Today is the feast of St. Anthony of Padua.
St. Anthony is definitely part of the fabric of my life as a Franciscan. The parish my grandmother attended, where I was part of the fourth generation in my family to attend the same Catholic elementary school, has a shrine to St. Anthony.
The shrine is the little building on the right. I’ve been in there countless times, generally in the company of my grandmother. I remember feeling that it was like another world in there. Before such things were considered “against fire code” all the candles (and there were many) were real. You lit a candle by picking up one of the long wicks from a holder on the side of the candle stand, lighting the wick from a candle already burning, and then lighting another candle. The little shrine always smelled like wax and flowers. It was cool and quiet, with a dark slate floor. Because of all the candles, there wasn’t much need for lighting beyond the flickering votives.
It was just a little building, but there was something about it–something that would make you automatically get quiet when you walked in; as a friend and fellow Franciscan tells fidgety children, “quiet on the outside, quiet on the inside.” And I’m not sure how to explain it, except to say that you could almost feel the prayers that had been whispered within those walls.
My grandmother left behind many prayer cards with images of Saint Anthony, and those are mine now. If I had a scanner I’d post some here. Micki’s got a pretty one pictured at her site, along with a link explaining St. Anthony’s Bread.
Speaking of St. Anthony’s Bread, there is a ministry in Providence, Rhode Island that is committed to providing 300 homeless adults with a hot beverage and sandwiches to go, 3 days a week. It’s called Bread and Blessings. My uncle is the Franciscan friar who coordinates this ministry. If you feel moved to donate to this program, either for the sandwich fund or for a special fund for blankets, winter boots, or household goods for people transitioning from shelter life to new living opportunities, please email me for contact information.
If you’d like to read a good biography of St. Anthony, I recommend A Rich Young Man by John Beahn. I’m not sure if it’s still in print but used copies are available at online booksellers.