The name Saint Anthony is familiar to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. This familiarity, for many of his patrons, seems only to go as far as the “patron saint of lost articles.” Here, however, we wish to share the story of his power over Satan through a custom that began two hundred years after the saint’s death.A certain woman who lived in a small village in Portugal was guilty of many sins of immorality and was tempted to commit suicide. She also suffered from terrible convulsions which were rightly perceived as demonic possession. One day, as a result of her husband’s teasing, the sinful woman became so depressed that she was determined to put an end to her life. On her way to carry out her awful plan she passed a church of the Franciscans; it was June 13, the feast of Saint Anthony. Having retained some small devotion to the saint, the miserable woman entered the church and prayed to Saint Anthony as to whether or not it was God’s will that she should drown herself.
While she prayed, she fell into a fatigued sleep and dreamt that Saint Anthony stood before her and held out a piece of paper to her, saying, “Arise, woman, and take this paper, which will free you from the attacks of the Evil One.” When she awoke she found a piece of paper in her hands with a cross on it and the words: “Behold the Cross of the Lord! Fly all hostile powers! The Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David has conquered. Alleluia, Alleluia!” Immediately a calm came over her and the miserable temptation of killing herself was gone and remorse for her sinful life came before her. She threw herself before the Mercy of God, entered the confessional. After confessing her sins, promising to do penance and to amend her sinful life, she returned home to her husband.
The grateful husband was indebted to God and Saint Anthony for the miraculous favor his wife had received and began telling everyone of the prayer that was given to her by Saint Anthony. News of the miracle had traveled all over, and soon she was summoned to appear before the king. The king convinced the woman that he was in dire need of this miraculous prayer and asked her for the paper.
She consented to the king’s wishes but soon regretted her action and was once more tormented by the Devil. Both husband and wife pleaded with the king for the return of the blessing. After many pleas only a copy was obtained, but it was found to be just as powerful as the original, and the poor woman was once more protected by Saint Anthony’s blessing. So special is the Blessing of Saint Anthony that the Church has incorporated it into the Rite of Exorcism, which is a ritual of casting out the devil from a person who is possessed.
Three hundred and fifty years after the death of Saint Anthony, Pope Sixtus V, in 1586, had the greater part of the blessing inscribed in Latin on the ancient obelisk in Saint Peter’s Square in Rome.
Why are these words so effective in driving away the evil spirits and protecting us against their wicked assaults? The power lies in the name of Our Divine Saviour, Who is the Lion of the tribe of Juda and the Root of David, Who died on the Cross, redeeming us and gaining victory over sin, death and the Devil. To all who consent to participate in the fruits of the Redemption, the death of Our Redeemer on the Cross is the source of every blessing.
After the Redemption, however, in so far as God permits, the devils do go about waging war against all that is good and holy, trying to lead men away from God and into sin. But the demons, who were conquered by the Cross, fear it as a dog fears the stick with which he has been beaten, and so the devout use the Blessing of Saint Anthony, putting to flight the enemies of our salvation.
When we say this little but powerful prayer, we obtain for ourselves and others the assistance of Saint Anthony’s intercession. Saint Anthony, who is in Heaven, has been rewarded by God’s giving him the privilege of shielding our souls from the attacks of Hell.