Washington D.C., Jun 14, 2021 / 13:59 pm (CNA).
Catholics may know St. Anthony of Padua as a Franciscan friar, a Doctor of the Church, and the patron saint of lost items – but only one person has ever seen St. Anthony in an approved apparition.
In 1664, Szymon the weaver – hailing from the little Polish village Radecznica – encountered St. Anthony in an apparition. Among other things, the saint requested the building of a nearby shrine. More than three centuries later, that miraculous shrine still exists, and on St. Anthony’s feast day – June 13 – pilgrims celebrate with a Eucharistic procession.
Although he was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1195, St. Anthony moved to Padua, Italy, after joining the Franciscan order. Yet his apparition occurred in a third country, Poland. Fr. Teofil Czarniak, provincial minister of the Order of Friars Minor, called the saint’s apparition a “special event.”
Szymon “had a vision of St. Anthony and St. Anthony gave him some messages,” Fr. Czarniak told EWTN News Nightly on June 11. “One of them was the request of constructing a shrine on [a] nearby hill.”
As a result, he added, “one of the promises of St. Anthony was that whoever comes to this place – because he appeared near the water source – whoever will clean his wounds or drink this water with the faith will be given the graces.”
News of the vision spread across Poland and soon builders constructed the Shrine of St. Anthony next to the nearby lake.
The shrine later captured the Vatican’s attention. In 2015, Pope Francis named it a minor basilica.
“It was the first confirmed apparition of St. Anthony in the world,” Fr. Teofil Czarniak said. “At the moment, today, you can see [the] beautiful shrine” adorned with a picture of St. Anthony, he said. The shrine is filled with colorful religious art and gilded in gold.
When pilgrims visit the beautiful church, they receive graces “through the intercessions of St. Anthony,” he added. They gather in a special way on the saint’s feast day, when the faithful participate in a Eucharistic procession with a statue of St. Anthony.
“We invite every pilgrim, everyone who needs help from God through the intercession of St. Anthony – who is a big, big saint in heaven – to come and visit,” Fr. Czarniak concluded. “To come and pray. To come and become one of the pilgrims in this holy place.”