The Forty-Day Retreat with Saint Anthony of Padua
Saint Anthony of Padua at Prayer
This Forty-Day Retreat with Saint Anthony of Padua is designed to be prayed in one's own home. It was first used by the Confraternity of Penitents during Lent 2008. Week Five reflections follow. To access reflections for the other weeks of this retreat, please click on this link:
WEEK FIVE OF THE FORTY-DAY RETREAT WITH SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA
DAYS TWENTY-NINE THROUGH THIRTY-FIVE OF THE FORTY-DAY RETREAT WITH SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA
About the year 1225, in Arles, France, a young novice stole Anthony's hand printed commentary on the psalms. He intended to sell it for the cost of the parchment and use the funds to return to secular life. When he came to Montpellier, he fell asleep under a bridge but was awakened by a huge monster that roared, "Take the book back to the priest or I shall kill you and throw your body in the river." Terrified, the novice hurried back, intending to replace the book quietly. But the monster appeared again, saying he had to give the book to Anthony in person. This the terrified youngster did, only to have Anthony forgive him, hear his confession, and help him strengthen his resolve to remain a religious. He became a model friar. This incident formed the basis of Anthony being known as the patron saint of that which is lost. He is not after lost objects so much as lost souls.
Prayer: Saint Anthony, I lose things and pray to you. "Tony, Tony, come around. Something's lost and can't be found." Help me to know what I should truly pray for--lost souls. They are the ones you cared most about. Amen.
Action: Make a list of those who seem to have lost sight of God and of their own worth as His children. Bring these souls to the attention of Saint Anthony and ask him to intercede for them and for their salvation. Make a point of praying for these people every day.
Toulouse, France, was a haven for the Cathari, a heretical sect whose members believed that all matter was evil and only the spirit was good. Anthony preached against this doctrine, making so many converts that some Cathar supporters tried to poison him. He made the Sign of the Cross over the poisoned food and ate it. It did not harm him.
Prayer: My Lord, St. Anthony had such faith in you that he ate poisoned food, trusting that You would preserve his life if You wished. And, if You did not wish, he would die. Can You please give me some measure of faith and courage, Lord? Help me to truly believe in Your power. Amen.
Action: What are you facing that you cannot trust God to handle? Take ten minutes to reflect on any limits that you put on God's power or on His care for you. Ask Him to increase your trust in Him.
In Brive, France, a woman sent her kitchen maid to collect vegetables for Saint Anthony and the friars. The maid did her job in pouring rain and ran all the way to the friary with the vegetables. When she arrived back home, she discovered that, although the rain had never once let up during her journey, her clothes were completely dry.
Prayer: Lord, this miracle of Saint Anthony's confounds me. Why would You care about a scullery maid enough to keep her from getting wet and cold when she was on an errand of mercy to Saint Anthony and the friars? Maybe my wonder should be at myself who cannot imagine a God Who cares this much about the least among us. Help me to plumb the depths of Your love, Lord. Amen.
Action: Meditate on this story. God performed a miracle of charity for the maid of Brive. Think about your life and the lives of those around you. How can you ease someone's burden today without being asked? What favor can you do that someone would never have anticipated? Do it today and then thank God for giving you this chance to help another.
In early spring of 1226, Anthony was visiting the Lord of Chateau-neuf-de-Foret in Limoges, France. He was spending time in his room, writing a volume of Easter sermons. Often he wrote into the night. One night the Lord, passing by Anthony's room, saw a flood of light under the closed door. Curious, he peeked through the keyhole and saw Anthony cradling a handsome baby who was bathed in light. As the lord looked on in awe, the child turned to look at the door and disappeared.
Prayer: Lord, sometimes I wish that You would appear to me as You did to Saint Anthony and to some other saints. Maybe I look too much for visions and miss You in the people around me. Help me to find You in every child whom I see, my God, for You are present there.
Action: Take time today to locate a local agency which serves children in need. Offer a prayer for those children and donate either time, money, or goods to that agency, offering to the children what you would offer to the needy Christ Child.
Late in the year 1226, Anthony and another friar stop at a peasant woman's poor cottage. When she discovers that the famous Father Anthony is her houseguest, she insists on serving him wine in her single expensive goblet. Unfortunately, the other friar, in praising the exquisite glassware, breaks it, and then the woman recalls that she forgot to close the tap on her wine barrel, only to discover that her entire year's supply of wine has run out. Through Anthony's intercession, the glass is miraculously repaired and the wine replenished.
Prayer: Lord, here is another miracle where a poor, nameless woman is helped in her need by Saint Anthony's prayers. No wonder he is called the Miracle Worker! How this incident reveals his compassion for the poor! Grant me a measure of that compassion.
Action: Read the local section of today's paper. Who in your community is in need? What can you do to show compassion and meet that need? Make plans to do it and then follow through.
At different times of his life, Anthony preached the the Roman curia. Pope Gregory XIV called him "the Ark of the Testament," saying that, if Scripture were destroyed, Anthony could rewrite the Bible from memory. He could do this because he read and meditated on Scripture as often as he could.
Prayer: Lord, You speak to us through Scripture. Open the ears of my soul to hear Your voice every time that I hear Scripture proclaimed. Open the eyes of my heart to see Your message every time that I read Scripture. Come alive to me, Lord, through the Bible.
Action: Resolve today to read the Bible daily if you are not already doing so. Begin with the Book of Genesis and read one chapter a day, every day of your life from now on. Before you read, pray, "Lord, speak to me through Your Scripture today." Then be attentive as you read. When something resonates with you, pause and reflect on it. At the end of your reading, pray, "Thank You, Lord, for sharing with me today through Your Word. Amen." When you read, anticipating insights, the Holy Spirit will reveal many to you.
About the year 1228, twelve robbers came out of curiosity to hear what the famous preacher Father Anthony had to say. Much to their surprise, every one of them was convicted of their sins by Anthony's preaching. He heard the confessions of each robber and then told them that they must never go back to their sins or they would come to a bad end. But if they persisted in their conversion and did good, they would inherit eternal life. Anthony gave one of the robbers the penance of making twelve pilgrimages to Rome and he, on his way back from the twelfth, almost sixty years after Anthony's death, related the story of his conversion to a friar.
Prayer: My Lord, the robber had a true conversion and was willing to make twelve pilgrimages, on foot, to Rome to do penance for his sins. How weak I am in doing penance for my sins, Lord! Help me to recognize my sins and to be willing to do whatever is needed to leave sin behind and to follow You.
Action: Take a few minutes to reflect on what you feel was the greatest sin of your life. What was your penance for it? Do you feel that the penance matched the offense? Is there anything else you can do to make up for that sin? Ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten you and then "do whatever He tells you."