June 12, 2020
Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua. We have a statue of him in the back of the church here at Holy Name but I have found that many people either do not recognize him or they do not know much about him.
St. Anthony was born in Lisbon and was Portuguese. This surprises many because he is associated with the city in Italy where he died and is buried: Padua. He was a priest before he became a Franciscan and left Portugal in order to be a missionary in a Muslim country in North Africa. The early Franciscans, like St. Francis himself, had a great desire to evangelize those who did not know Christ. Several of them were martyred in Morocco and their bodies were brought back to Portugal for interment in a monastery. St. Anthony joined the order and was sent to Morocco also, but took sick and was sent home again. However, the boat was blown off course by a storm and the saint was shipwrecked in Sicily. There St. Anthony joined a community and lived in obscurity. No one knew of his education and ability until by chance he was asked to preach at an ordination. From being the cook of the community he was sent to teach and to preach.
He knew several languages and was a great preacher. He moved many hearts and was able to bring back many lost souls to the faith. Perhaps that is why things lost were eventually associated with his invocation. The famous prayer, "Tony, Tony, look around, something's lost that must be found," has been said by many people. But St. Anthony is much more important than misplaced items. He was a sincere follower of Jesus, who lived in poverty and taught the dangers of materialism and attachment to money. He preached against usurers, who took advantage of people by loaning them money at exorbitant interest rates. He was also a peacemaker, settling disputes between cities and families. Near the end of his life, he was granted the grace of the vision that inspired most of his images.
He was dying and Jesus appeared to him as an Infant. He picked up the Child Jesus and held him next to his heart. That is what the statue in our church memorializes. St. Anthony is shown dressed in his Franciscan habit, with the cord that represents the three vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience and with his rosary. He holds Jesus with love and devotion, an example that we should take to heart. St. Anthony was a great man of God, a holy prophet whose prayers were used by the Lord for many miracles. The miracle of tender love of Jesus is the meaning of the statue and should speak to us. St. Anthony, pray for us. God bless you.