ALMOST 15,000 people had the opportunity to look at St. Anthony ‘straight in the eyes’ from 12 to 29 June. I am referring to the thousands of devotees who flocked from all parts of Italy to see the forensic reconstruction of St. Anthony’s face in the Museum of Popular Devotion next to the Basilica (see article on p. 16).

Among the many thousands of people at the exhibition was ‘Danny’ (not his real name) who began to sweat profusely when he drew near the facial reconstruction. The personnel at the exhibition, seeing that Danny was unwell, invited him to sit down and offered him a glass of water. Danny sat down, drank a bit, and after a short pause asked to speak to a friar. By a happy coincidence our General Director, Fr. Giancarlo Zamengo, happened to be in a nearby cloister, and so Danny was able to speak to him.

“Fr. Giancarlo,” Danny began, “I have to tell you why I am feeling so flustered. A few years ago I was working on the power panel at my son’s factory when I was struck by a 380 volt electric bolt. I immediately passed out and was rushed to hospital. The only thing I remember is finding myself in a nice, warm place filled with light, and that I was perfectly at peace. At first no one seemed to be there beside me, but soon after I perceived a tall figure with a dark grey habit. He was smiling, and he placed his hand on my shoulder. “Danny,” the figure said to me, “you must go back to your loved ones, who are greatly worried about you. Your time has not yet come. Wake up!” At that precise moment I woke up and found myself lying on a hospital bed with my wife standing beside me.

“However, it is not the memory of this event that has troubled me, but the fact that the friar I met in my dream was the spitting image of the forensic reconstruction of St. Anthony’s face here at the exhibition. And I would like to add that I rarely forget people’s faces because I am a portrait painter, and I certainly never forgot the face I saw in that dream!”

I had a similar experience myself when I was a young friar studying at our major seminary. There was an insistent voice inside me, telling me that I had got everything wrong, that it would have been better for me if I had remained a bank clerk rather than have chosen religious life. This voice was so unrelenting that one night I decided that on the next day I would go to the Rector and tell him I had decided to go home. I fell asleep in tears, feeling that my life had been a failure.

That night I had a strange dream. St. Anthony appeared to me and he told me in a warm, encouraging tone, “Do not worry, you’re on the right path: his yoke is easy and his burden light.”

From that moment on I never had any doubts. To my great disappointment, however, the Saint has never appeared to me again. Maybe he thinks that the encouragement he gave me was more than enough.

In any case, during my pilgrimages with the Saint’s relics to various parts of the world, I met hundreds of people who told me that they had met St. Anthony in their dreams. It is apparently a very common phenomenon. A couple of months ago I was in Australia for the June 13 feast, and while there I met a man called Ralph who told me of his meeting with our Saint.

Ralph’s son Antonio was in hospital receiving treatment for a mysterious disorder called Perthes’ Disease. This disorder affects children and causes a temporary loss of blood supply to the ball-shaped end of the thighbone (called the femoral head), with the result that the affected leg becomes shorter than the order, causing the child to limp. A partial remedy may be obtained through a series of operations on both legs, with long stays in the hospital, plaster casts, and prolonged periods of rehabilitation.

During his son’s third stint in the hospital, Ralph had a dream in which St. Anthony approached him, holding the boy in his arms. The Saint said to him, “Here is your son; he is cured!”

A few minutes later Ralph was woken up by a phone call from the hospital telling him that his son was no longer limping and could be dismissed.

Antonio is now an active, 47-year-old man with no sign of his former disease. He helps Ralph run the very successful family business called Valle Di Sant’Antonio, and you can see me next to the sign at their farm. Warm greetings from Padua.


Updated on October 06 2016