FRIBOURG is a beautiful city in the west of Switzerland. Founded in 1157, its historic centre is one of the best kept in the country. However, Fribourg would be just a quaint little town were it not for the fact that a bilingual university is located there. This university offers a full academic curriculum both in French and German, awards bilingual degrees, and has 10,000 students enrolled in five different faculties.

Walter was one of the students registered in the Faculty of Economics & Social Sciences. He was a promising young Italian man who had come to Fribourg thanks to a European Union student exchange programme.

On a tragic March 30, Walter, who was late for class, was driving fast. A traffic light was about to turn red at an intersection, and the young man rather imprudently accelerated in the attempt to get through it. Unfortunately, a driver on the other corner sped forward just before his light turned green to get ahead of the other drivers, and there was a terrible crash.

Walter arrived in critical condition at Fribourg hospital, and the doctors realized he had almost no chance for survival. Apart from the grievous injuries he had suffered, he also had third-degree burns over his whole body from the flames that had engulfed the car. To keep him away from germs or viruses, Walter was kept in a sterilised room in a deep coma where no one, except for medical personnel, was allowed to approach him, not even his mother Flora. The doctors told his distraught mother that there was little possibility that the young man would regain consciousness.

Flora had hurried to Fribourg with Francesca, a close friend who, upon seeing Walter’s desperate condition, offered to go to Padua with an item belonging to the young man in order to have it blessed at the Basilica of St. Anthony. Flora, desperate for any sort of help, was glad to give her friend one of Walter’s grey T-shirts – the one he used for jogging.

A few days later Francesca reappeared with the T-shirt, now blessed, and handed it over to Flora. In the meantime Walter’s condition remained desperate.

Eventually, Flora was given permission to enter the sterilised room, but under strict orders not to touch her son. Flora, hiding the blessed T-shirt under the sterile gown they had given her, prayed to herself, “St. Anthony, please help my son. I will disobey the doctors’ orders, but please, keep this to yourself.”

So, while the nurse was looking the other way, Flora took the shirt out from under her gown and laid it on Walter’s body for a few seconds, invoking St. Anthony’s assistance upon her son, and then she made the sign of the cross over him.

The next day Walter’s fever began to subside, and gradually the young man came out of his coma. “Quelle guérison extraordinaire!” the head doctor exclaimed, emphasising that the healing was inexplicable. Flora and Francesca, however, knew better: St. Anthony had listened to their prayers.

In a few months Walter recovered fully, and he is now, quite understandably, very devoted to our beloved Saint. Was it a miracle? It certainly looks like it.

We have to remember, however, that this type of wondrous event is not the only type of miracle we experience. A miracle is not necessarily only a prodigious event that has been documented and authenticated by experts. There are a lot of real miracles that are much subtler. It is a miracle to be able to approach the Holy Eucharist, Christ’s body and blood, every day. It is a miracle to have a faith that is able to sustain us in times of trouble and suffering. It is a miracle when we have the strength to continue despite extraordinary temptations to give up in the face of insurmountable difficulties. It is a miracle to experience an infusion of strength from Above when we had abandoned all hope.

Saint Anthony takes upon his shoulders all our prayers because he has Someone to take them to; Someone whose love is never-ending. The Saint of Padua is therefore our intercessor before a Merciful God, and he is always beseeching Him for the grace to transform our petitions into a continuous stream of small or great secret miracles.

A blessed June 13 Feast to you all, dear readers.


Updated on October 06 2016