The Shrine of St. Anthony
The Guild of St. Anthony was founded on the 23 November, 1895 by Father Elzear of Risca (Guardian of the Friary, 1893-97). The side chapel dedicated to the Shrine of St. Anthony was added to the Church shortly after the death of Mrs. Montgomery, benefactress of the Franciscan friars. The marble and alabaster altar came from the chapel of her villa in Naples, Italy, and included in her bequest was a small square painting which had become so dulled with dust that no-one recognised it. A later visitor to the church identified the picture above the altar as a “true portrait” of St. Anthony of Padua. The original, a fifteenth century fresco by Benozzo Gozzoli, still exists and can be seen at Spoleto in Italy.
The discovery of the portrait at Crawley inspired Fr. Elzear, a member of the Crawley Community, to found the Guild of St. Anthony as a seventh centenary memorial of the saint’s birth in 1195. The restored picture was placed over the altar in the new chapel dedicated to St. Anthony. Pope Pius X declared that the Shrine at Crawley was to be the world centre of the Guild.
The association of St. Anthony with Crawley was confirmed when the saint was made a co-patron of the Friary church at the request of the Franciscans after St. Anthony was declared a Doctor of the Church. Pope Pius X11, in a rescript of the Sacred Congregation of Rites of July 26, 1946, permitted that the Church which hitherto had been dedicated to St. Francis should in future be known as the church of St. Francis and St. Anthony.
The present shrine is situated in a side chapel at the west side of the church. This is erected almost exactly as it was in the original building.
The main aims of the Guild are to spread devotion to St. Anthony and to assist the poor. Food given to the poor in honoured memory of him came to be called St. Anthony’s Bread. A plenary indulgence can be obtained on the day of enrolment in the Guild and thereafter annually on St Anthony’s feast, or the preceding or following Sunday. To gain it, simply affirm in your own words, or without any words at all, your commitment to the main aims of the Guild.
Crawley was the principal centre of the Guild until 1980 and membership continues to spread throughout the world.
In 1984, the Franciscan friars moved away from Crawley in West Sussex, returning to Erith in Kent. Following the departure of the Friars the Shrine has been cared for by the priests of the Diocese. The practice of praying the Novena to St. Anthony every Tuesday (following the 12.15pm Mass) has been revived.
ANTHONY, The Person (1195 – 1231)
St. Anthony, originally Ferdinand Bullion, was a Portuguese born in Lisbon in 1195 and the son of a powerful nobleman. At age fifteen he joined the Canons Regular of St. Augustine, but transferred to the Friars Minor in 1220, choosing Anthony for his new name. He was soon licensed to go as a missionary to North Africa but illness and bad weather brought him instead to Sicily. He travelled widely in France and northern Italy - caring for the poor and standing up for those endangered or oppressed. Pope Gregory IX held his learning in such high esteem that he called him the “Ark of the Covenant.” The last part of his life was spent in Padua, which adopted him as its own and is where he was buried. Much of the good work he had begun grew and flourished after his death. Food given to the poor in honoured memory of him came to be known as “St. Anthony’s Bread”
He was declared the Patron Saint of Portugal on June13, 1934.
The Guardian Angel of Padua
Devotion to St. Anthony of Padua is pre-eminently a devotion of petition, followed by thanksgiving. It began during his lifetime, when the young Friar’s compassionate heart and willing hand made him the visible guardian angel of Padua. His was a splendid career, even in the eyes of the world, during his brief 36 years. He was a profound theologian, a brilliant preacher and a formidable foe to heresy through the supernatural forces which seemed always to be at his command.
The Chronicles of Padua tell how his innocence and entire trust in God were rewarded and how his eager prayer drew down the Divine Child from Heaven into his arms. Then, from that moment, he is supposed to have said how sorely our every-day troubles press on our weak bodies and our weak souls. He was then appointed our “household friend”, our daily petitioner for our daily needs - always at hand to promote peace, order and patience in our homes.
St Anthony’s Bread
One morning in November 1892, Mlle Bouffier, a shopkeeper in Toulon, France, found it impossible to open her shop door. The safety lock seemed broken and the locksmith was unable to unlock it even after trying all his keys. He said that the door would have to be broken. While he went to fetch his tools, the shopkeeper prayed fervently to St Anthony, that the door might be opened without violence. She promised that, if her request were granted, she would distribute a certain number of loaves of bread to the poor in his honour. She then begged the locksmith to make another effort with his keys, and taking one at random, the door flew open with ease! Devotion to St. Anthony grew rapidly in Toulon and Mlle Bouffier and her friends founded a charity called the “Bread of St. Anthony”. In a room behind the shop they placed a statue of the saint with two boxes. One to receive the written requests and the other to receive money to buy bread for the poor.
Today, there are many visitors to the shrine in Toulon and the charity has spread throughout France.
St. Anthony - what he means for us today.
F. G. Londin in the Franciscan Annals describes poetically the beauty of the inner spirit of St. Anthony as follows:
“If we are in need of spiritual wisdom - how to serve God better, let us look at St. Anthony’s book; if we are spiritually cold, if we are not giving the light of good example, let us warm ourselves by his flame. If our hearts have been hardened, and ceased to do God’s holy will, let us make them beat in harmony with St. Anthony’s heart; and if virtue be wanting, then may we scent the perfume of his lily, and so the Christ Child may be our pledge of unending bliss”
St. Anthony’s Blessing
As commonly used by St. Anthony:
“May the Lord bless you and take you into His keeping: may He show you His countenance: and take pity on you: may He turn his eyes towards you and give you His peace.”
Would you like to become involved?
We celebrated the centenary of the establishment of the Guild of St Anthony in Crawley in 1996-97. Today, we ask you to reflect on St. Anthony and his works. In particular, to offer prayer and also financial giving to the poor, homeless and needy and to the support of this important shrine. For further information please contact usIf you would like further information or would like to get involved in promoting The Guild of St. Anthony, please contact
Town Centre - 'Friary'