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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

June 12th - Today is the Feast of Blessed Jolenta, Poor Clare nun

Bl. Jolenta (Yolande) of Poland

Yolande was the daughter of Bela IV, king of Hungary. Her mother, Mary, was the daughter of the Greek emperor of Constantinople. In the year 1240, when Yolande was scarcely five years old, she arrived at the court of Poland. Her elder sister, Blessed Kinga (Cunigunda), who was married to the duke of Poland, had asked to supervise the child’s education. Under such a mistress, Yolande grew not only in age, but also in virtue and grace before God and men.

When she arrived at young womanhood, Yolande was married to Boleslaus, the duke of Greater Poland. But the young duchess was not enamored of the glory and pleasure of this world. It was a greater pleasure for her to do good in her elevated position. Like a true sovereign, she came to the assistance of the poor and sick, the widows and the orphans. She and her husband built hospitals, convents, and churches, and she was so great an inspiration to him in everything that was good and pleasing to God, that he received the surname of the Pious.

But Boleslaus was soon to receive the reward of his piety in heaven. After his death and after two of her daughters were married, Yolande and her third daughter left all the glamor and riches of the world and withdrew to the convent of the Poor Clares at Sandec, where, devoted to prayer and mortification, she led a life entirely hidden in Christ. Disturbances resulting from war compelled her after a time to move to the convent at Gniezno, which she herself, assisted by her last consort, had founded.

In spite of the reluctance to which her humility prompted her, she was advanced to the position of abbess. So successfully did she guide her sisters by word and by example in the practice of all the religious virtues that the convent flourished like a new garden of God. Even beyond the walls of the cloister she did very much good, so that the fame of the holy abbess spread far and wide.

But, notwithstanding all her fame, she remained entirely devoted to the interior life, as her vocation required. Her favorite devotion was meditation on the sufferings of Christ, during which the Divine Savior once manifested Himself to her under the appearance of the Crucified. He announced to her that He would soon lead her to glory. Attacked by a serious illness, she asked to receive the last sacraments. Then she admonished her spiritual daughters to persevere in fidelity to the holy rule, and departed blessedly in the Lord in 1298.

After her death Yolande appeared in wondrous glory, together with St. Stanislaus the bishop, to the sick abbess and restored her health. Many other miracles occurred at her grave down to our own time. Pope Leo XII, in 1827, approved the veneration given to her.


Parts of the St. Anthony's Basilica - Link to Virtual Tour

The Noviciate Courtyard
Noviciate courtyard, second half of the 15th cent
Only groups who are accompanied by the Basilica's religious or authorised personnel may visit this Courtyard. Exiting the Basilica from the only Sacristy door which opens to the outside, you enter the Noviciate Courtyard, the name of which comes from the fact that the novices' rooms are located along one side. These young candidates for religious life spend a very intense spiritual year in the Community of the Basilica, animating both community life and liturgical celebrations with their presence.

The Noviciate Courtyard, created in the latter half of the fifteenth century in a Gothic style, is amply proportioned; the airiness of the arches, which counterpoints the green of the lawn, and the peaceful atmosphere inspire unforgettable feelings. Added to this a view of the Basilica from the south-east corner that never fails to charm every visitor.

The Magnolia Courtyard (or Chapter Courtyard)
Magnolia courtyard, 1433From the Basilica's south door (or from the Noviciate Courtyard) you can reach the Magnolia Courtyard, so-called because of the "Magnolia grandiflora" which was planted in the centre in 1810. The actual courtyard originates from 1433. Here, as in the other courtyards, there are tombs, monuments, plaques and epigraphs, too much to describe in detail here.

The entrance to the Souvenir Shop is on the south side. It contains religious objects and books. Inside the shop, a glass door opens onto the Offices of the Messenger of St. Anthony and the Pilgrim Reception Area for relations with members of St. Anthony's family. The Information Office, open from April to November, is located on the west side of the courtyard, just before the courtyard exit.

The General's Courtyard
General's courtyard, 1435Exiting the shop or the Magnolia Courtyard you can enter the General's Courtyard (built in 1435, in the Gothic style, work of Cristoforo da Bolzano). It has this name because the accommodations reserved for the General of the Order (as well as other religious authorities), during visits to the Basilica and its religious community, open onto this courtyard. From this courtyard you can enter the prestigious Anthonian library.

To the west of the Courtyard, you can visit the Anthonian Exhibition, an interesting audio-visual presentation of the life of St. Anthony and the continuation of his work today. A stop here compliments the visit to the Basilica..

Blessed Luca Belludi's Courtyard (or the Museum Courtyard)
Blessed Luca Belludi's courtyard, late15th centYou can get here either through the Anthonian Exhibition or the Magnolia Courtyard. This is a majestic Gothic courtyard dating back to the latter half of the fifteenth century. The adjacent rooms are the seats of various organisations: the Institute of Religious Science, the Centre for Anthonian Studies, the Anthonian Museum, containing various works of art of considerable value and the Anthonian Museum of Popular Devotion.

The latter is open to the public, during the summer, and is worth a visit (descriptive brochures are available). It is divided into sections with each area referring to different aspects of the world of devotion and pilgrimage to the Saint.
St. Anthony's Square

Two chapels open onto St. Anthony's Square which, while not well known, are true artistic treasures

The Oratory of St. George

Altichiero da Zevio, Crucifixion, St. George's Chapel, 1378 detail.This chapel was built by Raimondino Lupi di Soragna (Parma) in the latter half of the fourteenth century as a burial chapel for himself and his family who had retired in Padua. It was completed by his relative Bonifacio Lupi. Just like St. James' Chapel in the Basilica, the oratory was completely frescoed by Altichiero da Zevio and his aides. Art lovers must not miss this splendid occasion. The entrance fee is very modest and there are detailed guides available.

To visit, ask one of the guardians, who can be found in the adjacent building which connects St. George's Oratory to the little church on the right, popularly known as the School of the Saint, the 'Scoletta'.

