Actions speak louder than words
Editor’s Note: For so many of us, St Anthony of Padua who was born in Lisbon, Portugal towards the end of the 12th century, is the go-to saint for finding lost things or people. He was initially an Augustinian, but spent most of his monastic life as a Franciscan, making his way to Italy where he was an itinerant preacher, or mendicant, on fire for the Gospel. His actions did, indeed, speak louder than words since he was just as willing to cook or do fieldwork, and was known to have a compassionate, merciful heart. Many miracles were already attributed to him while he was alive, and he eventually became a resident of Padua by 1229. But, did you know it was said he committed the entire Bible to memory? The richness of his homilies and spiritual teachings, many of which survive today, were considered so great that Venerable Pope Pius XII named him a Doctor of the Church in 1946 and gave him the title of “Doctor Evangelicus” or “Evangelical Doctor.” The Church is blessed to have the following excerpt from one of his sermons, as a prayer and meditation for his memorial today, as part of the Office of Readings, in the Liturgy of the Hours.
The man who is filled with the Holy Spirit speaks in different languages. These different languages are different ways of witnessing to Christ, such as humility, poverty, patience and obedience; we speak in those languages when we reveal in ourselves these virtues to others. Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak. We are full of words but empty of actions, and therefore are cursed by the Lord since he himself cursed the fig tree when he found no fruit but only leaves [cf Matthew 21:19; Mark 11:14]. Gregory* says: “A law is laid upon the preacher to practice what he preaches.” It is useless for a man to flaunt his knowledge of the law if he undermines its teaching by his actions.
But the apostles spoke as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech [cf Acts 2:4]. Happy the man whose words issue from the Holy Spirit and not from himself! For some men speak as their own character dictates, but steal the words of others and present them as their own and claim the credit for them. The Lord refers to such men and others like them in Jeremiah: So, then, I have a quarrel with the prophets that steal my words from each other. I have a quarrel with the prophets, says the Lord, who have only to move their tongues to utter oracles. I have a quarrel with the prophets who make prophecies out of lying dreams, who recount them and lead my people astray with their lies and their pretensions. I certainly never sent them or commissioned them, and they serve no good purpose for this people, says the Lord [cf Jeremiah 23:30-32].
We should speak, then, as the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of speech. Our humble and sincere request to the Spirit for ourselves should be that we may bring the day of Pentecost to fulfillment, insofar as he infuses us with his grace, by using our bodily senses in a perfect manner and by keeping the commandments. Likewise, we shall request that we may be filled with a keen sense of sorrow and with fiery tongues for confessing the faith so that our deserved reward may be to stand in the blazing splendor of the saints and to look upon the triune God.
*This was possibly Pope Gregory IX, who canonized St. Anthony in 1232, a little less than a year after his death, and called him the “Ark of the Testament” and the “Repository of Holy Scripture.” St. Anthony had also been called “A New Elijah” and “A Prophet Sent by God.”
Art: Sant Antonio da Padova con Madonna e Bambino (Saint Anthony of Padua with Madonna and Child), Constantino Desiderio, ZioVeleno, own work 27 June 2011, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons.