St Anthony of Padua

(in Italy) Doctor of the Church (entered heaven 1231)

Dear Toni,

I empathize with your frustration.  Your fellow Compass members must be related to my guards – they too make absolutely no response to my many requests and entreaties.  But maybe the problem isn’t with THEM; maybe it’s with US.  Maybe nobody listens to our great ideas and eloquent harangues because our lives discredit us.  Your predicament makes me think of a couple sentences spoken centuries ago by today’s saint, a true marvel among men.

Anthony was born in Lisbon, Portugal, and entered religious life when he was only 15.  For nine years he prayed and studied and grew in the love of God, especially through spending time with the Holy Scriptures.  Then he met some Franciscans and felt called to join up so he could become a martyr while trying to convert the Muslims in North Africa.  He set sail, but a storm drove them off course and he ended up disembarking on the shores of Italy.  Soon he had met St Francis of Assisi and was assigned to a hermitage in northeastern Italy.

One day, during the celebration that followed a large ordination ceremony, he was serendipitously invited to give the traditional speech (he hadn’t been scheduled to do so, but miscommunication had produced an embarrassing situation in which neither the Dominicans nor the Franciscans present had prepared the required talk).  His eloquence and learning, acquired so humbly during his years back in Portugal and his long commute to Italy, so shocked the assembly that he was immediately sent out to preach among all the towns and cities of northern Italy.  His fame erupted overnight, as did a sweeping moral reform and widespread return of heretics.

His holiness was so palpable that often just the sight of him brought sinners to their knees.  People used to spend the night inside churches in order to assure a good seat for the morning’s sermon.  Once he converted a heretic mule driver when he inspired the mule to genuflect in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.  Soon he added a professorship in theology to his list of responsibilities, and when he died at the young age of 34, he had sufficiently impressed the Pope and the people of Italy with his fervent and contagious love for God and the Holy Scriptures that he was canonized in less than a year.

In one of his remarkable sermons, Anthony gave the following observation: “Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak. We are full of words but empty of actions, and therefore are cursed by the Lord, since he himself cursed the fig tree when he found no fruit but only leaves. It is useless for a man to flaunt his knowledge of the law if he undermines its teaching by his actions.”  Maybe if you and I took that little lesson to heart, and started ACTING more like Christ instead of just TALKING about Christ, we would have a better effect on people.  It’s worth considering, anyway.

Your devoted uncle,


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