Lent with Saint Anthony DAILY REFLECTIONS ..... Pat McCloskey, ofm
Forty is special. The flood was 40 days of rain. The Israelites wandered 40 years in the desert. Jesus fasted 40 days. Lent involves 40 days before Easter. Stick this booklet in your pocket or purse. Take it with you on your commute. Use it as spiritual food to help prepare you for the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Fr. Dan Kroger Publisher Franciscan Media
Lent with Saint Anthony Daily Reflections Pat McCloskey, OFM
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner. St. Anthony quotes are from St. Anthony of Padua: Wisdom for Today, by Pat McCloskey, OFM (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1977). Cover and book design by Mark Sullivan Copyright ©2018, by Pat McCloskey, OFM. All rights reserved. Published by Franciscan Media 28 W. Liberty St. Cincinnati, OH 45202 www.FranciscanMedia.org
Ash Wednesday “God leads us away from sin and vice to inner solitude, to peace of mind and heart. When we become strong in virtue, God speaks to our hearts in the depths of prayer.” Anthony of Padua may have been present when Francis of Assisi said that each friar is what he is before God—nothing more. In all fairness, we need to add “and nothing less.” Lenten penance does not involve lying to ourselves (I don’t like to eat candy, smoke, or drink) but living in deeper and deeper truth about who we are before God, in relation to others, and in our own eyes. Praying with Saint Anthony Loving God, this Lent we want to allow you to speak to our hearts in the depths of prayer. Help us remove whatever may hinder that.
Thursday After Ash Wednesday “Sinners must unhesitatingly put all their works squarely before their mind’s eye and regard them attentively. Thus, they will be able to produce the fruit of repentance.” We give different names to different sins, but every sin is basically alike, for it begins with a lie to oneself: No one will get hurt; I’m entitled to this; this path is a shortcut because God’s ways are too difficult. Sin never delivers on the shortcuts that temptations promise. Only radical honesty can produce the fruit of repentance. Praying with Saint Anthony Loving God, help us learn to use our freedom wisely and honestly because we become most like you when we make good choices.
Friday After Ash Wednesday “If sinners simply pause and reflect, they will see how marred and tarnished are their consciences, and they will be conscious of how much dust their darkened souls have concealed.” Anthony of Padua was very good at using striking images to cut through the fog that we easily create about our lives and the consequences of our actions. Regular reflection will identify the dust in our lives, those attitudes and actions that can never lead us closer to God but which we have trouble describing honestly. Praying with Saint Anthony Jesus, you know how much we pride ourselves on being “normal.” Help us to see that the kingdom of God you describe in the Scriptures is the only real “normal.”
Saturday After Ash Wednesday “O the mercy of God! Recall the words of Isaiah: ‘Cry and the Lord will answer. Call and he will say: I am here, for I, the Lord your God am merciful.’” Anthony of Padua would reject how some Christians describe God in the Old Testament as extremely strict and always eager to punish. The prophet Isaiah emphasized in this quote the mercy of God, what Pope Francis has described as God’s very nature. The Hebrew word for mercy is derived from its word for womb. Each gives life where it previously did not exist. Praying with Saint Anthony God Father, Son and Holy Spirit, help me to make your mercy a more natural part of my life.
First Sunday of Lent â€œGod gives his judgment to just people, the good followers of Christ, that they may judge themselves so that God will not find in them anything to condemn.â€? All Anthony quotes in this book come from sermon notes that he wrote to help other friars draw people to embrace the freedom that God has always wanted them to have. God did not have to create anything. All creation, as Francis of Assisi realized, can lead us back to the triune God who created us and everything else in perfect freedom. Lent helps us to live in that freedom. Praying with Saint Anthony According to one rabbi, you, God, created humans because you enjoy stories. Show us how to accept the story you want for us.
