Friday, June 13, 2008

June 13 - St. Anthony of Padua, Confessor (Dom Guéranger)

The statue of St. Anthony of Padua in my "icon corner," with the icon of St. Charbel Makhlouf in the left background.

(The following is excerpted from Dom Prosper Guéranger's entry in The Liturgical Year for 13 June, in Volume XII of the 1983 Marian House edition of the English translation by the Benedictines of Stanbrook.)

"...The days of Charlemagne were past and gone; yet the work of Leo III still lived on, despite a thousand difficulties. The enemy, now at large, had sown cockle in the field of the divine householder; heresy was springing up and there, whilst vice was growing apace in every direction. In many an heroic combat, the Popes, aided by the monastic Order, had succeeded in casting disorder out of the sanctuary itself: still the people, too long scandalized by venal pastors, were fast slipping away from the Church. Who could rally them once more? Who wrest from Satan a reconquest of the world? At this trying moment the Spirit of Pentecost, ever living, ever present in holy Church, raised up the sons of St. Dominic and of St. Francis. The brave soldiers of this new militia, organized to meet fresh necessities, threw themselves into the fold, pursuing heresy into its most secret lurking-holes, and thundering against vice in every shape and wheresoever found. In town or in country, they were everywhere to be seen confounding false teachers by the strong argument of miracle as well as of doctrine; mixing with the people, whom the sight of their heroic detachment easily won over to repentance. Crowds flocked to be enrolled in the Third Orders instituted by these two holy founders, to afford a secure refuge for the Christian life in the midst of the world."

"The best known and most popular of all the sons of St. Francis is Anthony, whom we are celebrating this day. His life was short; at the age of thirty-five he took his flight to heaven. But a span so limited allowed, nevertheless, of a considerable portion of time being directed by our Lord to preparing this chosen servant for his destined ministry.... Out of his twenty years of religious life, he passed ten amongst the Canons Regular [Augustinians], whither the divine call had invited him at the age of fifteen, in the full bloom of his innocence; and there, wholly captivated by the splendour of the liturgy, occupied in the sweet study of the Holy Scriptures and of the fathers, blissfully lost in the silence of the cloister, his seraphic soul was ever being wafted to sublime heights, where (so it seemed) he was always to remain, held and hidden in the secret of God's face. Suddenly, behold! the divine Spirit urges him to seek the martyr's crown: and presently he is seen emerging from his beloved monastery, and following the Friars Minor [Franciscans] to distant shores, where already some of their number had won the glorious palm. Not this, however, but the martyrdom of love, was to be his. Falling sick and reduced to impotence before his zeal could effect anything on the African soil, he was recalled by obedience to Spain, but was cast by tempest on the Italian coast."

"It happened that St. Francis [of Assisi] was just then convoking his entire family, for the third time, in general chapter. Anthony, unknown, lost in this vast assembly, beheld at its close each of the friars in turn receive his appointed destination, whereas to him not a thought was given.... At the moment of departure the Father Minister of Bologna province, remarking the isolated condition of the young religious whom no one had received in charge, admitted him, out of charity, into his company. Accordingly, having reached the hermitage of Monte Paolo, Anthony was deputed to help in the kitchen and in sweeping the house, being supposed quite unfitted for anything else. Meanwhile, the Augustinian Canons, on the contrary, were bitterly lamenting the loss of one whose remarkable learning and sanctity, far more even his nobility, had, up to this, been the glory of their Order."

"The hour at last came, chosen by Providence, to manifest Anthony to the world; and immediately, as was said of Christ [H]imself, the whole world went after him [St. John 12: 19]. Around the pulpits where this humble friar preached there were wrought endless prodigies in the order of nature and of grace. At Rome he earned the surname of 'ark of covenant' [from the Pope at the time]; in France, that of 'hammer of heretics.' It would be impossible for us here to follow him throughout his luminous course; suffice it to say that France, as well as Italy, owes much to his zealous ministry."

"St. Francis had yearned to be himself the bearer of the gospel of peace throughout the fair realm of France, then sorely ravaged by heresy; but in his stead, he sent thither Anthony, his well-beloved son, and, as it were, his living portrait. What St. Dominic had been in the first crusade against the Albigenses, Anthony was in the second. At Toulouse was wrought that wondrous miracle of the famished mule turning aside from the proffered grain in order to prostrate in homage before the sacred Host. From the province of Berry, his burning word was heard thundering in various provinces; whilst heaven lavished delicious favours on his soul, ever childlike amidst the marvellous victories achieved by him, and the intoxicating applause of an admiring crowd."

"Under the very eyes of his host, at a lonely house in Limousin, the Infant Jesus came to him radiant in beauty; and throwing [H]imself into his arms, covered him with sweetest caresses, pressing the humble friar to lavish the like on him. One feast of the Assumption, Anthony was sad, because a phrase then to be found in the Office seemed to throw a shade of discredit on the fact of Mary's body being assumed into heaven together with her soul. Presently, the Mother of God herself came to console her devoted servant, in his lowly cell, assuring him of the truth of the doctrine of her glorious Assumption; and so left him, ravished with the sweet charms of her countenance and the melodious sound of her voice...."

"In the... town on Montpellier another well-known incident occurred. When engaged in teaching a course of theology to his brethren, his commentary on the Psalms disappeared; but the thief was presently constrained, even by the thief himself, to bring back the volume, the loss whereof had caused our saint so much regret. Such is commonly thought to be the origin of the popular devotion, whereby a special power of recovering lost things is ascribed to St. Anthony. However this may be, it is certain that, from very outset, this devotion rests of the testimony of startling miracles of this kind; and in our own day constantly repeated favours of a similar nature still confirm the same...."

"O glorious Anthony, the simplicity of thine innocent soul made thee a docile instrument in the hand of the Spirit of love. The Seraphic Doctor, St. Bonaventure, hymning thy praises, takes for his first theme thy child-like spirit, and for his second thy wisdom which flowed therefrom...."

"In return for thy loving submission to God our Father in heaven, the populace obeyed thee, and fiercest tyrants trembled at thy voice [Wisdom 8: 14, 15]. Heresy alone dared once to disobey thee, dared to refuse to harken to thy word: thereupon, the very fishes of the sea took up thy defense; for they came swimming in shoals, before the eyes of the whole city [Rimini], to listen to thy preaching which heretics had scorned."

"Alas! error, having long ago recovered from the vigorous blows dealt by thee, is yet more emboldened in these days, claiming even sole right to speak. The offspring of the Manes, whom, under the name of Albigenses, thou didst so successfully combat, would now, under the new appellation of freemasonry, have all France at its beck; thy native Portugal beholds the same monster stalking in broad daylight almost up to the very altar; and the whole world is being intoxicated by its poison. O thou who dost daily fly to the aid of thy devoted clients in their private necessities, thou whose power is the same in heaven as heretofore upon earth, succour the Church, aid God's people, have pity upon society, now more universally and deeply menaced than ever. O thou ark of the covenant, bring back our generation, so terribly devoid of love and faith, to the serious study of sacred letters, wherein is so energizing a power. O thou hammer of heretics, strike once more such blows as will make hell tremble and the heavenly powers thrill with joy."

Sancte Antoni, ora pro nobis!

[Please also see my post from June 2006, Malleus Haereticorum - St. Anthony of Padua.]

Related links:

Fish Eaters: The Feast of St. Anthony of Padua

Tea at Trianon: If, then, you ask for miracles....


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