By Fr. Pachomius Okojie, OSB
Continued From LAST WEEK
“With a sudden inspiration [the young boy Anthony] began to shout to the birds with all his [strength]. The swallows flocked to him from every corner of the field. The sparrows came just as eagerly, as they gathered around him by hundreds and hundreds. By his invitation, the birds followed him. Meekly they formed their aerial ranks, escorting the young Saint as far as the door of the castle and hovered around [it], while he climbed the broad stone stairway and crossed the threshold. Once inside, Anthony ran nimbly up the attic and opened a large window, calling again to the birds. They rushed in and filled the room. He told them to be , while he went back to the Church to pray. A little later, his father came back. As he passed through the fields, he asked for his little boy Anthony. His men told him that he had been working very hard to chase the birds away and that perhaps he had gone back to his games. Seeing the Church door opened, he quickly turned his steps in that direction. He entered the Church. “Anthony was kneeling before the Tabernacle, deep in prayer.” Reminded of his father’s instruction, Anthony told his father not to worry, that the fields and the harvest were not going to suffer.
Then he told him to follow him. Impressed by the serious expression on his little boy’s face, he followed him. On their way to the castle, he was surprised to notice that there was not a single sparrow in sight as they passed through the fields. They reached the attic. It was like a giant bird cage full of birds. Without saying a word, Anthony’s father, Martin by name, pressed his little boy to his chest, and his eyes welled up, filled with tears. It was the first miracle of the great Saint Anthony of Padua. Not only to men and women did Saint Anthony preach the Word of God, but also to other creatures (GSAP page 6). He preached a lot about the Holy Eucharist. But some people did not believe in it. Among them was a man called Guillard. He told Saint Anthony, “It is not descent for Jesus Christ to remain in the Eucharist in the form of bread and wine. Still, I shall believe if my mule, after fasting for three days, will refuse fresh oats and go to adore the Sacrament” (GSAP page 7). Saint Anthony shuddered. But, inspired by God, he accepted the challenge.
“The heretics were already claiming victory, while the Catholics who had not the faith of Saint Anthony were in fear of defeat. Meanwhile, Saint Anthony spent three days in prayer, fasting, and penance. … He celebrated the Mass in a crowded square, with great devotion. When the Mass was over, he took the Blessed Sacrament in a procession, going towards the house of the herectic who came out to meet him with his mule that had been kept without food for three days. In a place that was previously arranged he had put plenty of fresh oats, and the hungry mule was just ready to make a good meal of it, when Saint Anthony, holding the Blessed Sacrament in his hands, invited the mule to come to him and adore Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. At that invitation, the mule left its food and went straight to Saint Anthony. The mule knelt before the Holy Eucharist, as if able to adore.
He remained in that position until Saint Anthony gave it instruction to rise. The Catholics, full of joy, intoned hymns of thanksgiving, while accompanying the Blessed Sacrament to the Church. The heretic in question, Guillard by name, touched by what he had just seen, renounced his beliefs, and embraced the Catholic faith (GSAP pages 7-8). Every place that Saint Anthony went he conquered souls and snatched them from the power of the evil one (GSAP page 8). In 1227, Saint Anthony went to Padua, which at that time was torn by heresies and civil war. One day, while he was in a secluded room, in Count Triso’s house, an astonishing thing occurred. The Count wished to speak to Saint Anthony, but did not want to disturb him because of the lateness of the hour. He went near the door of his room, and he saw brilliant rays streaming from under the door. Looking through the keyhole, he beheld a little child of marvelous beauty, standing upon a book, which lay open on the table, and he clung with both arms round Saint Anthony’s neck with ineffable sweetness.
He watched the tender caresses of Saint Anthony and this wondrous Child. At last the Child disappeared and Saint Anthony opened his door, and he told his friend for the love of Him Whom he had seen not to tell anyone about the vison, as long as he lived (GSAP page 9). On another occasion, while the Saint was in a profound meditation in the Convent, God revealed to him that his father in Lisbon had been falsely accused of homicide and would shortly undergo capital punishment. The true assassin’s garden Fr. Pachomius Okojie, OSB adjoined that of Saint Anthony’s father. In the deep silence of the night, the murderer took the body of his victim and buried it in Saint Anthony’s father’s garden. A search was made everywhere and at last the body was found. Without an investigation, an order was given to imprison Saint Anthony’s father and family. Though it was late in the evening, Saint Anthony, who knew the fact by divine revelation, went to his Superior, and asked him for his blessing, and during the night set out from Padua in Italy on foot.
