Thursday, June 13, 2013

Pray boldly! | St. Anthony of Padua (and Lisbon!)

St. Anthony of Padua is right up there probably in the top 10 of most popular Catholic saints. Growing up in the largely-Portuguese city of New Bedford, I feel compelled to remind you that St. Anthony was actually Portuguese and from Lisbon and not Padua, that's just where he died. But, I digress.  Anyway, a very popular saint.  

So popular, in fact, that I remember one year when I was a young student in formation working the big Feast of St. Anthony at our Mother Church in New York City.  This feast spanned several New York city blocks and the Church was active from sun-up until 11 p.m. every day.  One of the jobs that I had was to bless people with a relic of St. Anthony.  People would stream into the Church all day long and I stood in front of a highly decorated statue of the Saint.  Of to the left along the side of the Church, however, was a statue of St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order that St. Anthony belonged to.  One person came forward, received their blessing with the relic, and then did a double take.  She look at St. Francis, then at St. Anthony, then at St. Francis and back at St. Anthony again and then with a puzzled look, she pointed and St. Francis and asked me, "Did he belong to St. Anthony's order?"  So, again, a popular saint.

Why so popular?  Well, as with most of the saints, he lived an extraordinary life.  Born to a wealthy and noble Portuguese family, they wanted him to become educated and follow in their noble footsteps.  However, young Fernando (Anthony would be his religious name), was impressed by the Canons Regular who educated him and he was attracted to their holy life and their desire for knowledge and learning. With them, he engaged in the study of theology and became renowed for his knowledge of holy things.  But after his ordination to the priesthood, his life would again change after encountering five men from this very new religious community called the Franciscans in 1219. They were passing through his town on their way to Morocco to preach the Gospel to the Muslims there.  Anthony was attracted to their simple, gospel-centered life.  He would learn a year later that they were martyred during their mission to Morocco and he was inspired by their heroism for the faith, so inspired that he obtained permission to leave the Canons Regular and join the Friars Minor.  

St. Anthony would go on to lead a life renowned for his teaching and preaching among the friars and the legends of the miracles through his life and ministry abound.  He was canonized less than a year after his death.

St. Anthony today is known as the patron saint of lost things.  If you're like me, you grew up hearing simple prayers (almost jingles) that went like this, "St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come down. Something is lost and can't be found." Or, "Dear St. Anthony, to you I pray. Bring it back, without delay."  Or, "Something's lost and can't be found. Please, St. Anthony, look around."

St. Anthony is perhaps most frequently invoked when we can't find our car keys or our cell phone or some other trivial object that we have misplaced.  And, if I'm honest with myself, I have to say, he usually comes through to these simple prayers.  But, if this is when we turn to the Saint and seek his intercession before the very Throne of God, I have to say, what a shame!

Our regional bishop here in Boston's North End, Bishop Robert Hennessey, frequently reminds us of this reality when he visits our parish church.  There are so many more important things that are lost that need to be found that we should be turning to St. Anthony for and asking his help.  What is missing in your life, in your heart, in your family or community that could use the intercession of so great a Saint?  Maybe you can handle the car keys yourself!

How about the great challenge of lost faith in our world today?  Just think about how many of us come to Mass each Sunday and one of our primary prayer intentions are for all of our family members who no longer find room for the Church, for God, for faith in their lives?  Something is most definitely lost!  Ask St. Anthony to intercede and help them find it.

How about the missing peace all around us?  Families are in shambles today.  Divorce is all too common place.  Children are dealing with the fractured results of what happens in too many families.  Our world has descended into a near constant state of war and conflict.  Our public realm lacks any semblance of civility or compromise or desire to come together for the common good.  Perhaps we should be offering novenas to St. Anthony to help us find the peace that is lost in our hearts, in our homes, in our families and in our world.  Your cell phone will find itself!

How about the hope that so many people seem to be lacking today?  I encounter far too many people who don't see a future full of dreams and possibilities, but instead have given up on life; have given up on possibility; have given up on humanity and all that we can accomplish together as a community.  Despair seems to be what rules the hearts of far too many people instead of the love of God that once it fills your heart fills you will hope and dreams and possibilities and limitless futures!  Maybe it's time to ask St. Anthony to intercede for this lost hope in our world to give us a more positive view of God's creation and the possibilities we can achieve together.

So, today, on this feast of St. Anthony, let's think big!  And more importantly, let's PRAY BIG! Pray boldly!  Forget about the keys, and the phones and the other little trinkets that are passing anyway and missing for a moment.  Let's ask the Patron of the Lost to intercede for us for the important things that are lost and must be found - let's pray for lost faith, lost peace and lost hope - that through his intercession, God may renew us once again!

St. Anthony, intercede for us!

2 comments:

  1. This is so profound! Thank you for sharing this Father! I love Saint Anthony and pray with all my heart for him to grant mercy and 'find' the lost souls whom are ready and able to listen to his loving guidance towards the infinite mercy of Christ.

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  2. Thanl you so much! I always have prayed to him for silly things ..looked him up for a friend whose cat came home miraculously to send this and learned a lot myself! My grandmom used to say if he found your things he needed a payback in the form of a donation to the church or a service to one who needed help...both practices that should happen regularly but nice to be reminded. Deep thanks!

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