Painting Festa de Santo Antonio, by Brazilian artists Telma Morais

THE COMMON perception in our society is that about 40 to 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. This may have been true during the 1980s, when divorce rates peaked, but according to some surveys over the past several years the rate of divorce has been declining, and now stands at just over 40 percent. Sociologists believe the trend is caused by people now making better choices about who they marry.

This is especially good news for Catholics because it shows that the marriage preparation courses, mandatory before celebrating the sacrament, are bearing good fruit. The courses, in fact, emphasize that marriage is a holy covenant to be taken seriously especially because it joins three parties together: the bride, the groom and God.

Pope Francis recently said, “Christian marriage is not merely a big ceremony that is done in a church with nice flowers, fancy clothes and photos, but a sacrament that takes place in the Church, which makes the Church by establishing a new domestic community. Marriage is a long trip that lasts a lifetime.”

You may not believe it, but in the Middle Ages a tradition arose which sees St Anthony as a real matchmaker. In actual fact we find nothing specific on marriage as such in his Sermons, however, in some ancient biographies of the Saint we read that many destitute girls turned to him to ask for a dowry and a bridal trousseau which were necessary to get married in those days.

In one of the many popular biographies on the Saint there is the story of a girl in Naples whose family was very poor and could not afford to give her a dowry. In despair, the girl addressed her prayers to St Anthony who miraculously led her to find a note on her bedside table when she woke up. In the dream she had had the night before, the Saint had told her to take the note to a well-known merchant. The girl did as the Saint had indicated and gave the note to the merchant. When he opened the letter, he read that he was to give the girl a number of silver coins that weighed as much as the scrap of paper he had been given. The merchant smiled to himself, “Surely it’s a joke. That slip of paper will weigh less than a feather!” However, to his great surprise, 400 silver coins were needed to match the weight of the note… it was then that the merchant realized that, years before, he had promised to give exactly that sum of money to St Anthony’s Bread, but he had not kept his promise. Confused and repentant, the merchant gave the 400 silver coins to the poor girl, thanking the Saint in his heart for having given him the opportunity to keep his old promise. The girl was then able to get married with a good dowry, and St Anthony received, among his other titles, that of “Matchmaker Saint.”

The tradition of turning to Saint Anthony in order to find one’s soulmate is well known in Portugal and in Latin America where the Saint is famous for being a wedding saint (Santo Casamenteiro). Pope Francis recalled this a few years ago during a friendly meeting with a group of students from Padua: “In Argentina we have great veneration for St Anthony; he is the patron of young people looking for their sweethearts,” the Pope said in a cell-phone video which soon became viral.

During the Saint’s Feast great attention is dedicated to young people in search of soulmates in Padua as well. A special evening is dedicated to them here in the Basilica during the 13 Days Novena leading up to the Feast. Quite surprisingly, the event is very popular, and highlights the fact that, despite the prevalence of social media, it is becoming increasingly difficult for young people to find an appropriate companion.

 The Saints stand next to God and never cease to intercede for us. If therefore you are looking for a good spouse, why don’t you turn with faith to our dear St Anthony? I am sure that, if the Lord wills, he will not let you down.


Updated on July 01 2020