Letter 1 - Being Thankful to God



Letter 1 - Being Thankful to God
Cremona, May 31, 1530
To the Reverend Father, Fra Battista da Crema,1
of the Order of Preachers of St. Dominic,
my venerable father in Christ.
In Milan


I give thanks to God, for in His mercy He does not treat me as I deserve, and He subjects me only to such small trials that I tend to be unaware of them because of some reproachable insensitivity of mine, as our Donna8 Francesca of Vicenza9 used to remark while we were riding on horseback.

I say this because it would have been a great consolation to me to receive a letter from you. But I understand that either your poor health or, no doubt, other good reasons have prevented you from writing at all. May you, dear Father, conform to God’s will, for I myself intend to conform to it, in spite of everything, and come what may.

From my incident with Mr. Gerolamo10 something resulted about which the carrier Mr. Benedetto Romani11 will tell you. I won’t mention it, for it is quite complicated to express and requires many explanations. Mr. Romani will explain it to you by word of mouth. In all truth, dear Father, my wish is that you yourself would give it a satisfactory solution. It is up to you, of course, to keep me informed about this or any other matter, which you may think useful for me to know.

I think our illustrious Countess12 and Donna Francesca are fully excused for not writing to me since they must be busy; and they will in turn excuse me, for I, too, am hindered from doing so. Recommend me to their prayers.

The present carrier has expressed to me some of his ideas and says that he is somewhat acquainted with you. I heartily recommend him to you as, in my judgment, he seems to be good and simple, an upright man who fears God;13 he will do everything for you, and you will not be disappointed because I found him to be obedient and one of those who are said (...)14 both in actions and words. You will get to know him better than I can describe him. For God’s sake, may he be dear to you, as I am sure he will.

My affairs move slowly, and my negligence delays them even more. Yet I will keep attending to them.

My mother15 recommends herself to the prayers of the Countess and of Donna Francesca, and, first of all, to your prayers; Fra Bono16 and Mr. Francesco’s son17 asks for the same favor.
Please, dear Father, don’t forsake me, and be my patron saint before God. May He set me free from my imperfections, faint-heartedness, and pride.

From Cremona, the last day of May, 1530.

The Victory Over Oneself should be written by me with deeds, not with ink.18

Your son in Christ,
Anthony M. Zaccaria, Priest

  • God is generous and merciful. He does not only respond to our prayers, he also anticipates them. He wants our own good more than we ourselves do.
  • Often times our response to God’s love is indifference. We give priority to things, and even ourselves, rather than God.
  • Those who love conform themselves to God’s will. They renounce love of self; they “die to themselves.”The journey toward perfection is often slow. It may stop and even slip back. So at times we need a shake-up. We do not get discouraged. 
  • With God’s help, all is possible.We must devote ourselves to help others walk in the Spirit and to spur them on to give the best they can.


  • How much interest do I take in, and how much time do I devote to, God and the Church?
  • Am I aware that one gauge of my being in God is the time I devote to him and the importance I give to spiritual matters in my daily activities?
  • Am I willing to sacrifice my own convenience for love of God?
  • As I examine my life, can I honestly say that I have become better over the years?
  • Do I encourage and help others grow spiritually?


1. See Introduction of this letter and also Letters IV, V, and VII.
2. See Antonio M. Gentili, “S. Antonio M. Zaccaria. Appunti per una Lettura Spirituale degli Scritti,” Quaderni di Vita Barnabitica 4 (1980) Part I; 6 (1983) Part II.
3. Via de aperta verità (Way of Open Truth, 1523); Cognitione et vittoria de se stesso (The Knowledge of, and Victory over, Oneself, 1531); Philosophia divina (Divine Philosophy, 1531); Specchio interiore (Interior Mirror, published posthumously by Ludovica Torelli in 1540); Sentenze spirituali (Spiritual Sayings, published posthumously in 1583 by Giovan Paolo Folperto with the title Detti notabili [Notable Sayings]).
4. These were the reports of the meetings of the St. Barnabas community, the only Barnabite community until 1557.
5. See p. 17, par. 3.
6. See Angelo Cortenovis, Lettere Familiari (Milan, 1862) 252–253.
7. Information on the original autograph and its copies was kindly supplied by Fr. Giuseppe M. Cagni, archivist of the General Archives (February 1998).
8. Title given a lady in Italy.
9. A laywoman from Vicenza who was called “Marescalca” (blacksmith) after her father’s trade. She was a member of the first mission band in Vicenza (1537). She was one of the widows (like Porzia Negri and Giulia Sfondrati) associated with the Angelics.
10. Unidentified.
11. No further identification available.
12. Ludovica (Paola) Torelli (1499–1569), Countess of Guastalla. See Letter V, Introduction; also Letters I, IV, VI, and IX.
13. Job 2:3
14. In light of the context, the illegible words in the manuscript could mean: “to be trustworthy.”
15. Antonia Pescaroli: she married Lazzaro Zaccaria on February 2, 1501, and gave birth to Anthony Mary during the first half of December 1502. She died in 1544. See also Letter V.
16. Fra Bono Lizzari, a hermit from Cremona. Together with Anthony Mary he was one of the earliest promoters of the Forty Hours Devotion. Although he secured permission to hold this devotion as early as 1534, it was actually introduced only three years later, in Milan. See also Letters II, III, and VI.
17. Father and son most likely from Cremona.
18. Anthony Mary is alluding to one of the spiritual writings of Fra Battista da Crema - perhaps his masterpiece - The Knowledge of, and Victory over, Oneself, which was to be published in Milan, March 31, 1531. Apparently, Fra Battista invited Anthony Mary to help him write that book, but the latter preferred to decline, perhaps out of humility.

Letter - 9 - The Saints, True Imitators of Christ


Letter - 9 - The Saints, True Imitators of Christ

Guastalla, June 10, 1539 



Tomorrow we celebrate the Memorial of St. Barnabas, the companion of our common patron, the chaste Paul.  I can’t help taking this occasion to use, in dealing with you, the same approach that Barnabas used in dealing with the great Paul who wanted to be a living example of the suffering Christ in reality as well as in everyone’s estimation.

You must know, of course, how St. Paul, just after his conversion, went for the first time to Jerusalem.  He tried every possible way to mingle with the other Christians in order to get acquainted with them and to be acknowledged by them as a Christian; but they were afraid and suspicious of him as though he were still the same persecutor, and so they dared not keep his company.

That was when Barnabas, leading Paul by the hand, presented him to the Apostles and told them: “Here he is, the one who was, etc.; and then Christ appeared to him, etc.; and he did this and that, etc.”150  By presenting Paul in person this way, Barnabas made him known to all and showed him as a pillar of the Church and the one who had almost attained the first place in the apostolic mission.  All the while Paul was keeping secret his own merits, and at the same time he was drinking great draughts of self-satisfaction, unafraid of savoring his own exceedingly sweet praises.

Likewise, dear Mother, if it pleases you, I would like to show you how freely great saints behave.  Yes, I would like to make you see that what in them, because of their lofty perfection, is an experience and a sure sign of a consummated holiness, can become in us, instead, an occasion of certain ruin or a sure sign of not having eliminated our first and inveterate bad habits, as is apparent in the story told by St. John Climacus about a certain saint who felt so sure of being totally free of gluttony that he tempted the devil with a bunch of grapes to see if the latter would in turn tempt him in the same way.151 The other case is that of someone who wants to know for certain to what extent a certain passion is suppressed in himself or in others. He first arouses that passion by words, gestures, and the like, then, observing the matter very closely, waits for the results, and from them he deduces both his own and other people’s interior state.

I will not mention here certain things that only you can understand, but rather those which also our Angelics can grasp, leaving those other things for your spirit to ponder.

Barnabas says: “Behold Saul,” that is, the very countenance of our sinful old Man—the mirror of our first evil inclinations or passions. 

Look, I say, at the idle talk of this or that would-be saint: she chatters endlessly like a finch or a monkey; she is seldom seen at prayer, always involved, as she is, in external occupations; she enjoys sleeping a lot, even lying abed lazily.  Is this not the face of Saul, that is, the picture of our sinful old Man?

But this is nothing yet.  She wants to be served; she keeps her cell well equipped with comforts and elegance; she always speaks in a reproachful mood; she is never ready to say a comforting word to anybody; she shows that she holds nobody in esteem.  Well, what do you think all these attitudes mean, but that the bad habits of the old self are still laying hold of her?

Moreover, she is never satisfied; she is always under the siege of temptation, and her spiritual knowledge is always cloudy and doubtful.  In a word: she gives clear signs of being the same person as she was when living in plain clothes, or, at least, of being still imperfect or very little changed.

Her stomach relishes only the best of everything.  What else does that prove, but that she is a first rate glutton?  She can hardly wait without showing anger on her face; she cannot keep herself kneeling without leaning on the edge of the seat; she is so sensitive to everything around her that her blood pressure goes up easily.  What else does all this reveal but a great moral feebleness?

And see for yourselves if this is not so: she gets easily tired; she suffers headaches when she has to sit at the grate; she cannot bear the troubles of her neighbor.  [In this description] one can see everything except the portrait of a mature person.

All this is Saul—namely, the portrait of the imperfect person.  “But keep quiet,” says Barnabas, “don’t forget that to a person, like the one just described Christ appeared, etc...”  If you pay attention, you will find hidden that this person is a saint interiorly and exteriorly.  If you take the trouble to understand her every aspect, as I lay open this poor creature, I am quite sure she will blush and lower her head to conceal her real self.

But see whether, when she speaks, she is not touching and inflaming you deeply; when she speaks seeming nonsense, she is actually fully aware of your situation and works on it accordingly; see whether in her constant restlessness she doesn’t achieve something new for herself and for others; see whether, when she leaves you, she never omits an edifying word or unspoken sign or gesture; see whether in her seeming absent-mindedness she is actually fully aware of your every move and inspires you with good thoughts and stimulating suggestions.

Now, keep perfectly quiet, for I have something else to show you.  When she misses the time for prayer, just then she manifests her rich interior life.  When you see her upset and in pain, as if anxious to learn something from untutored people, she is only showing self-contempt and a willingness to appear unlearned. When you see her elegantly arranging her cell, she is actually trying to be an object of ridicule and wishes to hide the consolations received from Jesus Crucified as well as the instructions imparted by St. Paul.  With one and the same word she brings both death and life; in one swoop she inflicts wounds and heals them.152 

Enough.  Anyone willing to examine carefully her actions will indeed recognize in her Saul’s portrait, but Barnabas will assure us that she is not what she appears to be now, and what she appeared to be in the past.

My dear Mother, I could go on and on, but I would not like to arouse bad feelings against me.  Besides, you can tell them the rest.

The only thing I wish to add is this: tell the Angelics not to take such liberties.  I can assure them that they would achieve results quite opposite to those obtained by that person, and, instead of making great strides in perfection, they would perhaps descend deep down into the hell of absolute imperfection.

Therefore, not idle talk, but a strict silence is expedient and necessary for them.  Acting, talking, and thinking without interior and exterior control is unbecoming and unprofitable to them.  Failure to renounce themselves while following their own whims could poison them to death since their wishes are worldly.  Were they in a position of authority, they would grow presumptuous; were they knowledgeable, they would become proud; were their spirit dissipated, they would become slack; were they unwilling to renounce their will, even in good things, they would not only become coarse but would entirely disaffect themselves from Paul and his way of life.

Do reflect and see what a great harm is caused by seeking one’s comfort, by drinking [and eating] with pleasure, if not so much wine and exquisite food, at least maudlin sentimentality and self-complacency.  If they are not blind, what I have just said will show them how much spiritual harm will come about.

In conclusion, tell them that this Paul preaches to them a Christ Crucified under every aspect: crucified not only in His own body, but in theirs, too—and entreat them to chew well this one word.  If, because of their obtuseness, they do not quite understand it, ask my teacher Paola153 to make it clear to them; for I am sure that that tongue so inflamed and so sharp will supply what I would tell them.

That’s it, dear Mother.

[Guastalla], June 10, 1539.

Your Father and son,

Anthony Mary, Priest 

  • We display false humility when, while belittling ourselves in public, we hold in our heart a great opinion of ourselves which becomes manifest when others belittle us.
  • Persons who are truly holy sometimes strive to appear imperfect in order not to be praised by people. They use ways and methods proper of sinners, but these are only expedients to hide true holiness.
  • In all of us who are truly imperfect those ways and methods are not expedients but rather real defects. Even though we may try to pass them as expedients we have purposely created to appear humble, they remain outright vices.
  • Idle talk, lack of perseverance in prayer, and laziness are real defects, not pretenses.
  • And when, feigning illness or inability, we demand to be served, get angry if we are not treated as we would like, and are never satisfied with what we receive, we show ourselves to be not only imperfect but even reprehensible.
  • Habitual discontent with the meals that are served, good as they may be, anger, impatience, refusal to kneel on the pretext of infirmity are all signs of lukewarmness and rejection of the cross.
  • We need to limit idle talk, practice internal and external obedience, die to ourselves, deny our ego, and think little of those positions that could excessively increase our self-esteem and drag us into self-flattery.
  • We are called to crucify our own selfishness and imitate Christ Crucified who humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross.

  • Do I at times display a seeming humility in order to be valued as simple and modest?
  • Am I able to hide and keep my good deeds unknown so that I will not be praised for them, for after all they are a gift from God?
  • Do I at times pass as harm sustained real faults, human limitations, illnesses caused by bad habits, all things of which I profess to be innocent even though I am not?
  • Can it also happen that words, useless talk, erratic prayer habits, lack of commitment, are made believe to be things we end up doing just because we need to vent our feelings, or because we are weak, frustrated, tried by the ups and downs of life, crushed by the serious difficulties we encounter, when in reality they are simply signs of spiritual indolence?
  • Do I sometimes argue that I deserve better meals due to what I do and loose my temper if I am not pleased?
  • Do I lessen my commitment to prayer when I am tired?
  • Do I find it hard to obey and submit to others?

141. See Letter I, Introduction.
142. See n. 59.
143. See Gabuzio 87; Premoli, Storia 117–118; Giuseppe M. Cagni, “Negri o Besozzi?” Barnabiti Studi 9 (1989) 182.  For details on Paola Antonia’s charismatic role among the first generation of Barnabites, see Massimo Firpo, “Paola Antonia Negri da ‘Divina Madre Maestra” a ‘spirito diabolico’,” Barnabiti Studi 7 (1990) 23, 26–35.  On Besozzi see n. 181.
144. Sergio Pagano, “I processi di beatificazione e canonizzazione di S. Antonia Maria Zaccaria (1802–1897),” Quarderni di Vita Barnabitica 10 (1997) 47.  Giuseppe M. Cagni, “Gaetano Bugati e le’ Attestationi’ del Padre Battista Soresina: un importante recuperato alla storiografia barnabitica,” Barnabiti Studi 11 (1994) 38, n. 130.
145. See Pagano 48.
146. See Cagni, “Negri o Besozzi?” 182.
147. For an extensive discussion of this viewpoint see Firpo, “Paola Antonia.” 35–66.
148. See Pagano 50–52, 54.  According to Pagano the interpretation of this letter is still an open question and is not small matter: On the threshold of death, was Anthony Mary still giving full credit to Paola Antonia or was he wisely distancing himself from her?
149. According to Cagni, “Negri o Besozzi?” 183, this letter directed to “my one and only beloved Mother (Paola Antonia Negri) and my obedient daughters in Christ (her novices)” was a “conference letter.” This kind of letter would replace an actual conference held on the eve of a liturgical feast.  These conferences were a well-established tradition dating back to the days of the Oratory of Eternal Wisdom. (see Letter II, Introduction), or maybe even to the “Amicizia” in Cremona (see n. 44).
150. Acts 9:26–27.
151. Apparently quoted from memory, Anthony Mary’s version of the story is basically the same as one found in St. John Climacus’ The Ladder of Divine Ascent (New York: Paulist 1982, p. 249).
152. Dt 32:39.
153. Most likely Ludovica (Paola) Torelli.  See n. 12. 

Letter 8 - Trust in the Lord



Letter 8 - Trust in the Lord

To our cordial and sweet son in Christ, 

Mr. Battista.139



Why are you so faint-hearted and full of fear?  Don’t you know that we cannot forsake you?  By experience you should be well aware of the help given to you.

We have prayed Jesus Crucified.  We do not want any one thing from Him, unless He grants you the same, to your mind and heart.

That’s all, but rest assured that we will keep our word.

May Christ greet you on our behalf.  Please keep us in your prayers.

Christ bless you.

Yours,  Father in Christ,


Anthony Mary, Priest,

and Mother,

I, P[aola] A[ntonia Negri]140

  • Often times when faced with life’s ordeals we become fearful, and we forget that God takes care of us as his children.
  • We belong to the Church where Jesus Christ is at work.
  • In our prayer we ask God’s blessings for both ourselves and our brothers and sisters.

  • If I know that God’s eyes are always turned toward me, should I be afraid of difficulties?
  • Do I believe that in the Church we are under the loving protection of Jesus Christ who is actively present and abiding?
  • In my prayers do I tend to ask a lot for myself and little for others?


139. Thanks are due to the Barnabite historian and archivist, Fr. Giuseppe M. Cagni.  In an e-mail communication on September 9, 1998 he considerably identified “Mr. Battista” and suppled the circumstances of Letter 8.

140. See n. 59.

Letter 2 - Remedies for Irresoluteness



Letter 2 - Remedies for Irresoluteness

Cremona, January 4, 1531
To the very honorable Mr. Bartolomeo Ferrari19
and Mr. Giacomo Antonio Morigia20,  
my venerable brothers in Christ.  
In Milan  


May God, the Changeless One, ever ready to do whatever is good, save you and make you steadfast and determined in all your undertakings and desires according to my deepest expectations.

It is quite true, my very dear friends, that God has made man’s spirit unstable and changeable in order that man would not abide in evildoing, and also that, once in possession of the good, he would not stop short, but would step up from one good to a higher one, and to a loftier one still.  Thus, advancing from virtue to virtue, he might reach the summit of perfection.  Hence, it flows that man is fickle in doing evil, namely, he cannot persevere in it because he does not find repose in it.  Therefore, instead of persisting in evildoing, he moves to do good; and, moreover, since creatures did not give him peace, he returns to God.

Now of course, I could give other reasons for man’s being fickle, but, to our purpose, what I have said is enough.

Oh, how wretched we are!  For, when trying to do good, we use the very instability and indecisiveness we should have and exercise to avoid evil.  And, indeed, I am often bewildered at seeing such great irresoluteness reign in my soul, and for so many years.

I am sure, my dear friends, that, had I reflected hard enough on the evils which irresoluteness causes, I would have uprooted this evil from my soul long ago.  First of all, it hampers man’s progress because man finds himself, as it were, between two magnets without being pulled by either; namely, on the one hand, he neglects to do the present good as he looks at the future one. On the other hand, he leaves aside the future good by lingering on the present and even having doubts about the future.  Do you know who he is like?  He is like the person who wants to love two opposite things and gets neither one.  As the proverb teaches, “he who hunts two hares at the same time will see one fleeing, the other escaping.”  As long as a man remains undecided and doubtful, he will surely never accomplish anything good.  Experience teaches this.  There is no need for me to go any further.

Moreover, irresoluteness causes man to change like the moon.  Yes, the irresolute person is always restless and can never be content even a midst great joys; for no reason he gets sad and angry and easily looks after his own satisfaction.

In all truth, this weed of irresoluteness grows where divine light is lacking because the Holy Spirit quickly reaches the core of things rather than stop at the surface; man, instead, because he does not fathom the heart of things, is unable to decide what to do.  This indecisiveness is at one and the same time cause and effect of lukewarmness.  For the lukewarm person, when called upon to give advice on a subject, will give you plenty of reasons but will not decide which are the good ones.  Thus, he will never tell you where to go or what to avoid.  Consequently, if you were somewhat uncertain before, you are now left completely in doubt.  He becomes eternally irresolute.  On the other hand, the indecisive person loses fervor and becomes lukewarm.

A whole year would not be enough to enumerate the evil results and the causes of irresoluteness.  The truth is that if indecision, which we have been talking about, were the only evil, it would be itself more than enough; for, as long as man is in a state of doubt, he remains inactive.

To get rid of this defect, two means or ways have been found for our journey to God.  The first helps us when we are unexpectedly forced either to do or not to do something.  It consists of lifting up one’s mind to God and imploring the gift of counsel.  Let me explain: when something unforeseen and sudden presents itself, demanding that a choice be made, we lift up our minds to God asking Him to inspire us as to what we should do.  Thus, following the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, we shall not be mistaken.  The second means or way consists of seeking out our spiritual director, when, of course, we have the time and opportunity to do so, to ask for advice and then act according to his suggestions.

If we, dear friends, do not take the proper measures against this evil weed, it will produce in us a pernicious effect, I mean negligence, which is totally contrary to God’s ways.  Therefore, when a man has something important to do, he must think it over and over and, as it were, ruminate upon it; but after such serious reflection and after having sought proper advice, he should not delay executing his project; for the primary requirement in God’s ways is expeditiousness and diligence. That’s why the prophet Micah says, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk eagerly with your God?”;27 and Paul, “Sollicitudine non pigri” (“avoid with care all negligence”);28 and Peter, “satagite ut per bona opera ...” (“be prompt through good works ...”).29  “Satagite” (“Be prompt to action”) he says.  You will find this sense of urgency commanded and praised in innumerable passages of the Scriptures.

My very dear friends, I have to tell you the truth: it is mainly this irresoluteness in my soul, besides, perhaps, some other shortcomings, that has caused in me this great and blamable negligence and sluggishness to the point that either I never start anything at all or at least I linger on it for so long that I never accomplish it.  Consider closely those brothers, the children of a recently deceased father who, having heard Jesus’ counsel, “Let the dead bury their dead,”30 right away followed Christ.31 And also Peter, James and John, once called, immediately followed Christ.31  And so, again and again, you will find that those who truly love Christ have always been, to our shame, fervent, diligent, and not sluggish.

Take courage, my brothers, stand up now and come along with me, for I mean we should root out these pernicious plants if perchance they are present in your souls; but if they are not, do come and help me as they are rooted in my heart; and, for God’s sake, cooperate so that I may uproot them and imitate our Savior, who, by His obedience unto death32 stood up against irresoluteness and, to avoid being negligent, ran toward the cross regardless of its shame.33  And, if you can now offer me no other aid, help me at least with your prayers.  Alas, dear friends, to whom do I dare to write?  Indeed, to those who do act and do not merely talk, as I do.

If this is the case, at least on my part, I can assure you that only my love for you has impelled me to write these few lines to you.

