From "The Little Flowers, Legends, and Lauds"

Edited by Otto Karrer,
Translated by N.Wydenbruck
1979, Sheed & Ward, London.

E.Morrogh Bernard,
Vicar General, Westminister
Aug.14, 1947

Saturday, January 15, 2011

How St.Anthony preached to the fishes of the sea (41)

The marvellous vessel of the Holy Ghost, St.Anthony of Padua, one of the elect disciples and companions of St.Francis, whom he used to call his Bishop, once preached in the consistory before the Pope and the Cardinals - and he set forth so clearly and so learnedly the word of God that all who were in the consistory, although they were of diverse languages, understood his words clearly and distinctly as though he had spoken in the native tongue of each one of them, and they were all amazed. The Pope likewise considering the profundity of his words and marvelling at it, said: "Truly, this man is the ark of the Testament and the armory of Holy Writ."

Christ, the Blessed One, desiring to demonstrate the great sanctity of His most faithful servant, St.Anthony, and how devoutly his preaching and his holy doctrine should be listened to, at one time, by unreasonable animals, namely fishes, reproved the foolishness of infidel heretics, in the same manner as of yore in the Old Testament, He had reproved the ignorance of Balaam through the mouth of the ass. Thus, St.Anthony was at Rimini where there were great numbers of heretics, and desiring to bring them back to the light of the true faith and on to the path of truth, he preached to them for many days, and held disputations on the faith of Christ and Holy Writ. But they resisted his holy words and in the hardness and obstinacy refused to listen to St.Anthony. One day, by divine inspiration, he went to the river bank near the sea, and standing there on the bank between the river and the sea, he began to speak to the fishes in the name of God, preaching to them: "Listen to the word of God, you fishes of the sea and o the river, as the infidel heretics scorn to hear it!"

And as soon as he had said these words, there came to the bank where he stood a multitude of fishes, great, small and middling, more than had ever been seen on that coast or in that river. And they all stretched their heads out of the water and turned attentively towards the face of St.Anthony, all in great peace, gentleness and orderliness. For the smallest fishes were in front, by the bank, behind them the middling ones, and at the back, where the water was deeper, the biggest fishes. When the fishes were thus placed in order and array, St.Anthony began to preach solemnly and said: "O Fishes, my Brothers, you are bound, according to your means, to render great thanks to our Creator, who has given you so noble and element for your habitation, so that, as it pleases you, you have sweet and salt waters, and there are given you many hiding places where you can escape the storms; and a clear and transparent element has been given you, and food by which you can live. God, your courteous and benign creator, gave you the command, when He created you, to grow and multiply, and He gave you His blessing. Then, when the deluge came, all the other animals died, but God kept you alone safe from harm. And He has given you fins so that you can roam wherever you please. You received the privilege, by the commandment of God, to give refuge to the Prophet Jonah and on the third day to throw him safe and whole on to the land. You offered the tribute- money to our Lord Jesus Christ when He, being so poor, had not the wherewithal to pay it. Then you served as food to the eternal king Jesus Christ, both before His resurrection and afterwards, by a singular mystery. For all these things you are bound greatly to praise and bless the Lord God, for He has given you more blessings than to the other creatures.

At these and similar words of St.Anthony the fishes began to open their mouths and bend their heads, and with these and other signs of reverence, according to their means, they praised the Lord God. The St.Anthony, seeing to great a reverence shown by the fish to God their Creator, rejoiced in spirit and said in a loud voice: "Blessed be the everlasting God, for the fish of the water honor Him more than heretical men, and unreasonable beasts listen to His word better than the infidels!"

And the longer St.Anthony preached, the greater became the members of the fish, and not one left the place it had taken. At the news of this miracle the people of the city hastened to the spot, sweeping the above-mentioned heretics along with them. And these, seeing this marvellous and manifest miracle, were touched to the heart with contrition and they all threw themselves at St.Anthony's feet to hear his sermon.

Then St.Anthony began to preach on the Catholic faith, and he preached so nobly that the heretics were all converted and returned to the true faith of Christ; and all the faithful remained in great joy, comforted and strengthened in their faith. Then St.Anthony remained in Rimini and preached there for many days, reaping a great spiritual harvest of souls. Praise bet to Christ, Amen.