why pray to saint anthony?
per antonium ad jesum
through anthony to jesus. these are the memorable words used by pope pius xi in 1930, on the occasion of the seven-hundredth anniversary of saint anthony’s death.
and this is truly the mission of saint anthony, the extraordinary saint who, to this day in the mysterious plan of divine providence, remains a great master of spiritual life, a living example of virtue and holiness, a powerful intercessor before god.
we know very well, as the bible and the church teach us, that the only mediator between god and man is jesus christ. but we also know, for our great consolation, that the saints, our brothers and sisters, have tried to perfectly imitate jesus during their earthly lives, and, living a life of faith and heroic charity, they devoted their lives to god and their brothers and sisters. now near christ in heaven, they are models to imitate and are our intercessors.
for this reason, the second vatican council teaches that “the church proclaims the paschal mystery as realized in its saints who have suffered and have been glorified with christ. the church offers them as examples to the faithful that they may attract all to the father through christ and, through their merits, implore benefits from god” (sacrosantum concilium, n. 104).
that which is true for all the saints is particularly true for saint anthony, whom the people of padua refer to simply as “the saint”. he was permeated with a fervent love for our lord; he immersed himself in the spirit of the gospel; he lived it personally, preaching wherever he went through his sermones; he explained this love in his writings, and thus deserves to be proclaimed “doctor” of the church.
still today saint anthony continues to be that which he was during his earthly existence: a light and a guide for christians. to this day he continues to emanate the message of salvation: the message of obtaining, maintaining and increasing divine grace.
those who have visited the basilica in padua, where saint anthony’s tomb is located, can testify to the fact that, for many, saint anthony is truly an invitation to return to the lord, to convert, and to begin a new life.
throughout the year, many pilgrims come to pray at the tomb of saint anthony. they entrust him with their suffering, their worries, their hopes, and when they leave, they take with them solace and consolation.
prayer to saint anthony is simple and direct, at times in need of enlightenment and purification.
yet, it is without a doubt a path to draw closer to god that is within everyone’s grasp. very often, in fact, it is the simple and humble of heart, and not the erudite or famous, who are able to find the path which leads to the lord.
nearly everywhere st. anthony is asked to intercede with god for the return of things lost or stolen. those who feel very familiar with him may pray, “tony, tony, turn around. something’s lost and must be found.”
the reason for invoking st. anthony’s help in finding lost or stolen things is traced back to an incident in his own life. as the story goes, anthony had a book of psalms that was very important to him. besides the value of any book before the invention of printing, the psalter had the notes and comments he had made to use in teaching students in his franciscan order.
a novice who had already grown tired of living religious life decided to depart the community. besides going awol he also took anthony’s psalter! upon realizing his psalter was missing, anthony prayed it would be found or returned to him. and after his prayer the thieving novice was moved to return the psalter to anthony and return to the order which accepted him back. legend has embroidered this story a bit. it has the novice stopped in his flight by a horrible devil brandishing an ax and threatening to trample him underfoot if he did not immediately return the book. obviously a devil would hardly command anyone to do something good. but the core of the story would seem to be true. and the stolen book is said to be preserved in the franciscan friary in bologna.
in any event, shortly after his death people began praying through anthony to find or recover lost and stolen articles. and the responsory of st. anthony composed by his contemporary, julian of spires, o.f.m., proclaims, “the sea obeys and fetters break/and lifeless limbs thou dost restore/while treasures lost are found again/when young or old thine aid implore.”
glory be to the father…