Catholic Feast days are days set aside to remember important people who lived extraordinary lives. Feast days were celebrated through the course of Our faith from the time of Mary’s birth all the way through today honoring the saints. Most saints and holy people have specially designated feast days. On those days we remember these holy men and women in a special way. Saint Anthony of Padua died on June 13th, 1231, which is his feast day.
Customs of St. Anthony’s Festival
On the Feast of this most wonderful of Saints, your priest might bless lilies for you to keep (this isn’t a universal practice). The blessing of lilies, which remind us of St. Anthony’s purity and have always been a symbol for him, stems from a miracle which took place in Revolutionary France: many priests and religious were murdered, so many churches and convents destroyed, but the faithful still showed up at a surviving church on the Feast of St. Anthony. Months later, it was discovered that lilies that had adorned the church at that feast were still fresh. Let the lilies beautify your house, or carry them with you, or press them in a book, etc. If your priest doesn’t bless lilies, you can still use them non-sacramentally to remind you of one of the greatest Saints ever. The English of the Blessing of the Lilies is as follows:
The Blessing of Lilies on the Feast of St. Anthony
The priest vests in surplice and white stole, and says:
P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.
P: The Lord be with you.
All: And with thy spirit.
P: Let us pray. God, the Creator and Preserver of the human race, the Lover of holy purity, the Giver of supernatural grace, and the Dispenser of everlasting salvation; bless + these lilies which we, Thy humble servants, present to Thee today as an act of thanksgiving and in honor of St. Anthony, Thy confessor, and with a request for Thy blessing. Pour out on them, by the saving sign + of the holy cross, Thy dew from on high. Thou in Thy great kindness hast given them to man, and endowed them with a sweet fragrance to lighten the burden of the sick. Therefore, let them be filled with such power that, whether they are used by the sick, or kept in homes or other places, or devoutly carried on one’s person, they may serve to drive out evil spirits, safeguard holy chastity, and turn away illness–all this through the prayers of St. Anthony–and finally impart to Thy servants grace and peace; through Christ our Lord.
Then he sprinkles the lilies with holy water, saying:
P: Sprinkle me with hyssop, Lord, and I shall be clean of sin. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Pray for us, St. Anthony.
All: That we may be worthy of Christ’s promise.
P: Let us pray. We beg Thee, O Lord, that Thy people may be helped by the constant and devout intercession of Blessed Anthony, Thy illustrious confessor. May he assist us to be worthy of Thy grace in this life, and to attain everlasting joys in the life to come; through Christ our Lord.
After this the lilies are distributed to the people.
Another custom on this day is known as “St. Anthony’s Bread” and goes back to A.D. 1263 when a child drowned near the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua as it was still being built. The mother besought St. Anthony and promised that if her child were restored to life, she would give to the poor an amount of wheat equal to the weight of her child. Of course her son was saved, and her promise was kept. “St. Anthony’s Bread,” then, is the promise of giving alms in return for a favor asked of God through St. Anthony’s intercession (the custom also takes place throughout the year when parents give alms after placing their baby under the patronage of St. Anthony). In some places, the custom has a literal parallel in that loaves of bread might be blessed and given away at church or, generally, to the poor.
Because of St. Anthony’s history of being invoked by single women in search of a husband, today is a good day for single people who have a vocation to marriage to make a visit to a church or shrine dedicated to St. Anthony!
In Lisbon, his birthplace, it is a traditional day for getting married (women who get married on this day are called “brides of St. Anthony”). So popular are weddings on this day in Lisbon, that the city hall hosts them for free if the couple are poor. St. Anthony altars are built and decorated, parades are held, bonfires lit, grilled sardines and sangria are enjoyed.
1 (750-ml) bottle red wine (Rioja, if possible)
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup orange flavored liqueur (triple sec or Grand Marnier)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 orange, thinly sliced
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
1 apple, cored, and cut into thin wedges
1 (750-ml) bottle sparkling water, chilled
Combine everything but the sparkling water in a large plastic container or glass pitchers. Cover and chill completely, 1 to 2 hours. When ready to serve, add the sparkling water, pour over ice cubes, and enjoy.
It is also customary to decorate with pots of sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) and to give some away to friends with prayers invoking our Saint (tea made from basil is good for headaches, fevers, stomach aches, and indigestion — but it should not be drunk by pregnant women).
Finally, because he is also especially cherished by the Italian people, parishes with large Italian populations might host great festivals on this day, rather like the Italian festivals held in honor of St. Joseph on 19 March, so keep an eye out for one in your area.
Note: Because St. Anthony was buried on a Tuesday and many miracles accompanied his funeral, Tuesdays are special days of honoring him throughout the year. It is customary to pray a Novena to him on thirteen consecutive Tuesdays.
A Multitude of Fish
No sooner had he spoken a few words when suddenly so great a multitude of fish, both small and great, approached the bank on which he stood. All the fish kept their heads out of the water, and seemed to be looking attentively on St Anthony’s face; all were ranged in perfect order and most peacefully, the smaller ones in front near the bank, after them came those a little bigger, and last of all, were the water was deeper, the largest.
As he continued speaking, the fish began to open their mouths and bow their heads, endeavoring as much as was in their power to express their reverence. The people of the city, hearing of the miracle, made haste to go and witness it.