10 May 2010

Saint Antoninus Pierozzi of Florence

10 MAY 2010. Today we celebrate the memorial of Saint Antoninus Pierozzi of Florence, a Dominican friar and Archbishop of Florence.

Born on 1 March 1389, in Florence. The child was given the name of Anthony, but he was of a small stature and a gentle nature, so he was always known by the graceful Italian diminutive "Antonino ("Little Anthony"). Little Anothony's childhood was marked with great devotion and prayer. His father was a lawyer in Florence who also held several important positions in local institutions, and Antonino frequently attended the preaching of Blessed John Dominici, a celebrated friar and preacher of his time.

So great was Antonino's love for Christ that he approached Blessed John Dominici as a teenager and asked to be admitted to a new convent at Fiesole that was being erected. Because of the child's youth and small size, Blessed John instructed Antonino that he could not be admitted to the convent until he furthered his studies, and made him the promise that Antonino would be admitted if he memorized the Book of Decretals.

This enormous task was undertaken by the young Antonino with great devotion, and a year later he returned to Blessed John having completed the task. On the Feast of Saint Dominic, A.D. 1504, Antonino was clothed with the Dominican habit.

In the Order, Antonino grew quickly in holiness and knowledge and relatively soon assumed the position of prior--a position that he held in a number of Dominican houses in the region, including founding the Convent of San Marco, Florence. Much of Antoninus' work in the houses that he served was focused on renewal and reform of the Dominican life.

Friar Antoninus had a great reputation for theological learning and served as the Papal theologian for the Council of Florence in A.D. 1439. He was also a prolific writer, authoring texts on moral theology, canon law, a guide for confessors, and a chronicle of the history of the world. Antoninus was also widely known and sought-out for his gift of counsel, earning the popular title--"the Angel of Counsels."

Under threat of excommunication if he refused, Friar Antoninus was elevated to the archepiscopacy of Florence in A.D. 1446. It is recorded that Archbishop Antoninus kept the simple and austere lifestyle that he had prior to his service as archbishop. Quickly, as archbishop, he won the esteem and love of his people and remained, fundamentally, a man of prayer. When the plague and, later, earthquakes struck his flock, he was seen night and day delivering provisions and assistance to his flock with a donkey laden with supplies and a small group of assistants. His time was often spent among the poorest of his flock and many miracles were attributed to him.

In art, Saint Antoninus is often seen holding a set of scales. This is because of a miracle that tradition attributes to the Saint. An inhabitant of Florence once brought the archbishop a beautiful new year's fruit basket in the secret hopes of receiving a great reward. However, Saint Antoninus simply thanked the donor and sent him away with the words: "May God reward you." Because he received no reward, the man went off discontented. When Saint Antoninus later learned of the man's discontentment, he called for him to come before him again. When the donor did, Saint Antoninus had the fruit basket placed on one side of a set of scales and a slip of paper on the other side bearing the words: "May God reward you!" When this was done, the scales registered that the slip of paper far outweighed the fruit basket.

Saint Anotninus was even declared to be of saintly virtue during his lifetime. When Pope Nicholas V canonized Saint Bernandine of Siena, he is reported to have remarked that Archbishop Antoninus was as much deserving of canonization alive as the dead Bernadine.

Saint Antoninus died on 2 May 1459, and his funeral was celebrated by Pope Pius II, himself, who also granted special indulgences to the faithful for their veneration of Antoninus. The bull of Saint Antoninus' canonization is reported to have been completed during the pontificate of Adrian IV in A.D. 1523, but was not published until the pontificate of his successor, Clement VII.


Eternal God,
you blessed Saint Antoninus
with a marvelous gift of counsel.
By the help of his prayers
while we walk in the darkness of this life,
may we learn from the light of Christ
all that we ought to do.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


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