Omely St. Antony | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

Omely St. Antony

Dear sisters and brothers,

The Lord give you Peace!

1. Today we have gathered to celebrate the feast of Saint Anthony of Padua, our patron saint. The Church reminds us that the saints are for us models who intercede for us. We can say that they are our friends, who with their example and prayer accompany us in our life journey. We shall therefore try to recall some essential elements in the life of Saint Anthony, and to let ourselves be helped by the images of Saint Anthony that tradition has handed down to us.

2. As we all know, Anthony was born in a noble family in Lisbon, Portugal, around 1195. He received the name Fernando in his baptism.
In 1210 he joined the Augustinian Canons Regular in Lisbon. Subsequently, since he desired to live a more retreated form of life, he transferred to the monastery of Coimbra until 1220, when he was struck by the witness of the first five Franciscan martyrs.
It was on that occasion that he requested to become a Friar Minor and to go to the missions, and it was then that he changed his name and chose the name of Anthony. However, God's plans were different from those of Anthony. He first became sick and then the ship on which he was travelling back from Morocco was shipwrecked on the coast of Sicily.
The following year, in 1221, Anthony was in Assisi for the Chapter of Mats. From there he was sent to Montepaolo, in Emilia Romagna, in a tiny hermitage on the Appennines.
In 1221 at Forlì, in Romagna, his ability as a preacher came to light nearly by chance. In this way he began to teach theology to the brothers in Bologna and to preach to the people. He dedicated the final years of his life to preaching, until his death on 13 June 1231.
From this brief profile we can be aware of the fact that the life of Anthony has been a continual searching and openness to the unpredictable will of God. We should learn that we are not the ones who take the lead in our lives, but that it is the Lord who takes us by our hand and guides us through unforeseen and unpredictable situations. It is up to us to be open to the surprises of God and not to offer Him resistance.

3. We are helped to discover the richness of Anthony also by means of the images that tradition has handed down to us. These are images which offer some traits of the personality of Anthony and that can inspire us as well, so that we will not limit ourselves to admire him but also to imitate him. The classical images are four:
- Anthony and the book of the Word of God: Pope Gregory IX called our saint "the Ark of the Testament" and Pope Pius XII proclaimed him "Evangelical Doctor". Anthony is therefore, first and foremost, a man of the Word of God: he welcomed it, he lived it and he proclaimed it in deeds and in words.
- Anthony and the Child Jesus: the image was born after the apparition at Camposampiero, close to Padua. It is an image which makes us understand how Anthony has loved in a profound way the Son of God who became a Child, and how he continued to love Him present in the smallest and poorest of his creatures.
- Anthony holds the lily in his hand: the lily is the classical symbol of purity of heart and of chastity. Anthony teaches us that we must love gratuitously, with a pure heart, without double aims, without wanting to possess the other and to make of him or her an instrument of our egoism. Such a pure and chaste love - as the ancient biographies show us - cost many occasions in which Anthony had to struggle against himself. To love in an authentic way is always a great effort! Egoism is easy to buy, but true love costs one's own life.
- Anthony holds bread in his hand: bread is the symbol of one's ability to share. Anthony chose to become poor like Christ, who has made us rich through his poverty (2 Cor 8,9). Anthony chose poverty as a way of sharing. This is valid especially for us. This is the sense of all the works and social activities of the Custody and of each community.

4. Today we are venerating Saint Anthony, we are celebrating his feast in a solemn way, and we are asking his intercession, so that he will accompany us in our life journey. This veneration will be authentic and his intercession powerful if we try to imitate him along the road of love, in such a way that we will live:
- a great love for the Word of God, which we must welcome, incarnate and witness;
- a great love for Jesus, for the Son of God incarnate and present in his little ones;
- a love purified of all forms of egoism and of the will to use our neighbour;
- a love which knows how to express itself in solidarity and sharing with the poorest.

5. Permit me to conclude with a beautiful prayer of Saint Anthony taken from his Sermons: "Lord Jesus, we beg you to unite us in the bond of love towards you and towards our brothers and sisters, in such a way that we can love you with our whole heart, that is, so profoundly that we will never be distanced from your love. May we love you with all our soul, that is, with wisdom, so that we will never be led astray by other forms of love. May we love you with all our strength and with all our mind, that is with a great tenderness, so that we will never be led to separate ourselves from your love; and may we the love our neighbours as we love ourselves.
May you grant us all this, you who are blessed for ever and ever. Amen." (Sermon XIII Sunday after Pentecost).