The School of the Saint

Titian, Miracle of the new-born who speaks, Scoletta, 1511, detail.This term originates from Venetian tradition. It refers to the seat of the Arch-confraternity of St. Anthony, which boasts of a centuries long history and which is still an active charitable society.
Nationally it is known for the "Goodness Competition" for schools.

In the fifteenth century the Arch-confraternity ordered the construction of the little church on the ground floor and at the beginning of the sixteenth century, the conference room above it. In this room you can admire sculptures, frescoes and paintings of considerable interest; in particular three frescoes and a sinopia drawing by the young Titian (1511) depicting the Saint's miracles.

The Gattamelata monument
Donatello, Monument to Gattamelata, 1453In the Basilica, in the Chapel of the Most Holy, there is the Tomb of Erasmo da Narni (nicknamed Gattamelata, 1443) Here we can admire the renowned equestrian monument, a bronze masterpiece by Donatello (1453), which uses, for the first time in modern history, the ancient theme of the equestrian monument. Funereal symbols, engraved onto the cenotaph, ensure that the memory of the unyielding leader remains vivid.

Click on this link for a virtual tour of the Basilica:  St. Anthony's Basilica

St. Anthony, the Apostle of Conversion

P. Annigoni, The return of the prodigal son, detail, 1985Saint Anthony is the great apostle of conversion. He disseminates the Word of God as an invitation to change life and to hope for the infinite mercy of God. 
Let us not be unclear. Both for the priest and for the penitent, divine grace is the main character in "repentance" and Christian reconciliation. It is that which incites the preacher to speak of sin, of its gravity, of the necessity to renounce it, asking for forgiveness; in the same way, it is not a man who can take us from death to life. 

That which opens the heart to conversion is the omnipotent, merciful and mysterious love of the Father.

Second premise. We would not expect an element of joy from a temperament like that of our Saint nor from his concept of severe an penitential preaching. And yet, it is present. It can be found where the Thaumaturge exhorts the preacher to bear with resignation and bliss (a perfect form of Franciscan joy!) the difficulties he runs into in practising his ministry. But even in other place, smiles the austere Saint: when thinks of the eternal reward, fixing eyes of faith on heaven; when he says that the Church putting a son in the world in praedicatione vel peccatorum compassione (in preaching or in compassion for sins) is in anguish, but forgets the birth pains once it sees a man born in the world, that is, it overflows with joy and embraces the converted sinner.

Repentance (as a virtue and a sacrament) is the dominant topic in the Sermones of the Doctor evangelicus. It is rare to find a page on which no mention of this topic is made. Even when he is stressing to the preachers the sanctity of life, the constant good example, the expertise of the holy science, or the liberty and energy of words, he does it with one main goal in mind: to help the listener make a sincere, full and long-lasting conversion. The moral-penitential concept is the basic, founding idea of Anthony's doctrine.

Preaching has a preserving effect, a therapeutic action of prevention and maintenance. However, the word "convert!" is aimed, above all, at those who live in sin and bad habits. Anthony writes that every type of sinner, including the arrogant, the jealous, the wrathful, the vainglorious, the stingy, the gluttonous, and the lascivious must be roused from spiritual hibernation with pressing urgency and solicitude because every indulgence has its danger. The messenger of God should not even have time to greet or respond to greetings along his way.

The Saint used the net thrown into the water that catches every kind of fish as a metaphor for preaching. It should cause the death of every type of evil in the world, offer the repentant as a living victim to God and readmit him into the community of the Church. The missionary must work harder in those areas where sin rages and ruins. The Saint says, anticipating Alighieri, that the world is a dark wood, cold and infested with wild beasts, the worst of which are gluttony, lasciviousness, stinginess and theft. In any case, faced with hearts of trachyte or basalt, the missionary must not spread tears nor announce the Word: that would be like throwing pearls to swine! The arrogant and the stingy who, being as ruthless as a press, flatten and squeeze the poor and miserable, they eat their flesh, they grind their bones, they are unconvertible and so should be abandoned to themselves.

Since sins come in many forms, evangelical preaching must also take many forms. There are sinners involved in temporal things, those who have broken their pact with the Lord, those who grant favours, those who have done no good deeds… The Word of life must be directed at each of them, in a well-calibrated way. "And if Jesus falls into sin in one of his members, with words and oration we must lift him up." The compunction that will cause an errant soul to break down in tears comes from preaching no less that from paternal correction and fraternal compassion.

There is no reason to be surprised, says Saint Anthony, that the word of God embitters and upsets, seeing as how it announce that all the temporal things of the present are passing, that mortal life is a paltry thing, that death lies in waiting for everyone ("from which no living man can escape"), that the sufferings of Hell are surprisingly harsh. Words that, taken superficially, are unbearable, but which lead one to repentance.

It is well-known that wicked men want to hear no criticism of their vice. They dislike the preacher and accuse him of using outdated abstractions, of being a relic of the past. Preaching renders stingy men and moneylenders ever more bitter when it proclaims that the rich man was buried in Hell and that it is impossible for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, in other words, to enter the kingdom of heaven, and that every worldly splendour and glory will disappear.

All of the articles of faith that we recite in the Credo are of interest, but the one most incisive for conversion is that we calls the mind to Jesus' appearance on Judgement Day and the sentencing to Hell of sinners hardened by evil. Anthony seems to be attached to popular catechesis, quite elementary and rough, but that is the way it is: his experience proves that it is fear that brings deviants in line. What would he say today, upon seeing how certain preachers are careful of avoiding topics which are controversial, upsetting, compromising and which do not garner much popularity with most people, such as the end of the world, death, life after death in glory or castigation?

Father Samuel Doimi, reading through the Sermones methodically, page by page, counted 38 mentions in the Gospel of the fact that conversion must not remain a vague state of undetermined interior anxiety, but must be externalised in concrete deeds. Conversion must not be ephemeral, but long-lasting, and substantiated by perseverance until the end. Not those who begin well, but those who hang on through difficulties and crosses will reach eternal blessedness.

