing, he must first remove the cause of evil. So, he devoted himself entirely to rooting 0 out the errors and prejudices, then abroad, honoring the practices of piety and the use of the sacraments, and thus once more reviving the faith.
He continued to hold the conferences on Sundays and holidays for the young noblemen of Cremona in the Church of St. Vitalis . He taught catechism to children and other ignorant persons, and spent much of his time among those who were so dear to him, the poor, visiting them in the hospitals and prisons where he was looked on as an Angel of Consolation, and was beloved by all. His house was ever open to the poor and pilgrims, and to all who wished to consult him either for advice or direction, or for comfort in their afflictions.
From this, an incredible amount of good followed, for not only the poor but persons of every rank, citizens and foreigners, flocked to him. All were attracted by the fame of his sanctity. His sweet and gentle manner, and his affability in treating with all who approached him, won their hearts.
It was his preaching above all that showed his power as a reformer. His words were inspired by his inward charity and meditation on the eternal truths. He was assiduous in the study of the Sacred Scriptures and writings of the holy Fathers, especially the Epistles of St. Paul. It was from these that he drew his deep and triumphant eloquence.
When he treated of the deformity of vice, the beauty of virtue, the necessity of penance, the obligation of loving God, the words flowed from his lips in fascinating eloquence. He put all before his hearers with such warmth, and at the same time with such clearness and grace that it seemed, not a man but an angel who spoke; such in fact was he called by those who went to hear him, saying to each other: "Let us go and hear the angel." Men, women, nobles, plebian, and even many of the clergy assembled in vast crowds, eager to listen to the words that fell from his lips.
After hearing him, they longed to go to him for advice and help in spiritual affairs, and to open their hearts to him. Anthony Mary made himself all to all, instructing them in private conferences and attending to them assiduously in the confessional. Sinners, who up to this time had lived in vice, now repenting of their bad lives, ran to his feet deploring and weeping over their sins. Many who a short time before had been indifferent to the practices of piety now gave themselves up to fervent prayer and the frequentation of the sacraments. Not a few, burning with a desire of giving themselves altogether to God, either renounced the world to retire into the sacred cloisters, or lead humble and penitent lives, occupied entirely in works of mercy.
Thus the Countess Torelli (who was a penitent of Zaccaria) asserts, that at the end of two years, the city, owing to our saint's zeal, had completely changed its moral aspect. Such indeed was the good wrought by him, and such was his supernatural power over the people that as the historian Arisi asserts: "the city of Cremona, by common consent, called Zaccaria, the 'Father of His People'." And the memory of the benefits received from him remained so deeply engraved in their minds, and still more in their hearts, that after his death a column was erected to his honor, with an inscription in Latin, of which the following is the translation:
But Cremona was not to be the only city to enjoy the fruits of the charity and zeal of Anthony. God held in reserve for him a much wider field, in the beautiful and populous city of Milan, which of all the cities in Lombardy, was the most corrupt. The hour appointed by Divine Providence had now arrived for Anthony to begin his labors in this new field. Some unforeseen circumstance brought him to Milan in 1530, and he took up his abode near the church of St. Ambrose . He was filled with horror at the sight of the evils then prevailing. The habits of sin were deeply rooted, and there was a complete forgetfulness of spiritual things. It seemed to Anthony that it would require, not a man, but an Angel of power and wisdom to root out these evils and bring the people back to the love and service of God. But he did not lose heart. He wept and prayed, and disciplined himself to blood, and then fixing his eyes on Jesus Crucified, he said confidently: "Of myself I can do nothing, but this crucifix will give me the victory." And he set himself to work. He now did all that he had done in Cremona, preaching, catechizing children and uninstructed persons, as well as visiting the sick in the hospitals. But he very soon perceived that to cultivate a soil so long trodden down, so choked with thorns and briars, and bring it to a state of perfection, would require more laborers and an entirely new plan of action.
Where to turn for these laborers he knew not, for the priests were for the most part like the people, intent only on the things of this world, and were moreover ignorant and ambitious. It was then that he thought of forming a body of clergy according to the spirit of St. Paul, whose zeal they should imitate. From this, originated the Congregation of Clerics Regular of St. Paul, afterwards called the Barnabites, of whom we shall speak later on.
The plan of work was conceived by him in a moment. A magnificent program! The hospitals, families, prisons, churches, public streets and squares were to become the field of action. For the people, cold and indifferent, would not come to hear the word of God, so, in order the preach to them, he took a crucifix and with this in hand, advanced into the streets and squares, in penitential clothing, to preach the holy reform. To see and hear him were enough. His eyes shining, his face lit up, every movement, every gesture, his whole frame thrilling. More striking than all were his inspired words which clearly showed that it was the spirit of God that spoke and worked in him. Who is there that cannot see in this new apostle the image of St. Paul who, to bring souls to God, is ready for anything, contempt, ignominy, torments, and even death itself?
There existed in Milan a pious association entitled "Sodality of Eternal Wisdom" founded by St. Bernardine of Siena. Its end was the practice of virtue by means of the exercise of charity and mercy towards the neighbor. But at this time, it had fallen away from its first fervor. Some good and generous citizens rose up to put new life into it, among these, two young noblemen of Milan distinguished themselves, Bartholomew Ferrari and Anthony Morigia. The former had always been holy, the latter, lately converted from the vanities of the world. United by the ties of the closest friendship, these two ardent souls sighed over the awful corruption of morals and longed for an efficacious remedy. They were filled with these thoughts when Zaccaria came to Milan. These three met, they were kindred spirits, their esteem and love were mutual and very soon a close friendship was formed between them.
Anthony Mary, admiring their zeal, soon laid before them his new program showing what immense advantages would be derived from there if, to put it into practice, other priests would join him who, free from every temporal care, animated by the one spirit and living under the same rule, would be occupied only in the service of God and the salvation of souls.
Ferrari and Morigia who had already contemplated embracing the religious vocation were so pleased with this proposal that they not only praised it, but associated themselves with Zaccaria in order to put it into practice. They decided on calling the new Congregation the Clerics Regular of St. Paul, having for its aim the imitation of the great apostle.
By common accord, a petition was then made to the sovereign Pontiff Clement VII, who on the 18th of February 1533, sent them a Brief of approbation and encouragement. Anthony Mary then took a small house near the church of St. Catherine at the Ponte dei Fabbri, and here he with the two others began their community life. The following year, six new members joined them, all belonging to the most distinguished families. Thus having set on foot the foundation of the new Congregation, Anthony Mary's only thought was that of forming the new religious on the divine model of Jesus Crucified; and therefore contrary to the maxims of the world, they should present in themselves, as in a mirror, the spirit of perfect abnegation of every convenience and comfort. As the groundwork of the religious life, he imposed in the first place poverty in food as well, as clothing; their food generally consisting of herbs, vegetables, cheese and milk, a little fish and some fruit and on great feasts they had a little meat of the poorest quality. Their dress was like that worn by the priests in Lombardy , but very plain and coarse.
They possessed nothing of their own, everything was in common. To poverty of spirit, Anthony wished to join humility of heart, therefore there was no kind of humiliation in which he did not continually exercise his children. To this end they had to accuse themselves of their faults in the presence of the whole community, and each in his turn had to lend himself to the meanest household offices such as sweeping, washing the dishes, and suchlike menial employments. Mortification was carried to a very high degree, each one crucifying his flesh with disciplines, hair shirts, vigils, fasting and other austerities. Their time was employed partly in prayer and partly in the study of the Sacred Scriptures, especially the Letters of St. Paul . But it was not enough to shut themselves up in monasteries to pray and study. If the salt does not season the earth, if the light remains hidden under the bushel, how is the spiritual ruin to be repaired, the darkness to be dissipated? They must gird themselves for the work, they must come forth out of retirement; they must meet corruption face to face and attack it in its stronghold— the world. This was the idea that Zaccaria had at heart and that he wished to see put into practice by his religious. It would be impossible to describe the ardor with which these fervent souls, at a signal from their Father, threw themselves into their work, to move the people to repentance and draw them to a Christian life. Some of them following the example of Zaccaria, went through the city, crucifix in hand extolling the opprobrium and sufferings of Christ. Others, burning with a holy hatred for their past vanities and pride went through the most frequented places, meanly clad, to expose themselves to the sneers and derision of the vulgar. Some dressed as mendicants stayed at the church doors begging, or went about like porters, carrying sacks. Others with a heavy cross about their neck withdrew to the Cathedral, there calling aloud for the divine mercy, while others through the excess of their sorrow made public confession of their faults. There was no work of the sacred ministry that they did not fulfill with the greatest zeal. Instructing children and the ignorant in the rudiments of their faith, giving missions in the city and elsewhere, seated for long hours in the tribunal of penance, thus drawing the people once more to frequent the churches and to approach the sacraments. And as the precept of charity to our neighbor is a double precept, that of healing the wounds of the soul and also that of helping him in his corporal necessities, a part of their time was devoted to the care of the sick in the hospitals, assisting them, washing them, and dressing their wounds, thus setting an example of heroism such as one sees only in the church of Christ.
The city of Milan was struck by the novelty of such things; the illustrious rank of these who stooped to such acts of abnegation, the ardor and sincerity of their zeal, was a spectacle to which even the most dissipated could not remain indifferent. The first personages of Milan and also many of the clergy and people began now to lead truly Christian lives, and the whole city was very soon to emerge from the darkness in which it had so long lain buried, to awaken once more to the rays of divine grace.
Hell, enraged at such defeat, armed itself against Zaccaria and his companions. First of all, the devil went to trouble them in their habitation, night and day, disturbing their quiet by terrible noises and every other imaginable annoyance. Driven out by the saint who in the name of Christ, commanded him to depart, the evil one raised a terrible storm against the holy men in the city, and exciting the hatred of the wicked, instigated them to go and burn them alive in their convent.
