On today’s feast of St. Anthony, Msgr. Robert Golombek presented the sisters in Buffalo, NY, with lilies and bread.
Following the Communion Rite at the late morning Mass today, he blessed the lilies and the bread. Lilies are a reminder of St. Anthony’s purity and have always been a symbol for him. Associating lilies with Saint Anthony stems from a miracle which took place in Revolutionary France: many priests and religious were murdered, and many churches and convents destroyed, but the faithful still showed up at a surviving church on the feast of St. Anthony. Months later, it was discovered that lilies that had adorned the church at that feast were still fresh.
Another custom on this day is known as “St. Anthony’s Bread” and goes back to 1263 when a child drowned near the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua as it was still being built. The mother besought St. Anthony and promised that if her child were restored to life, she would give to the poor an amount of wheat equal to the weight of her child. Of course her son was saved, and her promise was kept.
“St. Anthony’s Bread,” then, is the promise of giving alms in return for a favor asked of God through St. Anthony’s intercession (the custom also takes place throughout the year when parents give alms after placing their baby under the patronage of St. Anthony). In some places, the custom has a literal parallel in that loaves of bread might be blessed and given away at church or, generally, to the poor.