Today we commemorate Saint Anthony of Padua (1195- 13 June 1231), a Doctor of the Church. Born in Lisbon to Portuguese nobility, he became an Augustinian scholar and priest until a procession of martyrs moved his heart to join the fledgling Franciscan order. He wanted to give his life for God in Morocco, but became too seriously sick there to do much of anything. Returning to Portugal his ship blew off course to Italy where he eventually made his way to the city of Padua, where he is still honored today.
My introduction to Saint Anthony came in grad school during a month-long seminar course in Southeast Asia when I lost a gold rosary ring in Vietnam. Somehow it fell off the chain around my neck, along with a cross. When I noticed the undone chain, we immediately searched the floor (on our hands & knees), our retraced steps, every nook in our bus, and made calls to previous stops.
No rosary ring. No cross. Lost.
The ring and cross were just things. Not that important in the global context of conflict, poverty and injustice, but more precious to me than $ as both were special birthday gifts from dear Palestinian friends in Bethlehem when I turned 30. Irreplaceable.
A bit bummed out that evening, my grad school buddy Shahla suggested asking St. Anthony of Padua for help. Saint Anthony? I’m a huge St. Teresa of Avila groupie, St. John of the Cross, St. Ignatius, St. Francis (and so on) but didn’t know much about St. Anthony.
So, Shahla said a little prayer. (For my evangelical-this-is-freaking-us-out buddies, you know Jesus gets so busy answering all your prayers, He asks His Mother and friends to help out with Catholics. So, we ask them to ask Jesus for help. Kinda like asking friends to pray for something.)
The next day as we traversed the Vietnamese countryside, I miraculously found my rosary ring, and (icing on the cake) the cross, too. They had jumped off my chain somehow into a water-bottle holder (with a full water bottle.) How Shahla & I squealed! The lost, found.
Kinda crazy! After that trip, I checked out St. Anthony to learn more.
Called the Hammer of the Scriptures, St. Anthony became one of the greatest Bible teachers of his time preaching to thousands, yet lived as a simple friar in the Franciscan order. He also worked to put an end to injustices of his day. My kind of saint!
Loved Jesus & lived Jesus.
Fast forward 9 years later, staying with friends in the Veneto region I had the opportunity to visit the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua: one of my main reasons for visiting Italy (along with the fabulous food!)
The Basilica is truly beautiful. Blessed there (literally) to be blessed (in English) by an Irish Franciscan priest, my visit could not have been more special.
Methinks, however, St. Anthony has a sense of humor. Approaching the entrance to this impressive church, my necklace somehow came undone (again?) & spilled out my rosary ring onto the pavement in front of me.
It made me laugh, and laugh, and thank God all the more for the life and faith of Saint Anthony of Padua.
grace, peace & (lost & found) rosary rings
p.s. Image of St. Anthony of Padua (my favorite) is painting by Raphael (1483-1520)