Naturally, the preacher must accompany the converted soul through the main phases of his new life, and not abandon him in the unavoidable period of trials provoked by Evil, by weak and deceitful flesh, and by the world which pesters and fools him. In the garden of God, the fruit-bearing plants do not have take care of themselves alone. They also receive the care of the gardener, who is God with his grace, and they make use of his helpers, the pastors of souls. 

On various occasions Saint Anthony touches on the "answer" of the converted soul. This is within the description of repentance-sacrament, and in its personal form (called, less appropriately, "private"; although, as the rescission from God and the Church is a public act, in the same way repentance involves everyone, through the restored relationship with God and with the Church). In the attitude of Mary Magdalene, who, dismayed in mourning, stations herself next to the empty tomb crying, bowed down, staring, Anthony recounts the fundamental moments:
  • contrition (or pure pain),
  • confession,
  • reparations for the evil done and the good not done.
Elsewhere (first Sunday of Lent) he asks, "What should contrition be like? Listen to the psalmist, 'A contrite spirit is a sacrifice to God; you, oh God, do not disdain a broken and humiliated heart.' Expressed in this short verse are the compunction of a spirit that is tormented by its sins, the reconciliation of the sinner, the universal repentance of his sins, and the persevering humiliation of the repentant. Because the spirit of the penitent, when it is pierced and wounded by pain, is a sacrifice appreciated by God, who makes peace with this sinner, who, in his turn, reconciles with the Lord." 

"Since contrition must be universal, the heart must be contrite. Not only "broken" (tritum), but "pounded, ground" (contritum). Both things are necessary. Broken: the sinner must break his heart with the hammer-strokes of contrition, with the sword of pain he must cut it up, one piece for each mortal sin. Suffering he cries and crying he suffers (dolendo defleat et deflendo doleat). He should feel more pain for a single mortal sin committed than he would feel if he had lost the control of the whole world and of all the things found in it. In truth, as a result of mortal sin he lost the Son of God, which is the most sublime reality, dear and precious to all creatures. His heart must also be ground, because he must suffer contemporaneously for all the sins committed, omitted and forgotten." (11, 65-66).

Contrition must extend to all sins committed, whatever the circumstances, and to all the good left undone. Sin corrupts:
  • the conscience consenting to evil,
  • the person with the sinful act,
  • the reputation with the scandal it gives rise to.
Contrition, alone, releases one from all sins, but for it to be real and operative, it implies confession.

"The sinner who repents and intends to confess is immediately absolved of guilt by the Lord, and his eternal punishment is transformed into a punishment in purgatory. Contrition must be so strong, like that of Mary Magdalene or the good thief, that in case of death it will conduct us straight to heaven. When we confess to a priest, he imposes a temporal punishment, which is a transformation of the punishment of purgatory that we have incurred. Followed with diligence, this will start us on the road to eternal glory. This is how God and the priest release us from and absolve us of our sins." (1, 239).

That which Saint Anthony, too, calls the second life raft after the shipwreck is the explanation of sins made by the priest. According to the sermons, changing the perspectives and the tone of exposition, emphasis can be placed on one or another aspect of confession.

Confession has four enemies that, turned around, become four friends:
  • the love for sin (is detestation),
  • the shame to denounce it (the serene courage to tell the truth),
  • the fear of repentance (the courage to taken on responsibilities and consequences),
  • the desperation to obtain pardon (the faith in divine mercy).
In the meantime, centuries have passed, and the weight of repentance has changed. In Saint Anthony's time, it was very severe, the penalty of retaliation or, in the style of Dante, of making the punishment fit the crime.

Therefore, humility is necessary. If one is not ashamed to cause trouble, why should he blush when his deeds are unmasked, especially since the confessor is gravely bound to silence. Certainly, confessing well requires effort:
  • preparation,
  • accusation,
  • shame...
More positive values also emerge, such as:
  • the hope for a liberating pardon,
  • hatred for evil,
  • force of purpose,
  • the obligation to obey the confessor ...
The Saint twice cites the famous mnemo-technical verse enumerating the circumstances of sins: who, what, where, through whom, to whom, in what way, when. Circumstances which should be applied to the confession of every mortal sin, such as hate, gossip and slander, hypocrisy and falsity, lasciviousness, pride, stinginess and usury, negligence of duties and so on.
Confess well, confess often. At that time, Canon 21 of the 4th Lateran Council (1215) was already in act, prescribing annual confession. Anthony deplored the numerous believers who followed this minimum, "If you drink the poison of sin every day, every day you must accept the antidote of confession." (1, 467) A great expert of consciences was speaking!

He also spent time on the duty of discretio (discretion, discernment, balance) especially on the part the priest. Confession looks like a penitent, but even more it has the traits, the religious atmosphere, the moral sentiment and the style that the priest gives it. Absolution does not work in a mechanical way. Its efficacy also depends on the disposition of the faithful, especially on the seriousness of his resolution.

"Satisfaction" carries less weight today than it did in the Middle Ages. It is the third stage in sacramental repentance. Before the rise of Scholasticism (in the second half of the 13th century) there was a high level of severity in this field. Rigaldi, the author of an ancient legend about Saint Anthony, tells that the Thaumaturge ordered 12 pilgrimages to Rome, on foot, for a converted latro et raptor (brigand and robber).

As we are poor sinners ("he who says he is without sin is a liar": 1st letter of John, 1,10), our earthly state is of incurable fragility, of inexhaustible repentance and incessant confession and conversion, and reparation. It is not enough to repent, it is necessary, within the limits of possibility, to restore the compromised equilibrium, and damage done. Saint Anthony insists on the expiatory power of prayer to God, charity to one's neighbour and fasting.

