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October 3, 2011

The Other St. Anthony

Most Catholics—and their friends who are apt to lose things—are familiar with St. Anthony of Padua. I, for one, cannot count the number of times I’ve successfully prayed, “St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around. Something is lost and it needs to be found.” To non-Catholics, the idea of praying to saints is strange, but a Catholic asking for a saint’s intercession is not at all worship. Rather, it’s like when you ask a friend on earth to pray for something, except this friend (the saint) is already in Heaven, which is just one step closer to the Big Guy.

These days, I’m calling on a different St. Anthony, one I wouldn’t have found without the help of my trusty pal, Google. Allow me to introduce you to St. Anthony the Abbott.

When St. Anthony was a young man, his parents died and left him with his inheritance and the responsibility to care for his sister. He took the Gospels quite literally, and upon hearing Matthew 19:21, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me,” he walked out of the church and did just that.

As he detached himself more and more from the world, eventually living alone in the desert with very little to eat and only skins to wear (and yet he lived to be a hundred and five years old!), he became closer and closer to God. He overcame enormous temptation with serenity and strength. Every day he started as a new beginning, never allowing the trials of the day before to persuade him to give himself any kind of break. His journey was always toward God in action more than words, although some of his writings have been collected and preserved.

Initially my interest in this St. Anthony was founded in his being a patron saint of skin diseases, as Jacob’s allergic reactions manifest as rashes and hives. As I read through St. Anthony’s biography, I couldn’t really see the connection, until I came to this prayer at the end:

Saint Anthony, you spoke of the importance of persevering in our faith and our practice. Help us to wake up each day with new zeal for the Christian life and a desire to take the next challenge instead of just sitting still. Amen.

Jacob’s had some more reactions lately, some of which we can account for, and some of which we can’t. I’m often getting discouraged with those we can’t decipher, feeling like I’m not doing all I can as the mom in this situation. Reading about St. Anthony reminds me that I need to trust in God, that I need to tackle each challenge that comes my way with faith and love. It’s okay to feel frustrated, but I can’t let that influence how I act. I have a job to do—being a mom to this precious little boy—and I need to do it well.

If you’re the praying kind, pleas help us to pray that St. Anthony will intercede for us and help us to sort these allergies out. There must be something I’m not seeing here, and I need the grace to find it. Maybe there’s work for both St. Anthonys here. There’s certainly no harm in trying!

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