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``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D


Feast of
St. Anthony of Padua


 
 
Born in Lisbon in A.D. 1195, St. Anthony, né Ferdinand, was the son of noble, God-fearing parents. He received a good education, and, at the age of fifteen, joined the Canons Regular of St. Augustine which whom he studied Sacred Scripture and the writings of the Fathers. At around the age of 25, he became inspired by the Franciscans martyred in Morocco and decided to join their Order, taking the name "Anthony."

Illness prevented his going to Morocco, so he spent some time in Sicily, in Assisi, and then in Montepaolo his public life began: during the ordination of a group of Franciscan and Dominican friars, it was discovered that no one had been appointed to preach. The superior turned to the Dominicans first because they are the "Order of Preachers," but all declined, saying they were not prepared. So St. Anthony stepped up -- and began to teach so beautifully that word of his talents reached the ears of St. Francis, who blessed his work.

St. Anthony taught at Bologna, Montpellier, and Toulouse, but it was as a fearless orator (he became known as the "Hammer of the Heretics") and a miracle worker that he is most reknowned.

Among these miracles:

  • In Rimini, an ass which hadn't eaten in three days refused the oats placed before him, till he had knelt down and adored the Blessed Sacrament held in St. Anthony's hands. 1
     
  • Some Italian heretics offered him poisoned food which he rendered harmless by the sign of the cross.
     
     
  • On Holy Thursday, while preaching in the Church of St. Pierre du Queriox at Limoges, he remembered he had to sing the Divine Office in the choir. He bilocated, appearing among the friars to sing, and continued on with his preaching.
     
  • Again while preaching in Limoges (in the square des creux des Arenes), he miraculously kept his audience dry from the rain.
     
  • During the sermon at St. Junien, he rightfully predicted that the devil would cause the pulpit to break, but that everyone would be safe.
     
     
  • Either in the province of Limousin at the Castle of Chateauneuf-la-Forêt, between Limoges and Eymoutiers or at Camposanpiero, near Padua, the Infant Jesus was seen by fellow friars visiting with St. Anthony in his room.
     
  • On his way back to Italy after the death of St. Francis (3 October, 1226), he travelled through Provence where, tired from travel, he and his companions entered the house of a poor woman, who placed bread and wine before them. She had forgotten, though, to shut off the tap of the wine-barrel -- and as the wine was running out, one of Anthony's companions broke his glass. Anthony prayed, and the wine barrel was filled up again and the glass was made whole.
     
  • Among his last sermons were those preached during Lent of 1231. Huge crowds of people -- 30,000 and more -- gathered to hear him. His powerful oratory -- and the fact that Athony would appear to many of the people in visions urging repentance -- caused so great a number of people to want to repent, that there weren't enough priests to deal with them. These visions -- often taking place in dreams -- occurred after his death, too.
     
  • In Padua, a young man named Leonardo kicked his own mother in a fit of anger. He confessed his fault to St. Anthony who said to him: "The foot of him who kicks his mother deserves to be cut off." Leonardo ran home and cut off his foot. Learning of this, St. Anthony took the amputated foot and miraculously rejoined it.

Near Padua took place the famous "sermon to the fishes" when, to impress heretics, he preached the word of God and the fishes poked their heads out of the water to listen.

The Sermon to the Fishes

 
 The 49th chapter of the 14th century "Little Flowers of St. Francis" describes this event like this:

Christ, the blessed one, was pleased to show forth the great sanctity of his most faithful servant St Anthony, and how men ought devoutly to listen to his preaching, be means of creatures without reason. On one occasion, amongst others, he made use of fish to reprove the folly of faithless heretics: even as we read in the Old Testament that in ancient times he reproved the ignorance of Balaam by the mouth of an ass. St Anthony being at one time at Rimini, where there were a great number of heretics, and wishing to lead them by the light of faith into the way of truth, preached to them for several days, and reasoned with them on the faith of Christ and on the Holy Scriptures. They not only resisted his words, but were hardened and obstinate, refusing to listen to him.

At last St Anthony, inspired by God, went down to the sea-shore, where the river runs into the sea, and having placed himself on a bank between the river and the sea, he began to speak to the fishes as if the Lord had sent him to preach to them, and said: "Listen to the word of God, O ye fishes of the sea and of the river, seeing that the faithless heretics refuse to do so."

