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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

St. Anthony the Franciscan

Giotto, St. Francis appears in Arles, 1296-1300 The particular Franciscanism of Anthony is a rich field for investigation. He was trained in quite different environments, he had a different (which is not a synonym for adverse) temperament and spiritual outlook for being a satellite of Francis, being to him like the moon is to the sun. Even the first companions entered into the group of "Penitents of Assisi" as adults; but they shared years of life with Francis, they felt his influence, they were able to develop their creativity and charisma, in harmony with their guide, since they participated in the same evangelical adventure.

Keep in mind that there is no "normal type" of Franciscan: one is not a follower of Francis, but of Christ, the only teacher, to whom Francis refers. One can be called a follower of Saint Francis, since he himself has no other guide than the Only Child of God, only Saviour and Redeemer, the only Way-Truth-Life.

Anthony brought with him to his new life as a Minor Monk, his training as an Augustinian Canon, but he quickly assimilated the values of his new family. They were these values to illuminate him and make him understand that God wanted him to take another path. These values, born in the heart of Francis and transmitted to his monks, make Anthony a Franciscan.

The fact that Anthony was foreign, along with his training and his special qualities, brought a providential "contamination" to the emerging Order, almost like a complementary soul. Anthony did not participate in the primitive fraternitas phase. Anthony is part of a minor branch that was international and of the Po, which developed, for the most part, far from Umbria and Francis, and matured in apostolic activity in close connection with the Roman curia, with the preaching monks, with the places of study and with the local churches.

The novelty that these monks introduced was the direct assumption of duties of ecclesiastical reform, guided by Rome, unrelated to Francis and the initial group of his followers for whom evangelical testimony, and nothing else, was worthwhile. For them, the pastoral duties of guidance, teaching, education and training in the church and in society prevailed decidedly over the pure and simple profession of the Gospel among the poor and the excluded, in a life of service and humble subjugation. (Rigon)

Saint Anthony is also important from an iconographic point of view. After 1230, Francis and Anthony were represented in the same way and in the same dimensions. Even in the stained-glass windows in Assisi they are displayed together with the founders of the church, the apostles; the ten apostles accompany the two founders of the Franciscan order; in iconography it is also curious that Anthony often is shown with the cross of the Saviour, like Saint Francis is shown with a book and the cross.

Here, too, significant differences can be seen: Francis represents the impossible dream and the direct encounter with God sine glossa, while Anthony is "he who confronts the concrete needs of a suffering humanity in danger, in clear contrast to Francis, who figures in symbolic episodes where the interlocutor is God." At least from the iconographic reading of the stained-glass windows in Assisi which offer keys to a correct reading of primitive Franciscanism. Where Francis displays the wound of his stigmatised rib and blesses, holding in his hand a book decorated with the cross and the Gospel, Anthony holds an undecorated book with two hands, as if to symbolise culture, science and the world of scholarship.

Beyond this historical revision, what main Franciscan traits can be found in Saint Anthony? Let's take a look at four: poverty, being a missionary, the contemplative and the ecclesiastic dimensions.

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