Foiled also in this, he tried other stratagems, turning the Court and Senate against them. The fierceness of the persecution had reached such a pitch that even his religious began to waver; but Anthony Mary was not a man to turn back a single step. On 4 October 1534, he gathered them round him, showing them the picture of Jesus Crucified thus re-animating their courage. Deeply moved, they fell on their knees before him, weeping and protesting that neither injury nor contempt should ever turn them from the holy resolution they had formed. Innocence always triumphs sooner or later and thus, that of Anthony and his companions fully triumphed, for shortly after, a new Bull was sent from Rome by the sovereign Pontiff confirming the new Order and commending its zeal.
Among the many evils that afflicted the church in Zaccaria's time, not the least was(,) the ruin caused by heresy and corruption of morals in the convents of the holy virgins. In Milan especially, there was no longer any observance nor religious spirit in the cloisters. Anthony Mary, while he applied himself with his religious to reform the people, began to think how he could manage also to found an order of nuns which would serve as a model and a means of reform to other religious, as well as to families. He was at that time(,) spiritual director to the Countess Ludovica Torelli of Guastalla, and guardian as well as director to some young girls whom he had, some time before, taken into a house (near St. Ambrogio) to keep them from the dangers of the world.
Under such a guide, the Countess and her young charges had made great and rapid progress in virtue. The Countess, who before had loved to lead the fashions and vanities in the world, had now such a contempt for herself and her past life that her example was a marvel to everyone. Whereas before she never went out except in her carriage, magnificently attired, and accompanied by her numerous attendants, she was now always to be seen on foot and quite alone, going even to the Senate, and visiting the most distinguished personages, plainly dressed in brown clothes, and instead of the fashionable headdress then worn, she chose a large black veil. Not only this, but if by chance she met Zaccaria in the street, she was not ashamed to kneel down before him and ask his blessing and accuse herself of some defect. At other times to overcome herself, and out of human respect, she would present herself in the most frequented parts of the city, wearing a torn dress and a headdress such as was worn by the poor.
Now, as Anthony Mary saw that these young girls (of whom we have already spoken) were disposed, both by desire and by their virtue, to embrace the religious state, he encouraged the Countess to petition the Sovereign Pontiff for permission to found a new Order of nuns. Having received this permission on the 15th of January 1535, he gave fervent thanks to God. He then bought some houses near the parish of St. Eufemia and had them fitted up to serve as a convent. There, he sent his spiritual daughters to reside. How admirable are the ways of Divine Providence! Thus was fulfilled what had been prophesied years before by the Blessed Amedeo, a Franciscan, who, passing by one day and seeing these houses, infamous dens of immorality, of gambling and of every vice, exclaimed: "Blessed be God! A time will come when these houses, now the abode of demons, will be the chosen and holy dwellings of angels."
On the 26th of February 1536 Anthony Mary clothed some of these virgins with the religious habit. When it came to settling as to what name the new Order should have, a young novice 16 years of age called Agnese Baldironi, after all the other religious had given their opinion, said: "I think we should be called Angelic Sisters in order that this name may continually remind us that our lives should resemble that of the angels." The proposition was received with acclamation by all the nuns. Anthony Mary approved of it and added the name of St. Paul (Angelic Sisters of St. Paul), saying that the purity of angels is only reached by struggling against the flesh and by loving the Cross.
In a short time, this new order became so renowned for the virtue of its religious and the great good done by them in other convents and families in Milan, that it won the esteem of many of the bishops of Lombardy and Venice who wished to have it established in their diocese. It must be borne in mind that Anthony Mary did not place upon the Angelics the obligation of enclosure. Anthony's idea, as we have seen above, was to send his spiritual daughters to work in the busy world. He wished that their virginal hearts should expand with maternal charity towards all. To reform the convents of nuns, to teach catechism to women and children, to accompany the Fathers in their missions, to assist the sick in their homes, to visit the hospitals and prisons, and do all such works of charity; such was the end for which they were instituted and in which they would probably have continued if, later on, the Council of Trent had not imposed enclosure on all nuns.
From such a vigorous apostolate, there could not but come forth the most abundant fruits. The Angelics had, as a matter of fact, three magnificent convents, St. Paul's in Milan, St. Martha's in Cremona and St. Paul's in Monza. These convents to which were annexed boarding schools enclosed the flower of the nobility of Lombardy. They were afterwards suppressed with violence by Napoleon I. Now, by God's grace, the Angelics have been re-established by Father Pio Mauri, a Barnabite, and have a spacious convent outside the Porta Magenta in Milan.
The Angelics have in a way shared the fate of their Founder, flourishing while he lived and after his death until his beatification. They were then on the wane until they disappeared entirely after Zaccaria (by a Decree of Urban VIII as we shall see later on) was taken from the Altars. Now that their Founder has risen more glorious than ever, the Angelics too have risen, full of life and vigor. Haply, the saint may have thus recalled them to rejoin his sons with a view to a new apostolate, vigorous as the first, to work good for society, which is now, in many respects, even worse than it was in the 16 th Century. God grant that such may be his design. Fiat! Fiat!
With the institution of the Barnabites and of the Angelics, Anthony Mary had already been able to gather in from the field allotted to him by God an abundant harvest. But this did not suffice for such zeal as his. His heart was set on two other works, namely, the immediate reform of the clergy, and bringing the heads of families to fervor in the service of God and fidelity in the discharge of the duties of their state.
He began by inviting the clergy to spiritual conferences that he was accustomed to hold with his companions in order that they might encourage each other in the love of Jesus Christ and enkindle their zeal in the apostolic ministry. What a divine inspiration! Priests attracted by the fame which Zaccaria already bore for sanctity, flocked there in great numbers, and before long, at these conferences, were to be seen even prelates and among others Michele Ghisleri, O.P. of Bologna then inquisitor and afterwards St. Pius V.
Listening to these simple and fervent arguments through which breathed the interior charity of him who spoke, each one felt his soul deeply touched and longed to emulate even the holiest. There were among the clergy many who, by their exemplary life and ardent zeal, cooperated fruitfully for the glory of God.
As Anthony Mary had thus provided for the sanctification of the clergy, he next turned his thoughts to recalling heads of families to the observance of the evangelical precepts. To this end he established a congregation for married persons ( Laity of St. Paul). These met on certain days of the week in an Oratory of their own, and there held their special conferences, with Anthony giving admonitions and also correcting faults. It followed from this, that each one entering better into a knowledge of himself and his duties, set to work to reform himself and his family, which worked great good also for society. Moreover, Anthony Mary led them to such degrees of' perfection in the performance of their Christian duties that Magistrates often chose from among them the persons to represent the administration of public offices.
From this Congregation, as branches from the stem, sprang out several others, for youths, for children and women, and were established in Cremona and elsewhere. Some of these assemblies later on, like those established by St. Philip Neri in Rome, were called Oratories.
Zeal for souls drew Anthony Mary to found yet another institution, that of the holy missions. Among those, was the celebrated mission in Vicenza where, with his religious, and some of his nuns, he introduced the reform into the monasteries and renewed the spirit of the citizens in such a way that many gave themselves up to the study and practice of the highest perfection.
Admirable was the conversion of a young man whose life up to this time had been given up to the world. One day, as Anthony Mary was returning from the Cathedral, he met a group of merry, wild young men. Fixing his eyes on the one who seemed to be their leader, he made his way over to him, and looking at him with tenderness, made the sign of the cross on his forehead. Miracle of divine grace! At this act, the youth felt his heart inflamed with heavenly fire and completely changed. Tito degli Alessi, for such was his name, no longer wished to follow his companions; he renounced his worldly life to devote himself to piety. In the end he wished to consecrate himself altogether to the service of God in the Congregation founded by Anthony Mary, where he became a religious of great sanctity and was the first provost of the convent in Rome, and one of the Barnabites' most intimate with St. Philip Neri.
The apostolate, the Barnabites, the Angelics, the conferences for the clergy, the congregation for married persons, and the missions! These were the holy works of Anthony Mary for the complete reform of society; marvelous indeed were they, if we consider the evils of the times, the greatness of the undertaking, the obstacles he had to overcome, and finally the atrocious persecutions that, as we have already mentioned in a passing way, were raised against him.
The desire now naturally arises within us to know from what source Zaccaria drew all the strength of his heroic charity. Nor is it difficult to find its true source when we reflect, that he had always been, through the whole course of his life, a fervent lover of Jesus Crucified and of the Blessed Eucharist. In fact, the love for and imitation of Jesus Crucified was the principal intention and constant end which he proposed to his children in their practice of virtue; so much so, that "the love of the Cross" became the familiar saying among them. In his letters he did nothing, so to speak, but call to mind Jesus Crucified.
To Anthony Mary, we owe the custom, then introduced in many churches in Milan, of ringing the bell at three o'clock on Fridays to excite the people to compunction, reminding them, how on that day and hour, the Divine Redeemer died on the cross for the salvation of men. Certain it is that the first to introduce the public and solemn exposition of the Quarant'Ore, or Forty Hours Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, was Anthony Mary. It took place, for the first time in the year 1534, in the little church of St. Catharine , where the saint and his religious held their services. Its novelty, the magnificent decoration of the church, the vast number of lights burning before the Sacred Host, the solemnity of the ceremonies, to all of which the people were unaccustomed, moved them deeply. The ardent exhortations of Zaccaria completed the work, and the Sacred Banquet, that had so long been deserted, was now approached in great numbers. This sacred rite was then introduced into other churches in Milan; and when, two years later, Father Giuseppe da Ferno, a Capuchin, a man of great sanctity and an intimate friend of Anthony Mary, ordered that it should be held in all the churches of the city, it became almost universal.
Jesus then who, to redeem His Spouse, the Church, and render her without spot or stain, holy and immaculate, died on the cross. Jesus, victim of love in the Holy Eucharist—He it was, who spoke to the heart of Anthony Mary, and infused into it such heroic charity.
