By Sarah Mac Donald - 12 June, 2016
Thousands of devotees in Knock told, “Wherever he went, crowds flocked to him. Hardened criminals and heretics alike were converted by him.”
The visit of the relics of St Anthony to Knock shrine on Saturday was greeted as an “historic” occasion by Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam as thousands of devotees turned out to venerate their beloved saint.
Addressing the congregation attending Saturday evening Mass, Archbishop Neary noted that the Saint, who was born in Lisbon in 1195, was a man of “great learning, eloquence and great powers of persuasion, along with a burning zeal for souls”.
He told the congregation assembled in Knock basilica that St Anthony is said to have had an attractive almost magnetic personality which radiated holiness.
“Wherever he went, crowds flocked to him. Hardened criminals and heretics alike were converted by him.”
Dr Neary recounted how in popular devotion St Anthony is venerated as the ‘Apostle of charity’, who is invoked in spiritual and temporal needs and that he is also known as the patron of lovers, marriage and minors.
“Today we are blessed and privileged as we welcome the relics of St Anthony here to Mary’s shrine at Knock.”
“St Anthony and Our Lady had much in common. Today we invoke their help – we endeavour to follow in their footsteps,” he said.
Highlighting how St Anthony is regarded as “a companion in daily life”, Archbishop Neary said he is “a kind of big brother who is always present and available when people find themselves beleaguered in different ways.”
“People pray to St Anthony for those who have lost their way in life, asking him to console the suffering and assist the poor.”
Welcoming Franciscan Fr Mario Conte and Fr Valentino and Fr Lucian from Padua who are accompanying the relics on their visit to Ireland, the Archbishop noted that Fr Mario has travelled the world with the relics and had expressed the hope that the visit of the relics to Ireland would help the people of Ireland to rediscover their faith.
“In his preaching, St Anthony always has this goal in mind – to bring people back to God,” he underlined.
The Archbishop concluded by thanking God for the “way in which he intervenes in our lives – through St Anthony of Padua and in so many other ways – and especially for the way in which he has intervened here in Knock through the apparition of our lady and the privilege we have of adoring the relics of venerating them and receiving Jesus Christ in our Eucharist.”
Today, Sunday 12 June, the relics of St Anthony will visit St Mary’s Cathedral in Sligo.