LOWELL -- Next month, local Catholics will have a rare opportunity to come in close contact with two relics of Saint Anthony of Padua, known in the Catholic faith as the Patron of Lost Things.
"It's like a link of love," said Tom Muscatello, the U.S. ambassador with the Anthonian Association who helped organize the tour the relics are centered on. "It's not magical, it's not mystical, it's not superstitious. No sparks or fireworks will happen when you go, but it's something very personal between you and the saint, and God ... this is a long-standing tradition and practice in venerating the relics of a saint."
Part of a 10-day tour of the Archdiocese of Boston, the relics' stop in Lowell is scheduled for Oct. 9 at St. Anthony Church, 893 Central St. Veneration -- a ritual act of devotion -- begins at 1 p.m. that day and there will also be a Mass at 6:30 p.m.
Friar Mario Conte, who directs the Messenger of Saint Anthony, a Catholic international magazine published by the friars of the Basilica of St. Anthony, will bring the Portugal-born saint's relics from the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua, in Padua, Italy.
One reliquary contains the floating rib of St. Anthony and the other contains layers of the saint's skin. The reliquary containing the floating rib is quite blessed because of its association with Pope Francis and Sister Lucy of Fatima, both of whom received the holy reliquary, according to a release from the Anthonian Association.
"People pray to him for lost items, but not just keys or because they lost their umbrella ... people pray to him for having lost their faith, having lost hope in life, having lost a sense of purpose in life," Muscatello explained. "He's great for bringing those kinds of things to people who pray ... St. Anthony is an intercession between those praying and God."
The relics are typically placed at the foot of a church altar and patrons can touch the reliquaries with their hands or with a rosary, if they choose to, according to Muscatello.
The Rev. Nicholas A. Sannella, pastor at St. Anthony Church, Immaculate Conception and two other Lowell churches, said the stop in Lowell is a blessing.
"The presence of the relics affords an opportunity -- in terms of Mass and prayer -- to slow down in our lives and reassess, recommit, rededicate to those things that we as Christians hold dear," Sannella said. "It's a blessing for not only St. Anthony's, but the entire community."
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