Tomorrow is the feast of Saint Anthony of Padua, a nice young Franciscan Friar from Lisbon, Portugal who was embraced by his adoptive people in Padua, Italy. Tomorrow is the feast everywhere but in Jeannette, Pennsylvania at the Church of the Ascension, where we celebrated tonight with the closing of the novena followed by Mass. Ascension is a parish of Italian ancestry that celebrates this feast with great gusto each year. Father John Foriska is the administrator/pastor. His classmate, Father John T. Sweeney was celebrant and I was honored to preach. There was a nice crowd in the church with about thirty priests also on hand.
I'd like to share the gist of my homily, but first and most importantly, the menu for the dinner for the priests. I share this because those who prepared it take great pride in an outstanding dinner, as do those of us who attend really enjoy it. Dinner began with prayer and welcome, breadsticks, melon with prosciutto (thinly sliced ham), rigatoni with red sauce, and an assortment of cheeses. Next was a wedge of lettuce with chunky blue cheese and dinner rolls. Then came the main course of either/or or either/and grilled steak, pork chop or sweet sausage served with asparagus spears. Wine was served with the meal, which was followed by dessert of fresh strawberries with whipped cream, peach or lemon merange pie or homemade ice cream ... along with coffee. Are we spoiled or what? This dinner is always one of the highlights of the summer season. The priests are deeply thankful. Least you think it was just the priests, after Mass everyone was served ham, chicken, rigatoni, salads, rolls, desserts, etc. They know how to eat.
In my reflection I shared that the Holy Father has called a Year of Faith to begin this October 11th, the 50th anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council. This Year of Faith will invite us to reflect upon and stir into freshness that which we believe. It will begin with the Synod of Bishops which will look at the "new evangelization". I mentioned that this "new" evangelization is aimed at "re-evanglizing" believers, who have become complacent or who simple know very little of the Faith. This renewal is necessary today as it is so often in history ... including at the time of Francis of Assisi and his brother Anthony of Padua. Anthony was learned, a lover of scripture, and a tremendous preacher. He is known for helping people find that which was lost. I suggested that he could be a model for this new evangelization and help us find Christ and the true meaning of what it is to be his follower.