Feastday Highlights: St. Anthony of Padua
June 13th is the memorial of St. Anthony of Padua. Although Portuguese by birth, he is also (unfortunately?) "adopted" by the Italians and a special saint of the Franciscan order. Nicknamed the "Wonder Worker of Padua," St. Anthony is most known for the prayers and miracles answered through his intercession, especially finding those elusive lost articles.
Anthony is a last name in my family, so we consider this saint's day a family patron feast. Every year I replant my Easter lilies, and the following summer they usually bloom right around St. Anthony's feast. Lilies are one of his symbols, so I always love this connection with his feast day.
At times I have thought that perhaps the popular notion of St. Anthony has become larger than his real life. The Church puts forward saints as witnesses and examples, but also as intercessors for us here on earth. Is asking St. Anthony to find a parking spot or that lost earring or set of keys losing sight of the real purpose the Church gives us patron saints?
This past December as I was undergoing my final tests before my heart surgery, my husband and I met a receptionist at the hospital. This wasn't anything remarkable at the outset of the meeting; we were just registering for my next test. In passing she mentioned she was missing something. I said to her, "As a Catholic we would pray to St. Anthony to find it." That one small phrase opened up a whole conversation. She was just thrilled to talk about her favorite saint. This woman was raised Catholic, her parents still practicing (she mentioned her father praying multiple novenas for her). We could tell she was searching spiritually, but always drawn back to family. And St. Anthony was family to her. Although it was just a simple mention of this saint and his help in finding lost articles, often considered as just superficial devotion, it was a doorway for us to talk and befriend her (and later continue to pray for her).
It was that incident that answered my question. God can lead us in all sorts of ways. We might not know when St. Anthony was born, or that his name was Ferdinand, or that he was actually from Portugal, or that he was first an Augustinian Canon Regular before he decided to become a Franciscan missionary. It might not be common knowledge that St. Anthony was known for his preaching and that his vocal cords are still incorrupt. But just the small act of invoking his name, asking for his help might be a little step in our journey towards God.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord" (Isaiah 55:8).
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