Saturday, June 13, 2009

My June column for Secular Franciscan fraternity newsletter

Our June fraternity gathering is taking place on the feast day of our patron saint, St. Anthony of Padua. Reflecting on his life, it suddenly dawned on me that here was a saint for whom nothing went as planned.

Born in the year 1195, in the country of Portugal, with the name of Fernando; at age 15, he joined the Canons of Saint Augustine. He eventually found himself in the Augustinian monastery of Coimbra, ready to commit himself to a life of prayer and study. Then came the day when the bones of the Franciscan proto-martyrs arrived from Morocco. When Fernando saw the relics and heard their story, he was inspired to approach the Franciscan friars and asked them to let him join the Order, on the condition that he could join their missionary journey back to Morocco. He was accepted into the Order and took the name Anthony. Soon he was on a ship to Morocco, with dreams of being a missionary. Only as soon as he made land fall, he became ill and had to be sent back to Portugal.

Anthony’s ship was blown off course and he arrived in Sicily. He made his way to Assisi, just in time to attend the 1221 Pentecost Chapter. As the Chapter drew to a close, the friars were given their assignments, everyone except Anthony. He finally approached a friar, who it turned out was a provincial minister, and asked if he could join him. Anthony was assigned to a hermitage, and again hoped for a life of prayer and contemplation. However, there came the day when at a dinner attended by Dominicans and Franciscans, he was prevailed upon to preach, and his true talents were revealed. Anthony was sent on several preaching tours throughout southern France and northern Italy. He would eventually settle in Padua.

As we have seen, like Francis of Assisi, Anthony had his own designs for his life, but God had different plans. Anthony, though, was open to the Holy Spirit, and trusted in God’s love, accepted and went with the flow. We also need to be open to the Father’s will, even if it may take us down paths we never expected.

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