First Monday of Lent “’My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit’ (Ps 51:19). The divine image, defiled by sin, becomes, in turn, a sacrifice that the humbled sinner may offer to God to obtain pardon and reconciliation.” Many Christians find great consolation in the Old Testament’s Book of Psalms, for these prayers spring from every human emotion. They remind us of our tremendous birthright that we are often tempted to bargain away on disastrous terms. Consider reading one psalm—or at least part of a psalm—each day during Lent. Praying with Saint Anthony God, you love the human family and want only what is best for each of us. Help us see our contrition as always drawing us to you.
First Tuesday of Lent “As the body and all its parts are supported by the feet, so all vices are based on pride, for pride is the root of every sin.” Sinful pride always begins as a lie that we tell ourselves. Just as potato chip companies boast that we cannot eat only one chip, so sinful pride starts with one lie and quickly multiplies. The holder of a world athletic record is not being sinfully proud in acknowledging that record. Just as this athlete has broken someone else’s record, another athlete will probably break this new record. Sinful pride always downplays how much others have contributed to a person’s success. Praying with Saint Anthony Loving God, you are proud of each one of us. Help us to remember the true source of our richness: our relationship with you.
First Wednesday of Lent “Greedy people are never truly rich, but poor. They do not control their money but are controlled by it. They do not possess wealth but are possessed by it. They may have many things, but they consider that they have all too little.” The more honestly we live before God, the more quickly we realize that what prevents us from being truly happy is never some object that we lack or some experience that we would like to have. When we banish “if only” from our vocabulary, we will realize that we already have the power to be truly happy. Praying with Saint Anthony Gracious God, help us remember that because you care for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, you care even more for the women, men, and children you have created.
First Thursday of Lent “A good work done without devotion is like a lamp without oil.” A good work done without devotion is simply for show, meant only to impress someone else and not to express what is deep within a person’s heart. Under these circumstances, having an audience is more important than feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, or any other corporal or spiritual work of mercy. Some say that character is what you are when you think that no one is looking. Praying with Saint Anthony God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, everything you do reflects your overflowing love. Give us the courage to follow your example.
First Friday of Lent “It is only in adversity that we come to know whether we have made any progress in goodness.” Adversity tends to purify our motives, showing what truly explains our actions. Each person can easily imagine more loving family members, more helpful coworkers, and more loyal friends. God did not create us to live in a “what if?” world but rather in this one—right here, right now, with all our gifts and especially with all our blind spots. Praying with Saint Anthony Jesus, you had more right than anyone else who has ever lived to say, “That’s so unfair!” Give us courage to defend our rights without becoming paralyzed by the injustices that we have suffered.
First Saturday of Lent “Two things the devil fears above all: the fire of charity and the well-trodden path of humility.” There is a good reason that for centuries Christians have called the devil “the father of lies.” He would have us believe that charity and humility are tremendous wastes of our time, talent, and energy. All those present at the Easter Vigil will be asked to renounce the lure of evil and Satan’s empty show because they never deliver what they promise. Praying with Saint Anthony God of light, you invite us to join you in the light, but all too often we prefer the darkness. Help us to recognize Satan’s lies for what they truly are.
Second Sunday of Lent “The poor of Jesus Christ walk roughshod over the passing things of this world. Unless we keep our hearts thus unfettered, how can we come to the Lord?” The “poor of Christ” see things as God sees them, and thus they are not deceived about the importance of certain people and events. Those who are lured into making judgments on the basis of this world’s sense of winners and losers will always find God’s perspective puzzling at best—and certainly too demanding for mere mortals like themselves. Praying with Saint Anthony Loving God, you know how easily distracted we can be. Help us keep our focus on your grace and whatever leads us to share in superabundant life you wish us to enjoy. May we learn to judge all situations in the light of your Gospels.
Second Monday of Lent â€œCharity is the soul of faith and gives it life and energy. If we lose charity by sin, faith itself must die within us.â€? Without a deep sense of the charity that Jesus preached, we tend to become hard and brittle in all the wrong situations. Acting on this approach, we constantly fight the wrong battles against the wrong opponents. In Matthew 25:31â€“46, those who are condemned for not feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, etc., had long before become hard and brittle, whereas those who engaged in these works of mercy were the genuine realists. Praying with Saint Anthony Lord, help me to make the right decisions today about what truly matters in your eyes.