But I have to tell you something else: I am very much afraid that the two of you are very careless about finalizing the publication of the book.34  And I mean here in particular Mr. Bartolomeo [Ferrari] with regard to that poor fellow, Giovan Hyeronimo;35 for not only have you allowed so many days to pass without sending any information but you have not even written a word about what you have done so far.  As far as I am concerned, I am willing to excuse you, but search your conscience to see whether or not you deserve reproach or excuse.  

Come then, brothers!  If, up to this time, irresoluteness and, side by side with it, negligence have taken hold of our souls, let us get rid of them; and let us run like madmen not only toward God but also toward our neighbors, who alone can be the recipients of what we cannot give to God, since He has no need of our goods.

Give my greetings to Rev. Mr. Don Giovanni.36  Fra Bono37 asks him and the two of you to keep him in your prayers.  Do the same for me.

From Cremona, January 4, 1531.

Your loving brother in Christ,

Anthony M. Zaccaria, Priest

  • Our commitment to do good must be diligent, steady, and firm.
  • Doubts about our actions reveal that deep inner peace is not to be found in human realities but only in the Creator.
  • Discontent with our accomplishments is a gift by which God moves us to do more and better.
  • Indecision in doing good produces further indecision about what to do and when to do it.
  • The irresolute person pays greater attention to the appearance of things rather than to their essence. He is fickle, irritable, and melancholic. He lacks the divine light that the Holy Spirit gives.
  • Indecision is the fruit of lukewarmness or mediocrity. It manifests itself, for example, in lengthy but fruitless discussions or in a failure to act in the face of difficulties or imperfections.
  • Irresoluteness can be overcome by either directing our thoughts to God or seeking the guidance of a spiritual director.

  • Am I determined to seek the spiritual well-being and growth of my soul or am I concerned solely with just living a tranquil life?
  • Do I recognize having made wrong decisions? Am I willing to make up and take more careful steps in making decisions?
  • Am I conscious of the value of the time God has given me here on earth? Am I using my time to return to God?
  • Which reality do I value most? Is it possession, health, entertainment, career, or peoples’ appreciation? Or do I rather value faith, love, generosity, honesty, prayer, kindness, or the sacraments, the in-depth study of the faith’s tenets, the striving to improve my human and Christian life?
  • Can I pray to God in my own words and in any circumstances?

19. See Introduction and also Letters VI, X.
20. See Introduction and also Letters IV, V, VII, X.  
21. See Alessandro Teppa, Vita del Venerabile Antonio Maria Zaccaria (Milan, 1858) 38–50.
22. See n. 105. 
23. At that time a Notary Public had wider authority than today.  For instance, he could manage financial affairs of widows, provide for the legitimation, adoption, and marriage of natural children, and insure a minor’s rights to inheritance.  This type of activity required countless appearances before the authorities (princes, magistrates, judges, etc.).
24. See Orazio Premoli, Storia dei Barnabiti nel Cinquecento (Rome: Desclée, 1913) 10, n. 2.
25. In the petition to Clement VII Bartolomeo’s name precedes that of Anthony Mary and other three unnamed petitioners, most probably because his brother, Basilio (see n. 118), was one of the papal secretaries.  The Brief of approval, dated February 18, 1533, is likewise addressed first to Bartolomeo and then to Anthony Mary.  The three unnamed petitioners were Giacomo Antonio Morigia, Giovanni Giacomo De Caseis, and Francesco Di Lecco (the latter is never mentioned in the Letters).  These five young men plus Dionisio da Sesto, Francesco Crippa, and Camillo Negri, actually began their common life in 1534 in their first residence by the church of St. Catherine (see n. 124) and only in 1535, when they were joined by Battista Soresina, were they ready to give themselves a habit, a name, and specific assignments.  The following year Giacomo Antonio Morigia was elected first Superior General as Anthony Mary humbly declined the honor (see Teppa, Vita, 170).  Other practical reasons for declining were: he was full-time spiritual guide of the Angelics in Milan and the only chaplain of Torelli and her county of Guastalla.  Moreover, he also felt he had to keep himself available for his mother in Cremona.  Bartolomeo Ferrari, who headed the missions in Vicenza and Verona (1537–1542), was the second Superior General (1542–1544). 
26. The content of this letter echoes that of the sermon on lukewarness (see Sermon VI).
27. Mic 6:8
28. Rom 12:11 
29. 2 Pt 1:10
30. Lk 9:60
31. Matt 4:18
32. Phil 2:8 
33. Heb 12:2
34. A plausible clue to identify this book may be found by relating three circumstances.  (1) In May 31, 1530 Anthony Mary apparently declined Fra Battista da Crema’s invitation to help him write The Knowledge of, and Victory over, Oneself; (2) This book was published about a year later in Milan on March 31, 1531; (3) The present letter was written about three months before its publication and in it Anthony Mary complains with his addressees (Ferrari and Morigia who were living in Milan) that they were “careless about finalizing the publication of the book.”  So, most likely the book is The Knowledge of, and Victory over, Oneself. 

Letter 3 - Unceasing Prayer



Letter 3 - Unceasing Prayer

Milan, July 28, 1531
To the honorable Mr. Carlo Magni,38 a most upright attorney,
whom I honor as a father. 
At St. Anthony’s,
In Cremona.



I have received your letter of the 23rd of this month, and I set out to answer it only after kneeling a long time before the Crucifix on your behalf, for I think it is necessary to learn from Him what I have to teach you.  Had you not employed such a warm and amiable insistence, I would have almost preferred to keep silent; but moved by your entreaty, I will stammer out what I am unable to express clearly.

Thus, dear father in Christ, since your professional activity is quite binding, taking much of your time and energy, necessity suggests choosing a fitting method of prayer.  That’s why I would like you to practice, as much as you can, the following three exercises:

First, give yourself to prayer in the morning and at night, as well as at any other hour within a set schedule or not,

—at any time, that is, day or night,

—in any position, that is, in bed or out of it, kneeling or sitting or as you think best,

—and most of all before you start your professional work, usually without any set order, for a short or a long time, as God may grant it to you.

Discuss with Christ everything that may be happening to you: your doubts and your difficulties, especially the hardest ones.  Present to Him your reasons, thoroughly but as briefly as possible.  Then, only propose to Him the solution you think is the right one or, even better, ask for His opinion; for He will not refuse it if you gently insist.  I can assure you that He will let Himself be compelled to give it to you, if, again, you really want to have it.

I am indeed deeply convinced that we can learn more about human laws directly from the legislator than from anybody else, especially when that legislator is himself the rule and the pattern of all things, and knows how to explain and disentangle the sophisms of the devil.  Indeed, how much more thoroughly will he be able to unravel those of men?  Needless to say, if one does not believe this truth, he believes still less that God takes such good care of us that He will not let a single hair of our heads be lost;41 and again, that He is so wise that He will show the wise of this world for what they are: fools and know-nothings.42

Well, then, if in favor of those who have recourse to Him God destroys all the sophistic stratagems of modern men, who seem so intent in separating man from God, can’t you imagine how He will disperse other less complicated machinations much more easily?  And if, in a sense, one can unite himself to God, even in the midst of worldly distractions, how much more easily will he be able to unite himself to Him in circumstances more favorable to recollection?

Then, my very dear father in Christ, enter into conversation with Jesus Crucified as familiarly as you would with me; and discuss with Him all or just a few of your problems, according to the time at your disposal.  Chat with Him and ask His advice on all your affairs, whatever they may be, whether spiritual or temporal, whether for yourself or for other people.

If you practice this way of prayer, I can assure you that little by little you will derive from it both great spiritual profit and an ever-greater love relationship with Christ.  I am not going to add anything else, for I want experience to speak for itself.

The second exercise, which will help you practice the first one and will obtain from God a greater abundance of grace, is the constant lifting up of the mind to God.  You, my dear friend, cannot do without it; for the greater the danger and the more important the matter, a steadier application and sharper sight are required from you.

By nature, man finds it difficult to be recollected and, much more so, to be united with God because his spirit is naturally driven in different directions and is unable to focus on one thing.  This exercise of lifting up one’s soul to God is, of course, more difficult for the person who has gotten into the bad habit of being dissipated.  But the most difficult thing for anybody is to find oneself involved in activities that, by their very nature, (according to my judgment) are not conducive to union with God, and still not be distracted.  Who would think it possible to stand in the rain and not get wet?  This is true.  But what seems to be impossible in itself becomes very easy with God’s help if only we do not refuse Him our cooperation and that diligent practical commitment with which He has endowed us.

Thus, if we want to maintain our union with God and, at the same time, to go on working, talking, thinking, reading, and taking care of our affairs as usual, let us often lift up our minds to God for a long or a short period as, for example, someone would do while entertaining a friend.  If he were unable to entertain him on account of pressing business as, for instance, keeping track of the goods which were to be shipped at that moment, he might tell him: “Will you excuse me if I don’t chat with you?  I’ve this and that to do; but if you don’t mind waiting, as soon as I’m finished, we’ll talk at leisure.”  Then, interrupting his writing for a moment, he will occasionally turn his eyes and look at him; sometimes he will utter a word or two about what he is doing; at another time, while still writing, he will say: “In a short while, I’m almost finished.”  In these and similar ways, he will entertain his friend, though unable to talk at leisure with him.  At the same time, he will not be distracted from his job by these gestures nor hindered in his work by such forms of entertainment.

You, too, dear friend, should act in this way, and your studies and works would suffer almost no disadvantage.

Before starting your activities, offer Jesus a few words of your choosing; then during your work often lift up your mind to God.  You will benefit much, and there will be no detriment to your job.

First and foremost, watch how anything concerning yourself or others is begun, whether foreseeable or not, whether at work or at play.  Direct it first to God with any short prayer with which He may inspire you, mentally or also in words that express your thoughts and wishes or in some other manner; then, while working, thinking, or planning, frequently lift up your mind to God.  Should your activity continue, break it up, perhaps, for the time it takes to say a “Hail Mary,” or as it may seem convenient to you, always, of course, following God’s inspiration.  Depending on the length of your activity, you can interrupt your work more than once.

If you follow this practice, you will get used to praying easily and without detriment to your work or to your health; you will be praying incessantly, even while drinking, eating, acting, talking, studying, writing, etc.;43 and the external actions will not hinder the interior ones and vice versa.  If you act otherwise, you will be a decent person but not the Christian Christ wishes, and has called, you to be.  This will be clear to you if you consider closely the way by which Christ has been trying to bind you to Himself.  I warn you and offer you the means to become such a Christian (if you really want to be one, as I truly think you do), so that you may not change your mind.  If this were to happen, it would cause me very great pain indeed.

My very dear friend, if my words have any value in your eyes, I invite you, I entreat you, and I compel you in Christ and for Christ to open your eyes and consider well what I have written to you and try to practice it by deeds, not just by words.  I can assure you that you will become a new person, such as you should be in view of the charge that God has placed and will continue to place on your shoulders in different ways.  But, if you act otherwise, you will not fulfill your obligation toward God and your neighbor, and, far from being justified, you will be condemned as a transgressor.

Try hard, then, to understand what I have just said, and apply yourself to practicing it; but above all else, while observing the first exercise, keep the third one which I am about to show you; otherwise all your works will be of little value and honor before Christ.

Now, here is the third exercise.  In your meditation, prayers, and thoughts, strive to pinpoint your principal defects, most of all the chief one, the Captain-General, as it were, which dominates all the others.  While concentrating on trying to kill that one, make every effort also to kill the other defects which may come under your attack, thus imitating the soldier who wants to kill the Commander-in-chief of the enemy who is in the middle of his army.  Striving to reach him, the soldier keeps his eyes fixed on him as the target, but at the same time he fights his way toward him by killing the other enemies he may encounter.  Do likewise with your defects.

