Today’s saint Antony Mary Zaccaria was born in Cremona in Lombardy and started by studying medicine, but soon decided to become a priest instead and was ordained in 1528. He founded the Congregation of Clerks Regular of St Paul whose aim was the reform of the clergy and laity. He was part of the general movement to self-reform in a Church that was coming increasingly under attack from the Protestant Reformation.
In the Office of Readings is a letter he wrote to the members of his congregation. It has the same theme as that of yesterday’s St Elizabeth of Portugal, the importance of being peacemakers, agents of reconciliation, of responding to badness with goodness like Christ.
We are fools for Christ’s sake: our holy guide and most revered patron [St Paul] was speaking about himself and the rest of the apostles, and about the other people who profess the Christian and apostolic way of life. But there is no reason, dear brothers, that we should be surprised or afraid; for the disciple is not superior to his teacher, nor the slave to his master. We should love and feel compassion for those who oppose us, rather than abhor and despise them… And even more than this, we should pray for them and not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil by goodness. We should heap good works like red-hot coals of burning love upon their heads, as our Apostle [Paul] urges us to do, so that when they become aware of our tolerance and gentleness they may undergo a change of heart and be prompted to turn in love to God.