05 July – Saint of the day

Saint of the day

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07-05

July 5

 St. Anthony Zaccaria

 (1502-1539)

At the same time that Martin Luther was attacking abuses in the Church, a reformation within the Church was already being attempted. Among the early movers of the Counter-Reformation was Anthony Zaccaria. His mother became a widow at 18 and devoted herself to the spiritual education of her son. He received a medical doctorate at 22 and, while working among the poor of his native Cremona, was attracted to the religious apostolate. He renounced his rights to any future inheritance, worked as a catechist, and was ordained a priest at the age of 26. Called to Milan in a few years, he laid the foundations of two religious congregations, one for men and one for women. Their aim was the reform of the decadent society of their day, beginning with the clergy and religious.

Greatly inspired by St. Paul (his congregation is named the Barnabites, after the companion of that saint), Anthony preached with great vigor in church and street, conducted popular missions and was not ashamed of doing public penance.

He encouraged such innovations as the collaboration of the laity in the apostolate, frequent Communion, the Forty Hours devotion and the ringing of church bells at 3:00 p.m. on Fridays.

His holiness moved many to reform their lives but, as with all saints, it also moved many to oppose him. Twice his community had to undergo official religious investigation, and twice it was exonerated.

While on a mission of peace, he became seriously ill and was brought home for a visit to his mother. He died at Cremona at the age of 36.

Comment:

The austerity of Anthony’s spirituality and the Pauline ardor of his preaching would probably “turn off” many people today. When even some psychiatrists complain at the lack of a sense of sin, it may be time to tell ourselves that not all evil is explained by emotional disorder, subconscious and unconscious drives, parental influence and so on. The old-time “hell and damnation” mission sermons have given way to positive, encouraging, biblical homilies. We do indeed need assurance of forgiveness, relief from existential anxiety and future shock. But we still need prophets to stand up and tell us, “He who says he is without sin is a liar.”

Quote:

”I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths” (2 Timothy 4:1-4).

Produced by the Franciscans and St. Anthony Messenger Press (www.franciscanradio.org)

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