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July 5, Feast of Saint Anthony Zaccaria, Reformer and Promoter of the Eucharist

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

Saint Antonio Maria Zaccaria born 5 July 1502 ( died 1539) was an Italian Catholic priest and early leader of the Catholic Reformation, founder of the Barnabites and a promoter of the Passion of Christ, the Eucharist and the renewal of the religious life among laity.

The Catholic Reformation consists of reforms and movements within the Church in the periods immediately before Martin Luther and before the Council of Trent  (1545-1563.) The efforts grew out of criticism of the worldliness and corruption of the papacy and clergy during the Renaissance. Martin Luther used the Catholic Reformers’ proposed reforms as a basis for  his attack on abuses in the Church.

Even before the official start of the Catholic Reformation, others like Saint Francis of Assisi were already making progress. While Francis never intended to found an order but when followers came to share his life, he saw it as the will of the Lord. In May 1209 went to Rome to see pope Innocent III. Innocent reigned at a time of remarkable corruption in the Church. Many bishops, priests and religious had become landed gentry, more concerned with their material possessions than fullfiling their pastoral responsibilities. Most of the clergy were poorly educated in the faith and rarely preached, and many were given to lives of debauchery.

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.  He received a medical doctorate at 22, and while working among the poor of his native Cremona in Italy, 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 three religious congregations, one for men, one for women, and an association of married couples. Their aim was the reform of the decadent society of their day, beginning with the clergy, religious, and lay people.
Anthony 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.

Paul III was the first pope to respond to attacks of abuse in the church. convening the important Council of Trent (1545–63), described as the embodiment of the Counter-Reformation and used in part to address the challenges of the Protestant Reformations

 The Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort arising from the decrees of the Council of Trent. The effort

produced apologetic and polemical documents, heresy trials, anti-corruption efforts, spiritual movements, the promotion of new religious orders, and the flourishing of new art and musical styles.

Such reforms included the foundation of seminaries for the proper training of priests in the spiritual life and the theological traditions of the Church, the reform of religious life by returning orders to their spiritual foundations, and new spiritual movements focusing on the devotional life and a personal relationship with Christ, including the Spanish mystics and the French school of spirituality.

Among the most influential reforming figures of the Counter-Reformation included Pius V, Gregory XIII, and Sixtus V. Saints Charles Borromeo, Philip Neri, John of the Cross, Teresa of Ávila, Francis de Sales, and Vincent de Paul.

Prayer to Saint Anthony Zaccaria 

Saint Anthony Zaccaria, helper of the poor and the sick, you who devoted your life to our spiritual welfare, listen to my humble and hopeful prayer.

Continue your work as doctor and priest

by obtaining from God healing from my physical and moral sickness, so that free from all evil and sin, I may love the LORD with joy,.fulfill with fidelity my duties,

work generously for the good of my brothers and sisters, and for my sanctification.


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