ST ANTHONY’S LOVE OF GOD
The true marks of love for God are – first, to be willing to do or to sacrifice anything, whatever it may be, for the love of God; and, second, to think frequently of Him with real joy, to speak of Him, or with Him, in prayer; for “where thy treasure is there is thy heart also.”
We find these true marks of love for God in Saint Anthony.
For love of God, at the early age of fifteen, he bade farewell to his parents and all that high rank and worldly fortune offered him, and entered a monastery in order to make a complete sacrifice of his liberty and his will to God. Yet even this did not satisfy his ardent love.
After he had entered the Franciscans, his greatest desire was to be sent as a missionary to preach the Gospel in Africa, where he hoped to lay down his life for the faith. After long and earnest entreaty, he obtained the desired petition. But God had decreed he should be led by another way. He had barely set foot on the soil of Africa than he was seized with a severe illness, which left him so weak that there was nothing for him but to return to Spain. Here again God’s providence interposed; the ship in which he had embarked was within a few miles of Spain, when a sudden wind drove it on the coast of Sickly. On landing at Messina he learned that St Francis was holding a Chapter at Assisi, whither he repaired, despite his great weakness, in order to receive the holy founder’s blessing.
The love of God, as we said above, is manifested by the frequent thought of God; it was in this way that this virtue was particularly manifested in Saint Anthony. There are probably few saints with so deep and tender a love for God, or who have been favoured with so many special proofs of God’s love in return. It is almost incredible – the number of conversions wrought and the many souls brought back to the faith by St Anthony, in a life of less than thirty-six years, and, despite weak health, rendered weaker by the practice of severe austerities.
Imitating the zeal of the Apostles, he went through all Italy, and his preaching, inflamed with divine love, drew all hearts and all minds to God, and was therefore blessed with the richest fruits. His efficacious love of God was rewarded by high graces of prayer, great lights and divine manifestations on the part of God.
– From: St Anthony’s Treasury, 1916