A Great Cloud of Witnesses

On June 10, 2009, I published a post about our first weekly saint, St. Columba.  Since then, the list has grown considerably.  Most of them get the big ST, but not all.  The principle has been the examination of the lives and teachings of those who have gone before us.  Not all Christians of interest get the big ST.

We have looked at ancient, mediaeval, and post-mediaeval (‘modern’) Christians.  We have looked at Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants, and one Ethiopian Orthodox.  Apostolic men stand alongside poets who shake hands with mystics and martyrs.  All of these people have lived lives for Christ, and I hope that all of them can help bring us nearer to Christ by their example and teaching.

My selection has sometimes been from the Church Calendar.  Sometimes it has started there, as with Edmund James Peck (see in the list) and then extended by association; following Peck I wrote about other missionaries to the Arctic.  Sometimes they are chosen because I am reading about them or studying their work.

Often, if you have been following these weekly saints, you will have noticed that I give a brief biography of the saint, but not always.  Sometimes I offer a meditation on some aspect of the saint’s life and teaching.  Sometimes I ponder how best we might be able to honour or learn from a particular saint.  I hope these have been a blessing and will continue to bless!  Enjoy!

There are no women.  This is too bad.  I should fix this.  I meant to St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland, when her feast rolled on by, but posted about no saint that week.  She and others shall make their way into the saints for 2011.  Here are the Weekly Saints thus far:

St. Joseph the Carpenter

Pope St. Leo the Great (here & here)

St. John of the Cross

St. Ambrose of Milan

St. Andrew the Apostle

St. Albert Lacombe

St. John the Baptist

St. Thomas the Apostle

St. Matthias the Apostle

St. Boniface

St. Augustine of Canterbury

St. Anthony of Padua

Emperor Constantine the Great

St. Athanasius

Dante Alighieri

St. George the Dragonslayer

George MacDonald

Thomas Cranmer

St. Cuthbert

St. Gregory of Nyssa

John Wesley (here & here)

St. Polycarp of Smyrna

St. Valentine

St. Antony the Great

St. Jean de Brebeuf

St. Francis of Assisi

Hans Egede

St. Juvenaly of Alaska

Edmund James Peck

St. John of Damascus

Abba Giyorgis Saglawi

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

St. Maximilian Kolbe

CS Lewis

St. Alban the Martyr

Sts. Peter and Paul

St. Basil the Great

St. Columba

Saint of the Week: St. Anthony of Padua (for more than lost keys)

St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231) has the unenviable position of being the Patron Saint of Lost Things.  This means that he is chiefly remembered when other things are not, that many people know his name but little about him, and that myriad prayers are sent up to him by people with little or no attachment to the church at large, let alone the Church of Rome, whenever they misplace the car keys.

But who was St. Anthony?  What did he do?  Why should we care?

St. Anthony of Padua was noble-born in Lisbon, Portugal, and joined the Order of Austin Canons at a young age.  However, inspired by the martyrdom of Franciscan missionaries in Morocco and joined the Friars Minor in 1220.  He sailed to Africa to engage in missionary activity there, but was forced to return to Europe due to ill health.  In 1221 he was present at the General Chapter of the Order of Friars Minor at Assisi (remember that St. Francis died in 1226).

St. Anthony became a lector in theology at Bologna, Montpellier, and Toulouse, but is best remembered as a preacher.  In good Franciscan fashion, he drew crowds so large they couldn’t fit in churches.  He preached in the marketplaces, targetting the evils of avarice and usury.  Many heard the Gospel call on their lives through the preaching of St. Anthony and came to true faith in Christ and repentance from their old ways of living.

After a few years, St. Anthony moved to Padua, Italy.  Here, rather than split his time between theology and preaching the Gospel, he devoted his entire time to preaching.  He died at the young age of 36.

Wait.  The Patron Saint of Lost Articles was an evangelist?  He wasn’t a detective or something?

David Hugh Farmer, in The Oxford Dictionary of Saints believes he gained his patronage over Lost Things because a novice once borrowed his psalter without permission, then had “a fearful apparition” that drove him to return it.

Men like St. Anthony are a reminder to Protestants that the Middle Ages were not some godless vacuum full of “superstitions”.  Such a view is entirely untenable.  It is true that once being a Christian became fashionable after 312 and practically necessary after 381, the Church has always had a very large population of “pew-warmers.”  She has, at the best of times, been aware of this.  Thus the evangelists of the Middle Ages, men like St. Francis, St. Dominic, St. Cuthbert, and St. Anthony of Padua.

St. Anthony was part of the missionary enterprise both at home and abroad.  He sought to bring the life-saving Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Muslims of Africa.  When health issues sent him back to Europe, he devoted the rest of his life to bringing the Gospel to the masses, to the people of Europe who may not have truly heard the salvific story, many of whom had certainly not yet been convicted in their hearts.

He is worth honouring.  So, the next time you lose something, think of St. Anthony of Padua.  And then think of people you know to whom you could bring the life-bringing news of Jesus Christ.  That is, no doubt, how he would best wish to be remembered.