June 13, 2011

St. Anthony: Savior of Vases

Anyone who has prayed the Divine Office with either the American English Roman-Franciscan Christian Prayer or Roman-Franciscan Liturgy of the Hours knows that the 1975 propers for Franciscan saints and blesseds therein are not one of the great works of liturgical language. In fact, they're often pretty bad.

The hymns especially aren't too hot. They tend to be random, opaque, and generally unsingable. Often they almost fall into a meter of 9-8-9-8 for which the well-known tune Rendez à Dieu could be supplied (i.e. "Father we thank Thee, Who hast Planted") but there's almost always some fatal metrical error that would cause the effort to end in choral confusion and fraternal chuckles.

Today, the feast of St. Anthony, is no exception. Consider the third stanza of the hymn provided for the Office of Readings. Though it's one of the rare ones that just about works out metrically, it's still pretty random:

His miracles the unbelievers
Unto the light of faith recall;
A fragile vase that tumbles headlong
No damage suffers from its fall.

Really? Of all the beautiful doctrine and wonderful miracles of St. Anthony, you want me to sing about how he saved some vase? Give me a break. However, I have to ask, anybody know the story behind this?

St. Anthony, pray for us.


Tc said...

I'm glad that I'm not the only one who is dismayed by some of the Franciscan Propers. Re: the hymns, I typically will just read them like poetry if I'm praying alone.

I use "poetry," in this case, very liberally.

Lee Gilbert said...

One of my treasures is a 500 page collection of essays in Italian celebrating and expatiating on St. Anthony being declared The Evangelical Doctor in 1947. Like the early disciples who did not even know there was a Holy Spirit, I imagine there are many, many well-educated Catholics who have no notion that there even is an evangelical doctor. Perhaps that is why even with all the interest in evangelism of late we hear nothing of St. Anthony's approach to evangelism.

You are probably ultra familair with the following hymn, but perhaps your readers would be interested both in the lyrics and in hearing performances on Youtube. Some of these are truly very beautiful and heartening.

Hymn to St. Anthony of Padua: “Si Quaeris Miracula”

Si quaeris miracula,
Mors, error, calamitas,
Daemon, lepra fugiunt,
Aegri surgunt sani.

If then you ask for miracles,
Death, error, all calamities,
The leprosy, and demons, fly
And health succeeds infirmities.

Cedunt mare, vincula;
Membra resque perditas
Petunt et accipiunt
Juvenes et cani.

The sea obeys, and fetters break;
And lifeless limbs thou dost restore;
While treasures lost are found again,
When young or old thine aid implore.

Pereunt pericula,
Cessat et necessitas;
Narrent hi, qui sentiunt,
Dicant Paduani.

All dangers vanish at thy prayer,
And direst need doth quickly flee;
Let those who know, thy power proclaim,
Let Paduans say, “These are of thee.”


Gloria Patri et Filio,
Et Spiritui Sancto.
To Father, Son, may glory be,
And Holy Ghost, eternally.



Brother Charles said...


Barb Szyszkiewicz said...

This made me laugh! Here I'd always thought you prayed to St. Anthony after you LOSE a vase, not before you BREAK one...

Lee, thanks for all the info and the translation of that beautiful hymn.