No sooner had he spoken these words than suddenly so great a multitude of fishes, both small and great, approached the bank on which he stood, that never before had so many been seen in the sea or the river. All kept their heads out of the water, and seemed to be looking attentively on St Anthony's face; all were ranged in perfect order and most peacefully, the smaller ones in front near the bank, after them came those a little bigger, and last of all, were the water was deeper, the largest.

When they had placed themselves in this order, St Anthony began to preach to them most solemnly, saying: "My brothers the fishes, you are bound, as much as is in your power, to return thanks to your Creator, who has given you so noble an element for your dwelling; for you have at your choice both sweet water and salt; you have many places of refuge from the tempest; you have likewise a pure and transparent element for your nourishment. God, your bountiful and kind Creator, when he made you, ordered you to increase and multiply, and gave you his blessing. In the universal deluge, all other creatures perished; you alone did God preserve from all harm. He has given you fins to enable you to go where you will. To you was it granted, according to the commandment of God, to keep the prophet Jonas, and after three days to throw him safe and sound on dry land. You it was who gave the tribute-money to our Saviour Jesus Christ, when, through his poverty, he had not wherewith to pay. By a singular mystery you were the nourishment of the eternal King, Jesus Christ, before and after his resurrection. Because of all these things you are bound to praise and bless the Lord, who has given you blessings so many and so much greater than to other creatures."

At these words the fish began to open their mouths, and bow their heads, endeavouring as much as was in their power to express their reverence and show forth their praise. St Anthony, seeing the reverence of the fish towards their Creator, rejoiced greatly in spirit, and said with a loud voice: "Blessed be the eternal God; for the fishes of the sea honour him more than men without faith, and animals without reason listen to his word with greater attention than sinful heretics."

And whilst St Anthony was preaching, the number of fishes increased, and none of them left the place that he had chosen. And the people of the city hearing of the miracle, made haste to go and witness it. With them also came the heretics of whom we have spoken above, who, seeing so wonderful and manifest a miracle, were touched in their hearts; and threw themselves at the feet of St Anthony to hear his words. The saint then began to expound to them the Catholic faith. He preached so eloquently, that all those heretics were converted, and returned to the true faith of Christ; the faithful also were filled with joy, and greatly comforted, being strengthened in the faith. After this St Anthony sent away the fishes, with the blessing of God; and they all departed, rejoicing as they went, and the people returned to the city. But St Anthony remained at Rimini for several days, preaching and reaping much spiritual fruit in the souls of his hearers.

St. Anthony, as a Franciscan, was also famous for helping the poor. At his encouragement, Padua passed a law in 1231 to help debtors who couldn't pay their debts.

St. Anthony died in Arcella, strengthened by an apparition of Our Lord and in the "odor of sanctity," at age thirty-six on 13 June, 1231. After he died, he announced his own death to Abbot Thomas Gallo by appearing to him. His death was also announced to the citizens of Padua by a troop of children, crying: "The holy Father is dead; St. Anthony is dead!" Gregory IX canonized him within the year, the fastest canonization ever.

The people of Padua built a temple for his relics, which were transferred to it in 1263 in the presence of St. Bonaventure. His body was found to be dust -- but for his tongue, which was fresh and red. St. Bonaventure kissed it and cried, "O Blessed Tongue that always praised the Lord, and made others bless Him, now it is evident what great merit thou hast before God."

St. Anthony is the patron of sailors, pregnant women, amputees, fishermen, and the poor. He is invoked against shipwrecks and in order to find lost objects, by women to find a husband, to conceive a child, and to ensure safe childbirth. He is also invoked to see that mail and packages are safely delivered. St. Anthony is most often depicted in art wearing his Franciscan habit and holding a lily and the Christ Child, or sometimes with loaves of bread or a book.


