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About St. Anthony

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The Franciscan Friars of the Atonement have always turned to St. Anthony of Padua in times of need. Fr. Paul Wattson, the founder of our religious community, often called upon fellow Franciscan, St. Anthony and lovingly referred to him as our "big brother".

Whether in times of great need or simply misplacing his quill pen, Fr. Paul would call upon St. Anthony for his intercession – and time and again St. Anthony would assist.

Known as the patron saint of the poor, of sailors and fishermen, of priests and travelers, a protector and guardian of the mails, and wonder-worker, the story of St. Anthony of Padua is very special. see more less

St. Anthony was born in 1195 (13 years after St. Francis of Assisi) in Lisbon, which is now known as Portugal, Spain.  Given the baptismal name of Fernando, his parents, Martin and Mary Bulhom, belonged to one of the most prominent families of the city.

At the age of 15 Fernando entered the religious order of St. Augustine. Monastery life was hardly peaceful for the youth, nor conducive to prayer and study, since his old friends came to visit frequently and engaged in vehement political discussions. After two years, at his request he was sent to Coimbra (cornbrow). There he began nine years of intense study learning the Augustinian theology that he would later combine with Franciscan vision. Fernando was most likely ordained a priest during this time.

The life of the young priest took a crucial turn when the bodies of the first five Franciscan martyrs were returned from morocco. The Franciscans had been preaching Christ at a mosque in Seville.  They were in danger of being martyred at the outset, but the sultan allowed them to pass on to morocco, where, after continuing to preach about Christ -- despite repeated warnings, they were tortured and beheaded.

In the presence a huge crowd, including the queen, their remains were carried in solemn procession to the very monastery where Fernando lived.

This event, while viewed by many as tragic and sad, was deemed glorious, and in fact was an inspiration to young Fernando.  So much so, that it inspired him to make a momentous decision, one that would change his life and the lives of many to come. He decided that he too would become a Franciscan!

From the beginning, he shared his feelings with the Franciscan brothers saying, “i would gladly put on the habit of your order if you would promise to send me as soon as possible to the land of the Saracens, that I may gain the crown of the Holy Martyrs.” to accomplish this he asked permission to leave the order of St. Augustine. After some challenges from the prior of the Augustinians, he was allowed to leave that priory. 

The young Augustinian monk called Fernando went to the convent of St. Anthony, where he took vows of the Franciscan order and assumed the name of Anthony in honor of the patriarch of hermits.

True to their promise, the Franciscans allowed Anthony to go to morocco, to pursue what he felt was his calling – to be a witness for Christ, and a martyr as well, if God asked.

But, as often happens, the gift Anthony wanted to give was not the gift that was to be asked of him. While in morocco, he became seriously ill, and after several months realized he had to go home.

During the journey home, his ship ran into storms and high winds and was blown east across the Mediterranean. Eventually his ship made land on the east coast of Sicily. The friars at nearby messina, though they didn’t know him, welcomed him and began nursing him back to health. Still ailing, Anthony wanted to attend the great Pentecost chapter of mats (so called because the 3,000 friars could not be housed and slept on mats).  Francis of Assisi was there and was also sick.

Since Anthony was essentially a visitor from “out of town” at the friary in Sicily, he received no assignment during the chapter of mats, so he asked to go and be with a provincial superior from northern Italy. “Instruct me in the Franciscan life,” he asked, not mentioning his prior theological training.

When the provincial superior agreed, Anthony was overjoyed.  Now, like Francis, he had his first choice — a life of seclusion and contemplation in a hermitage.

Anthony was first recognized for his great gift of preaching at a gathering for the ordination of Dominicans and Franciscans in 1222.  After they finished their meal, the provincial suggested that one of the friars give a short sermon. There were no immediate volunteers among the group, so Anthony was asked to give “just something simple,” since he presumably had no education and at the time was only 27 years old.

Anthony, while resisting the offer at first, finally began to speak in a simple, artless way. The “fire” within him became evident. His knowledge was unmistakable, but it was the passionate manner in which he spoke that truly impressed everyone in attendance.

Once his talents and knowledge were exposed, his quiet life of prayer and penance at the hermitage was exchanged for that of a public preacher. Francis heard of Anthony’s skills as a preacher, and re-assigned the young priest to preach in northern Italy.

