The hope for a miracle from Saint Anthony after yet another year of corona pandemic.
Saint Anthony of Padua born Fernando Martins de Bulhões on 15 August 1195 in Lisbon Portugal. He is a Franciscan Friar, The Evangelical Doctor, The Hammer of Heretics, The Professor of Miracles, and a Doctor of the Church.
The people of Padua never miss this great feast for the patron saint of their city: not even during the corona pandemic, Anthony’s admirers come together from near and far on June 13 – all with very different burdens on their mind.
Devotees of St. Anthony of Padua have firmly marked the 13th of June into their calendars. Every year this university town is literally overrun by pilgrims during the solemnity in honour of the saint; they come on foot, on their bike’s, by bus, cars and trains. It’s no wonder that even during the corona pandemic, the faithful have no desire to be deprived of this Solemnity which they feel strengthens them after they pray at his resting place – yet always with a face mask and in compliance with hygiene and distancing requirements.
Normally around 3.5 million people make a Pilgrimage to Saint Anthony’s Basilica in Padua throughout the year. It is one of the largest and most famous pilgrimage sites in Italy; The locals simply call the basilica “il santo” the saint; Anthony together with his confrere Francis of Assisi are the most popular saint in Italy and have been so for several centuries. In almost every church in Italy you will find a statue of Anthony, usually holding the Infant Jesus in his arms.
The importance of Saint Anthony for the people can also be seen by the fact that the basilica consecrated to Anthony unlike many other churches, had remained open to the faithful for personal prayer even at the height of the pandemic.
Around a dozen masses are celebrated in the basilica
Especially in the month of June when there is a mass entry of pilgrims into Padua. The first groups from the neighbouring dioceses come to Padua at the beginning of the month. The veneration reaches its climax around June 13th, the anniversary of Antony’s death. Many tens of thousands of visitors are then counted within the city. Not everyone —especially during the Corona pandemic— gets one of the coveted places at one of the dozen or so masses which are held between 06:00 and 21:00 hrs. in the Basilica of Saint Anthony.
There you will also find the sepulchre of the sainted and Doctor of the Church. For the pilgrims who come to Padua, part of their visit is to touch the marble surface of his final resting place and proffer their private prayer there o his intercession. That this would be possible despite the Corona pandemic is awesome, the pilgrims recite their prayer at the tomb
“Oh dear Saint Anthony, I am close to your blessed tomb. I came to pray driven by my need and my confidence in your compassionate goodness which consoles everyone. Please become my intercessor before God; speak in my name to the merciful Father, and obtain for me the grace I particularly need. I know that my faith is weak; but you, who had this admirable virtue and inflamed it by preaching to the crowds, enliven it inside my heart and make me stronger and pure. You who led an evangelical life, help me to render mine a more Christian one, so that I may become a worthy son of our Heavenly Father. O Saint Anthony, come to the rescue of my weakness, taking away the diseases and dangers of soul and body; help me to always put my trust in God, especially in times of trial and suffering. Bless my work, my family, your devotees around the world or spiritually present here: obtain for all benevolence of heart towards the poor and the suffering. Oh my protector, respond to the confidence I always put in your intercession to the Lord.”
After the pilgrim withdraws from the tomb, the area is immediately disinfected by a hard-working army of devoted volunteers.
There are always many concerns with which the people turn to Saint Anthony at his tomb in Padua: du to unemployment, for the health of loved ones, for recovery from corona virus, to find items one had lost – even prayers to enable someone to find their ideal partner.
Those who want to get a little closer to St. Anthony can also visit his mortal remains in the reliquary chapel of the basilica. Due to the influx of pilgrims who flocked to the tomb in Padua, the construction of a larger church had begun which was completed in 1240. In 1263 the Minister General of the Franciscans, Bonaventura da Bagnoregio, had the body of St. Anthony translated to the new basilica. It is said that, during an inspection before the transport of the mortal remains, the intact and rosy tongue was found as though still alive. Every year, even today, the Antonian friars of Padua remember that discovery. The uncorrupted tongue of the penitential preacher and doctor of the church, who was considered to be extraordinarily gifted, is kept in a golden reliquary fashioned in 1436. Next to it suspended in a cloudy liquid, we find the tissue of his vocal cords which were only discovered in 1981, once again during an examination of his bones. It’s a sight that not everyone copes well with yet is always undertaken reverently.
A much grander, atmospheric and worthy event for many is the procession of the relics of Saint Anthony, which passes through the city in late afternoon.