Now, if you asked me which defect, in my judgment, is the dominant one in you, I would answer that, according to my poor insight, there is some sensuality in you.  But no, your main defect is not sensuality (you understand what I am talking about, don’t you?), but anger and a sudden change of mood caused by pride, which, in turn, is born of the knowledge and education that you have acquired by your studies and by the expertise which you have obtained naturally and through long practice.  Think about it, and you will see that this is what makes you discontent, disturbed, prone to use bad manners and to say unbecoming words.  Besides, this root of pride produces other bad fruits and effects in you.

I have just shown you the evil that in you is the mother of all vices.  Kill it, then, and it will not produce any more offspring.  It is up to you now to search the manner and the means of how to do it.  But, if you do not know how, at some other time I might possibly write to you about it or explain it to you in a conversation.  If perhaps this were not your main defect (although for many reasons I am convinced that it is), find out which one it is and kill it.

If you treasure the counsels that I have just given you, you will fall in love with Jesus Crucified quite easily.  Any other way will keep you away from Him: a sad thing that I hate to see in you, for I love you and feel impelled to love you and see you forever in Christ Crucified.  Amen.

I have bought a device to produce good and updated printing, and I will send it to you.  It costs three liras and ten pennies.

I am about to send out some books on the spiritual life, which I believe to be more useful than any others you might read.  I will send them to you.  Try to convince the A.44 to buy them, for they will serve well those who want to make progress here in this life.

Our Fra Bono?45  Well, both you and I have lost him.  He keeps away from me, or just seems to avoid me, on account of some obstacle.  Some three or four days go by without seeing each other; and when we do, I can barely speak to him.  He must be afraid that I want to convince him to join us.  I like the letter you wrote to him, but he needs stronger exhortations. So do give them to him.

I will be writing to the A.  Greet them all, each and everyone, on my behalf.  Recommend me very warmly to the prayers of our Reverend Primicerio,46 etc.

From Milan, July 28, 1531

Your son and brother in Christ,

Anthony M. Zaccaria, Priest

  • To walk in the way of the Lord we must adopt a method that is suitable for our profession and is favorable for our spiritual growth.
  • We may dialog with Christ about our daily problems, especially the most challenging ones. We may also discuss with him the solutions we intend to adopt. And Christ will certainly make known to us his advice.
  • Directing our thoughts to God, even for a brief moment, is another effective method of keeping ourselves in the way of the Lord.  By this we receive grace from God.
  • Christ’s wisdom is wiser than the wisdom of any wise man.
  • The weakness of the human mind makes communication with God difficult, but God’s help makes it easier.

  • Am I aware that with a suitable method I can foster my spiritual life even as I am absorbed in worldly affairs?
  • Do I believe that God will listen to me even if I ask for his advice on worldly matters because he loves me and he desires my spiritual and material well-being?
  • Have I ever tried to dialog with Christ in prayer about all my problems and concerns?
  • Am I convinced that I can always bring to God all my concerns because he knows everything and has an answer to everything?
  • Do I know that with God’s help it is always possible to live constantly in his presence?


38. See  Introduction of this letter. 
39. See Gaetano Bugati, Copia publica Processus auctoritate Apostolica Mediolani constructi super virtutibus et miraculis Ven. Servi Dei Antonii M. Zaccaria (Rome: ms. in the General Archives of the Barnabites) 1070. See also Virginio Colciago, ed., Gli Scritti (Rome: Edizioni dei Padri Barnabiti, 1975) 338–9. 
40. See Appendix I. Attestations of Father Battista Soresina about the life and death of Rev. Father Anthony Mary Zaccaria, p. no.
41. Lk 21:18
42. 1 Cor 1:19–25
43. Cf. 1 Cor 10:31
44. This ‘A.’ is found both in this letter and in Sermon II.  This letter’s context plainly shows that ‘A.’ represents people with whom Anthony Mary corresponded as a spiritual director.  The sermon’s audience was a group of people eager to live a more fervent Christian life (“This is the state to which you are led and called and invited by these meetings in our ‘A’...”  See Sermon II, p. 14) 
The existence of this group is attested by our earliest historians. Agostino Tornielli (1543–1622), in his De principiis della Congregatione de’ Chierici Regolari di S. Paolo Decollato (1595), tells us that Anthony Mary, on the advice of his spiritual director, the Dominican Fra Marcello, initiated a gathering of nobles in the little church of St. Vitalis in Cremona.  Here he guided them toward Christian renewal with eloquent, Bible inspired, talks. Likewise, Giovanni Antonio Gabuzio (1551–1627) refers to a “piorum hominum conventus” (“a gathering of devout people”) in his Historia Congregationis Clericorum Regularium Sancti Pauli ab eiusdem primordiis ad initium saeculi XVII (Rome: Salviucci, 1852) 33.  Incidentally, Gabuzio’s History was completed in 1622 but remained unpublished in the wake of a time-consuming controversy about the identity of our Founder: was he Anthony Mary, the traditional view, or Giacomo Antonio Morigia, our first Superior General, as claimed by Fr. Giovannambrogio Mazenta (1565–1635)?  This controversy formally ended when at the 1620 General Chapter Fr. Mazenta accepted the traditional view.  
The group mentioned by Tornielli and Gabuzio is not identified by a name.  Contemporary Barnabite historians have concluded that ‘A.’ means “Amicizia” (Friendship) and “Amici” (Friends).  In 1959 Giuseppe M. Cagni and Franco M. Ghilardotti edited the critical edition of Anthony Mary’s Sermons (“I Sermoni di Sant’ Antonio Maria Zaccaria,” Archivio Italiano per la Storia della Pietà, ed.  Giuseppe De Luca [Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1959], 2. 233–283).  To reach their conclusion, the authors pointed out the following: first, that Bartolomeo Stella, another pre-tridentine reformer, founded an Oratory of Divine Love in the northern Italian city of Brescia in 1520 and called it “Amicitia” (Friendship) and its members “Amici” (Friends).  Secondly, that in this Oratory’s Statutes “Amicitia” is nearly always indicated with the letter ‘A.’ (see ibid. pp. 236–237).  Given the closeness of Brescia to Cremona (about 35 miles), it seems quite plausible that Anthony Mary was acquainted with Stella’s Oratory and most likely adopted the same name for his group, and the same one-letter abbreviation.
As to the initials ‘F.’ in Sermon I, p. 3 (in the original manuscript this ‘F.’ is blurry; it could also be read ‘A.’) and ‘N.’ in Sermon I, p. 5, they could easily be read as “Fraternity” and “Nobility.”  In any case their respective contexts identify them with ‘A.’ (“Amicizia”). 
45. See n. 16.
46. An unidentified church dignitary. 

Letter 5 - Spiritual Renewal and Progress



Letter 5 - Spiritual Renewal and Progress

Cremona, May 26, 1537

To my Angelics and divine Daughters in Christ:
Mother Prioress,63 Mother Vicar,64 Madonna65
and Angelic Paola Antonia [Negri]66 
and all the others who are both my daughters,
and daughters of St. Paul the Apostle, in Christ, 
at the convent of St. Paul the Apostle.  
In Milan



I am overwhelmed with joy when I think that soon I will be among so noble and generous souls as you are, amiable daughters.  You are my crown and my glory, so much so that someday I will make our holy Apostle Paul feel envious of me on account of you.  In fact, you are not inferior to his [spiritual] daughters in your great desire to suffer for Christ, in your total contempt of worldliness and self-denial, and in your striving to lead people to a spiritual renewal and to Jesus Crucified who is despised so much. Moreover, you, my daughters, all of you, not just one, by wholly renouncing any desire for recognition as well as the interior consolation which Paul’s disciples in general used to cherish very much, are filled with apostolic zeal in removing from the hearts of people not only idolatry and other big, big defects, but also in routing out the most pernicious and greatest enemy of Christ Crucified, which is nowadays triumphing almost everywhere—I mean, Lady Tepidity.

Unfurl your flags, my dear daughters, for Jesus Crucified is about to send you to proclaim everywhere the vital energy of the Spirit. Infinite thanks to you, Lord, for giving me such generous daughters.

In the meantime, my beloved, please make every effort to gladden my spirit so that on my arrival I may find that you have made great spiritual progress as you compete with one another.  May I find that some of you have acquired such stability and fervent perseverance in spiritual matters that you will never again be victim to a will that fluctuates between fervor and tepidity, but rather will enjoy a steady and holy fervor, nourished by life-giving water and enriched by new vigor.  May I find that another one has received such great faith that even the hardest things seem quite easy to her, without being deceived in her confidence by either presumption or vainglory.  May I find that someone else believes that she has reached perfection by doing her daily chores, no matter how insignificant they may be, with constancy and persistence, not allowing herself to become bored or feel humiliated.  May I find that another one has utterly denied herself, putting aside her own interests to care for others, since she has convinced herself that it is a great gain for her not to worry about herself but about others, and mindful to be at all times prudent and mature in her activities.  May I find that others have arrived respectively at overcoming their irrational sadness or their discouragement at having lost control in the war against self, or their hardness of spirit, voluntary distractions, or this or that shortcoming.  And so from all this progress of yours may I conclude that you have received the teacher of justice, of holiness, and of perfection: the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.  He, of course, will not let you go wrong; rather He will teach you everything.  He will not let you lose heart, but will always remain with you.  He will not leave you in need, but will provide you with everything.  He will grant you, in particular, a continuous spirit of self-abandonment on the ignominious cross, and lead you to a life conformed to Christ’s according to the pattern of the great saints.  Consequently, you will be able to say with your Father, “be imitators of us as we are of Christ.”72

Be mindful only of this: both our Blessed Fathers, St. Paul and Fra Battista,73 have left us such a great example of noble and profound love for Jesus Crucified, love for their own sufferings and humiliations, and love for the thorough conquest of souls, that, if we had no such unbounded desire for the aforementioned things, we would not be considered their children, but bastards and mules. You, of course, do not want to be in such company.  Your generous hearts want to belong above all to Christ and to please me, your beloved father.  And I always think of you with loving care, anxiously awaiting the moment when I can return to you.

To Christ Crucified I recommend you through your worthy Superiors: that they may not fail in their usual care for you, both because of their love for you and because of my prayers, the prayers of this faithful servant who constantly offers you to Him.

I ask you to tell them to cheer up my heart by bringing about your progress and mine, too.

May Christ make this a reality.  May He bless you all with a special blessing of His, a blessing complete and perfect.

My mother,74 Cornelia,75 and our Battista76 send their greetings.

Special greetings from my dear Isabella77 and Giuditta 78.

May Jesus Christ bless you.

From Cremona, May 26, 1537.

Greetings to my Giuliana.79  I remind you to be generously responsive to the holy and zealous effort of our noble Paola [Torelli]80 and to give joy to our common Father, our saintly Father Superior.81

Your Father in Christ and indeed your Spirit in Christ, 

Anthony Mary Zaccaria, Priest


  • Acceptance of our crosses, patience in dealing with conflicts, and tolerance of people’s imperfections are all signs of authentic love for Christ.
  • True love banishes lukewarmness which prevents us from imitating Christ Crucified.
  • Only those who imitate Christ can convincingly invite people to follow him.
  • Anyone who has attained the inner peace produced by a deep and solid faith will never be worried when things go wrong nor will he exult when they go well because he has learned to leave everything in God’s hands.
  • People who love God attach no importance to any tasks that are entrusted to them, or are given to them by chance, because these tasks, great or small, have the same value in the eyes of God when done in love.
  • We show great love for our neighbor when, in imitation of Christ, we deny ourselves and put Christ above ourselves.
  • Those who accept their crosses deny themselves. They rely on the teachings of Christ more than on their own knowledge. They follow the Spirit who preserves them from error, sustains them in difficulties, and gives them abiding peace.


