On this feast of St. Anthony, cook up a fish and shrimp soup, find true relationships and set up authentic faith practices for your family.
by Ryan Langr
June 13 is the feast of St. Anthony, probably one of the most familiar and loved saints. A Franciscan, renowned preacher and patron of “lost things,” St. Anthony is loved for his simplicity, humility and the fact that he can find just about anything. As someone who loses his keys about once a week, I can attest to the power of Anthony to find almost any item, no matter how inconsequential.
But did you know there’s a vast richness to this saint’s story? He was a fierce lover of the Eucharist, for example. And his need to preach was so passionate, that when no one would bother to listen, he spoke to the fish in a nearby river. He enraptured them with the power and love of God. He was a true Franciscan.
In honor of this event, we are making Preachin’ to the Fish Soup.
I love when saints are a patron of something. I think they’re important to a Catholic spirituality, powerful intercessors and help the saints be more relatable to those of us still here on earth. They also tend to tell an important aspect or devotion of the saint, thereby educating us about them. For these reasons, framing a saint as a patron for something is great for your kids!
But it’s also important to guard against a “consumerist” approach to the saints, in which they just become spiritual vending machines, there only to give us solace when we need something. The saints, just like Jesus, Mary and our earthly community, are companions with whom we can (and should) form relationships on our spiritual journey.
Did you ever read “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein? It’s about a tree that loves a boy, so it just keeps giving pieces and pieces of itself until eventually the boy returns in his old (OLD) age to sit and ponder. His bark, his leaves, his branches, eventually everything except the stump, is all given to this boy who only wants the tree for what it can give him. There’s no relationship — only transactions. Is this love? Definitely not on the part of the boy. Maybe in some deficient way on the part of the tree. But mostly, from both parties, its just “use.”
To put it another way — how would you feel if your kids only came to you when they needed something? (OK, maybe this hits too close to home for most of us parents.) Or rather, how would your kids feel if you only interacted with them “when you had time” or when it was “convenient” for you as the adult? (Ouch, right?) That’s a transactional relationship, not a mutually loving relationship.
Now what about your relationship with God or even just the saints? I’ll be the first to admit, there are seasons in my life when I only go to God or pray to him when I need something. It’s the human condition. The same can be said for my “relationship” with the saints, my guardian angel, even my church community. Chances are your children run the risk of falling into this habit as well.
But instead of focusing what we’ve all done wrong, lets ask the question, and help our kids discover, how we can move away from this “vending machine faith.” In his first segment for Brick by Brick by Father Brooke, Father Brooke talked about how our parenting can affect children’s relationships with God in this way.
As a busy adult, I know that I often have to set aside time and be deliberate about catching up with people that are important to me. Whether it’s scheduling a chat online, being purposeful about getting together at least once a year, sending a Christmas card, or even (the really terrifying one, for me) making a phone call, if I’m not intentional then the relationship suffers or fades.
It comes down to habit. I’m not saying you have to go to daily Mass, though that definitely bears fruit, but maybe you and your family can set aside just five minutes a day to pray. Pick a favorite saint and pray for their intercession every day as well. Establishing a habit, and practicing intentionally encountering a spiritual relationship will help avoid simply consuming our faith as something we “use.”
So, while our Preachin’ to the Fish Soup and St. Anthony aren’t really symbolic of anything greater, perhaps you can use this occasion to eat it as a family and talk about how to set authentic faith habits for the future.
St. Anthony, great wonder-worker, intercede for us that God may grant us our request if it be for the good of our soul.
St. Anthony, be our patron, our protector and our advocate in life and in death.
St. Anthony, attentive to those who invoke thee, grant us the aid of thy powerful intercession for the grace of holy purity, meekness, humility, obedience, the spirit of poverty, and perfect abandonment to the will of God.
St. Anthony, servant of Mary, obtain for us greater devotion to the Blessed Mother of God.