Tag Archives: St. Anthony of Padua

Where is your heart?

Some thoughts for this coming Sunday, based on the Gospel, Luke 12: 32-48.

“Where your treasure is, there is your heart,” Jesus tells us in this Sunday’s Gospel.

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There is a legend about Saint Anthony of Padua that might surprise us. Many of us think of Saint Anthony as the saint to find lost keys; I admit I spent several hours searching for some credit cards I had hidden and prayed hard to this saint. He is also known as a wonder worker for all the miracles attributed to him.

But he was an awesome preacher who was not afraid to speak the truth. He denounced the vices of his day – not just drinking and gambling, but especially greed and usury.

One day, Saint Anthony was at a funeral for a rich and avaricious man in Tuscany. He began to cry out that the man should not be buried in the hallowed ground of a Christian cemetery. For his greed and usury, his soul was condemned to hell and his body had no heart – literally!

People were confused and astounded but they sought out some physicians who came and opened the chest of the dead rich man. They found that he had no heart.

But then some people went to the rich man’s house and opened his money boxes. There they found his heart.

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When we put our trust in wealth and power and domination, these take away our heart; they harden our hearts and we live half-dead, since what supposedly moves us is dead matter – gold, silver, cash, coins, and all types of possessions. In fact, we don’t own these possessions; they own us. And so we walk about, heartless.

But there is another story that may help us see how we can live with our hearts in the right places.

For several years, an Oklahoman diocesan priest by the name of Stanley Francis Rother was a missionary in the town of Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala, from 1968 to 1981. He learned Spanish as well as the local indigenous language and even translated the Gospels into their language.

He and his pastoral team served the people, evangelizing them in many ways, including projects to improve the lives of the people.

But in Guatemala this was not a time to be interested in the well-being of the poor, especially the indigenous. Many were killed, villages were destroyed, indigenous leaders were disappeared and killed. Even church workers suffered disappearance, torture, and murder.

At one point, things got very dangerous for Father Aplás, as the people called him. He went to the states for a short time but returned, convinced that “the shepherd cannot run and leave the sheep to fend for themselves.” During the night of July 28, 1981, he was killed in the rectory. He was beatified as a martyr in 2017.

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The room where Father Stanley Rother was martyred.

His family arranged to have his body flown back to Oklahoma to be buried there. But the people in Santiago Atitlán asked them to leave them his heart. The family assented. His heart rests in a shrine in the church.

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Last year the pastor of the church I work in and I went to Santiago Atitlán, on pilgrimage. We prayed in the church, we talked to the current pastor, and we served at a Mass at the altar where Padre Apla´s presided; I read the Gospel from the ambo where he preached. We also got a chance to speak over dinner with someone who had worked with Padre Apla´s.

But one moment stands out for me.

We entered the church and noted that there were people praying in Adoration before the exposed Eucharist. We knelt and prayed. I took a picture. Later I noticed that in the front side of the altar there was a reliquary with the blood of Father Rother: Jesus in the Eucharist and the blood of a martyr below.

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Where was Blessed Father Stanley’s treasure? It was in the lives of the people in Santiago Atitlán. And so, in the church from which he served the impoverished, oppressed indigenous people, there is his heart.

What do you treasure? Where is your heart?

Is your heart with the poor, the migrant, the oppressed – as Father Rother’s was?

 

If not, there is still time for conversion.

Where your treasure is

There are many delightful legends about Saint Anthony of Padua but there is one that should cause us to step back and examine our lives.

One day Saint Anthony was asked to preside at the funeral of a rich man who lent money at extremely high interest. We need to remember that lending at interest was called usury and considered a serious sin until the fifteenth century.

Saint Anthony didn’t want to preside at the funeral because he considered this man to be a public sinner who defrauded the poor. He noted the statement of Jesus, “Where your treasure is, there you will find your heart.”

Family members, going through the coffers of the rich man, found his heart there. Examining his body, they found there was no heart.

heart

These questions for all of us are: Where is my treasure? Where is my heart?

I would hope my heart is like the heart of Father Stanley Rother, an Oklahoma priest, martyred in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala, who will be beatified this September. He gave himself completely to the persecuted indigenous poor of his parish, even returning after he had left briefly because of death threats.

After his death his body was transported to Oklahama to be buried there, But the people of Santiago Atitlán asked that his heart be left in the church. When I visited the church in the early 1990s, I was moved to see the shrine around the heart of Padre ‘Aplas, as they called him. His heart was with the poor and there it still is.

 

Friend of the Poor

Image of St. Anthony in San Antonio, Dolores

St. Anthony of Padua is a much beloved saint in all the world, especially here in Latin America. In the parish of Dulce Nombre where I help, nine of the 45 churches have him as their patron.

Anthony was a Franciscan priest and preacher, doctor of the church, and “Friend of the Poor,” who died on June 13, 1231.

He started his religious life as an Augustinian canon in Portugal but, seeing the witness of Franciscans martyred in Morocco, he joined the Franciscans. Prevented from going to Morocco, he ended up in Italy. For some time he served as a simple friar in a poor friary. One day, he was asked to preach at an ordination. Leaving the kitchen where he was washing dishes, he delivered an outstanding sermon and proceeded to preach throughout Italy.

Known as the saint who helps you find lost items, he was also the saint who loved and served the poor (and castigated the rich), as he followed the poor Christ as a Franciscan.

As he once preached:

“For you [Lord], we have left everything and have become poor. But since you are rich, we have followed you that you might enrich us… We have followed you as the creature follows the Creator, like sons of the Father, as children follow their mother, as the starving their bread, as the sick their doctor, as the weary their bed, as exiles their homeland…”