Friday, June 13, 2008

Saint Anthony of Padua and Lisbon

We believe in the communion of saints. We are in it together. Heaven and earth commune. One of our most familiar heavenly friends is Anthony. He was born Fernando *1195, in Lisbon. He became an Augustinian and was then at the old Portuguese capital, Coimbra.

He became aware of the Franciscan martyrs of Morocco, and desired to be one. He changed orders and went to Morocco to evangelise. Later he was shipwrecked at Sicily, and was at first ignored. After awhile the italian franciscans realised his abilities.

He became a professor of theology and then itinerant preacher in France, Spain and Italy. He was well known and crowds seeked him out. He spent his last ten years around Padua, a town where he had great success. He was known as a wonderworker, and as “Hammer of Heretics ”. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1946.

He is a favorite saint. He is claimed by two cities. The italians hold him to be a Padovese, the Portuguese know him to be of Lisboa.

There is the argument he had with Francis of Assisi, concerning, whether the friars should seek academic learning in their religious lives. I can imagine the two in dialogue gesticulating:

“Some of the brothers should go to university.”
“No, a life of poverty and prayer with the people. ”
“They need the learning.”
“Ehhh, ... no. ”
“They should be smart.”
“Ehhh ... ok, then.”

Most churches, that I have been to, have a statue of Anthony. I moved into my house, nine years ago to-day, I felt it appropriate to have a statue of him in front of my house.

He helps us find stuff and get stuff to arrive where it was meant to. We find him helpful in many regards. He has many friends. We have many stories about him. Some of those are illustrated. It is not unusual, for us, to keep pictures of our friends and family. Some pictures remind us of specific events and stories, that, we put into context. There is Tony with a lily, there he has the flame in his hand, there he is with the pious mule, there is Tony distributing bread, there is Tony with the Child Jesus, there is Tony with Frankie ... and there is Tony with the fish at Rimini.

Anthony having become frustrated at the inattentive and obtuse heretics, went upon the strand between stream and sea to speak to the fish, as did previously did Francis spake to the birds. They lifted their piscine heads, and listened, and nodded at the words.

“Listen to the word of God, O ye fishes of the sea and of the river, seeing that the faithless heretics refuse to do so ... My fish brothers, you are bound, as much as is in your power, to return thanks to your Creator, who has given you so noble an element for your dwelling; for you have at your choice both sweet water and salt; you have many places of refuge from the tempest; you have likewise a pure and transparent element for your nourishment. God, your bountiful and kind Creator, when he made you, ordered you to increase and multiply, and gave you his blessing. In the universal deluge, all other creatures perished; you alone did God preserve from all harm. He has given you fins to enable you to go where you will ... Blessed be the Eternal God, for the fishes of the waters give Him more honor than heretical men, and the animals lacking reason listen to His word with greater attention than faithless men!”*

Some of them saw and heard this, and told others. Anthony stayed, awhile in Rimini, and the heretics were reconciled.
* from translations of chapter 40 of the Fioretti di San Francesco d'Assisi
noto bene: glass is by Margaret Edith Rope and is in storage (?) in Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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