We must add that Anthony Mary never undertook anything without first having implored God's help in prayer; it being his chief resource in all his wants, as it was his relief and comfort in his trials. And as, during the day, his time was so much taken up with the labors of the ministry that he could not pass as much time as he wished in prayer, he often spent the whole night meditation and sweet communion with God. It is asserted by eyewitnesses that he was frequently rapt in ecstasy, and sometimes also raised from the ground. Thus the saints teach our modern reformers and philanthropists, that it is not the man who has withdrawn from Christ who is the promoter of the civil, moral and religious well-being of the people, but he only, who identifying himself with Christ, draws from Him life and movement. For, let it be well understood by our modern society, Christ alone is the way, the truth, and the life (cf Jn 14:5), and without Him there can never be true knowledge nor true civilization.
After a stay of about a month at Vicenza, Anthony Mary returned to Milan. As the house near St. Ambrose, where his religious lived, was not large enough for the increasing numbers of the religious, clergy, and laity who flocked to the pious practices of their Institute, he soon set himself to look for a place suitable as a permanent abode for his Congregation. He had in view the church of St. Barnabas and the neighboring houses, but the obstacles raised by the proprietors were so great that nothing could be done in the matter. It was only in 1546, seven years after the death of the saint, that they were able to purchase the place. It was bought by the Venerable Morigia, then superior. It may not be known by all that the Barnabites were so called from this their first College, St. Barnabas.
Anthony Mary in the meanwhile continued the works of his apostolate with ever increasing energy. It is said that foreseeing his end to be near, he wished to consume in the service of God all that remained to him of ardor and strength, like the toilers of the soil, who towards sunset redouble their labors to complete the work imposed on them by the master of the vineyard.
The Countess Ludovica Torelli having, for many years, borne with admirable patience the most unjust persecution from her relations, was at last obliged to sell her property of Guastalla to Ferdinando Gonzaga, brother of the Marquis of Mantua. This change of owners displeased the tenants and brought about it rising among them. The Countess asked Zaccaria's help, well knowing his ability in dealing with the most complicated affairs and knowing also the veneration in which he was held by the people of Guastalla. Anthony Mary started at once, arriving at Guastalla towards the end of May, 1539 where he was received by all as an angel of peace. He immediately ordered public prayers to implore help from heaven. In order to do the greatest possible good among the people, he gave himself up to preaching, hearing confessions, and all the works of charity that he had already done in other cities. So the people were not only pacified but crowded to him in vast numbers to hear his words, open their hearts to him or ask advice. His influence over them was increased by an event which took place in the following way.
One day as the saint was going along the banks of the river Po, he met a young man, Anthony Mary courteously saluting him, stopped, and fixing his eyes on him with a countenance grave but full of sweetness said: "I wish, my son, you would think well over the affairs of your salvation and arrange them while there is yet time, for my heart tells me you will be called from this world much sooner than you think." At this time the youth was in perfect health moreover strong and robust, nevertheless, struck by this unexpected advice, he, there and then, made his confession to the saint with sincere repentance for his faults. Well it was for him that he did so, for the next day he was called to appear before the judgment seat of God, having met his death by a terrible accident.
In this way, Anthony Mary made himself all to all by his ever increasing zeal. But his body had become weak and languid. It must be known that to his labors, he added great mortifications, for not satisfied with taking very little rest at night, and even this little was taken on a hard board, he took so little food that his, seemed a continual fast. Often he punished his innocent flesh with hair shirts and disciplined himself to blood; above all, he did this when any new calamity befell the church or when he saw a soul in danger of being lost, so at last, his strength exhausted he fell a victim to his unbounded charity.
Being seriously ill, he was moved to Cremona, to his mother's house. Here they used every remedy that art could suggest to preserve a life so precious, but he told them plainly that within the Octave of SS. Peter and Paul he would be called from this world. He said to his mother who was beside him, sad and weeping: "Do not weep, my sweet Mother, because before long" (as really came to pass) "you too will come to enjoy with me that eternal glory—that I hope to enjoy." Hell attempted in these his remaining hours a last assault, but after a long and severe struggle it was conquered once more, and God, as if to reward his faithful servant for the victory gained, sent him a sweet and consoling vision. In this vision, Anthony Mary saw the apostle St. Paul prostrate before the throne of God, praying that his life might be prolonged for the greater good of the Order founded by him, but the other Apostles had joined in an altogether different prayer and had obtained for him the favor of being quickly transferred to the glory of heaven. He saw then, across the veil of time, all that would happen to his Congregation, the severe trials that it would be subjected to, the hard struggles it would have to undergo, but he was consoled by God's promise that his Order should, by means of these trials, gain much. Having come to himself he related the vision to the Fathers Bartholomew Ferrari and Giambattista Soresina who had come from Milan to stay with him during his illness; then with burning words he exhorted them to love religious discipline, to maintain peace and fraternal charity, and ever advance in the love and fear of God.
On the 5th of July (Saturday afternoon), at the very hour when the first Vespers for the octave of the Holy Apostles were being sung in the church, as he himself had foretold, and after having received with the greatest fervor the Last Sacraments, the soul of Anthony Mary passed peacefully to its God. He had not reached his 37th year! A life short as regards its course and the good he might still have done, but long when we consider all he had done for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
No sooner had the sad news spread through the city of the death of Anthony Mary, the mourning then became universal. Both clergy and laity, with one voice, extolled the sanctity of his life and his works of apostolic zeal. God wished to testify to his holiness by the following miracle. While the Fathers Ferrari and Soresina were preparing him for burial, they by accident left him a little uncovered. At once, he stretched out his hand and drew the covering over him. He did this more than once to show that he could not bear that, even in death his virginal modesty should be disregarded. The same miracle was renewed when, later on, the Superior General of the Congregation went to visit and venerate Anthony Mary’s sacred body.
The funeral was solemn and touching. The body was carried with great pomp to the Parish Church of St. Donato where it was exposed for two days. It would be impossible to give any estimate as to the number of people who flocked to pay their last tribute to the servant of God. Crowds continually came and went; some reverently kissing his head and hands, others touching him with their beads, handkerchiefs and other objects, and some even cutting off small pieces of his vestments to keep them as precious relics. From this arose the necessity of enclosing him quickly in a wooden coffin. The Cardinal Bishop of the city came for the celebration of the funeral service with all his Chancellors; after these, came his spiritual sons with a large following of citizens to transport the remains to Milan.
This translation was, indeed, a triumphal procession. Priests and laity came out from the villages and castles where the body was to pass; and forming in procession, all went to meet it carrying crosses, bearing lighted candles and singing joyful litanies such as would be done to honor the relics of a saint. In these pious demonstrations, the people of Castiglione Lodigiano especially distinguished them- selves.
The sacred body was laid on an altar in the choir of the convent of the Angelics in Milan where it rested for 26 years remaining, entire and incorrupt. In 1566 an order came from the Holy See that no corpse should be kept on the altars. Anthony Mary was then buried in the crypt that served as a burial place also for the Angelics.
Anthony Mary immediately after his death was, by the unanimous voice of clergy and laity, honored on the altars under the title of Blessed and St. Charles Borromeo himself celebrated the holy sacrifice on the altar where his relics reposed. But in 1634, by a decree of Urban VIII forbidding any public honor to be paid to those who had not enjoyed it from time immemorial or by the approbation of the Holy See, the Barnabites took the pictures of their Founder from their altars, and every public honor that had been paid to him for 95 years then ceased.
However, the Lord did not cease to make the merits and virtues of St. Anthony Mary shine forth by favors and miracles granted to those who (as was allowed by the law of the church) continued to venerate him privately. Consequently, the regular process of Beatification was introduced. On February 2, 1849, Pius IX, even from his exile in Gaeta, solemnly proclaimed the "virtues of the Servant of God, Anthony Mary, practiced in a heroic degree," and he authorized them to proceed to the further acts for his Beatification. Leo XIII on January 3, 1890 then restoring the ancient devotion, which numerous and incontestable historic documents showed Anthony Mary to have had for 95 years, ordered that he should be honored on all altars under the title of Blessed.
The public devotion to their holy Founder being once more introduced, the Barnabites redoubled their efforts to recover his remains. Their zeal was rewarded; for, at last, they found them exactly where they had first been placed and guarded with so much love by the Angelics. They were found on May 8, 1891 in the crypt of St. Paul's, while overhead (in the church) the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for the Devotion of the Forty Hours.
The relics recovered, the Barnabites set about preparing them for a suitable crypt in their church of St. Barnabas in Milan, which they looked upon as the cradle of their Congregation. This crypt, not only from an architectural point of view, but for its exquisite ornamentation, is a perfect gem of art. It is in the style of the 15th Century and is divided into three aisles by beautiful little pillars of polished grey granite, and along the walls, other small pilasters corresponding with the pillars support the arches on which the ceiling rests. Over the altar is raised a small cupola closed in by plate glass with an opening on the choir of the church, thus permitting the devotions to be assisted. The table of the altar is a single slab supported by small pillars and pilasters in antique style, all of beautiful variegated marble with bronze ornaments richly gilt. On the step which surmounts it, rests the massive gold frame which encloses the miraculous picture of the saint of which we shall speak later. The body of the saint is laid under the altar. Clothed in his black habit and his sacerdotal robes, his head rests on a magnificent cushion. In his right hand he holds a silver lily and his left supports the book of the Epistles of St Paul. When the front of the altar is uncovered for the veneration of the faithful, the body of the saint is seen perfectly. It is then that a marvelous light is thrown on it, a light so brilliant that it eclipses the light of the many lamps that burn around the altar.
The solemn inauguration took place on April 9, 1893, in the presence of great numbers of the clergy and prelates and a continuous stream of people of every age and rank. Numerous pilgrimages were also made to venerate the body of the saint. Among these, that from Crema was remarkable — at its close a priest having been instantaneously cured, and also that from Cremona, the saint's native city, which numbered as many as twenty thousand pilgrims.
