“St Anthony, please help me, I cannot find my keys!”
How often have we found ourselves reaching out to St Anthony for something like this? You may even have a story about how your misplaced items were miraculously found. Many of us have also entrusted St Anthony with our difficulties and struggles. He is a powerful intercessor through whom God’s blessings can be felt and experienced in the fullness of generosity. St Anthony continually offers each of us a sure sign of consolation, hope and deep trust in the Lord’s providence.
Who is St Anthony of Padua?
It may surprise some of you to learn that he was neither from Padua, Italy nor named Anthony when he was born. This beloved saint of ours was born to a wealthy family in Lisbon, Portugal in 1195, and baptised Ferdinand Bulhom. At the age of 15, Ferdinand entered the order of St Augustine and lived in the monastery of the Augustinian Abbey of St Vincent in Lisbon. There his spiritual life matured and deepened. Legend tells us that he desired a deeper life with God, and seeking solitude away from the hustle and bustle of Lisbon, asked to transfer to the Augustinian motherhouse in Coimbra, Portugal. In 1220, Ferdinand heard of five Franciscan protomartyrs who had died for their faith in Morocco. Deeply inspired by their passionate commitment to the Gospel, Ferdinand decided to adopt the Franciscan way of life and took the name Anthony. Anthony’s deep sense of humility and poverty drew him into a life of seclusion and contemplation after the manner of Francis. He led a quiet life of penance and prayer at the hermitage of Montepaolo.
How did St Anthony come to be known as the patron of lost things?
Legend has it that while he was living in the friary at Montpellier in France, he miraculously recovered an item of great importance that had gone missing. This was a book of Psalms that he had copied by hand, and it contained his notes and commentaries that he used in his lectures. Anthony was deeply distressed when he realised that the book had been taken away by a novice who had left the friary, and that he did not know where the novice had gone. Without his teaching material, Anthony was at a loss. Trusting in the Lord’s providence, he prayed that the novice would have a change of heart. Shortly thereafter, the novice returned with the book and begged for forgiveness. He also asked to re-join the Order. The stolen book of Psalms is said to be preserved in a friary in Bologna, Italy.
Popular devotions to our beloved saint sprang up shortly after his passing, and many people turned to him for intercession. German Friar Julian of Speyer composed the famous sequence “Si Quaeris Miracula” sometime between 1232 to 1240 in honour of St Anthony the wonder-worker. Many of us will recognise this antiphon taken from the Si Quaeris prayer in our devotion:
“The sea obeys and fetters break, and lifeless limbs you do restore. While treasures lost are found again, when young and old aid implore.”
The Franciscan Friars and Tuesday Devotion to St Anthony
The Church recognises St Anthony for the many blessings and miracles that God worked through him, and in Singapore, the Franciscan Friars continue the tradition of dedicating every Tuesday to the devotion of this miracle worker. Indeed, our mission relies on the intercession of St Anthony. The first friary, established in Singapore in 1957, was named St Anthony’s Friary, and in 1991, the Custody of St Anthony of Padua (Malaysia- Singapore-Brunei) was officially erected, dependent on the Australian Province of the Holy Spirit.
For many years, the Tuesday devotion to St Anthony was held in the Church of St Mary of the Angels ,Singapore. Many have joined us in prayer and experienced the solace of his tender care. We also have fond memories of sharing hearty bowls of porridge and blessed bread in fellowship. We took the devotion online in 2020 when COVID restrictions meant we could no longer have the devotion in church. Since then, week after week, the student friars join the faithful virtually to pray and offer up their intercession to St Anthony.
In 2021, we launched a virtual shrine to St Anthony, enabling people to offer up their petitions and letters of thanksgiving online. These are offered by the friars in the Greccio community in their daily prayer.
As we prepare to celebrate the Feast of St Anthony on 13 June, let us continue to open our hearts to the love of Christ in trusting abandonment.
Article written by the Friars-in-Initial Formation
Join us on Tuesday nights as we celebrate the Devotion to St Anthony at 8pm through our YouTube channel and Facebook page. You may submit your prayer request or thanksgiving letter via the Virtual Shrine to St Anthony at franciscans.sg/stanthony.