Franciscan Spirit Blog

St. Anthony: God’s Instrument

For many people the most famous thing about St. Anthony of Padua is his reputation as a wonder-worker. He’s brought happiness to many believers, for example, by helping them find their lost wedding rings or car keys. Or maybe his prayers helped bring about the healing of a sick child or spouse. Since the moment of his death on June 13, 1231, Anthony has had a reputation for working wonders. Indeed, he has been a real gift to the Church in bringing people joy and healing in these ways. But Anthony has been a gift to the Church in other ways, too.

In 1946, for example, Pope Pius XII named St. Anthony a Doctor of the Universal Church, that is, one of the great Christian teachers of all time—and a renowned preacher of God’s word. In fact, Anthony was such a famous preacher that in 1228—at age 33—he was invited to preach before Pope Gregory IX. Afterwards, the pope called Anthony the “Ark of the Testament.” Anthony revealed such a grasp of God’s word that, in the eyes of the pope, he seemed to “contain” within himself the whole of Sacred Scripture.

In many Franciscan churches and shrines around the world, novenas to St. Anthony are already taking place in preparation for his feast. It’s a good time for us to acquaint ourselves with this great preacher. In this blog, I would like to share with you four “short passages” from the sermons of St. Anthony. These “sermon passages,” in actuality, are from sermon material or notes that Anthony compiled (in book form) for all the Sundays of the year and for certain feast days, too.

Of course, these passages cannot totally reveal what Anthony was like as a preacher with all his charisma. I hope, however, they can give us a little flavor or inkling of Anthony’s spiritual wisdom and profound love of God.

First sermon passage: Give yourself wholly! “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart.…Yes, Christ says: with your whole heart. He doesn’t say: Leave a corner of your heart for yourself. Christ bought the whole of you by giving his whole self for you.…Do not try to hold back any part of yourself.…If you really wish to have the whole, then give it all to him, and he will give you all of himself.”

Second sermon passage: Jesus loves us wholly in the Eucharist. “During the meal, Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it as a sign that his body would be broken, too, through his freely accepted death. The humanity of Christ is like the grape because it was crushed in the winepress of the cross so that his blood flowed forth over all the earth.…‘This is my blood of the new covenant, which shall be shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins.’ How great is the charity of the beloved! How great the love of the Bridegroom for his spouse, the Church!”

Third sermon passage: Serve Christ in the poor. “Today Christ stands at the door and knocks in the person of his poor. It is to him that we open the door when we give aid, when we give ourselves to those in need. For he tells us plainly, ‘When you did this to one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it to me’” (Matthew 25:40).

Fourth sermon passage: Seek God before all else. “Nothing apart from God can satisfy the human heart, for the heart is truly in search of God.”

Regarding this brief, yet meaningful, quote, it is interesting to remember that Anthony was an Augustinian monk for many years before he joined the Franciscans. Anthony, therefore, would have undoubtedly been familiar with one of St. Augustine’s most famous quotations, found near the beginning of his Confessions: “You have created us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

Anthony’s words strike the same chord.

Thirst for God

We also know, from Anthony’s life, that he had an inner thirst for God that caused him often to step aside from his busy activities and to find a cave or solitary place where he could pray to God in silence, seeking God before all else.

There is a chapter in a book I edited, Saint Anthony of Padua: His Life, Legends, and Devotions, called “St. Anthony, the Contemplative.” The chapter shows in detail how Anthony throughout his life nurtured his inner contemplative need to seek the face of God.

As we arrive on the feast day of this saint, may the great preacher—and great finder of lost valuables—help each of us find our heart’s true treasure, namely, union with our loving God!

Saint Anthony of Padua

4 thoughts on “St. Anthony: God’s Instrument”

  1. Lord Jesus Christ, grant this day, to direct and sanctify, to rule and govern our hearts, minds, and bodies, so that all our thoughts, words, and deeds may be in accord with your Father’s law and wisdom. And thus may we be saved and protected through your mighty help. Amen.

  2. Nick Wineriter

    St. Anthony is my patron saint! Ever since my Confirmation. Today, St. Anthony’s Feast Day, he helped me and my wife find her missing medication list for a doctor’s appointment today, which we left in the church pew. We drove back, and there it was! He also helped my wife with a good eye exam report today, after a previous eye exam that wasn’t as good. I prayed to St. Anthony for these issues. St. Anthony always comes through! Thank you St. Anthony, Jesus, and Our Blessed Mother, for all your graces and blessings!

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