July 5 is the Feast of St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria (1502-39), an important saint whom you've likely never heard of. Saint Anthony might well have liked it that way: What was most important for him was not personal fame or position—a noble by birth, he chose to study medicine and to enter the priesthood, dedicating his life to the healing of bodies and souls—but the spreading of the Gospel of Christ. Saint Anthony was particularly devoted to the spirituality of Saint Paul, to the Eucharist, and to Christ Crucified.
In the early decades of the 16th century, especially in Italy, the Catholic Church was under attack. Saint Anthony understood that the best way—the only way—for the Church to withstand those attacks was for her to reform herself, starting with the clergy and the Catholic laity. Saint Anthony founded three orders, all dedicated to the spirituality of Saint Paul and to reform: the Congregation of Clerks Regular of St. Paul (commonly known as the Barnabites), the Angelic Sisters of St. Paul, and the Laity of St. Paul (known in the United States as the Oblates of St. Paul).
The message of St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria speaks to our time as well as his: The best defense against attacks on the Church is constant reform and renewal from within. As we pray for the Church, we need also to strengthen our own spiritual life.
And so I have chosen the Novena to St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria as our novena of the week. Each day consists of a common opening and closing prayer, as well as prayers and readings for each day, drawn from the writings of Saint Paul and Saint Anthony. To make it easier to remember to pray the novena every day, I have set up a free daily e-mail reminder for the Novena to St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria. Simply sign up for it today, and you will receive an e-mail each day with links to that day's prayers, and to related articles.