St Anthony of the Portuguese, shower us with blessings
The feast of one of the most popular saints of the Catholic Church will be celebrated today. St Anthony was born in Lisbon and died in Padua and is therefore known as St Anthony of Lisbon or St Anthony of Padua.
The feast of St Anthony is preceeded by a ‘talies’, trezena (13 days of preparation) instead of the novena (9 days) for all other feasts. He is the most popular saint of Portugal and patron of the capital city of Lisbon, which celebrates the feast with great pomp and declares a holiday on this day.
St Anthony has a large number of devotees who pray to him for favours to be granted and he is said to have performed many miracles. As the patron saint of lovers it is said that if one had to do the “trezena”, praying for a spouse, he or she was sure to find a match even before the prayer was over.
One story often told is about a girl, who after having prayed fervently for a partner and having failed to obtain one, got annoyed with the saint, and, in anger, threw the statue of St Anthony out of the window. It fell on a passer-by. The young man walked into the house with the statue, and when he saw the girl, it was love at first sight. Later they were happily married. There are others who keep the statue upside down in a box till they their request is granted.
In Goa, the feast is celebrated in all the churches, but with greatest pomp in Siolim, of which church he is the patron saint. A grand celebration also takes place at the chapel of St Anthony at Goa Velha. However, since 2009 celebrations take place in the Church of St Andrew at Goa Velha under which jurisdiction the chapel comes.
In case the rains are very late leading to apprehension, especially among cultivators, villagers take out a procession carrying the statue of the saint and praying for rain. The statue is tied to a rope and lowered several times into a well, and is accompanied with the song “Santo Antonio Firguemlo, Paus gal Devallo”, which literally translated means “St Anthony of the Portuguese, shower us with rains from God.”
In Old Goa there is a chapel of St Anthony on the top of the moor Monte Santo, south of the church of Our Lady of the Rosary. The Saint Anthony of the Old City has a very rich tradition. As a patron of officers and soldiers of land and sea he was given the rank of ‘Captain of Artillery’, but the public treasury had fixed him the salary of a commissioned second Lieutenant, as he was not an officer on active service.
Every year, on the eve of the feast, the Saint was carried to the door of the treasury department where the treasurer respectfully used to place in his hands the salary due to this rank.
In 1738, the governor, Baron of Sabroso found these expenses superfluous and irrelevant. Saint Anthony, he explained, was not doing any active service, so it would be enough to maintain his rank of Captain, but without pay. The people of Goa predicted that punishment would come soon. In fact, on June 13 of that same year- the day of the Saint – the Baron as usual went out for a drive in his carriage. Near the government’s palace, the carriage over turned and the Governor suffered a serious fracture, which, after some days, resulted in his death. Punishment! Punishment! – the pepople shouted. The salary was immediately restored.
At another time, the Viscount of Vila Nova de Ourem wanted to abolish the traditional holiday on June13, the Saint’s feast day. Soon after, the Viscount fell from his horse, and this incident was taken as a warning from St Anthony. Remembering what had happened to his predecessor the Viscount dropped the idea of abolishing the holiday.
Years later, Rear Admiral Caetano de Albuquerque came to India and cancelled the holiday on the Saint’s feast day. In a short time he was replaced by the Viscount Paços de Arcos, who restored the traditional holiday.
Such is the faith of people in Saint Anthony that in time of distress they will pray and invoke his help. He made many miracles, and is very helpful in recovering lost items.
By Maria de Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues