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The recent growth in devotion to St Anthony of Padua has become so marked as to call forth exclamations of astonishment from even the Catholic Press. This new fervour towards the great wonder worker of the Franciscan Order is one of the most consoling signs of the times, and it seems, moreover, to supply a special need of our day. Nowhere has this increase of devotion been more marked than in France, where it has taken the form of a new charity, known as “St Anthony’s Bread“.

How did it all start?

The origin of this charity, the fame of which is spreading rapidly throughout all the world, is thus described.

One morning in November, in the year 1892, Mlle. Bouffier, a poor shop-keeper of Toulon, found it impossible to open her shop door. The safety lock seemed broken, and she called a locksmith. After trying all the keys on his ring, he gave up in despair, saying there was no resource but to break open the door. While the locksmith went in search of other tools, the shop-keeper prayed fervently to St Anthony, that the door might be opened without violence, promising, if her request should be granted, to distribute a certain number of loaves 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 without the slightest difficulty.

A rapidly growing devotion

After this simple evidence of St Anthony’s power, his clients increased so rapidly in Toulon that Mlle. Bouffier, with the assistance of her friends, founded a work of charity called the “Bread of St Anthony”. In the room behind the shop they placed a statue of the Saint with a lamp burning before it, and under the lamp two boxes – one to receive the written requests and promises made to St Anthony, and the other to receive money to buy bread for the poor.

A humble oratory

From the beginning, large crowds flocked to this humble oratory. Soldiers and officers knelt to pray; and naval captains, before setting out for a long cruise, came to commend themselves and their ships. Mothers came to beg health for their children or other favours for grown sons and daughters. Many came to implore the conversion of a soul dear to them, while servants or work-women without employment came to beg the Saint’s protection.

Amazing miracles

In the fullness of time rumours of the wonders wrought through St Anthony’s intercession at Toulon reached Paris, Lyons, Bordeaux, Marseilles, and other large towns, and many chapels in these cities very soon contained the two boxes for the offerings which have now well nigh universal throughout France.

How to do this yourselves

“St Anthony’s Bread” is obtained in a simple way. All a member of any Congregation has to do is to write his or her request on a piece of paper, adding a promise that if by the expiration of a given time such the Saint should secure the fulfilment of request a certain sum of money will be placed in the collection box to buy bread for the poor. These written requests may be either of a spiritual or a temporal character. They may properly include requests for success in any legitimate enterprise, the grace to overcome the proneness to commit a certain sin, the conversion of a relative or friend to the true faith, etc., etc. The request may have reference to the writer only, or to relatives, friends, or even strangers.

Bread and other goods/services for the poor 

When the favour is obtained, the sum of money promised – with an addition of course if desired – is to be deposited in the box. This money is devoted to purchasing and distributing “St Anthony’s Bread”. By this latter is understood as meaning not only food, but also clothing and medical attendance – in fact, everything necessary for the relief of the poor and of the suffering poor in particular.

– St Anthony’s Treasury, Laverty & Sons Ltd., Leeds, 1916




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Posted by on March 30, 2017 in Devotions


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“Last year, 23 million meals were given out by food banks and other charities to people too poor to feed themselves – a 44 per cent increase over the previous 12 months.


Their plight has been exposed in ‘Below the Breadline’, a newly-published report into food poverty by Oxfam, Church Action against Poverty and The Trussell Trust which calls on the Government and all political parties to reinstate a social safety net as a core principle of the UK’s welfare system.


The report attributes the steep rise in those needing food handouts as a ‘perfect storm’ brought about by changes in the welfare system, benefit sanctions, low and stagnant wages, and insecure and zero hours contracts which make planning impossible for people living on a financial knife edge.


Add rising energy prices to the mix, and the choice between eating and heating means many people have literally no idea what – if anything – is for dinner tonight… Food poverty can happen to anyone, and it can happen fast.


Unexpected illness, a sudden redundancy or the break-up of a long-term relationship can mean the difference between making ends meet and finding the cupboard is bare.

And even prosperous neighbourhoods will have pockets of hidden poverty where people are struggling to survive.


Their plight is particularly shocking in a country such as the UK, which ranks as the seventh richest in the world.

But although wealthy, Britain is also deeply divided. The ‘Sunday Times’ Rich List reported in May that the 1,000 richest people in the country have seen their wealth double over the past five years. But during the same period, millions of others have traded down to the cheapest food products from the budget shops.


They go without ‘treats’, they have given up meat – and now they have reached the point where their only remaining option is simply to buy less food. Some of those interviewed for ‘Below the Breadline’ eat only one meal a day: more than half a million children in the UK live in families who are unable to provide a minimally acceptable diet.

Despite their best efforts, many hard-working people simply do not earn enough to live on.

And it’s not hard to understand why. UK food prices increased by 43,5 per cent over eight years to July 2013; UK housing costs are among the highest in Europe and the price of energy rose by 37 per cent between 2010 and 2013.


But as prices for food staples rise inexorably, stagnant wages and insecure work contracts mean many households are bringing home less every month than their essential outgoings.


In the past year an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger and Food Poverty has been set up to look into the issue, and the Work and Pensions Select Committee is investigating how social security reforms and the increase in food aid may be linked.

But the three charities behind ‘Below the Breadline’ say more needs to be done to discover the causes behind the almost 50 per cent increase in food bank usage which has taken place over the past year.


They also called on the Government to look at how food poverty affects men and women differently. Many women go hungry to feed their children, and lone parents – 89 per cent of whom are women – are twice as likely to live in poverty as two-parent families.

‘Protecting its citizens from going hungry is one of the most fundamental duties of Government,’ a spokesman for the charities said…’Cuts to social security since April 2013 have had a severe impact on poor and vulnerable families across the UK.’


…In light of their findings, the three charities are pressing the Government to develop an action plan to address food poverty in Britain… They also want to see parties across the political spectrum commit to increasing the minimum wage to a ‘living’ wage by 2020.

– – – – – – – – – –

‘A family in destitution, in a country as wealthy as this, is a disgrace that should not happen. I think the current welfare system does need reform and I don’t disagree on the principles with which the Government is working. But it cannot be at the cost of casting people into destitution.’ (Cardinal Vincent Nichols)

‘People who are using food banks are not scroungers who are cynically trying to work the system. They are drawn from the six million working poor in this country, people who are struggling to make ends meet in low-paid or bitty employment.’ (Rev. Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury and patron of Cambridge City Foodbank)”
– This article entitled “There can be no place for food poverty in Britain” was published in “The Catholic Universe” issue Friday, 13th June 2014. For subscriptions please visit (external link).


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