We know that not everyone was impressed by his preaching. Legend has it that one day, faced with deaf ears, Anthony went to the river and preached to the fish.  That, reads the traditional tale, got everyone’s attention.

Anthony traveled tirelessly in both northern Italy and southern France—perhaps 400 trips—choosing to enter the cities where the heretics were strongeSt. Yet the sermons he has left behind rarely show him taking direct issue with them. As church historians interpret it, Anthony preferred to present the grandeur of Christianity in positive ways. It was no good to prove people wrong: Anthony wanted to win them to the right, the healthiness of real sorrow and conversion as well as the wonder of reconciliation with a loving father.

Anthony’s superior, St. Francis, continued to hear glowing reports of Anthony’s sermons, knowledge of scripture and devotion to Mary.  In 1224 he wrote to Anthony asking him to teach his brother Franciscans.  Anthony became the first teacher of the Franciscan order to be given special approval and blessings of St. Francis.

Anthony continued to preach as he taught the friars and assumed more responsibility within the order. In 1226 he was appointed provincial superior of northern Italy, but still found time for contemplative prayer in a small hermitage.

Around Easter in 1228, at the age of 33, he met Pope Gregory IX in Rome. The Pope had been a faithful friend and adviser of St. Francis.  Naturally, the famous preacher Anthony was invited to speak. He did it humbly, as always. The response was so great that people later said that it seemed the miracle of Pentecost was repeated.

Back in Padua in 1231, Anthony preached his last and most famous Lenten sermons. The crowds were so great—sometimes 30,000—that the churches could not hold them, so he went into the piazzas or the open fields. People waited all night to hear him. A bodyguard was needed to protect him from the people armed with scissors who wanted to snip off a piece of his habit as a relic. After his morning mass and sermon, Anthony would hear confessions. This sometimes lasted all day—as did his fasting and constant prayer.

The great energy he had expended during the Lenten season left him exhausted. He went to a little town near Padua to rest and recover, but he soon realized death was coming close and he wanted to return to Padua, the city that he loved. The journey in a wagon weakened him so much, however, that he had to stop at Arcella. In the end, he had to bless Padua from a distance, as Francis had blessed Assisi from a distance.

At Arcella, he received the last sacraments, sang and prayed with the friars there. When one of them asked Anthony what he was staring at so intently, he answered, “I see my lord!” he died in peace a short time after that. He was only 36 and had been a Franciscan for only 10 years.

The story and tradition of devotion to St. Anthony of Padua began almost immediately upon his death on June 13, 1231.  Thousands came to view the body of Anthony and attend his burial. His grave at once became a place of extraordinary devotion and numerous miracles.    The following year, his friend, Pope Gregory IX, moved by the many miracles attributed to him during his life and that occurred at his tomb, declared him a saint.  In 1946, Pope Pius XII officially declared St. Anthony a doctor of the church. 

God alone knows which are true and which are folk legend, but in telling the story of St. Anthony of Padua, one must include some mention of the commonly-heard stories attributed to him both during and after his life on earth:

The first is the story of St. Anthony’s bread.  Many people give donations to help the poor in thanksgiving for gifts they’ve attributed to St. Anthony’s intercession.   They call this St. Anthony’s bread.  The story of St. Anthony’s bread is said to have began in 1263, when a beloved child drowned near the basilica of St. Anthony.  The child’s mother prayed for St. Anthony’s intercession and promised that if the child was restored to her, she would give the child's weight in grain to the poor in order that they could make bread – a very great gift in a time of widespread poverty and hunger.

When the child was miraculously restored to life, the woman was true to her word and the tradition of giving alms to the poor in St. Anthony's name was begun.  It is a beautiful tradition of generosity and charity to the poor. And it is fitting that it is done in St. Anthony's name, since he is the patron saint of the poor.

Many people think of St. Anthony as the “finder of lost items”.  The reason for invoking St. Anthony’s help in finding lost or stolen items is traced back to an incident in his own life.  As the story goes, he had a favorite book of psalms that was very valuable to him.  As this was before the invention of printing, the book was a hand-printed book – but of even more value were his personal notes and the comments he had made in the Psalter to assist with teaching students in the Franciscan order.  It was suspected that a novice leaving the community had stolen the Psalter.  Anthony prayed for the return of his beloved possession.  Shortly after, the novice returned the book and sought Anthony’s forgiveness, which was given.

