Although St. Anthony is known today as the finder of lost articles, in his own day he was a great preacher and teacher. He was born in Portugal and entered an Augustinian monastery near Lisbon when he was fifteen. For the next ten years he studied Scripture and the early Church Fathers, but in 1220, after hearing about the martyrdom of several Franciscans in North Africa, he entered that Order so that he might follow in their footsteps. He was sent to North Africa to work among the Muslims there but bad health forced him to leave and on his return voyage his ship was blown off course and he landed in Italy. Thus his mission territory became Europe, not Africa. May St. Anthony intercede with us today for Pope Benedict and his Mission Intention—that Christians in Europe may rediscover their true identity and proclaim the Gospel with enthusiasm. Our reflection is from Pope Benedict’s General Audience of February 10, 2010.
St Anthony speaks of prayer as of a loving relationship that impels man to speak gently with the Lord, creating an ineffable joy that sweetly enfolds the soul in prayer. Anthony reminds us that prayer requires an atmosphere of silence, which does not mean distance from external noise but rather is an interior experience that aims to remove the distractions caused by a soul's anxieties, thereby creating silence in the soul itself. According to this prominent Franciscan Doctor's teaching, prayer is structured in four indispensable attitudes. … The first step in prayer is confidently opening one's heart to God; this is not merely accepting a word but opening one's heart to God's presence. Next, is speaking with him affectionately, seeing him present with oneself; then a very natural thing presenting our needs to him; and lastly, praising and thanking him.
In St Anthony's teaching on prayer we perceive one of the specific traits of the Franciscan theology that he founded: namely the role assigned to divine love which enters into the sphere of the affections, of the will and of the heart, and which is also the source from which flows a spiritual knowledge that surpasses all other knowledge. In fact, it is in loving that we come to know. Anthony writes further: "Charity is the soul of faith, it gives it life; without love, faith dies". It is only the prayerful soul that can progress in spiritual life….