The Catholic Defender: St. Anthony and the Miracle of the Fish
Anthony is known as one of the great miracle-workers, healing the sick and raising the dead, but one of his most famous miracles involves a group of fish. In the town of Rimini, Italy, after the townspeople refused to listen to him and even mocked him, St Anthony started to preach, but they did not want to listen to him, and they even mocked him. In a dramatic gesture, Anthony went to the seashore, saying, “Because you show yourself unworthy of God's word, behold, I turn to the fishes so that your unbelief may be shown up more clearly”.
Anthony of Padua was preaching in Romagna to Cathar heretics, who initially rebuffed him. Anthony preached instead to the fish, after which many people came to witness the miracle and hear the sermon.
Some of the fishes began to open their mouths and nod their heads as a way of praising God. On seeing this, St. Anthony rejoiced and cried out: “How blessed is the Creator!For the fishes give God more honor and praise than the heretics do.
Once Anthony had travelled to the city of Rimini because it was a hotbed of heresy. The city leaders had ordered everyone to ignore him, so no one turned up for his homilies. Wherever Anthony went, he was greeted by silence.
Anthony walked along praying and reflecting upon what had happened. As he walked outside of the town, he came to the mouth of the Marecchia River where it flows into the Adriatic. There he began to address the crowds, not of people but of fish.
“Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak.” “Earthly riches are like the reed. Its roots are sunk in the swamp, and its exterior is fair to behold; but inside it is hollow. If a man leans on such a reed, it will snap off and pierce his soul.”
He called out, “You, fish of the river and sea, listen to the Word of God because the heretics do not wish to hear it.” Suddenly there were thousands of fish neatly arranged in rows, all pushing their heads through the surface of the water as if they were straining to listen to every one of Anthony’s words.
The story goes that one day Anthony went to Rimini where there were a lot of heretics. He started to preach, but they did not want to listen to him, and they even mocked him. In a dramatic gesture, Anthony went to the seashore, saying, “Because you show yourself unworthy of God’s word, behold, I turn to the fishes so that your unbelief may be shown up more clearly”.
As he spoke of God’s care for those creatures that live in the waters, a shoal of fish swam near to the bank, partly thrusting themselves out of the water and appearing to listen carefully. At the end of his sermon, the Saint blessed them and they swam away. In the meantime, so deep was the impression made upon the onlookers that many hurried back to the city imploring their friends to come and see the miracle, while others burst into tears asking forgiveness. Soon after a great multitude gathered around the Saint, who exhorted them to turn back to God. So through this sermon, the city of Rimini was purged of heresy.
The people of Rimini, seeing this miracle, gathered to listen to Anthony. What began with simple interest in an extraordinary event turned into a passionate conviction that Anthony was speaking to their very hearts. They were so moved by Anthony’s words, by his call to conversion, that they abandoned their hardened positions and returned to the Church. As we stated above, we are not sure that this story is historic, but it certainly does represent a version of what often happened when Anthony preached: that many hardened sinners were converted through the unselfish love of Anthony.
The breadth of charity widens the narrow heart of the sinner.
O Father, in your Truth (that is to say, in your Son, humbled, needy and homeless) you have humbled me.
The wisdom of God is reflected in the face of the soul: she will see God as he is, and she will know as she is known.
Anthony understands charity as the love for God as the supreme good and to love people for the sake of God. Next to this, Anthony lived the fundamental virtues of obedience, poverty and humility, this last virtue he considered as the source and mother of all the other virtues.
The work is notable for its imagery and its depiction of spiritual torment. The work takes as its subject the 4th-century Christian anchorite Saint Anthony, who lived in the Egyptian desert. It reflects on his life, his decision to become a hermit, and the temptations of sexuality and sensuality he undergoes.
With this miracle Anthony is, in a certain sense, addressing all of us. He is asking us, “Are you real Christians?” One of the most important things to understand about Christianity is that it is not primarily a philosophy, or a system of ethics, or a religious ideology, and not even a cult. IT IS A RELATIONSHIP. A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS. To be a Christian is to know Christ as our friend. Jesus stands at the door of our hearts and he is knocking. He is awaiting a response. He wants to come in and be part of our lives. Have we opened the door or are we still waiting?