St. Anthony is a familiar figure in our churches, he either holds loaves of bread, or is depicted holding a book, with the infant Christ standing on the pages. The infant Jesus is poised ready to hug Anthony.
Significance of the Book
One of St. Anthony's religious brothers who was in formation "borrowed" his book of sermons without his permission. St. Anthony prayed for the return of the brother, and the book.
The return of said book (and the brother who purloined it) gave rise to the practice of praying for St. Anthony's help, in the return of Lost objects.
I can't help wondering though, when I see what usually represents the writings of St. Anthony on his statues, if the brother returned his book because he couldn't decipher his writing!
I have had a number of suggestions made to me of what one should or could write in St. Anthony's book (when statue - painting):
"Return to us what we do not know we have lost..." or " Make me a channel of your peace..." But my favourite is from the Our Father - "Give us this day our daily bread."
Humility of St.Anthony
In a book written about the saint by Madeline Nugent, the author says:
"Anthony's preaching on the humility of Christ may be the basis of the legend in which the Christ child appeared to him." She reasons that he so enfleshed Christ to his audiences, that Christ came enfleshed to rest in his arms.
Legend says that as Count Tiso was passing by Anthony's cell, he noticed a great light emanating from it, and on peering in, witnessed the Christ child appear to the saint, embrace him, and bless his brow.
Anthony's preaching of the time emphasised the "Hypostatic union"; that is the uniqueness of Jesus being both fully divine and fully human. He did so to refute the eroneous beleifs of Catharism. The acceptance of Jesus as a whole divine person, (body, blood, soul and divinity), is key if one is to recognise the true and whole presence of Christ in the Catholic Eucharist...He is our "Bread of life."
Around 1890. A french woman promised to give loaves of bread to the poor in thanks for Anthony helping her to fix a broken lock to her linen shop. Her generosity gave rise to the phrase "St.Anthony's bread.
I think St. Anthony would be happy with the little statue of Jesus standing on his book, painted with the words " Give us this day our daily bread."