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St. Anthony of Padua Thundered against usurers

on Monday, 01 January 2001. Posted in Church teachings

Here is the translation of excerpts from a book written by Blessed Frederic Janssoone (a Franciscan priest who was born in France and died in Canada on August 5, 1916) on the life of St. Anthony of Padua, who was born in Portugal in 1195, and died in Padua, Italy, in 1231.

In St. Anthony's time, some moneygrubbers, like, today's bankers, exploited the poor with usurious loans. In his sermons, St. Anthony denounced vehemently those who worshipped the golden calf and starved people, and urged them to convert.

The worshippers of the golden calf speculated on the appeal of pleasure, and they sold dearly the means to get it. Usury was practiced in so horrible a way, and the sin of extreme greed for money was at the root of all these works. St. Anthony arrived in Florence to fight all these crimes. In his sermons, he often attacked the misers, usurers, and servants of gold, showing them for what they will always be: the first and worst enemies of mankind. What makes other people cry makes them rejoice, since they get richer out of the hardships of their brethren. Wars, famines, plagues, floods: every trial is an means for them to fill their safes.

With his penetrating stare and his spirit of truth that came directly from God, Anthony thundered against the devil of money and his followers: "Oh! Fear them, for they take advantage of general distress and public disasters to feed their deceptive trafficking and usurious loans. The greedy, worshippers of gold, have always a hundred eyes open, like Argus. Why? To know where they will be able to stretch their hundred hands, and fetch the property of others.

"Their hardened hearts have no pity for the miseries they cause. They will let you freeze in the cold, languish in hunger, and cry at the doors of your homes that they have seized. They won't even give you rags to clothe yourself, a piece of bread to satisfy your hunger, or a drop of water to quench your thirst. The punishment for the greedy, the chastisement for the lovers of money, is terrible. They are the very enemies of their own souls and eternal salvation. Where are the greedy, the gold seekers who strive after the wealth and beauties of heaven? Their desires keep them too much attached to earthly goods for them to ascend and thirst for eternal bliss."

Very often, the people of Florence heard these necessary words. One day, St. Anthony scourged even more this vice of greed:

"The heart is the sanctuary of love. The hearts of the greedy are lifeless. In their hearts, there is only gold. Moreover, their hearts no longer beat in their chest, but in their safes."

Divine Providence allowed one of the most cruel usurers of Tuscany to die, and his body was led to the church, at the very same time when St. Anthony was thundering from the pulpit against this vice. Some even report that Anthony was there at the request of the family of the deceased, to preside over the funeral. Inspired by God, the preacher looked for a moment at the coffin in which laid the deceased, deprived of all the wealth for which he had sacrificed his soul. This soul was now lost forever, and Anthony had a clear and terrible vision of it. Saddened by the damnation of the unfortunate man, he wanted at least this fall to teach a lesson to those who were still alive. Anthony rose his head, and said in a loud voice that made the crowd startle;

"Brethren, know that where your treasure lies, so lies your heart. The treasure of each creature is what he loves without limits, what forms the unique and main subject of all his thoughts and desires. Well, what has been the treasure of this dead man who is there before you? Gold! And his greed lost him. For the love of money, he forgot God, was hard-hearted towards the poor, greedy for money, unjust, and an usurer. He who said, 'Blessed are the poor' and teaches you that it is more difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to go through a needle's eye, has abandoned this unfortunate man to his treasure, that is to say, to his gold, to the devil of money, to hell! Go and open his safe, and you will find, lying on his ill-gotten gold, the heart of this greedy man who lived by forgetting his God and his eternal salvation."

The crowd was terrified. However, curiosity prevailed. So people ran to the home of the deceased, forced the door open, and opened the safe. Anthony had been inspired once again by heaven. In the middle of the coins, jewels and claims, one could see the heart of the damned beating in a fury, as though it was presently suffering in hell. One then examined the body of the deceased, and noticed that his heart was absent... You can imagine the emotion of the town, and the many conversions that this extraordinary fact brought about.

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