St. Anthony of Padua relics make 10-day visit to Archdiocese

March 6, 2016

HOUSTON (CNS) — After visits to America, Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia, two first-class relics of St. Anthony of Padua returned to the United States for a 10-day tour of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston that began Feb. 19 at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston.
The relics — fragments of St. Anthony’s skin and a fragment of a floating rib of the saint — stayed at the co-cathedral through Feb. 21 and then moved on to six other churches for a day’s stop at each.

Conventual Father Mario Conte, from the Pontifical Basilica in Padua, Italy, traveled with the relics. “It’s a dream, in a way, because I’ve already come to Texas, but to San Antonio because it’s the biggest city named after St. Anthony,” he said. “I’ve never been here and I’ve always wanted to come. I’ve corresponded with Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, who is a supporter of Padua, it’s a consequence of a long wish to come. It’s also probably something St. Anthony himself planned."

The reliquaries with the saint’s relics were displayed with a large golden bust of St. Anthony.

In a video message Father Conte said the fragment of rib was was taken to the nuns at the monastery of Carmelite sisters in Coimbra, Portugal in January 1995, during the commemorations for the 800th anniversary of the St. Anthony’s birth. It was received by Carmelite Sister Lucia dos Santos, one of the visionaries, who saw Mary appear as Our Lady of Fatima. The same relic went to Argentina in 2000, where it was received by the future Pope Francis, then-Archbishop Jorge Bergolio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, who became a cardinal in 2001 and was elected pope in March 2013.

St. Anthony of Padua, whose feast day is June 13, is a doctor of the church. He was born in Lisbon, Portugal, and joined the Augustinians at age 15. In 1220 he entered the Franciscans to become an African missionary and was sent to Morocco. However, poor health forced his return to Europe and a storm at sea deposited him in Sicily, Italy.

He traveled to Assisi, Italy, where his gift for preaching was recognized and put to use in Italy and France. St. Francis appointed him the order’s first “lector in theology”; he also was the superior of several communities. Many believers seek his intercession when something is lost.

In a message to his parish announcing the relics would be coming to Houston’s Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Father Lawrence Jozwiak, rector and pastor, said that relics themselves have “no power to heal” but are the “vessels” to bring about healing.

“God uses material things or relics to bring about healing,” he said, “just as he uses ordinary material things — water, wine, bread, oil and the imposition of hands — to effect the giving of grace in the sacraments.”

“There is a perfect congruity between present-day Catholic practice and Scripture practices,” Father Jozwiak added. “If one rejects all Catholic relics today, then one should reject the biblical relics.”