St. Anthony of Padua relics to visit Kansas City — and one will stay

Saint Anthony of Padua by El Greco c 1580 CNA Saint Anthony of Padua, by El Greco (c. 1580).

Several parishes in Kansas City, Missouri, are set to host traveling relics of St. Anthony of Padua this weekend — and one of the parishes will get the privilege of keeping one of the relics of the famed Franciscan.

St. Anthony Parish in the Scarritt Renaissance neighborhood of Kansas City is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Father Andres Moreno, the church’s pastor, told CNA that several months ago he asked the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua, Italy, if their parish community could keep one of St. Anthony’s relics in honor of their anniversary, and the basilica agreed.

Father Mario Conte, OFM Conv., who is bringing the relics from Padua to Kansas City, told CNA that this is his first trip abroad with St. Anthony’s relics post-COVID. Conte is one of the 50 friars who minister in the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua and the editor of the English edition of The Messenger of St. Anthony magazine. Before COVID, Conte traveled all over the world with St. Anthony’s relics in order to deepen devotion to the saint.

St. Anthony, who is known by many Catholics as the patron saint of lost things, was a 13th-century Franciscan and an associate of St. Francis of Assisi. He is today honored as a doctor of the Church.

Conte said that at each of three parishes in Kansas City, he will celebrate and preach two Masses, one in English and one in Spanish, with a time for veneration of the relic in between.

“When you have the chance to touch and connect through a relic, it’s like giving, in a certain way, your hand to St. Anthony. You feel closer to him,” Conte told CNA.

“People know that when they touch a relic, it’s just bones. But I think that they also realize a connection with a dear friend, who is in the Communion of Saints, and so is very close to God.”

The Catholic Church has a long tradition of giving honor to relics — objects that have a direct association with the saints or with Christ himself. First-class relics are parts of a saint’s body, such as flesh, blood, hair, or teeth; second-class relics are items or fragments of items owned by a saint; and third-class relics are those items that a saint touched or that have been touched to a first-, second-, or other third-class relic. Relics are not worshipped but are given honor — “venerated” — because of the saint’s love of and closeness to God. Those praying with relics often ask for that saint’s intercession. 

Conte said the relic he is bringing that will return to Padua consists of several layers of skin from the saint, inside a glass lamp held by a small golden statue of St. Anthony. The relic that the basilica is donating to St. Anthony parish is Ex Massa Corporis (from the body mass) — a piece of the saint’s flesh, but not an identifiable piece of the body. 

The relics Conte is bringing will be on display and available for veneration at Holy Cross Parish from noon to 6 p.m. Central time on Oct. 7, with an English Mass celebrated at noon and a Spanish Mass at 6 p.m. On Oct. 8, the relics will be at Our Lady of Peace parish with an identical Mass schedule. Finally, on Sunday, Oct. 9, the relics will come to St. Anthony Parish, with English Masses celebrated at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and Spanish Masses at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., and veneration between 9 a.m. and the end of the 6 p.m. Mass. 

Both of the relics coming to Kansas City were taken from the saint’s remains after his tomb was opened for a second time, in 1981. The only other time St. Anthony’s tomb was opened was in 1263, just a few decades after his death. At that time several relics were taken, including his tongue and jaw, both of which are still venerated in Padua. 

Born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1195, St. Anthony moved to Padua, Italy, after joining the Franciscan order. Anthony is known not only for his eloquent preaching and frequent rebukes of heretics but also for his loving care for the poor he encountered. 

In 1224, St. Francis of Assisi gave Anthony permission to teach theology in the Franciscan order, which he did in several French and Italian cities while strictly following his Franciscan vows and preaching regularly to the people. Later, he dedicated himself entirely to the work of preaching as a missionary in France, Italy, and Spain, teaching an authentic love for God to many people who had fallen away from Catholic faith and morality.

Beyond his God-given gift for preaching, Conte noted that Anthony had a great love for the poor and the marginalized and did all he could to help them. For this and other reasons, St. Anthony is a great example and a powerful intercessor for Catholics, he said. 

“Through all his life, Anthony did all he could to help people ... fighting for those who needed his help,” he noted. 

St. Anthony’s feast day is celebrated June 13. In 2015, Pope Francis declared the Shrine of St. Anthony in Padua a minor basilica. 

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