Lost and Found
June 13, 2021
Today is the feast of St. Anthony of
Padua, a Franciscan and disciple of St. Francis himself. He
was born in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, and is venerated as the
patron saint of that city, as well as Padua in Italy, where he died
and where his relics are kept.
The traditional practice of praying
for St. Anthony's help in finding lost or stolen things is traced to
an incident during his lifetime that occurred in Bologna. According
to the story, Anthony had a book of psalms that was important to
him, as it contained his notes and comments for use in teaching his
students. A novice who had chosen to leave had taken the psalter
with him. Prior to the invention of the printing press, any book was
hand-copied, and thus, an item of high value; a Franciscan friar in
particular, given his vow of poverty, would have found such an item
difficult to replace. When Anthony realized his psalter was missing,
he prayed it would be found or returned, after which the thief was
moved to not only return the book to Anthony, but also return to the
order. The stolen book is said to be preserved in the Franciscan
friary in Bologna, Italy.
Since then, St. Anthony has been
especially invoked and venerated all over the world as the patron
saint for the recovery of lost items and is credited with many
miracles involving lost people, lost things and even lost spiritual
goods. Lost love too comes under his purview, and he is known
in Portugal, Spain, and Brazil as a marriage saint, because legends
exist of him reconciling couples.
During his life, St. Anthony was
revered as a great preacher. The story of Anthony preaching to
the fish originated in the town of Rimini, where he had gone to
preach. When the heretics there treated him with contempt, Anthony
was said to have gone to the shoreline, where he began to preach at
the water’s edge until a great crowd of fish was seen gathered
before him. The people of the town flocked to see this marvel, after
which Anthony charged them with the fact that the fish were more
receptive to his message than the heretics of the church, at which
point the people were moved to listen to his message.
After his death, his renown as a
preacher had become so widespread that his tongue, jaw, and vocal
cords were symbolically chosen as relics for veneration (as was
tradition in medieval times) to be displayed in a large reliquary.
When his body was exhumed 30 years after his death, it was found
turned to dust, but the tongue was claimed to have glistened and
looked as if it were still part of a live body; a further claim
being made that this was a sign of his gift of preaching.