St. Anthony: A Special Friend

William DeBiase, OFM Features

Friar William DeBiase, OFM, offers a personal reflection on St. Anthony, whose feast day is celebrated on June 13, calling him “a friend” to the community where he grew up in New York City. 

The feast of St. Anthony brings back many happy memories. Walking through the streets of the Italian section of New York’s Greenwich Village with my father, the aromas of sausage and just about every imaginable type of food filling the air. Songs, lots of noise and people dancing all made the day special. 

Very few of the people really knew anything about Anthony. His scriptural-based sermons would be far above them. The fact that he never worked a miracle while living would not in the least disturb them. Even the realization that he was not Italian but Portuguese would not cause much consternation.

Anthony was their friend. That was all that really mattered. St. Anthony was the saint who traveled with them over the ocean. He was the friend who helped find the first job. Anthony was the one who helped cure the sick child. He was the one an anxious mother prayed to to find a nice man for her daughter. He was a member of the family.

There were very few apartments without a holy card of St. Anthony prominently displayed. I guess theologians would say it verged on superstition; they are probably correct.

Some ask the question whether their faith was in Anthony or the Lord. It is a very valid question. The feast of Anthony is just an excuse for another big party. In many cases, this is also correct. 

Even with all those theologically correct observations, there remained something very special. For these people, God blessed them with a friend, a friend to whom they could go. He was a friend who understood them. Anthony was a friend who would excuse them if they were not theologically correct. God’s goodness shown to them in this friend whose name was Anthony. 

— Fr. William, a member of the Province’s Ministry of the Word, lives in Philadelphia. His blog, Franciscan, is frequently updated.