SAINT ANTHONY AND THE FISHES

Introduction

As a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit during uncertain times, we feel called to prayer and humility; kindness and generosity; courage and perseverance; unity and reconciliation. Now is the time to grow closer to Christ, closer to the Church, and closer to each other. Now is the time for conversion. Now is the time for miracles.

In this spirit, we turn again to the Little Flowers of Saint Francis, the ancient series of stories and legends about the Poor Man of Assisi and his first followers. In this chapter, we encounter Saint Anthony of Padua: friend, friar, preacher, teacher, and wonder worker. And we experience anew the Miracle of Saint Anthony and the Fishes: a story of belief, disbelief, and conversion; a story of how hearts with the simplest faith can be the truest fishers of all God’s children.

The Little Flowers of Saint Francis
The Miracle of Saint Anthony and the Fishes

The Blessed Christ Jesus was willing to raise up his faithful servant, Saint Anthony, so that all people might pay closer attention to his holy preaching and sound teaching of the faith. So one time, the Lord rebuked the folly of unbelievers through some fish — animals incapable of right reason — just as he did in the Old Testament when he rebuked the ignorance of Balaam through the mouth of an ass.

In this way, Saint Anthony traveled to Rimini, where a great number of heretics lived. He wished to bring them back to the way of virtue and to the light of the true faith. He preached to them for many days. He debated with them about the sacred scriptures; and about their lack of faith in Jesus. But as a stubborn people with hard hearts, they refused to listen.

So by divine inspiration, Saint Anthony walked down the shore which was battered by the sea. He stood on the shoreline between the sea and the river. And he spoke to the fish like a preacher who was sent by God himself. Saint Anthony said: “All of you fishes of the sea and the river! Listen to the Word of God, especially since the unbelievers refuse to hear it!” When he said these words, a vast number of fish swam over to be near him. All of the fish held their heads high above the water. They looked attentively upon the face of the saint; and they saw his abiding peace, gentleness, and serenity.

No one had ever seen so many fish along these shores. They came in all shapes and sizes; and they arranged themselves in order. The smallest fish came closest to him. Behind them were the fish of moderate size. And behind them, in the deepest waters, were the largest fish.

Saint Anthony preached to them with great sincerity: “Brother and sister fishes, you are honor bound to give thanks to the Creator for giving you the sea and the river, such noble dwellings in which to live. God has given you fresh water and salted water. He has given you safe places of refuge in which to escape the tempest. He has given you clear waters through which you can the food that he has given you to eat, so that you may live.”

“Your Creator was kind and courteous when he made you. He commanded to multiply. He gave you his blessing. During the great flood, all other creatures perished, but God save you without injury. God also gave you fins so that you can go wherever you want, so that you can live wherever you wish.”

“By his command, you preserved the life of Jonah the Prophet; and on the third day, you delivered him upon the dry land safe and sound. You offered up the tribute money to the Lord Jesus Christ which he could not pay because he was too poor. And by reason of a divine mystery, you were the food for Christ, our Eternal King, both before and after his resurrection. For these reasons, you should praise and thank God who has blessed you more than all other creatures.”

At these words and others like them, the fish of the sea and the fish of the river bowed their heads and opened their mouths. Along with other signs of reverence, they gave praise and thanks to God. Saint Anthony saw their reverence. He rejoiced in spirit. And he cried out: “Blessed be the Eternal God because the fishes of these waters honor him more than the unbelieving people! Such creatures, born without reason, hear God’s Word more willingly than these unbelieving people!” The longer Saint Anthony preached, the larger the multitude of fishes grew. Not a single fish left that place while Saint Anthony spoke to them.

When they heard about this unfolding miracle, the people of the city ran toward the shore. When they saw the miracle for themselves, their hard hearts were pierced. They drew close to Saint Anthony, cast themselves at his feet, and listened closely to his words. The saint then preached the universal truth. He preached with honesty and simplicity, so that he converted all of the unbelievers to the true faith. In addition, all of the devout people were comforted, filled with joy, and confirmed in their own faith. When the preaching was over, Saint Anthony and the people departed the shoreline with many blessings. And he remained in the city for many more days, preaching and gathering a great harvest of souls for the Lord.

A Miracle Prayer to Saint Anthony

Holy Saint Anthony,
gentlest and kindest of saints,
your burning love for God,
your exalted virtue,
and your charity toward all creatures
made you worthy, when on earth,
to possess the power to make miracles
like no other saint.

Miracles waited on your word;
and that word you were always ready to speak
at the request of those in need.
The anxious prayer of bitter trial
is never addressed to you in vain.

To the sick, you gave back health.
You find what is lost.
The sorrowful are objects
of your tender compassion.
And even the dead you raise to life
when the wounded heart
cries out in aguish.

Nothing is impossible for you,
except to lack compassion
for those in distress or sorrow.

Encouraged by these thoughts,
and convinced of the power of your prayers,
we kneel before your holy image,
and with full confidence,
we implore you to obtain for us
peace, healing, and reconciliation
in our divided country, our wounded church,
and our suffering world.

The answer to our prayers
may require a miracle.
But you are the saint of miracles,
who can just speak
and the mightiest wonders happen.

Gentle and loving Saint Anthony,
your heart is always full of sympathy.
Whisper our poor prayers
into the ear of the Infant Jesus,
who loves to linger in your arms.

One word from you
and our prayers will be answered.
Speak that word
and the gratitude of our hearts
will be yours for ever and ever. Amen.

Glory to the Father,
to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Saint Anthony of Padua, pray for us!
Saint Anthony of Lisbon, pray for us!
Saint Anthony, Patron of Lost Souls, pray for us!

SAINT ANTHONY AND THE FISHES

About the Presenter

Cliff Garvey is a co-founder of the Assisi Project. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine, Saint John Seminary College, and the Catholic University of America. Cliff is a writer, spiritual director, retreat leader, and university lecturer. He also serves as Associate Minister of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport in Massachusetts where his ministry focuses on adult faith formation. Thank you for listening to the Little Flowers of Saint Francis: The Miracle of Saint Anthony and the Fishes. The Assisi Project Podcast is produced by the Assisi Project, Inc. For more information about the Assisi Project: A Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit and our programs and ministries for adults of all ages and backgrounds, please contact Cliff at cgarvey@assisiproject.com. Copyright 2021. All rights reserved. May the Lord give you peace!

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ABOUT US

Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit with friends and followers throughout the world. We are dedicated to helping Christian believers of all ages more faithfully live the Gospel of Christ in the spirit of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi. The Assisi Project is a non-profit, tax exempt charitable organization. All are welcome to support our ministry via PayPal or AmazonSmile (see links below); or by sending a tax-deductible donation to the Assisi Project, Post Office Box 3158, Gloucester, Massachusetts 01931-3158. For more information about the Assisi Project, please contact Cliff Garvey at cgarvey@assisiproject.com. May the Lord give you peace!

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ANTHONY & FISHES
Saint Anthony Preaching to the Fishes
By Francisco de Herrera the Elder (c. 1630)