Pilgrims by the hundreds flocked to the Holy Mountain on Sunday, June 11 for the annual celebration of the Feast of Saint Anthony of Padua. Those who visited Graymoor to reverence the patron saint of loss and recovery – and the Wonder Worker who the Friars lovingly refer to as their “big brother” – enjoyed an enriching, spiritual adventure.
“Part of the day that is so special is that the retreatants have come to recognize, just as (Graymoor founder) Father Paul Wattson did, the great miracles and works of St. Anthony of Padua,” said Deacon Tom Rich, TSA, Executive Director of the Holy Mountain Franciscan Retreat Center. “From the earliest days, Father Paul had a great devotion to St. Anthony.
“I think it’s wonderful that same devotion has been passed on to other people, and the people who come to the celebration over the years have this truly sincere devotion to St. Anthony. They faithfully pray to him, and apparently he does answer their prayers, because they keep coming back.”
The 2023 celebration began with 11 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of the Atonement Chapel celebrated by Father Dan Callahan, SA. Sunday was the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
“We are already living in Eternal Life, because God entered into our humanity and into our human life,” Father Dan explained in his homily. “It is not something we have to wait for, because we die a thousand deaths before we die. We come back to life again, every time we are healed, every time we’re forgiven, every time we forgive – life and death and resurrection is occurring.
“We become incredible witnesses of the Word of God that gets us through (difficult times) and the Word of God continues to be proclaimed and lived and shared in our human relationships as a Church, that believes the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and that the word becomes flesh at this table, for us to eat and drink the very flesh and blood of God.”
The Mass also included a group of Tertiary Friars making and renewing their vows as Friars of the Atonement. Brother Scott Boyd, TSA, renewed his third year temporary promises as a Tertiary; Brother Paul Roach, TSA, renewed his second year temporary promises; and Brother Douglas Dulli, TSA, made his first year temporary promises. Brother Tom Grimsley, TSA, could not attend, but will renew his third year promises in Brockton, Massachusetts.
Father Ken Cienik, SA, presided over the vow renewal ceremony.
“I am very excited to be renewing my vows,” said Brother Doug. “I’ve looked forward to this day and I’m very thankful to the Atonement Friars and the ability to do this.”
Brother Scott said he felt so blessed to have renewed his promises.
“To become part of the Society of the Atonement and do God’s work and St. Francis’ work; to carry on the Charism of the Society of the Atonement – I am blessed,” Brother Scott said. “Renewing on St. Anthony’s Day is huge, because St. Anthony is a patron of our Society, he’s a Doctor of the Church. And to be able to celebrate our acceptance on this beautiful day of St. Anthony, that just adds to the joy of the day.”
Brother Paul agreed.
“It’s a feeling of fulfillment,” Brother Paul said. “We look only to better days as we go serving with pleasure and serving in joy.”
Following the Mass and ceremony for the Tertiaries, Friars made themselves available to bless pilgrims and hear confessions, for those who wished to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Father Jean-Ridly Julien, a Catholic priest and the chaplain at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia Irving Medical Center, then celebrated a second Mass in Creole at 1:30 p.m. for the large number of Haitian pilgrims who were in attendance.
After Mass, Father Julien, his concelebrants and congregation led a traditional procession of the faithful before the Blessed Sacrament to St. Anthony Shrine, followed by a closing benediction.
The Graymoor Book and Gift Center set up a tent outside Our Lady of the Atonement Chapel, where Saint Anthony items, Mass cards, statues and apparel were sold. Visitors also had the chance to light candles and place them before the candle shrine at Saint Anthony’s Grotto, as they sought his intercession for their prayer intentions.
This year’s celebration marked the second large scale, in-person celebration of St. Anthony since 2019. The 2020 St. Anthony Celebration was held virtually, due to the pandemic, while no event was held in 2021. The celebration returned to an in-person gathering last year.
Visit the Atonement Friars Facebook page for photos and videos from the 2023 St. Anthony Feast Celebration and Ceremony for the Tertiaries