The Catholic Defender: Saint Anthony Zaccaria patron saint of physicians.
Anthony Zaccaria was born in the city of Cremona, Italy, 1502 – 5 July 1539) was an early leader of the Counter Reformation, the founder of religious orders (Barnabites) and a promoter of the devotion to the Passion of Christ, the Eucharist and the renewal of the religious life among the laity.
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. His mother became a widow at 18, and devoted herself to the spiritual education of her son.
In 1527, he started studying for the priesthood, and continued his theological studies in Bologna. On February 20, 1529 Zaccaria was ordained a priest in the Chapel of Saint Joseph in Cremona Cathedral.
Zaccaria was occupied with preaching in churches and on street corners. In August 1531 he (Milan). Zaccaria revived the custom of ringing church bells at 3 p.m. on Fridays, in remembrance of the passion and death of Jesus.
In 1533, having received encouragement from Pope Clement VII, Zaccaria took a small house near the church of St. Catherine at the Ponte dei Fabbri, and here they began their community life. The congregation was named after the companion of Paul.
In 1534 at St. Catherine's, he popularized the Forty-hour devotion for the laity – the solemn exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for adoration by the faithful – accompanied by preaching. In July 1535 Pope Paul III, with a Bull of approbation, confirms the devotion to Saint Paul for Zaccaria and his group.
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.
Greatly inspired by Saint Paul—his congregation is named the Barnabites, after the companion of that saint—Anthony preached with great vigor in church and street, conducted popular missions, and was not ashamed of doing public penance.
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.
While on a mission of peace, Anthony became seriously ill and was brought home for a visit to his mother. He died at Cremona at the age of 36.
After his death, a number of cures were attributed to the intercession of Anthony Mary Zaccaria. 27 years after his death, his body was found to be incorrupt.