About 45 minutes by train from our apartment in Verona (Italy) is Padua, the home of St Anthony and 3 weeks ago, my wife Shari and I decided to go there to check it out. St Anthony is by far the most beloved saint for northern Italians; St. Padre Pio holds that distinction for southern Italy. Basilica of Sant’Antonio di Padova is very popular, in normal times roughly 5 million pilgrims visit annually. Masses are celebrated every hour during the day and in a side alter are the remains of St Anthony. The church is huge, has the dignity of being a Pontifical Minor Basilica (land and buildings were ceded to the Holy See), and the complex of attached cloisters and buildings is impressive.
St Anthony is frequently known as the “Saint of Miracles.” Inside one of the cloisters is The Museum of Popular Devotion. This very sizeable museum is basically entirely devoted to displaying hundreds and hundreds of photos, cards, drawings and pictures, which the Basilica has received over the last few hundred years from the faithful thanking St Anthony for his intercession in miracles they’ve received, often written with Italian phrase Per Grazia Ricevuta (For Graces Received). These are dramatic; one guy whose legs were being crushed in a logging accident, children falling out of upper floor windows, ships sinking, buildings collapsing, etc. Very powerful, and the sheer faith of these people is moving.
All if this was very “convicting” to me. I can’t remember the last time I totally gave an important event, especially a super serious matter over to a saint for intersession and then stepped away in faith to let graces perform their efficacy. If I’d think about asking a saint to intercede, even the Blessed Mother, I’d always have the idea in the back of my mind that I would still put in 100% of my effort to “help the saint out.” So much for true all-in faith. It takes faith to have faith, and to put it in action. One of the things I love about the saints is the stories of how they lived their lives. But in the case of this museum for St Anthony, it was a very special benefit to visually see also how many other people’s lives were positively affected by their faith in this great Saint. The faith of others has helped my own.
The thing that struck me most was the incredibly large museum that’s totally dedicated to showcasing the hundreds of wonderful letters, signs, and other remembrances the faithful have sent as a thanks for answered prayers attributed to St Anthony.
I hardly ever totally commend a cause in my life to the intercession of a saint and then step back in faith and see what happens.
Being in this museum and seeing what others have done over the last couple of centuries with this saint in some really dire situations has been a great wake up to the powers of saintly intercessions.