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St. Anthony Zaccaria
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                          INTRODUCTION
 This Conversation is based on the       Mary’s Third Family, the Laity of St.
third letter of St. Anthony Mary         Paul.
Zaccaria addressed to the honorable
Mr. Carlo Magni, a most upright          This letter is an answer to Carlo
attorney known to him. The letter        Magni’s request for guidance on how
was written in Milan, Italy on July      to live in union with God in the
28, 1531.                                midst of a busy professional life. Like
                                         limpid water from a spring, the
Carlo Magni, the fortunate addressee     answer leaps out from the heart of a
of this letter of spiritual direction,   man of God who "was spirit through
was a highly respected attorney in       and through, and gifted with divine
Cremona, as this letter somehow          light for spiritual discernment."
indicates and other sources confirm.     Anthony Mary teaches Carlo how to
Apparently, the successful attorney      converse familiarly and incessantly
had become a lukewarm Christian.         with Jesus Crucified throughout the
However, in the course of time he        whole day. At the same time, he
experienced a profound change of         shows him how to utilize prayer as a
heart, as Anthony Mary seems to          source of self-knowledge for the
imply when he warns him, "if you act     elimination of his own shortcomings.
otherwise, you will be a decent          To this purpose, Anthony Mary
person but not the Christian Christ      frankly names some of Carlo’s moral
wishes, and has called, you to be.       flaws, and identifies pride as the
This will be clear to you if you         principal one.
consider closely the way by which        Two things stand out in this letter
Christ has been trying to bind you to    about Anthony Mary as spiritual
Himself." Whether or not he was a        director: the source and the style of
spiritual conquest of Anthony Mary,      his teaching. The source of his
Carlo certainly became a member of       teaching is a lengthy prayerful time
the "Amicizia" (Friendship) Oratory      spent at the foot of Jesus Crucified, a
established by Anthony Mary in           practice common to other well-
Cremona. He was indeed one of its        known       spiritual   masters,    for
prominent members because Anthony        instance, St. Thomas Aquinas. As for
Mary in this letter entrusts him with    style, his teaching is characterized by
some tasks concerning activities of      an exceptionally warm personal
his "Amicizia" Oratory. Since 1527       concern for the spiritual welfare of
Carlo was a member of Anthony            his directees.
Father Anthony, I came to seek your      Father, I’m anxious to know. What
advice on some spiritual setbacks. I     are they?
am certain that you will be able to
enlighten me on this since I know        First, give yourself to prayer in the
that you are regarded by many as         morning and at night, as well as at
one who is wise in spiritual matters.    any other hour within a set schedule
I sincerely want to grow in perfect      or not, at any time, that is, day or
charity, in holiness, but I find it      night; in any position, that is, in bed
difficult to achieve. The demands of     or out of it, kneeling or sitting or as
my work and my family obligations        you think best; and most of all before
find me rush through the day,            you start your professional work,
making it impossible for me to ever      usually without any set order, for a
have time for my spiritual life, for     short or a long time, as God may
prayer. Each passing day I lose little   grant it to you.
by little my relationship with the
Lord. Now I’ve started to experience     I have to tell you Father Anthony
this     indescribable   feeling    of   I’ve prayed all my life, but my
emptiness, permeating in my soul a       prayers were those which I learned
sense that God is no longer present in   from when I was a child. Now I
my life. Father, what should I do to     realize that those prayers are not
feel God’s closeness in my life again?   enough if I want to be holy.
How will I be able to pray despite
my hectic schedule?                      If you strive for holiness they are
                                         certainly not enough. With the Lord,
                                         you can be simple, without following
My friend, it is my prayer that my       any format of prayer. With Him, you
words may be of great comfort to         may discuss freely everything that
you, and may quiet down and              may be happening to you, your
console your anxious heart.              doubts and your difficulties, anything
Indeed your professional activity is     especially those you find the hardest.
quite binding, taking much of your       Present to Him your reasons,
time and energy. It is necessary that    thoroughly but as briefly as possible.
you choose a fitting method of           Then, only propose to Him the
prayer. I suggest that you practice      solution you think is the right one or,
these three exercises.                   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. Converse with Jesus               and know-nothings.
Crucified as familiarly as you would
with me; and discuss with Him all or       Well, then, if in favor of those who
just a few of your problems,               have recourse to Him God destroys
according to the time at your              all the crafty designs of modern men,
disposal. Chat with Him and ask His        who seem so intent in separating man
advice on all your affairs, whatever       from God, can you not imagine how
they may be, whether spiritual or          He will disperse other less
temporal, whether for yourself or for      complicated plotting much more
other people. If you practice this way     easily? And if, in a sense, one can
of prayer, I can assure you that little    unite himself to God, even in the
by little you will derive from it both     midst of worldly distractions, how
great spiritual profit and an ever-        much more easily will he be able to
greater love relationship with Christ.     unite     himself     to    Him    in
                                           circumstances more favorable to
If I understood it well, prayer is a       recollection?
dialogue with God. Father Anthony,
                                           Now I see the value of learning from
do you say that praying in this way
                                           God about my concerns and life
is worth more than taking
                                           issues through prayer. Father, I do
explanations from books or from
                                           not mean to interrupt you, but you
human wisdom for my uncertainties
                                           said there were three exercises to
and doubts?
