Letter 1 - Being Thankful to God

25Jun

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Letter 1 - Being Thankful to God
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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

REVEREND FATHER IN CHRIST,

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




REFLECTIONS
  • 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.


QUESTIONS

  • 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?

FOOTNOTES

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.
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