St. Anthony is also known as the guardian of the mail as a result of another incident in his life.  Although he always sought solitude and time for reflection, Anthony was so popular a preacher that he rarely got time to rest.  He dutifully wrote to his superior for permission for a respite and time to travel some distance away for reflection.  However, as the story goes, when the messenger arrived for the letter, it was no where to be found.  Anthony took this as a sign that he was not to go and forgot about the trip.  Shortly after, he received permission from his superior to take the trip.   Another legend of 1792, tells of a heart-broken wife seeking news of her husband who had traveled from Spain to Peru. Despite writing many times there was no answer.  In desperation she went to the chapel and placed a letter in the hands of the statue of St. Anthony and prayed he would intercede on her behalf and assist with delivery of the letter.  The next day when she returned to the chapel, she was disappointed that the letter was still there.  Upon removing the letter, she realized her letter had been replaced by a letter from her husband.  He wrote that her last letter had been delivered by a Franciscan priest, and that he was overjoyed to receive her letter as he had thought her dead since not hearing from her for so long.

Novenas to St. Anthony are celebrated in many churches and shrines around the world.  Many begin on Tuesdays as Tuesday was the day Anthony was buried and the miracles at his tomb began. The beginning of novenas is linked to a story of a childless couple.  After many, many years of longing for a child, the wife took her troubles to St. Anthony.  He is said to have appeared to her in a dream, telling her, “for nine Tuesdays, one after the other, make visits to the Franciscan chapel and approach the holy sacraments of penance and the altar, then pray, and what you ask, you shall obtain.”  the couple soon had a child.    Whatever fact may or may not be behind the legend, in 1898 Pope Leo XIII encouraged the devotion by granting a plenary indulgence to those spending time in devout prayer in honor of St. Anthony with the intention of doing so for consecutive Tuesdays.

Many images of St. Anthony picture him with lilies and the Christ child.  In many places lilies are blessed and distributed on the feast of St. Anthony.  The lily is meant to remind us of St. Anthony’s purity and our own need to pray for the grace of purity in times of temptation.   There are many versions of the legend of St. Anthony cradling the Christ child.  In most, St. Anthony had traveled to a local hermitage to spend time in prayer. One night, while deep in prayer, Jesus appeared to him as a child.  The room filled with light and laughter as St. Anthony held the Christ child in his arms.  As the story is told, the owner of the hermitage, upon seeing the light, came to investigate only to behold St. Anthony and the Christ child.  When the vision ended, St. Anthony realized the owner was kneeling at the door and begged him not to share the story until after Anthony’s death.

Anthony was a simple and humble friar who preached the good news lovingly and with fearless courage. The youth whom his fellow friars thought was uneducated became one of the great preachers and theologians of his day. He was a man of great penance and apostolic zeal. But he was primarily a saint of the people.  His effectiveness in calling people back to the faith through his preaching was just as important as his peacemaking and calls for justice.

To this day, St. Anthony of Padua is one of the Catholic Church’s most revered and popular saints. One of the reasons for this is likely that his life was what every Christian’s life is meant to be -- a steady courage to face the ups and downs of life, the call to love and forgive, to be concerned for the needs of others, to deal with crisis, both great and small, and to have our feet solidly on the ground of total trusting love and dependence upon God.

In the spirit of our fellow Franciscan, St. Anthony of Padua, may God bless you.

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Join the Special St. Anthony Novena

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St. Anthony Novena Calendar

Special Novenas to St. Anthony are held four times a year.

MARCH

St. Anthony Thirteen Tuesdays Novena of Masses beginning on March 18th

JUNE

St. Anthony Novena of Masses beginning on June 13th, the Feast of St. Anthony

AUGUST

/St. Anthony Novena of Masses beginning on August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption

DECEMBER

St. Anthony Novena of Masses beginning on December 9th

Pray the St. Anthony Novena Prayer

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St. Anthony, Saint of Miracles

St. Anthony, gentlest of Saints, your love for God and charity for his creatures, made you worthy, when on earth, to possess miraculous powers. Miracles waited on your word, which you were ready to offer on behalf of those in need. Encouraged by this, I ask you to hear my prayers. see more less

“My wife has suffered with breast cancer and further complications for the past four years. Shortly after she got her diagnosis we received in the mail a beautiful St. Anthony prayer card and medal. My middle name is Anthony and my wife’s father’s name is Anthony. She commented on the fact that now she had three Anthonys looking out for her. She has had the medal with her every day and we have prayed from the prayer card every day since receiving them. It seems there may be a happy ending soon as the last series of tests have come back clean and several of the complications, including diabetes, are manageable.”

