The Custody celebrates the feast of its patron saint, St. Anthony of Padua | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

The Custody celebrates the feast of its patron saint, St. Anthony of Padua

St. Anthony of Padua is an important saint in Jerusalem. In 1920, Pope Benedict XV proclaimed him as patron of the Custody. The special relationship between the saint from Padua and the Franciscans of the Holy Land dates back to much earlier. The protection of the saint was important during the Anglo-Turkish conflict and in 1917, when the friars risked being imprisoned. Even today through the intercession of St. Anthony, there are many graces that the friars of the Custody still receive. For this reason too, at the celebrations in honor of the saint that took place on June 13, the church of St. Savior in Jerusalem was packed and, since the First Vespers of the day before, many Franciscans from the monasteries of the Custody, local faithful and international workers, came together.

The singing of the psalms in the evening opened the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, Doctor of the Church. In his homily, the Custos identified a key word for interpreting the life of the Saint and the title that the Church has given him—”wisdom.” “Wisdom is a recurring theme in St. Anthony’s sermons,” said Fr. Francesco Patton. “As St. Anthony himself said, ‘When we speak of Wisdom, we should remember that we are talking about Christ, we should remember that this Wisdom enlightens every man and guides us to understand the profound meaning of our life and history.’” The Custos recalled that at St. Savior’s, a formation house where the theology that was taught for the first time by Saint Anthony is taught and studied, the friars must remember that “the deep meaning of study is to know Jesus Christ, to find in him the meaning of life and announce it to those who do not know him.”

According to tradition, the distribution of St. Anthony’s bread took place, which recalls the saint's charity for the poor. After kissing the relic, the Custos gave each person a symbolic piece of bread.
The Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate Mons. Pizzaballa also participated n the mass on June 13 in honor of the patron of the Custody, along with representatives of various Christian churches: Armenians, Greek Orthodox, Copts, Syriacs and Lutherans. Civil authorities, such as the general consuls of Spain and France and the vice-consul of Italy, were also present.

“St. Anthony is a friend who intercedes for us in an extraordinarily effective way and this is what the friars of the Custody witness to.” This is what the Custos of the Holy Land said in his homily and he continued, “In the most difficult moments we have relied on his intercession and we have not been unheard. In particular, our brothers living in Syria have said that they have experienced the protection of St. Anthony when on more than one occasion the mortar shells have hit our churches without leading to any victims.” Fr. Patton described the life of the Saint, who was originally from Portugal, from the beginning of his life, to the priesthood, to his discovery of the Franciscan Order, all the way to his experience as a preacher, teacher of theology and miracle worker.

“We ask for the intercession of St. Anthony to be tireless seekers of what God wants from us,” said the Custos.
Then, as is tradition with the feast of St. Anthony, the consecration of the Custody to its patron saint, was repeated. With joy and emotion, a special blessing closed the celebration. It is a tradition, in fact, that on the day, the children—who throughout the year have worn a small Franciscan habit, as a gesture of devotion by their parents—are blessed. After the blessing, there is the removal of the habit, which is then donated to another child, who will wear it for the following year.
A convivial gathering with food and drink followed the mass, which continued the festivities of St. Anthony in an atmosphere of communion.

Beatrice Guarrera