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St Antoninus of Florence
Bishop (entered heaven in 1459)
Heaven will be full of surprises. Among them will be the truth about history. You and I, as history lovers, will be much gratified by the heavenly version of our favorite historical moments. You see, my dear nephew, no matter how hard we try, we simply can’t see the whole story. Our research into the real causes behind historical events and phenomena can only scratch the surface. In heaven, however, the whole truth will come out. I often think of heaven as a great big film festival, where we all get to watch magnificent films that tell the whole story of everything and everyone. If we think the great movies down here are entertaining, beautiful, and moving, just wait until we see the ones that God himself has produced! But back to surprises – take today’s saint, for instance.
Now, you and I are very familiar with the wonders of Renaissance Florence (I still fondly remember our visit there during the summer European tour I gave you as a high school graduation present; what I wouldn’t give to be able to take such a trip again! …). It spawned perhaps the greatest flowering of the human spirit ever – Michelangelo, the Medici family, Vasari, Leonardo da Vinci, Blessed Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Brunelleschi… and the list goes on. But when was the last time you heard the name Antonio Pierozzi? Probably never. History gives little press to the holiest archbishop ever to fill the ancient and influential Florentine See (that means a bishop’s seat of authority). And yet, without the fire of Christian faith that set those Renaissance hearts and minds ablaze with inspiration, do you think we would be able to enjoy all their achievements?
St Antoninus entered the Dominican priory there in Florence when he was only 15. Extraordinarily gifted in mind and spirit, he successively became superior and reformer of the most important priories in Italy: Rome, Naples, Siena, Florence, and others. All the Popes of the time consulted him nonstop, all the nobles vied for him to preach at their family chapels, and the Renaissance scholars studied his best-selling books. Finally, the Pope appointed him Archbishop of Florence, in spite of the saint’s objections. Back in his hometown, his tireless attention to the poor and the sick started a tidal wave of charity, his personal example of prayer and simplicity reinvigorated a lackadaisical clergy, and his wisdom and fairness won him diplomatic charges on behalf of the Papacy and the Florentine government alike.
So, as I say, heaven only knows how much this holy man influenced the Florentine achievement. And heaven only knows how many other marvelous achievements have never made it into our myopic earthly history books. I guess you and I (and especially you, since your life is just beginning and mine is quickly coming to an obscure conclusion) should keep this in mind; we should strive to make our mark in a Kingdom that will last forever, not in the passing fancies of the nearsighted kingdoms of men.
Your uncle always, Eddy