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The Whole-Hearted Beauty of St. Anthony

By Father Robert Campagna, OFM
 
The name Anthony spans many cultures and seemed to prophesy a distinguished history, at the very least. St. Anthony of Padua, born Fernando Bulhones, was the only son of a distinguished Portuguese family serving the king and the Church in the early 13th Century. His baptized name, Fernando, meant “seeker” or “peace combatant,” a moniker looking to a future leader’s pathways.
 
Yet, even through childhood, young Fernando made it clear that he aimed to serve Jesus. By the year 1221, Fernando was an Augustinian priest for two years. He was a devout and brilliant young man with a profound love of the Gospel and the poor. With God’s grace, he transferred to a new and radical Franciscan order, taking the name Anthony. He had long hoped to answer a call to radical poverty and hermit life.
 
He learned that surrendering to God’s will is the heart of Christian living. And thus, he became a great teacher, confessor, preacher, father to the poorest of the poor, even a historian in many ways. His homilies still speak to all of us today.
 
This great preacher and priest always got to the heart of the matter. No frills.
 
Speaking of putting God first in our lives, St. Anthony went right to the First Commandment: You shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart. His sermons drew thousands, often spilling into fields and village squares. Hold back no corner of your heart, he said, when praying and especially in asking pardon for our sins. He cited dear Lord’s opening his Sacred Heart because of His love for us.
 
When we imitate Our Lord in giving all – even to his Body and Blood, St. Anthony understood, God will take our “all” and give it back to us. But, when touched by
God, whole, purified, cleansed and with a new heart, God waits for us.
 
The moral of his sermon: We all need to make choices. But it is easier to do so with a heart growing to accommodate more love than we could even imagine, a love-filled heart burning with the image of God’s own heart.
 
Father Campagna is provincial of the Province of the Immaculate Conception and director of Franciscan Mission Associates.
 
For more information, go to www.franciscanmissionassoc.org.
 
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