“Be assured that God loves you and that I am your friend and I take care of you.” This was the main message of St. Anthony, as explained by Rev. Fr. Mario Conte, Custodian of the Relics of St. Anthony of Padua in Italy, when they arrived with the relics of Saint Anthony, in San Antonio de Padua Parish (SADPP), in Batasan Hills Quezon City last April 28, 2016 at 4 in the afternoon.
Two first class Holy Relics of San Antonio de Padua were brought to SADPP. The first is a layer of St. Anthony’s facial skin, encased in a reliquary in the form of a baston, and the second is a fragment of the floating rib of the Saint.
The Holy Relics of San Antonio de Padua was initially received in Saint Maximilian Kolbe Parish, the convent of Franciscan Conventual Friars (OFMConv) in the Diocese of Novaliches, before traveling to San Antonio de Padua Parish, in Batasan Hills. The Holy Relics were given a welcome parade by the parishioners of SADPP, followed by a Eucharistic Celebration presided by Rev. Fr. Mario Conte, OFMConv and Rev. Fr. Gabriel Maragno, OFMConv, known as the “traveling companions of St. Anthony”, Rev. Fr. Victor Mateo, the Custos of the Order of the Friar Minors Conventual (OFMConv), Rev. Fr. Rodrigo Vasquez, Parish Priest of the SADPP, Rev. Fr. Sirenio Jaranilla, O.Carm, author of Carmelite books, and Rev. Fr. Job Callarackal, assistant Parish Priest of Christ the King Parish (CTKP) Filinvest 2.
In his welcome address, Rev. Fr. Mario Conte, one of the 52 Friars who minister in the Basilica in Padua, Italy, explained the significance of the Holy Relics of Saint Anthony as “a link of time…(a) connection.” He further explained that the relics allow for physical connection from St. Anthony, who is considered as our friend and protector. He, however, stressed that touching the relic of St. Anthony is not a superfluous magical experience.
“It won’t be magic nor superstitious and I can assure that you will not see sparks. Not sparks, nothing at all,” Fr. Conte said, adding that touching the relics was more like meeting an old friend, “It would be like going there and giving your hand personally to St. Anthony. You may thank him because he may have helped you.”
In his homily, Rev. Fr. Mario Conte introduced St. Anthony to the SADPP parishioners and explained the symbolisms in his image such as the Baby Jesus and the open book, representing the Holy Scriptures, which the saint “would have been able to rewrite from beginning to end because he knew it by heart.” He also said St. Anthony is a Human Rights Defender because, “he was constantly trying to defend anybody who was in need, especially the little ones, the marginalized, the poor, women…(He was) constantly trying to help anyone who was in need.”
The Eucharistic Celebration was followed by the opening of the Santuario de San Antonio Gallery at the second floor of the SADPP which showcased painting and pictures of this beloved Saint depicting his life and the miracles attributed to him. Overnight veneration of the Holy Relics was observed from 10PM-4AM, with multitudes of people still patiently waiting in line for hours.
At 4AM, about 150 choir members of different groups of the Parish, rendered church songs during the “Harana Kay San Antonio de Padua.” Harana is a Filipino practice of courtship or singing love songs either in the evening or very early in the morning. Ten parish choirs participated in this event, including the Confraternity of St. Joseph (CSJ) choir, Mom’s Choir, Pilak Choir, Our Lady of Fatima, Holy Family, Koro de Padua, St. Joseph the Worker, Harmonic, Our Mother of Perpetual Health and Klick.
Rev. Fr. Victor Mateo, the Custos of the Order of the Friar Minors Conventual (OFMConv), said this visit of the Holy Relic of St. Anthony to the Philippines, was born out of prayer, adherence to the vision mission of the OFMConv, and the litany of St. Anthony.
Rev. Fr. Vasquez expressed his wish for this Holy Relic’s visit, “Ang wish ko sa mga parishioners ay sana ang mga ganitong spiritual blessings ni San Antonio ay isang catechetical message ng ating Panginoon na kung ano ang sitwasyon sa ating panahon, kung saan nahihirapan ang mga tao, kung ano ang mga fears ng parishioners, nasa atin pa rin ang pag-ibig ng Diyos.”
The Holy Relics left SADPP after a farewell Mass presided by Rev. Fr. Vasquez, and concelebrated by Rev. Fr. Mario Conte, Rev. Fr. Gabriel Maragno, Fr. Arnel Glodobe, OCarm, Parish Priest of San Isidro Labrador Parish in Bagong Silangan, and Fr. Montecarlo Villoria, Parish Priest of Presentation Of Our Lord Parish in Filinvest 1.
The relics was scheduled to go to San Francisco de Assisi Parish at Binangonan Rizal, bringing with it, the delegation of the OFMCOnv, which was composed of 15 Friars and brothers. This was the second time the Holy Relics of St. Anthony visited the Philippines. The first time was in 1996. (~Dra. Jyn Aragon)