Haste Ye Back
On 20 June, Saint Anthony's relics ended the nine-day visit to Scotland; this very special event brought Anthony's spirit closer to all his dear people in the land of lochs and glens
By George Ferguson, SFO
THE WAITING WAS over; the day finally arrived when the relics of Saint Anthony came ashore at Rosyth in the ancient 'Kingdom' of Fife, Scotland. Unlike the year previous when the relics arrived in Erin's green isle, there was no police guard to welcome Saint Anthony to Scotland. Only a Secular Franciscan, Dr. John Watts, was on hand to guide the relics and its custodians to their first venue.
A Marian shrine
Scotland's National Marian Shrine at Carfin in the Diocese of Motherwell would be the first venue to welcome Saint Anthony to Scotland. His lordship, Bishop Joseph Devine of Motherwell took part in the Welcome Liturgy and blessed those present with a relic of the Wonder Worker. People came from all over Scotland, and even the North of England, to Carfin to take part in the planned Liturgies. Over one thousand pilgrims attended the services and the Mass, and many of the participants sought the sacrament of reconciliation. The weather was superb thankfully, as a great number of the pilgrims decided to have picnics in the grounds of Carfin Grotto. It was indeed a festive day, a day to rejoice and a day to renew.
The next day was the Feast of Corpus Christi and saw the reliquary at the parish church of St. Bride's in Bothwell. The first Holy Communicants processed with the reliquary before the first morning Mass along with representatives of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem from the Scottish Lieutenancy, altar servers and Secular Franciscans. St. Bride's parish prepared for this special day by conducting a nine-day novena to Saint Anthony with some help from the Franciscan Friars in Glasgow. St. Bride's Masses were full with many devotees standing at each of the liturgies and it was estimated that in total nearly 2,000 people were present.
Our Lady of Lourdes church in East Kilbride is celebrating its 40th year, and so was delighted at being able to host the relics of Saint Anthony. Visitors came from all over north Lanarkshire and south Glasgow to this venue. In the afternoon children from the two local primary schools - Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Louise primary schools - took part in the Liturgy of the symbols in bringing forward the symbols and in reading the prayers and intercessions. The church was full at each of the celebrations and so was everyone's heart. Devotees who had never been to Padua were given the opportunity to thank Saint Anthony for all his help in the past and to ask his help in the future.
The next day saw the reliquary and its custodians travelling east to the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh. The venue for the visit was St. Teresa's in the Craigmillar district of the city, a parish run by the Order of Friars Minor. The Sacrament of Reconciliation was made available all day with a total of 6 priests being on hand to hear confessions. The Craigmillar area is one of the poorest districts of Edinburgh, but on this day it was rich beyond measure. Not in terms of money but in terms of spirit filled graces received by all who participated. The parishioners worked hard at making sure all visitors were supplied with plenty of tea and coffee and chocolate cake to die for. Devotees of Saint Anthony came from all over the capital of Scotland; there was even a gentleman who came all the way from Dublin. The parish priest of St. Teresa's, Fr. Eddie Highton, OFM, was delighted with the response of the locals, many of whom have called for follow up events. One has already been planned for later in the year on Saint Francis entitled Good Morning, Good People.
Leaving the capital behind, the tour headed north to Dundee, a city famous for jam, jute and journalism. It is also a seaport once used by the whaling fleet over one hundred years ago and it was from this port that Scott of the Antarctic set forth on his expedition. As this was the most northerly venue, it was expected that many devotees would come from Aberdeen Diocese to honour their Saint. People came from Aberdeen, Ellon, and Perth, and from all over Dunkeld Diocese to the venue of St. Francis of Assisi church, once a Franciscan Friary. The parish continues to hold the weekly Tuesday devotions to Saint Anthony, and this year a Capuchin from Ireland came to assist with the novena and stayed on for the visit of the relics from Padua. So, the former home of the OFMs brought together the other two members of the Franciscan First Order, Conventuals from Padua and a Capuchin from Ireland. Added to that there where Secular Franciscans and Sisters from the various Franciscan congregations - I am sure that not only was Saint Anthony smiling upon Dundee, but that Saint Francis was delighted to see his sons and daughters coming together on such an occasion.
Bishop John Mone of Paisley officiated at the welcoming liturgy when the relics arrived at St. Mirin's Cathedral in Paisley. The visit to this diocese has been heralded as a great success with as many as 1800 people attending the three liturgies throughout the day. As in all the venues there was a great delight in Paisley that the relics and the friars came to their town. The parish priest, Monsignor Brennan, is sure that Paisley will be truly blessed by the experience.