Satisfaction (called today, simply, but inaccurately, penitence) must be in proportion to the sin, so that the punishment corresponds to the sin with which we have stained ourselves. Certainly, this only has value if it is done in the spirit of faith. Then it is Jesus who immolates himself in us, who repairs together with us, and it is his omnipotent grace that brings back order and harmony where there was the devastating evil deed.

"We, therefore, who call ourselves Christians with the name of Christ, unanimously with devoted minds, pray to the same Son of God, Jesus Christ, and, with insistence, we ask that he allow us to pass from the spirit of contrition to the desert of confession so that we can receive forgiveness for our iniquities and, renewed and purified, we deserve to enjoy the joys of his resurrection and to take our place in the glory of eternal beatitude, with the help of his grace. May he have honour and glory in the centuries. Amen!"

St. Anthony, the Contemplative Man

F. Zurbaran, St. Anthony and the child Jesus, 17th cent. Anthony was in love with Jesus Christ and, like Francis, above all, was enchanted by the mystery of Christmas and the Passion. In the Babe of Bethlehem, Anthony contemplated the Wisdom that becomes a stutterer, the Power that becomes weakness, the Majesty that becomes condescension, the Immense that becomes a child and the King of Angels who lowers himself to a manger.

Christmas, writes the Saint, emphasises "the humility and the poverty of the Lord" (which constitute the characteristic traits of being a "Minor Monk").

The iconography that shows Anthony with Baby Jesus in his arms, underlines the Saint's special devotion to the nativity of the Lord.

Further, contemplation of the cross reveals to him all the love of the Father and the Son and it rips a mournful cry out of him, "While I contemplate in faith my God, my bridegroom, my Jesus take the cross, pierced by nails, watered with bile and vinegar, and crowned with spines, every virtue, every glory, every honour, and every ephemeral excess fades and I consider them to be nothing." This feeling about the cross is truly "Franciscan." The Franciscan Sources underline the spiritual consonance between the soul of Francis and that of Anthony when they tell that the seraphic Father appeared miraculously to the monks at the Chapter of Arles and blessed them while Anthony was speaking to them of the Lord's cross.

For Anthony, prayer is an outburst of love for the Loved One and, speaking of this, he reveals something of his experience with God, "Oh, how great are the ardour of devotion, stupor and exultance in the heart of the believer! He who prays is transformed through divine grace to a completely new state, inaccessible to human forces."

Anthony is also "Franciscan" in his devotion to Mary. When speaking of her, his words become chant and poetry. It is written that Francis "surrounded the Mother of Jesus with an unspeakable love, because she gave us our brother, the Lord of Majesty" and that "he sang particular praises in her honour, he raised up prayers, and offered such and so many affections that the human tongue can not express them."" Two of those beautiful prayers have been passed down to us, "Hail, Lady, sainted Queen..." and "Holy Virgin Mary, there are none similar to you...."

It has been counted that Anthony addresses Mary with about 400 titles in his writings. Some of them are very touching: Poor Mary, Mendicant Virgin, Most Humble Virgin, Pious Mother, Our Queen, Our Lady, Our Mediator...

Anthony is the cantor of Mary's virginity (physical and spiritual), of her divine maternity (basis of every other Marian privilege), of her assumption to heaven in body and soul, of her faith for which, at the moment of general dismay at the death of the Lord, "only in her did the Church remain safe," and of her mediating action between God and man.

Saint Anthony, together with Saint Francis, Saint Bonaventura and the blessed John Duns Scoto, was the initiator of that Marian "gold vein," as Saint Maximilian Kolbe called it, which traverses the history of the Minorite Order.

St. Anthony, a Poor Man

T. Lombardo, The miracle of the miser's heart, 1525Passing from the cloistered environment of the rich Portuguese monasteries to the "vast cloister of the world," Anthony completely embraced the poverty of the Minorites. He experienced the trusting abandon in the hands of Providence when he departed for Africa with only his cassock, without money, in total human uncertainty and total certainty of assistance from the heavenly Father.

(Just a few years later, while Francis was still alive, Pope Honorius III authorised the missionary Minorites in Morocco to use money, to wear the local clothes, to discontinue tonsure and to grow beards!). With poverty as his only wealth, Anthony travelled up Italy as far as Assisi and then retreated in Montepaolo.

Anthony, in his Sermons, becomes the chorister of poverty, "Oh poverty, your delights offer a taste of eternal sweetness to those who love you."

Like Francis, Anthony found cause to love poverty in the fact that Jesus Christ first had been poor. He writes, "In Christ were poverty, obedience and humility... The blessed Virgin, giving birth to the Son of God, wrapped him in the cloth of golden poverty. How fine is the gold of poverty! He who does not possess it, even if he has all the wealth of the world, has nothing... On the earth of poverty, humility and lowliness grows the love of the divine Majesty...."
Like Francis, Anthony wants to live poverty with joy, "There is joy in poverty... True poverty is always happy... Happy and voluntary poverty gives strength...." 

To the love of poverty and the poor, which his Franciscan family transmitted to him, Anthony adds his own fiery defence of the poor (who he calls "the poor of Christ" and "the brothers of poor Christ") against the tyrannical, usurers and rich exploiters. The author of the Life Before Anthony writes, "He saw to the return of anything taken away through usury or with violence. It got to the point that, the price of mortgaged houses and lands was presented to him and, based on his advice, that which had been taken was restored by reimbursing the value or asking for remission." Brother John de la Rochelle, a Minor Monk who died in 1245, attests, "Never in our day had we heard such a sweet consoler of the poor and such a bitter accuser of the powerful."

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.

The Contacts Between St. Francis and St. Anthony

Donatello, St. Francis, detail, 1447Saint Anthony was a Franciscan. Obviously, because in 1220 he left the Augustinian Order and joined the followers of Francis of Assisi, becoming a "minor monk." Son and disciple of Francis, but broadly speaking, toned down, original.

