Zeal for St. Anthony

Last week I was isolated in a small cabin surrounded by a lake and woods where I spent the week on retreat. I enjoyed the "hermit life" of silence, punctuated with my scheduled prayer sessions, Liturgy of the Hours, cooking, and going into town for groceries. I also spent some time with the friars on the phone for various reasons. Still, all in all, most of it was in silence, a good retreat as God began to reshape things in me. The centering prayer opened me up to the contemplative time in the woods, or praying with the readings of the day. I left the time feeling uplifted in God’s consoling help.

Naturally on returning, I spent a few days catching up, followed by a day at St. Anthony Friary for the Feast day of its patron. This was a day of anything but silence. It involved being present to the many pilgrims who came from local parishes, the "regulars" who are faithful to the Tuesday novenas, and to a large group of Chaldean Catholics who come every year from the Detroit area.

At the noon Mass, what began with four busloads of people became six as two more buses wound their way up that steep hill in Mt. Airy, and pilgrims crowded into the chapel. Fr. Colin King was leading the group in a "call-and-response" kind of homily that encouraged many to lift up their hearts. But I was not expecting the large swarm of people coming up for the blessing with the relic of St. Anthony. Even after being told to come up in two single-file lines, people could not contain themselves, and literally swarmed the three friars giving blessings with the relic.

The zeal of these folks was joyful and contagious. While I would have wanted a more orderly procession to things, I was impressed with the fervor of those who desired a healing from God through the intercession of St. Anthony. The zeal ignited in the retreat was touched by the real faith of pilgrims. I would like this kind of fervor more often!

–Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM