Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Saint Antoninus, Bishop and Confessor

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The Order of St. Dominic, which has already presented to our Triumphant Jesus Peter the Martyr and Catharine the seraph of Sienna, sends him today one of the many Bishops trained and formed in its admirable school. It was in the 15th Century—a period when sanctity was rare on the earth—that Antoninus realized, in his own person, the virtues of the greatest Bishops of ancient times. His apostolic zeal, his deeds of charity, his mortified life, are the glory of the Church of Florence, which has confided to his care. Heaven blessed that illustrious City with temporal prosperity on account of its saintly Archbishop. Cosmas of Medici was frequently heard to say that Florence owed more to Antoninus than to any other man. The holy prelate was also celebrated for his great learning. He defended the Papacy against the calumnies of certain seditious Bishops in the Council of Basle: and at the General Council of Florence, he eloquently asserted the truth of the Catholic Faith, which was assailed by the abettors of the Greek Schism. How beautiful is our holy Mother the Church, that produces such children as Antoninus, and has them in readiness to uphold what is true and withstand what is false!

She thus speaks the praises of today’s Saint:—

Antoninus Florentiæ honestis parentibus natus, ab ipsa jam pueritia egregium futuræ sanctitatis specimen exhibuit. Annum agens sextum decimum, Religionem Prædicatorum amplexus, cœpit exinde maximis clarere virtutibus. Otio perpetuum bellum indixit. Post nocturnum brevem somnum primus matutinis precibus aderat; quibus persolutis, reliquum tempus noctis orationibus, aut certe lectioni, et scriptioni librorum tribuebat; et si quando importunior fessis membris somnus obreperet, ad parietem paululum declinato capite, ac tantisper discusso somno, sacras vigilias avidius repetabat.

Antoninus was born at Florence of respectable parents. He gave great promise, even when quite a child, of his after sanctity. Having at the age of sixteen, entered the Religious Order of Friars Preachers, he at once became an object of admiration, by the practice of the highest virtues. He declared ceaseless war against idleness. After taking a short sleep at night, he was the first at the Office of Matins; which over, he spent the remainder of the night in prayer, or reading, or writing. If at times, he felt himself oppressed with unwelcome sleep, owing to fatigue, he would lean his head, for a while, against the wall, and then, shaking off the drowsiness, he resumed his holy vigils with renewed earnestness.

Disciplinæ regularis sui ipsius severissimus exactor, carnes, nisi in gravi ægritudine, nunquam edit. Humi, aut in nudo tabulato cubabat: cilicio semper usus, et interdum zona ferrea ad vivam cutem incinctus, virginitatem integerrime semper coluit. In explicandis consiliis tantæ dexteritatis fuit, ut communi elogio Antoninus consiliorum diceretur. Adeo autem in eo humilitas enituit, ut etiam Cœnobiis ac Provinciis præfectus, abjectissima Monasterii officia demississime obiret. Ab Eugenio Quarto Florentinus Archiepiscopus renuntiatus, ægerrime tandem, nec nisi Apostolicis minis perterrefactus, ut Episcopatum acciperet, acquievit.

Being a most rigid observer of Religious discipline, he never ate flesh-meat, save in the case of severe illness. His bed was the ground, or a naked board. He always wore a hair shirt, and sometimes an iron girdle next to his skin. He observed the strictest chastity during his whole life. Such was his prudence in giving counsel, that he went under the name of Antoninus the Counsellor. He so excelled in humility, that, even when Prior and Provincial, he used to fulfill, with the utmost self-abjection, the lowest duties of the Monastery. He was made Archbishop of Florence by Pope Eugenius the Fourth. Great was his reluctance to accept such a dignity; nor would he have consented, had it not been out of fear of incurring the spiritual penalties wherewith he was threatened by the Pope.

In eo munere vix dici potest quantum prudentia, pietate, charitate, mansuetudine, et sacerdotali zelo excelluit. Istud mirandum, tantum ingenio valuisse, ut omnes ferme scientias per se, nullo adhibito præceptore, absolutissime didicerit. Tandem post multos labores, multis etiam editis insignis doctrinæ libris, sacra Eucharistia, et Unctione percepta, complexus Crucifixi imaginem, mortem lætus aspexit, sexto Nonas Maii, anno millesimo quadringentesimo quinquagesimo nono. Miraculis vivens, et post mortem conspicuus, Sanctorum numero adscriptus est ab Hadriano Sexto, anno Domini millesimo quingentesimo vigesimo tertio.

It would be difficult to describe the prudence, piety, charity, meekness and apostolic zeal, wherewith he discharged his episcopal office. He learned almost all the sciences to perfection, and, what is surprising, he accomplished this by his own extraordinary talent, without having any master to teach him. Finally, after many labors, and after having published several learned books, he fell sick. Having received the Holy Eucharist and Extreme Unction, embracing the Crucifix, he joyfully welcomed death, on the sixth of the Nones of May (May 10th), in the year 1459. He was illustrious for the miracles which he wrought during his life, as also for those which followed after his death. He was canonized by Adrian the Sixth, in the year of our Lord 1523.

We give thanks to our Risen Jesus for the sublime gifts bestowed by him on thee, O Antoninus! When he confided a portion of his Flock to thy care, he enriched thee with the qualities of a Shepherd according to his own heart. He knew that he could trust to thy love; he therefore gave thee charge over his Lambs. The age in which thou livedst, was one of great disorder, and one that prepared the way for the scandals of the following Century; and yet thou wast one of the brightest lights the Church has ever had. Florence still cherishes thy memory, as the man of God and the father of thy country; aid her by thy prayers. The preachers of heresy have entered within her walls; watch over the field whereon thine own hands sowed the good seed; let not the cockle take root there. Thou wast the defender of the Holy See; raise up in unhappy Italy, imitators of thy zeal and learning. Thou hadst the happiness of witnessing, under the grand cupola of thy Cathedral, the reunion of the Greek Church with Rome; thou hadst a share in bringing about this solemn reconciliation, which, alas! was to be of short duration. Pray, O holy Pontiff, for the descendants of them that were faithless to the promise sealed on the very Altar, whereon thy hands so often offered up the Sacrifice of unity and peace.

Disciple of the great Dominic, inheritor of his burning zeal—protect the holy order which he founded, and of which thou art so bright an ornament. Show that thou still lovest it. Give it increase, and procure for its children the holiness that once worked such loveliness and fruit in the Church. Holy Pontiff, be mindful of the Faithful, who implore thine intercession at this period of the Year.

Thy eloquent lips announced the Pasch, so many years, to the people of Florence, and urged them to share in the Resurrection of our Divine Head. The same Pasch, the immortal Pasch, has shone once more upon us. We are still celebrating it; oh! pray that its fruits may be lasting in us, and that our Risen Jesus, who has given us Life, may, by his grace, preserve it in our souls for all eternity.

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