‘Later than Cajetan of Vicenza and earlier than Ignatius of Loyola, Anthony was called to be the father of one of those religious families which arose in such numbers during the sixteenth century to repair the ruins of the house of God. Lombardy, exhausted and demoralised by the wars for the possession of the duchy of Milan, was encouraged by the sight of the heroic virtues of Zaccaria to believe, hope and love once again. She listened to his fiery exhortations calling her to repentance, to meditation on the Passion and to more fervent devotion to, and more solemn adoration of, the Blessed Sacrament. (St Anthony Mary Zaccaria was the first who exposed the sacred Host unveiled for the adoration of the faithful for forty hours, in memory of the time spent by our Saviour in the tomb. This pious custom passed from Milan to become the practice of the whole Church, and allusion has been made elsewhere to its special significance during the three days immediately preceding Lent.) Thus he was truly the precursor of St Charles Borromeo, who in his reform of the clergy, people and monasteries of Milan had as his earnest supporters Anthony’s sons and daughters, the Clerks Regular and the Angelic Sisters of St Paul.
It is noteworthy that out of love for Jesus crucified he would have the mystery of the cross brought to the mind of all by the ringing of the bell on Friday afternoon about vesper time. The holy name of Christ was ever on his lips, and in his writings, and as a true disciple of St Paul, he ever bore the mortification of Christ in his body. He had a singular devotion to the Holy Eucharist, restored the custom of frequent communions, and is said to have introduced that of the public adoration of Forty Hours. Such was his love of purity that it seemed to restore life even to his lifeless body. He was also enriched with the heavenly gifts of ecstasy, tears, knowledge of future things, and the secrets of hearts and power over the enemy of mankind. At length, after many labours, he fell grievously sick at Guastalla, whither he had been summoned as arbitrator in the cause of peace. He was taken to Cremona, and died there amid the tears of his religious and in the embrace of his pious mother, whose approaching death he foretold. At the hour of his death, which took place on the third of the Nones of July, 1539, when he was thirty-six years of age, he was consoled by a vision of the apostles, and prophesied the future growth of his Society. The people began immediately to show their devotion to this saint on account of his great holiness and of his numerous miracles. The cult was approved by Leo XIII, who solemnly canonised him on Ascension Day, 1897’.
from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger OSB, 1805-1875
Grant us, O Lord God Almighty: that we, being filled with the spirit of thy blessed Apostle Paul, may learn that pre-eminent knowledge of Christ Jesus, whereby thou didst wondrously teach blessed Anthony Mary to establish in thy Church new households of priests and virgins; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holty Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon