Saint Anthony the Abbot
( written October 16, 2000)
Veneration of St Anthony the Abbot by the Community of Villavallelonga
St. Anthony the Abbot
is most well known as the Patriarch of Monks; the father of western
monasticism. He is also the patron saint of grave-diggers and the protector
of domestic animals such as cattle and other livestock. He is especially
invoked by the people of Villavallelonga for the protection against
the disaster from fire.
As can be seen from the picture to the left, he is often portayed with fire burning under his control. This picture was taken from a prayer card. The other picture to the lower right is
the most common picture of the Saint that the people of Villavallelonga have. In addition to the fire, both pictures have animals surrounding the Saint who loves them and keeps them
safe from harm. They reflect his love for nature. When philosphers asked him how he could spend his time in solitude without the pleasure of reading books, he replied "Nature is my
great book." You can click the pictures to see a larger version.
Saint Anthony plays a big role to the residents of Villavallelonga because it was and still is to a large extent a farming community. The residents invoked the Saint to protect their
livestock from getting lost, from getting deseases or death from wolves in the countryside. To this day, many of the homes with roots to Villavallelonga such as those in Toronto, Canada
or Rochester, USA have a picture of the Saint. In fact, many of the stories I've heard from the old folk actually fear Saint Anthony. They give examples of people who had been bad near
the feast day of the Saint and then were soon hit with a calamity of some kind, such as fire.
I have very little information on the origin of this festival and what I have written has been handed down by word of mouth and speculation.
La Panarda is a celebration held on January 17; the feast day of St. Anthony the Abbot. At one time, the Roman Catholic Church owned land around the village of Villavallelonga.
It is believed that Benedictines, who are monks, were the custodians of this land. They are the men and women who follow the Rule of St. Benedict. The Benectine order was founded
at Monte Cassino in 529 by St. Benedict, a very famous and well known saint. The monastery at Monte Cassino is about 50 kilometers from Villavallelonga. The mountain is also famous for
the battle fought during World War II where many soldiers lost their lives; about 120,000 soldiersdied in the Battle of Monte Cassino.
The monks would naturally have a strong devotion to St. Anthony the Abbot, simply because he is the Patriarch of Monks who sets forth an excellent example for them. It is speculated
that the land owned by the Church could be put to better use in the hands of the residents in the surrounding area. So the land was given freely to those residents on condition they
would honour St. Anthony the Abbot. So this is how the festival came into being. The first born in each family who had accepted a parcel of land from the Church, carries on the
tradition of hosting La Panarda. It has been handed down through generations in this manner.
Another account says that the Benedictines did not own parcels of
land around Villavallelonga, but rather, the land was owned by the Diocese
outright. Perhaps monks had served only in an advisory capacity to the
church in Villavallelonga who then made their final decision. Further
support of Benedictine influence on Villavallelonga comes from a 12th
century Benedictine church named after St.
Peter which stands in the vicinity of "Alba Fucens", a market center
near Avezzanno that dates to the early Roman Empire. The archives in
Villavallelonga should help shed some light into this matter.
At La Panarda there is much food, drink, music and dancing. Here in Toronto, Canada, several households who are part of the Community of Villavallelonga still carry on the tradition of
hosting La Panarda. There is more than one household hosting the feast because more than one parcel of land had been given away. Members of the community who are not hosts are free to
travel from house to house carrying bells and singing songs as they enter. A special mass is held on the first Sunday after the Feast of St. Anthony, January 17. Bread rolls or Italian
panine are blessed by the Priest and distributed freely to all who attend the mass. There are also refreshments and plenty of homemade baked goods served afterwards in the basement of
For many years now, this mass in honour of St. Anthony the Abbot has been held at:
St Matthew's Roman Catholic Church
706 Old Weston Road
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The Life of Saint Anthony the Abbot
This is a brief summary on this great Saint. Much more detailed information can be found online under references. The feast day of Saint Anthony is January 17. He was
born in upper Egypt at the village of Coma in the year 251. Anthony was a rich person when he was young. At an early age, his parents died and he was left an orphan with one sister. At 20
years old, Anthony was in church and heard the words of the gospel and in particular, Matthew 19:16-26 "If you seek perfection, go, sell your possessions, and give to the poor.
You will then have treasure in heaven. Afterward, come back and follow me."
St. Anthony obeyed at once. He sent his sister to a convent and gave all his possesions to the poor except for the clothes he had on. He spent several years in solitude, where according
to tradition he was sorely tempted by the devil. Satan assaulted him and so grievously beat him that he lay almost dead, covered with bruises and wounds. When he had recovered somewhat,
though not yet able to stand, St. Anthony cried out to the devils "Behold! Here I am. Do all you are able to do against me. Nothing shall separate me from Christ my Lord." The
demons appeared and renewed the attack in the form of frightful wild beasts. He even mocked the demons ridiculing their weakness. Then a heavenly light appeared and chased them away.
St. Anthony asked, "Where have you been my Lord? Why were you not here from the beginning? A voice answered "Anthony, I was here the whole time. I stood by you to see how you
would conquer your enemies. Because you did well, I will always protect you and will render your name famous throughout the earth."
The saint's food was bread with a little salt, some locusts and roots and he drank nothing but water. He ate after sunset and sometimes only once in two or four days. His bed was a mat
and his pillow was a stone. Many disciples flocked to his retreat and built their cells around his, thus forming the earliest monastic community. Serapion became the superior of 10,000
monks. St. Anthony instructed his monks to have eternity always on their minds. They should reflect every morning that they might not live till night and to reflect every evening that
they might not live to see the morning. To resist the devil, St. Anthony told them "The devil dreads fasting, prayer, humilty and good works. The illusions of the devil soon vanish
especially at the sign of the cross."
Only twice in this period did he leave the life of solitude in the mountains and deserts. First, he went to comfort the Christians who were being martyred by the thousands during the
persecution of the Emperor Maximus. St. Anthony was hoping to received the crown of martyrdom. He publicly wore his white monastic habit never to impeach himself. When the persecution
abated, he returned to the monastic life.
The second time he left was to defend St. Athanasius and the faithful Christians against the Arian heresy. St. Athanasius highly regarded St. Anthony as an advisor and wrote much about
his life. The Arian heresy denied the divinity of Christ. According to Arianism, there are not three distinct persons in God, but only one person, the Father. The Son is only a creature
made out of nothing like all other created beings. St. Anthony refuted this heresy openly. He preached aloud in the city of Alexandria that "God the Son is not a creature. He is of
the same substance with the Father. The impious Arians, who call him a creature, do not differ from the heathens themselves - who worshipped and served the creature rather than the
creator. Where the sign of the cross is formed, magic and charms lose their power." So important was this heresy to the development of Christianity that by definition, a Christian
is defined as one who believes in the Holy Trinity. That is, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. A Muslim is not a Christian because they believe that Jesus is a
prophet, not God. Jehovas Witnesses are not Chritians because they do not believe that Jesus is God. Protestants, on the other hand, such as the Anglicans and Lutherans are Christians
because they do believe that God is three divine persons.
Many miracles were believed to have been performed by St. Anthony, among others, the cure of "The Sacred Fire" . It is a desease called Erysipelas which is an inflammoatry
desease of the skin. Because of Saint's intercession with God, the desease became known as St. Anthony's Fire.
He was near death shortly after returning from Alexandria. The place of his buriel was to be kept secret. When death was approaching, he heard the voice of God saying to him "Seek a
man holier than yourself." St. Anthony set out and came to a cave which lived a hermit. His name was St. Paul. St. Paul told him that he wanted to be buried in the mantle of St.
Athanasius which St. Anthony possessed. When St. Anthony returned with the mantle, he found St. Paul dead. Unable to dig a grave, it was two lions who came out of the forest to help.
This is the main reason St. Anthony has been named the patron saint of grave-diggers. After St. Paul was placed into the grave with the mantle, he ordered his two disciples Macarius and
Amathas that he should be buried on his mountain. He died in 356. He was over 100 years old. It was a life of solitude, fasting, and manual labor in the service of God that had left him
a healthy and vigorous man until very late in life.
Prayer 1. to Saint Anthony the
ORAZIONE A SANT' ANTONIO ABATE
O vero miracolo degli Anacoreti, trionfatore
del demonio, gloriosissimo S. Antonio, esempio luminoso di penitenza
e di fortezza cristiana, ardente di zelo per la salvezza delle anime
e di carità per bene del prossimo, Voi che otteneste da Dio la speciale
virtù di liberare l'aria, la terra, il fuoco e gli animali da ogni morbo
e da ogni malefica influenza, deh! Fate che con una santa vita imitiamo
le vostre eroiche virtù e che anche quaggiù in terra sperimentiamo il
vostro valevole patrocinio, ricevendo copiosissime le vostre benedizioni
su tutto ciò che serve per la nostra alimentazione e pei nostri lavori,
sui corpi e sulle anime nostre. Cosi sia. Amen.
Prayer 2. to Saint Anthony the
PREGHIERA A SANT'ANTONIO ABATE
O trionfatore glorioso del Demonio,
indarno armato in multiformi maniere contro di Voi, Sant'Antonio Abate,
proseguite la vittoriosa opera vostra su l'inferno, congiurato ai nostri
], dilungate dagli armenti e dai campi ogni maligno influsso;
e la vita presente, vostra merce tranquilla per noi, ci sia saggio e
apparecchio alla pace perfetta della vita eterna. Amen.
Prayer 3. to Saint Anthony the
PRAYER TO ST ANTHONY THE ABBOT
Dear God, St. Anthony the Abbot accepted
your call to renounce the world and to love you above all things. He
faithfully served you in the solitude of the desert by fasting, prayer,
humility and good works. In the Sign of The Cross, he triumphed
over the Devil. Through his intercession, may we learn to love you better;
with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, all our strength
and to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. St. Anthony the Abbot,
great and powerful saint, grant us also this special request [...].
We ask this through our lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with
God the Father and the Holy Spirit. One God forever and ever, Amen.
A song in honour of Saint Anthony the Abbot
INNO AL GRAN SANTO
BUONA SERA SIGNORA PADRONA
SIAM VENUTI CON CANTI E SUONI
SIAM VENUTI CON CANTI E SUONI
PER CANTARE SANTO ANTONIO
O GRAN DIO ONNI POTENTO
SIAM VENUTI BUONA GENTE
A DAL LUNGO COMMINARE
SANTO ANTONIO PER CANTARE
SANTO ANTONIO ERA UN GRAND SANTO
CHE CI LIBERA BRACCIA E GAMBE
E LA GENTE DI QUESTO LUOGO
DIO CI LIBERA DAL FUOCO
SANTO ANTONIO ERA EREMITA
CON LA BARBA IN CANUTITA
E CON L'ABITO DA FRATO
VIVA SANTO ANTONIO ABATO
SANTO ANTONIO ALLA SUA CASELLA
CI COMPARVE UNA DONNA BELLA
CLIELO DISSE IN ARMONIA
VOUGLIAMO STARE IN COMPAGNIA
SANTO ANTONIO GIGLIO E GIOGONDO
NOMINATO PER TUTTO IL MONDO
CHI LO TIENE PER SUO AVVOCATO
DA SANTO ANTONIO SARA AIUTATO
SE TI CHIEDO LA PANETTA
NON ME L'A POTRAI NEGARE
NON ME L'A POTRAI NEGARE
N'ORE DI SANTO ANTONIO ABATO
FATE PRESTO SIGNORA PADRONA
CHE DOBBIAMO COMMINARE
ALTRE CASE DOBBIAMO FARE
SANTO ANTONIO PER CANTARE
Catholic Online www.catholic.org
The Catholic Information Network www.cin.org
Our Saints by Rev. Humbert Bonome, C. SS. R., Vatican City Religious Book Company Inc. - 1949
Home Page: www.villavallelonga.com