Search This Blog

Thursday, June 6, 2013

June 13th - For the Coming Feast of St. Anthony of Padua - Part 2

France thirsty for peace

A land ablaze, a people in torment. This was the south of France at the time of St. Anthony. The cause of so much agitation can be attributed to the political and social struggle between orthodox Catholics and the heretical Albigensian sect, which had taken root there decades earlier.
The papacy united its strength with those worldly powers that saw the economic advantage of such an alliance, and together they fought the heresy. However, the persecutions that raged for over 20 years were to no avail.

What drew the people back to the true religion was the witness and preaching of the Cistercians, Dominicans and Franciscans, who gave their all to this work in true accordance with the teachings of charity. Eminent among them was St. Anthony.
Where the battle rages
L. Galdiolo, icon of St. Anthony, 1995There is no sure information concerning Anthony's time in France. There is, however, one fixed date, 1226, when Anthony established a Franciscan friary in Limoges.
Coming from Bologna, Anthony passed through Provence to Languedoc, then to Limoges and Berry.

Here he found a region troubled by the Albigensian heresy, decimated by the crusades and rife with power struggles

Since January 1217, Pope Honorius III had been encouraging the professors of theology in Paris to confront the Albigensian movement.
Anthony was thus sent, probably accompanied by qualified friars, at the suggestion of the Minister General who had been informed of the situation by friars living in the area, and under pressure from the papal curia
Anthony became a theology teacher and preacher in Montpellier, a distinguished university and a stronghold of Catholic orthodoxy. Dominicans and Franciscans were trained here both pastorally and intellectually, preparing themselves for the preaching of sermons to heretics throughout the country.
Arles: St. Francis appears as Anthony preaches
The fact is certain, but the date is unclear. The historian Thomas of Celano recalls how Friar John of Florence, chosen by St. Francis as Minister Provincial of the friars of Provence, celebrated a provincial chapter, either in the second half of 1224, or in the first half of the following year.
During the assembly, Anthony gave a fervent sermon on the Passion of Christ. As he spoke, Friar Monaldo received a vision of "the blessed Francis raised in ecstasy above them with his arms extended in the form of the cross, in the act of blessing his friars". Saint Anthony's sermon was on the mystery of the Crucifixion of Christ, in particular on the inscription: "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" (John, 19,19).

It is very probable that this sermon was delivered on one of the days marked by the mystery of the cross: Good Friday, 28 March 1225; the finding of the Cross (Inventio crucis) on 2 May 1225; or even (and this would be particularly significant) the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross in 1224, the very day on which St. Francis received the stigmata.
Anthony in Toulouse and Limoges
G. Campagna, St. Anthony brings a young man back to life, 1577Toulouse lies in the present day province of Haute-Garonne and has ancient origins. Anthony's itinerant apostolate could not but echo throughout an ideological cross-roads such as Toulouse.
It is more than likely that in this neo-Manichaean stronghold Anthony taught theology to the friars. Around 1226, Anthony moved further north, to Limoges. He stayed in the abbey of Solignac, on the Briance, which belongs to the diocese of Limoges, and here he performed a miracle for the monk who served as his nurse.
Limoges remains one of the most important places in Anthony's life because he held the position of custos (superior) of the Franciscans of the city and its environs. While we are certain that Anthony was the custos of Limoges, this fact has to be accepted with a certain degree of circumspection since the evidence was only recorded some seventy years later. According to a chronicle of the Friary of St. Martial, in Limoges, Anthony gave his first speech in the cemetery of St. Paul taking as his text Psalm 29.6. He preached a second sermon in the Friary of St. Martin using Psalm 54.7, "Who will give me wings like a dove, to fly and find rest?" It was in Limoges that another astonishing event occurred in the Church of St. Pierre-du-Queyroix. At about midnight on Holy Thursday, St. Anthony was transported among his friars to sing the liturgy since it was his responsibility.

In Bourges, Le Puy and elsewhere
J.G. Holmes, The Death of St. Francis, 1474-1477The year 1226 saw Anthony establishing a friary in Brive. It was here that Anthony found the necessary peace to restore his strength after the exhausting labours of preaching. He withdrew to some caves just outside the town. Here he dedicated himself to penance and contemplation.

