Following a recent two-week visit to Italy that took him to towns with Franciscan history, a friar with a connection to St. Anthony describes what he has learned about the saint, whose feast is June 13. Photos and video of the author’s trip can be found on the Facebook page of The Franciscans.
Since becoming the director of St. Anthony’s Guild, I have read and heard countless stories about the intercessory power of St. Anthony of Padua. These stories from our members range from parking spots being found, to precious heirloom jewelry being recovered, all the way to cures of diseases both common and rare. In all of these stories, whether or not you are a believer, there is the undeniable and powerful faith of people in this great Franciscan saint. He can obviously do it all for thousands of people.
And then I went to Padua, Italy.
In Padua, this friar saint comes to life in a way I never expected. The enthusiasm of both friars and people for St. Anthony is far beyond that of even St. Francis. In a discussion about the two saints with one of the friars at the Basilica di San Antonio, he simply said, “On which day is there a greater crowd of people — for St. Anthony or for St. Francis?”
I had to acknowledge that the “Little Poverello” lost the “largest crowd game” when put up against the “Great Miracle Worker.”
Aside from competition in prayer power for requests granted, and who is better at getting a parking space in Manhattan, the man, the Franciscan and the saint that I have come to know is far more than simply a “favor granter.”
When I have visited “his” Franciscan places like the city of Padua, the town of Composampiero, where his vision of the Madonna and Child took place, and the town of his death, Arcello, I have met one of the astounding preachers of the Church whose empathy for the people he served is clearly seen in the legends of the miracles performed.
One can get locked into the true or false scenario of his miracles, but then that is to miss what is behind these miracle stories — the love and compassion of this man for the people of God. He reached out to marginalized women, parents who had suffered the loss of a child, unbelievers who wanted to believe, worked tirelessly for the poor, and even literally nearly died for the sake of people who had traveled so far to hear him preach.
Anthony of Padua may assist in finding parking spaces, help in the return of lost items and even help sell homes, but the richness, virtue and strength of his life and message is that this friar preacher moved hearts, minds and lives to turn to God and his Incarnate Word.
That’s the man, friar and saint I have come to know through his Padua, his writings, his miracles, and especially through the friars who are proud to share this brother of ours with the world.
— Fr. David, the Province’s Executive Director of Development since 2011, was director of St. Anthony Shrine, Boston, before his current assignment.
Editor’s note: Friars interested in writing a reflection for HNP Today on a timely topic – a holiday, holy day or other seasonal theme – are invited to contact the HNP Communications Office at firstname.lastname@example.org. The previous reflection, about Memorial Day, was written by Vincent Cushing, OFM. Additional friar reflections can be found on the Spiritual Resources page, as well as on the blogs of HNP members and ministries.