June 13 is the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, the Franciscan priest and preacher who died on this day in 1231. Many Catholics of my generation remember him as the one we invoked to find objects:
St. Anthony St. Anthony,
please come around.
Something was lost
and something was found.
Jesus was lost
and Jesus was found.
Dear St. Anthony,
please come around.
This Franciscan, born in Portugal, wanted to convert the Muslims in Morocco, but God had other plans for him. First he got sick in Morocco and had to leave. Then his ship was sent off course and ended in Sicily rather than Portugal.Then he ended up is a friary for lay brothers, but his gift for preaching was discovered when he was drafted at the last moment to preach the sermon at an ordination.
He ended up preaching throughout Italy and southern France. He was called “the hammer of heretics” for his eloquence in the face of the Cathari, a group in southern France whose Gnostic-like theology despised the body.
But he would be better called “the hammer of the rich,” for his strong preaching against greed and usury, especially in the last years of his life in Padua.
Commenting on Proverbs 30: 14 he said:
“These symbolize the greedy and usurers whose teeth are swords and knifes which they use to devour the poor and steal their meager possessions. All of them are children of this world who consider the children of light to be stupid and believe themselves to be the prudent ones. Their prudence is their death.”
He is known, like many saints, for his generosity to the poor and many Franciscan churches, like St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City, distribute “St. Anthony’s Bread,” to the poor.
Today’s first reading from St. Paul, 2 Corinthians 6: 1-10, ends with these words, “We have nothing, but we possess everything.”
They reveal the wisdom of St. Anthony, so much needed in these times of injustice and poverty, where the goal of many is to amass more, forgetting that “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be found.”