Anthony is deeply "Franciscan," but he lived his "Franciscanism" with his own particular spiritual sensibility, with his temperament and on the basis of his cultural formation, in addition to the pure and simple testimony of the Gospel.

When did Francis and Anthony meet? What are the differences and the originalities that distinguish them? What are the convergences, the elements in common between the two saints? What kind of Franciscan was Anthony? Is it possible to speak of a direct dependence on Francis and his spirituality
The two saints were contemporaries for six years, from 1220 to 1226, in the order of the Minor Monks. Their personal contacts, as far as we know, were minimal, spread out over three brief meetings.
  1. We know that Saint Anthony participated at the General Chapter of the Mats, celebrated in Assisi in May 1221. It lasted about one week and a varied assembly of 3,000 monks participated in it. Anthony, among the crowd, saw Francis and heard him speak. That is it. We have no evidence of a meeting between the two saints. Given the situation, it would have been impossible. Francis was overburdened with problems, thick and urgent, and he was not in good health. His time was carefully scheduled. Those attending were disorderly. Anthony was only a young novice, unknown by anyone, back from a failed missionary expedition: he was a personality that had yet to emerge. 
  2. The only testimony we have of a second contact between the two is an affectionate note, full of veneration and esteem, that Francis sent to Anthony "his bishop," between the end of 1223 and the beginning of 1224 in Bologna. With this, he authorised him to teach theology to the monks, but asking him to ensure that this did not interfere with prayer. The significance of that note is that Francis invested Anthony with the role of preacher and teacher of theology ex cathedra. It is the historic seal on Anthony's decision and the way in which Anthony embarked on the road of predication. The note also represents the direction which the Franciscan movement would take: to come into line with the pastoral needs required by the historical and the ecclesiastical moment, as their Dominican contemporaries had decided. Another sign of this direction was a change in the style of predication: the modus concionandi, typical of Francis, was completely set aside to return to the development of a traditional religious sermon, which the saint enriched and elaborated upon.
  3. A third "meeting" has Francis as its main actor. He appeared at the Chapter of Arles, in 1224 (the days of the stigmata!), while Anthony was holding a sermon for the monks on the theme of the cross. Only one monk, Monaldo, had a vision, not even Anthony did; the others participated in its presence only indirectly. However, this was still in the context of an assembly, not an intimate, friendly meeting held apart in confidence. The image of the praedicator is the one that most commonly identifies Anthony's presence in the Franciscan Sources. It is interesting to note the reference to an assembly - during a Chapter - of monks convened to be prepared for predication by scholarly men like Anthony.

St. Anthony of Padua - The Saint the World Loves

Pilgrims praying at the tomb of St. Anthony Saint Anthony is the most well-known and loved saint in the world. Millions of pilgrims and faithful, from all round the world, visit his Basilica in Padua every year. There isn't a church in the world which doesn't have an altar, painting, statue, fresco, or niche dedicated to St. Anthony, not to mention the countless little statues and small holy pictures in people's homes.

Many associations in the world have been founded and operate in the name of Saint Anthony, and express his charitable presence. For centuries, millions of people across the world have revealed themselves to be devoted to St. Anthony with a love and veneration which is never diminished or obscured.

Why is this affection, this love, so strong, wide-spread and spontaneous? What is the secret of this affectionate and faithful trust in St. Anthony? What are the characteristics of this special relationship?

The faithful recognise St. Anthony for what he has always does for them. Above all, he is a confidential listener. He is the intercessor of the poor, and enters into a dialogue with whoever needs to share physical or spiritual suffering. Many do not even know where he was born, they know nothing about his life or his teaching, but they have experienced him as a protector and a benefactor in their lives.

St. Anthony is a companion in our daily lives. He is not only a giver of graces and favours to whom we turn when we are in need. He is an older brother, a best friend, always ready and willing to help others, whatever their problems, big or small.

The faithful ask him for light in their existence. They ask him to help those who are lost, to console those who suffer, to assist the poor and forgotten.

They recognise and love him with the lily (the purity and transparency of life), with the baby Jesus (sign of tender and freely-given love), and the book (the Word of God).

The faithful feel that Saint Anthony is an intercessor and benefactor in the name of God. St. Anthony is the face of the caring goodness of God, who reveals Himself, and becomes a concrete and tangible reality. St. Anthony is thought of as a merciful and delicate call to conversion and to penitence.
Trevisan, St. Anthony dying
Love expressed in devotion

As well as personal prayers, devotion to St. Anthony has manifested itself over the centuries in several different ways which are still in use today and which we will briefly examine.

The hand on the Tomb
This is the most characteristic gesture of pilgrims to the Basilica of St. Anthony.

As well as expressing the desire for concrete contact with the Saint, this is a gesture of faith and trust, accompanied by a silent heartfelt prayer.

Attention is focused on the Saint, not so much by means statues or other images which can be found throughout the basilica, but rather by his tomb.

The Tredicina
This term refers to the thirteen days of preparation for the feast of St. Anthony which is on the 13 June. The Tredicina is still celebrated at the Basilica as well as at other shrines dedicated to St. Anthony and in many Franciscan churches and private homes.
This term also signifies a prayer which is articulated in thirteen parts, which like an invocation focuses on the most significant aspects of the life and holiness of Anthony, alternating them with the most common prayers of Christian devotion.

The Transit
Once celebrated with many and varied prayers and chants, the transit is still a striking ceremony. It recalls the last moments of St. Anthony's earthly life: arriving closer to death, he asked to be carried on a carriage driven by oxen from Camposampiero to Padua, where he wanted to die. Having reached Arcella he was forced to stop and there he died serenely, comforted by the vision of Jesus.

He died on Friday 13 June 1231, at dusk. It is for this reason that the friars of the Basilica commemorate the moment of transit every Friday night, with a simple but moving ceremony.

The "Si quaeris"
These are the first words in Latin (translated: If you seek) with which perhaps the most well-known prayer in honour of St. Anthony begins. It is thus sought after by the many faithful who come to the Basilica, and therefore can be found in many pamphlets and prayer books, as well as here. Set to music by famous composers who were organists or choir masters at the Basilica, the text dates back to Fr. Giuliano da Spira who composed it in 1235, as the responsory of the Rhythmic Office (now called the Liturgy of the hours) for the feast of Saint Anthony. It is called responsorial (from the Latin respondère, meaning to answer) in that the soloist proclaims or sings a text, and the choir responds using the same expressions or words of a similar content.

The entrusting of children

Pilgrims in the Basilica during the feast of Saint Anthony Saint Anthony was particularly fond of children. Among his miracles, whilst he was alive, more than one involved children.
It is for this reason that there is the widespread tradition of placing children under his protection right from birth.

From this custom followed the tradition of dressing children in a little Franciscan habit to thank the Saint for his protection and to make it known to other.

Blessing of objects
In the Chapel of Blessings, the faithful love to have their personal objects blessed.

Beyond the inevitable exaggeration, you mustn't underestimate the need for concreteness in popular devotion and the painful experiences that urge many faithful to seek these blessings. Often religious objects are blessed, objects which the faithful want to take home as a long-lasting and visible remembrance of the encounter with grace in the Basilica; or which are to be given to loved ones in order to offer them the protection of the Saint. Sometimes the faithful bring photos of family members who were dramatically stricken by illness or whose lives are falling apart; occasionally they bring an item of clothing, some food or drink to take to someone who is fighting to stay alive.

The motives for these humble gestures of supplication are never completely revealed, not even to the priest. The value of faith is certainly too vibrant and pressing not to induce pilgrims to disregard the numerous forms of frivolity and their normal routine.

The bread of Saint Anthony
In some Franciscan churches or, those which are particularly linked to Saint Anthony, on his feast day (13 June) it is common to bless bread, which is then handed out to the faithful and eaten as a sign of devotion. In some countries it is the faithful who take the initiative.

Such devotion certainly derives from the programme "bread of the poor" which in the past was very common in churches. Today, near the Basilica, Saint Anthony's Charities and the bread of Saint Anthony, two humanitarian organisations, give aid in a material way to the needy.

The accentuated and complex phenomenon of charity which revolves around the Basilica depends on the generosity of pilgrims who leave offerings to help the poor. However this is merely a continuation of the long-standing tradition of giving back to St. Anthony what has been received in the form of graces, assistance and favours granted, much like the mother who, having seen her child cured at the hands of St. Anthony, decided for a certain period of time to offer her child's weight in bread to the monastery so that it could be distributed to mothers in need..

Messages of supplication to Saint Anthony
Many devoted write to Saint Anthony. "When you go to the Tomb of Saint Anthony you will have a lot to say. You cannot say it all as there isn't time. There are lots of people who like you have lots of things to confide to him. You would like however to leave him something of your own, something that can remain there in your place, something for him to remember you by, in order to prolong a dialogue which time and haste interrupt too soon."

Leaving a note, a prayer, a petition or a message for St Anthony is a sign of devotion on the part of the faithful. These are messages which demonstrate a close and spontaneous relationship unrestricted by language or nationality.

At the entrance to the Basilica the faithful can find special cards on which they can write to St. Anthony telling him what is in their hearts. Once written, these card are placed at St. Anthony's tomb. It is a very personal sign which remains there next to St. Anthony almost as if he guards the thoughts of the faithful, prolonging the time spent together, thoughts which they nevertheless carry home with them, after having shared and entrusted them to St. Anthony.

You can also bring a postcard to someone who was unable to come to the Basilica, especially those who are lonely or ill. 

For St. Anthony's Upcoming Feast of June 13th - His Miracles:

There is an invisible protagonist, always called upon and to whom every person and fact unavoidably refers: God. Each time, St. Anthony is presented as His messenger and a mediator between men and their deeds. Early biographies of Saint Anthony adopt two very basic and even opposite standpoints.

While Vita prima, Víta secunda and Raymundina, present an image of Anthony as very serious and even lacking a miraculous aura during his earthly existence. The Benignitas biography and the Rigaldina, do not limit themselves to recalling the "moral" miracles; but rather they interweave the undertakings and life of this apostle and worker of astounding miracles.

This second approach began in the fourteenth century. From then on a sort of "conspiracy" came about in that all hagiographic compilations concerning St. Anthony tended increasingly towards the thaumaturgical element, until St. Anthony almost disappeared into a radiant aura of miracles. What are the motives for this phenomenon?

1. Often this legendary aura was attributed to events which, originally, did not have miraculous connotations. Examining a documented fact, the encounter between the Saint and Ezzelino was a normal meeting between a popular preacher who was highly esteemed in the Veneto region and a politician who turned a deaf ear to humanitarian and religious reasoning. In the Benignitas biography the meeting is completely retold: the protagonists are enveloped in the supernatural.

2. At other times, older sources attest to the intervention of a supernatural power. Thus, the "miraculous" aspect exists. But it is accentuated, amplified, by the addition of new miraculous components. For example, the Paduan girl, according to the initial account, was cured little by little. The Benignitas, in retelling the account, renders the cure instantaneous and moving.

3. Some exceptional events were recorded, however, several details of these accounts do not tally, showing that they have been handed down from either the oral tradition or are remembered accounts of what was written somewhere else. Later hagiographers gathered such accounts together as if the event was repeated. An example being bilocation, Benignitas relates an event in Montpellier during a ceremony which is not specified, in Rigaldina the event occurred instead in Limoges on Holy Thursday.

4. There is no need to marvel if at times the narration seems to be identical to the accounts of other saints. Since we are dealing more with constructing an image than with "true" history, it is possible that these stories have found their way into the Anthonian legend from elsewhere. One example being: who performed the miracle of the reattached foot, Saint Anthony or Saint Peter the Martyr? A similar story can be read in the miraculous accounts of both saints.

