The Origin of "St. Anthony's Bread"
One legend dates back to the year 1263, when a child drowned near the Paduan Basilica of St. Anthony during its construction. The child’s mother prayed to the saint to bring her boy back to life. In return, she promised to give to the poor an amount of corn equal to the child’s weight. When the child was miraculously revived, the mother made good on her promise.
Centuries later, in 1888, a woman named Louise Bouffier managed a small bakery store in the seaside village of Toulon, France. One morning, she couldn’t open the shop’s door with her key. Neither could a locksmith, who advised her that he’d have to break the door open. While he went to get his tools, Louise prayed to St. Anthony that she would give some of her bakery’s bread to the poor if the door could be opened without force. When the locksmith returned, he tried the lock again and was easily able to let Louise in. True to her word, the baker made sure that the poor of Toulon received their due.
It wasn’t long before Louise’s friends began to follow her example of promising a gift of bread or alms to the poor in return for prayers answered by St. Anthony. In the 1890s, they formalized this practice by founding a charity called “St. Anthony’s Bread.”
In the spirit of this charity, some parishes bless and distribute small loaves of bread on June 13, his feast day. Below is a recipe for an Italian bread that may be shaped into individual loaves for you to pass out at church, among friends and family or to the disadvantaged in your community.
- 3 cups flour, divided
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- 1 Tsp. dried Italian seasoning
- 1 Tsp. dried parsley flakes
- 1 1/4 cups 1% milk
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 Tblsp. butter or margarine
- 2 Tblsp. sugar
- 1 Tsp. garlic salt
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
- 2 Tblsp. butter or margarine, melted
- In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of flour, yeast, Italian seasoning, and parsley flakes.
- In a saucepan, heat and stir the milk, water, butter, sugar, and garlic salt just until warm (120 130º) and butter almost melts.
- Add milk mixture to flour mixture.
- Add egg and beat with electric mixer on low or medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping the bowl constantly.
- Beat on high speed for 3 minutes.
- Using a wooden spoon, stir in 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese and as much of the remaining flour as you can.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
- Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth (3-5 minutes total).
- Shape the dough into a ball. Place it in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease the top and bottom surfaces.
- Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 45 minutes).
- Grease baking sheets or a 13” x 9” x 2” baking pan.
- Punch dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
- Divide dough into 16 portions, shaping each into a round mini-loaf.
- Place mini-loaves on sheet or pan.
- Brush tops with 2 tablespoons butter and sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese.
- Cover and let rise in a warm place (about 15 minutes).
- Bake in a 375º oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
In Lisbon, his birthplace, it is a traditional day for getting married (women who get married on this day are called "brides of St. Anthony"). So popular are weddings on this day in Lisbon, that the city hall hosts them for free if the couple are poor. St. Anthony altars are built and decorated, parades are held, bonfires lit, grilled sardines and sangria are enjoyed.
- 1 (750-ml) bottle red wine (Rioja, if possible)
- 1/4 cup brandy
- 1/4 cup orange flavored liqueur (triple sec or Grand Marnier)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 orange, thinly sliced
- 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
- 1 unwaxed apple, cored, and cut into thin wedges
- 1 (750-ml) bottle sparkling water, chilled
source: st-anthony-medal.com, salemcatholic.org & faithmag.com