  • Can I carry the cross of living with imperfect persons patiently and willingly?
  • Can I overcome the dullness of a day-to-day life, lived without liveliness and in moral and spiritual lukewarmness? Am I able to carry this cross, which is heavier than any other crosses I carry, with strong determination?
  • Am I convinced that only by living in harmony with Christ can I find the motivation to proclaim the Gospel with enthusiasm as it has then become part of my very life?
  • Do I know that changing moods is a sign of unsteady faith?
  • Do I accept in the same way, for love of Christ, both tasks that are important and those that are modest?
  • Do I understand that to be able to love my neighbor truly, I must loose myself?
  • How can I know if I am inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit?


 63. Domenica Battista (Angela) da Sesto: sister of Fr. Dionisio, first Prioress of the Angelics in Milan (1536), a missionary in Vicenza where she was Prioress of the Converted, and Porzia Negri was her vicar.  See also Letter VI, Introduction.
64. Most probably she was one of the first six Angelics, not counting the Prioress, Domenica Battista (Angela) da Sesto, and the Mistress, Paola Antonia (Virginia) Negri.  The other four were: Agnese (Isabella) Baldironi, who is traditionally credited with suggesting the name “Angelics” for their religious family, Antonia Maria (Ludovica) da Sesto, the Prioress’ sister, Maria Maddalena (Bianca Lucia) Rottoli, and Tecla (Bianca) Martinengo.
65. Countess Torelli.  See n. 12.
66. See n. 59. 
67. See Gabuzio 35: Countess Torelli “deemed that he [Anthony Mary] would be most qualified for the project she was contemplating, namely, that he establish and direct a convent for her young ladies.” 
68. See n. 118. 
69. Cf. Carlo Gregorio Rosignoli, Vita e virtù della Contessa di Guastalla Lodovica Torella, nominata poi Paola Maria, dell’ insigne monastero di S. Paolo e del Regio Collegio di Maria Vergine (Milan, 1686) 29.
70. See n. 9. 
71. See Premoli, Storia 38–39, n. 2. 
72. 1 Cor 4:16; 11:1 
73. See Letter I, Introduction. 
74. See n. 15. 
75. A member of the Zaccaria household. 
76. A member of the Zaccaria household.
77. A member of the Zaccaria household. 
78. A member of the Zaccaria household. 
79. Very difficult to identify, but without a doubt a member of the Angelics’ entourage in Milan. 
80. See n. 12. 

Letter 7 - Christ’s Will Versus One’s Own Will





Guastalla, November 3, 1538

To the children of Paul the Apostle and ours too: 
Mr. Giacomo Antonio [Morigia],122 Mr. Battista [Soresina],123
and all the others. At St. Ambrose’s.  
In Milan  



It seems that the devil is sowing doubts in me about what is going on among you.  Yes, he is suggesting to me that, since none of us is present in the community, among all other evils that he has sown and is still sowing in your hearts, there reigns confusion in our house.  In fact nothing there goes on in an orderly fashion.  I certainly do not want to believe this, but, just the same, I want to open my heart to you.  And do not believe that it is my habit, as it seems to you, to send you harsh letters.  No, they are prompted by my extreme love, which makes me worry about you.

My suspicion, then, does not lead me to conclude, but at least to doubt very much, that the devil is telling me the truth.  In fact, it seems that some among you, as if dozing or sleeping, are not complying with the intentions of their Superiors.

As you know, my dearly beloved, it would be a good thing indeed if our Superiors were to write down on paper all rules and regulations.  But what good would they be if they were not also written in our minds?  If, for instance, there were someone, not a disciple of ours, who nonetheless would take delight in interpreting our intentions carefully and in carrying them out faithfully, always keeping them before his eyes—this one, indeed, would be a far better and more genuine disciple of ours than the one who had our intentions written on paper, but not in his heart, even if he loved to call himself our disciple.

Do not believe it to be a small evil to forget or to neglect our Superiors’ intentions.  For what else would that look like but lose interest in our initial resolutions, or having our Superiors clearly understand that, should they pass away or, for some reason, absent themselves, we would soon leave aside their directives?  Is it possible that those who possess greater fervor than their teachers may be inclined to dismantle the foundations established by the latter?  Does not just the opposite happen: that far from abolishing them, they would add some more, not, of course, to contradict the former, but to bring them to greater perfection and to consolidate them?

Thanks be to God for blinding us so as to enable you to see better and to beget your own children as legitimate children, since your parents begot you as bastards!  If your eyes are blind and adulterous, can you imagine what the rest of your body will be?132

I am not making these remarks to shame you,133 but only because I would like you to show your Superiors the same attachment that they show you.  But shouldn’t your virtuous hearts, because of the natural knowledge engraved in them, sustain you so that you may no longer need written laws?  And if you are generous, you will learn to conduct yourselves with the law engraved in your hearts, rather than with external laws.  Thus you will move forward to fulfill not so much the word of the law but its spirit.  If you then do not want to obey like slaves, but like family children, that is the way you should act.

Thus, if you have a Superior, you will let him direct you, as if there were an angel for that task, without caring who the Superior is—this or that person. And whether the Superior is present or absent, you will always safeguard the union of the body with its head and never cause divisions.  You will be careful in the future not to stick rigidly to your Superiors’ words and guidelines, but you will learn to be flexible in each circumstance by interpreting their intentions for the best.

And, again, you will not foolishly try to be equal to others by imitating their way of behaving and talking because, if it is all right for an immature person like a child to say “mommy” and “daddy”, it is not so for an adult.  It is quite the same in spiritual matters.

Likewise, let us suppose that one meddles in things which somebody else is already concerned with; the latter should not take offense at that. What do you think our life is all about?  Do we, by chance, aim to become lords and masters of this world, rather than to help each other make progress and humble ourselves more and more?  If this is the case, as indeed it is, why do some tear down that which others build?

Please, take care lest favors weaken your spirits, and praises cloud your minds; rather let us encourage ourselves and others in Christ.  Let none of you disobey orders, and if anyone would do that, you must instead observe them with greater fidelity.  In the absence of the Superior, be your own Superiors and work for victory over yourselves.

Vie with one another to become humbler, simpler, and readier to seek not so much your own will but Christ’s in you.  In this way you will easily put on Christ.134  You will avoid doing things routinely, and will accomplish the will of our holy Father, who, as you may recall, wants us to be foundation and pillars135 in the renewal of Christian spirit.

If you only knew how many promises of this blessed renewal have been made to several holy men and women, you would see that all of them are certainly to be fulfilled in the sons and daughters of our holy Father, unless Christ had wanted to deceive them, which is impossible because He faithfully keeps His promises.

O dear Father, you have constantly toiled and suffered, and we enjoy the fruits of your zeal.  The cross was your dowry, and we will inherit abundant rest.  In other words, by always carrying and, as it were, eating up crosses, we will yield fruits, both yours and ours.

I entreat you, children and offspring of Paul, to open wide your hearts.136  For those who have nurtured and still nurture you, have hearts larger than the ocean!  And be no less worthy of the vocation to which you have been called!137  If you really mean it, you will be here and now heirs and legitimate children of our holy Father and of the great saints; and Jesus Crucified will extend His arms over you.  I am not lying to you!  Who of us could do this?  See, then, that you please me, and keep in mind that, whether I am present or absent, you owe it to me to make me happy.  That’s all.

May Christ Himself write our greetings in your hearts.

From Guastalla, November 3, 1538.


Yours in Christ,


Anthony Mary, Priest,

Priest of Paul the Apostle,

and Angelic P[aola] A[ntonia Negri].138


  • It is typical of the devil to raise doubts in us about somebody’s behavior, leading us to judge his attitude and conduct negatively. This should not keep us from offering fraternal correction. When somebody makes mistake, we should correct him, but without judging his intentions that are known only to God.
  • Our conduct must always be consistent whether we are in the presence of superiors or alone. We must always act according to our conscience because God is always present, and He sees what we do.
  • Since the virtue of obedience is a product of love, we obey not only the commands of our superiors but also their desires, not only what is written but also what is simply stated.
  • Obedience to superiors implies not only execution of their orders to the letter but also acceptance of their will with an understanding of their intentions.
  • When we notice that others perform better than we do, we should not be jealous, but rather we should give glory to God and strive to imitate them.
  • To renew Christian fervor, we must humbly conform ourselves to God’s will, avoid doing things only out of habit, and learn to savor the cross in order to harvest its fruits.


  • Do I know the difference between criticism, rash judgment, and giving fraternal correction?
  • Is my behavior determined by the presence or absence of superiors?
  • Does love of God and superiors motivate me to obey not only externally but also internally?
  • Does my obedience consist only in doing what I am commanded to do or also in meeting the superior’s intentions?
  • Does the success of others arouse in me envy or imitation?
  • When facing life’s difficulties, do I tend to complain, or do I endure these difficulties with faith and patience?


122. See Letter II, Introduction.
123. See Introduction of this letter and also Letter X.
124. They were acquired by Anthony Mary with the financial help of Bartolomeo Ferrari and Countess Torelli between the fall 1533 and summer of 1534.  For all practical purposes, the church of St. Catherine functioned as their chapel.  By 1533 this small complex housed nine religious.  See n. 25.
125. See Premoli, Storia 39.  The formal donation occured on April 12, 1539 (Ibid. 17. N. 2).
126. The county was sold on October 3, 1538 to Prince Ferrante Gonzaga for the sum of 22,180 gold coins.  See Premoli, Storia 42.  For Anthony Mary’s next and last involvement in Guastalla see Letter IX, Introduction.
127. See n. 25.
128. Battista Soresina (c. 1512–1601), one of Anthony Mary’s first eight companions, was ordained on December 16, 1538.  See n. 25 and Letter X, Introduction.
129. See Gabuzio 42.
130. Antonio M. Gentili, I Barnabiti (Rome: Padri Barnabiti, 1967) 93, 
no. 64.
131. The writing of the Constitutions was authorized by the Brief of Clement VII, 1533, and the Bull of Paul III, 1535 and we know from a 1570 letter of Fr. Nicolo D’ Aviano (1509–1584) that “Father Anthony Mary of beloved memory” authored a set of Constitutions.  However, these Constitutions were only an outline, written in Lombard Italian, and were based on a previous Latin outline by Fra Battista da Crema.  They were never promulgated.  They were first published by Orazio Premoli in 1913.  It should be noted that Anthony Mary was in no rush to write any Constitutions because, first, his community was still small and, second and most importanly, he wanted to test their validity beforehand on the actual performance of his religious.  See Premoli, Storia 22–23.
132. Cf. Matt 6:23.
133. Cf. 1 Cor 4:14.
134. Rom 13:14.
135. 1 Tim 3:15.
136. 2 Cor 6:11–13.
137. Eph 4:1.
138.See n. 59.

Letter 10 - Steady Growth in Holiness



Letter 10 - Steady Growth in Holiness

Mr. Battista [Soresina].154

Guastalla, June 11, 1539 



I have received your letter and, of course, I can’t neglect to answer it with at least greetings and a few words.

