Today, June 13th, while it is the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, it also happens to be the feast of St. Anthony of Padua. St. Anthony’s feast day won’t be celebrated this year because it falls on a Sunday, but St. Anthony still has a big part in the hearts of many of our parishioners. For many years one of our parish churches was dedicated in his honor. For several of those years I had the privilege of being the pastor of St. Anthony’s Parish. When it came time for St. Anthony’s church to close the beautiful wooden carved statue of St. Anthony was transferred from St. Anthony’s Church and put in a special place of honor in St. Patrick’s Church.
The gospel for today, while it does not speak of St. Anthony it gives us the parable of the sower who sows the tiny seed of the mustard plant and with time that seed grows and begins to bear fruit, fulfilling its purpose to serve our needs. Over the centuries many saints have played their particular role in helping that mustard seed to grow and continue to bear fruit. St. Anthony of Padua was one of those saints.
Anthony was born in the year 1135. By birth he was Portuguese, a native of Lisbon, as a young man Anthony became an Augustinian Friar and he hoped to go to the missions and spread the word of the gospel with some of his brother friars. It happened that he met a group of Franciscan Friars and was deeply impressed with their lifestyle and ministry. He eventually joined the Franciscans and went to Italy where he continued his formation and became a Franciscan like St. Francis of Assisi.
While he was still a rather newly ordained priest, he happened to be attending a very important religious festival along with many others. It just happened that the priest who was to preach the homily was not able to attend and Anthony was selected from among those present to preach in his stead.
Even without much of an opportunity to prepare his sermon Anthony preached with great eloquence and conviction keeping everyone fully attentive to his words. This was the beginning of what would be his lifelong ministry. For the rest of his years his mission was to preach traveling through the breadth and length of both Italy and France. Wherever he was preaching a retreat or parish mission word would precede his arrival and the churches would be filled, everyone anxious to hear his inspired words.
God had given Anthony a very special gift as a most inspiring preacher and it was in this way that he fulfilled what God wanted him to do through the preached word. This is how Anthony helped the seed of God’s word to grow and flourish.
Anthony labored so tirelessly that he almost literally wore himself out. On June 13, 1231, at the age of 36 Anthony died at Padua in northern Italy. He was buried there, and the date of his death was given as the date of his feast day when he was canonized. In 1946, Pope Pius XII declared him a Doctor of the Church.
Popularly St. Anthony is often invoked for his help in locating lost objects. Many have said that he helps especially for people to locate lost faith.
Happy Feast Day,