Second Tuesday of Lent “If our life contradicts our belief, it doesn’t matter if we shout God’s praises.” In a sense, Anthony here is simply rephrasing what Jesus says in Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven but only the one who does the will of my father in heaven.” When we think we are not being understood, we sometimes simply speak louder—as though that will solve the problem. Living with integrity shows whether the faith we very publicly profess is deep or thin, whether it comes from our core or is simply a veneer. Praying with Saint Anthony God, you have no public face and then a very different real face. You are love and mercy through and through. Help me during this Lent to trust that you are always enough for me.
Second Wednesday of Lent “Where charity and mutual love are found, there is the community of the saints of God.” If someone who didn’t belong in heaven were able to sneak in, would he or she be happy there? Certainly not, for the gate crasher’s sense of normal would constantly clash with what the people already there, the communion of saints, consider normal. People with different political, religious, or social views will not get an eternity in heaven to try to win other people over to their side. There God’s values will finally prevail. Praying with Saint Anthony Loving God, you invite us to share life with you as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Show us how to prepare now to enjoy your eternal banquet.
Second Thursday of Lent “Fortified by the wall of the Incarnate Word, the Church will continue in peace and security until the end.” On returning to the United States after a long trip to Europe, Mark Twain once remarked that reports of his death had been greatly exaggerated. Reports of the Church’s demise have been greatly exaggerated for centuries. Although its members have often been countersigns to their Baptism, God is infinitely patient, constantly inviting us to conversion and thus to genuine happiness. Praying with Saint Anthony Heavenly Father, you sent Jesus for our peace and security. Help us not to seek those elsewhere and at some supposedly cheaper price.
Second Friday of Lent “If the winds of this world’s contempt blow and beat against the Church, it stands fast because a wise man has built it on firm rock.” The Catholic Church was in a tough spot during Anthony’s lifetime. Parts of it were very wealthy and politically influential, but many people noted the contrast between what they saw and what Jesus preached. Even so, the Church preached the very Gospel that people used as a yardstick to measure how far It fell short. The word of God was broken open, sacraments were celebrated, and many people grew in holiness. Praying with Saint Anthony Gracious God, help us not to give up on your Church because it still embraces sinners.
Second Saturday of Lent “The sheep who follow Christ the Good Shepherd are the faithful members of the Church who daily offer their contrite hearts as sacrifices that are spotless, holy, and pleasing to God.” Many members of the Church truly “walk the talk” about Jesus’ good news. Not everyone who leaves the Church in disgust because its members are still sinners can automatically claim to have become a saint. It might be nice to think that, this side of heaven, conversion can be accomplished onceand-for-all, but there is no evidence that is possible. We gradually open our lives to God’s grace. Praying with Saint Anthony God, lover of the human family, help us to keep opening our lives to your healing grace.
Third Sunday of Lent “No one is closer to us than he who healed our wounds, for Christ is one with his members. Let us, therefore, love him as our Lord and God.” What is the most important thing that you intend to do today—or have already done? Would God agree with that ranking? God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is more attentive to us than we are to ourselves. Jesus Christ, the firstborn of all creation, is constantly seeking what is good for us, even though we may think danger is far away. Lent is an ideal time to reconsider our priorities and take appropriate action. Praying with Saint Anthony Good and gracious God, you know how easily we get our wires crossed. Help us to imitate St. Paul who finally straightened out his sense of loss and gain (Phil 3:7-8).
Third Monday of Lent “Some people keep putting off confession for a long time. How do you know if tomorrow will dawn for you?” When a washing machine is overloaded, it shuts down automatically. People, however, can lie to themselves about what is happening. They can force themselves to keep going when they should be paying attention to warning signals about their choices. Confession offers us a unique opportunity to reconsider the direction—or drift—of our life. Praying with Saint Anthony Loving God, you are more eager to forgive me than I am to seek your forgiveness—or to forgive myself. Help me to grow in the direction that leads to the abundant life you wish to share with all people.
