June 10, 2011

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Wisdom of the saints: St. Anthony of Padua

John F. FinkLong before St. Anthony of Padua, whose feast is on June 13, became the one to pray to when something is lost, he was known as a great preacher. If you visit the basilica in Padua, Italy, built in his honor in 1263, you will see among his relics his vocal chords.

Anthony’s baptismal name was Ferdinand. He was born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1195. Anthony was the name he took when he became a Franciscan. He tried to become a missionary in Africa and took a ship to Morocco.

But as soon as he arrived there, he became ill and had to return to Europe. The ship he took was blown off course and ended up in Sicily. After he recovered his health, he joined the Franciscans in Italy.

When the Franciscans discovered that Anthony was a great preacher, he was sent to Italy and then to France to preach against heretical sects. Because of his success, he became known as the “Hammer of Heretics.” Eventually, he settled in Padua, where he was known not only for his preaching but also as the “Wonder Worker” of miracles.

He died on June 13, 1231, when he was only 36. He was canonized within a year of his death. Pope Pius XII named him a Doctor of the Church in 1946.

He became the finder of lost items because of a minor event in his life. A novice ran away from his monastery while carrying a psalter that Anthony had been using. Anthony prayed for its recovery, the novice was frightened by an apparition, and he brought it back.

Here is some of what St. Anthony wrote for the feast of Pentecost, which we celebrate on Sunday:

“The one who is filled with the Holy Spirit speaks in different languages. These different languages are different ways of witnessing to Christ, such as humility, poverty, patience and obedience. We speak in those languages when we reveal in ourselves these virtues to others.”

Anthony then spoke the admonition we have heard so often: “Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak. We are full of words, but empty of actions.” Therefore, he said, we are cursed by the Lord, just as he cursed the fig tree when he found no fruit but only leaves.

He warned that we must practice what we preach because it is useless for people to flaunt their knowledge of the law if they undermine its teaching by their actions.

He noted that, on Pentecost, the Apostles spoke as the Holy Spirit gave them the gift of speech. Therefore, he said, “Happy the one whose words issue from the Holy Spirit and not from himself!”

We should speak, therefore, he said, as the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of speech. “Our humble and sincere request to the Spirit for ourselves should be that we may bring the day of Pentecost to fulfillment, insofar as he infuses us with his grace, by using our bodily senses in a perfect manner and by keeping the commandments.” †

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