Saints and Holy People

Find out about their lives and how they changed the world

Saint Anthony Zaccaria (1502–1539)

Saint Anthony Zaccaria (1502–1539)

Patron saint of physicians

Feast day: July 5

Saint Anthony Zaccaria was born in Italy to a wealthy family. His father died when he was only two, and his mother, then only 18 years old, dedicated her life to raising and religiously educating her only son, Anthony. While still young, Saint Anthony secretly took a vow of chastity. At the age of 22, he became a doctor of medicine, and after practicing medicine for a few years among the poor of Cremona, Italy, Saint Anthony entered the priesthood. He abnegated his right to his inheritance and was ordained at the age of 26.

The Church of Saint Anthony’s era was in need of tremendous reform. Other reformers, including Martin Luther, chose a more aggressive and combative route to reform. Shortly after his ordination, Saint Anthony traveled to Milan and founded three orders, one for men, one for women, and one for married couples. The purpose of these orders was to purify and improve both the clergy and the society in which they lived.

Saint Anthony incorporated the laity in the apostolate, promoted the benefits of regular and frequent Communion, taught and spread the practice of the Forty Hours’ devotion, and instituted the practice of ringing church bells at 3 p.m. on Fridays so that people could call to mind the Crucifixion of Jesus. Saint Anthony was twice investigated on charges of heresy and twice acquitted. He died of a fever in 1539 and was canonized in 1897. 

(Image by Archivo personal, Wikimedia Commons)