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Seasonal Reflection: ‘St. Anthony Came Through for Me’

reflect-r1The feast of St. Anthony of Padua — perhaps the second most well-known early Franciscan — is celebrated on June 13. HNP Today asked two friars named Anthony to reflect on what the patron of lost items, the poor and travelers means to them.

By Anthony LoGalbo, OFM
Anthony is my baptismal name. It is a name that I share with my paternal grandfather and two first cousins, one from each side of the family tree. Though I was born in the year that Anthony of Padua was declared a doctor of the Church (1946), I don’t know if that fact prompted my parents to name me Anthony.

Looking at Anthony’s life and mine, I notice some similarities. Before entering the Friars Minor, Anthony was a member of the Augustinians. I did my undergraduate studies at Merrimack College, sponsored by the Augustinians. In fact, I had a number of Augustinians as professors. Anthony desired to go to Morocco in the manner of the first Franciscan martyrs. I went as a missionary to Brazil. As a result of that experience, I share in Anthony’s mother tongue, Portuguese. Anthony was assigned as the first friar to teach theology to the friars in training. I also served as a member post-novitiate formation team (1972 to 1983) for the friars in training for Holy Name Province, and will soon to return to that ministry.

Whenever I lose something, I call upon my patron saint to help me find it, and he always comes through. Beyond that, for me, Anthony of Padua serves as a model of a friar who centered his life on the Christ of the Gospels and preached effectively by word and example what was the fruit of his contemplation. His popularity is testimony to his effectiveness. It is certainly a challenge for me to attempt to live out my Franciscan vocation as vitally as Anthony of Padua lived his.

— Br. Tony is director of the Center for Franciscan Spirituality and Spiritual Direction at St. Francis of Assisi Church on 31st Street in Manhattan.

anthonypaduaBy Anthony Wilson, OFM
Who would have thought that it would be a Carmelite priest that began devotion to St. Anthony here at Santa Ana? Carlos Sarmiento-Diaz, OFM, and I have been ministering in Santa Ana Parish, along with our Franciscan sisters of the Franciscan missionaries of Mary since 2002. Our parish devotions to St. Anthony began when the neighboring pastor, a Carmelite, gave us a statue of St. Anthony as welcoming gift at the parish. We immediately installed St. Anthony in the poorest section of our parish and began to promote his devotion among the youth to strengthen the community as their patron as they face the problems of poverty, drugs, crime, gangs, lack of opportunity and poor education.

Personally, St. Anthony has always been important to me. My devotion to the saint began during my school years. My grandparents taught me to love St. Anthony. My grandfather worked behind St. Anthony Shrine in Boston. He and my grandmother were frequent visitors to the shrine and prayed the novena to St. Anthony faithfully every night.

When I was 12, I accompanied my parents on a tour of Portugal, where we visited St. Anthony´s birthplace and participated in the celebrations for his feast day. It would not be much of an exaggeration to say that during my high school years my prayer life consisted almost exclusively of prayer to St. Anthony. Not great theology, but St. Anthony always came through for me.

Some years later, as I was discerning a vocation, St. Anthony again became important to me. I saw in my old friend a real saint. His life story was a credible example of sanctity that drew me to the Franciscans. I think the essence of the saint is captured in that he is the patron of the most humble needs, a lost object. Here in Peru, he helped a young woman find a husband. But besides being the patron saints of lost things, St. Anthony is also a doctor of the Church who confronted the heresies and vices of his day, preaching before thousands, including bishops and Pope Gregory IX. As I continue to mature in my vocation, St. Anthony continues to inspire me as a model for a Franciscan priest in pastoral ministry.

As I mentioned, we celebrate the feast in our parish with the youth. In the community at our Chapel Santo Tomas, St. Anthony is the patron of our catechists, altar servers, and the high school students preparing for confirmation. They have formed an Hermandad de San Antonio and take the saint out in procession that day. Besides the blessing of St. Anthony´s Bread at the main church at Santa Ana, our Secular Franciscan Fraternity, named for St. Anthony, whose members are all in their 20s, is planning a day of reflection with the 40 members of our Franciscan Youth.

We are counting on St. Anthony to continue to guide and bless our ministry to the youth of Santa Ana, and are grateful to our Carmelite neighbors for calling us to share one of the great treasures of our Franciscan heritage.

— Fr. Tony is pastor of the Santa Ana Church in the diocese of Lurin in Lima, Peru, a community he has served for 22 years.