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 Two reflections follow. To access reflections for the other weeks of this retreat, please click on this link:
WEEK TWO OF THE FORTY-DAY RETREAT WITH SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA
DAYS EIGHT THROUGH FOURTEEN OF THE FORTY-DAY RETREAT WITH SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA
At Coimbra, Fernando was able to pray and study as he wished. But he also faced something he did not wish in the person of Prior John who had been accused of sexual misconduct with men and women, boys and girls. Prior John had been sent away twice to do public penance but had returned to the same sins upon his return to the monastery. Prior John ignored several excommunications, was finally relieved of his post, and died in 1226. Fernando never forgot the scandal caused by this priest.
Prayer: Lord, I pray for all those victimized by people who are supposed to be representing You. May You also have mercy on the perpetrators and bring them to conversion. May they recognize the dysfunction and brokenness of their own lives that causes them to abuse others and think it is all right. Have mercy on our Church, so torn by these scandals. Amen.
Action: Pray for a specific priest or religious who has been proven to be involved in sexual abuse. Pray also for this person's victims. Make these people a permanent part of your prayer at least until this retreat concludes.
Fernando was made porter at the monastery of Coimbra. In this position, he welcomed guests and gave alms to beggars. One day five friars who followed the teachings of Francis of Assisi came begging alms. They were jovial and filled with faith. They told Fernando that they were on their way to Morocco to preach the Gospel. But Morocco was hostile to Christianity. They knew they could become martyrs there, and this thought filled them with joy. Fernando marveled at their faith, love, courage, and cheerfulness.
Prayer: My God, the five Franciscan friars were willing to die for love of You. How weak I am in my faith journey! I do not even want to show myself as being Your follower when I am with a crowd hostile to the Gospel. Give me courage, Lord. Help me to be a better witness to You. Amen.
Action: Pray the above prayer every day for the remainder of this retreat. Ask the Holy Spirit to heighten your awareness of times that you could witness to Christ. Ask Him to give you the courage to be His witness in the face of ridicule, opposition, or argument. Not all martyrs actually shed blood. Some shed their pride.
The five followers of Saint Francis were, indeed, martyred in Morocco. Their bodies were sent back to Portugal. The Queen of Portugal could not decide where to inter them. Should they be buried at their poor hermitage because they had lived there or at the cathedral because they were martyrs? Unable to decide, she declared that the mule carrying the relics be set free to go wherever the Lord would lead it. To everyone one's surprise, it plodded straight to the Monastery of Holy Cross and knelt before the altar, not rising until the martyr's remains were removed from its back. So the remains were interred at Holy Cross, the monastery where Fernando dwelt.
Prayer: Lord, what an odd twist of fate? You chose a place for the martyr's remains which the Queen had not even considered. What you are doing in my life may be nothing that I have ever thought of. But may Your Will be done through it, as it was through the mule of Coimbra. Amen.
Action: What in your life is not going the way you planned? Mentally take that situation in your hands and offer it to God. He is at work in your foiled dreams. Believe that something greater than you planned is being birthed.
Fernando was drawn to the urns containing the remains of the martyrs. His prayer in the presence of these holy remains was an intense plea to know God's Will for his life. "Lord, they have given You their all. What do you want of me, Lord? What do YOU want of ME?"
Prayer: Lord, the martyrs have given their all. What do you want of me, Lord? What do YOU want of ME?
Action: Pray every day to know God's Will for your life. That Will is not something for the future, but something for right now. Ask God what He wants of you, today.
As Fernando prayed before the remains of the martyrs, he seemed to hear the Lord calling, "Give me yourself, Fernando." How was he to do that? Then the idea came. He would give himself by giving his life. He would become a martyr, too. How would that happen? The Augustinians were attached to the monastery in Coimbra. He would never be a martyr there. But if he became a follower of Francis, he would do so under the condition that he be sent to Morocco. So Fernando left the Augustinians, was accepted by the followers of Francis, and was given the name Anthony, after Saint Anthony of the Desert. Within a very short time, at his own request, Anthony was sent to Morocco.
Prayer: Lord, Fernando was willing to give his entire self to You, even to the point of offering his life. His choice was one of total surrender to You. Grant me, Lord, this grace of total giving of myself to You, whatever that means in my life. Amen.
Action: Open your heart to God's perfect Will and resolve to "do whatever He tells you," no matter how difficult or unexpected it may be.
Anthony fell ill on board the ship to Morocco. When the ship docked, he was so wracked with fever that he could not walk. After months of lingering close to death, the decision was made to send him back to Portugal. He was put on board a ship and sent home, but a fierce storm blew up, blowing the ship 1500 miles off course until the badgered vessel ran aground on the shores of Sicily. Here Anthony and all the crew washed ashore.
Prayer: My God, why do our plans go astray, even when we seem to be following Your Will? Could it be that Your Will may have as its goal something we do not foresee? Could what we think will lead us to one goal actually be Your way of getting us to another spot in our spiritual journey? Lord, are we really off course when we are in Your Will? Help us to see with Your eyes. Amen.
Action: Spend time in prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you a time when you followed what you thought was God's Will, only to have your plans foiled. Ask the Lord to show you what He brought from your ruined dreams. Might the foiled plan actually have been in God's Will?
Anthony was ill and weak. Residents of the area found the half-drowned crew and soggy friar. Someone took the friar to a friary where other followers of Francis lived. Here Anthony regained some strength.
Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for people who have supported me when I was weak, who have visited me when I was ill, who gave me hope when I felt none. Bless all of these individuals who gave of themselves to me in my time of need. Amen.
Action: Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind someone who helped you in a time of trial. Thank God for that person and ask God to bless that person. If he or she is still alive, write that friend a note of thanks even if their help was years ago. If the person has died and you know the family, send the note to the family. They will be glad to receive it.