For many people the most famous thing about Saint Anthony of Padua is his reputation as a wonder-worker. He’s brought happiness to many believers, for example, by helping them find their lost wedding rings or car keys. Or maybe his prayers helped bring about the healing of a sick child or spouse. Since the moment of his death on June 13, 1231, Anthony has had a reputation for working wonders. Indeed, he has been a real gift to the Church in bringing people joy and healing in these ways. But Anthony has been a gift to the Church in other ways, too. In 1946, for example, Pope Pius XII named Saint Anthony a Doctor of the Universal Church, that is, one of the great Christian teachers of all time—and a renowned preacher of God’s word. In fact, Anthony was such a famous preacher that in 1228—at age 33—he was invited to preach before Pope Gregory IX. Afterwards, the pope called Anthony the “Ark of the Testament.” Anthony revealed such a grasp of God’s word that, in the eyes of the pope, he seemed to “contain” within himself the whole of Sacred Scripture.
Honoring a Great Saint
In many Franciscan churches and shrines around the world, novenas to Saint Anthony are already taking place in preparation for his feast. It’s a good time for us to acquaint ourselves with this great preacher. In this blog, I would like to share with you four “short passages” from the sermons of Saint Anthony. These “sermon passages,” in actuality, are from sermon material or notes that Anthony compiled (in book form) for all the Sundays of the year and for certain feast days, too. Of course, these passages cannot totally reveal what Anthony was like as a preacher with all his charisma. I hope, however, they can give us a little flavor or inkling of Anthony’s spiritual wisdom and profound love of God.
First sermon passage: Give yourself wholly!
“You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart.…Yes, Christ says: with your whole heart. He doesn’t say: Leave a corner of your heart for yourself. Christ bought the whole of you by giving his whole self for you.…Do not try to hold back any part of yourself.…If you really wish to have the whole, then give it all to him, and he will give you all of himself.”
Second sermon passage: Jesus loves us wholly in the Eucharist
“During the meal, Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it as a sign that his body would be broken, too, through his freely accepted death. The humanity of Christ is like the grape because it was crushed in the winepress of the cross so that his blood flowed forth over all the earth.…‘This is my blood of the new covenant, which shall be shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins.’ How great is the charity of the beloved! How great the love of the Bridegroom for his spouse, the Church!”
Third sermon passage: Serve Christ in the poor
“Today Christ stands at the door and knocks in the person of his poor. It is to him that we open the door when we give aid, when we give ourselves to those in need. For he tells us plainly, ‘When you did this to one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it to me’” (Matthew 25:40).
Fourth sermon passage: Seek God before all else
“Nothing apart from God can satisfy the human heart, for the heart is truly in search of God.”
Regarding this brief, yet meaningful, quote, it is interesting to remember that Anthony was an Augustinian monk for many years before he joined the Franciscans. Anthony, therefore, would have undoubtedly been familiar with one of Saint Augustine’s most famous quotations, found near the beginning of his Confessions: “You have created us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Anthony’s words strike the same chord.
Thirsting for God
We also know, from Anthony’s life, that he had an inner thirst for God that caused him often to step aside from his busy activities and to find a cave or solitary place where he could pray to God in silence, seeking God before all else.