                                           practice. You’ve already mentioned
I am indeed deeply convinced that          the first. What is the second?
we can learn more about human laws
directly from the legislator than from     The second exercise, which will help
anybody else, especially when that         you practice the first one and will
legislator is himself the rule and the     obtain from God a greater abundance
pattern of all things, and knows how       of grace, is the constant lifting up of
to explain and disentangle the             the mind to God. You, my friend,
deceptive reasoning of the devil.          cannot do without it; for the greater
Indeed how much more thoroughly            the danger and the more important
will he be able to unravel those of        the matter, a steadier application and
men? Needless to say, if one does not      sharper sight are required from you.
believe this truth, he believes still      Father Anthony, I have to say that I
less that God takes such good care of      have difficulty concentrating during
us that He will not let a single hair of   prayers. I often get distracted. What
our heads be lost; and again, that He      should I do to be able to keep my
is so wise that He will show the wise      mind focused with God?
of this world for what they are: fools
By nature, man finds it difficult to be   excuse me if I don’t chat with you?
recollected and, much more so, to be      I’ve this and that to do; but if you
united with God because his spirit is     don’t mind waiting, as soon as I’m
naturally    driven    in     different   finished, we’ll talk at leisure." Then,
directions and is unable to focus on      interrupting his writing for a
one thing. This exercise of lifting up    moment, he will occasionally turn his
one’s soul to God is, of course, more     eyes and look at him; sometimes he
difficult for the person who has          will utter a word or two about what
gotten into the bad habit of being        he is doing; at another time, while
dissipated. But the most difficult        still writing, he will say: "In a short
thing for anybody is to find oneself      while, I’m almost finished." In these
involved in activities that, by their     and similar ways, he will entertain
very nature, (according to my             his friend, though unable to talk at
judgment) are not conducive to union      leisure with him. At the same time,
with God, and still not be distracted.    he will not be distracted from his job
Who would think it possible to stand      by these gestures nor hindered in his
in the rain and not get wet? This is      work by such forms of entertainment.
true. But what seems to be
impossible in itself becomes very         You, too, my friend, should act in
easy with God’s help if only we do        this way, and your studies and works
not refuse Him our cooperation and        would suffer almost no disadvantage.
that diligent practical commitment        Father, I consider myself a
with which He has endowed us.             conscientious person, that is why I
How will I be able to unite myself        always want to please God by doing
with God even while at work?              my obligations the best I can. How
                                          else will I be able to unite myself
If you want to maintain your union        with God even while I accomplish
with God and, at the same time, to go     my duties?
on working, talking, thinking,
reading, and taking care of your          Before starting your activities, offer
affairs as usual, often lift up your      Jesus a few words of your choosing;
mind to God for a long or a short         then during your work often lift up
period as, for example, someone           your mind to God. You will benefit
would do while entertaining a friend.     much and there will be no detriment
If he were unable to entertain him on     to your job.
account of pressing business as, for
instance, keeping track of the goods      First and foremost, watch how
which were to be shipped at that          anything concerning yourself or
moment, he might tell him: "Will you      others is begun, whether foreseeable
                                          or not, whether at work or at play.
Direct it first to God with any short      one, so that you may not change your
prayer with which He may inspire           mind. If this were to happen, it would
you, mentally or also in words that        cause me very great pain indeed.
express your thoughts and wishes or
in some other manner; then, while          My friend, if my words have any
working, thinking, or planning,            value in your eyes, I invite you, I
frequently lift up your mind to God.       entreat you, and I compel you in
Should your activity continue, break       Christ and for Christ to open your
it up, perhaps, for the time it takes to   eyes and consider well what I have
say a "Hail Mary," or as it may seem       said to you and try to practice it by
convenient to you, always, of course,      deeds, not just by words. I can assure
following        God’s     inspiration.    you that you will become a new
Depending on the length of your            person, such as you should be in
activity, you can interrupt your work      view of the charge that God has
more than once.                            placed and will continue to place on
                                           your shoulders in different ways.
If you follow this practice, you will      But, if you act otherwise, you will
get used to praying easily and             not fulfill your obligation toward
without detriment to your work or to       God and your neighbor, and, far from
your health; you will be praying           being justified, you will be
incessantly, even while drinking,          condemned as a transgressor.
eating, acting, talking, studying,
writing, etc.; and the external actions    Try hard, then, to understand what I
will not hinder the interior ones and      have just said, and apply yourself to
vice versa.                                practicing it.

It’s now clear to me that there’s          Father, didn’t you mention three
really nothing that can hinder me          exercises?
from praying to God. I only have to        Yes. Above all else, while observing
dispose myself to Him at all times         the first exercise, keep the third one
and in any circumstances.                  which I am about to tell you;
                                           otherwise all your works will be of
Indeed if you act otherwise, you will
                                           little value and honor before Christ.
be a decent person but not the
Christian Christ wishes, and has
                                            Now, here is the third exercise. In
called, you to be. This will be clear to
                                           your meditation, prayers, and
you if you consider closely the way
                                           thoughts, strive to pinpoint your
by which Christ has been trying to
                                           principal defects, most of all, the
bind you to Himself. I warn you and
                                           chief one, the Captain-General, as it
offer you the means to become such
                                           were, which dominates all the others.
a Christian, if you really want to be
While concentrating on trying to kill      Father Anthony, I am so grateful for
that one, make every effort also to        what you’ve just taught me. They are
kill the other defects which may           certainly wonderful insights on how I
come under your attack, thus               should pray. I will surely treasure
imitating the soldier who wants to         them.
kill the Commander-in-chief of the
enemy who is in the middle of his          If you truly treasure the counsels that
army. Striving to reach him, the           I have just given you, you will fall in
soldier keeps his eyes fixed on him        love with Jesus Crucified quite
as the target, but at the same time he     easily. Any other way will keep you
fights his way toward him by killing       away from Him, a sad thing that I
the other enemies he may encounter.        hate to see in you, for I love you and
Do likewise with your defects.             feel impelled to love you and see you
                                           forever in Christ Crucified.




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