Mr. Frank Petherbridge ably guided the friars from Paisley to the next two venues, St. Anthony's Balfron and St. Patrick's Dumbarton. Although Balfron would be the smallest venue the relics had a great effect on the local villages. The Reliquary was 'piped' in by a local piper, playing the tune Corriechoillie's Welcome to the Northern Meeting; the bread for the Liturgy of the Symbols were provided by the local baker; traffic control was provided by another local road worker who maintained the drive to the church during his day off. Balfron is situated just within the Highland Boundary near to Loch Lomond, and on the main route between Dumbarton and Stirling. Apart from people in that area attending this venue, St. Anthony's church had visitors from Glasgow, London and Brazil! This very spiritual occasion made a big impact on the visitors with one Glasgow woman vowing to return to the tiny chapel at Balfron.
St. Patrick's Dumbarton, by contrast, is quite a big church. However, it too was full of devotees and admirers of Saint Anthony of Padua. People came from all over Dumbartonshire, including Helensburgh, Clydebank and the Vale of Leven. Some came from even further afield, including two Portuguese ladies who flew up from London for the occasion. Like Carfin and Edinburgh, a great many people sought the sacrament of reconciliation at St. Patrick's. Monsignor Maguire spoke of the day as one of great spiritual and social benefit to all who came along.
Hardly a dry eye
On the evening of the Feast of the Sacred Heart the Reliquary was moved to the Sacred Heart Parish in Cumbernauld, one of Scotland's 'New Towns'. Once again people came from all over the local area and beyond to venerate the Relics from Padua at all the liturgies, and in between them. At the Liturgy of the Symbols an organisation called SPRED - Special Needs Religious Education - gave their interpretation of the liturgy. This organisation is a catechetical group for mentally handicapped children and adults. During their ministry there was hardly a dry eye in the church. The assistant priest at the Sacred Heart Parish, Fr. Colman McGrath, sensed that the people of Cumbernauld were surprised at the joy that was within them when they were able to venerate the relics.
Large numbers yet again marked the final day of the nine-day visit to Scotland. The Mass in the afternoon saw the pass keepers very busy putting down extra seating along the walls, however there was an overspill into the foyer and hall of the church of Blessed John Duns Scotus in Glasgow. Only eight days before, this church in the Gorbals district had seen crowds of people with a forest of lilies being blessed during the Masses celebrated in honour of Saint Anthony. His grace, Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow, celebrated the Mass with the friars. This was an opportunity for the two Marios to meet - Fr. Mario Conte from Padua and Archbishop Mario Conti from Glasgow. The Archbishop shared his thoughts on Saint Anthony and the work of the Franciscans in Glasgow with the congregation and before he blessed all present with the relic he informed us that Anthony was his confirmation Saint's name.
With ten venues in nine days it was a heavy schedule for the custodians of the relics. I am sure that Fathers Mario and Alessandro, and their ever-present driver Claudio, will receive many blessings for bringing the relics to Scotland. What was evident at all the venues was the sincere devotion all have for Saint Anthony. For just over a century there has been a tradition of devotion to Saint Anthony throughout Scotland. When you witness how each devotee approaches the reliquary with love, thanksgiving and petition, you realise that that individual carries in his or her heart many generations of devotion to the Wonder Worker from Padua. It is quite an emotional scene; it is quite a spiritual experience.
Many local charities benefited from the visit of the relics to Scotland; ranging from Third World Groups to organisations that work with people with HIV/AIDS, with Refugees and Asylum Seekers, with the Hospice movement and the above mentioned SPRED organisation.
I can say personally that Saint Anthony is consider as a friend of the family, and is quite often referred to as 'Tony'. As a small boy living in Canada, I remember my grandmother in Scotland sending prayer leaflets with the 'Brief of Saint Anthony'. She attended the Tuesday evening devotions - still held in Glasgow - to Saint Anthony asking for the Saint's intercession for healing for my father who had cardiac problems. As a family we learned three prayers before going to school - the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be and a prayer to Saint Anthony. Some forty-three years later the same prayers were being said for me as I awaited cardiac surgery. I have much to thank him for, not only on my behalf, but also for all those in my family, who have gone before me, who have relied on his intercession, and benefited from his prayers. My experience can be multiplied by the thousands who flocked to venerate the relics when they came to Scotland.
It is our prayer that this nine-day event will bring many blessings, not only to all the individuals who participated in it, but also to our country. Many of us would dearly love to go to Padua to visit Saint Anthony's tomb, but until such a day, as we say in Scotland to a dear friend: Haste ye back!
© 2014 - Il Messaggero di S.Antonio Editrice