After his death, his memory was kept alive among the inhabitants of Brive, and the caves where he stayed have become a place of pilgrimage
Although having been confiscated by the state during the uncertain times following the French Revolution, the sanctuary of Brive was bought back by the friars in 1874 and re-consecrated in 1895. Since then it has become the national centre of Anthonian devotion in France.

The superb cathedral of Bourges, a gothic jewel, welcomed Anthony the missionary. He also went to Le-Puy-en-Velay, in the present-day province of Haute-Loire, at the foot of Mount Anisan. It is uncertain whether or not he held the position of guardian of the community here. It is impossible to say when St. Anthony returned to Italy, why he returned or where he lived as he continued on his missionary pilgrimage. Anthonian biographers state that his return to Italy would have been for the occasion of the General Chapter, held at Pentecost in Assisi 30 May 1227. 

St. Francis had died the previous year on the evening of 3 October 1226. Thus the assembly had to elect a new Minister General.
As custos of the Limoges region, Anthony would have been required to take part in the chapter in which the St. Francis' successor was to be chosen. Other biographers believe that Anthony may not have actually been custos of the chapter at the time, but rather was recalled to Italy by Friar Elias or Friar Giovanni Parenti. All that is known is that, on his way to Italy, he crossed Provence on foot

Minister Provincial
L. Cagnozzi, Wooden inlay with St. Anthony, 1974-77 Because St. Anthony was held in such esteem by his brother friars he was chosen Minister Provincial of Northern Italy, including the region of Romagna, a position which added further burdens to his already numerous responsibilities. Who assigned him this position is not known, but the majority of Anthonian scholars theorise that he held this position for only three years, from 1227 to 1230.

As Provincial, Anthony distinguished himself by his spirit of service and fraternity, supporting encouraging and guiding his brothers through example and advice.

A reliable source tells us that he remained the provincial until May of 1230.

Friendship with Thomas of San Vittore
While he was Minister Provincial of northern Italy, Anthony always maintained the ideals of St. Francis in the many different circumstances in which he found himself. He cultivated relationships with the church hierarchy, presenting himself as a faithful Catholic, avoiding conflict and fostering a climate of harmony. The proof of this trust and respect by the hierarchy is evidenced by the personal participation of the Bishop of Padua during the Lenten sermons of 1231,and the fact that his quick canonisation met with little or no objection.
A second objective of his pastoral action was his intention to harmonise the activities of young Franciscan Order with those of the older religious Orders. While still in France, Anthony was warmly received by the monks of the Abbey of Solignac.
He also maintained a cordial and fraternal relationship with his former Augustinian community. Although he had become a Franciscan he did not want to cut off his ties with the past, rather he kept all the valid ideas he had learned and loved in the monasteries of St. Vincent and Santa Cruz in Portugal. His closest friendship during his years in Italy seems to have been with the Parisian Thomas of San Vittore, abbot of Sant'Andrea in Vercelli.
As custos, Anthony's travels eventually took him to the city of Vercelli, where he met Thomas of San Vittore and remained for a few weeks to preach. Thomas had gone to Vercelli in 1220. He was nominated prior in 1224, and, in 1226, he became abbot.
Sources say that the two saints held a mutual respect for each other in both their academic and fraternal relationships.
Apostle of Peace
While the Venetian Giovanni Dandolo was the mayor of Padua (29 June 1229 - 28 June 1230), the desperately longed for peace began to settle over the region. Let us hear the testimony of a contemporary, the Paduan notary Rolandino:
"For the space of about one year the cities of the region of Treviso enjoyed such peace that almost all were convinced that from then on there would no longer be unrest or wars. Almost the entire population was spiritually restored, elevated to celestial realities by means of exemplary preaching. And it was at this fair moment that the Blessed Anthony also entered the region announcing the Word of God in a captivating voice".
The writing of the Sermones
A page from the Grottaferrata manuscriptThe Assidua biography of St. Anthony (11,3) affirms that he wrote his Sermones for Sundays during his stay in Padua, where a deep and mutual affection grew up between him and the inhabitants. It would be difficult for us to date the Sermones with precision. We do, however, know that his place of residence was Santa Maria Mater Domini.
The Assidua (11,7), speaking about the tireless zeal for saving souls that urged Anthony to give himself entirely to the apostolate, notes that he continued his pastoral work until sundown, very often fasting. He preached, taught and heard confessions. In his apostolate, St. Anthony was accompanied by some companions, and in the last period he was accompanied by Blessed Luke Belludi.

