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St. Anthony Relics Tour the Midwest
Michelle Martin
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Friday, June 28, 2013
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Worshippers venerate the relics of St. Anthony of Padua at St. John Bosco Parish in Chicago June 16.
CHICAGO (CNS)—It's not every day that you get to offer your hand to an 800-year-old saint.

But hundreds of Catholics in the Chicago area took the time to offer their greetings, as well as their prayers and their veneration, when two relics of St. Anthony of Padua visited the Chicago area this June.

The relics visited nine churches and shrines in the Archdiocese of Chicago and made stops in Milwaukee and Rockford. The June 8-16 tour was part of the celebration of the 750th anniversary of the discovery of St. Anthony's relics by St. Bonaventure.

At each stop, parishioners and pilgrims lined up to touch the reliquaries, sometimes offering a kiss or kneeling for a brief prayer.

That's appropriate, said Franciscan Father Mario Conte, who traveled from Padua, Italy, with the relics. We venerate relics to feel a connection to those we love who are no longer with us, he said. In the case of the saints, they are people who now are with God in heaven, and we ask them to intercede for us.

Father Conte said he imagines St. Anthony next to God, tugging at God's sleeve, saying: "Please, help my friend here."

"Anthony is our friend," the priest said in his homily at a June 11 Mass at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Chicago. "If you are here tonight, it is because you love St. Anthony."

Resurrectionist Father Anthony Bus, pastor of St. Stanislaus, claims St. Anthony as his patron. He said he learned about the power of intercession while making a retreat at Padua while on sabbatical in Italy.

He would go and spend hours watching the pilgrims approach the tomb of St. Anthony.
"They all had such reverence and love," Father Bus told the Catholic New World, Chicago's archdiocesan newspaper. "I found myself just praying for their intentions."
Many of those who came to venerate the relics in Chicago spoke of their devotion to the saint, who is widely known as the patron of finding lost things. Some spoke of praying to him to find parking spaces or gas stations.

Helen Dimas of St. Philomena Parish said she became attached to St. Anthony when she was the mother of young children and constantly misplaced things.

"My mother told me he's the saint for the scatterbrained," she said.

But friendships grow with frequent interaction, even over trivial things, and now, Dimas said, the last item on her "bucket list" is to travel to the Shrine of St. Anthony in Padua and visit his tomb and the relics that are kept there, including his tongue and lower jaw, both of which have remained uncorrupted since his death in 1231.

Since she's not sure she'll have the opportunity to travel to Padua, she was grateful for the opportunity to visit his relics -- a small sheet of skin and a piece of petrified flesh -- in Chicago.

"He's one of the most beloved saints," Dimas said.

She stood in line to venerate the relics with Janet Back, a parishioner at St. Vincent Ferrer in River Forest, who said the saint actually helped her make it to St. Stanislaus Kostka. First she had appointment for that evening get canceled, then, when she found herself down in the south suburbs, in an area she didn't know well and almost out of gas, she prayed to St. Anthony and soon found someone able to direct her to a gas station and get her on her way back to the North Side.

Father Conte said there are images of St. Anthony in nearly every Catholic church, whether they are statues or paintings or stained-glass windows. In most of them, he holds the Bible, because he was a renowned Scripture scholar and the first teacher of theology to the Franciscans, and the infant Jesus, whom he is said to have encountered in vision and held in his arms before he died.

But in all of them, he looks at the people looking at him with an expression of tenderness and love, Father Conte said.

"He wanted to share this love of God with everyone," the priest explained, adding that, as a preacher, Anthony's gift was to make important themes understandable to the masses. The saint cared for those same uneducated people, championing what would now be called the human rights of the poor and the lowly, he said.
Martin is a staff writer at the Catholic New World, newspaper of the Chicago Archdiocese.

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