Miracles and Traditions of St. Anthony. St. Anthony Bread is a term used for offerings made in thanksgiving to God for blessings received through the prayers of St. Anthony. Sometimes the alms are given for the education of priests. In some places parents also make a gift for the poor after placing a newborn child under the protection of St. Anthony. It is a practice in some churches to bless small loaves of bread on the feast of St. Anthony and give them to those who want them.
Different legends or stories account for the donation of what is called St. Anthony Bread. By at least one account it goes back to 1263, when it is said a child drowned near the Basilica of St. Anthony, which was still being built. His mother promised that if the child was restored to her she would give for the poor an amount of corn equal to the child’s weight. Her prayer and promise were rewarded with the boy’s return to life.
Another reason for the practice is traced back to Louise Bouffier, a shopkeeper in Toulon, France. A locksmith was prepared to break open her shop door after no key would open it. Bouffier asked the locksmith to try his keys one more time after she prayed and promised to give bread to the poor in honor of St. Anthony if the door would open without force. The door then opened. After others received favors through the intercession of St. Anthony, they joined Louise Bouffier in founding the charity of St. Anthony Bread.
St. Anthony and the Child Jesus. St. Anthony has been pictured in all kinds of ways by artists and sculptors. He is depicted with a book in his hands, with a lily or torch. He has been painted preaching to fish, holding a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament in front of a mule or preaching in the public square or from a nut tree.
But since the 17th century, we most often find the saint shown with the child Jesus in his arm or even with the child standing on a book the saint holds. A story about St. Anthony related in the complete edition of Butler’s Lives of the Saints (edited, revised and supplemented by Herbert Anthony Thurston, S.J., and Donald Attwater) projects back into the past a visit of Anthony to the Lord of Chatenauneuf. Anthony was praying far into the night when suddenly the room was filled with light more brilliant than the sun. Jesus then appeared to St. Anthony in the form of a little child. Chatenauneuf, attracted by the brilliant light that filled his house, was drawn to witness the vision but promised to tell no one of it until after St. Anthony’s death.
St. Anthony and the Lily. Most images of St. Anthony of Padua depict him holding the Child Jesus and with lilies. It has been a part of tradition in Christian art to use lilies as a symbol of purity when portraying Our Lady or the Saints and even Angels.
With St. Anthony, lilies have special significance. Lilies are in bloom around much of the world in the month of June, the month of his Feast Day [the 13th]. Of even more import there are two incidents hundreds of years old relating to the Saint of Padua and these magnificent flowers.
In 1680, on June 13th, in the church at Mentosca d’Agesco in Austria, someone placed a cut lily in the hand of his statue. For an entire year the lily remained fragrant and fully alive, without wilting. Then the following year it grew two more blooms, so that the church was filled with the fragrance of the flowers.
A little over a century later, during the anti-clerical, anti-Catholic French Revolution, on the island of Corsica, the Franciscans were forced to leave their parishioners. The people refused to give up their devotions, although they had no choice in the matter of the Sacraments because they had no priests. They invoked the intercession of St. Anthony. On June 13th, they erected a shrine to the Saint in the deserted church; the shrine included lilies in his honor. Months later the blooms were still fresh as if they had just been placed there.
Permission to bless lilies in honor of the Saint was given by Pope Leo XIII. Many favors have been granted through this devotion, such as help to the sick who have been touched by the petals of the blessed flowers