by Vincent Ray '16
On June 13th, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of one of the most beloved Franciscan saints, St. Anthony of Padua. The faithful pray to St. Anthony for multiple concerns but the most prominent is for lost items. People may pray to St. Anthony when they can’t find their car key. They ask St. Anthony for lost faith, for lost people and for other lost spiritual or material goods.
St. Anthony became the patron saint of lost items because of his own experience with a lost object. A novice in St. Anthony’s same Franciscan Order had grown tired of the religious life, and as he left, he stole Anthony’s psalter. St. Anthony prayed for his psalter to be returned to him when he noticed it was gone; the psalter had all of his notes he used to teach his students. St. Anthony’s prayers were answered and not only did the thief return the book to him, but he rejoined the Franciscan Order. Over time this story has been changed and altered, but the main idea of the story has stayed the same. Anthony’s psalter is now held in the Franciscan Friary in Bologna, Italy.
Shortly after St. Anthony’s death, people began praying to him to find their lost articles.
A contemporary of St. Anthony named Julian of Speyer wrote a beautiful hymn about St. Anthony after he was named a saint. In it he writes “The sea obeys and fetters break/And lifeless limbs thou dust restore/While treasure lost are found again/When young or old thine aid implore.” It states that neither the forces of nature nor shackles will hinder anyone’s prayers to St. Anthony for a lost object or loved one.
As people began praying to St. Anthony and their prayers were answered. In thanksgiving for prayers answered, people would often make a donation usually to help the poor. This came to be known as ‘St. Anthony Bread.' Stories of recovered lost objects are responsible for the term St. Anthony Bread, some even date as far back as the thirteenth century. During the time the Basilica of St. Anthony was still being built, a child had drowned nearby. The mother prayed that if her child was brought back, then she would give to the poor, in corn, an amount equal to her child’s weight. Her prayers were answered and she kept her promise.
This has meaning to me because I find it the whole concept of Saint Anthony Bread to be interesting. I have always heard of people offering a gift or service to the poor in exchange for an answered prayer. In the beginning it struck me as if someone was trying to bribe God, but the more I studied, the more it struck me as very selfless and as something that could inspire me to try to be more generous and grateful. A prayer that I found from the Friars is called the Litany of the Lost. I was surprised by how many things St. Anthony has been able to help people find.
Litany of the Lost
Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy. Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.
(The response for the following petitions is: St. Anthony, pray for us.) For those of us who have lost...
Our peace of mind,
Our financial security,
A loved one,
Our initial zeal,
Peace within our families,
Our trust in others,
(Please add your own particular loss)
Lamb of God,
You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. (3 times)
Let us pray.
All loving God,
You have given us St. Anthony, the patron of the lost, as an intercessor of those who are in need of your mercy. Listen to his voice as he calls out to You on our behalf, and grant those things which will help us grow in Your love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.