Anthony the Wonder Worker
Anthony the Preacher
For a little time only was Anthony permitted to remain in comfortable
and peaceful obscurity. Solitude and silence he always loved; but, alas,
he was no longer to enjoy them uninterruptedly. In Ember weekMarch
19, 1222, according to the historian Azzoguidithe ceremony of ordination
called to Forli a number of religious, both Friars Minor and Friar Preachers,
who were to receive Holy Orders. Father Gratian and Anthony were also
present, but neither in the least suspected the surprise that was in store
Father Gratian, who had not failed to note the edifying fervor of the
young priest, as well as the gleams of uncommon intelligence which Anthony
was not always able to disguise, was glad to have this opportunity of
calling the hermit of Monte Paolo from his vigils to attend the functions
at Forli. Father Gratian had been requested by the bishop of the province
to deliver to the candidates for ordination the customary address on the
sublimity of the priestly office. This honor he courteously offered to
the sons of St. Benedictmany of whom were presentbut they,
being unprepared, refused to speak on so solemn an occasion. It began
to look as if the ceremonies were likely to be interrupted.
Suddenly, as if by intuition, Father Gratian turned to Anthony and desired
him to exhort the candidates. The simplicity and beauty of his language
and the grace of his manner were greatly in his favor; but he had never
yet spoken in public, and since he had become a Friar Minor he had opened
no book save only his breviary and the Psalms. Therefore he modestly pleaded
his inexperience and his inability; he confessed that he was fitter to
serve in the refectory than to preach to the learned who were present.
He was covered with confusion, and heartily wished himself back again
in his grotto at Monte Paolo. The superior was inflexible; and, rejecting
all excuses, he directed Anthony to preach out of obedience, and gave
him for a text: "Christ became for us obedient unto death, even the
death of the Cross."
The young priest arose, trembling with humility; in a low voice, the
beauty of which had been often commented upon, he addressed the Franciscans
and Dominicans, who were filled with curiosity and expectation. As he
proceeded, his voice gathered volume and his speech fire; his cheek flushed
with fervor; his body swayed as a reed in the wind; his wrapped gaze seemed
fixed upon a Heaven invisible to others, and he spoke as one Divinely
inspired. His hour of triumph had come at last, unsought and uninvited.
Is it any wonder that all present were astonished beyond measure, and
that they looked upon this maiden effort of the novice as little short
of miraculous? It is true that his whole life had been a kind of preparation
for the pulpit, but an involuntary and unconscious one. His range of experience
had been large; every emotion of the heart he had sounded to its depths;
in his solitary hours of abstraction he had, in spirit, again and again
communed with the martyrs of Morocco and the Canons Regular of Coimbra.
He was storm-tossed in the Mediterranean; prostrated upon a bed of pain
in Africa; an obscure and unobserved pilgrim at Assisi; an humble servitor
and solitary at Monte Paolo.
Now all returned to him like a flash in brilliant and luminous retrospection;
and with all else came knowledge--a revival of knowledge--his knowledge
of the Holy Scriptures and of the consecrated writings of the Fathers,
together with his own voluminous comments thereon, and a world of wisdom
withal--of wisdom not of this world only.
In a torrent of eloquence that thrilled and amazed his listeners, he
developed his discourse with the skill of a logician, the art of an orator,
the charm of one predestined to the pulpit; and brought his last period
to a conclusion amidst a chorus of enthusiastic approbation. On the instant
he found himself conspicuous in a life of publicity-----the life he had
sought in vain to fly from. Now, in deed and in very truth, his inner
life was ended: he was henceforth to be known as Anthony the Preacher.
Taken from Saint
Anthony the Wonder Worker by TAN
Books & Publishers, Inc.
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