Yesterday, I was honored to join my fellow Secular Franciscans in a day of prayer and reflection at the inspiring St. Anthony Shrine in Ellicott City, Maryland. The Secular Franciscans from the St. Margaret of Cortona Region (D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and portions of West Virginia & Pennsylvania) gathered together in fellowship and prayer for formation of new and present members of the fraternity. It was a wonderful day meeting all the fellow SFO members and joining in prayer, Mass, meetings to grow in faith and learning more about Franciscan Spirituality. If you would like to know more about the Secular Franciscan Order, I have put links below about the SFO and St. Anthony Shrine.
The Shrine of Saint Anthony
The Shrine to St. Anthony has a long history that is fascinating in American history. The land that belongs to the shrine dates back to the Carroll Family, a Catholic family who helped in the founding of the colony of Maryland. Charles Carroll III was the ONLY Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence. His cousin was the first bishop assigned to America. His estate home called Folly Quarter, is the oldest structure on the property and is now used for meetings, and this entire property is run by the Conventual Franciscan Friars.
The estate passed though a number of families over the years and eventually was repurchased by the Carroll Family who sold it to the Conventual Franciscan Friars. Folly Quarter was too small for the growing community from the start. One of the Friars, an architect, Fr. Benedict Przemielewski was commissioned to design a new novitiate. Fr. Benedict chose to miniature the “Sacro Convento,” the original Friary built in Assisi, Italy, in the 13th century. Archbishop Michael Curley blessed the new novitiate at its completion in 1931.
In 1995, with the gift of a major relic of St. Anthony from their confreres at the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua, Italy, the friars began a ministry that grew into the Shrine of St. Anthony we know today. On July 1, 2004, His Eminence William Cardinal Keeler, the Archbishop of Baltimore declared the Shrine of St. Anthony the official Archdiocesan shrine to St. Anthony. It is a beautiful friary, and with the surrounding landscape you feel as if you were in Assissi, Italy. The friars have also built trails, installed statuary and shrines around this property for all to enjoy. Following are some of the photos of the Shrine and grounds.
St. Anthony and the Donkey
I love the story of Saint Anthony and the Eucharistic Miracle with the Donkey. It has been remembered with a statue on the grounds as you approach the friary. St. Anthony was recognized by his fellow friars as a brilliant theologian and powerful preacher. He was assigned to preach throughout Italy and southern France. At Rimini he was heckled by a heretic who denied the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. St. Anthony challenged the heretic to let his donkey choose between a pile of sumptuous animal fodder or the Eucharist. As St. Anthony held up the Blessed Sacrament, the donkey approached and knelt in adoration. There are many more stories of St. Anthony available on the website of the Shrine of St. Anthony, and I encourage you to visit this wonderful treasure of the Conventual Franciscan Friars.