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Born into a noble family from Cremona, Italy, Anthony lost his father shortly after he was born. His young mother (18 years old) never remarried but dedicated her life to her son and charitable works.
Anthony was a bright child and studied Latin and Greek with private tutors and, when a bit older, was sent to Pavia to study philosophy. Later he went to the University of Padua and studied medicine and at age 22 received his degree.
Upon his return to Cremona, the young doctor showed no inclination to marry or increase his wealth. He was known to nurse the spiritual infirmities, as well as the physical ones of his patients. Anthony also taught religious formation to children and young adults. Feeling the pull of his religious convictions he eventually left medicine and studied for the priesthood.
Having been ordained at age 26, it was witnessed that a miracle occurred during his first Mass at the consecration of the Eucharist, People said he was surrounded by a supernatural light and angels could be heard singing.
He came into his religious life at the same time that Martin Luther was criticizing the abuses within the church and Anthony became one of the important promoters of the Counter Reformation. His ability to preach the Gospel effectively to the people of weakened faith in his town helped change its moral character.
In 1530, Anthony moved to Milan and faced much the same climate that he just overcame in Cremona. He founded the Clerics Regular of St. Paul, dedicated to humility, asceticism, poverty and preaching. (Later the order would be assigned to the church of St. Barnabas and became known as the “Barnabites.”)
In addition, Anthony established a religious order for women, the Angelic Sisters of St. Paul and a lay society, the Laity of St. Paul for those not part of the religious profession.
In 1539, the saint became gravely ill and returned to beloved Cremona and passed into the arms of the Lord. Almost 30 years after his death his body was found incorrupt. He was declared a saint by Pope Leo XIII in 1897.
Adapted by A.J. Valentini from Catholic News Agency. (n.d.). St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria. In Catholic News Agency www.catholicnewsagency.com/saint/st-anthony-mary-zaccaria-529