History of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement
On December 15, 1898, Lurana White and two companions traveled to Graymoor to look after the abandoned chapel of St. John in the Wilderness. Every year, the Friars and Sisters celebrate December 15th as Foundation Day. The communities began to grow very slowly in the Episcopal Church. Father Wattson joined Sister Lurana at Graymoor in the Spring of 1899, after making his novitiate with the Holy Cross Fathers in Maryland. He professed his vows as a Friar of the Atonement in June 1899, and took as his religious name Paul James Francis.
As time developed, the founders became more convinced that one of their major ministries was to pray and work for Christian Unity. By 1908, Father Wattson, along with a friend from England, the Reverend Spencer Jones, established the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity. Today it is known as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The Father Founder would speak about the Octave in later years and say that “the first fruits of the Octave was the acceptance of the Society into the Roman Catholic Church” in 1909.
In 1910, with the building of the railroad along the Hudson River, men began to come looking for shelter. Father Paul offered the only place available, a chicken coop. The Founder always referred to these men as Brother Christophers —Christ Bearers. The small chicken coop turned into St. Christopher’s Inn. The Inn still serves Brother Christophers today.
As the number of Friars increased, they were sent out to the “missions,” first to Texas and then to British Columbia. It was not until 1949 that the Friars first went to serve the people in Japan. Shortly afterwards, they opened the friary in Rome, Italy. In the late 1950s, they opened their first friary in England. In the 1960s, the Friars went to Brazil and Jamaica, West Indies. Today, the Friars serve in parishes in the United States, Canada, and England. They also serve in Ecumenical Ministry in the United States, Canada, England, Japan, and Italy. Friars serve in Social Ministry in the United States, Canada, England, and Japan. The Friars invite interested men to become members of their community.
If you would like additional information about our history, please visit the Archives page.
St. Anthony of Padua’s feast day is June 13. He is especially invoked for the recovery of lost things.
Born in 1195 in Lisbon, Portugal, at that time a part of Spain, he was baptized Ferdinand by his parents, who were prominent nobles living near the Cathedral of Lisbon.
After a sound education at the Cathedral school, at age 15 Ferdinand joined the Canons Regular of St. Augustine located in the convent of St. Vincent, not far from Lisbon. Two years later, he moved to the convent of Santa Croce in Coimbra, where for the next eight years he devoted himself to prayer and study. It is assumed that he was ordained a priest here.
In 1220, five Franciscans were martyred at the hands of Muslims in Morocco and their bodies brought back to Santa Croce. This so affected Ferdinand that he requested and received permission to join the Franciscans, where he took the name Anthony. Resolved to suffer “for Christ’s sake,” he set off for Morocco.
While in Morocco, a severe illness compelled Anthony to return to Lisbon. However, because of a storm, he landed in Sicily. Here he remained until he regained his health. From Sicily, he made his way to Assisi, where he took part in a general chapter of the Franciscan order. He would spend the rest of his life in Italy and France.
In Italy, Anthony’s preaching came to the attention of Francis, the founder of the Franciscans, who asked him to teach theology to the friars. He taught successively in Bologna and Montpellier, and later at Toulouse.
It was as an orator, however, rather than as professor, that Anthony was most skillful. Preaching throughout Italy and France, he attracted large crowds wherever he went. Undertaking to reform the morality of the time, he spoke against the vices of luxury, avarice, and tyranny prevalent among both lay people and clergy. So fervent was his zeal against heresy that he earned the title, “Hammer of the Heretics.”
Anthony is reported to have performed many miracles during his lifetime. Among those noted by his biographers are: by making the Sign of the Cross, he rendered edible poisoned food offered to him by heretics; preaching one night in the Church of St. Pierre du Queriox at Limoges, he remembered he had to sing a Lesson of the Divine Office. Interrupting his sermon, he appeared at the same moment among the friars in choir, after which he continued his sermon.
It is interesting to note that while the fame of Anthony’s miracles has never diminished, he is most renowned for his preaching.
In 1231, Anthony was preaching near Padua when he became ill and requested to be taken back to that city. However, he was unable to complete the journey and died in Arcella at the Poor Clare monastery on June 13, 1231. He was canonized by Pope Gregory IX on May 30, 1232, less than a year after his death.
St. Anthony of Padua is often portrayed with the Infant Jesus in his arms, in honor of an apparition of the Infant, in which He kissed St. Anthony and told him He loved him for his zealous preaching.
Franciscan Friars of the Atonement
P.O. Box 301
Garrison, NY 10524