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 One reflections follow. To access reflections for the other weeks of this retreat, please click on this link:
WEEK ONE OF THE FORTY-DAY RETREAT WITH SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA
DAYS ONE THROUGH SEVEN OF THE FORTY-DAY RETREAT WITH SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA
Tradition claims that Saint Anthony of Padua was born on August 15, 1195 in Lisbon, Portugal. Historians debate his background. Some say he was of common birth. Others claim that he was the son of a renowned Portuguese knight. It is more likely that his father belonged to a lower class of knights. He was baptized Fernando.
Prayer: Lord, no great prodigies accompanied Saint Anthony's birth. In the arms of his mother Maria, little Fernando's future was known only to You. You had plans for him, Lord, and You have plans for me. Help me to fulfill them, with Your grace. Amen.
Action: Take a few moments and pray about God's desires for you. Write down in a journal what you feel He wants of you. If you receive no clear indication, write down, "God wants me to wait." Often patience is the virtue which God is trying to develop in us.
Fernando was well educated. His teachers marveled at his prodigious memory. This was a gift of the Holy Spirit, which Fernando would later put to use in God's service.
Prayer: Lord, just as you gave Saint Anthony a remarkable memory, so You have given me a certain gift. My gift is not something I earned or acquired or learned. Rather, it was part of who I am from my very conception. Lord, help me to identify my gift and then show me how to use it for Your service. Amen.
Action: Pray the above prayer, sincerely asking God to reveal your special gift. Review mentally those tasks that are like second nature to you. What do you like to do that you do well and almost without thinking? Therein lies your gift. Reject the lie that your gift is small, totally useless, insignificant, or unfit for God's service. Pray the prayer above again, asking God to show you how to use your gift in His service. Pray the above prayer every day until God reveals your gift and gives you direction on its use.
Fernando had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother. Perhaps it was because his own mother was named Maria. Perhaps it was because he was born on one of the Blessed Mother's Feast Days. Perhaps it was because Maria told her son about her namesake and his gentle heart could relate to a heavenly Mother's love.
Prayer: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, be my mother as well and pray that I may more faithfully reflect your Son. Amen.
Action: How do you honor the Mother of God? Search the internet today for a painting or other image of Mary that appeals to you. Use it as a focal point for a brief meditation. What virtues does Our Lady have? Ask God to grant you one of them and the courage to change so that the virtue grows in you.
As a child, Fernando would assist at daily Mass and would go into any church which he passed in order to pray. Once, while at prayer, a demon appeared to him, and he repulsed the creature by tracing the sign of the cross on the marble step of the church.
Prayer: Lord, when I drive by a church, I hardly pay attention. As a child, St. Anthony used to wander inside and kneel before the tabernacle to pray to You Who are there. No wonder the evil one tried to frighten him from entering a church. He knew the graces that you were giving this child who gave You such devotion. Increase in me, my God, devotion to You in the Blessed Sacrament so that I think of You there when I pass a church. Amen.
Action: Ask God to make you more attentive to churches when you pass them. Promise the Lord that you will find out when and where Eucharistic Adoration is taking place in your area and that you will make a visit to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament weekly, even if only for a brief time.
Fernando grew into a small-built but highly intelligent young man. His father wished he could have been a knight, but his physical frame and his mind were more suited to intellectual pursuits. His parents envisioned him as a notary or a scholar or perhaps a lawyer. They were shocked when he told them that, in order to save his soul, he was going to become a priest.
Prayer: My Father in heaven, You have plans for me, too. But they are not human plans of a human father. They are Your divine plans for my very human life that so needs to be made more like Yours. Help me to align my plans with Yours, my God, for, unlike human parents, Your plans for me are perfect. Give me the grace to say "yes" to Your plans for me. Amen.
Action: Spend time in prayer. Ask God, "What do You want of me, Lord?" What does God seem to be asking of you? Is it something you would have thought of on your own? Or does He seem to be asking you to step out in faith and to follow Him in a new way? Wait before acting on what you feel He wants of you. If the impulse is from the Holy Spirit, it will persist over time. If not, it will go away. God will work to bring His plans to perfection in you. Give Him time and room to do so.
In the Augustinian Monastery in Lisbon, Fernando grew in knowledge of God and of himself. Rising quickly to the top of his class, he was known for his memory and understanding of Scripture as well as his deep prayer life.
Prayer: Lord, knowledge of You is worth little if it is not accompanied by knowing You. I may know many things about a person, but until I spend time with that person, I do not know him or her. You, Lord, are a Person, a Trinity of Three Persons yet one God. I can only come to know You by spending time with You. Open my mind and my heart to You so that I may serve You with both, My God. Amen.
Action: Spend time in prayer, asking God to help you to know Him, not just know about Him. Contemplate a crucifix and meditate on the traits of the God-Man Who was crucified there. What does the crucifix teach you about God become Man? Ask God to reveal an aspect of Himself to you through your meditation.
Fernando may have been in the monastery, but he was still as popular with his family and friends as he had been before he entered. During his first year of religious life, he was visited so frequently by relatives and acquaintances that he asked to be transferred to Holy Cross Monastery in Coimbra, a hundred miles away from Lisbon. The transfer was granted.
Prayer: My dear Saint Anthony, even as a young man, you had the courage to leave behind the people and places that were pulling you back into the world. Even though your family and friends meant well in visiting you, their good intentions were a detriment to your spiritual life. Please intercede for me so that I may be granted the courage to withdraw from whatever is keeping me from fully giving myself to God's Will for my life. Amen.
Action: Take a paper and pencil to a quiet spot. Take fifteen minutes to be alone with God. Begin by asking, "Lord, what is keeping me from following You without hesitation?" Quiet your spirit and ask the question again. Then begin to write what the Holy Spirit reveals. Study your list. What can you do, if anything, to remove the distractions from your life or to remove yourself from the midst of the distractions? Ask God to give you the courage to do what has to be done.