It is the 15th of August 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1195.
Professional historians have a lot of different names and labels to differentiate periods of time. However, in popular parlance, we tend to use less satisfactory, but more memorable labels like "the olden days" or "bible times." So, for today's show, the year 1195, we can think of it as "around the time of Robin Hood." The only two film versions worth watching are the Disney cartoon and the remake with Kevin Costner. But we can disagree. The point is, it was a time of kings and queens and catapults and talking foxes and, most importantly, the Crusades.
You may remember that in the story of Robin Hood, it is Richard the Lionhearted who is out on a crusade when his dastardly brother and the sheriff of Nottingham do their business. A couple of things about this Robin Hood era crusade also called the Third Crusade: it was a disaster in so many ways. And Richard the Lionheart is mostly to blame. The quick background: after the Second Crusade, which was also a disaster, Jerusalem had been captured by Saladin, who then unified many local forces to maintain control of the region.
Richard, the young English King, cleaned out the Crown's coffers to be the hero who would take back Jerusalem. But he was also at the center of many battles over succession, and he was disliked by many of the other heads of state and military commanders. Richard never took Jerusalem. Instead, he made a treaty with Saladin so that Christians could at least visit Jerusalem for religious purposes. Richard ended up trying to get home, got captured by rival Western leaders, and imprisoned. It's an embarrassing time. But he gets back in time for the wedding of Robin and Maid Marian.
So, Christian/Muslim relations aren't good, Richard fanned the flames of Crusade, and soon hot spots were popping up around Europe and the Near East. One of these hot spots was the Battle of Alarcos, which took place on the Iberian peninsula in 1195. The Almohads were a Muslim/Berber community in North Africa and Spain. The small channel between North Africa and Spain led to increased hostilities in the region. At Alarcos, the Almohads were victorious against the Kingdom of Castille and set up a significant presence in Muslim Spain.
And this is the context for understanding one of the most popular late Medieval saints, Anthony of Padua, the Portuguese Friar who was born on this, the 15th of August in the year 1195. We know that Anthony joined the Augustinian canons at the age of 15. Around 1220, it is said that he was deeply moved by seeing the bodies of a few Franciscans who had been killed in Morocco, presumably by the Almohads, as mentioned earlier.
It was then that Anthony asked to be released from his vows to the Augustinian order to join the Franciscans and to become a missionary to Muslims. However, on his way to the Holy Land, he fell ill and had to stop on the Italian peninsula. It was there, amongst other Franciscans, that Anthony was said to have been asked to preach a sermon. His eloquence impressed local officials, and he was soon a respected teacher and preacher. It was then he moved to Padua, from whence he received his name, Anthony of Padua.
However, don't call him by that name in Portugal, where the saint's feast day is amongst the most popular of local holidays. Amongst the most popular local traditions is the eating of sardines and drinking of Sangria. Also, single women are said to hold St. Anthony hostage by burying a small statue of him and not unearthing it until they have found a suitable mate.
More significantly, some followers of Anthony took the name of Antonines. These critics of the Catholic hierarchy ended up in the Congo, where their austere and contemplative version of Christianity became popular with the locals. These Congolese Christians would later take their Anthony inspired, African Christianity to the new world when many of them were taken as slaves. Even today, the Antonines have a presence in Haiti and the American south.
The popular tradition of praying to St. Anthony for things that have been lost comes from a story told about St. Anthony's Psalter. It was not only his daily prayer book but also contained his teaching notes. He prayed that it would be recovered, and through either natural or supernatural means, it was found.
The popular saint, from Portugal, named for an Italian city and famous in both parts of Africa and the Americas, Anthony died in 1231, likely born on this day in 1195, Anthony was 36 years old.
The reading for today comes from Richard Trench, a poem entitled "God Our Refuge."
If there had anywhere appeared in space
Another place of refuge where to flee,
Our hearts had taken refuge in that place,
And not with Thee.
For we against creation's bars had beat
Like prisoned eagles, through great worlds had sought
Though but a foot of ground to plant our feet,
Where Thou wert not.
And only when we found in earth and air,
In heaven or hell, that such might nowhere be—
That we could not flee from Thee anywhere,
We fled to Thee.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 15th of August, 2020, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who also likely fast-forwarded through the boring part where they are singing by the waterfall at night, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.