by: Friar Juniper Cummings, OFM Conv.
I was raised in St. Anthony Parish, Louisville Kentucky. When I made my novitiate it was at St. Anthony in Angola, Indiana. When I was to write a thesis, my Dominican professor suggested that I write about St. Anthony who, to many theologians’ surprise, had just been declared a Doctor of the Church. It is always wise to follow the advice of your director so I spent two years researching and writing about “The Christological” content of the “SERMONS of St. Anthony.” This work of St. Anthony is not comprised of sermons given by the Saint himself or to be given. It is, however, suggestions for topics that could be used in considering the entrance verses, the epistles, and gospels, as well as the scripture readings for Sundays and some feasts.
One of my early and vivid memories is celebrating the Feast of St. Anthony on June 13 in Padua. Although that basilica in which he is buried is a monumental church, people come there to pray and not only or especially to see the works of art. The number of people coming on that day to receive Holy Communion was tens of thousands from all over the world. They prayed and St. Anthony answered.
At the age of 65 I was stationed at the Friary of St. Anthony when I received a call from Africa asking me to come and be the regional custos or superior. That was to be for six years. I stayed on in Africa for 21 years. I prayed to St. Anthony that we might unite two different groups of Friars into one entity. It was no simple task, but through the intercession of St. Anthony, the two groups united and we have now a province in Zambia, Africa.
Since I was a child I have continued to call on St. Anthony for any need, and I have found out that he always answers even if it is not at the time and in a way that I expected. During the Depression we had St. Anthony devotions every week on Monday and Tuesday evenings and the church was filled. But we do not need to wait for the coming depression to pray to St Anthony.
The Friars pray daily to St. Anthony and although many religious orders have greatly diminished, your Friars Minor Conventual have remained just about the same number with increases in African and Asia compensating for the diminishing numbers in Europe and North America.
We Conventual Franciscans have the care not only of the Tomb of St. Francis in Assisi, but also the Tomb of St. Anthony in Padua. These places of privilege are prayerful places and prayers are always answered. Also in Istanbul (once Constantinople) we have a Basilica of St. Anthony where not only Catholics come to pray to and with the Saint, but also Muslim people come to pray.
If you need or want something very much, you ask St. Anthony persistently and you will find out for yourself that St. Anthony always answers. When you get to heaven and you see how your prayers were always answered. I will say, “We told you so, St. Anthony always answers.”