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By Lynn and Bob Gillen

Links for Learners | June 2001

St. Anthony: Portugal's Favorite Son


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Links for Learning

Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and Students

This month’s Links for Learners will support high school curriculum in:
Christian lifestyles—searching for and living in the spirit of Jesus; spiritual development; community
Sacramental life—Confirmation

Finding Links for Discussion Group Leaders and Participants

Look for connections for use in programs outside the classroom, such as:

Parish sacramental preparation programs and CCD classes; young adult discussion programs; seasonal discussion groups; RCIA programs.
Parents will also find this material useful in initiating discussion around the dinner table, in home study, at family activities.

Understanding Basic Terms in This Month’s Article

Look for the key words and terms below as you read the article. Definitions or explanations can be researched from the article itself or from the resource materials cited throughout the Links for Learners. You can also find a list of terms on the glossary page of







Spiritual discoverer



Communion of saints

Patron saint

St. Anthony's Legacy

Among St. Anthony's many attributes is his reputation for helping Catholics find things. Countless Catholics have prayed to him when they needed to locate misplaced car keys or a lost $20 bill. I can't drive home without my car keys. My teacher will be angry if I lost my homework. Where did I put that other earring? A lost object carries a sense of immediacy, even urgency, and evokes a prayer for help. St. Anthony, help me find what I lost.

If we stop to think for a few moments, however, we realize that we also need help in getting a grasp on the intangible "things" important to our lives. Where can I find the words to console a friend who has just lost a parent? What do I say to a classmate who is failing academically? Where do I look for strength in time of temptation and weakness? Where do I go to find Jesus? How do I build a relationship with him? Where can I find myself?

Consider turning to St. Anthony for these needs. We can draw strength and inspiration from his life. Perceived to be uneducated, Anthony was a humble, simple friar who became a great preacher and theologian. St. Anthony, help me find the words I need to be a good friend and a good student.

But St. Anthony certainly is in good company if you're looking for some saintly help. Do you have a patron saint, or have you heard of the communion of saints? Patron saints are saints to whom we feel a special connection. Perhaps you were named after a particular saint, or he or she is the patron of the issue you're struggling with. In addition to those saints, many people rely on the communion of saints for help, which includes loved ones who have died. We celebrate all of these saints on All Saints' Day, November 1. For more information on the communion of saints, read either "Communion of Saints: Top Team of All Time" or "How Halloween Can Be Redeemed."

Behaviors Encouraged by Popular Culture

Is not the whole world searching for something, for values, for a sense of belonging, for meaning? But where are we looking for answers?

Discuss what we see on television. Specifically, look at enormously popular entertainment shows like Survivor, Boot Camp and Weakest Link. What do we see as the prevailing theme? We see individuals vying for a financial prize, participants who will do and say anything to win. We see the "weakest link" berated and discarded from the team. We see fellow players voted out of the group. In The Mole, individuals lie about who they are. On Real World, participants are encouraged to complain on air about one another, even though the show appears to encourage communal living. Temptation Island expects couples to be unfaithful to one another as the show's producers throw them into alluring situations.

Teamwork does not count in this kind of environment. Supporting one another is a losing behavior. Fidelity to commitment counts for nothing. And, unfortunately, we see people become instant celebrities for this kind of behavior.

It's difficult to avoid being influenced by this culture. We can find ourselves belittling friends and classmates. We isolate those perceived to be "losers." We resort to lying to parents or cheating on exams. To make it even worse, don't we find it easy to berate our own selves? We start an argument with a parent. We let down a friend. We don't follow through on a commitment to a committee or club we joined. And, consciously or otherwise, we take it out on ourselves through sulking in our room, dropping out of activities, avoiding friends, distracting ourselves with noise.

Christian Behaviors

In contrast, look at the behavior of the early Christians described in the New Testament's Acts of the Apostles. "The community of believers were of one heart and one mind. None of them ever claimed anything as his own; rather, everything was held in common. With power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…"

One striking element in St. Anthony's life, as with the early Christians, was the community life that supported and nourished him. When just 15 years old, he moved apart from his family to join the Augustinian religious order, where he prayed and lived together in cloister with fellow believers. Eleven years later, Franciscan life attracted him to move even more deeply into Christian community. Even the possibility of martyrdom did not deter Anthony. If anything, it inspired him. And although he did not die a martyr, he lived every day preaching the love of Jesus to anyone who would listen.

St. Anthony's life journey offers a model for us. Indeed, why not view Anthony as a patron saint of teenagers? He was perceived by many to be simple and uneducated. What finally drew people's attention was his passion for the gospel message, his willingness to step forward and preach, his humility. Aren't many teens viewed by adults as uneducated in life's ways, as naïve, as not worthy of anyone's attention? Yet teens seethe with energy. Teens will passionately support what they believe in. Teens are tireless in backing a worthy cause. St. Anthony, help me find my way.

And just as Anthony grew to maturity in community environments, so can teens grow through their high school years by developing in community among friends, classmates and parish life. Here are a few examples and suggestions to consider:

  • A number of Catholic high schools offer campus ministries for their students. Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, California, for example, presents a dynamic program. Their goals include leadership opportunities in liturgy, retreats and Christian service. Their Confirmation program teaches students to build community as part of their individual faith journeys.

  • Among the programs offered by the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry are immersion programs for youth ministry leaders, such as the recent trips to India and El Salvador. Build community in your own school and parish by offering Christian service to those in need.

  • Teens often go to the mall or the movies together. What about celebrating Sunday liturgy together? Gather your friends and classmates once a month and rotate through some of your parish Masses as a group. Go out for breakfast afterward. Build a habit of praying together that you can carry forward through your college and adult years.

  • To support your personal development, build a habit of prayer. One useful aid is the Jesuit site that offers a daily 10-minute guided Scripture reading and meditation.

  • Life in community is the core of Christian living. The Sacrament of Confirmation offers young Catholics a deeper initiation into the life of the Church, strengthening one's maturity in Christ. Even if your parents insist that you participate in your parish Confirmation program, take the opportunity to build friendships in a spirit of community. If you have completed the program, consider returning to be a leader. Why not be recognized as one who is passionate about preaching and living the life of Jesus? Don't hesitate to ask St. Anthony for help.

In a Christian community the weakest link is the one Jesus loves the most. The Gospels are full of stories of Jesus taking notice of the sick, the alienated, the outcasts of society. St. Anthony, help us as teenagers to find our way every day. Help us find the confidence and courage to care for those in need.

Research Resources

Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference. Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site’s archives.

The New York Times
The Los Angeles Times
Time Magazine
The Associated Press
The Chicago Tribune
People Magazine
The History Channel
The Miami Herald
The Close Up Foundation Washington, D.C.-based organization
ABC News
Channel One’s online resource
The Vatican
National Conference of Catholic Bishops
The New American Bible
Documents of Vatican II

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