Third Tuesday of Lent “The Sacrament of Penance is a kind of baptism of water and the Holy Spirit, of the spirit of contrition and of the water of a tearful confession. Those who have lost through mortal sin the grace of their first Baptism can recover those treasures by the power of this second baptism.” Anthony traveled with an entourage of confessors for the sake of people who repented after he preached. His words often held up a mirror to their lives, and then they realized that their pursuit of freedom all too often led to a type of slavery. Pope Francis reminded us during the 2016 Holy Year of Mercy that the confessional should be an encounter with our merciful God. Praying with Saint Anthony “Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me” (Ps 51:4).
Third Wednesday of Lent “In confession, penitents see their sins, name them contritely, and hear the voice of God through the ministry of the priest.” On June 2, 2016, Pope Francis spoke to priests making a retreat in Rome and said, “Let us go to the confessional, where the truth sets us free.” He said that confessors need to be an attractive sign of an encounter. They are to be “instruments and signs that help two people join in an embrace,” like the prodigal son and his father. According to Pope Francis, good confessors help penitents speak frankly, “as Jesus did with Nicodemus.” Praying with Saint Anthony Lord, I have not always found the confessional a place where the truth sets me free. Help me seek out the freedom that you offer there.
Third Thursday of Lent “Some people lose their tongues in the confessional and babble their sins in a whisper. They weren’t ashamed to commit them, but they are ashamed to confess them.” During the same talk that was quoted in yesterday’s reflection, Pope Francis told a group of priests: “It is characteristic of mercy to cover sin with its cloak. We can think of that touching passage about the two sons of Noah, who covered with a cloak their father’s nakedness in his drunkenness” (Gn 9:23). Confessors and penitents both need to be covered with the cloak of God’s mercy. Praying with Saint Anthony Forgiving God, help all those now on the cusp of conversion to take the next step that will lead them to you.
Third Friday of Lent “When a crystal is touched or struck by the rays of the sun, it gives forth brilliant sparks of light. When people of faith are touched by the light of God’s grace, they also must give forth sparks of light in their good words and deeds, and so bring God’s light to others.” At the Easter Vigil, the flame from the paschal candle will be quickly and enthusiastically spread among all those in attendance. You cannot imagine anyone there hoarding the flame already received from someone else. We share God’s grace especially through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Crystals show the rich colors contained in sunlight. Praying with Saint Anthony Lord, you light up our lives with your grace.
Third Saturday of Lent “How great is the charity of the beloved! How great the love of the bridegroom for his spouse, the Church.” After the Our Father at every Mass, the priest asks Jesus in the name of all present, “Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will.” We may be very conscious of sin among the Church’s members, but we should never forget the shared faith that helps people cope with personal betrayals, health tragedies, natural disasters, and the wanton disregard of born and unborn human life. Praying with Saint Anthony Lord, you are the source of all blessings and our consolation in every sorrow.
Fourth Sunday of Lent “We can pray in a threefold way: with our heart, with our mouth, and with our hands.” Anthony is describing here a truly integrated prayer. When a religious hypocrite prays, what his or her mouth says is immediately contradicted by what is in that person’s heart, by the actions that have become normal for that individual. Anthony didn’t know the expression “Walk the talk,” but that is what the quote above truly describes. Genuine prayer must begin with honesty and end with generous action. Praying with Saint Anthony O God, you are the source of all the blessings that we have ever experienced. Guide us during this Lenten season to bring our thoughts, words, and actions into a deeper harmony that reflects the lifegiving divine image in which you have created us.