It has always been my desire to see you grow steadily in perfection.  That’s why it was for me like being stabbed in the heart, whenever perchance it seemed to me that you—although unawares, or simply unintentionally, and not maliciously—were not fulfilling my expectations as completely as I desired.

But far greater was the pain whenever your shortcomings were causing grief to others; for these hurt me more than those which affect me personally as, on the contrary, I derive greater satisfaction from your virtuous deeds that affect others rather than from the ones that would affect me.  And this is so because by doing this you show to have greater virtue and you let yourself be ruled by noble obedience which retains the selfsame fervor both when the Superiors are present and when they are absent and also when you deal with others exactly as you would with your Superiors.

What a great joy it was for St. Paul to say that the Corinthians had found out that he had told the truth about them through Timothy and Titus!163  Likewise, if others find you as simple and zealous men, totally apostolic in your effort of gaining others to Christ, not frightened by the noise of passions or temptations but rather keeping your virtuous life well balanced in tumultuous as well as in serene and friendly situations; and if they see in you the favorable portrait I have just delineated, then you can be sure that you will make my joy perfect.  But if you behave differently, you will surely cause me a deadly grief.

I have something to tell you, cordial Mr. Battista.  I have come to know—and not without great worry—that you do not behave with your Father Superior in all simplicity, as you used to do with me, but you are two-faced when dealing with him.  This, of course, has broken my heart, and it would have caused me a far greater suffering had I fully believed that report.

Alas!  What should I think of you if this behavior of yours were true?  Of whom could I glory had you truly fallen into such a fault?  And I mean you, the one I carry in my heart as the fountain spring of all gladness.  Woe is I!  If all my children care so little about making me happy, would it not be better for me to have never begotten them, rather than to see them degenerate?

Is this the way you, O Dionysius, O Timothy, O Titus, treated your Paul?  Oh, no!  You always kept in your hearts the love and the very presence of your Father and harbored no other thought but that of pleasing him.  Alas!  This is not my case at all.

If only someone else were deceiving me!  But Mr. Battista, ... the person whom I entrusted with the very best that I possess.  Were he the one who had acted like that toward me, it would be too hard for me to accept.

Let me tell you and assure you before Christ that, if you want to, you can make me live happy and give me the joy of seeing you behave sincerely and simply with everyone.

What does it profit you to make me suffer?  What do you gain in damaging yourself and in afflicting me?  What will you gain by falling from the height you have already achieved?  I promise you that Jesus Crucified will lift you up to such a degree of perfection that the other sons of St. Paul164 will look at you with holy envy, provided that you always—as a favor to me—see me, yes my very face, in everybody else.

If, from now on, I do not see you radically changed and walking in this direction—that, seeing other Superiors, you may always see me; and seeing me or those who represent me, both in me and in the others, you may see the very person of Jesus Christ, the shepherd of your soul, and you may strive to be sincere and humble and virtuous with me and the others as you would with Jesus Christ—I will not be pleased with you, and I will pray Jesus Crucified to take me out of this world so that I may never again find myself in similar anguish.

If, from now on, you continue being at fault, you will make me believe that you were responsible for your past mistakes.  Indeed, your past, present, and future behavior will make me believe that Jesus Christ wants me to die, leaving behind degenerate and less than legitimate children.

Well, this is enough, for I am sure that—although you have made mistakes, and maliciously at that—you will not deviate any longer, but you will be open and sincere both with Mr. Giacomo Antonio [Morigia]165 and with everybody else.  And for this I entreat you because all my happiness rests on you and all the others together.

Humble yourself under the hands of all.  Do not fail to help others make progress, and avoid isolating yourself from the others if you want me to believe that your humility is the result of your love for, and obedience to, me, rather than of some interior anger.

Remember me to my beloved Mr. Dionisio [da Sesto],166 to the faithful Giovanni Giacomo [De Caseis],167 to the humble Mr. Francesco [Crippa],168 to the lover of suffering Giovanni Antonio [Berna],169 to my cordial Giovanni Antonio170 and Tommaso [Dati],171 to the ailing Mr. Camillo [Negri],172 to the quick-tempered Righetto [Ulderigo Groppelli],173 and to that simple soul of Mr. Corrado [Bobbia].174

Give my greetings also to Mr. Filippo175 and Mr. Janico,176 to Mr. Modesto177 and his wife, to Mr. Bernardo [Omodei]178 and his children, to Mr. Giovanni Antonio’s [Berna]179 nephew, and to my amiable Mr. Baldassarre [Medici],180 Mr. Giovan Pietro [Besozzi],181 and all the others.

And in my name, ask my Reverend Fathers, Fr. Superior182 and Fr. Bartolomeo [Ferrari],183 to bless you.  I am not going to write to them, for Christ Himself will write in their hearts; nor do I recommend anything to them because from now on they themselves are responsible for everything.

May Christ grant me satisfaction in you.

From Guastalla, June 11, 1539.

Your Father in Christ,


Anthony Mary, Priest


  • We must be motivated by love and an earnest desire for spiritual growth and personal commitment to encourage and inspire our brothers and sisters.

  • The spiritual decadence of our brothers and sisters should cause us grief and make us desire for their conversion.

  • We show the same attitude toward all because they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

  • Do I regard myself as better than the others?
  • Have I shown real concern toward the spiritual growth of my brothers and sisters even to the point of having to suffer for them?
  • Am I willing to share with others the love I show with my loved ones, knowing that we all have the same Father in heaven?
  • Am I aware that God’s grace which supports those who pursue holiness must be accepted in faith and with personal commitment?
  • Are not some forms of isolation and refusal to collaborate perhaps subtle forms of selfishness?


 154. See n. 128 and Introduction of this letter.

155. Orazio Premoli, Le Lettere e Lo Spirito Religioso di S. Antonio M. Zaccaria (Rome, 1909) 54.

Letter 11 - Becoming Great Saints


Letter 11 - Becoming Great Saints
Guastalla, June 20, 1539
To the honorable Mr. Bernardo Omodei184 
and Madonna Laura [Rossi],185 
both worthy of much respect in Christ.




I have received your letter, and here I am to answer it, or rather, to talk, as it were, with you and your most cordial Madonna Laura.

You have decided to give yourselves to Christ, and I desire that you do not fall victims to lukewarmness, but rather that you grow more and more fervent.  For if you let lukewarmness ensnare you, your life in the spirit will be overcome by the flesh, and—to use the proper word—you will be Pharisees rather than Christians and spiritual persons.

Now, here is how the lukewarm—the Pharisee—behaves.  Having left his old ways, he does not commit big sins any longer but takes pleasure in little ones; and does not feel remorse for them.  For instance, he stops blaspheming and insulting his neighbor, but he attaches no importance to getting somewhat upset and to insisting on his own opinion rather than to giving in to his opponent.  Speaking evil of others is no longer a bad habit of his, but indulging quite often in vain and useless chatting during the day is not much of a sin to him.  He got rid of eating too much and drinking excessively, as drunkards do, but he enjoys snacking here and there, between meals, without necessity.  The vicious habits of the flesh are a thing of the past for him, but he takes delight in conversations and entertainments that are not so clean.  He loves to spend hours in prayer, but during the rest of the day his spirit wanders aimlessly.  He no longer seeks honors, but if they are given him, he gloats over them.

I have given some examples; you can multiply them.  Be sure to conclude that the Pharisee or lukewarm person works at getting rid of serious sins but allows himself to commit little ones.  He eliminates all illicit things but desires everything that is considered licit.  He refrains from sensual actions but takes pleasure in visual sensualities.  He wants to do good but only within certain limits.  He controls himself but not totally.  I am not saying that he should accomplish all this in the twinkling of an eye and in a short time, but neither should he by fits and starts and over a long time.

On the contrary, anyone willing to become a spiritual person begins a series of surgical operations in his soul.  One day he removes this, another day he removes that, and relentlessly proceeds until he lays aside his old self.  Let me explain.  First of all, he eliminates offensive words, then useless ones, and finally speaks of nothing else but of edifying things.  He eradicates angry words and gestures and finally adopts meek and humble manners.  He shuns honors and, when they are given to him, not only is he not interiorly pleased, but he also welcomes insults and humiliations, and even rejoices in them.  He not only knows how to abstain from the marital act, but, aiming at increasing in himself the beauty and merits of chastity, he also renounces anything smacking of sensuality.  He is not content to spend one or two hours in prayer but loves to raise his mind to Christ frequently.  Now, share your thoughts with one another on other subjects, just as I have done so far.

Amiable Madonna Laura and you, dear Mr. Bernardo, accept my words and reflect on them with the same affection as I have told them to you.  I do not say, of course, that you should accomplish everything in one day.  What I do say is: I would like you to be intent on doing more every day and on eliminating every day even licit sensual inclinations.  All this is, indeed, for the sake of willing to grow in perfection, of diminishing imperfections, and of avoiding the danger of falling prey to lukewarmness.

Do not think that my love for you or the good qualities you are endowed with, may have me desire that you be just little saints.  No, I greatly desire that you become great saints, since you are well equipped to reach this goal, if you will it.  All that is required is that you really mean to develop and give back to Jesus Crucified, in a more refined form, the good qualities and graces He has given you.

Because of my deep and tender love for you, be pleased, I entreat you, to comply with my wishes in this matter.  For I know the summit of perfection Jesus Crucified wants you to reach; the abundant graces He wishes to give you; the fruits He wants to gather in you; and the peak of holiness to which He wants to lead you. 

Good Madonna Laura and amiable Mr. Bernardo, disregard the person who makes these exhortations; consider instead his love for you.  See how I long for your perfection.  Look into my heart; I lay it open to you.  I am ready to shed my blood for you provided you follow my counsels.  

Let it be known to you that I would be hurt to the marrow of my soul were I not sure that you not only ought to do this—but also to accomplish any of the greatest deeds performed by any male or female saint.

Fully convinced of your desire to be faithful to Jesus Crucified, I have written this letter to you, not with pen, but with my heart.  And I entreat you to value it and read it often—even every week if it suits you.  I promise that if you heed it, in the absence of any other book, it will become such a book as to help you reach great perfection if you read it along with the book that records the sweet memory of the cross of Christ.

I have not written one word without some special meaning in it.  If you discover it, it will be, I think, most useful and gainful for you.

As I cannot write to you as often as I would like, it will please me if you care enough not to lose this letter.  In fact, I hope that, by Christ’s power, anytime you read it, it will be for you like a new letter, and moreover, by means of it, you will be able, as it were, to write a new one by yourselves.

Cordial Madonna Laura, you will excuse me if, because of my physical weariness, I am unable to answer all your requests, as I would like to.  I entrust to your care both your perfection and Mr. Bernardo’s; likewise, Mr. Bernardo, I recommend to you your own perfection and your wife’s.

I am indebted to both of you,189 and, as far as I am concerned, I want never to be free of the debt.

Remember me to your dear sons and daughters.

Christ bless you.

From Guastalla, June 20, 1539.

 Yours in Christ.

Brother and part of you,

Anthony Mary, Priest



  • A lukewarm person is one who does not curse or insult but strongly imposes his ideas, who does not slander but gossips about others, who does not get drunk but enjoys good meals, who does not act unchastely but takes pleasure in shady jokes or suggestive talks, who prays but then allows his mind to be unfocussed all day, who seeks no titles but loves to be praised and esteemed.

  • Typically, a lukewarm person avoids serious sins but takes pleasure in little ones.

