Friday, June 13, 2014

Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua, priest

(1 Kings 19:9a.11-16; Matthew 5:27-32)

This year Billy Graham will turn ninety-six years old.  When he eventually dies, he will be duly remembered as the greatest preacher of his time.  His world-wide “Crusades” helped thousands of people come to a personal relationship with Jesus.  He became known as a social reformer and a friend of presidents.  What Billy Graham was to the twentieth century, St. Anthony of Padua was to the thirteenth.

Anthony of Padua was actually Anthony of Lisbon, the place of his birth, and is evidently called so in his native Portugal.  As an adolescent, he joined a religious society and studied theology.  Later he was ordained and transferred to the Franciscan Order.  Then he was sent to Italy to become one of the most illustrious preachers of his time.  He died at only thirty-six years of age but by then had earned the reputation not only of a master preacher but also of a champion of the poor and a tireless worker among heretics.

Most people think of St. Anthony as the patron of finding lost objects.  We would be better to think of him as a searcher of the Word of God.  Although legends vary, it is said that he is often pictured with the Christ Child in his arms as a substitute for the Scriptures which he studied fervently.