In the meantime, the process of canonization was proceeding rapidly. The miracles presented were approved and, finally, the reigning Pontiff, Leo XIII, raised Blessed Anthony Mary to the supreme honor upon the Altars under the title of Saint on May 27, 1897, celebrating the feast with solemn pomp at the Vatican Basilica in Rome.
The crypt, having been described, let us now see what is still more important, how the devotions are carried out, with what fervor it is visited, and what heavenly favors God ever showers down on this spot for the glory of his servant Anthony and for the temporal as well as spiritual good of his faithful clients. Hardly had the crypt been opened and the altar consecrated in 1893 then, as we have already mentioned, there was a constant stream of people from many places going to a most celebrated sanctuary.
We have already spoken of the great pilgrimages of Crema, Cremona, and Lodi besides the great numbers who came on private pilgrimages. As this outburst of devotion, far from dying out, was daily on the increase, special services had to be held to satisfy the devotion of the faithful. Mass was daily celebrated at a fixed hour in the crypt in honor of the Saint, after which benediction with the relic of the Saint was given. Every Tuesday after the Mass, the favors obtained through his intercession were read from the pulpit and the new favors asked were then recommended to the prayers of those present. Then, benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was given, which was followed by the blessing with and veneration of the relic of the Saint. What was then established is still followed strictly; moreover, on account of the great numbers who attend these devotions, services are also held on Tuesday evening with special prayers to the Saint and benediction and veneration of the sacred relic. To form an idea of the great favors showered down by Divine Providence in these tempestuous times by the revival of devotion to Saint Anthony Mary, it is enough to count the votive offerings of those who, for favors received, thus publicly testify their gratitude, and the great number of lamps kept (at the expense of the faithful) constantly burning before the shrine. To God alone is known the many graces that are asked in private from this His great servant. In the short space that elapsed between June and November 1893, over two hundred thanksgivings were made from the pulpit for every kind of favor, spiritual and temporal. Of these favors, although only a short sketch is kept, enough remains to touch us and fill us with admiration. Among those who have recourse to the Saint are persons of every age and condition, not only those of the humbler classes but also others of rank, clergy, laity, whole religious communities and entire countries. Favors are asked in every kind of sickness that surgical and medical art has ever dealt with and diseases that have been pronounced beyond the reach of human science. The poor, reduced to dire need, look to him as their supreme helper. Young people and students recommend themselves to him for the success of their examinations, or for help in the choice of a state of life, or that he may remove the obstacles that prevent them embracing the state already chosen. In short, all, old and young, rich and poor come to him with loving trust, laying before him their every want, anxiety, and care.
One reads most touching appeals from Christian teachers who recommend their young charges to the Saint that they may grow up pure and holy, fearing and loving God. Among the spiritual favors that are asked are some that go to one's very heart. Many a mother offers up tears and prayers for the conversion of a dissolute, irreligious son, lead astray by bad companions and now a disgrace to his name and a source of bitter sorrow to his family. Wives who ask graces for their profligate husbands who care for neither family nor religion. Poor things! It seems as if they have no moment of calm except the time spent in praying and recommending themselves to blessed Anthony. It would bring tears to one's eyes to read the words of a daughter who asked for prayers that her father return and be reconciled to her mother, or those of a wife who implores prayers for her husband.
This veneration, so pure, so fervent, that flows forth before this sacred Tomb reveals much to those who come there to pray. It teaches many important truths even to those who believe themselves to be experienced in and capable of educating their families and promoting the welfare of the people.
During his lifetime, Anthony Mary is not known to have worked many miracles, but that gift of working miracles which he had not on earth, God granted him, and in a very high degree after his death. Very numerous are the prodigies worked through his intercession. In olden times, clear testimony of this is given by many writers. Giuseppe Bresciani in his Crown of Cremonese Saints, speaking of Zaccaria, says expressly, "that after his death the Lord worked many miracles and favors." Agostino Barbosa, the celebrated juristconsult, in his work on Ecclesiastical Rights (1628), writes of Zaccaria, " that as he was holy in life, so he was illustrious after death by the glory of his miracles." And the same is confirmed by other writers among whom may be mentioned Angelica Gonzaga.
Of the miracles worked in the past, we shall mention only the one with interesting value connected with the miraculous picture that is preserved and placed for veneration over the altar where the body of the Saint lays.
Father Faustino Premoli, rector of the Barnabite College in Crema, on the evening of the 15th of July 1747 , kneeling before a picture of Anthony Mary, prayed fervently that God would vouchsafe to render the Saint illustrious by some new and striking miracle in order that the Barnabites might be enabled to solicit the process of his Beatification. The next day some devout persons were praying as usual before the picture when behold! they saw it surrounded by a bright light and the Servant of God, letting the lily (which before was upright) fall down on his left arm, raised his right hand from his breast and blessed them as a priest does at the altar. While this happened, Father Premoli, who was facing the people, (for he was giving them the blessing with the relic of the Saint) seeing in them a certain awe and wonder, asked what had happened, but no one dared to speak. The apparition over which they exclaimed: "Oh! What a miracle, what a wonderful miracle we have seen!" happened. Those who were present related what had occurred. A standing proof remained in the picture itself, for neither the left hand of the saint nor the lily took their former position. This was verified not only by Father Premoli, but also by many persons who remembered how the picture had first been painted; among these was the painter Tommaso Picenardi who had taken some copies of it. In this century, we can say without fear of making mistake, that the graces received through the intercession of the Saint can be counted by hundreds, but space will only permit us of giving only the three miracles that served for the canonization of St. Anthony Mary, and a few other miraculous incidents that happened in later dates.
The First Miracle
The first took place at Castagnolo Minore near Bologna in 1876. A certain Vincenzo Zanotti, a peasant, 20 years of age, in consequence of a muscular sprain, developed varicose veins in the left leg. Ulcers soon formed. This state continued for 45 years until Vicenzo's suffering became unbearable for him. Having lost all hope of regaining his health, Vincenzo Zanotti, by the advice of one of his friends, turned to St. Anthnony Mary Zaccaria. With all the fervor of a soul full of faith, he made first a novena, and then a triduum to the Saint. He applied the pannolino (a small piece of linen that has touched the bones of the Saint), which he had, to the part affected. God rewarded his faith, for at the end of the triduum he found the leg perfectly cured. He and all present including the doctor cried out: "A miracle!" Vincenzo, being completely restored to health, took up his usual work. Six years later, an investigation was made in Bologna on this truly miraculous cure. He deposed on oath: " I, from that day, have always been perfectly well."
The Second Miracle
Much more striking is the following cure which took place in Cremona on the 21st of May 1873. Signora Paola Aloni, 42 years of age, was suffering from an incurable organic spinal complaint which had obliged her to keep her in bed for seven years. Her sufferings increased to such an extent as to allow her no rest, night or day. For four months, she had been unable to take any nourishment except a little broth. On the 15th of May 1873 the Last Sacraments were administered to her, but she continued to recommend herself to St. Anthony Mary, to whom she had for six months been making novena after novena, feeling convinced all the time that the saint would cure her. "I have never been as ill as I am now, " she said to her confessor, "and this shows the favor is about to be granted. 'You will see a great miracle.'" As a matter of fact, the miracle was not delayed. On the morning of May 21, she felt an irresistible power urging her to rise from bed. Fearing that she would not be able to stand on account of her great weakness, she asked to be touched with the relic of the Saint, and wonderful to relate, in a moment she regained her strength, and without help rose from bed. Her malady had disappeared-she was perfectly cured! People came and went all day, desirous of seeing for themselves the great miracle that had been worked.
The Third Miracle
The third miracle happened to a blacksmith named Francesco Aloni, a brother of the person whose cure we have just related. Francesco Aloni, 52 years of age, had suffered for three years from ulcers and sores in his leg caused by varicose veins. The corruption that issued from these sores was frightful, and the sufferings of the poor man daily increased. In the summer of 1876, his state became so serious as to oblige him to stay in bed. After having been kept in two hospitals for several months, he was dismissed, his case having been pronounced chronic and incurable. The poor man left the hospital crawling rather than walking, and unable to get home, he dragged himself to his sister's house which was near. She, seeing him in such a sad state, said to him, as if inspired from on high: "Francesco, have you never recommended yourself to the Blessed Zaccaria?" To this he never answered but burst into tears. The sister too wept, but full of confidence, she touched his leg with the relic of the Saint, saying: "Through the intercession of Blessed Zaccaria may God restore you!" For a while both remained silent, then Paola added, "Francesco, promise me to make a novena to the Saint." The brother promised and left the house in better spirits. Francesco and Paola prayed fervently for the nine days. On the ninth day, the 23rd of October 1876, the leg was straightened. What a moment that was! The leg was perfectly healed. He ran to his sister's house anxious to relate the miracle. "My Paola-he cried-I am cured, tomorrow I return to my work", and so he did. So complete was his cure that from that day he had enjoyed perfect health.
Other Miraculous Signs of the Saint
A young Italian lady, Eliza Greco, was in great trouble, seeing no prospect of the obstacles to her marriage being removed. She was engaged to an officer, who on account of his financial circumstances and also his health, found it utterly impossible to carry out his wishes. To make matters worse, there was no prospect of his being ordered to the African Colonies. He wished to retire from the army, but this did not lessen the difficulties, for there were drawbacks also to his getting other appointments as those to whom he applied seemed to think it strange that he should wish to change his profession. In the meantime, the lady to whom he was engaged, being in the habit of attending church at the Barnabites, and having heard in a sermon of the many and wonderful favors obtained through the intercession of St. Anthony Mary, made some special promises to the Saint and began a novena in his honor. Her faith was very soon rewarded, for contrary to all expectations, the officer obtained a splendid appointment that put an end to all their difficulties. On the 3rd of May 1899, they hung near the tomb St. Anthony Mary a silver heart that might serve as a lasting token of their loving gratitude to their heavenly Benefactor.
