The celebrations that accompanied the feast-day of St. Anthony of Padua in Jerusalem began on Sunday 12 June. On this day, at St Saviour’s Church and at the same time as the recital of the second vespers of the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the celebration of St Anthony, the Patron Saint of the Custody of the Holy Land was also included in the celebration.
The next morning, Monday 13 June, the day when the memory of St Anthony of Padua is celebrated, the Franciscans of the Custody celebrated their protector with a solemn mass, celebrated by the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, in the presence of numerous religious and civic authorities and a large number of faithful.
The bond between the Portuguese saint, a contemporary of St Francis, and the Custody of the Holy Land, has very ancient roots. The chronicles of the Custody report uninterrupted devotion to the Saint who, on 28 July 1929, was officially proclaimed the special Patron saint and protector of the Custody by Pope Benedict XV.
This bond was named more than once by the Father Custos during his comments on the Word. On the day of the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Fr. Patton did not hesitate to emphasize how deep St Anthony’s reflection was around the dogma of the trinity. “Our Patron saint often reflects, in his “Sermons” on the mystery of the Trinity, on its creative and redeeming action, on its being a berth in our life and the created. In the Sermon of the VI Sunday after Easter, he [St. Anthony] reflects on the Trinity from the promise of the Spiritus Paraclitus, namely comforter, made by Jesus during the discourses of the Last Supper handed down to us by the Evangelist John."
In the homily pronounced during the solemn mass on 13 June, Fr. Patton wanted to develop a reflection around the figure of Anthony, intending to go further into his role as a witness and announcer of peaceand underlining how, in his Sermons, the Saint himself mentioned the word “peace” as many as 266 times.
It was a peace that St Anthony was willing to testify to concretely with his works, radically following the teachings of Jesus who in the “Sermon on the mount” asked anyone who wants to be his disciple to become a peacemaker: "Anthony takes this teaching very seriously and, through the example, teaches us that whoever is called to work for peace must also act even though he does not seem to have any chance of success. With his example, Anthony teaches us that for peace we have to be willing to risk our lives.”
It is an example we have to remember and which can be taken as inspiration: "on the solemnity of our Patron Saint, we ask that we also can became peacemakers, witnesses of peace in the concrete situations in which we live. And it takes more courage to be witnesses of peace in an active way than to support the brutal instinct of violence and vendetta.
Let us also ask to be announcers of peace. Of that profound peace which only God can give us, that peace that Jesus gave to usin his Easter, that peace that reconciles us with ourselves, with others and with God and opens the gates of Heaven."
At the end of the Holy Mass, the Father Custos thanked the religious and civic authorities present at the ceremony and, after the blessing, went to the altar where the statue and relic of St Anthony are, chorally expressing with the rest of the faithful an invocation and thanks to the Patron Saint: "O glorious St Anthony, we have gathered around you on this solemn day of your feast day. We humbly thank you for the protection with which, together with the seraphic Father St Francis, you have always given to this Custody and its members. […] And o great Saint, with all the gratitude of our hearts, we entrust ourselves to you again: this is what our fathers have done over the centuries; this is what the Pope wanted us to do when he proclaimed you and made you special Patron Saint of the Custody of the Holy Land.”
The celebrations dedicated to St Anthony came to an end in the afternoon, with the second vespers presided by the Guardian of St Saviour, Fr. Marcelo Ariel Cichinelli.
Filippo De Grazia