VATICAN CITY, FEB. 10, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI today considered the spiritual contribution to history of a saint he characterized as one of the most popular in the whole Catholic Church.
Following his reflections last week and the week before on Sts. Francis and Dominic, the Pope today considered one of the key cofounders of the Franciscans, St. Anthony of Padua.
A gifted preacher, this saint initiated one of the “specific features of Franciscan theology,” the Holy Father said, namely “the role given to divine love, which enters in the sphere of affection, of the will, of the heart and which is also the source from which springs a spiritual knowledge that surpasses all knowledge.”
In fact, the Pontiff affirmed, “Anthony contributed in a significant way to the development of Franciscan spirituality, with his outstanding gifts of intelligence, balance, apostolic zeal and, mainly, mystical fervor.”
Born in 1195, and given the name Fernando, the future Franciscan initially joined the Canons of St. Augustine. In 1220, when he learned of the first five Franciscan missionaries who had gone to Morocco and were martyred, Fernando decided to join the Franciscans and took the name Anthony.
He would later serve as the provincial superior of the Franciscans of northern Italy. Toward the end of his life, he dedicated himself to writing two collections of sermons.
“The wealth of the spiritual teachings contained in the ‘Sermons’ is such that, in 1946, the Venerable Pope Pius XII proclaimed Anthony a doctor of the Church, attributing to him the title of ‘Evangelic Doctor,’ because from these writings arises the freshness and beauty of the Gospel; even today we can read them with great spiritual profit,” Benedict XVI said.
The Holy Father highlighted Anthony’s teaching on prayer found in the Sermons: “He speaks of prayer as a relationship of love, which drives man to converse sweetly with the Lord, creating an ineffable joy, which gently envelops the soul in prayer.
“Anthony reminds us that prayer needs an atmosphere of silence, which is not the same as withdrawal from external noise, but is an interior experience, which seeks to remove the distractions caused by the soul’s preoccupations. According to the teaching of this distinguished Franciscan doctor, prayer is made up of four indispensable attitudes which, in Anthony’s Latin, are described as: obsecratio, oratio, postulatio, gratiarum actio. We could translate them thus: to open one’s heart confidently to God, to speak affectionately with him, to present to him our needs, to praise him and to thank him.”
The Pontiff noted Anthony’s teaching that prayer is a requisite for progress in the spiritual life.
“Anthony many times invites the faithful to think of true wealth, that of the heart, which, making them good and merciful, makes them accumulate treasures for Heaven,” the Pontiff said. And he added, “Is not this perhaps, dear friends, a very important teaching also today, when the financial crisis and the serious economic imbalances impoverish not a few persons and create conditions of misery?”
In his English-language summary of the audience address, the Holy Father invited the faithful to pray with Anthony’s intercession: “In this Year for Priests, let us ask St. Anthony to pray that all preachers will communicate a burning love for Christ, a thirst for closeness to the Lord in prayer, and a deeper appreciation of the truth and beauty of God’s word.”
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Full text: http://www.zenit.org/article-28316?l=english