A young girl named Adalgisa Comelli, working as mistress in the Istituto Girelli at Marone, on the Lago d'Iseo, was attacked by a disease beginning in a sore behind the right ear. This remained a deep and open wound till at last the bone became diseased.
Every remedy was tried and several specialists consulted, but nothing could be done. Year after year, things grew worse. At last, towards the end of October 1898, it was decided that an operation must be performed and a part of the skull removed. The poor girl worn out from pain, and frightened at the thought of the terrible operation, asked to have it postponed for nine days. By the advice of the Directress of the Institute, she turned with all her heart to St. Anthony Mary. Using no further remedies, but consecrating these nine days to the Saint, she begged his help, recommending all of herself to him. She also received from the Directress a relic of the Saint to put under her pillow.
What was her joy to find, on the morning of the ninth day, that she had not only slept all night and no longer felt any pain, but that she was perfectly cured. The wound was healed, and there was no longer any trace or mark of the disease that had caused her such frightful sufferings for eight years. She at once had a Mass said in thanksgiving to St.Anthony Mary.
Gustavo Mortara of Canneto sull'Oglio had, for fourteen months, been suffering from complication of diseases. His whole body was one immense sore, and a gangrene had already set in. He was given up by the doctors and awaited death. In God he could not hope for he hardly knew that a God existed. His wife, who was a fervent catholic, used every means in her power to get him to go with her to visit the altar of St. Anthony Mary. She used every persuasion, and with the help of others, at last induced him to go with her to the church. Entering, he asked what altar that might be where he saw so many votive offerings. She told him it was the altar of St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria who worked such wonderful miracles and cured so many who invoked him. "Oh" he said with a sneer, "that means to say I suppose that I, too, shall be cured." His wife, always sweet and gentle to him explained that to be cured, one must pray. After great persuasion, she made him promise to join her in saying an Our Father, Hail, Mary and a Glory Be for nine days in honor of St Anthony Mary. She stayed by his bedside, night and day, which required more than human strength and courage, for the exhalations from the sores which covered his body made it almost impossible to approach him. She prayed without ceasing and got others to pray for him. The sick man, however, kept his word faithfully and read (for he did not know a prayer) the Our Father, Hail, Mary and the Glory Be every day. On the morning of the fifth day of the novena to the saint, after having slept all night, he awoke and cried out joyfully to his wife, "Teresa, I am cured! I am perfectly well! That saint has cured me, it is certainly he who has done it."
And it was true, the sores were all perfectly healed, his skin, that had been the color of bronze, had assumed its natural color, his appetite had returned and, in a word, he was in perfect health.
On the 11th of May 1899 he came, with his wife and daughter to the church to thank St. Anthony Mary for the wonderful miracle. He had a Mass of thanksgiving celebrated at his altar, promising to make a votive offering at his shrine and to recite in honor of his heavenly Benefactor an Our Father, Hail, Mary and a Glory Be every day as long as he lived.
Antonio Marazzi, a father of a family of eight, the eldest of whom was not 21 years of age, fell from a hayloft. His head, having come with great violence against a sharp stone, was terribly cut. He was at once brought to the hospital where it was found that the wound was more than 3.5 inches deep. Almost immediately, tetanus or what is more commonly known as lockjaw set in. After a most careful examination, several doctors pronounced his case hopeless. One of his daughters and his sister-in-law (both of whom were hospital nurses), seeing that there was no longer any hope, turned to St. Anthony Mary. They put a pannolino on the sick man, had a Mass celebrated at the tomb of the Saint and began a novena in his honor. This great saint, so sweet and loving in life, and now ever ready to sympathize with those who in their sorrow turn to him with love and confidence, crowned their faith by working a wonderful miracle in their favor. The man was restored to perfect health. The cure was so complete that, as was testified by his sister-in-law on the 2nd of September 1899, he was able to take up his usual employments, just as though he had never been ill. These facts are not only attested by eyewitnesses, but are recorded in the hospital register where, not only the case, but also the circumstances connected with the cure, are minutely described.
II. ANTHONY MARY ZACCARIA, THE MAN
Every man is a masterpiece of nature and grace. To be able to grasp the fullness of his personality, we need to know three of its most important elements:
- His NATURE, that is his psycho-somatic characteristics through which he is inserted into life; life with its constitutive elements can be given to anyone, but how does a person absorb them is determined by his individual personal nature.
- The HISTORICAL BACKGROUND of the times in which the saint lived, objectively reconstructed, with its demands and draw-backs, and the ensuing reaction of the saint to the mentality and the society of his time: this is what constitutes that series of elements acquired through his experiences and through his accomplishments, which become the constitutive elements and the characteristics of his sanctity.
- The contribution of GRACE, which is not a substitute for nature, rather it elevates it ad gives it a specific orientation. Since this cooperation between the nature of the individual and grace is something which cannot be repeated, the hagiographers usually limit themselves to emphasize only some constants called virtues, practiced in a heroic way. In this way they seem to emphasize more a certain quantity against quality, and so they create a cliché about holiness; but we know that St. Francis of Assisi’s humility was not the humility of St. Ignatius, or the poverty of St. Francis was not the poverty of St. Benedict, etc., since the nature of one was not the nature of the other.
Up to now the hagiographers of St. Anthony M. Zaccaria have emphasized his supernatural perfection. To be able to capture the very original life development of our Saint we should ponder about the natural aspect of his life. This is why the title of this chapter may be simplistic or pretentious: “Anthony M. Zaccaria, the Man,” examined in his inborn characteristics, in the qualities he acquired, and, only partially, in his achievements.
Let us begin with the only scientific study we have about our saint: the graphological analysis done by the founder of the Italian graphology, Father Gerolamo Moretti, OFMC, at the end of the 40’s, and published at first in “Rivivere” (No.2, 24-27), then republished by Fr. Moretti himself in “I Santi della Scrittura: esami grafologici” (Padua, ed. “Messaggero,” 1952, 59-63).
INTELLIGENCE Superior by quality, just in its judgments about the intelligence of others, and very objective. It has a great tendency to and ability for various kinds of exegesis, historic, biblical, literary. Very original, and caring, especially for the essential, not wasting himself in peripherals. He has the ability and tendency for conceptual and executive organization. He has a tendency for the scientific. He could apply himself to literature with a touch of lyrics, and to music, and so also to miniature and to mechanics; but his major tendency is for scientific subjects, which absorb almost completely his intelligence. He has the tendency and ability for the theoretical and practical psychology.
CHARACTER A character rooted on steadfastness in his commitments, with a little tendency to weakness: but this weakness is compensated and almost eliminated by a non-excessive determination, by austerity, and especially by reflection. A tendency to pride, and to the ambition to be singled out, but a lot of power in self-control, and a tendency to cut out any claim by the “I.” Easy to sexual tenderness with a tendency to favor it, but equal tendency to austerity of morals. Not prone at all to mystify or to lie ... He is not the type to be controlled by the drives of his nature. Often there are clashes among his tendencies, but the subject never looses control of himself. The tendency toward sexual tenderness could lead him to favoritism; but this tendency - coming from the finesse of his intelligence and feelings, from righteousness in judgment, from strength of character, and from the art of harmonious organization, could elevate the subject to a singular mysticism ... Due to the power of the intellect, which characterizes him, and the uprightness of his character, the subject could reach such a moral height, that it could not be measurable by ordinary psychology. In his self he has no exaggerations, by excess or by want, but in the natural evolution of his life he has a tendency to a full interior life, where all his tendencies are amalgamated; in a marvelous way he aims for one ideal only. He has an urge not to listen and not to admit observations about his actions, and to a refined vengeance, but he is always ready for reflection, which warns him and guides him.
Height, about 1.70 meters; skull, rather round, with the frontal protuberances just prominent on the eyebrows, or better between the eyebrows. The eye morphologically not bufolic, but rather deep-set in the orbit, open and big. The habitual attitude of the eye is one of scrutinizing, and able to shut up and dismantle another eye which is used to waywardness. A physical constitution which is rather a “habitus corporis strictus.” The lines of the face are precise, oval in form leading toward the long. The chin is not bent, the mouth is just right and rather narrow, lips not fleshy but rather stretched. The subject does not have a large chest, and this is why he is prone to pleurisy and relative consequences. The hair is brown-rusty. The voice is of medium timbre” (I Santi della Scrittura, 59-61).
The thing to do now would be to support every one of these affirmation with sayings and events of Anthony M. Zaccaria’s life, but this goes behind the aim of this report. We will limit ourselves to touch upon some elements, which, if not fundamental, are very characteristic.
First of all, Anthony Mary, although an only son, lived in a large family. After the death of his father Lazzaro (1503) and of his uncle Pasquale (1504), were living together in the Zaccaria home the grandmother Elisabetta Pasquali with the two daughters-in-law Apollonia Roncadelli (with her children Bernardo, Angela, Isabella, and Lucia) and Antonia Pescaroli, with her son Anthony Mary, and the half-daughter Venturina, born to Lazzaro before their marriage. The experience of such a large family gave to our Founder his sense of vastness, of the open, of the presence of the other, of a spontaneous and respectful relationship.
His life was right away marked by suffering, but id did not mortify, rather matured it. When he was only few months old, he lost his father, and when only one, he lost his uncle; but those three women clung together to each other, and kept their business going both in the land properties and in the trade of wool; the store, properly called “Drapperie,” that is fabrics, was located in Piazza Duomo. Neither of the young women though of a second marriage, as custom dictated, instead they dedicated themselves totally to the family and to the children. The episode of the silk cloak the young Anthony Mary gave to a poor beggar, and the peaceful and positive reaction of his mother, show the balance and the openness present in that house. Through suffering they had matured. I think it was Bossuet to write: “Life is a blank page, until ‘I have been in pain,’ is written on it.”
