Thursday, September 22, 2005

St Anthony of Padua

I am writing this in an internet cafe in Rome. I just popped in for five minutes to check for an urgent e-mail message, and the heavens have opened. So clearly God wants me to stay here a bit longer.

While staying in Venice, I took the half-hour or so trip by train to Padua, and got bus number 8 from the train station to a bus stop around the corner from what they call Basilica del Santo. They started to build it only a few years after St Anthony died.

When you walk in the door, his tomb is about halfway along on the left side. It is extremely ornate, and, we would say, highly decorated. His tomb doubles as an altar, with about six steps leading up to it so Mass can be said there, presumably on special occasions.

Visitors remain on "ground level" and can walk behind. At the back, there is a section of stone wall which is the actual wall of the tomb itself, and pilgrims place their hand(s) on the stone imporing the intercession of the Saint.

But all around the tomb, people have placed written messages, and, especially moving, pictures and photos of people; family, loved ones, maybe even themselves. There were even two photos of cars which clearly had been involved in accidents.

Did the occupants survive and they came to give thanks to St Anthony for saving them, or did they fail to survive and the grieving ones come to implore his help in conducting their souls to God? It doesn't say. We can only speculate.

Lots of pictures of babies, and especially wedding photos.

There is also a 30-minute or so audio/visual exhibition of the life of St Anthony, and a well-stocked souvenir and book shop.

You can also see the tongue of St Anthony in a separate reliquary. There is a confession chapel, similar, though slightly smaller, to the one at Lourdes.

I got Mass at 1700. Overall, I have to say everything is done in good taste.

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