“In April, my mother was diagnosed with renal failure. She is 89 and frail from years of illness. The doctor advised to begin treatment with morphine and plan funeral arrangements. I could not bear it. My brother asked me if I was hoping for a miracle. When I said yes, the doctor assured us that it would indeed take a miracle for my mother to survive. When I got home from the hospital, a beautiful prayer card and St. Anthony medal were in my mailbox. The prayers were so encouraging that I went back to the hospital and brought the medal to my mother, putting it under her pillow. Within 24 hours her kidneys began to work on their own, within the week, she was doing well enough to be moved back to the nursing home—where she remains with her kidney function improving.”

“I am very grateful for St. Anthony’s intercession. When a beautiful healing card arrived in the mail, I sent it to a friend. As an afterthought, I asked St. Anthony to help find a tenant for an apartment I had that had been vacant for over a year. A few weeks later a friend asked me if I still had that apartment. She said she knew someone who was desperately seeking a new place to live. Three weeks later my new tenant moved in! Thank you St. Anthony for finding my tenant!”

“Thank you Friars for bringing St. Anthony into my life. The beautiful medal and prayer card you sent me arrived exactly when I needed them. My job was unbearable! My boss was going through a lot of personal stress and seemed to take it out on us employees. The night I received the novena, I prayed to St. Anthony to help me endure and intercede to improve the situation. Two days later my boss was reassigned to a new Office and I was promoted to supervisor—something I would never have imagined happening. It was truly a miracle from St. Anthony!”

“I am very grateful for St. Anthony. My husband had lost his job and I asked him to do St. Anthony’s Novenas. After the fourth Novena, he got a call for a job and by the end of the 13th Novena, he started working. So I am very thankful.” —Veronica

“My husband had gone out to apply for a job, and after the interview, he called and told me ‘I liked the people there and I think they will offer me the position if I want it.’ I told him that I had received a St. Anthony Prayer card from the friars and had been praying to St. Anthony every morning on the train on my way to work that he would find a job where he was needed and could be happy. He got a call at 9:00 a.m. the next morning and they offered him the position. We both believe that this is no coincidence.” —Beth L.

“I had two perfectly good brains back then, twenty years ago—I could hold my own in a lively scientific discussion while examining tissue through a microscope and taking measurements and writing down notes, not switching from one task to another but doing all at once—but out in the side yard to the house, while cutting grass one Saturday, the electric mower seemed to throw me backwards flat onto the ground, and I looked down from the mossy lawn, which had become a ceiling, at the tip of the tall blue spruce and the garage roof’s peak, my arms flung to each side, and clutched the lawn with all my strength so as not to fall into the blue and empty sky.

“For nearly two years after that, I wore cardigan sweaters to work, the ones with a pocket on each side, and in one pocket I kept a small, cheap notebook from the drugstore and a pencil. I wrote down the reason I was walking from one room to another or what I had to do in the next few minutes. When a page was filled on both sides with these reminders I would tear it out. Three or four of these convenient notebooks got used up every week. I worked quite hard to regain one brain, and where that brain and in particular my memory might need support, I filed and organized.

“Everything but everything had to have its place. I would say, ‘If something’s not in the first place I look for it, then it can be anywhere in the galaxy, because more than likely I won’t have even a faint clue about where else to find it.

“I retired, wrote a book, met a woman wise in the ways of the spirit, wrote another book and then another. I started yet another book, an intricate historical novel requiring many notes—timelines, maps, biographies, and such—and then moved house. When I turned to pick up the writing once again, my notes had disappeared.

“If they’re not in the first place I look, they could be anywhere at all.

“The vertigo and near-panic of those years after I lost one brain lashed me, made me desperate, caused firm ground to seem like brittle ice.

“ ‘Promise something to Saint Anthony,’ the woman said. I did, and also looked and looked and looked again, and one day, there they were: the notes, ready to be put in the first place I would look for them again.

