I think I can always remember my mother, and my grandmothers, praying to St. Anthony anytime something was lost. There’s even the popular little prayer, “Tony, Tony, please come ’round, something’s lost and can’t be found.” This everyday need to find lost objects has made St. Anthony one of the most popular saints.
But the real story of St. Anthony meshes very well with the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel: “Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”
The gospel call to leave everything and follow Christ was the rule of Anthony’s life. Over and over again God called him to something new in his plan. Every time Anthony responded with renewed zeal and self-sacrificing to serve his Lord Jesus more completely. His journey as the servant of God began as a very young man when he decided to join the Augustinians, giving up a future of wealth and power to follow God’s plan for his life. Later, when the bodies of the first Franciscan martyrs went through the Portuguese city where he was stationed, he was again filled with an intense longing to be one of those closest to Jesus himself: those who die for the Good News.
So Anthony entered the Franciscan Order and set out to preach to the Moors – a pretty dangerous thing to do. But an illness prevented him from achieving that goal. He went to Italy and was stationed in a small hermitage where he spent most of his time praying, reading the Scriptures and doing menial tasks.
But that was not the end for Anthony’s dream of following God’s call. Recognized as a great man of prayer and a great Scripture and theology scholar, Anthony became the first friar to teach theology to the other friars. Soon he was called from that post to preach to heretics, to use his profound knowledge of Scripture and theology to convert and reassure those who had been misled.
Through the intercession and example of St. Anthony, may we all find the courage to obey and teach God’s commandments, and be called with him, greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.