Apostolic preacher

It was on the occasion of the General Chapter in 1230, that took place during the translation of St. Francis' remains to the new basilica built in his honour, that Anthony was released from his responsibilities of leadership.

Because of the esteem in which the other friars held him, however, he was commissioned as a preacher with the privilege of travelling wherever he felt best. Along with six other friars he was also chosen as one of the Order's representatives to Pope Gregory IX.

The development of the Order
Did Anthony have personal contact with Gregory IX? When and for what reason was he sent to the papal curia? What position did he take concerning the questions of the development of the Order? What was his relationship with one of the most enigmatic leaders of the Franciscan Order, Brother Elias? Sources reveal that the General Chapter of 1230 had to seek the pope's intercession because of the discordant discussion that had arisen as to whether or not the Last Will and Testament of Saint Francis held any juridical value. St. Anthony played a role in discussing and debating such questions with the pontiff.

During this trip, which took place partly in Rome and partly in Anagni, Anthony became known in the highest circles for his outstanding saintliness and extraordinary biblical knowledge, not only through private meetings with various dignities but through spiritual conferences and homilies. Upon orders of Gregory IX, he gave a speech to many pilgrims in the eternal city. On that occasion, miracle similar to what happened to the Apostles at Pentecost took place; each listener heard the speech in his or her own language.
A Franciscan tradition states that Gregory IX invited Anthony to remain by his side. However, "He, humbly renouncing this honour in order to work for the good of others, and after having obtained the apostolic blessing, he chose to isolate himself in Verna. He remained there for some time, dedicating himself to preaching and penance. He then went to Padua."

Anthony the Franciscan
Trevisan, St. Anthony before the PopeWhat relationship was there between Anthony and other Franciscans, especially the leadership of the Order? Biographers have often shown Anthony as standing on his own, almost removed from the context of the Franciscan movement. At the beginning of the order, the followers of Francis were men of diverse personalities and their sense of belonging to a group was probably rather weak. After all, the official document which gave the order its identity was the Rule which dates only to 1223. Anthony and Elias, by their natures, moral temperaments, and spiritual maturity appear to have been quite different.

They lived in different worlds. We do not know what influence St. Francis, his life or his spirit had on the faith and various activities of Anthony. In the Sermones, Francis' name is never mentioned. It is a noticeable void, especially considering that the Sermones constitute such an extensive work and were published after Francis' canonisation. Anthony was a temperate person, who tried to unite being faithful to the Franciscan charisma with the urgent demands made on him in the various surroundings in which he undertook his pastoral task.

 The great Paduan period
P. Annigoni, St. Anthony preaching from the walnut tree, detail. 1985Anthony stayed in Padua on two occasions. The first was between 1229 and 1230 and the second between 1230 and 1231, during which he met his early death. Together the two occasions constitute a period of slightly more than twelve months in the city where he is the patron saint.
What type of Padua attracted and welcomed him? A place which while composed of many different elements, was unanimous in its appreciation of Anthony at the foot of his pulpit or in the confessional, just a few months after his arrival. Padua functioned as a scriptorium for his biblical and liturgical commentaries.
We can also hypothesise that Padua provided him not only with a supply of libraries but also with collaborators and clerks to help in drawing up the texts.

The Sermones are considered as the most remarkable literary work of a religious nature compiled in Padua during the Middle Ages.
Padua interested Anthony because of its university; he had a preference for cities with centres of higher learning - Bologna, Montpellier, Toulouse, Vercelli.

A university was also a place with a high concentration of youth. And Anthony was an expert "fisher of youth.

Perhaps feeling that his end was near, he aspired to secure new recruits for the demanding and joyful task of spreading the Gospel. What is more, the Veneto region was in a period of unrest. Anthony felt the need to intervene, doubling his efforts to ward off the spark of new conflict. Even in faithful Padua, there were still subtle and blatant followers of heresy.

The days of salvation

At dawn on February 5, Anthony put down his quill and stopped writing. The city was living a magical moment of peace. Word spread that he was going to preach daily for forty days of Lent, taking his inspiration from the daily readings. Before long, the small church of Santa Maria Mater Domini was not able to contain the growing multitude. No church seemed large enough to contain the people, and soon not even the public squares were able to hold the crowds. Being heard was not a problem, since Anthony was endowed with exceptionally booming voice; however, the large numbers obliged him to speak outside the city, in the middle of the fields, just as he did in France. The nobility and the lower classes, women and men, young and old, fervent church-goers and people "distant" from the Church, gentlemen and scoundrels, religious and lay people alike all assembled to await the arrival of the man of God. Bishop Jacopo, together with his clergy, took part in the Lenten event, which he had authorised with the joy of a shepherd seeing his flock gathered in fertile pastures.

