St. Anthony of Padua and Baby Antoine
Trigger warning: this blog post relates to the sensitive topic of miscarriage.
It had been the happiest week. After nearly a year of trying, that elusive second line had appeared on the pregnancy test! I saw my doctor. I had my blood tests. And we had started, even at that so-early date, to tell family and close friends when we saw them. It was our miracle, our answer to prayer, our dream. And then it turned into our nightmare.
Now, two years later, it’s still a blur of panic, anger and desperate hope. Pacing around the ER for hours on end, with our doctor wanting to ensure it was not an ectopic pregnancy. Praying, begging, pleading for a miracle. That day in the hospital was the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua, the patron of finding lost things. And so we named our lost baby Antoine (French for Anthony) and entrusted him to his namesake.
St. Anthony and Baby Antoine, by Angela Richmond
I hoped and prayed, with the intercession of St. Anthony, that we’d conceive again. But we didn’t, and we haven’t. And, I have to admit, that I pretty much shelved any devotion to him for a long time after. Oh, there have been a few requests here and there for help finding a lost item, but even those were often tinged with some sarcasm and bitterness. I mean, if he couldn’t manage to save our baby or allow us to conceive others, the least he can do is locate my house keys, right?
Even as the pain and anger lessened, I never really turned significantly back to St. Anthony. Like perhaps many other Catholics, my relationship with St. Anthony was never founded upon much other than asking for help for missing items. Unlike someone like St. Thérèse of Lisieux, for instance, whose autobiography I had read and whose home I had visited, I knew very little about the life of St. Anthony. And so, when The Fruitful Hollow’s Managing Editor approached me to ask if I was interested in writing about this saint as his feast day approached, I felt a stirring in my heart to learn more about this saint who became so intimately connected with our loss and grief.
Who was St. Anthony and what does it mean to have a devotion to him, particularly amidst this journey of loss and infertility? I don’t know. But what I do know is that St. Anthony, like all the saints, is no mere miracle-vending-machine. He lived a life that cannot be reduced into one novena or one painting. He is a patron, but he is also a person. And like all the saints, his mission is to draw us closer to God and to heaven. And so, my prayer, as we approach St. Anthony’s feast day and the anniversary of losing Baby Antoine, is simply this: Teach me about yourself, St. Anthony. Teach me how to love and follow God as you did. Befriend me and hold me close, just as you hold close my lost baby. Pray that in my loss, some fruit may be found. Amen.
This year, on the feast of St. Anthony, my husband and I will undertake a virtual pilgrimage to the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua, using the live webcams they have of his tomb and of mass.
A bit about St. Anthony of Padua
St. Anthony of Padua was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1195. He spent many years ministering as a Franciscan priest in Padua, Italy and eventually died and was laid to rest there. He is recognized as a Doctor of the Church for his clarity of preaching and expansive knowledge of Sacred Scripture. His example of holiness, virtue and service to the impoverished of his day has earned him recognition as one of the most beloved saints.
Shortly after his death at the age of 35, St. Anthony’s intercession was sought after with great earnest. His powerful intercession continues to be regarded among the most prominent in the Church to this day. St. Anthony is often depicted holding the infant Jesus, as a reminder of the beauty of life at its most vulnerable state. Among several patronages, St. Anthony is commonly invoked as the patron saint of lost people and things. He is regarded as a patron of marriage, pregnancy and infertility, having interceded for miracles related to barrenness, sterility, and vulnerable pregnant women*.
(*Jack Wenz, OFM https://www.franciscanmedia.org/franciscan-spirit-blog/getting-to-know-st-anthony-of-padua)