Anthony: Words of Fire, Life of Light
by Melanie Bettinelli on May 20, 2012
Even though my fourth child is named Anthony, I must confess that I didn’t know much about St Anthony of Padua at the time we named him. The name had come up repeatedly as we wrestled to find a boy’s name and it was one Dom seemed to favor. I decided to give in and go with his top pick because I wasn’t really happy with anything. Then Jen’s Saint’s Name Generator chose St Anthony of Padua as my patron saint for last year. That seemed like a good enough reason to stick with the name and to try to find out more about this very popular saint.
Still, I wasn’t having much luck finding a promising looking book till the Daughters of St Paul had a book sale at the end of Mass one day. This book on St Anthony just jumped out at me. It had this beautiful cover. (A different image than the one on the cover pictured above.) And a big section of colored art plates in the middle of the book. Pretty pictures will always grab my eye. I picked it up and found it was a novelized biography. That’s promising. I don’t love to read non-fiction. I find that often biographies and histories can be very dry and no matter how interesting the subject I just lose interest if the story isn’t told well. I love reading historical fiction and this promised to be a sort of perfect marriage between a well-researched biography and a good historical fiction. Madeline Pecora Nugent’s book is very well researched and I love that the end notes explain what in each chapter is fact and what is fiction and also explains why where the historical records disagree she went with one version of the story over another. Where she has St Anthony preaching, Nugent uses selections from Anthony’s published sermons. So although we don’t have a record of what he said at that particular occasion, we do know that the words she has put into his mouth are ones that are very like what he could have said because they are the saint’s own words.
Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different person and tells the story of an encounter with the saint. Many, but not all, are stories of miracles. Many are stories of conversions. But not all. It was refreshing that some of the individuals whose eyes the narrator allows us to see through do not in fact change their lives as a result of their encounter with the saint. Real life is like that. Some people are too hardened, too entrenched in sin, to change even if they do witness a miracle and hear a golden-tongued saint preach.
I loved getting to know St Anthony better and I do feel like in the course of this book he became a friend. I do hope to continue to get to know him and hope to find more books in the future. Still, for now I feel like I’ve read enough to be able to tell Anthony all about his patron saint when he gets old enough to ask. More, this time I spent with St Anthony also drew me closer to Christ. There were several passages that stopped me in my tracks and that stuck with me for days and days. They were just what I needed to hear at that moment. I truly can’t recommend this book highly enough. You will be glad to get to know St Anthony beyond just asking him to find your lost car keys and as more than a worker of miracles.
You can find the book here at Pauline Books and Media.