The list of people, places and things of which St. Anthony is the patron is long indeed. It includes the familiar as well as the exotic, especially when considering the many cities that claim him as its patron.
The list of titles by which he is known is shorter but just as impressive.
Impressive also is the devotion which people have for him. Indeed, more complaints would flood the telephone lines of St. Peter’s in downtown Chicago when the Tuesday devotions would be skipped because of a lack of time than for any other reason.
Recently, Brother Ed Arambasich started to stream the Tuesday devotion to St. Anthony. Unsurprisingly, it gained many viewers during the current shutdown.
However, if we look carefully at the readings that are chosen for his feast day, we cannot escape the conclusion that the Church regards him most highly as the Evangelical Doctor of the Church whose preaching was known to convert entire communities. So great were the crowds that came to hear him preach that sometimes he was forced to preach in the town square or the plazas in front of the churches in order to accommodate the crowd.
Constantine Koser, the General Minister of the Franciscan Order at the time I entered fifty-two years ago wrote a long treatise on St. Anthony immediately after the Second Vatican Council. In that book, he held up St. Anthony as the model of all Franciscan preaching, illuminating the Gospel in such a way that it would naturally call people to conversion of heart.
St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians asks us to use the gifts with which we have been blessed to build up the Body of Christ which is the Church. The passage from the end of the Gospel of St. Mark bids the disciples to proclaim the Gospel, the very purpose for which they were sent. The Church has taken this mandate seriously, elevating the proclamation of the Gospel ahead of all other ministries within the Church.
We are all called to proclaim the Gospel. As the Letter to the Ephesians tells us, that proclamation takes varied forms from the varied gifts which have been given to us, varied gifts that are given not so much for the person who receives them, but given for the building up of the Body of Christ.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator