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 Three reflections follow. To access reflections for the other weeks of this retreat, please click on this link:
WEEK THREE OF THE FORTY-DAY RETREAT WITH SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA
DAYS FIFTEEN THROUGH TWENTY-ONE OF THE FORTY-DAY RETREAT WITH SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA
Anthony regained his health slowly but was still frail when the friars made the long trek to Assisi for a huge gathering of friars that later came to be called the Chapter of Mats. No one knew the thin, ailing Portuguese priest. When the friars were given assignments to preach and evangelize, Anthony was sent to an isolated hermitage to work in the kitchen. This is where he went and what he did, with great joy, spending his spare time in prayer in a cave.
Prayer: Lord, sometimes we wonder why our talents are not recognized or used. Saint Anthony had a wealth of knowledge and a prodigious memory. His preaching as an Augustinian had been extremely effective. Now he was sent to a monastery where he washed dishes and never preached at all. Give me the grace to accept my situation, whatever it may be, even if it seems as if all I could do for You is being hampered by my life. Amen.
Action: Do you feel as if the Lord is not able to use you the way you would wish? Offer up your frustration to Him as a prayer. Try to remember that He knows your abilities. He gave them to you! Give them back to Him and allow Him to use you as He wishes. In doing so you will find peace.
About a year later, some followers of Francis and followers of Dominic were going to be ordained priests. The ceremony was held at a poor friary in Forli. The guardian of Anthony's monastery chose Anthony to accompany him to the ordination. When it came time for the speaker, no one was prepared because of a slip-up in communication. Each Order thought that the other would provide the speaker. Finally the bishop said, "Is there no one here who will preach out of obedience?" Anthony's superior recalled that Anthony had promised to do whatever he was told so the superior suggested Anthony to the bishop. When he said that he was not prepared, the bishop told him to preach out of obedience and to speak as the Holy Spirit led him.
Prayer: Lord, we often think that we have to be prepared, educated, and trained to do Your Will. But often You call us just where we are. Our duty is not to object but to obey. Lord, when You ask me to do something for You, help me to do it without making excuses. Amen.
Action: Is there something that the Lord seems to be asking of you but that you are resisting? Pray about what the Holy Spirit wants of you. It may be that God will prepare you as you go about doing His Will. Obedience is often the beginning of our education in spiritual matters.
Anthony began to preach, as the Holy Spirit led. All his knowledge and faith came to play in his impromptu homily. His listeners were mesmerized. They had never heard preaching like this. When he was finished, the bishop castigated Anthony's superior. "Why have you kept this man hidden away in your hermitage when he could be out preaching against the heretics and strengthening the Church?" The superior meekly replied, "Honorable Bishop, he never preached for us. We did not know he could preach."
Prayer: Lord, I am quick to assume that others have only the talents which I see them use. Open my eyes to the richness in each human being, so that I may discover gifts in others that I never knew existed. Amen.
Action: Think of someone whom you think you know well. Might that person possess gifts and talents that you are overlooking? Engage that person in conversation about what he or she likes to do and is good at. You might be in for some surprises. Think of ways to utilize the person's talents from now on.
Anthony's first assignment was to preach in Rimini, a town on the Marecchia River. The town was filled with heretics who refused to listen to Anthony's preaching. So Anthony prayed about what to do and received an inspiration. He walked down to where the river met the sea and began to preach to the waves. As he did, schools of fish swam in toward the shore and lifted their heads out of the water, as if listening to his preaching. Those people near the shore saw this incredible sight and ran to tell the townspeople who came to see it, too. Now not only the fish were listening.
Prayer: Lord, I so easily get discouraged when my plans go awry. Help me to pray to you for direction, my Lord, so that I will know the next step to take, and then give me the courage to take it even if it seems a bit bizarre. Amen.
Action: What isn't going well for you? Have you prayed about what to do? Has the Lord seemed to give you some strange idea about how to proceed and have you rejected this as being too unusual? Pray again about that direction. Maybe God has something more in mind for you than you can foresee.
"Hear the word of God, you fish of the sea since heretics and infidels do not wish to listen to it. My brothers the fish, you are greatly indebted, in as much as you are able, to thank your Creator for having given you so noble an element to live in. At your pleasure you have both fresh water and, beyond it, salt water. God has given you many shelters against storms and food by which you may live." So Anthony preached to the fish. (Note: These are his actual recorded words.)
Prayer: Lord, the fish listened to Anthony more than the people did. Give me a spirit that is eager to listen to Your word and to heed You, Lord. Let me be a grateful creation of Yours. Amen.
Action: Determine to listen intently to the very next homily that you hear. Open your heart to the words that are said and ask the Holy Spirit to give you an insight into your faith through what is being preached.
In his preaching to the fish at Rimini, Anthony was attacking the basic doctrines of the Cathar heresy. One of these doctrines said that satan had created the physical world and that God, being pure spirit, would have nothing to do with sinful, corrupt flesh. Yet the beasts recognized the Creator as Anthony spoke. Anthony had proved the heretics wrong by example, not by words.
Prayer: My Lord, You are the perfect example of every virtue. Help me to live the virtues, not merely talk about them. Help me to be virtuous, Lord. It is much more difficult to be than to speak. Amen.
Action: Think of one way you can be a good example today to someone else. Then ask God for the grace to do that one thing and be that good example.
Bononillo lived in Rimini. He heard Anthony speak, but he could not believe what he preached. How could bread be God? Many in Rimini were abandoning the Cathar heresy and embracing the Christian faith. But Bononillo could not believe. On Monday of Holy Week, Anthony issued a challenge. Bononillo should not feed his mule for three days. On Holy Thursday, Bononillo would bring his mule and some feed to the town square and Anthony would meet him there with the Eucharist. The terms were met and the mule ignored the feed but knelt before the Blessed Sacrament. Bononillo fell to his knees beside his mule and was received into the Church, joining with the other Christians on Easter Sunday.
Prayer: Lord, forgive my doubting Your Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. Give me the grace to believe, the desire to receive worthily, and the love to worship You in the Sacred Species. You made Yourself small for me. Help me to humble myself for You. Amen.
Action: The next time that you receive the Eucharist, thank God for the miracle which He worked in Rimini, that caused a mule to recognize the Presence of God when human beings could not see it. Make an act of faith that you are receiving the very Lord Who saved Bononillo's soul and yours.