Fourth Monday of Lent “When people withdraw from the turbulence of the world and rest in quiet and solitude, tasting the bread of tears as they think over their sins, the Lord makes himself known to them.” Prayer can be a thin veneer or a deep cleansing that enables us to see ourselves and others as God sees the world. That requires breaking at least temporarily from any activities to which we may have become overly attached. What was the most important thing that you did yesterday? What is the most important thing that you intend to do today? Would God rate their importance as you do? Solitude may be needed to ask and answer that question. Praying with Saint Anthony St. Augustine lived and wrote this profound insight: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”
Fourth Tuesday of Lent “If we want to have our own way always, aren’t we really seeking our reward here below in the things of this life?” Your world—my world, anyone’s world—doesn’t automatically become larger with the simple passing of time. It grows or shrinks through the decisions that we make each day. Anthony’s quote recognizes that insisting on our way at all times and at all costs is, in fact, a deliberate shrinking of our world because only one person ultimately counts: me. Praying with Saint Anthony Lord, help me to accept your definition of normal, your description of what may have to go if I am to live in the freedom and dignity that reflect the life of your Blessed Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Fourth Wednesday of Lent “When a soul lies before Christ like fertile land, it is a Garden of Eden in which bloom the rose of love, the violet of humility, and the lily of purity.” Shortly after he turned 21, Angelo Roncalli (the future St. John XXIII) wrote that if he was to become a saint, it would not be “as the dry, bloodless reproduction of a model, however perfect.” Holiness grows from dealing with the circumstances of one’s life. Roncalli wrote that if St. Aloysius Gonzaga, who died as a Jesuit seminarian, were as Roncalli was, “He would have become holy in a different way.” Praying with Saint Anthony God, the creator of diversity, you invite us to become holy by responding generously to your grace, which always leads us by slightly different paths to the home you have prepared for us.
Fourth Thursday of Lent â€œAs the rainbow in the clouds (Gn 9:13) after the flood was a sign of the covenant between God and the Earth, so Mary is truly the sign of the covenant and peace between God and the sinner.â€? The rainbow is a very public sign that God has promised not to destroy the world by another flood. Pagan gods were unlikely to make such a promise, but God, in the Book of Genesis, does not hesitate to make such a promise. Mary, the mother of Jesus, points not to herself but always to her Son, who invites us to accept the divine life we were always meant to enjoy. Praying with Saint Anthony Good and gracious God, help us to remember that Mary was your disciple before she became the mother of Jesus. Show us how to be the best disciples that we can possibly be.
Fourth Friday of Lent “The world is like a field; bearing fruit there is as difficult as it is praiseworthy. Christians bring forth fruit where all too easily the twin sprouts of grace—the spirit of a life of virtue and the fragrance of a good name—wither and die.” Grains, fruits, and vegetables grow according to the soil, rain, and sunlight to which they are exposed. They do not choose to grow into their full potential—or not. People, however, are not equally determined by external forces. They can choose how to react to life, how to interpret the events of life. When people grow in God’s ways, they see all creation differently, with deeper humility and reverence. Praying with Saint Anthony “Teach me the way I should go” (Ps 143:8).
Fourth Saturday of Lent “When the Holy Spirit enters a person’s soul, he fills it with his fire and lets it enkindle others. All things that draw near that individual feel the Spirit’s renewing warmth.” In two weeks, the Catholic Church will baptize adults and children at the Easter Vigil while receiving into full communion women and men who have already received this sacrament. The Lenten season is not simply our private preparation for Easter. It enables us to accompany those who will soon have new life in Christ. Lent reminds us that we must be the Body of Christ that we regularly receive in Holy Communion. Praying with Saint Anthony Lord, help me never to extinguish your grace and to give good example to all your disciples.
Fifth Sunday of Lent “When the grace of the Holy Spirit is lacking, a person’s heart grows cold and ceases to bear fruit. Soon the frost of sin will destroy all the life within.” In a sense, the grace of the Holy Spirit is like a radio or television wave—always present but requiring a way of being received. Individuals who close themselves off to the grace of the Holy Spirit live in a progressively smaller world with an expanding list of people who don’t count and organizations that have let them down. Convincing themselves that they are more free than other people, they are literally “dying on the vine.” Praying with Saint Anthony Lord, help me open my heart to your grace and the sacrifices it will ask of me.