  • A spiritual person, on the contrary, removes every obstacle from the road to Christian perfection. He shakes off every idle and useless word or thought; he expresses himself in a gentle and humble manner; he accepts humiliations patiently; he tries to live chastely and strives to be always aware of God’s presence.

  • Christian perfection cannot be attained in an instant; it is a long journey to be taken every day, and step by step with constancy.

  • We should not settle for mediocre holiness but rather aim at attaining the highest perfection willed for us by the Lord.


  • Do I realize that failure to go forward in spiritual life slowly produces a going backward?

  • Do I have the courage to examine myself thoroughly to find out how imperfect I am and how much I still have to do to correct myself?

  • Am I aware that small defects or venial sins are like physical illnesses that may not be deadly but lessen my credibility?

  • Do I hold in my heart a strong desire to grow ever more in perfection by a greater commitment to prayer, charity toward others, clarity of conduct, purity of heart and mind, or a humble acceptance of adversities?

  • Do I have the patience to move slowly toward holiness, allowing no difficulty, weariness, or defeat caused by weakness to stop me? Am I always ready to start again with the help of God?

  • Do Jesus’ words, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” urge me to aim at the highest possible goal, that is, the sublime holiness which we are all called to achieve?

184. See n. 178
185. The wife of Bernardo Omodei.  Besides Fabrizio she had two other sons, Giambattista (who sponsored the chapel of St. Ambrose in St. Barnabas) and Paolo.  Laura and Bernardo are included in the list of benefactors of the historical mother house of the Barnabites (see n. 105).
186. For a fuller discussion on the reasons for Anthony Mary’s return to Guastalla see Cagni, “Spunti,” 438–439.
187. Premoli, Storia 538–539.
188. Premoli, Storia 101, 533.
189. Cf. Rom 1:14.

Letter 6 - Spiritual Progress & Christian Service


Letter 6 - Spiritual Progress and Christian Service


Cremona, October 8, 1538

To the Reverend Father and brother in Christ, 
Mr. Bartolomeo Ferrari.82 
To the Reformed.  
In Vicenza


Why do you entertain any doubt?  Haven’t you experienced in this undertaking that you never lacked the necessary means to help those in need?  Nothing is more certain and reliable than experience. Those who love you do not possess the wealth either of a Paul or of a Magdalene; they do, however, trust in the One who enriched them both.  Thus, as a result of both your faith and theirs, God will provide for any person under your care.

You can be sure that, before you speak and in the very moment of speaking, Jesus Crucified will anticipate and accompany, not only every word of yours, but your every holy intention.  St. Paul said that he would push forward but stay within the limits of the work that Christ had set for him.92  As for you, Jesus Crucified has also set a limit when he promised that you would get enough strength to pierce to their marrow the hearts of people.93  Don’t you see that He Himself has opened the doors for you with His own hands?  Who, then, will hinder you from entering those hearts and from changing them so completely as to renew them and beautify them with holy virtues?  Nobody, of course—neither the devil nor any other creature.94 

And don’t let any weakening that you may experience in your preaching and in your pastoral work stop you; for just as through constant school exercises, ignorance is dispelled and iron is kept shiny the more it is used, so it is with Christian asceticism.  At the beginning, Paul was not what he became afterward.  So it is with everybody else.  You can be assured then that on the foundation of Paul, you are going to build not structures made of hay or wood but of gold and precious stones;95 and the heavens with their treasures will be opened to you and to the souls entrusted to you.96

Sweet hearts of my heart, I embrace you, as I am certain you will grow perfect according to your interior dispositions.  Oh!  Were you only here with me, nothing in the world could prevent me from embracing and covering you with endless signs of affection.  But You, dear Jesus, embrace them on my behalf.

Dear saintly son, the project in which you are now engaged is also my responsibility, as you probably have noticed.  I could not help but be with you, for nowhere else is my heart than with yours.  Therefore, may the ample freedom, which I have always given you, be for you a sure guarantee that your undertakings will conclude happily with profit to all.

Good Mother Prioress, don’t waste your time in personal trifles.  Even if you might consider yourself a devil, worthy of being submerged not only in muddy water but also in a cesspool, and you were utterly convinced of it, don’t worry about it.  Instead, give yourself totally to serving those people who have already been entrusted to your care, and who will continue to be entrusted to you by Jesus Crucified in the future.

Oh, you who are the very mirror of my life, remember that you are generous and that Jesus Crucified has always been abundantly generous with you; how then can they who love you as they love themselves fail to be at your side to help you?

And you, Franceschina,97 if you acknowledge that you have derived benefit from evil—not, of course, through your own efforts but through the efforts of those who strive to give you life in Christ—be convinced that you owe them, in sheer gratitude, what you are already giving them: I mean your diligence in pleasing them by undertaking the works which they have entrusted to you.  Do make progress, and help the others make progress as well.

And all of you do the same.

I do not recommend our Sylvestrines to you because they are indeed very much recommended as they are already yours.  Please, tell them on my behalf, when and how you think it convenient, generally and in particular, whatever you wish.

As to those who are outside our community, if you think it fit to write something to them on my behalf, it is up to you, for you know better than I do what is to be said to them.  Besides, overburdened as I am with other cares, I am quite limited; so much so that I am unable to respond to the needs of those to whom I am bound to attend and for whom indeed I feel obligated.

Now I would like to write to my sweet Paolina,98 but I do not find the time.  Likewise, it would be a pleasure to write to my faithful Donna Lucrezia,99 but I can’t.  Please, tell her that I would like her to be like me by trying not only to progress in her own life—a small achievement after all—but also to help the others on the same road.

Again, tell my Doyenne100 that I think of her and her sister as well.  Tell my sweet Donna Faustina101 that I do not forget her—how could I?—and that she can count on my promise.

Finally, you can assure them all that I am theirs, and that Jesus Crucified makes me love them very much indeed, because they are generous.

To our amiable Fra Bono102 and Master Castellino,103 priest, lots of greetings in Christ; kiss them for me.  To them too, I would have liked to write, but as I really can’t, present them with my apology.  Particularly let our worthy Father Abbot104 be assured that he is among brothers, and that it is a temptation from the evil one to have him withdraw from them.  The devil is afraid lest what he dislikes should come true, and, in fact, he knows by experience that our friend’s simplicity has always borne fruit, and that every time he has cast the net, he has always caught large and good fish.

As for my saintly priest Castellino, I wish to see him, and I would like him not to deprive me of his presence, for I am about to begin negotiations for St. Barnabas,105 and I do not want him to miss the inaugural benediction.  I would never do this without his presence.  Besides, I want you to send him as your delegate to the conclusion of the transaction.  I know that you will miss his presence, but, as I am aware of your being always ready to satisfy the wishes of others before your own, I beg you to endure his absence and to send him to me.  Be so kind as to remember me to him and entreat him to come soon, so that we may be together for this enterprise.

Remember me to our beloved ones: Mr. Lodovico,106 Mr. Antonio,107 my faithful Franceschi’s,108 my host Mr. Andrea,109 and all the others.  A kiss to all from me.

Greetings also to Count Brunoro,110 Giulio,111 the barber and his wife, the Reverend Fathers Alessandro, Luigi, and Antonio.112  I would like everyone to know the self-sacrificing devotion of our Fra Bono113 because then the Forty Hours Devotion and the other apostolic works would indeed make progress.  Suggest to Madonna Maddalena114 that she get acquainted with him.  Remember me to her.  If you dismiss Donna Giovanna,115 let me know.  

As for Gerolamo,116 I really do not know what to say; it is not my concern.

My dearly beloved one, if I have left out anyone or anything, since I am quite tired, you take care of it.  May Christ bless you one by one in the depth of your hearts, and give you His own Spirit.

From Cremona, October 8, 1538.

If Madonna117 has not yet taken care of your brother,118 have no misgiving because today or tomorrow I will be going to Guastalla, and I will take care of the matter, along with Paola Antonia119 who has already written to her about it.

May Christ make you holy.

Yours in Christ,


Father Anthony Mary, Priest 

and Mother A[ngelic] P[aola] A[ntonia Negri]120

If you like the letters which I had Mr. Camillo [Negri]121 write, give them to the addressees.

  • Christ crucified provides for all the needs of his disciples, even before they ask, anticipating their intentions.
  • Christ crucified invigorates our feeble energies so that we can reach out to the hearts of those who are entrusted to us. Therefore, we should not let our inadequacies discourage us.
  • Not even unreasonable scruples should stop us from doing good to our neighbor.
  • We must be grateful to those who help us in our weakness with hard work and sacrifice.

  • Have I so much familiarity with Jesus that I can talk to him as if he were visibly present, fully confident that he listens to me and will take care of me at the proper time?
  • Have I ever tried with confidence to entrust others to God, certain that he will do more than I, a poor fellow, can do?
  • Do I know that perfectionism, an exaggerated analysis of my behavior, and consequently rejection of my human and spiritual giftedness can hinder me from doing the good that I can do?
  • Do I already get into the habit of thanking those who help me in my difficulties?


82. See Letter II, Introduction.
83. See Letter V, Introduction.
84. See Giuseppe M. Cagni, “In missione col S. Fondatore.” Quaderni di Vita Barnabitica 8 (1989) 122–123. 85See n. 103.
86. See n. 16.
87. See Letter V, Introduction.
88 See n. 63.
89. See Cagni “In missione col. S. Fondatore,” 124.
90. See Battista Soresina, Appendix I. P. Anacleto Secco, De Clericorum Regularium S. Pauli Congregatione et Parentibus Synopsis (Milan: Francesco Vigono, 1862).  “In missione col. S. Fondatore,” 126.
91. See Cagni “In missione col. S. Fondatore,” 127
92. 2 Cor 10:13.
93. Heb 4:12.
94. Rom 8:39.
95. 1 Cor 3:12.
96. Acts 7:55.
97. Franceschina Conforti Adriani.  See Introduction of this letter.
98. Paolina Muzzani: a Sylvestrine in Vicenza.
99. Lucrezia Angariani: a Sylvestrine in Vicenza.
100. Probably Felicita Muzzani, sister of Paolina, or of Fosca, all Sylvestrines in Vicenza.
101. From Cologne, Germany.  A Sylvestrine in Vicenza.
102. See n. 16
103. Lorenzo (Paolo) Davidico, called Castellino (1523–1574), talented but quixotic character, who was a member of the mission band in Vicenza and Verona (1536–1545), and was dismissed from the Congregation in 1547 by Fr. Besozzi (see n. 181) because he finally proved to be unsuitable for community life.  However, he remained in excellent relationship with the Barnabites.  He had a degree in Civil and Canon Law, and published many ascetical works.
104. See n. 16.
105. The acquisition and furnishing of the historical mother house of the Barnabites (1545), a house and the church of St. Barnabas.  Originally called Sons of St. Paul by their Founder, they became known as Barnabites after they moved to St. Barnabas. This popular name, Barnabites,  later acquired official status in addition to the name of Clerics Regular of St. Paul, an appellation first used in the Bull of Julius III (August 11, 1550) which, among other things, authorized the solemn profession of vows (see Premoli, Storia 500).
106. A member of the Third Family, the Laity of St. Paul, from Vicenza.
107. A member of the Third Family, from Vicenza.
108.  A member of the Third Family, from Vicenza.
109. Possibly fromVerona.  He lodged Anthony Mary and his missionaries in Vicenza.
110. Brunoro Da Porto, a member of a noble and influential family of Vicenza, and a military leader at the service of the republic of Venice. 111. Giulio Da Porto, Brunoro’s brother.
112. Priests from Vicenza.
113. See n. 16.
114. Maddalena Valmarana (d. 1569).  See Introduction of this letter.
115. A Sylvestrine.
116. Unidentified.
117. Countess Ludovica Paola Torelli.  See n . 12.
118. Basilio Ferrari (1493–1574) Bartolomeo’s brother, who resided in Rome since 1521, as papal secretary of Clement VII and Paul III.  As such he was able to secure the approval of the Barnabites (see n. 25)  and the Angelics (see Letter V, Introduction). In the church of St. Barnabas in Milan, he commissioned the chapel of Sts. Bartholomew and Francis.  Basilio’s name is the eighth on a list of forty-five early benefactors, or rather de facto affiliates, of the Barnabite Congregation.  In the words of Fr. Geralamo Marta, fourth Superior General (1551–1554, 1556–1558, 1559–1566), Basilio’s soul was “through Divine Providence glued, as it were, to our souls as Jonathan’s soul to David’s.”
119. See n. 59.
120. See n. 59.
121. Camillo Negri (1509–1544): brother of Angela, Porzia, and Virginia (Paola Antonia) Negri.  One of Anthony Mary’s first eight companions (see n. 25).  See also Letter 10.

