Disclaimer

NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church and our Holy Father. This "little work" is purely a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter


Saturday, June 27, 2015

St. Anthony of Padua; God's Wonder Worker Supreme!


St. Anthony of Padua, pray for us!

This brief bio of St. Anthony of Padua is long overdue for my blog. After all, the man is my personal Patron Saint and I picked his name many years ago for my Confirmation Name (to especially thank St. Anthony for the many graces he obtained for me up to that point in my life). But still… although I often mentioned him on this blog, I never featured him in my monthly “Saint of the Month” postings. The truth is - I was actually intimidated by St. Anthony’s life. His life, his work, and his countless miracles are too rich to summarize in a few short paragraphs… and I just didn’t think I could do it.

However, a recent grace I obtained through him prompted me to do something... and with this month being his month, I couldn’t let another June pass by without honoring my favorite Saint in some special way. So here’s to St. Anthony of Padua... may all who read this post grow in devotion to him - the Saint of Miracles!

The Life of St. Anthony of Padua

Many would be surprised to learn that St. Anthony was Portuguese in descent; not Italian. He was born to an affluent noble family in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1195, as Fernando Bulhoes. Early biographers described him as being above-average in height but slight of build; having a narrow face with a high cheek bones and a strong aquiline profile, typical of the Latin races. Fernando was educated at a local cathedral school where faith undoubtedly took root in his soul because, at age 15, he entered the Augustinian Monastery in Lisbon. Being close to home made it easy for his doting family and friends to still visit him, which proved a spiritual distraction to Fernando, so in 1212 he transferred to his order’s Monastery of the Holy Cross in Coimbra. There, after completing 9 years of studies in Latin and Theology, he was ordained a priest.

          
Two contrasting images of St. Anthony that claim to represent his true features; both were modeled
after his skull.  The bust on the left was commissioned by the Shrine/Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua,
while the digital image on the right was created by a Brazilian forensic expert.
[I think the eyes and the nose look somewhat similar, but the jawlines differ]

While in Coimbra, Fernando experienced a major turning point in his life. Members of the recently founded Franciscans took up residence outside of the city and five of them went off to Morocco to preach the Gospel to the Mohammedans, which greatly impressed Fernando. Soon word was received that the five missionaries had been brutally martyred and when their bodies were returned to Coimbra a few months later for burial, Fernando was so deeply inspired by their courageous example that he obtained permission to leave the Augustinians in order to join the Franciscans. After his admittance, Fernando changed his name to Anthony (after St. Anthony the Great, d. 356) and took up residence in the town of Olivais where the Franciscans lived in a small hermitage. His eventual goal was to end up in Morocco like his martyred brethren to preach the Word of God to the inhabitants... and earn the glorious crown of martyrdom, himself.

In 1219 Anthony sailed for Morocco but things did not pan out the way he intended. Shortly upon his arrival there the new missionary became so ill it was decided by his superiors to send him home to Portugal to regain his health. Divine Providence put another kink in Anthony’s path when a storm forced the returning ship he was on to make an emergency landing in Sicily, Italy. The sick man recuperated in the city of Messina before he made his way north through Italy where he stayed for a period in Tuscany, before settling in the Franciscan monastery at Forli. His stay in Forli was marked with obscurity; prayer, study, and menial work were part of his daily routine. Anthony would have been more than content to live this hidden life but, again, God had other plans for him.

"Christians must lean on the Cross of Christ just as travelers lean on a staff when they
begin a long journey. They must have the Passion of Christ deeply embedded in their minds
and hearts, because only from it can they derive peace, grace, and truth."

~ Words of St. Anthony of Padua

In 1222, an large ordination event was held in Forli, which was attended by both the Franciscans and a visiting delegation of Dominican Friars. In the excitement that preceded, confusion arose as to which group would be delivering the sermon. In the end, the task fell on the hosting Franciscans, who being unprepared, quickly decided on having Anthony deliver the homily despite his protests. As it turned out, when our Saint mounted the pulpit and spoke, the theme of his sermon; his expert knowledge of Scriptures; his eloquent delivery and rich, deep voice; all came together in a manner that mesmerized the congregation… and the rest is basically history.

Soon after his preaching debut, Anthony’s talent as a gifted speaker and teacher became widespread. News even reached the ears of the founder of his Order, St. Francis of Assisi (d. 1226), and in 1224 Francis charged Anthony with the theological training of the rest of the friars. From that time onwards, Anthony’s career as a Franciscan lasted for only 7 more years. In this relatively short time frame he also taught in two universities in France and rose to the position of a Franciscan Provincial Superior for northern Italy, and was based in Padua. He also began traversing Italy and southern France as part of a preaching campaign to encourage the faith of his fellow Catholics, and to win back those who had fallen away to join the Albigensians, a growing heretical sect from his time; among their erroneous beliefs, this group taught that everything that was physical/material was evil, while only that which was spiritual in nature was from God, which lead to grave distortions of basic Christian Truths.

