The Relics of Saint Anthony of Padua were welcomed at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, today with Archbishop Eamon Martin celebrating a special Mass of welcome for the relics.
In his homily Archbishop Eamon spoke about the many conversations he has had in recent days with people who have shared stories of praying to Saint Anthony, the Patron Saint of lost things. These conversations he said, “have included accounts of a missing engagement ring, lost car keys, absent pets and even a dropped dental crown all being found thanks to the help of Saint Anthony of Padua!”
Archbishop Eamon said that there is hardly a parish that doesn’t have a statue or image of this much loved Portuguese friar. Apparently next to the Sacred Heart, our Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph, the image of Saint Anthony carrying the child Jesus is one of the most recognisable for Catholics across the world.
Saint Anthony died young, at the age of 36, without really doing anything to mark him out for worldwide fame. He lived a simple, unremarkable life, except perhaps for his gentle holiness and his wonderful preaching which drew many people to the love of God. Anthony’s gift for preaching was discovered quite by accident when he was once called upon at short notice to deliver the homily at an ordination ceremony in front of many Dominican preachers, none of whom was willing to preach in the bishop’s presence without adequate time to prepare! Saint Anthony, speaking off the cuff, impressed them all with his strong theology yet simple and practical style of applying God’s Word to everyday life.
Archbishop Eamon said, “I’ve thought a lot this week about what I might ask Saint Anthony on the visit of his relics to our Cathedral and to Ireland. I’ve decided to ask his help that many people in Ireland may rediscover the gifts of faith, hope and love, especially those who feel they have lost these powerful Christian virtues.
“It might seem surprising that I would mention ‘losing’ the gift of love, but it does happen. Last Christmas a young woman asked me to pray because she was finding it more and more difficult to love, to reach out in Christian charity to others. She said she felt increasingly unmoved by tragedy, poverty, hunger and need in the world – she wanted to be a more kind, more generous, more loving person. I’ve thought a lot about her request since and I know there are many people who wish they hadn’t lost love in a relationship, or in their family, or find that their ability to feel for the marginalised and unloved in the world has grown dim. Just yesterday morning when on pilgrimage to Rome I heard Pope Francis speak about how easy it is for us to be deaf or blind to those who call out to us from the peripheries – like the blind beggar who called out to Jesus from the side of the road. I pray Saint Anthony that he will help us rediscover and rekindle the gift of love.”
Archbishop Eamon continued, “We all know people who have lost faith – for one reason or another they find that God has become distant to them. It is easy to drift away from faith because life has become so busy and confused. Finding time and space for prayer seems more and more difficult; sinful habits become more ingrained and the next thing to lose is that sense of God’s presence – just as a friendship grows cold because of not ‘keeping in touch’. Finding faith again is not as difficult as it may sound, because even if we have been lukewarm or uncommitted to the friendship, God never leaves us, God our Father is right there beside us, waiting patiently for our return. So Saint Anthony, help us to find our faith again.”
Addressing the large crowd gathered for Mass and veneration of the relics in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Archbishop Eamon said that there’s nothing as awful as losing hope, and sadly it is all too common for that to happen today – maybe in many cases it’s because of first losing faith, or losing the gift of loving or feeling loved. He said, “Too many people today are gripped by despair, including young people whose lives are meant to be filled with dreams and wishes for the future. Anxiety and depression have a hold on many Irish lives. No doubt the heavy hand of austerity, financial pressure and unemployment has played its part, but so too have the impossible expectations of appearance, popularity, instant gratification and the shallow fantasy of celebrity culture. Perhaps we’ve also ‘unlearned’ how to cope with the reality of sacrifice, disappointment, and the failure that is part and parcel of life in this ‘vale of tears’.
“Christ is our light and our hope, the one who never lets us down and who offers purpose and meaning to life. If Saint Anthony wants to help rekindle hope, no doubt he will want to call upon the kindness, encouragement, perseverance and unselfish commitment of others, including ourselves, to light the flame of hope for someone else.”
The archbishop said that he has given Saint Anthony quite a tall order this evening, but he said that “if even one or two people who come here to visit the relics find their love, faith or hope restored, I will be happy. And I know that all of you, inspired by the ‘Doctor of the Good News’ can help make that happen.”
Archbishop Eamon concluded his homily by saying, “Actions speak louder than words, Saint Anthony taught; we witness to Christ by the way we live our lives. Saint Paul wrote that when God’s power is at work in us we can do immeasurably more than we can ever ask or imagine (Eph 3:20).
“If each of us left here tonight determined, like Saint Anthony of Padua to carry the child Jesus in our arms wherever we go, holding up to others our friendship with Jesus, opening to them the consolation found in God’s Word, then who knows how many lives could be touched by the visit of these relics to our country and our Cathedral!”
Night prayer will begin in the cathedral at 10.00pm tonight. Masses with the relics will be celebrated tomorrow at 8.00am and 10.00am, and the Holy Rosary will be prayed at 12.00pm. The relics will depart the Cathedral at 1.00pm.
For more information see www.armagharchdiocese.org