The tradition of St. Anthony’s Bread began in Messina Italy by St. Hannibal Maria Di Francia,founder of the Rogationist Fathers of the Heart of Jesus.
When a cholera epidemic ravaged Messina in 1887. There was great suffering and many people died. It was there, in an effort to alleviate sufferings that the tradition of giving bread to the poor in honor of St. Anthony actually began.
Here is the event’s account in the very words of St. Hannibal M. Di Francia:
“As cholera ravaged in Messina the widow Susanna Consiglio Miceli, a pious and wealthy woman, vowed to St. Anthony that she would give sixty liras for the bread for the orphans of St. Hannibal’s Institutions if she and her family would be spared from that cholera. Neither the widow nor her family caught the disease.
After the cholera had ceased, a young man came to me on behalf of the unknown person and gave me sixty liras to buy bread for the orphans of St. Anthony of Padua. Later the lady revealed herself to me and requested that I ask the orphans of St. Anthony to remember her and her family in their prayers. For the rest of her life, she sent alms for St. Anthony’s bread both for the blessings already granted and for those yet to come. Soon this devotion was spreading all over the world.”
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