The Tradition of St. Anthony Bread
We are already two weeks into Lent. We continue to try to achieve the goal of Lent, which is to turn away from our habits of sin and become more faithful children of God and disciples of Jesus. To help us with our efforts to change our attitudes and behavior that are not Christ-like, tradition has given us what are called the three Pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. These three practices were very important to the Jewish people. Jesus gives us some advice on how to pray, fast, and give alms in the Gospel of Matthew 6:1-18. Jesus teaches us not to pray, fast, and give alms to impress others, as it doesn’t please God when we do righteous deeds just to look good in front of others. We do these things to remind ourselves to change to become better people.
Working in fundraising, I am naturally drawn to the idea of almsgiving. Like all the friars of our province, I am deeply appreciative of the alms so many benefactors give us. We could not succeed in our ministries without the kind help of your alms. Many of the gifts we receive are given as St. Anthony Bread. What is St. Anthony Bread? It is a term used for donations made in thanksgiving to God for blessings received through the prayers of St. Anthony of Padua. It is a gift given to help the poor. Many benefactors send us donations to help the poor in thanksgiving to St. Anthony for his intercession with God in answering their prayers. For example, people lose things and can’t find them. They pray to St. Anthony for help. When they find the lost article, they send us a donation for St. Anthony Bread.
When did the tradition of St. Anthony Bread begin? The most likely answer is in 1263. A child drowned near the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua. The mother prayed to St. Anthony for help and promised to a give a gift of grain equal to her child’s weight to the poor to feed them. The child was restored to life, the mother gave her gift, and the tradition of St. Anthony Bread began.
I hope you are having a blessed Lent and success in changing those things in your life that you feel need change. May the prayers of St. Anthony help each of us. God bless each of you abundantly.