Friday Book Pick: Anthony: Words of Fire, Life of Light by Madeline Pecora Nugent
St. Anthony is indisputably in the top five. I would put him just above Padre Pio and neck and neck with St. Thérèse of Lisieux. His devotees, I am pretty sure, include people of all faiths, because everybody knows you pray to St. Anthony when something is lost that needs to be found! As Nugent says in her introduction, “St. Anthony is the only doctor of the church invoked when someone loses a pencil,” and she goes on to explain, “because Anthony cares. And he is effective.” It only has to be experienced once, and a devotion is borne.
This excellent historical novel on St. Anthony of Padua reveals that there is so much more to St. Anthony than his keen ability to locate misplaced car keys. He spent his short years on earth searching out and saving souls. It was lost people he cared about, and it is marvelous to read the adventure of his Franciscan vocation unfold as a fearless preacher and gentle shepherd of souls. He shows that it is possible to be fiercely dedicated to the truth and be gently pastoral without a hint of compromise.
You can probably picture a familiar statue or stained-glass window of St. Anthony with an open book and a chubby baby Jesus conversing with our brown-clad Franciscan Saint. Madeline Nugent’s recreating of this mystical moment is a scene so compelling that I think it is the crown jewel of the 320 pages. What I most appreciate about the author’s style is that she uses the historical record, especially the recorded words of St. Anthony of his many sermons, to create realistic encounters, conversations which help the reader imagine how Anthony went about converting the masses. He didn’t gain the nickname “Hammer of the Heretics” for nothing! What a great way to get to know St. Anthony—nestled right in his time period among real people and with his own words!
I am writing this “book pick” from St. Anthony’s Convent in Drogheda, Ireland and, no doubt, that added to the charm for me, but no matter who you are or where you may be, Saint Anthony—the humble genius—is a friend you want to have!