© Nicoletta Bertelle – San Paolo, Milano, 2006

DEAR friend, the Rector of the Basilica is often asked for a friar to travel to a diocese in Italy or abroad with a Relic of St. Anthony so that the many people who cannot afford to come to Padua might have the opportunity to venerate their dear Saint. Two or three times a year I also happen to be Saint Anthony’s travelling companion. Now you may not believe it, but one of the questions I am most often asked by the faithful is whether I believe in miracles or not. I punctually reply, “Of course I do. My entire faith is based on miracles, starting with the father of all miracles: the creation of the universe. And what about the Incarnation? Eternal God becoming flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. And can we overlook the miracle of the Resurrection, so fundamental for us Christians that St. Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians: ‘Unless Christ is risen, your faith is in vain?’”

So, if God is able to do all these extraordinary things, why should I be surprised if He sometimes decides to intervene to help someone who is in a difficult situation, maybe through the intercession of the Virgin Mary or a Saint? One only has to visit the shrines of Our Lady of Lourdes or of Guadalupe, of St. Pio of Pietrelcina and of course of St. Anthony of Padua to realize how many people have received help from ‘above’.

In the appendix to St. Anthony’s first biography, the Assidua, we find a list of 51 miracles that, read in the presence of Pope Gregory IX, led to Anthony’s canonization in the Cathedral of Spoleto on May 30, 1232. One of the most famous of them is certainly the Sermon to the Fish.

The story goes that one day Anthony went to Rimini where there were many heretics. He began to preach, but unwilling to listen, the people began to mock him. Therefore, Anthony went to the seashore, saying, “Since you show yourself unworthy of the Word of God, I will turn to the fish”. While Anthony was preaching about God’s special care for the creatures of the sea, a shoal of fish approached the shore, partly emerging from the water and listening attentively. At the end of his sermon, the Saint blessed them and they departed. In the meantime, so profound was the impression made upon the onlookers that many hurried back to the city, imploring their friends to come and see the miracle, while others burst into tears asking forgiveness. Shortly afterwards, a great multitude gathered around the Saint who exhorted them to turn back to God. So through this miracle, the citizens of Rimini, who were confused in their relationship with God, were purged of heresy.

Yesterday as today, God intervenes in our lives, often through the intercession of the saints, with the sole purpose of helping us to perceive a presence of grace that goes beyond human logic. A presence that also goes beyond that kind of rationalistic faith which thinks that certain ‘extraordinary events’ can no longer happen because today, with science, we can explain everything. In reality, miracles and graces serve to remind us of the constant presence of God, who wants to confirm and actively support us on our journey of faith towards His Kingdom of endless love.

In a morning meditation Pope Francis said, “Miracles still happen today. But to allow the Lord to carry them out we must pray with courage to overcome that ‘feeling of disbelief’ that dwells in the heart of every person, even in people of faith… Prayer works miracles, but we must believe it.”


Updated on September 01 2023