In this serene balance Anthony Mary developed one of his peculiar characteristics: an objective vision of reality (Father Moretti says: “intelligence: just in its judgment of the intelligence of others, and very objective”). Throughout his life he, indeed, will have:
- GREAT TRUST IN MAN, even though he knows of the existence of “the kind of men whose bounty has little value” (The Writings, 202), and that “man is deceitful and ignorant in many things” (ibid, 107). Therefore, he will demand two conditions for anyone who wants to be his child: “in fire and in light” (ibid, 172), that is intelligence and will, ability and initiative: qualities which revealed his own personality. He knows also how to wait: “In the beginning Paul was not what he was later” (ibid, 36); “accept to become what you are not” (ibid. 196).
- GREAT TRUST IN THINGS, therefore OPTIMISM. The whole of creation is beautiful and good, made by God for us. An indicative principle: gluttony. In his Sermons he says: “you do not want to avoid the sin of gluttony, which perhaps is a venial sin” (ibid, 138), while in the Constitutions he is rather drastic: “the demon has hanged the gluttons by their throat” (ibid, 194); but in the Constitutions he is talking to people who have chosen the Gospel radical message of the Cross, therefore, it explains his intolerance, although in the same Constitutions he warns that gluttony has to be controlled “with discretion” (ibid, 161). The passions too are good: God has put them in us as a great gift, because they drive us to action. Few passions, little capacity for action; many passions, a great capacity for action. Are the great passions to produce great saints? But all creatures have a tendency to create idols, due to the original imbalance (ibid, 74-75; 80-81); but here it is where the structural character of each individual is manifested, because the whole is “under the control of the will” (ibid, 87), and is going to be harmed only the one who wants to be harmed “Nemo laeditur nisi a seipso” (ibid, 135). Anthony M. Zaccaria knows and quotes the booklet by John Chrysostom! “Rather,” he adds, “the perfection of free will is such ... that man is able to become either a devil or God, as he chooses” (ibid, 125). And he explains: “Man is god in so far as he conforms himself to God, by similitude and conformity of deeds, in a way that is possible to man” (ibid, 79). Therefore, a full trust in man, in things, and in their constructive harmony.
- GREAT TRUST and a lot of room given to the WILL, which is the constitutive element of man’s morals: we are our will. How many times our Saint affirms that the will is everything! “Virtue requires free will from man, and only an appearance of Virtue makes man a hypocrite: which we abhor” (ibid, 184); “Obedience must be willed, not forced” (ibid, 156), otherwise it would be “to obey as servants, not as sons” (ibid, 41). He will forbid any kind of jail in the monastery (ibid, 185), while, at that time, all monasteries had it to punish the incorrigible. It is better to dismiss from the Congregation than to punish or to force observance with a precept (ibid, 156), because “Regular Observance does not have in mind to weigh down but to lighten and to lead above the Law, not by force, but by love” (ibid, 192).
Anthony M. Zaccaria had such great esteem of the will that, for him, it was the criterion for the evaluation of an individual and his actions: “Brothers, there is no big difference among defects..., if they are big or small in the eyes of men, provided they are voluntary, or took place by voluntary negligence: because Christ died for all of them” (ibid, 186). The “voluntary negligence of the one who does not care to make progress” (ibid, 185-6) was sufficient reason for dismissal from the Congregation. We can understand then all those “totalitarian” sayings present all over his writings, and which are summarized in the one of chapter 12 in the Constitutions: “It is a great shame for some Servants of God to say: ‘For me it is enough to honor God up to this point.’ Rise as much as you can, because you are more and more a debtor! Rather, never let anyone of the Novices, and even anyone of us Brothers, think to have done much, even if we have a burning desire for the above-mentioned virtues: because the more we pay, the much more debtors we remain” (ibid, 182-3). To stop is to go “backward” (ibid, 140,200); therefore, we have to try always to increase in what we have started in oneself and in others, “because the summit of Perfection is infinite” (ibid, 200).
And now let see what the graphological analysis says about him: “caring first of all about the substance of things, not indulging on peripherals,” that is, he is aiming for the essential, a characteristic defined by his medical preparation, which had trained him to look for the causes of an illness, since, once they are cured, the whole illness is resolved. This explains his choice of few powerful theologica1 themes as the basis for his spirituality. Few themes, I have said: ideological confusion creates always immature and poor personalities. In the Letter II he will say that the lukewarm person knows how to make a display of all kind of reasons, but if before he was in doubt only a little, afterwards he will be in total doubt; instead the serious person asks for advice, prays, but then right away starts working (ibid, 18-9).
During a time when religious wills were lukewarm, it is understandable that Anthony Mary would emphasize the will, rather than grace: and this is why he was accused of Pelagianism. He says that there are no problems for “Grace.” In the second from the last chapter of the Constitutions he says: “it is so ready to help us that it prefers to be able to accuse us and to show that we are guilty for lacking courage, because of infidelity, to embrace great things, rather than we accuse it of failing us” (ibid, 196).
Human maturity means to face reality the way it is, to love it and to save it; it means to surrender oneself to truth, to choose with responsibility, which is the willingness to answer right away “yes” to the cries of the ideal; irresponsibility, alias lukewarmness, is also a “yes” answer, but for the future. Then, for the lukewarm person virtues are neither real nor true, but only imaginary (ibid, 166): my answer is yes, but tomorrow, always tomorrow. Anthony Mary instead: no, today. This is why fervor is not a luxury, but the normal situation of a man with responsibility. “Fervor,” is defined by Anthony Mary as “a will ready for the things of God” (ibid, 182).
This is not at all sentimentalism! Our Saint is right in calling lukewarmness “most deadly and greatest enemy of Christ Crucified” (ibid, 32), since it is true. In fact, if Religious Life is, by its very nature, “a life of total and radical commitment,” it is clear that lukewarmness, that is, mediocrity, is a “contradictio in terminis.” It is “the enemy,” as St. Paul calls death (1 Cor 15 :26), because like it, it kills life.
It is important to note how the Holy Founder proposed to the world of the 1500’s, so languid in its religiosity, a way to salvation, the gospel in its radical format. We should do the same. Perhaps this would be the only way out from the numerous illusions of our permissive society.
In the letter to the Angelics there is a lyrical image which supports the above mentioned graphological analysis: our life should be “a stable and holy fervor, nourished by life-giving water and enriched by new vigor” (ib., p. 32). It is a stupendous image. Certainly we too have seen some of these natural springs in our country-sides; but have we seen in them, like Anthony Mary, the talking image of a continuous, spontaneous, and inexhaustible “self-giving?”
The whole of his style had some literary form, in the best meaning of the word. Often we hear that his writings are obscure and not evolved; but for those who are familiar with the literary production of his time, the writings of Anthony M. Zaccaria are roses and flowers! His phraseology is logical, proper, refreshing, rich with ideas and images, or biblical quotations. His keen, and, if we want, slightly humorous character, surfaces in some revealing phrases: “He who tries to capture two rabbits at one time, misses the one while the other one escapes” (ibid, 18); or the other one about good preachers who do not practice what they preach, and who are compared to “a bell, which calls others to the office and to the sermon, but it never attends to it” (ibid, 105). But besides these phrases, which could be popular proverbs, or popular sayings, there are some passages which reveal a non common “verve” in him, like when he speaks to the laity about fraternal correction: “Oh! if you knew how necessary fraternal correction is, you would not sin in this! You say: ‘I have nothing to do with this sin of others.’ Nonsense! God will demand from you a severe account of them” (ibid, 99-100). And more: “That poor fellow who gives you counsel, and, in charity, warns you, can say as much as he wants, you do not pay attention to any of his words ... and yet many times you stone him because of the good deeds, and, if not in words, at least in your mind, as you say: ‘this good man exerts himself, etc.;’ and, God willing, I hope you do not say something worst!” (ibid, 116).
But the little Sisters of Cremona (perhaps the Augustinians of St. Maria Annunziata, where some of St. Anthony Mary’s aunts were), are the ones more hit: “It is not worth to say: ‘God’s Temple, God’s Temple!’ It is-no value, my Sister, to say: ‘We are Religious, we are Religious!’ What? You, a Religious? You are not even a good lay woman!” (ibid, 79). Further down he says:
“You are kind of delicate, such that vegetables get you sick, fast causes you a headache, to get up early bothers your stomach, there is nothing that is useful to you. Oh, you poor dear! Don’t you know that. .. the worldly people are those who allow any comfort for their body and they do not want to suffer any discomfort? Religious Life is a continuous cross, and it is gradual... Be nailed to holy Obedience, and never get away from it!” (ibid, 80).
The graphological analysis gives great emphasis to his intelligence, way above average. An analytic and at the same time synthetic intelligence: a privilege of only few. I do not want to spend time in emphasizing this intelligence with phrases and events: his accomplishments, for sure at the vanguard of his times, bear witness to it. Instead I would like to tie to it some of his sayings and some events which seem to belie it.
Writing to Fra Battista on May 31, 1530, he says: “Be my saint intercessor in front of God, that He may free me from my imperfections, and my cowardice and my pride” (ibid, 16); and six months later, writing to the two co-founders to exhort them to eradicate the bad weeds of irresolution and indecision, he says that these bad weeds are planted in his heart (ibid, 20).
