Lifelong CatechesisForming Catholic identity across generations
For a large part of the liturgical year, we devote ourselves to listening to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects unfolded as we seek God's truth and understanding.
Antonio Maria Zaccaria, Priest, 1502-1539
Antonio was born into a wealthy family in Cremona, Italy in 1502. His parents, Lazzaro and Antonia had been married a year when he was born. His father died a year after his birth. His mother, only eighteen at the time her husband’s death, devoted her life to Antonio. She taught him about God and his mercies and about Jesus. To give him an appreciation for those around him in Cremona who were not as well off, she had Antonio distribute alms to those in need.
Given an excellent education, Antonio earned his medical degree in 1524 and returned to Cremona to set up his practice. Soon, however, he found that many of the people that he was treating needed more than the physical care that he could provide. In many ways, they were suffering spiritually more that bodily. It was at this time that he felt a call to religious life and began the study of theology.
Ordained in 1528, Antonio gave his inheritance to his mother and began to provide spiritual and medical care to the poor. Moving to Milan, he, together with some other priests, founded a new order, the Congregation of the Clerks of St. Paul. Recognizing the success that the order was having in ministering to the spiritual needs of the people of Milan, Pope Clement VII approved the order in 1533 with Antonio as its superior.
In 1536, Antonio resigned as superior in favor of Father Bartholomew Ferrari, one of the priests with whom he had founded the order. At this point, Fr. Antonio sought a more suitable church in Milan for the order. St. Barnabas Church was offered and became the headquarters of the order, which then came to be known as the Barnabites. It was also around this time that Fr. Antonio helped Countess Louisa Torelli found an order of uncloistered nuns, the Angelicals of St. Paul, whose ministry paralleled that of the Barnabites.
All of this activity took its physical toll on Antonio and he came down with a fever, which, he recognized, would be his final illness. Returning to his mother’s house, he received the final sacraments and died on July 5th 1539.
Saint Antonio-Maria was canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1897. A memorial honors this saint on July 5.
Antonio-Maria's message today: God’s calling to us may come in steps. This saint found that his study of medicine helped him to see to the physical ills of the people of Milan. Soon, he found that this was only the first step in what God was asking of him.