Feast of Saint Joseph “The virtuous lives of the saints are like a measuring line stretched over our souls to make sure our lives take the proper shape and measure up to their good example. When we celebrate the lives of the saints, let us look to them as giving us the pattern our lives should take.” On this day five years ago, Pope Francis was officially installed in St. Peter’s Square as the successor of St. Peter and the bishop of Rome. At that Mass, he preached about the saintly example of St. Joseph, “a just man” as the Gospel of Matthew describes him. Praying with Saint Anthony Heavenly Father, help me imitate the integrity of St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus.
Fifth Tuesday of Lent â€œThe saints are the stars. In his providence, Christ conceals them in a hidden place that they may not shine before others when they might wish to do so. Yet they are always ready to exchange the quiet of contemplation for the works of mercy as soon as they perceive in their heart the invitation of Christ.â€? Saints are not totally committed to their own agenda or to their personal projects. No, they are available for what God may ask of them, as we see in the example of St. Joseph, whose feast we celebrated yesterday. Praying with Saint Anthony Gracious God, help me set aside my personal preference and accept the way in which you wish to use the gifts that come from you so generously.
Fifth Wednesday of Lent “How desperately we need the light of God’s grace to see the sad state of our conscience! That grace shows us the real state of our soul and induces us to clean up our hearts.” During the lifetime of St. Anthony, the Catholic Church decided that the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist were being admired from afar, but not received regularly. In 1215, the Church decreed that Catholics must confess any mortal sins at least once a year and receive Holy Communion. Anthony’s preaching led many people to repent. Praying with Saint Anthony Good and gracious God, help us to see sin for the dead end that it always is, never leading to greater freedom but always away from it—at great cost to ourselves and others.
Fifth Thursday of Lent â€œIf we are standing together and I have a rose in my hand, the rose is mine, and yet you no less than I rejoice in its beauty and its perfume. So shall it be in eternal life: My glory shall be your consolation and exultation, and yours shall be mine.â€? Not every situation is a zero/sum event. If you cut yourself a very large piece of pie, not much is left for anyone else. Blessings are not diminished when they are shared. If we perceive some scarcity, we are anxious that we not be left out and may be ready to use any means to guarantee that we receive what we think we deserve. Praying with Saint Anthony God of all creation, you give us no reason to try to hoard your blessings. Allow our hearts to be stretched by your grace.
Fifth Friday of Lent “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart” (Mt 22:37). Note well that Christ says, ‘Your whole heart.’ He doesn’t leave a corner of your heart for yourself but bids you offer the whole of it to him! He bought the whole of you by giving his whole self for you, that he alone might possess every part of you.” Abundance can almost be considered God’s middle name. Jesus scandalized people who worshiped a God as stingy as they were. A gas released in an enclosed space will eventually diffuse itself equally throughout the volume available. God’s grace likewise spreads itself, unless we create an impenetrable obstacle. Praying with Saint Anthony Lord, use me as you know best.
Fifth Saturday of Lent “If your neighbors are blinded by pride, give them light as far as you can by your humility.” Many of us easily take offense at the sins of others, mistakenly thinking that we must do this in order to defend God’s honor. This approach always presents someone else’s actions (or inaction) as the key to explaining my actions—or inaction. The true damage of another person’s sins is that this individual is further encouraged to believe some type of lie. The best response to that is living calmly the truth as we have come to know it. Praying with Saint Anthony O God, you are the fullness of truth. Help me to accept that truth into my life humbly—to your honor and glory!
Palm (Passion) Sunday “Behold how your king has come to you, in meekness and suffering, seeking to be loved and served—not feared because of his power.” The concept of “servant leader” is now slowly making its ways into books and presentations on business and management leadership. Jesus enters Jerusalem as a servant leader. In the eyes of many people, this was probably one more mistake in his challenging message and style of life. When he showed himself a servant leader by washing the feet of his apostles at the Last Supper, they were greatly confused. Praying with Saint Anthony Loving God, help us to live truthfully before you as servant leaders, ready to do your will rather than ours.