“Need teaches us to pray“, they say. And during the corona pandemic —with millions of infected or fallen to the virus, the economic hardships caused to many people is kept at the forefront of everyone’s mind— and the hope for succour from above is particularly great. Tradition affirms that Antony brought the drowned boy Parrisio back to life and made an infant speak; today millions of faithful view the Saint as a reliable intercessor in times of need.
A first point of contact for those that are single
The concerns with which people turn to Saint Anthony vary: some pray because they have lost their jobs and are now unemployment, some pray for their health to recover or for the health of loved ones, others pray for a recovery from the corona pandemic, cancer or any other serious illnesses with flicks them, others will pray to him because they have lost an object important to them in the hope that the Saint will intercede and help them find the item they have lost as he is also the patron saint of lost things, whilst others —especially from Spain— appeal to the Saint to find a good partner. The reasons pilgrims pray for his intercession vary greatly.
Most of the photos and thank you notes affixed around his tomb have images of babies and couples. For a number of years now, buses with singles from Germany and Austria have been visiting St. Antonius. If it works out that you gain a rewarding life with your partner, a thank you pilgrimage by the two is considered a gesture of gratefulness toward the Saint and also worthwhile: whilst Venice is only a 24 mile drive (30 mins) east of Padua. And 55 miles to the west is the city of Verona, the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Of Historical Note:
Eight centuries ago a meeting between Saints: Anthony Padua and Francis of Assisi “God gave me a brother“
Eight hundred years have passed since the meting of these two humble giants of faith and spirituality. The meeting between St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua, took place on May 30 1221 between friar Francis and friar Anthony, a young expatriate from Portugal, and with them all the friars of the Order who were able to reach Santa Maria degli Angeli for a great assembly of the Chapter. Scholars affirm that a very young Saint Anthony of Padua also participated in the Chapter of Mats of 1221.
The “Chapter of Mats of 1221”, for me personally, spiritually represents the teachings of the faith by two great saints, of two Champions of the Universal Church. The expressive structure is simple and immediate, the iconographic contents easily legible, as they are all real. The bread, the cheese, the wine barrels. The nobles in elegant clothes and the poor in humble clothes, all combine to write and describe a message of fraternal sharing, of poverty, of freedom from greed, of the concrete exercise of evangelical poverty. The source of inspiration is certain. And what better place to send this message to a Franciscan community? The refectory, the place where the daily meal is consumed, in the rediscovery of a wealth that derives and has its roots in simplicity. Do not be extravagant, do not worry about seeking the things of this world, do not make food, possession, having a priority, but belonging to God, being satisfied with his word. The space of a fresco is humanised and gives us a state of mind.
Saint Anthony leaves this world for the Lords vineyard
By 1231, the many journeys Anthony had undertaken and after the repeated illnesses he had suffered, they took their toll. Anthony was suffering from dropsy, and his strength had all but failed him. All throughout Lent of 1231 he preached to ever increasing crowds in Padua, but his preaching and the endless hours of confessions left him overwhelmed and sprawling on the ground. At this time, Anthony had received a premonition of his approaching death. The friars and Count Tiso of Camposampiero, a vassal of the bishop of Padua invited Anthony to go to a hermitage in Camposampiero, a town not far from Padua, so that he might recover his strength. Count Tiso had been one of the unscrupulous politicians seen in the previous account, but after hearing Anthony preach, he had converted his ways and had donated the plot of land to the friars upon which the hermitage at Camposampiero was built.
The ground is always damp at this time of year, and it aggravated Anthony’s illness. This problem was solved when the friars noticed Anthony admire an immense walnut tree on the property. They told Tiso about it, and he had a small tree house built in the walnut tree for Anthony.
One night Count Tiso was passing by Anthony’s room when he was attracted by a powerful light. At first he thought that it must be a fire, and so he burst into the room. There he saw Anthony in ecstasy embracing the Baby Jesus. Anthony begged Tiso not to tell anyone about what he had seen, and Tiso respected the Saint’s wishes until after his death.
Prayer for a sick person
Beloved Saint Anthony, you have always helped those who invoked you. I fervently pray for a sick person so dear to me. I beg you to obtain for him/her the gift of healing, or at least to ease his/her pain and find inside him/her the strength to offer those tribulations to the Lord in union with the Passion of Christ. You, who in your earthly life were a friend of the suffering and supported them with your deep charity and your gift of miracles, be close to us through your protection, console our hearts and turn our physical and mental suffering into a source of merit for the eternal life.Amen.