After a little while, he found himself at the gate of Lisbon, Portugal (GSAP page 9). The following morning, he called on the Magistrate and pleaded for his father and relatives, but without any success. He was not discouraged. He asked to have the body of the murdered man brought to him. His request was granted, and in the presence of the Magistrate and a great crowd, he said to the victim, “In the name of God I command you to rise, and to proclaim in a loud and clear voice if my father or any of my family were guilty of your assassination.” The murdered man arose and declared the innocence of Saint Anthony’s father. Then the corpse fell back in his coffin. Saint Anthony’s father was immediately set free, and in the evening of that same day, Saint Anthony bade goodbye to all his relatives. The following morning, he was again in the convent of Padua (GSAP page 10).
We also learn that he went to Verona to reprimand the cruel Ezzelinus, who was treating his subjects barbarously. His words touched Ezzelinus, so that he prostrated himself before Saint Anthony (GSAP page 10). We read about the bilocation of Saint Anthony. “It was proved that on a certain day he was in two different places, very remote from one another, at one and the same time. Since his death, he seems to have an additional special gift of ubiquity among his numberless followers, ready to help them everywhere at any time, in every distress (GSAP page 12). In the words of Pope Leo XIII, “Saint Anthony is the Saint not of Padua only, but of the whole world. His message shall embrace all and exclude none (GSAP page 70).
Everyone of the miracles of Saint Anthony of Padua that we have narrated and recalled here is relevant to our pathetic situation in Nigeria today. The great Saint Anthony of Padua is prepared to deliver us and our country Nigeria from the bloodshed, invasion, islamisation, fulanisation, all the ills that are tearing apart our dear country. Saint Anthony is willing and ready to rescue us from all of them, all the evils that are at work in our fatherland. All that he requires of us is to listen to his voice, namely, the voice of the gospel of Christ. He demands from us faith in the power of God, faith in the saving action of God in Christ. Saint Anthony had a very strong devotion to the Holy Eucharist. He invites us to cultivate the same. And he lived a good Christian life. And he is asking us to do the same, that is, to live a clean way of life. No more deceit. No more taking what does not belong to you. No more living in sin. Say no to sin, today. Say no to evil, in your house, in your home, in your school, in your place of work, in your business, in your place of worship, in your life, in your own little world, and take this matter seriously. Do everything in a way that will please God, in a way that will bring honour and glory to the one, holy, immortal, eternal God. Make a firm resolution about it. Sincerely mean it, and you will see, with the unfailing help of God, that all the evils that are at work in our country right now will cease. One by one, they will die a natural death. And you will see that life will again spring up in our fatherland. Antho! Padua. Antho! Padua.
My Dearest Anthonians, Happy Feast Day!
This very important urgent message is addressed to you, first and foremost, and then to the rest of my brothers and sisters in Christ, who wish to become Anthonians. We need you. We need Anthonians, true sons and daughters of Saint Anthony of Padua to rescue us Nigerians and save our country Nigeria from complete collapse, literally. We need thousands and millions of Anthonians, but above all we need the faith of any number of you. We need your firm faith in the Holy Eucharist, and we need the continued conversion of our lives. That is what is required, and Is going to turn things around. Do you believe it? I do. Let us not be like Guillard. Once we start to listen as little children to the voice of Saint Anthony of Padua things will begin to turn around for the better, immediately. Antho! Padua. Antho! Padua.
• Rev. Fr. (Prof.) Pachomius Okojie, OSB is a Philosopher, Medical Ethicist, Liturgy Researcher, Professor of Philosophy and Bioethnics and former Secretary General of the International Benedictine University (Sant’ Anselmo) Rome.