“But this month, Raffy disappeared, and that was worse. Our cats stay indoors and in the catpen: they never roam outside. Raffy is a prince of cats, ‘the world's best possible cat,’ I tell him. I was not even aware of having been careless, but he must have slipped out when I had the porch door open.

“The wise woman cried but had no words for me this time. I said inwardly, ‘Saint Anthony, if Raffy reappears and comes inside, this time, rather than contribute money, I will do something nice in your honor.’

“Raffy did reappear, and we hugged him and asked him never to go away like that again. How much more terrible it is, the woman said, to have a cat disappear than get sick and die, because when it dies, you know its suffering has ended and it has gone to Heaven, but if it disappears, it may be cold, hungry and unloved, lonely and in pain, wandering outside for years and years. But Saint Anthony, again, was merciful and eased our lives, and so I write this in his honor.” —Eben

“I am writing to say thank you for sending St. Anthony to us when we needed him most, and to ask if you could send us a few more prayer cards. I’m sure you can understand that ours is quite worn by this time. Thank you Friars for all you do for all of us in need. God will surely bless you with great eternal reward.” —Wayne Anthony

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The Perpetual Novena to St. Anthony

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It all started in 1912, when our Founder, Father Paul Wattson, had just installed a large statue of St. Anthony of Padua near the altar in St. Francis Chapel. As he stood to admire the beautiful statue, Fr. Paul was handed a letter from a mother begging the Friars to pray for the health of her gravely ill baby named Anthony. see more less

Fr. Paul praying
Fr. Paul Wattson, SA in prayer

“I immediately knelt before this image of St. Anthony with the Divine Infant in his arms and besought the Wonder-Worker of seven centuries to intercede for baby Anthony’s life,” Fr. Paul later wrote in his journal.

His journal tells of him and the Friars praying to St. Anthony every evening asking for intercession. About two weeks later the mother wrote again, this time saying her child had miraculously recovered. She included a small donation in gratitude.

From then on Fr. Paul and other Friars would pray every evening at the statue of St. Anthony. Word spread of the Friars perpetual prayers and “St. Anthony’s corner” in St. Francis Chapel at Graymoor—and more petitions arrived. For almost 100 years, those in need have sent hundreds of thousands of prayer requests to Graymoor asking the Friars to pray and seek the intercession of St. Anthony on their behalf.

In 2011, the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement celebrated the Centennial Year of the Perpetual Novena to St. Anthony. Today we continue in the spirit of Fr. Paul to pray daily and seek the intercession of St. Anthony for the benefit of those in need.

Prayer requests are received in many different languages covering the gamut of human needs. One found tucked behind the statue of St. Anthony in St. Francis Chapel, read, “Dear Lord, please help my husband and me develop a loving, sober relationship.” Another said, “Cure my wife of breast cancer, help my aching back, and bring us closer to You.” One asked “Dear God, please guide me with my parenting. I want to teach my girls how to have faith and spirituality. I love them with all my heart.” Another read, “Lord, I pray for my brother in the Army. Watch over him.” Still another pleads for employment: “Lord, I love you. I’m desperate for a job. Come to my rescue.”

Remembering that over 2,000 years ago Jesus told a crowd of needy people, “Ask and you will receive; search, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you,”(Luke 11:9), the friars gather for the Liturgy of the Hours every evening, after which they remember the petitions received at Graymoor.

Aware that people in need are always around and that a most loving God is still taking care of them, the friars are here for you and your loved ones and welcome your petitions.

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St. Anthony Shrine at Graymoor



50th Anniversary Blessing of St. Anthony Shrine, Graymoor, June 11, 2010

Donate to the St. Anthony Shrine Preservation Fund >>

The St. Anthony Shrine is the largest shrine at Graymoor. The Shrine includes a large marble statue of St. Anthony holding the child Jesus. For many years it has served not only the spiritual needs of the friars but also the thousands of visitors who travel to Graymoor each year. see more less

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, the Shrine has undergone major renovations, which began in the fall of 2009. Renovations include repairing the altar and the base of the shrine, adding new railings and fencing, providing a special area for votive lights, and a new sound system and backdrop lighting were installed to enhance the shrine.

Donate to the St. Anthony Shrine Preservation Fund >>

St. Anthony Shrine

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