5. There are also cases of artistic dramatisations. It is well-known that first generation Franciscans had to fight against Catharism which denied, amongst other things, the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Thus, this aspect of St. Anthony's apostolate was translated into the form of a sacred drama and concentrated into a single, intense and moving scene: the mule which kneels before the consecrated Host.

6. A parallel phenomenon is the translation of Biblical passages into figurative/narrative forms. "Where you keep your treasure, there too is your heart", as Christ said. The saying comes true to the letter in the miracle of the usurer, whose heart could not be found in his chest, but instead was amongst the precious items and his money locked in his treasure chest.

The narration of miracles is thus a very complex literary genre. Each of the numerous miracles attributed by hagiographers to Anthony's intercession, whether carried out whilst alive, or once he had passed away, require detailed study.

From a literary point of view, these tales are not excellent literature. There are often dull pages, thick with pomposity, unimaginative clichés, without a hint of poetry, and completely lacking in psychological insight into the personality of St. Anthony, or those unfortunate individuals who ask for his help. A suffocating spiritual narrow-mindedness can be noted more than once, along with the dominance of a self-centred religiosity, however earnest this may be. But even such opaque texts inspired painters and sculptors to high levels of spirituality. Raw material in the hands of Giotto, Donatello, Titian, El Greco, Murillo, Tiepolo, Goya... (St. Anthony is very lucky in art), was transformed into high drama, into ecstasy, into exceptional expressions of liberation and of pain, of reproach and of praise. Art is capable of extracting life even from death, and the sublime from mediocrity.

These are the miracles befitting a travelling preacher, they reveal the burning desire to save souls. He exists exclusively as a living mediator between Christ and the children of God dispersed throughout history, he is a trait d'union between the Redeemer and the redeemed.

The Christians of his day, both in Italy and in France, were believers who were only very crudely introduced into the faith in terms of understanding its doctrine and ethics. Theirs was a traditional religion, which needs to be renewed and deepened in its terms of revelation, defending it against the snares of heresy and prevailing vices. This is the reason for the miracles which support the Christ's true presence in the Eucharist (miracle of the mule), or which underline the authority of his teaching, (for example: the poisoned food, preaching to the fish), or which renew his battle against usury (the macabre tale of the heartless usurer).

On other occasions we see St. Anthony concerned with providing relief to the material suffering of the people, and blocking the way to hateful abuse at the hands of governments (for example: the stormy meeting with Ezzelino, the tale of the twelve thieves, the pious woman of Provence). Notable artists have been inspired by other miraculous events, the new born who speaks, the jealous husband, the reattached foot, which portray Anthony as the defender of family harmony. The importance of the Sacrament of Confession is emphasised, and many miracles are linked to this theme, forming part of the Anthonian saga.

Although he abandoned his family of birth and he left the Augustinian Order, he was a loving son and brother, close to both his family and friends (transferred from Padua to Lisbon, his apparition to Abbot Thomas). Deeper still was his attachment to his minor confreres. He took on the burden of their troubles, he helped avoid possible disorder in the monastery and cloistered life, foiled diabolical turbulence which put meditation at risk, and took care of the nutritional needs of his monastery etc. (for example: the young Noviciate of Limoges, the diabolical phantasmagoria, bilocation in Montpellier, the maid who went to gather vegetables under the rain).

Thus, these episodes help to reconstruct the historical figure of Saint Anthony, they disclose his moral constitution, his feelings of evangelical solidarity, the worries of a teacher of the faith and a guarantor of the authenticity of consecrated life. The most touching miracle however, which analyses in depth the Saint's soul, is the apparition of the Baby Jesus. Saint Anthony glows here in ecstasy, absorbed in divine intimacy, by deep and sweetly emotional faith, with transports of joy and the features of someone who is deeply in love.

It is common to say that medical specialists at Lourdes, "declare" the truth of a certain miracle. This expression is not exact, and we need to be careful. The declaring of miracles does not form part of a doctor's job. His task is to declare that a recovery, according to the current state of medical research, is inexplicable. It is possible that in the future, medical science will be able to solve the mystery.

 In so far as a miracle is concerned, only a believer can discern it, in a aura of faith. This is another very different type of knowledge, beyond experimental science. We must cultivate an attitude of adoring silence, which enable us to be transparent to that interior light, thanks to which we can discern a divine presence: "You have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent, and have revealed them to infants" (Lk 10,21).

St. Anthony continues to give two types of grace. Above all, through the clear signs of Providence, St. Anthony directs the religious thought of many people towards Christ, he supports wavering faith during the ups and downs of life, guiding us towards the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, surprising whoever is distant or disinterested in God with the interior fascination of conversion. For many Christians, St Anthony represents perhaps the only concrete point of reference, which can foster and develop a relationship with God in the midst of the turmoil of life.

Secondly, St. Anthony extends God's heart into the world, giving faith and hope. Family or work problems, the straying of children or illnesses: there are many occasions in life when men feel powerless. The Saint, so attentive in life to the needs of the family, continues to be God's concrete and favoured mediator in the Church.

"We children must ask our God for something. Everything that exists in this is nothing, compared to our love for God. We must therefore ask to love God, sustaining Him in His weakest and sickest members, feeding Him in the poor and needy. If we ask for Love, then, the same Father, who is Love, will give us what He is: Love!" (From the Sermones, vol. I, pp. 333-334).

For St. Anthony's Upcoming Feast of June 13th - His Miracles: The Resurrected Young Man

G. Campagna, St. Anthony brings a young boy back to life, 1577In the city of Lisbon, of which St. Anthony was a native, whilst his relatives were still living, that is to say his father, his mother and his brothers, two citizens were enemies and they hated each other to death. It so happened that the son of one of them, a young boy, encountered the enemy of the family, who lived near blessed Anthony's parents.

This merciless man grabbed the boy, took him home and killed him without further ado. Then, in the deep of the night, having entered into the garden of the Saint's parents, he dug a ditch, buried the body and fled.

