Today, in the 1962 Dominican Rite Calendar, we celebrate the feast of the beloved archbishop of Florence, St. Antonius, bishop, confessor, of the Order of Preachers. The feast is II Class and the semi-festive office is prayed according to the rubrics. At Lauds and Vespers, a commemoration is made of SS. Gordian and Epimachus, martyrs.
From the Martyrology:
At Florence, St. Antoninus, archbishop of the same city and a member of the Order of Preachers. On account of the excellence of his doctrine and his holiness, he was compelled to become bishop, although he was unwilling. He was illustrious for his mercy and his piety. He likewise excelled to a remarkable degree in sacerdotal zeal. He was so celebrated for his prudence and good counsel, that he was justly called "Antoninus the Counsellor." Famous for his virtues and his miracles, he departed for Heaven in the seventieth year of his life, on May 2. He lies buried in the Church of San Marco where he is held in high veneration by the people.
From “Short Lives of the Dominican Saints” (London, Kegan Paul, Trench, and Trübner & Co., Ltd., 1901):
|Bust outside his childhood home in Florence|
Saint Antoninus was born at Florence in A.D. 1390. His father, Nicholas Pierozzi, followed the legal profession and filled several important offices in the city. The child received at the font the name of Anthony, but his smallness of stature and extreme gentleness of disposition caused him to be always known by the graceful Italian diminutive of Antonino (little Anthony). His childhood was one of remarkable holiness and almost continual prayer, and he assiduously attended the sermons of the celebrated Friar Preacher, Blessed John Dominici. This holy man was superintending the erection of a new Convent at Fiesole, in the neighborhood of Florence, and Antoninus implored admission into the Community. Alarmed at the extreme delicacy of his appearance, Blessed John was afraid to accede to his desires and sought some plausible excuse for a refusal. He told him, therefore, that it was necessary first for him to make further progress in his studies, but promised to admit him when he should have learnt by heart the Book of Decretals. This seemingly impossible condition in no way damped the ardent spirit of the young postulant. Within a year he had accomplished the task, and, coming to Blessed John, claimed the fulfilment of his promise. It was not refused; and on the Feast of St. Dominic, A.D. 1504, the holy youth was clothed in the habit of the Friars Preachers. He was sent to Cortona to make his noviceship under Blessed Lawrence of Ripafratta, and had there as his companions Blessed Peter Capucci and Fra Angelico of Fiesole. In such an atmosphere of sanctity, Antoninus made rapid progress in perfection.
The first miracle recorded of him is typical of the affectionate simplicity of his character. To comfort a little girl who was weeping bitterly over a broken pitcher, he collected the shattered fragments, made the sign of the cross over them, and restored the vessel to her whole and uninjured. During the greater part of his life the Saint filled the office of Prior in one or other of the most important Convents of the Order, and was himself the founder of the celebrated Convent of Saint Mark at Florence. He was an indefatigable student and wrote a Summa of Moral Theology, works on Canon Law, treatises for Confessors and Parish Priests, and a Chronicle of the History of the World. Saint Antoninus possessed in an eminent degree the gift of counsel; cases of conscience and questions on Canon Law were continually submitted to him for solution, and such was his power of restoring peace to troubled souls, that he was popularly called "the Angel of Counsels." He assisted in the capacity of theologian at the General Council of Florence, A.D. 1439, where he had the consolation of witnessing the reunion of the Greek and Latin Churches. He organized a vast system of charity, which is still in existence in our own day, for the relief of the bashful poor of Florence, and greatly contributed to the development of Confraternities of Christian Doctrine for the instruction of the young.
In the year 1446 he was raised to the archiepiscopal throne of Florence, a dignity which he only accepted when compelled to do so under penalty of excommunication. As Archbishop he made no change in the poverty and simplicity of his life. His entire household consisted of six persons; his purse and his time were equally the property of his flock. In his government he united a singular sweetness and gentleness with the firmness and intrepidity which were called for by the abuses of the times. It was remarked how, amidst the multiplicity of cares which his extensive and vigorous administration entailed upon him, his countenance never lost its expression of calm serenity. Preeminently a man of prayer, never did he suffer the turmoil of business to disturb the inner sanctuary of his soul. When Florence was desolated by the plague and subsequently by famine and terrible earthquakes, Saint Antoninus showed himself indeed the father of his people. Night and day he might be seen traversing the city, followed by a few devoted friends and by an ass laden with provisions and remedies.
His miracles were very numerous and bear a striking testimony to the simple and unostentatious life of the great prelate, much of whose time was spent amongst the poorest of his flock. At one time we find him mending the mill of a poor man, ruined by a flood; at another, his blessing melts the iron which has hardened in the furnace of some obstinate sinners, whose hearts melt also into repentance at the forbearance of the Archbishop.
Saint Antoninus is commonly represented in Christian art holding in his hand a pair of scales. This is in allusion to the following miraculous circumstance. An inhabitant of Florence once brought him as a New Year's gift a beautiful basket of fruit, in the secret hope of receiving a rich reward. When, instead of the expected donation, the Saint dismissed him with merely the words, "May God reward you," he went off in a very discontented frame of mind. On learning this, the Archbishop summoned him once more into his presence, and, calling for scales, placed the basket of fruit in one side of the balance and the written words "May God reward you !" in the other. The slip of paper was found to far outweigh the fruits, and the donor retired covered with confusion.
Nicholas V., who canonized Saint Bernardine of Siena, remarked that Antoninus living deserved canonization as much as Bernardine dead; and the same Pope forbade any appeals or complaints to be received in Rome against sentences passed by the saintly Archbishop of Florence.
The deathbed of Saint Antoninus was a holy and happy scene. "To serve God is to reign,"
were the words ever on his lips, together with that salutation of the glorious Virgin which had ever been among his favorite ejaculations: "O holy and immaculate Virginity, with what praises to extol thee I know not." He expired on May 2, A.D. 1459, surrounded by the Friars of the Convent of Saint Mark, in whose midst he desired to be interred. A very remarkable testimony of honor was paid to him by the reigning Pontiff, Pius II., who commanded that his funeral should be celebrated with extraordinary splendor, and granted an indulgence to all who should kiss the hands or feet of the deceased Archbishop during the eight days that the body remained exposed before burial. The Bull of Saint Antoninus's canonization was drawn up by Adrian IV., A.D. 1523, but not published until the reign of his successor, Clement VII.
|Body of St. Antonius in the Church of St. Mark|
May we be helped, Lord, by the merits of your holy confessor and bishop, Antonius, that as we make known your wonders in him, we may also rejoice at your mercies to us. Through our Lord...