June 1 marked the beginning of the ‘Trezen’ to St Anthony of Padua — a saint to whom Goan Catholics turn to for all their needs – may it be the retrieval of lost objects, healing or even a delay in the onset of the monsoons. The altars of several Goan homes, chapels and churches have candles lit as people participate in this thirteen-day prayer service of their favourite St Anthony.
St Anthony was born into a wealthy family. He joined the Augustinian Canons in 1210. Hoping to preach to the Saracens (Muslims) and be martyred, he joined the Franciscan order in 1220.
Just as he set foot on African soil, he fell grievously ill and was forced to return back to Portugal. However, his ship was blown off course by an unexpected storm and he eventually landed in Sicily, Italy. Due to his continuous poor health, he was not allowed to pursue his missionary work among the Saracens.
Instead, he taught theology at Bologna in Italy and at Montpellier, Toulouse and Puy-en-Velay in southern France, thus, winning great admiration as a preacher. He died en route to Padua, Italy, where he was buried.
When his body was exhumed thirty years after his death, his body had decomposed, but the tongue was incorrupt and claimed to have glistened and looked as if it was still alive and moist. On January 16, 1946, Pope Pius XII declared St Anthony as an Evangelical Doctor of the church.
Known for his powerful miracles, St Anthony is venerated all over the world as well as in Goa. The prominent places for the veneration of the saint include Siolim, Deussua, Goa Velha, etc. However, there are numerous places where the devotion continues locally.
One such place is the grotto at Baptista’s Lake View, Tolleaband, Loutolim where you find a statue that is more than 80 years old. Villagers vouch that prayers offered to the saint have been answered on numerous instances.
On many occasions, the statue of St Anthony was taken in a procession along the ‘bandhs’ due to prolonged dry spells in the month of June; halfway through the procession, their prayers were answered and it poured. Other instances are of childless couples being blessed with the gift of a child after praying to the Saint and finding lost articles like gold, healing from cancer and other ailments.
Dr Jubilio Baptista, in whose premises you find the statue, recounts an incident, where an elderly lady who was traversing the village happened to stop and pray for the recovery of her wedding band, which she had lost many years ago. She found the ring shortly, in the Bible she used daily during her personal prayer time. On another occasion, a lady’s gold jewellery was stolen from her cupboard after her son’s communion party.
The ornaments were not to be found even after searching in every nook and corner. After praying to St Anthony, her jewellery items were found in the same place from where they were stolen.
The statue of St Anthony at Tolleaband, Loutolim depicts the saint with an open book and the Child Jesus in his right arm and a lily in his left hand.
The ‘Trezen’ here is held in a unique way. Throughout the thirteen days, the Rosary and Litany of St Anthony are recited during a prayer service held in the evening. On June 13, the feast will be celebrated at 6:15pm with prayer service followed by procession, wherein the devotees will carry ‘petition candles’ that are floated on the water around the statue, with the faith that whatever is asked will be granted. After the service, St Anthony’s bread is offered to the devotees. [H]