As the young boy was the son of a well known family, there was an inquest into his disappearance, and it was ascertained that the young boy had travelled through the enemy's part of town. The home and garden were therefore searched, but no clues were found. While carrying out an inspection of the garden of blessed Anthony's relatives, the boy was found, buried in the garden. For this reason, the king's executioner arrested Anthony's father and everyone else in the house, for the assassination of the boy.

Blessed Anthony, even though he was in Padua, came to know this fact through divine inspiration. That night, having obtained permission, he left the convent. While he walked during the night, he was transported miraculously to the city of Lisbon. Upon entering the city in the morning, he went to the executioner, and began to plead with him to acquit these innocent people of the accusation and set them free. But, as the man had no intention of doing such a thing, blessed Anthony ordered that the assassinated boy brought to him.

Once the body was placed before him, he ordered the boy to rise up and say whether his relatives had killed him. The boy awoke from death and affirmed that blessed Anthony's relatives were not involved. As a result, they were exonerated and released from prison. Blessed Anthony stayed with them all day. Then, in the evening, he left Lisbon and the following morning he found himself in Padua (Bartolomeo da Pisa 4,19-32).

For St. Anthony's Upcoming Feast of June 13th - His Miracles: The Newborn Who Speaks

Titian, The miracle of the new-born who talks, 1511This woman was saved from death. Another, in Ferrara, was saved from an dreadful suspicion. In fact, the Saint reconciled the wife with the husband, a renowned person among the influential people of the city. And greater still, and indeed a true miracle, he made the baby, who had recently been born a few days earlier, talk; and the infant answered the questions posed by the man of God.

This man was being tortured by a jealous suspicion about his wife, and didn't even want to touch the baby, born a few days earlier, convinced that he was the child of adultery. St. Anthony thus took the baby into his arms and said to him: "I implore you in the name of Jesus Christ, God and Man, born of the Virgin Mary, to clearly tell me, so that everyone can hear, who your father is." 

And the child, without mumbling as little ones do, but with a clearly understandable voice as if he were a child of 10 years, fixed his eyes on his parent, because he couldn't move his arms which were wrapped in swaddling clothes, and said: "Here he is, this is my father!" Turning to the man, the Saint added: "Take your son, and love your wife, who has been blameless and who deserves all of your gratitude" (SICCO POLENTONE, Life of St. Anthony, n. 37).

For St. Anthony's Upcoming Feast of June 13th - His Miracles: The Miser's Heart

Titian, The miracle of the usurer, 1511
In Tuscany, the great region of Italy, the funereal rites of a very rich man were being celebrated with great solemnity as was common in these cases. At the funeral St. Anthony was present and, moved by a sudden inspiration, began shouting that this man should not be buried in a sacred place, but outside the city walls, like a dog.

And this was because his soul was damned to hell, and the corpse was without a heart, according to the saying of the Lord, reported by Saint Luke the Evangelist: Where your treasure is, there also is your heart.

Everyone was naturally shaken at this statement, and there was a long and heated exchange of opinions. Some surgeons were called who opened the deceased's chest. But they could not find his heart which, as the Saint predicted, was discovered in his safe with his money.

For this reason, the citizens praised the Lord and the Saint. The dead man was not buried in the prepared mausoleum, but dragged like a mule along the embankment and then buried there. (SICCO POLENTONE, Life of St. Anthony,n. 35).

For St. Anthony's Upcoming Feast of June 13th - His Miracles: The Vision of the Child Jesus

M. Franceschini, St. Anthony with a lily and the baby Jesus, 17th centBlessed Anthony found himself in a city to preach and was put up by a local resident. He gave him a room set apart, so that he could study and contemplate undisturbed. While he prayed by himself, in the room, the landlord continued his bustling about the house.

While he was devotedly observing the room in which St. Anthony had immersed himself in prayer, peeping through the window, he saw a beautiful joyful baby appear in blessed Anthony's arms. The Saint hugged and kissed him, contemplating the face with unceasing attention. The landlord, awed and enraptured by the child's beauty, began to think of where such a graceful child might have come from.

That baby was the Lord Jesus. He revealed to the blessed Anthony that his host was watching. After a long time spent in prayer, the vision disappeared; the Saint called the landlord, and he forbade him from telling anyone whilst Anthony was still alive what he had seen. After the Saint passed away, the man told the tale crying, swearing on the Bible that he was telling the truth (Liber miraculorum 22,1-8).

For St. Anthony's Upcoming Feast of June 13th - His Miracles: The Conversion of Ezzelino

Trevisan, St. Anthony meeting Ezzelino da RomanoDuring his tyranny, that wicked, arrogant despot, the cruel tyrant Ezzelino da Romano, had massacred an enormous number of men in Verona.

The intrepid father, as soon as he heard of this event, took the risk of meeting him in person, at his residence in the city.

He reproached him with these words:
"O enemy of God, merciless tyrant, rabid dog, how much longer will you continue to shed the blood of innocent Christians? Look, the Lord's punishment is hanging over you and it is terrible and severe!"

He said many other harsh, vehement expressions to his face. The guards were waiting for Ezzelino, as usual, to give the order to kill him. But something else happened instead, thanks to the Lord.

In fact, the tyrant, struck by the words of the man of God, lost all his ferocity and became gentle as a lamb. Then, hanging his belt around his neck, he prostrated himself before this man of God and humbly confessed his ill doings, giving the assurance that, with his consent, he would repair any wrong doing.

He added: "Fellow soldiers, do not be surprised by this. I am telling you in all honesty, that I have seen a type of divine splendour emanating from the face of this priest, which has frightened me so much, that faced with such a terrifying vision, I had the sensation I was falling straight into hell".

From that day on Ezzelino was always very devoted to the Saint, and for as long as he lived, he restrained from the many atrocities he would have wanted to perpetrate, this according to what the tyrant himself said (Benignitas 17,42-47).