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CHAMPION OF THE CHURCH

Father Francis's picture
Saint Anthony Zaccaria

In the early sixteenth century the Church was under attack from many sides. Martin Luther criticised abuses and Protestant theories and practices were gaining support. To combat the spread of heretical teaching a Counter Reformation movement was established, one of its early activists being Anthony Zaccaria.

Born in Cremona in 1502 and brought up by his widowed mother who devoted herself to the spiritual education of her son, Anthony received a medical doctorate, aged 21, and while working among the poor was attracted to the religious apostolate.

Quite soon after his ordination he went to Milan where he laid the foundations of religious congregations for men and for women. Their aim was the reformation of the decadent society of their day, beginning with the clergy and religious.

Inspired by Saint Paul, he named his Congregation the Barnabites after his travelling companion, preached with great vigour in church and street, and was not ashamed of doing public penance. In order to strengthen the Church, he involved the laity in his apostolate, encouraging frequent Communion, participation in the Forty Hours Devotion, and the ringing of church belts at 3 pm on Fridays in honour of Our Lord's crucifixion.

While on a mission of peace, he became ill and was brought home for a visit to his mother. He died at Cremona in 1539, at the youthful age of 36. Just think what God could have achieved through him in a longer life!

Anthony Zaccaria loved the faith and had tremendous loyalty to the Catholic Church. He was realistic enough to acknowledge that there was a need for reform, but he also knew that this had to be done from within. He had no intention of establishing a rival church, nor watering down Catholic doctrine. On the contrary, he reinforced the truth taught by the Church, and built up the faith of the laity by encouraging Catholic devotions.

Nowadays our Church in many ways is still under attack. There are elements within the Church who would undermine the authority of our Holy Father the Pope or whose attitude is 'If it feels good, it is good' and would like to make individual decisions about moral issues, seeking justification for abortion, embryo experimentation and euthanasia. If Anthony Zaccaria was living today would he go along with all this free thinking? Most certainly not! I could see him thanking God for the wonderful popes we have had in recent years and supporting them to the hilt. He would be quite vociferous in condemning those free thinkers and would attempt to bring them back to the right path. May Anthony Zaccaria help us deepen our love for God and remain always faithful to the Church he loved. We owe so much to saints like him, who fought so courageously to preserve our apostolic faith and hand it on to us intact.

Saint Anthony Zaccaria, pray for the Pope and for us.