Illustrated scenes of a couple of miracles worked by St. Anthony:  the Saint preached to fishes
in Rimini, Italy... and he raised a dead man to testify in favor of his father's court case.

Truly, it was his innate ability to profoundly touch hearts through his inspired and simple-style of preaching that was Anthony’s main claim to fame. In addition, he earned the nickname the "Wonder Worker" because his missionary efforts were often punctuated by a multitude of signs worked through the power of his intercession and sanctity: Healing, Bilocation, Prophecy, and astounding Miracles of all sorts (including a few occasions of raising the dead back to life). He was also favored with heavenly visitations with the most notable being a private apparition of the Christ Child during an overnight stay in the home of a benefactor. Anthony's popularity preceded him so wherever he stopped to mission, people flocked to see and hear him either out of faith or curiosity. Sometimes the crowds were so big, he needed an escort of friars to help shield him from overzealous individuals who wanted to touch him or clip pieces of his habit for relics.

In the end, worn out by his demanding schedule and suffering from ergotism, Anthony was forced to retire in a secluded hermitage at Camposampiero. Even here, people sought him out. While attempting to make his way back to Padua, the Saint took a turn for the worse and was taken to the Poor Clare monastery in Arcella at the outskirts of his home-city. He died there on June 13, 1231, being only 36-years-old... and last words he was heard to say were, "I see my Lord..." According to one report, at the moment of his passing the church bells of Padua rang of their own accord while the little children of the city spontaneously cried out, "The Saint is dead… the Saint is dead!"

          
Sacred Relics of St. Anthony, preserved in the Basilica of Padua (from left to right):
the Saint's incorrupt tongue, his religious habit, and his jawbone.
[click on each photo to view larger images]

When the sad news of Anthony's death spread throughout the vicinity, the response of the faithful was overwhelming.  Mobs came to pay their respects to his mortal remains and many, many cures were reported at his funeral.  His reputation for heroic sanctity was so concrete, the Church canonized him less than a year later on May 30, 1232.  It was the fastest Canonization Cause in the history of the Catholic Church.  As further recognition, in January 1946, St. Anthony was accorded the rare honor of being declared a "Doctor of the Church".  His holy relics - skull and bones, clothing, and miraculously incorrupt tongue - are preserved in the Basilica dedicated to him in Padua, Italy, and June 13th is his designated Feast Day.

Today, familiar images depicting St. Anthony with the Christ Child are found in countless Catholic churches and homes throughout the world; visible testimonies of his unfading popularity and his efficacious intercession.  So thank you, Lord, for granting us this great Saint as a light to shine against the darkness in the world.  May St. Anthony continue to intercede for our personal needs and for the general needs of our Church, which he dearly loved and defended.

"The life of the body is the soul; the life of the soul is God."

~ Words of St. Anthony of Padua

A Prayer to St. Anthony of Padua

O Holy St. Anthony, gentlest of Saints, your love for God and charity for His creatures, made you worthy, when on earth, to possess miraculous powers. Encouraged by this thought, I implore you to obtain for me [mention your request].  O gentle and loving St. Anthony, whose heart was ever full of human sympathy, whisper my petition into the ears of the sweet Infant Jesus, who loved to be enfolded in your arms; and the gratitude of my heart will ever be yours.  Amen.

[End by offering an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be in honor of St. Anthony.
May be recited for 9 consecutive days as a novena.]

St. Anthony's Hawaiian Shrine

The reliquary-shrine of St. Anthony of Padua in Kailua.

My home-parish of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Kailua (Oahu) has a beautiful shrine dedicated to our Patron Saint, situated in the Lanikai wing of our main church building. A votive candle stand fronts a large marble statue of the Saint and a wood/glass display case enshrining an authenticated 1st Class [bone] Relic of St. Anthony (as far as I know it's the only relic of St. Anthony available for public veneration in Hawaii).  So if you're ever in the windward side of Oahu, feel free to worship with our faith community and/or to seek the special intercession of St. Anthony for your personal needs.  For more information about St. Anthony of Padua Church in Kailua, please click here.

Make a "Virtual" Pilgrimage to Padua, Italy

Visit St. Anthony's hallowed tomb in the Basilica dedicated to him in Padua, via the Basilica's official webcam. Pray and reflect on the remarkable life of this great Saint while viewing his tomb-shrine, along with pilgrims from all over Italy and the rest of the world. Click here to make your virtual pilgrimage.


+ + + NOTE:  If you're a devotee of St. Anthony of Padua, I'd be interested and happy to learn about any of your personal experiences related to our dear Saint.  Feel free to share about it in the Comments Section below.  Mahalo.

1 comment:

  1. St. Anthony pray for me and my family.

    ReplyDelete