Letter 12 - God’s Gift of Light



Letter 12 - God's Gift of Light

To the honorable Mr. Francesco Cappelli. 
In Verona190



Several times I have desired to send you my greetings, but my rather poor health has prevented me from doing so.

You must know, most sweet father, that I have reflected over and over again on your loving words.  I have found them so useful that I have resolved to come out of the lethargic state of my spirit.  In fact, I have convinced myself of one thing, that, under the semblance of false humility and the pretense of having no spiritual graces, I have weakened and almost breached my commitment to help others.  My scruples, besides, aggravated this situation by suggesting that anything I thought of saying or doing  proceeded from vainglory, which, blinding my mind, made me talk and act in that way.  Those suggestions seemed real to me because I was most busy helping others, and made no personal progress.

Thus I have buried my talent of helping my neighbor.  And little by little I have lost the initial fervor to bring people to Christ.  As a result, I have lost also the clear vision of the spiritual state of my own soul.  At other times, while I was looking into other people’s spiritual situation, I was led to renew my own; and while trying to affirm them in their spiritual journey, I felt affirmed in my own.  But now, on the contrary, the fear for other people’s spiritual life has struck me with such doubts about my own as to feel paralyzed.

And so now, afraid of my very shadow, I tarry in lukewarmness because, as I have already said, I lost my pristine light.

I would have suffered a lesser evil if, while leading others, I had been partly covered with dust but kept that pristine light.  Instead, I suffered a greater evil when by leaving those others I lost that light.  It was that light that animated my spiritual light [life]] and that, at the end, would have removed the dust itself.

See, amiable father, what an excessive fear does to one’s susceptible temperament: on the one hand, not to be afraid of it and not let ourselves be annoyed and disturbed at times by others always causes us to remain oversensitive; on the other hand, to be afraid of our own shadow, as we try to avoid a pitfall, causes us to fall into a far greater one.

Besides, if we wish to become totally self-assured, we must fight and let ourselves be tested; and after having fought for a long time, we cannot leave great battles to pursue lesser ones.

Therefore, you too, sweet father, take care lest you would make the very same mistake I have made, for it is very deplorable to lose that interior light that has always given us life.

Well, I feel certain that, considering my sad experience, you will not make the same mistake.  As for me, because of your fatherly words, I have decided to devote myself to the care of the spiritual welfare of my neighbor.  By so doing, I hope to grow in Jesus’ love; and the good Lord crucified will give me back the spiritual light and fervor, which used to keep me spiritually alive.  At last, I shall be living in certitude, not in deadly doubts that made me suspicious of any inspiration that I was receiving.  Rather, with the help of Christ and of your prayers, I am confident that I will again recognize what is true from what is false, and what is certain from what is doubtful.

Can you see, now, very dear father, what a great benefit I have received from your words?  Oh that I could talk with you every so often!  But, until I have the opportunity to see you again, be kind enough to write to me once in a while.  In reading your letters, I will feel as if I were talking with you and being comforted by you, to the point of being able to rest in the midst of this ocean.

That’s it for now.

Many good wishes and regards to Madonna Anna204 and to Cecilia205 from me and Father.206  He will write to you at some other time.  He recommends himself to your prayers, to Mr. Agostino’s,207 Mr. Gerardo’s,208 and everybody else’s.

 A[ngelic] P[aola] A[ntonia Negri].209  





  • That which causes us to fall into a state of spiritual apathy, that is, the lack of concern toward other people for fear of appearing proud, cannot be humility.

  • Fear blocks spiritual growth which is always a going forward on God’s way.

  • God himself will see to it that we are gradually cleansed of every trace of pride.

  • Fear of making mistake should not stop us from moving forward. He who stops makes an even greater mistake.


  • Did I sometimes stop doing good for fear of being praised by people, as if doing good, even without any hint of pride or self-aggrandizement, were evil?

  • Am I humble enough to let God be the judge of my deeds and intentions, and am I ready to ask forgiveness from him when I do wrong?
  • Do I believe that acting imperfectly is better than not acting at all?

 190 Letter XII.

191 See n. 59.

192 See Letter VI, p. 57: “As to those who are outside our community, if you think it fit to write something to them on my behalf, it is up to you...”

193 See Friedrich von Hugel, The Mystical Element of Religion. (2nd ed.; London: J.M. Dent, 1923), 1, XXI.

194 See Letter X, Introduction. 

Letter 4 - Confidence in God in the Face of Difficulty



Letter 4 - Confidence in God in the Face of Difficulty

Guastalla, January 16, 1534

To Giovan Giacomo Piccinini,47 beloved brother in Christ. 
In the house of the Illustrious Lady
Countess of Guastalla.48   At St. Ambrose’s.  
In Milan




I am only writing this letter to greet you and to tell you, on behalf of our Father, that neither you nor we need to worry about the present troublesome situations and any future ones, since none of us bears the burden;  he does.

It is well known how he was always displeased with those who are negligent and unwilling to help themselves.  Therefore, as far as we are concerned, let us strive not to fall into these very shortcomings, for Jesus Crucified will take care of the matter either by Himself or through our Father’s intercession.  And so, we should not make too much fuss about what is going on because everything is possible with God—an undeniable truth that we almost touch with our own hands.

I will say no more.  Soon you will come to know everything by word of mouth, though neither you nor we should be anxious to know the results. It is enough and, I would say, more than enough, that we follow the way of the cross, according to which it is sufficient to know whether it is a virtue or a fault to do something or to omit it.  All we have to do, then, is to eliminate all fruitless curiosity and get to work.  I am sure you have no idle curiosity, and that’s good.  What I have just said is meant to make you somewhat aware of how we all feel about it.

And here I stop, except to remind you that the letters I write to you are strictly personal; keep them a secret and never show them to anyone at all.  Should Mr. Gerolamo, the doctor,55 happen to give you a letter, insert it in yours and send them to me; but be careful to give them to trusty carriers, making sure that they deliver them; otherwise, keep them until you find a trusty one.

Remember me as well as everybody here to Madonna [Torelli],56 to Angela [Negri]57 and Porzia [Negri]58 and their sister,59 to Caterina [Candiani]60 and to the other women of our group, and to Mr. Giacomo Antonio [Morigia]61 and Francesco Crippa.62

From Guastalla, January 16, 1534.

Your brother in Christ,


Anthony M. Zaccaria, Priest

  •  We are never alone in our difficulties. God is with us; he never abandons us. The saints too intercede for us and protect us.
  • We strive to do our duty diligently, for God does not help the negligent, the lazy and the idle.
  • When we try our best, the Lord will provide for the rest; for the Lord is a great provider and he continually sustains us.
  • Following the example of Christ, our Savior, we must accept our crosses willingly. 


  • Do I sometimes feel that God pays no attention to me and he does not listen and cares about me?
  • Don’t I see it as a failure in my duty when I say, “It makes no difference since God abandons no one;” thus, I expect God to do also that which is my duty?
  • Do I truly believe that God who looks after the lilies of the field will not certainly neglect me who have been redeemed by Christ’s blood?
  • Am I willing to accept my daily crosses, following the example of Christ who carried his cross to Calvary?


47. See Introduction of this letter.
48. See n. 12.
49. For Anthony Mary’s numerous expressions of reverence and affection for Fra Battista da Crema seeLetters I (Introduction), IV, V, VII, and X.
50. See Orazio Premoli, Fra Battista da Crema secondo documenti inediti (Rome: Desclée, 1910) 34–35.  
Carafa’s blind hostility toward Fra Battista da Crema climaxed with the inclusion of all his writings in theIndex of Forbidden Books which was first issued by Carafa himself as Pope Paul IV in 1559.  They were removed in 1900 three years after Anthony Mary’s canonization.  In 1552 the Holy Office had already censured Fra Battista’s doctrine as “partly scandalous, partly heretical, partly suspect in matters of faith, and hence to be shunned by all Christians” (Atti della Visita Canonica di Mons. Marini, 1552, General Archives, Rome).  These developments were all the more surprising in the light of the most favorable approval by Church authorities, which Fra Battista enjoyed during his lifetime.  See Vittorio Michelini, I Barnabiti (Milan: NED, 1983) 47–51.  See Letter IX, Introduction.  
51. This happened once before, in 1531.  At that time Fra Battista’s Superiors were enjoined by Church authorities in Milan to cease interfering with him and Countess Torelli.
52. See Premoli, Fra Battista 42 and Giuseppe M. Cagni, “Spunti e documenti per una biografia critica di Sant’Antonio Maria Zaccaria,” Barnabiti Studi 14 (1997) 427.
53. Cronica milanese dal 1500 al 1544 (Milan: Archivio Storico Italiano, 1851), 3. 522.
54. Without a doubt the context identifies them as the men and women respectively headed by Anthony Mary and Countess Torelli.
55. A teacher and physician in Milan.
56. See n. 12. Madonna was a term of address in Italian formerly equivalent of Madame and now ofSignora. 
57. An Angelic Sister, sister of Paola Antonia (n. 59) and of Porzia (n. 58).  Second Prioress (1539) of the St. Paul monastery in Milan.  Died in 1550.
58. A widow, and sister of Angelic Paola Antonia, and of Fr. Camillo, Barnabite. She headed the group of young women brought together by Countess Torelli.  A member of the mission band in Vicenza (September 1537) where she became Vicar of the monastery of the Converted.  Later she was appointed Supervisor of the Converted of the Crucifix in Milan, located by the church of the Crucifix, where her sister Paola Antonia was buried.  See Letter VI, Introduction.
59. Virginia Negri (1505–1555), the future Angelic Paola Antonia.  The youngest of the first group who received the habit from Anthony Mary (see Letter V, Introduction), and exceptionally esteemed by Anthony Mary and the first generation of Barnabites and Angelics as partly evidenced by her cosigning of Anthony Mary’s Letters VI, VII, and VIII and signing of Anthony Mary’s Letter XII (see Letter XII, Introduction).  See also Letters V, and IX.
60. An Angelic Sister.  She, together with 28 other Sisters, is mentioned in a “donation” by Countess Torelli (1539).
61. See Letter II, Introduction. 62Francesco Crippa (1502–1542): one of Anthony Mary’s first eight companions (see n. 25).  Never ordained a priest.  See also Letter X.


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