Fr. Bill’s St. Anthony story
St. Anthony has been part of the rhythm of my spiritual life for many years. Most of my training and formation years brought me into contact with the familiar prayers. Two of the parishes where I ministered kept alive the weekly Tuesday devotions as well. I was even covered during home vacation time at our family parish of St. Anthony de Padua Parish in South Bend, IN. Over these years St. Anthony received many petitions from me.
This reflection isn’t about a specific favor granted, however. After 25 years in the Franciscan Order I took a special three week jubilee trip to Europe with my sister Joanne in the fall of 1996. We toured England and Switzerland, and ended our journeys in Italy: Florence, Assisi and Rome.
Joanne ended her travels early to return to her family. With a few extra days on my own, I traveled from Rome to Padua and visited the Shrine of St. Anthony.
I didn’t really know what I was seeking until I had actually joined the ranks of many other pilgrims to pay respects to St. Anthony. I remember feeling tired from so much travel and sight-seeing. Upon entering the basilica I sensed a deep peace though. I simply let myself move along with the many other pilgrims, passing walls covered with testimonials to St. Anthony’s intercession. Reaching the tomb and reading the inscription above it (“come to me all you who labor…”), I felt a personal blessing from St. Anthony, an assurance that he was there to keep my feet on the right path.
At that moment I found my footing, as a friar and a priest. I wasn’t at the point of seriously stumbling at that time of my life, but the demands of a busy parish and some perplexing personal issues often kept me off-balance and overly tentative. St. Anthony gently put all this in perspective and steadied my feet. I’ve never forgotten this unexpected grace. It was not given to relieve one passing phase of my life, but has endured over these many years.
(Fr. Bill Farris, OFM, is the Vicar Provincial for the Province of St. John the Baptist.)
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