(1502 – 1539)
Ordinary Time: July 5th
Born of noble parents in Cremona, Italy, in 1502, Antonio Maria
Zaccaria took a vow of chastity at a young age. A student of
philosophy who studied medicine and even practiced as a doctor for
three years, Saint Anthony was nonetheless attracted to the
priesthood, and he was ordained in near-record time—after only one
year of study. (His earlier training in philosophy had already
prepared him well for the priesthood.) In the first years of his
priesthood, Saint Anthony put his medical training to good use,
working in hospitals and poorhouses, which in the 16th century were
all run by the Church.
While serving as spiritual advisor to a countess in Milan, Saint
Anthony founded three religious orders, all devoted to the teachings
of Saint Paul: the Clerics Regular of St. Paul (also known as the
Barnabites), the Angelic Sisters of St. Paul, and the Laity of St.
Paul (better known in the United States as the Oblates of St. Paul).
All three were dedicated to reform in the Church, and Saint Anthony
became known as a doctor of souls as well as of bodies. He also
encouraged devotion to the Eucharist (indeed, he helped to
popularize the 40 Hours Devotion) and to Christ on the Cross, both
themes that appear in this novena.
Saint Anthony Mary Zaccaria died on July 5, 1539, at the age of 36.
Though his body was found to be incorrupt 27 years after his death,
it would take over three-and-a-half centuries before he was
beatified (in 1890) and canonized (in 1897) by Pope Leo XIII.