Homily from St. Anthony of Padua Transferred Feast 2018
Versions of the following homily were given by Deacon John Belian at Masses at St. Hedwig and Holy Cross churches on June 9/10, 2018 on the transferred feast of St. Anthony of Padua
Readings for the Masses were:
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
I believed, therefore I spoke.
Starting from this verse from Psalm 116, St. Paul tells us that our belief in the resurrection of Jesus calls us to speak our faith. And he goes on to describe the peace that our belief can bring, even in the face of discouragement, physical illness and decline, the very challenges that Paul himself is facing.
St. Anthony of Padua is celebrated because he believed and spoke so well --- opening many hearts to faith in Jesus Christ. He was called by God and sent by God to use the particular gifts that God gave him which included an unusually retentive memory in which he held an extraordinary knowledge of the Bible which he could call forth at the appropriate moment. It’s also said that he had a pleasing voice and an attractive personality.
Let’s review how it is that we’re celebrating St. Anthony’s feast on Sunday in this church: How did St. Anthony get here today? The answer involves s chain of people who answered a call and discovered what God intended for them. Then we’ll ask how is it that we came to be here today.
St. Anthony was born in 1195 in Lisbon, Portugal. He was baptized Fernando. He was called to become a priest in Portugal serving in his local area. In 1220, relics of Franciscan martyrs came to that area and he felt a new call to join this new religious order. It was then that he was given the name, Anthony.
That same year he was called and sent to Morocco to convert the Muslims. There he became ill and had to return to Europe. On his way back to Portugal the ship that was carrying him was blown off course and came ashore in Sicily. From there he made his way to Assisi in time to attend a general council of Franciscans. From Assisi he was sent to a monastery near Forli, Italy where he served saying Mass and sweeping the floors. It happened that an ordination was to take place and because Franciscans were not, at the time, regarded as adequate preachers some Dominicans were invited to come and preach. They came but for some reason they came unprepared so that when the time for the homily they wouldn’t do it. In a pinch, Anthony was asked to step forward and speak whatever the Holy Spirit put into his heart. At first he declined the request but was overruled by his superior. His off-the-cuff sermon was so moving that he was commissioned to preach through all of Lombardy and for the Pope and beyond. Anthony did other great things in his life but preaching was his supreme gift and it was this long journey that brought him to its discovery.
About 360 years later, another Franciscan priest, Fr. Louis Hennepin --- like St. Paul --- also believed and therefore spoke. Fr. Hennepin arrived in New France in 1675 to bring the Gospel of Jesus to this new land. In 1679 he sailed out of the Niagara River on the Griffon, the first ship built ever built on the Great Lakes. On its return voyage became the first shipwreck evert on the Great Lakes.)
Fr. Hennepin disembarked on the western shore of Lake Michigan, near Green Bay. He had taken St. Anthony of Padua as the patron and protector of his journey so that when, in 1680, he made his way to the falls on the Mississippi River just a couple miles from here he called them the “Falls of St. Anthony.” Not long after that he wrote that it seemed as if the name would stick.
Indeed it did. So about 170 years later, when Fr. Augustine Ravoux was sent by the Bishop of Dubuque to serve the people in the settlement near the falls, also known as St. Anthony, it was only natural that the that the log church that was built there should be named in honor of St. Anthony of Padua. It became the first parish within what is now the city of Minneapolis.
One hundred and sixty four years after St. Anthon of Padua parish was formed --- five years ago --- the merger of four northeast parishes gave us the opportunity to do a Sunday celebration of each parish’s patronal feast in all of the four churches.
That’s how St. Anthony got here today.
The personal stories that get St. Anthony here today are simply variations on today’s Gospel. Jesus calls and then sends His disciples to offer the peace of Christ to others and proclaim the reign of God to be close at hand, just as St. Anthony, Fr. Hennepin and Fr. Ravoux were sent. There are heroic…and grand.
Each of us has their own story of how we got here today. But when we compare our stories, so often filled with the ordinary events of daily life, to those of these missionaries and evangelizers our own lives may not seem as grand. So, unintentionally and even imperceptibly we might become discouraged and think that we cannot attain, we cannot hope for heroic lives like these.
In fact, the heroic life is open to each of us no matter who are or where we are; no matter our occupation, station in life or stage of life. That’s because there’s only one heroic, human story: the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Every one of us is here because we were called to be here. We are each invited to open our hearts to God’s love, to enter into the reign of God today and as children of God to receive the peace of that kingdom --- and to live in it as heroes --- most often as quiet heroes.
This peace comes out of a wholeness within ourselves arising out of the certainty that the Cross gives us that we are loved to the end by the creator of the universe. This peace comes from the confidence that the Resurrection give us that we can live eternally in joy.
This peace allows us to be well with God, with each other, with ourselves and with all of creation. And we are, each of us, called to give that peace to others.
But we can’t give what haven’t received. So we’ve been called here to be with and to receive the living Christ in Gospel word and Eucharistic sacrament. It will change us and strengthen us for our heroic journey following the path that Jesus laid down for us, each of us in our own way and within our own story...
It is a lifelong journey that includes good days, bad days and boring days --- but those days will still be heroic, to the greater glory of God, if they are lived in the name of Jesus Christ.
And so we are often sent from Mass with words, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life."