Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Miraculous Responsory of St. Anthony of Padua

R. Si quaeris miracula,                            R. If you ask for miracles
Mors, error calamitas,                                 Death, error, all calamaties
Daemon, lepra fugiunt,                                 Leprosy and demons fly,
Aegri surgunt sani.                                       And health succeeds informities.
* Cedunt mare, vincula:                               * The sea obeys, and fetters break,
Membra resque, perditas                            And lifeless limbs thou dost restore
Petunt et accipiunt                                       Whilst treasure lost are found again,
Iuvenes et cani.                                            When young and old thine aid implore.
V. Pereunt pericula,                                 V. All dangers vanish at thy prayer,
Cessat et necessitas:                                    And direst need doth quickly flee
Narrent hi, qui sentiunt,                              Let those who know thy power proclaim,
Dicant Paduani.                                            Let Paduans say, “These are of thee.”
rep. Cedunt... Gloria Patri. Cedunt.             repeat The sea obeys... Glory be. The sea obeys.

V. Ora pro nobis, beate Antoni. R. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.
V. Pray for us, blessed Anthony. R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Oremus. Ecclesiam tuam, Deus, beati Antonii Confessoris tui atque Doctoris solemnitas votiva laetificet, ut spiritualibus semper muniatur auxiliis, et gaudiis perfrui mereatur aeternis. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.
R. Amen.

Let us pray. May Thy Church, O God, be gladdened by the solemnity of blessed Anthony Thy Confessor and Doctor: that she may be evermore defended by Thy spiritual assistance and merit to possess everlasting joy. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Si quaeris miracula is the eighth and final responsory of the Franciscan Office of St. Anthony of Padua, whose feast is kept today, the anniversary of his death in the year 1231. It is traditionally known as the “miraculous” responsory, from the once-common custom of reciting it to ask for St. Anthony’s miraculous intervention. English-speaking Catholics today perhaps think of him principally as the Saint to call upon when something is lost, for which there is a well-known rhyme, “St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come down: something is lost and cannot be found.” In his own lifetime, however, and for centuries after, Anthony was principally known for his extraordinary learning and his skill as a preacher; he was the first Franciscan to study at a university and teach.
He was also known for a variety of highly spectacular miracles. The 39th chapter of The Little Flowers of Saint Francis tells the story of how he preached before the Pope and cardinals in consistory, and was understood by them all,
Greeks, Italians, French, Germans, Slavs and English, and other languages… as if he had spoken in their own languages … and it seemed that that ancient miracle of the Apostles at the time of Pentecost was renewed, when they spoke by the power of the Holy Spirit in every tongue. And they said to each other with admiration, “Is this man who preaches not a Spaniard? And how do we all hear our own language as he speaks?”
By an interesting coincidence, St. Anthony’s feast day is also the last day possible on which the feast of Pentecost can occur. He was canonized within a year of his death by the Pope in whose presence this miracle took place, Gregory IX (1227-1241), who also referred to him publicly as the “ark of the covenant, and the treasure-chest of the Divine Scriptures”; this is sometimes said to be the fastest canonization ever, but that honor actually belongs to the Dominican St. Peter Martyr. On the occasion of his canonization, Pope Gregory intoned in his honor the Magnificat Antiphon for Doctors of the Church, “O Doctor Optime”, a title which was formally confirmed in 1946 by Pope Pius XII.
The Franciscan Office of St. Anthony of Padua was composed by a German member of the order, Julian of Speyer, roughly ten years after the Saint’s death: one of the best known examples of a later type of Office known as a “rhymed office”. Rhyme itself was not used by the ancients, and where it occurred it was considered a blemish on poetry. Verse was formed by the alternation of long and short syllables in regular patterns; the iambic pentameter used so much by Shakespeare is broadly similar. (His type of English poetry is however much freer than Latin verse.) An example of this type of poetry in the liturgy is an antiphon found in the Office of St. Peter in Chains on August 1st.
Solve, jubente Deo, terrarum, Petre, catenas,
Qui facis ut pateant caelestia regna beatis.

Release at God’s order, o Peter, the earthly chains
Who make the kingdom of heaven open to the blessed.
These two lines are written in dactylic hexameters, the same metrical form used in the epic poetry of Homer and Virgil; they were composed by Pope St. Leo I, (440-461) and inscribed on a wall of the ancient church of St. Peter.
As the Latin language evolved into the modern Romance languages, the vowel quantities on which ancient poetry was based came to be less and less perceptible, leading over the centuries to the emergence of rhyme as we understand it today. (The older forms, on the hand, never ceased to be used.) By the High Middle Ages, this new type of poetry had become extremely popular in the liturgy. Four of the five sequences in the Tridentine Missal (“Lauda Sion” on Corpus Christi, “Veni Sancte Spiritus” on Pentecost, “Stabat Mater” on the feast of the Seven Sorrows, and the “Dies irae” of the Requiem Mass) are all in rhyme.
Likewise, whole Offices were routinely composed in which all of the proper musical parts, (antiphons, hymns and responsories), are rhymed. Julian of Speyer is considered one of the great masters of this type of liturgical composition, and the rhymed offices which he wrote for St. Anthony and St. Francis were widely imitated from his own time (he died in about 1250) until the Tridentine liturgical reform, when rhymed offices fell out of favor. Many continued to be used by the older religious orders, and churches which maintained their own proper Offices, but the newer orders, in the spirit of the Tridentine reform, preferred to base their proper Offices on Scriptural quotations. Thus, for example, the five antiphons used by the Oratorians at Lauds of St. Philip Neri are all quotations from the Bible, while the proper hymns are all written in thoroughly classical meter. (The Jesuits, unsurprisingly, do not even have a proper Office for St. Ignatius.)
The disfavor into which rhymed offices fell is also a by-product of the increasingly common habit in the Tridentine period of reciting the Office in choir recto tono, i.e. singing everything on a single note, rather than with its longer, proper notation. This manner of saying the Office makes the sing-song quality of the medieval rhyme schemes far more obvious; most people would agree that the “Dies irae”, for example, sounds much better when sung then when read. This recording of the Miraculous Responsory shows very nicely how the proper musical notation transcends the rhyme scheme.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: