December 4, 2013

St. Anthony and the Mule

A well-known story of St. Anthony dates back to 1227. In an Italian town on the Adriatic coast called Rimini, St. Anthony was party to a certain challenge with a man named Bonovillo. Bonovillo was ardently opposed to any belief that the Eucharist constituted the actual presence of Christ. Although St. Anthony tried to persuade him with various arguments, Bonovillo would not be swayed. At last, he came upon a test for St. Anthony to prove what he had been saying.

Bonovillo would not feed one of his mules for three days. At the end of that time, he would bring the animal to the town square. There, he would place some food before him and St. Anthony could bring one of the wafers that supposedly were so holy. If God was present, the beast would reverence Him. If not, it would simply eat the food in front of him.
On the appointed day, St. Anthony did appear with the Eucharist. After announcing that his words to follow were being offered in the name of God, he instructed the animal to come forward any pay homage to the Lord. The mule not only passed over the food, it came before the Eucharist, knelt on its fore legs and bowed its head.

This story can of course be dismissed, since we were not there. On the other hand, it could be that something miraculous occurred, precisely because the Eucharist is exactly what it is supposed to be, the Real Presence. Bonovillo thought so. He converted then and there.

The people of Rimini thought so as well. They erected a small chapel to commemorate the spot of the miracle, in the Grand Piazza of the town, now the Piazza Tre Martiri. To this day, tourists can visit the Tempietto di Sant’ Antonio, pictured below.




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