A crisis in southern France prompted Anthony’s reassignment there between 1224 and 1227. The town of Albi was ground zero for a group that adamantly regarded everything spiritual as good and everything material as evil.
Therefore, they rejected the Incarnation, the sacraments, and especially the Eucharist. All of these relied entirely too much on “the flesh” in their view.
Encountering these Albigensians (known elsewhere as Cathars, Greek for “the pure”) led Dominic Guzman, who was traveling to Rome with his bishop, to establish in 1216 the Order of Preachers to try to win them back to the Catholic faith. There had been an unsuccessful Church-sponsored Crusade against the Albigensians (1208). Catholic preachers whose theology was orthodox but whose lifestyle imitated the rich could never stem the tide of this new movement.
In addition to preaching, Anthony was put in charge of a custody (subunit of a Franciscan province). One of the most famous stories about Anthony occurred in France. A young friar decided to leave the Order, taking with him a handwritten copy of the New Testament, a very valuable book in pre-Gutenberg days. Anthony prayed for at least the book’s return. The man brought it back and rejoined the friars, going on to lead an exemplary life until his death. Thus, Anthony was linked to finding lost objects. More importantly, many people have found anew a faith that previously seemed lifeless and useless.
Am I allowing the Incarnation to influence every aspect of my life?
In Anthony’s Own Words
“When a crystal is touched or struck by the rays of the sun, it gives forth brilliant sparks of light. When the man of faith is touched by the light of God’s grace, he too must shine with his good words and deeds, and so bring God’s light to others.”
Did You Know?
Anthony understood that, in preaching the Gospel, words were not enough. He had to show gospel poverty. People wanted more than self-disciplined, even penitent, priests. People wanted the unselfish genuineness of gospel living. And in Anthony they found it. They were moved by who he was more than by what he said.
Legend has it that one day, while preaching to deaf ears, Anthony went to the river and preached to the fishes. That, says the traditional tale, got everyone’s attention.
—Jack Wintz, OFM, Saint Anthony of Padua: His Life, Legends, and Devotions
Loving God, in many ways
you prepared Anthony to be
an outstanding preacher of your
grace and mercy.
His actions never undercut what
he had just preached.
Help us constantly to witness
by word and deed to your unfailing love,
constantly inviting others to embrace
your overflowing love and forgiveness.