Historians hint that in our Beginnings there was a certain “provisional” attitude: no specific apostolate, no Constitutions, no obligation to profess the vows after the canonical period of trial, Capitular government which could change any previous decision. We know that the Founder preferred to have no Constitutions, but to rely only on a group of volunteers bond together by the “fire” of brotherly love, and governed by Capitular meetings. Still in 1552 a phrase could be heard in Barnabas (which could easily be traced back to the Holy Founder), and which was taken in its negative sense by the Inquisition: “We Barnabites have only one Constitution: that is, not to want one” (General Archive, M.b.9 ,int.9). We know well that the meaning of the phrase is not what was understood by the Inquisition. But it is a fact that often we hear the criticism about the “provisional” characterizing our Beginnings. And if instead was this not a wealth of richness? A sign of availability and intelligence? Only superficial and less intelligent people are those who are easy-going in their decisions. The provisional character could be very positive. It means to know how to wait for the “come” of God, like Peter on the sea in the midst of the storm (Mt 14:29), and not to expect everything immediately, as demanded by immature people and by children; it means to take care of the present, aware of the future; it means to allow time for oneself and others so that things will mature well; and especially it means not to take God’s place, waiting patiently for his will made to be manifested. I dare to say that it is also a stimulus to creativity: when everything is programmed, controlled, verified, one does not have the opportunity and does not feel the need for creativity.
Exactly because the Founder was a man of the future, a man with perspective, a man of hope, he did incarnate, way before the Vatican Council II, the spirituality of the Exodus, which implies a provisional condition, spiritual nomadism, besides the willingness and commitment to keep going forward towards the Promised Land. For me, this is one of the most beautiful characteristics of our Saint’s modern and biblical personality.
To better understand what I am saying, let us go back to the graphological analysis, which defines him: “A character founded on steadfastness in his goals.” It is well known that the Founder was a determined, resolute, a man like a two hedged sword, as demonstrated by his whole life. It is enough to mention two episodes: the first, of October 4, 1534, well known to all; the second, of November 1533, almost unknown.
October 4, 1534, is justly called our Pentecost. The first trial by the Inquisition has thrown our first Fathers into panic, causing for them a painful dilemma: if the Church tries us, are we then on the wrong track? The Founder calls them all in his room and addresses them with a speech which cannot be compared with the words left to us by Father Gabuzio (Historia, 52-6), or as reported in The Writings (142-146). Father Soresina, one of the eyewitnesses, says: “fiery words were coming out of those angelic lips” (General Archive, Cronachetta A, 55). Of the text given by Father Gabuzio, perhaps only the first phrase is authentic, the Pauline quotation upon which the Founder developed his whole speech: “We are fools on Christ’s account” (1 Cor 4: 10); to become fools like Christ, like the Apostles. Christ knew well that the cross was ready for him, but this did not stop him from saying hat he had to say; the Apostles knew well that beatings and even worse treatments were waiting for them, but stated clearly that they had to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29).
Anthony M. Zaccaria’s conclusion is obvious: “Are we wiser than Christ and the Apostles?” (id, 143). It is a situation similar to the one in the Synagogue at Capernaum after the sermon about the bread of life (Jn 6:68-69). There, it was Peter to come to the rescue; here, there was that “throwing of themselves on their knees” by all the Confreres, committed “to be fools on Christ’s account.”
“From that moment on we started to live as poor men,” Father Soresina says. It was the beginning of our Religious Life, because before that it was only life in common: indeed everyone had brought from home whatever they thought to be useful, although living in material and spiritual communion with the others. What caused the metamorphosis? For sure it was God’s grace, but also the “steadfastness in his goal” by the Founder, and his supernatural courage: and, we all know, courage is contagious, just as fear, if not more.
The second episode, almost unknown, happened at a very sad moment for the Holy Founder: Fra Battista was dying in Cremona.
But here we have to open a parenthesis. After the conversion of the Countess Torelli, Fra Battista, with the permission of his Superiors, had moved to Guastalla as her confessor. When the permit by the Dominican Superiors expired, the Countess obtained from Pope Clement VII, through the Cardinal who was the Major Penitentiary in Rome, the permission for Fra Battista to stay on. We do not know who leaked the gossip in Rome that Fra Battista wanted to stay in Guastalla not only not to be under the obedience of the Vicar General of the Dominicans, but also to divulge, far away from Milan, one of his teachings, which was “dangerous as a heresy, and a source of disturbance.” Obviously this caused a Breve from Rome to the Vicar General of the Dominicans, to immediately recall Fra Battista to Milan, to try him, and, if guilty, to punish him.
Fra Battista went to Milan, was tried, and was found innocent. The Vicar General sent an official notification to the Pope. The Countess asked again the Pope for Fra Battista to stay in Guastalla, and Clement VII agreed with a Breve dated July 10, 1531 (copy in the General Archive). The suffragan bishop of Milan, Francesco Landini, the Vicar General of the Diocese, Giovanni Mitonso, and the Inquisitor, Melchiorre Crivelli, were asked to enforce the Breve.
After two years of calm the Dominicans, without mentioning the Breve of July 10, 1531, were able to obtain another Breve, ordering Fra Battista to come back “ipso facto” in the monastery, penalty the excommunication. But Fra Battista was dying, how could he move?
The situation was tragic. The Founder took control, heavy-hearted but with determination.
The last Breve was invalid, because surreptitious: it should have reported in its entirety, or at least it should have mentioned the previous Breve, instead it ignored it completely. So he had drawn two legal documents: an appeal to Pope Clement VII, to clarify the issue; and a contestation to the Vicar General of the Dominicans, Father Angelo da Faenza, who resided in Mantua. Then, Anthony Mary, through a notarized note, had the Countess Torelli name him her “special legal representative” (November 8, 1533, in the Guastalla chapel); then he had other two legal notes drawn: one as a formal protest to Fra Angelo da Faenza, the other for the lawyers of Montua, Carlo Malatesta and Traiano Delfini, so that they could follow on the spot the proceedings. He attached to both notes the authentic copy of the appeal to the Pope.
And so Anthony Mary left for Mantua, on Sunday, November 9. On Monday, at about 10:00 a.m., he was at the monastery of St. Dominic. He went through the church, to the sacristy, and asked for the Vicar General or his substitute, who was Father Stefano Foscherari, the Prior of the monastery. The sacristan said that both were out on business. Was it true? Anthony Mary waited for 1:00 p.m., when the friars, at the end of their meal, were coming out in the cloister for recreation. He rang the bell and entered together with the notary public and two witnesses, he “caught” (as the notary note says) two friars who were walking by, but they too said that the Vicar and the Prior were out of the city.
What to do? Although anxious to run back to the bed of Fra Battista, he had to wait, after giving the two lawyers, Malatesta and Delfini, at about 3:00 p.m. of the same day, the notary note that pertained to them.
Three days later, on Thursday, November 13, 1533, Anthony Zaccaria heard that Fra Stefano Foscherari was back. Again he entered the monastery with the notary public, Antonio Pontevico, and the two witnesses, Ludovico Negri and Gerolamo Santini. He asked for the Prior and, with proper respect but with determination, he contested against him and against Fra Angelo da Faenza, the hypocrisy and the injustice of their conduct, since they knew very well that Fra Battista had been authorized ~y a pontifical Breve to stay in Guastalla. Then he warned him about carrying out the execution of that Surreptitious and invalid Breve, notified him of the appeal sent to Pope Clement about the presence in the proceedings of the two lawyers from Mantua. Then he ordered the notary public to hand over to Fra Stefano the authentic copies of all these documents.
Here the unforeseen happened: Fra Stefano refused to accept the documents. It was a legal escape: not taking the documents in his hands he could have claimed that he knew nothing about it! Did the Saint express anger, he who hated so much any double standard? The fact is that he then said notary public: “He does not want to take them into his hands? Then throw them at his feet, and write down.” And indeed in the notary document, drafted right after the episode, the notary public wrote: “Since he refused to take the said copy, I threw it at his feet on the floor, so that he could never claim that he did not know about them, been present Fra Stefano, who saw, heard, and did not say anything” (General Archive, Yd.6). Then, with great anxiety, the Founder ran back to Guastalla.
Excuse the length of this sad episode, but it is worthwhile to better understand the determination of the Holy Founder.
Now we have to consider what was the contribution of the medical profession on Anthony Mary’s personal spirituality.
His writings do not give any hint about his medical career: to Carlo Magni he talks about medicine, but a spiritual one (ibid, 27); only incidentally and always with a spiritual meaning, he mentions the barbaric methods used to cure at his time, as he talks about “those who know how to cure wounds with iron and oil” (ibid, 184). Maybe the most direct reference is in the Constitutions, when, talking about the integrity of sacramental confession, he reminds the novices that “the one who shows many mortal wounds to the doctor, but hides one, dies of it” (ibid, 178). Anyhow the whole chapter VI of the Constitutions is dedicated to the care of the sick, where Anthony Mary uncovers his sense of responsibility in the practice of his profession. For the sick, all kind of exceptions; for them, everything is justified, any dispensation is granted, no diligence is too excessive. The Superior himself is due to visit them personally daily, “to cheer them up and to comfort them with words and deeds” (ibid, 162); rather, he adds: “The Superior should avoid to be found negligent in this!” (ibid). This chapter was thought to be so important that it was included almost in its entirety in the Constitutions of 1579.
But more than in the writings, it is in the life of Anthony M. Zaccaria that we look for the great contribution of the medical profession towards his personality and spirituality.
The doctor has a “clinical eye.” Anthony Mary had it developed so much that his contemporaries were talking about divination and reading of the hearts. The nuns in Cremona, after only one sermon said that even if he had been there for twenty-five years, he could not have known more about their defects than what he had told them already. He told Father Soresina, in charge of the formation of the Omodei brothers, to take care of the most mischievous one and not to bother with the most holy one, because he would not persevere: in fact, Fabrizio became Father Paul Mary, while the other got married. In Vicenza, as soon as he saw Tito Degli Alessi, he did not say a word, but signed him on the forehead: and Tito became a Barnabite. In Guastalla, along the Po river, a young man seemed full of energies and life, but Zaccaria, with the intuition of his forthcoming end, convinced him to go to confession: just on time. In all these events grace was at work, but also his professionalism played its part.
