Monday, January 30, 2012

Finding St. Anthony

St. Anthony of Padua was actually born in Lisbon, Portugal; but he died in Padua and is interred there at his basilica.  He was born Fernando Martins de Bulhoes, and came from a wealthy noble family in Lisbon.  Young Fernando was educated at fine parochial schools, and decided to become a priest.

Around 1219, Fernando befriended some Franciscan priests who eventually became killed for their Christian beliefs.  He was so touched by the heroic sacrifice of these men, that Fernando requested permission to join their order.  He then became known as Anthony, in honor of St. Anthony the Great, after whom his order's chapel was named.  Anthony had planned a pilgrimage to Morocco, but because of illness, he stayed in Italy and continued his work there.  He travelled all over Italy -- Sicily, Tuscany, and Romagna where he stayed for awhile, unable to travel because of his poor health.  It was there in the San Paolo hospice that he worked in the kitchen, learning, praying, and helping the other priests and comforting the patients.

His preaching abilities became known around the time when the Franciscans had hosted some Dominican priests as guests.  The Franciscans had expected the Dominicans to preside over their religious services, however they had come unprepared.  Anthony stepped up to deliver the sermon -- everyone was simply blown away by his powerful voice, charismatic presence, and the depth of feeling that his sermon contained.  His superior then assigned Anthony to preach in northern Italy, where he met the founder of the Franciscan order, St. Francis of Assisi.  He continued teaching and preaching in northern Italy and the south of France, until his passing in 1231.  He was 36 years old.  St. Anthony was canonized a year later, in 1232.

Saints are often exhumed after some time passes, and St. Anthony was no exception.  Although most of his body showed typical signs of decomposition, his tongue seemed to be in perfect shape as if it were still alive.  St. Anthony's tongue, jawbone, and vocal cords -- which many say represent the divine gift of his preaching abilities, are all still displayed in the basilica which was named after him.

Today, we associate St. Anthony with lost people, spirits, and objects.  He is known as the Patron Saint of the Lost, and can help us find things that we're having trouble finding.  The simplest prayer to St. Anthony that I know, which was used regularly in my childhood home, is: "Dear St. Anthony, please come around; something is lost and needs to be found."  Some people are even more informal with this saint, using this rhyme:  "Tony, Tony, come around; something's lost and can't be found."  Some may consider using a nickname for a saint to be rather disrespectful, but others have maintained that using such a casual form of address is a form of friendly affection.

Here's another prayer to restore lost objects; it's longer than the simple one-liners.
O blessed St. Anthony, the grace of God has made you a powerful advocate in all our needs and the patron for the restoring of things lost or stolen. I turn to you today with childlike love and deep confidence. You have helped countless children of God to find the things they have lost, material things, and, more importantly, the things of the spirit: faith, hope, and love. I come to you with confidence; help me in my present need. I recommend what I have lost to your care, in the hope that God will restore it to me, if it is His holy Will.

Photo credit: The second picture (statue) was taken by Violette79 of Flickr.  Thank you SO much for sharing under the Creative Commons license! :)

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