St. Anthony of Padua
“Good Saint Anthony, please come ‘round! Something is lost and cannot be found!” A familiar little prayer to one of the most beloved and invoked of Catholic saints, this simple line is an expression of faith and trust. When we ask a saint’s intercession, we are not being superstitious, nor looking for a magic trick. We are turning to a friend, one of the communion of saints that includes “those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n, 962). Those who are already with God are close to Him and intercede for us with an abundance of love. Saint Anthony of Padua is a Doctor of the Church, which is a title granted by the Pope to a select few saints who are recognized as extraordinary teachers of the Faith. We celebrate the feast of St. Anthony of Padua on June 13, and this year, precious relics from Padua will be brought to several churches in North Jersey during the week of June 10 through June 14. What an opportunity!
Anthony of Padua lived in the thirteenth century. As famous and beloved as he is, many people know little about him. Baptized Ferdinand, he joined an Augustinian monastery early on as a means of remaining pure when the temptations of adolescence began to provoke him. Eleven years later, the first martyrs of the Friars Minor (Franciscans), who were executed by the sultan of Morocco, inspired Ferdinand to join their order, taking on the name of Anthony. He hoped to be martyred for the Faith also, and received permission to head to Morocco. As is often the case, God had other plans for His servant. He endured terrible illness and while attempting to return home to Portugal was carried to Italy by a ship blown off course. He settled into a hermitage where he fasted, prayed and enjoyed a life of solitude. Pressed to give a speech during a common meal, Anthony proved himself to be so full of the Holy Spirit and of the Gospels that he astounded his listeners and was immediately sent forth to preach.
Many miracles are attributed to St. Anthony. St. Francis, founder of the Friars Minor, was seen in the air blessing a gathering of friars to whom Anthony was preaching, indicating his saintly approval. His purity was so steady that when a monk told St. Anthony of the temptations against purity that he could not dispel, even with prayer and fasting, St. Anthony gave his own habit to the monk to wear for just a moment, and the temptations were banished. Once, to convince a man who had no belief in the Real Presence, St. Anthony offered a test: the man was to withhold food from his donkey for three days, and then bring the donkey before the Blessed Sacrament. St. Anthony assured the man, Bonillo, that his donkey would kneel before Our Lord in the Eucharist before turning to proffered hay, even after three days of fasting. This happened as he promised. On occasions when St. Anthony was seen in deep prayerfulness, the Child Jesus appeared clinging lovingly to the holy man’s neck. This is the image we are familiar with as St. Anthony statues show him holding a lily for purity and the Child Jesus in an embrace.
It is said that St. Anthony was sensitively affected by the little things and sought to help others in those trifling issues that arise in day to day life, and he continues to wait at the ready to help those who turn to him in hope and trust, especially in those frustrations of life that cause so much grief, such as missing and lost articles. Next time you catch yourself frantic to find a lost item, take a moment to calm down, summon your faith and ask “good St. Anthony” for assistance! The saint’s help is a reminder of God’s own love and concern for every small detail of our existence.
May 24, 2015