Customs of the Day

On the Feast of this most wonderful of Saints, your priest might bless lilies for you to keep (this isn't a universal practice). The blessing of lilies, which remind us of St. Anthony's purity and have always been a symbol for him, stems from a miracle which took place in Revolutionary France: many priests and religious were murdered, so many churches and convents destroyed, but the faithful still showed up at a surviving church on the Feast of St. Anthony. Months later, it was discovered that lilies that had adorned the church at that feast were still fresh. Let the lilies beautify your house, or carry them with you, or press them in a book, etc. If your priest doesn't bless lilies, you can still use them non-sacramentally to remind you of one of the greatest Saints ever. The English of the Blessing of the Lilies is as follows:
 
 

The Blessing of Lilies on the Feast of St. Anthony
 

The priest vests in surplice and white stole, and says:

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.
P: The Lord be with you.
All: And with thy spirit.
P: Let us pray. God, the Creator and Preserver of the human race, the Lover of holy purity, the Giver of supernatural grace, and the Dispenser of everlasting salvation; bless + these lilies which we, Thy humble servants, present to Thee today as an act of thanksgiving and in honor of St. Anthony, Thy confessor, and with a request for Thy blessing. Pour out on them, by the saving sign + of the holy cross, Thy dew from on high. Thou in Thy great kindness hast given them to man, and endowed them with a sweet fragrance to lighten the burden of the sick. Therefore, let them be filled with such power that, whether they are used by the sick, or kept in homes or other places, or devoutly carried on one's person, they may serve to drive out evil spirits, safeguard holy chastity, and turn away illness--all this through the prayers of St. Anthony--and finally impart to Thy servants grace and peace; through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.

Then he sprinkles the lilies with holy water, saying:

P: Sprinkle me with hyssop, Lord, and I shall be clean of sin. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Pray for us, St. Anthony.
All: That we may be worthy of Christ's promise.
P: Let us pray. We beg Thee, O Lord, that Thy people may be helped by the constant and devout intercession of Blessed Anthony, Thy illustrious confessor. May he assist us to be worthy of Thy grace in this life, and to attain everlasting joys in the life to come; through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.

After this the lilies are distributed to the people.

 
 
In some parishes, chapels, or countries, animals might be blessed today as they are also sometimes blessed on the Feasts of St. Anthony Abbot and of St. Francis of Assisi.

Another custom on this day is known as "St. Anthony's Bread" and goes back to A.D. 1263 when a child drowned near the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua as it was still being built. The mother besought St. Anthony and promised that if her child were restored to life, she would give to the poor an amount of wheat equal to the weight of her child. Of course her son was saved, and her promise was kept. "St. Anthony's Bread," then, is the promise of giving alms in return for a favor asked of God through St. Anthony's intercession (the custom also takes place throughout the year when parents give alms after placing their baby under the patronage of St. Anthony). In some places, the custom has a literal parallel in that loaves of bread might be blessed and given away at church or, generally, to the poor.

Because of St. Anthony's history of being invoked by single women in search of a husband, today is a good day for single people who have a vocation to marriage to make a visit to a church or shrine dedicated to St. Anthony!

In Lisbon, his birthplace, it is a traditional day for getting married (women who get married on this day are called "brides of St. Anthony"). So popular are weddings on this day in Lisbon, that the city hall hosts them for free if the couple are poor. St. Anthony altars are built and decorated, parades are held, bonfires lit, grilled sardines and sangria are enjoyed.

Sangria

1 (750-ml) bottle red wine (Rioja, if possible)
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup orange flavored liqueur (triple sec or Grand Marnier)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 orange, thinly sliced
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
1 unwaxed apple, cored, and cut into thin wedges
1 (750-ml) bottle sparkling water, chilled

Combine everything but the sparkling water in a large plastic container or glass pitchers. Cover and chill completely, 1 to 2 hours. When ready to serve, add the sparkling water, pour over ice cubes, and enjoy.

BasilIt is also customary to decorate with pots of sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) and to give some away to friends with prayers invoking our Saint (tea made from basil is good for headaches, fevers, stomach aches, and indigestion -- but it should not be drunk by pregnant women).

Finally, because he is also especially cherished by the Italian people, parishes with large Italian populations might host great festivals on this day, rather like the Italian festivals held in honor of St. Joseph on 19 March, so keep an eye out for one in your area.

Note: Because St. Anthony was buried on a Tuesday and many miracles accompanied his funeral, Tuesdays are special days of honoring him throughout the year. It is customary to pray a Novena to him on thirteen consecutive Tuesdays.
See also St. Anthony's Brief.

 
Footnotes:
1 Various 14th. century narratives place this miracle in Toulouse, Wadding, or Bruges, but the actual location was Rimini.


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