In time for the feast of St. Anthony of Padua on June 13, a friar stationed at a ministry named for the Franciscan saint has compiled a reflection.
Any friar who has spent time at our service churches or ministry centers has repeatedly preached on St. Anthony. I guess I have preached on St. Anthony, over the years, hundreds of times. Yet, I am amazed how often I have learned something new, or heard a friar’s sermon that not only caught my attention, but actually contained something I never heard about our beloved brother Anthony.
I am starting to think that there are some aspects about St. Anthony’s life that might very well speak to millennials.
Idealistic. Brilliant. Determined.
First of all, St. Anthony was very well educated as an Augustinian friar, probably in that friary in Portugal. He was slated to be a professor.
Secondly, Anthony was idealistic. And he was so moved by the martyrdom of the Franciscans in Morocco that he left the safety of the Augustian friary to join the newly arrived Franciscans in his town, who at that time had no established dwellings and nowhere to bury the dead. His community of Augustinians offered space for us to bury those martyrs. He was so inspired by these martyrs from Morocco that Anthony decided to join the Franciscans to be a missionary and martyr for the faith.
Thirdly, St. Anthony learned that although he wanted martyrdom, God had a different plan for him. He soon became known as a remarkable preacher, and would be called upon to teach his brothers scripture.
As the friars went about their itinerant ministry, people were attracted to them. The people turned to the friars with questions about the scriptures and how to live a life of faith in a changing world. St. Anthony was asked, to make it his special duty, to teach the friar’s scripture. He certainly was able to open the scriptures to the friars, so that they might be better prepared to instruct the faithful and to preach on the scriptures with some level of competence.
Finally, St. Anthony met the challenges of his day with brilliance and determination, thus inheriting the title “Hammer of the Heretics” and in his own way, was able to meet with and refute the false teachings of that time. He went about bringing back to the faith those who went astray. He was a popular preacher.
Open to Unlimited Possibilities
Many millennials, like St. Anthony, are very well educated. And they have lofty plans about what they will do in today’s society. Advanced studies are not far-fetched for the majority of millennials today. In Boston, there are many prestigious universities, which attract a broad spectrum of students from around the world. This cross-cultural community of students is bright and committed to get the finest education possible.
Might we say without offending anyone, that the millennials are idealistic as was St. Anthony? They keep their eyes open to unlimited possibilities that might come their way. For many, their chosen life plan might unexpectedly take a turnabout. What they first thought might be their life happiness might very well turn out to be something very different from their fondest dreams. Changing the course of their lives might very well be in their future.
Finally, many of the millennials, like St. Anthony, do meet the challenges of this day with brilliance and determination. We have found this to be so true with our recent experience in vocations. We are amazed that many mature men who had achieved success in their chosen professions, with very good jobs, have left all in order to follow a faith call in their lives. Inspired by Franciscans they had come to know, showing them how living in community, and sharing all things in common, and having a special eye to the poor, the homeless, the immigrant and to the forgotten could be very attractive to them. They came to believe that, they could have a chance to live such a life and can follow a call to be with us as Franciscan friars.
St. Anthony, who came to know the Franciscans through the martyrs of Morocco, pray to God for us, and bless us in the life you so loved.
— Fr. Eric is stationed at St. Anthony Shrine on Arch Street in Boston.
Editor’s note: Friars interested in writing a reflection for HNP Today on a timely topic — a holiday, current event, holy day, or other seasonal theme — are invited to contact the HNP Communications Office at email@example.com. The newsletter’s previous reflection, by Francis Pompei, OFM, was about Pentecost.