Reflections of a Paduan
Feast of St. Anthony of Padua
What MOVES you? What drives you to do something? In a word, IMPETUS! There could be something or someone that or who moves us to do something. There was this coffee advertisement in the Philippines from way back when which carried this striking question as a slogan: "Para kanino ka gumigising sa umaga?" or "For whom do you wake up each day?" And English term could best describe it in one word which we seldom use, "IMPETUS!"
Today, we offer this Mass in honor of St. Anthony, our Patron in this parish. Question is, how strong is St. Anthony as an impetus, as a driving force to move us to love God and neighbor even more. More than an impetus, has he ever been an inspiration to our lives? How much do we know about St. Anthony? By knowing, I mean beyond his name and the title attached to him as a Saint?
Let me highlight 3 principal virtues of St. Anthony worthy of emulation, which I believe, this community needs to value as an example:
FIRST, Humility “humus” – organic substance in soil that fertilizes the earth. Saint Anthony’s deep humility, the foundation of all other virtues, was perhaps the first virtue, which manifested itself most shortly after he had joined the Franciscan Order. Anthony said nothing of his academic accomplishments. Concealed and hidden away like a gem in the earth, he spent his time in prayer, meditation, and the conquest of self. It is said that in a solemn Mass, where Bishops and priests were present, caught without a preacher, they asked St. Anthony to preach at Mass impromptu. With all humility and obedience he accepted the invitation. As they hear him speak, they were not only moved by his very words but were impelled by the message of the Gospel.
Jean Rigauld, OFM, in his “Life of St. Anthony” describes the humility of the saint:
"Humility, the guardian and the perfection of every virtue, so completely possessed the Man of God that even among the Friars Minor he wished to appear the most contemptible, the vilest and the lowest of all … But humility is proved by humble actions; and no one should account himself humble who tries to avoid humble employments. Therefore, Blessed Anthony as the humblest of men sought out the humblest occupations."
SECOND, Love of Solitude. In the solitude of the forests and the silence of the rocks, he fortified his soul against temptations, communed with God and found peace of heart and soul. Isn't this description very similar to what Jesus, Hi Master, went though in His desert experience and temptation? Indeed, St. Anthony followed in the very footsteps of his Master.
The great Saint devoted most of his time in a cave, a hermitage in Monte Paolo to reflect and seek for guidance. Today's people seem to neglect the importance of solitude even silence. At some point, we need to pause and spend sometime reflecting and work out ways to have a better future -- a future that's attuned to God's almighty will.
THIRD, The Spirit and Practice of Poverty. Being a true follower of St. Francis of Assisi, Anthony grounded his life in the spirit of poverty by constantly looking for the truth, which seeks only what is essential to Christian life in charity and love. Just like Francis, Anthony came from a wealthy family but gave up wealth for God.
When preaching to the Friars, and to the people also, on poverty, he frequently repeated these words of the Gospel: "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air nests, but the Son of Man hath no where to lay His head." Therefore he took nothing with him when traveling, but delighting in poverty, he traversed countries and provinces relying on divine providence. He was not ignorant of the truth that the Lord "hears the prayer of the poor," that He promised to the poor in spirit the Kingdom of Heaven.
In one Sunday Pontifical Mass while my fellow seminarian and myself were fixing the bishop’s vestments back in his briefcase, the pastor of the parish handed me a sealed envelope, which according to him has one thousand pesos in it. When we got back to the Bishop’s House, we the bishop called us and handed us two different envelopes. Quickly, we went to my room to compare notes who has the biggest stipend (as we usually do). To our surprise we found 400 hundred pesos in each of our envelopes which leave my former bishop with only 200 pesos!
The experience I just narrated would always pop up in my mind whenever I think about poverty. It reminds me that poverty is not exactly giving up everything to the point of being literally poor. To live in poverty is to give up something especially those things that could lead us apart from God. It is to detach ourselves from things that keep us away from being loving and generous to other people.
Let St. Anthony of Padua's virtues move us to become the person God calls us to be: humble - who recognizes that without God all our endeavors are futile; solitary - who finds meaning in one's solitude and touches one's heart by humiliating one's "ego" in prayer and reflection; and poor - in spirit, but rich in the very love of God, who moves us in a very mysterious but wonderful ways!
St. Anthony of Padua, pray for us!
A note on the giving of “St. Anthony’s Bread.” It has also meant the giving of alms to the church out of gratitude for St. Anthony’s intercession, a practice going back many hundreds of years and continuing to this day. In turn, the church distributes the “St. Anthony’s Bread” in a manner that will benefit those in most need as well as to help support this “house of peace” where miracles happen each day. This is our role to continue to embrace every day with faithful hearts, attending to the needs of the people in our midst who rely on us for sustenance for their hunger and for spiritual guidance.