In St. Anthony Mary’s spiritual teachings it is impressive the large space given to “experience.” We know that the experimental method is typically scientific. “Nothing is more certain and nothing generates more trust than experience” (ibid, 35); “I want the experience itself to be enough” (ibid, 24); “Experience teaches this and there is no need of further comments” (ibid, 18); “to discern by experience what is true from what is false, what is sure from what is dubious” (ibid, 60). Faith too, more than based on theological reasons, must flow from life experiences, almost like a personal apologetics: “You must always have trust in divine help, and you should know by experience that it must never lack to you ... because of his own personal experience, he must know that God never failed him in his needs and in his good will” (ibid, 200-201).
An experiential method, we said, applicable also as a spiritual methodology. We pray: “do not lead us into temptation;” instead Zaccaria seems to force us to say: “and lead us into temptation,” because temptations and the occasions would reveal our true self: and quotes that pleasant episode of the monk, as reported by John Climacus (ibid, 46). Therefore, a lived, not a passive experience.
The large space allotted to the ‘lived’ experience has enriched our Saint with an extraordinary down-to-earth attitude. We have already seen how he emphasizes the “real, not imaginary” virtues; and to test their consistency he used to impose concrete, piercing, almost cruel trials; then he observed the reaction of the individual: that was the indication of his interior situation. I do not mean the public penances done by our confreres on the streets of Milan: that was a head-on apostolate to shake the sleeping consciences of the people of the time. I am referring, rather, to domestic penances reported at length in our Chronicles, and also in the autobiography of Bonsignor Cacciaguerra, and published by Father Premoli as an appendix to the first volume of his Historia. “Those Fathers, the way they mortified the person coming to them, were truly terrible men” (Premoli, 477), Cacciaguerra says. We are interested not so much in the mortifications as such, but in the purpose and the method of application. Cacciaguerra confesses that after staying for four months with our Fathers “he did not care anymore about mortifications, as if he had got used to them” (Premoli, 478), while at the beginning every trial seemed unbearable. And when, back to Rome, he told the Father that more than once he had been tempted to run away, the answer was: “We did it for your good, to try a little your patience and to see what was in your heart; and you have to know that we use the opposite cure, and our custom is to tempt men so that they can make progress, and if they cannot bear it, they would confess their infirmity and become healthy, just as it is done by the doctor” (ibid).
The Founder writes: “virtue without adversity has no consistency, or a very poor one; instead greater the obstacles, more precious it becomes” (ibid, 197). It is easy to feel and to believe to be humble, when we do not face humiliations; it is easy to feel and to believe to be meek and patient, when we have no occasion to be angry; but it is the trial of concrete life situations to reveal what we thought we were not, or to rudely show us that we are not what we thought to be. The Holy Founder, great master of spiritual life, through the trial of concrete life situations wants to free us from any illusion, which is so sweet and instinctive ... Now we understand what he meant when he talked about “real” and not imaginary virtues.
And, finally, the medical profession was of great help to the Holy Founder through its very “mission.” Doctor and Missionary, I think they are equivalent. Both are called to understand and to resolve situations.
The doctor makes a diagnosis, looks for the causes of the illness, goes to the root where he applies his art and his heart. This is why Anthony Mary insists as he advises to look for the causes, or the roots of vices, and to concentrate on that. If vices were an army, we should aim at the “general,” and once he is killed, the whole army is liquidated (ibid, 26-27). To cut bad plant without pulling the roots is to waist time, because they sprout again (ibid, 178); what is needed is to diagnose the cause of the illness, looking for the fundamental concupiscence of human nature (ibid, 195, 178). It is interesting to note the Saint’s great realism in diagnosing the causes. To the Visitor who, ex-officio, is called upon to correct defects, talking about complaints among the friars, he recommends not to punish them, but to see if there are reasons for complaints: in which case the Visitor should take care of it in a different way; and he adds that complaints do not come from nothing, since they are always the fruit of a preceding defect (ibid, 203). .
As the roots of vices are pulled, the roots of virtues must be planted: and in this the Holy Founder is a little an Illuminist! Still to the Visitor he recommends: “The Visitor, then, should make efforts not only to cut the vices ... plant the good morals, but to insert and to introduce - and, once introduced, to ferment - the roots of good morals ... he must introduce in the soul the reasons and the causes why these Virtues should be inserted in their own self... this is the task proper to the Prelate, to the Counselor, and to the Visitor” (ibid, 204-205). As you can see there is a continuous animation and catechesis of the community.
Great also was his openness of mind. In regular life his insistence was not so much on the observance of silence, punctuality, and other practices, rather he recommended to “think and ponder well over the causes for which these Ceremonies have been introduced, rather than think they exist only for their own sake” (ibid, 183). Also he recommended “to apply their mind more to the spirit rather than to the words of the Psalms” (ibid, 176). Openness of mind, revealed in prayer too, which he wanted to be promptly interrupted, if required by charity, calling this a “leaving God for God,” or “leaving Christ for Christ” (Premoli, I, 477).
The graphological analysis we read at the beginning has a very beautiful and truthful phrase: “Due to the intellectual power which characterized him, and the uprightness of his character, the subject could reach a singular mysticism, and such a high moral standard, that it could not be measured by ordinary psychology.” Yes, our Saint was a mystic, a great mystic, just like St. Paul. The imitation of Christ has brought about such a perfect synthesis between theology and life, that it is difficult to separate the man from the saint. None of the phrases of his letters has a pure human, breath. Not a mediocre mysticism, which does not shred any of the pages of the Gospel, instead it indulges on those bypassed by others. It is a state of prayer so well assimilated, that it is almost like his own natural breath, instinctively referring to the great truths of faith:
- the fatherly omnipresence of God, which keeps us in our being, and guards us as “your lover, and child, and father, and mother” (ibid, 84): “everything is saved in so far and as long as the hand of the Lord is over it; if He should withdraw it, the whole thing would wither” (ibid, 96);
- Our neighbor, who makes God present in a more profound way, as he becomes the very means through which our homage, as expression of love and service, can reach God (ibid, 20);
- The Cross, the Crucified Lord, the Eucharist, always seen in the positive and never in the negative, as the supreme expression of God’s love, which inevitably requires an adequate answer from man;
- The certainty and strong sense of the surety of one’s faith, made alive even by the ordinary daily experiences, but which constitute for each one of us our own personal apologetics, the one which is deep in our heart, and constitutes our truest “Creed” (ibid, 200).
All this belongs to the spirituality of our Saint. What the man Zaccaria accomplished is well known to all of us. We know his geniality in creating an Order composed of priests, sisters, and married people; we know that the Church, rather the men of the Church, after encouraging the new Congregation with Bulls and Breve ended up stranding it, when the Tridentine decrees provoked a return to clericalism, closing the Angelic Sisters in the cloister, and sending home to their families the married, as not mature for the apostolate. We know that our Saint, so unique in the history of the Church, already back then conceived the laity as it is presented today by the Vatican Council II, that is: with a specific mission in the Church, partaker of the priesthood of Christ. Holy lay people existed even before, but it was an imitation of the practices and of the spirituality of monasticism; and the laity had no voice in the Church.
But there was also another function of the laity of the 1500’s, which turned out to benefit the Pauline family of Anthony M. Zaccaria. Due to their life style, Barnabites and Angelics were isolated from the world; although they were going to the world to announce the Good News, they were not immersed into it, therefore, they could not follow all the trends and ideas of a world in evolution to I create always new, up-to-date ways for evangelization. A Provincial Superior of the Dominicans ordered his confreres to read at least four modern novels a year, not to loose contact with the evolution of the world mentality and ideas. A similar function and role belonged to the married or espoused of the l500’s: to keep the other two Institutes abreast with the world, so that their apostolic message would be incarnated, following the evolution of the expectations and tastes of the world, so as to be relevant and trenchant.
For sure our Saint offered to Grace a happy nature. To this happy nature the deontological sciences (philosophy and theology) added a sense of purpose, and medical sciences that vivid sense of reality, which always generates a critical evolution of a situation. Not all people are able to have a truthful and new insight at things. Usually we look at things according to the catalogue of common opinion. The great merit of Anthony Mary was to be able to capture things and situations in their original truth, and in this way he has been able to give an answer which we call “Modern.” Something passionately challenging was present in his apostolate: new, difficult situations; the need to be creative; the joy of seeing his message and his service accepted.
Yes, he died too young. God only knows what other ideals he took with himself into the tomb! His very accomplishments did not withstand for too long the weight of a slow and late mentality. But we know that a man is defined by his ideals more than by his accomplishments. Therefore, we are children of a great father. We are here to pour some more oil in our lamps.
DATES OF ORDINATION OF ST. ANTHONY ZACCARIA From recent researches we know now that he received: 1) Subdeaconate on September 19, 1928, Saturday of the Four Ember Days of Advent. There were 30 candidates for various orders: nine for the subdeaconate; six for the deaconate; eight for the priesthood;three for the tonsure; four for the Minor Orders. Zaccaria is the second in the list of the subdeacons. 2) Deaconate on December 19, 1528, Saturday of the Four Ember Days of Winter. The Notary Oldoini announces the ordinations as done for the others, but then he leaves blank the following three pages either because he did not receive the names, or because he was going to do it later, or maybe the list of deacons got lost. 3) Priesthood on February 20, 1529, Saturday of the Four Ember Days of Spring. It is an important and spectacular ordination with 99 candidates: 21 for the priesthood, 26 for the deaconate, 18 for the subdeaconate, 21 for the Minor Orders, and 15 for the tonsure. Zaccaria is the third in the list of those to be ordained as priests. For all three ordinations the bishop was Luca di Seriate (Bergamo), who was suffragan of the bishop of Cremona and Ravenna, Cardinal Benedetto Accolti (who was always absent), titular also of Duvno (Erzegovina), suffragan diocese of Spoleto. All three ordinations took place in the chapel of St. Joseph, along the left wall of the Cathedral central nave. It is here that Anthony Mary received all the Major Orders and most likely also the tonsure and Minor Order (June 6, 1528)