May 17, 2015
We visited the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua and celebrated Mass there at a side altar.
One of the highlights of this pilgrimage is the singing at our Masses. We are fortunate that Kevin Smith, one of our pilgrims, is a church musician. He brought along little sheets of hymn texts for each person with a few songs on it. When we prepare for a Mass at any given chapel along the way, Kevin will find an organ, if there is one (or just sing a capella), and lead us in music. We are also fortunate that some of the pilgrims are members of the Our Lady of the Lake Parish choir. Along this pilgrimage we have been singing the Mass parts in Gregorian Chant: the Kyrie Eleison, Sanctus and Agnus Dei (Lord Have Mercy, Holy, and Lamb of God). I thought it would make sense in an international setting, also in churches and chapels where the chant was sung for hundreds of years. Besides, every Catholic should know a little chant. For some of our pilgrims, they knew the melodies from childhood, for others it was new. But, now that we are singing it with more confidence it sounds “heavenly” especially in the very reverberant chapel we used in Padua. We were told that at this particular Mass people were walking by outside the chapel and marveling at the enthusiastic and beautiful singing coming from our group!
St. Anthony is best known as the one we turn to when seeking lost articles. But he was more known for his desire to be a missionary, which he never was able to fulfill, and for his excellence in preaching and theology.
Relics should be mentioned here because at the Basilica of St. Anthony there are many. These are not only things like the body of St. Anthony, but also a chip of bone from his body, or that of another saint. We have also, at previous churches, visited tombs of saints, often under altars, and other relics. There are also items they used like the impoverished and patched garment in Assisi that St. Francis wore. These are more popular in Italian spirituality, but are not as commonly spoken of in the USA (even though almost every altar has a relic). But these are genuine and fitting expressions of our Catholic veneration of the saints.
One way to think of it is like this: When a mom cuts her baby’s hair for the first time, she may save a few locks of hair for sentimental reasons. Or I wear a watch that my dad wore, which my mom had given him for Christmas in 1961. This watch is very dear to me and cannot be replaced. Just as the baby’s first lock of hair is irreplaceable. Both are examples of relics.
When a saint is beloved and admired, it is as common to want to have a special place for his or her body. This could be by visiting a cemetery, or where the saint may be buried on church grounds, or something he or she used.
St. Anthony is often depicted with the Christ Child, from the story of Jesus appearing to him in this form.