The chin and tongue of St. Anthony (via Anton Diaz)
Elaborately encased in gold, Anthony of Padua’s tongue has arrived in New York City and is touring the major Catholic churches of the city throughout this week to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the discovery of the deceased saint’s holy relics.
Renowned for the depth and beauty of his preaching, St. Anthony passed away of edema in 1231 and was buried in a small church in Padua, Italy, in accordance with his will. Canonized shortly after his death, the saint’s body was exhumed thirty years later to be re-buried in a proper basilica that was constructed in his honor over the original church site. While his body had completely decomposed, Saint Anthony’s tongue was found in shockingly good condition. It’s said to have glistened, appearing as though it was still alive. Considered material proof of St. Anthony’s gift at preaching and the eloquence of his spiritual sermons, the holy tongue was separated from the remains along with the saint’s jawbone and left forearm, permanently preserved in reliquaries for veneration within the basilica.
Anthony was a Franciscan friar of Portuguese decent, but due to chronic health struggles and a sickly appearance, he spent much of his priesthood secluded in a rural hospice in Italy. It wasn’t until a visiting group of Dominican friars arrived that Anthony was called upon to preach an impromptu sermon, and his power of speech was discovered.
The tone of his voice, the captivating manner with which he spoke, and the richness of his understanding and ability to convey the teachings of the Bible were so impressive that Anthony was asked to preach the gospel through out the country. He travelled through Italy and France, his preaching hailed as the “jewel case of the Bible” at the Papal court, with Pope Gregory IX declaring Anthony the “Ark of the Testament.”
The saint’s tongue still fairs remarkably well, despite the passing centuries and its time spent on the road; the relics have been on an extensive tour of Europe and America this whole year in celebration of the anniversary of their discovery in 1263. When the tour concludes, the tongue will join St. Anthony’s jawbone and forearm in Padua’s Basilica del Santo. The basilica has become a place of pilgrimage for those wishing to connect with St. Anthony through proximity to his relics, as well as for family members of missing people — Saint Anthony is the patron saint of finding lost things.
December 11: Our Lady of Pompeii Church, 25 Carmine St., Manhattan
December 12: Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church, 110-06 Queens Blvd., Forest Hills,
December 13: Saint Lucy’s Church, 833 Mace Ave., The Bronx
December 14: St. Catherine of Sienna, 33 New Hyde Park Rd., Long Island,
December 15: Basilica of Regina Pacis, 1230 65th St., Brooklyn