From one sermon to the next, news of what was happening in Padua spread, causing a steady increase in listeners. An incessant crowd thronged around Anthony's confessional. He was unable to cope with them all, even though priests from his Order and diocesan priests of the city tried to lighten his load. All he could do was wait for the stream to die down at sunset. The Assidua narrates that Anthony resigned himself to fasting until sunset. Some flocked to the sacrament of penance, declaring that an apparition had driven them to confess and change their lives Assidua states:"He converted discord into fraternal peace; he restored freedom to prisoners, that which had been stolen by usury and violence was given back to its owners."

House and land were mortgaged and the proceeds were laid at his feet. He dissuaded prostitutes from their base commerce; he made notorious thieves desist from laying their hands on other people's property. Thus, at the end of the 40 days, he gathered a harvest which was pleasing to the Lord.

I cannot keep silent about the multitude that he inspired to confess their sins, so great a number of men and women that not even the group of priests that accompanied him were sufficient to hear their confessions."

Anthony had a hand in changing the municipal legislation of Padua, in particular, a statue regarding insolvent debtors, dated 17 March 1231, Monday of Holy Week (the day after Palm Sunday).

Here are the contents of the statue, from the original Latin:

"By request of the venerable friar Anthony, of the Order of Friars Minor, it is established and ordained that no one convicted of one or more debts of money, in the past or the present or in the future, will be held in prison provided that he is willing to relinquish his possessions. This holds for both debtors and creditors. If, however, a renunciation or a relinquishment is made fraudulently, either by the debtor or by the creditor, it has no value and shall not bring damage to the creditor. When fraud cannot be demonstrated in an evident way, then let the mayor be the judge. This statute cannot be modified in any way and must remain unchanged in perpetuity."

At the hermitage of Camposampiero
B. De' Pitati, St. Anthony preaching from the walnut tree, Camposampiero, 16th centThere are various reasons why Anthony withdrew to the hermitage at Camposampiero.

The first is rarely mentioned but easily imagined. After the intense mission of preaching and reconciliation during Lent and the Easter season, he was simply exhausted.
The second reason is given in the Assidua (15,2) and echoed by subsequent biographers. For practical reasons Anthony was obliged to suspend his preaching so that the people could attend to their crops.
The third reason was that he wished to isolate himself in a tranquil, out of the way place, to continue writing the Sunday Sermones and perhaps finish them.

The fourth motive was that he wished to avoid alarming his brother friars who were witnessing Anthony's declining health.

And most importantly, no doubt, Anthony wished to retreat from active life, to immerse himself in prayer and prepare his spirit for his coming death.

We can theorise that Anthony departed from Padua on Monday, May 19, and, therefore, his sojourn at Camposampiero, including a short stay at Verona, lasted approximately twenty-five days.

Death of Saint Anthony

G. TESSARI, The Death of St. Anthony, 1513In late spring 1231, Anthony was taken ill. Knowing this to be his final illness, he asked to be taken to Padua, wishing to breathe his last in that city. He was laid on a cart pulled by oxen, and set off for the city in the company of some other friars. But when they reached Arcella, a small town on the outskirts of Padua, death took him. His final words were, "I see my Lord." It was 13 June, and Anthony was 36 years old.

The Saint was buried in Padua, in the church of Santa Maria Mater Domini, which had been his spiritual refuge during the period of his most intense apostolic work. At the end of the funeral celebrations, St. Anthony's body was buried in the small church of the city's Franciscan friary. It was probably not placed underground, but left suspended in an ark-tomb so that the growing number of faithful could see and touch it.

A year after his death, the fame of many miracles brought about through his intercession convinced Pope Gregory IX to shorten the period for his canonisation, and Anthony was proclaimed a Saint on 30 May 1232, only 11 months after his death.

The Church has also done justice to his spiritual doctrine, since Pope Pius XII proclaimed him "Doctor of the Universal Church" in 1946.

No comments:

Post a Comment