During the same era as Martin Luther’s groundbreaking protests, attempts to reform the Church from within were already underway. A prominent figure in this Counter-Reformation was Saint Anthony Zaccaria.

Saint Anthony’s spiritual journey started early, guided by his mother, who was widowed at 18. Despite the challenges, she dedicated herself to his spiritual upbringing. Anthony went on to earn a medical doctorate at the young age of 22. While serving the underprivileged in his hometown, Cremona, Italy, he felt drawn towards a life of religious service.

Choosing to renounce his claim to any inheritance, Anthony became a catechist and, by 26, was ordained a priest. A few years later, he was called to Milan, where he established the foundations of three religious congregations: one for men, one for women, and an association for married couples. These groups sought to invigorate a society that they perceived as decadent, beginning with its clergy, religious institutions, and laypeople.

Greatly inspired by Saint Paul, Anthony even named his congregation the Barnabites, after Saint Paul’s companion. He was a passionate preacher, both in church and in public spaces, and was a driving force behind popular missions. Never one to shy away from public penance, Anthony held firm in his convictions.

Innovations he promoted included encouraging laypeople to collaborate in apostolic works, endorsing frequent Communion, advocating the Forty Hours devotion, and supporting the practice of ringing church bells at 3:00 p.m. on Fridays.

Anthony’s devoutness prompted many to rethink and reform their lives. However, just like all influential figures, his actions also spurred opposition. His community was investigated twice for religious misconduct, but on both occasions, it was absolved.

While on a peace mission, Anthony fell seriously ill and returned to his mother’s home. His life was cut short at the age of 36 in Cremona, leaving behind a profound legacy of religious reform.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons 
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  1. Dear St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria,

    You lived in a time of great turmoil within and without the church. You were a preacher with great power, as you struggled within the church. Please pray for the world at this time of the coronavirus. 11 million have died already, with so many others struggling to fight off this disease. Please ask the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to answer the prayers of those of us who believe in Them. Please help us. Amen.

  2. Blessed St. Anthony Zaccaria, please pray for the pilgrimage of peace in Ocosingo and other Indigenous communities in the area. I ask your kind regard and intercession for the Peace of the Kingdom to come to Ocosingo, to Chiapas, to Mexico, and to the World. Please gather under your holy zeal the most vulnerable people in the planet and take care of them through your heavenly apostolate. Thank you. Amen.


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