The feast day of the patron saint, St Anthony, in Jaffa

The feast day of the patron saint, St Anthony, in Jaffa

The parish church of St Anthony in Jaffa (Tel Aviv) celebrated its patron saint, St Anthony, on 8 June, the Saturday closest to the actual feast-day. This allowed great participation by all the groups that make up this variegated community: the majority are Filipinos, but there are also Africans, Indians, Latin Americans, Poles and members of the Arabic-and Hebrew-speaking communities.

They are above all immigrant workers who, together with their families, meet on Saturdays to celebrate the Day of the Lord (Sunday is a working day in Israel). Different choirs animated the liturgy, but all together they sang the joy of being Christians with a single voice. The community also accompanied six of its children to receive First Communion.

Ambassadors of peace

The Mass was presided over by fra Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land, together with the parish priest, fra Agustin Pelayo, the friars of the community of Jaffa and other friars and priests who came for the occasion. In his homily, the Custos indicated St Anthony as a prophetic figure for our times. “St Anthony also lived in a violent social context and as a true disciple of St Francis, tried with all his strength to be an ambassador of peace for his fellow citizens. He tried to educate the people of his time on peace through his preaching.”

Receiving Jesus and His life

At the time for Communion, six children from the Filipino, Arab and Hebrew-speaking communities received the Sacrament for the first time. “You will soon be receiving the body and the blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” the Custos told them. “The Body means that you will receive Jesus personally: not a symbol but the real Jesus. And you will receive His blood, that is, His life, which will make you live as Christians, as part of His body. Be grateful, entrust your life to the Lord, receive Him with faith and love.” The Custos thanked fra Carlos Santos and fra Apolinary Szwed who had formed and accompanied these children with the catechism.

Different languages, a single Bread

At the end of the Mass, the Custos blessed and distributed St Anthony’s bread. This is a sign of communion for the parish community, which has different cultures and languages but shares the same Bread, the Eucharist. Fra Agustin, on behalf of the community, gave the Custos an icon of St Anthony as a gift. Fra Patton promised remembering the saint daily in his prayers, confiding the particular devotion he and his family have for the Portuguese saint, “without whom I would not have been born.” After Mass, the different communities presented some traditional songs and dances and shared a fraternal dinner marked by internationality.

Marinella Bandini