St Anthony Zaccaria

Founder of the Clerks Regular of St Paul (entered heaven in 1539)

Dear Antoine,

How goes the cancer research?  You probably don’t know, being only a pre-med student working as a volunteer in a children’s hospital, they probably have you doing mundane tasks like delivering prescriptions and x-rays between departments, right?  Well, I am certain you are finding ways to make the experience worthwhile and the time well spent. To my mind, you have an ideal opportunity to learn one of the great lessons that every saint must learn, one learned especially well by today’s saint.  He too was interested in medicine.

Anthony was born in northern Italy and raised by his mother; his dad died when he was quite young.  She encouraged him in his compassion for the poor and the sick (it was simply a horrible epoch for the people of northern Italy; ravaged by unending wars and recurring waves of disease, there was more than enough misery to go around – add to that a careless, corrupt clergy and you have the perfect recipe for disaster), and sent him off to study medicine at Europe’s greatest medical school in Padua.  He graduated when he was 22 and returned home to open up his practice. Immediately he realized that his long line of patients needed not only physical treatment, but spiritual care as well. He began studying theology in his free time, which was meager considering how available he made himself and his services to every needy body and soul that came knocking. Four years later he was ordained a priest, and his “holistic” ministry became so popular that he was asked to set up shop in the much larger city of Milan, just down the road, so he could reach more people.  Soon he gathered a small group of priests who shared his ideals of untiring and unrestricted service to God and man, wrote up a rule of life for them to follow, and set about spreading the love of Christ throughout the bulging metropolis. He dedicated himself so thoroughly to his work that he died, exhausted, from a minor illness at the young age of 37. The group of priests continued their ministry, however, receiving Milan’s Church of St Barnabas as their headquarters, and these Barnabites are still serving souls and bodies today.

Of course, the “lesson” I referred to above is the simple one that people have needs.  All people, every person, even the one that seems to “have it all together” need light for their souls, nourishment for their bodies, and love for their hearts.  If you base your future medical (or whatever) career on serving the real needs of your brothers and sisters, our Lord will be pleased, and will be able to fill the world with his blessings through the work of your hands.  If you don’t, well, you might become president of the AMA, but who will care?

Love, Uncle Eddy

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