Monday of Holy Week “Today Christ stands at our door and knocks in the person of his poor. It is to him that we open when we give aid, when we give ourselves to those in need, for he tells us plainly, ‘When you do this to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you do it to me’ ” (Mt 25:40, NRSV). St. Anthony was certainly familiar with the quote “He who mocks a poor man blasphemes his Creator” (Prv 17:5). Experience shows that we easily divide poor people into “deserving” and “undeserving” and omit the word people. Perhaps those condemned in Matthew 25:31-46 had done that. Praying with Saint Anthony O God, lover of the human family, help us to remember that each person we meet today has been made in your image and likeness.
Tuesday of Holy Week “When Jesus came in sight of Jerusalem, he shed tears over it” (Lk 19:41). Yet the Lord wept not so much for the earthly city, but for the souls of its inhabitants.” The people for whom Jesus wept probably considered themselves great realists and saw him as an out-of-touch idealist. They simply found the kingdom of God that he preached as requiring too many changes to what they regarded as “normal.” It was much easier to dismiss him than to consider the possibility that they might have things upside down. Many people alive in Jesus’ day lived to see Jerusalem and its temple destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. Praying with Saint Anthony “God, help us trust in you so completely that you will become everything to everyone” (1 Cor 15:28, RSV, Catholic Edition).
Wednesday of Holy Week “Sinners who have recovered the grace that they had lost have three reasons for being full of joy. They should rejoice that they did not die in their sins and face everlasting punishment. They should be glad because they have been restored to God’s favor though they merited it not. They should rejoice that they will be brought to glory if they persevere in this new-found friendship.” Anthony of Padua was constantly challenging people who thought they were following a path to freedom but who were, in fact, moving away from God. They had come to regard their sins as “no big deal.” Only repentance could put them back on the right track. Praying with Saint Anthony Lord, help us to see our lives as you see them—and make whatever changes are needed.
Holy Thursday “Nothing apart from God can satisfy the human heart that is truly in search of God.” “Accept no substitutes” advertisers have often told us. Although many people pride themselves on recognizing “the real thing,” they often pay dearly for counterfeits—especially the counterfeit freedom that every sin represents. In the Eucharist, Jesus, the world’s greatest servant leader, points us toward genuine freedom, the kind we were always meant to enjoy as people made in God’s image and likeness. Praying with Saint Anthony O God, we thank you for the gift of the Eucharist and for the example of Jesus, who did not find washing feet beneath his dignity. Show us the paths we must follow in order to share life with you.
Good Friday “We must go the way of the cross if we want to enter into the glory of Christ.” The Stations of the Cross began to grow in popularity shortly after the lifetime of St. Anthony. They reflect the reality of the Incarnation and the extraordinary love that caused the sinless Jesus to die on behalf of sinners. Preaching a crucified and risen Jesus has been a challenge in every generation because many people simply cannot get beyond the “crucified” part. They are strongly tempted to believe that there must be an easier way to follow Jesus. They readily explore many alternatives. Praying with Saint Anthony Jesus, you reign in glory from your cross. Help us to follow you as faithfully as Mary and the Beloved Disciple did.
Holy Saturday “Hurry after the Lord and carry your cross for your own salvation, as he carried the cross for your redemption!” The Church shows its deep understanding of grief by not celebrating the Eucharist until the end of this day when we can celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, his final victory over sin and death. The readings of the Easter Vigil trace the whole arc of God’s saving action in human history. We welcome new members into the Church and pledge that we will give the good example that disciples of Jesus should offer one another in easy moments and especially in difficult times. Praying with Saint Anthony Good and gracious God, we thank you for enabling us to follow Jesus so that we can share life with you as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Easter Sunday “We must celebrate the true Passover in selfdenial, as pilgrims, with the staff of good works in our hands so that we may pass over with Christ Jesus from this world to the Father.” St. Bonaventure ends his spiritual classic The Soul’s Journey to God with the same reference to passing over into new life with Christ. Anthony of Padua helped his contemporaries exchange their counterfeit freedoms for the real thing that Jesus offers. Anthony can help us do the same if we are willing to live in a progressively deeper honesty before God, in our own eyes, and in relationship with other people. Praying with Saint Anthony We praise you, the Lord of all creation!
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Daily reflections for Lent with St. Anthony