Irrigating the desert of indifference with St. Anthony and water of Mercy

Having been the patron saint of the Custody of the Holy Land since 1920, St. Anthony of Padua is solemnly and fervently celebrated on June 13 each year, the date of his death.

The festivities began Sunday, June 12, with vespers. Sixty Franciscans were present to celebrate their patron saintwith pomp and circumstance. In a short homily, the Custostalked about how Anthony of Padua was an Apostle of Mercy. Based on the sermons delivered by the saint, he concluded his remarks by inviting the faithful to be attentive to the saint’s preaching in order to learn how to “irrigate the desert of indifference with water of Mercy.”

At the end of the service, religious and lay people crowded together to venerate the saint’s relics and to receive St. Anthony’s bread from the hands of the new Custos, Francesco Patton. This gesture recalls the generosity and kindness of a saint who fed the poor. Smiles could be seen on the participants’ faces. The friars and the faithful greeted each other warmly with “auguri,” “happy feast day” and “happy holiday”: this is a time for celebration.

The next day, Saint Savior’s Church, which was splendidly decorated, also welcomed friars and from the parish community, the consuls general of the Latin countries (France, Belgium, Spain and Italy) also were present,in addition to representatives from different Christian denominations in Jerusalem. Responding to theCustos’ traditional invitation, their presence demonstrates how attached the people are to this saint, one of the Church’s the most revered and most well-loved saints. It is even a tradition among some Christian families to consecrate a child to the saint before the celebration out of gratitude for graces obtained. These children were playfully dressed as St. Anthony and were easy to notice.

In his homily, the Custos invited his followers to take St. Anthony of Padua as a model so that he maywalk with them through life’s trials. Fr. Francesco ended his sermon with an excerpt from the sermon given by St. Anthony on the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, a beautiful prayer in which love is present throughout. “Lord Jesus, we pray to unite us in a bond of love with you and with our brothers and sisters, so that we may love you with all our hearts and so deeply that we will never be separatedfrom your love.” The solemn mass ended with the anthem of the Custody of the Holy Land, Super Murostuos Jerusalem, sung by the Custody’s choir. After the celebration, the congregation was invited for refreshments at the church hall.

The festivities concluded around vespers, celebrated by the guardian of Saint Savior’s monastery, Fr.Stéphane. Led by the voices of the friars, the community was able to venerate the saint’s relics one last time for this very special occasion.

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