I was moved by the deep faith of the pilgrims
I was introduced to St. Anthony of Padua when I was a student at Duns Scotus College back in 1962-67. We students attended the St. Anthony Novena in our chapel there, which was dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua. The public gathered there each Tuesday evening for the novena prayers and the blessing with the St. Anthony relic. I learned a little about St. Anthony at that time, especially from the responsory, which was in Latin: “Si queris miracula…” “If you seek miracles…” The response was in English: “The seas obey and fetters break and lifeless limbs thou dust restore, while treasures lost are found again when young and old thine aid implore.”
At some point along the way, I also learned that St. Anthony was originally an Augustinian, and when the bodies of the first Franciscan martyrs were returned from Morocco through Anthony’s hometown, young Anthony decided to leave the Augustinians and join the Franciscans. He became the first theology teacher of the Franciscans, with permission from St. Francis himself, “as long as it did not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotion” in the Franciscan students. St. Anthony also became a famous preacher in Italy and southern France.
As a novice in 1964-65, I was at the novitiate at St. Anthony Friary in Cincinnati, and I again attended the St. Anthony devotions every Tuesday afternoon in the hot, un-airconditioned chapel. Many years later I was stationed at St. Anthony Friary in Cincinnati as the Guardian, and I again attended the Tuesday St. Anthony Devotions, this time in our air-conditioned chapel.
By this time, the major event of the year was the Feast of St. Anthony on June 13, at which time we hosted huge numbers of pilgrims from all over the city, but especially busloads of pilgrims who came from the Detroit area, filling the chapel to overflowing at least three times on that day. We distributed hundreds of loaves of blessed St. Anthony Bread to the eager pilgrims, along with holy cards and rosaries. We also helped staff with a makeshift religious goods shop, selling candles and religious articles and books after each of the services.
I think the most moving experience for me was to see the deep faith and devotion of the pilgrims to St. Anthony, and their desire to be blessed with the first-class relic of St. Anthony. Many also shared with us their prayer intentions and asked for our prayers for their loved ones. It is amazing to see such faith live on 800 years after St. Anthony’s death.
(Fr. Carl Langenderfer, OFM, is the pastor of Holy Family Church in Oldenburg, Ind.)
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