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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Saint of Miracles

:: St. Anthony of Padua, CD
Thursday, June 13, 2013

SAINT ANTHONY of PADUA
Doctor of the Church and Miracle-Worker
(1195-1231)

Born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1195, Fernando de Bouillon was of a noble family related to the famous Godefroy de Bouillon, founder and first sovereign of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, who at the close of the Crusade of 1099 had refused to wear a crown, there where Christ had worn one of thorns.

Favored by nature and grace, Fernand resolved at the age of fifteen to leave the world and consecrate himself to God in the Order of Canons Regular of Saint Augustine. No flattery, threat or caress of his relatives could persuade him to leave that holy refuge. He asked to be transferred to another convent to avoid the family's solicitations, and was sent to Coimbra. Still young, his sanctity became evident through miracles; he cured a poor religious whom the devil was obsessing, by covering him with his cloak.

When this young monk decided, after witnessing the return of the martyred remains of five Franciscans who had gone to Africa, to join that Order so favored with the graces of martyrdom, the Augustinians were desolate but could not prevent his departure, for Saint Francis himself appeared to him in a vision in July 1220, and commanded him to leave. He was then sent by the Franciscans to Africa, but two years later was obliged to return to Italy because of sickness; thus he was deprived of the martyr's crown he would have been happy to receive.

In 1222 Anthony, as he was now called, went with other Brothers and some Dominican friars to be ordained at Forli. There Fra Antonio rose under obedience to preach for the first time to the religious, and took for his theme the text of Saint Paul: Christ chose for our sake to become obedient unto death. As the discourse proceeded, "the Hammer of Heretics," "the Ark of the Testament," "the eldest son of Saint Francis," stood revealed in all his sanctity, learning, and eloquence before his rapt and astonished brethren. He had been serving in the humblest offices of his community; now he was summoned to emerge from this obscurity. And then for nine years France, Italy, and Sicily heard his voice and saw his miracles, whose numbers can scarcely be counted. A crowd to which he was preaching outdoors one day, when the church was too small to hold all who came to hear him, amidst thunder and lightning felt not one drop of water fall upon them, while all around them the rain poured down. And men's hearts turned to God.

We may wonder why we always see Saint Anthony with the Child Jesus in his arms. The account of this heavenly visitation was told only after his death, at the official process concerning his virtues and miracles. It was narrated by the man who witnessed the marvel in question; the Saint himself had never spoken of it. Saint Anthony was in the region of Limoges in France, and was offered hospitality, rest and silence by this businessman of the region, in his country manor. He was given a room apart, to permit him to pray in peace; but during the night his host looked toward his lighted window and saw in the brilliance a little Infant of marvelous beauty in the arms of the Saint, with His own around the Friar's neck. The witness trembled at the sight, and in the morning Saint Anthony, to whom it had been revealed that his host had seen the visitation, called him and enjoined him not to tell it as long as he was alive. The town near Limoges where this occurred remains unknown; the original account of the inquiry does not name it, but says that the man in question narrated it, with tears, after Saint Anthony's death.

After a number of years of teaching of theology, unceasing preaching and writing, Saint Anthony, whose health was never strong, was spending a short time of retreat in a hermitage near Padua. He was overcome one day with a sudden weakness, which prevented him from walking. It progressed so rapidly that it was evident his last days had arrived. He died at the age of thirty-six, after ten years with the Canons Regular and eleven with the Friars Minor, on June 13, 1231. The voices of children were heard crying in the streets of Padua, "Our father, Saint Anthony, is dead." The following year, the church bells of Lisbon rang without ringers, while in Rome one of its sons was inscribed among the Saints of God.

Reflection. Let us love to pray and labor unseen, and cherish in the secret of our hearts the graces of God and the growth of our immortal souls. Like Saint Anthony, let us attend to this first of all and leave the rest to God.


Miracles and Traditions of St Anthony 
The reason for invoking St. Anthony’s help in finding lost or stolen things is traced back to an incident in his own life. As the story goes, Anthony had a book of psalms that was very important to him. Besides the value of any book before the invention of printing, the psalter had the notes and comments he had made to use in teaching students in his Franciscan Order. A novice who had already grown tired of living religious life decided to depart the community. Besides going AWOL he also took Anthony’s psalter! Upon realizing his psalter was missing, Anthony prayed it would be found or returned to him. And after his prayer the thieving novice was moved to return the psalter to Anthony and to return to the Order, which accepted him back. Legend has embroidered this story a bit. It has the novice stopped in his flight by a horrible devil, brandishing an ax and threatening to trample him underfoot if he did not immediately return the book. Obviously a devil would hardly command anyone to do something good. But the core of the story would seem to be true. And the stolen book is said to be preserved in the Franciscan friary in Bologna. In any event, shortly after his death people began praying through Anthony to find or recover lost and stolen articles. And the Responsory of St. Anthony composed by his contemporary, Julian of Spires, O.F.M., proclaims, “The sea obeys and fetters break/And lifeless limbs thou dost restore/While treasures lost are found again/When young or old thine aid implore.” St. Anthony Bread is a term used for offerings made in thanksgiving to God for blessings received through the prayers of St. Anthony. Sometimes the alms are given for the education of priests. In some places parents also make a gift for the poor after placing a newborn child under the protection of St. Anthony. It is a practice in some churches to bless small loaves of bread on the feast of St. Anthony and give them to those who want them. Different legends or stories account for the donation of what is called St. Anthony Bread. By at least one account it goes back to 1263, when it is said a child drowned near the Basilica of St. Anthony which was still being built. His mother promised that if the child was restored to her she would give for the poor an amount of corn equal to the child’s weight. Her prayer and promise were rewarded with the boy’s return to life. Another reason for the practice is traced back to Louise Bouffier, a shopkeeper inToulon,France. A locksmith was prepared to break open her shop door after no key would open it. Bouffier asked the locksmith to try his keys one more time after she prayed and promised to give bread to the poor in honor of St. Anthony if the door would open without force. The door then opened. After others received favors through the intercession of St. Anthony, they joined Louise Bouffier in founding the charity of St. Anthony Bread. - 

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