St. Antony’s Shrine … Armenian Street, George Town, Chennai – 1
St. Antony Pray for us
There is an interesting story behind the miraculous statue of St. Antony venerated at St. Mary’s Co-Cathedral. It is believed that in 1929, a group of Goan sailors were caught in a storm that endangered their life. In great distress on the high seas, they made a pledge that, if they were rescued, they would present a statue of St. Antony to the nearest church from their point of landing. They were miraculously saved and true to their promise they commissioned some artists in Goa to make the statue.
“Why is this statue of St. Antony wearing a beard”? ask people, who have seen other statues or pictures of St. Antony clean shaven. Presumably because artists who made the statue had no models for inspiration and since all the Franciscan Missionaries they had seen wore beards, they assumed St. Antony too to be bearded. The statue was duly presented to the Parish Priest of St. Mary’s Cathedral. The Parish priest gave the statue to the Catechist of Park Town parish, saying that there was no place for the statue in the Cathedral. The Catechist placed the statue on a side altar and forgot about it.
Later on the statue was removed and placed in the chapel of St. Patrick’s cemetery. Gradually, people began to notice the presence of the statue at the cemetery and few of them began to go there to pray before the statue of St. Antony. The number of devotees began to increase day by day as rumors of miracles spread. The church authorities closed an eye over the devotion until there was a fight between the cemetery watchman and the Catechist of Park Town Parish over the money collected there. It was brought to the notice of the Archbishop, His Grace Archbishop Louis Mathias, who ordered the Asst. Parish Priest of St. Mary’s, Rev. Fr. Schupp, to remove the statue from the cemetery and bring it to the parish house. The devotees who used to visit St. Antony’s statue at St. Patrick’s Cemetery Chapel, came to the Cathedral searching for their favorite saint. Not finding it there, they went to V. Rev. Fr. Mora sdb, the Vicar General, requesting him to reinstate the statue in St. Mary’s Church. Their request was granted and the statue was brought back to St. Mary’s Co-Cathedral.
The devotion of St. Antony and veneration for this particular statue, “the bearded St. Antony” spread like wild fire. People of all faiths flocked to St. Antony with their prayers and petitions especially on Tuesdays, a day dedicated to the saint. The devotion continues to grow to this day. Countless number of his faithful devotees bears witness to the miracles and wonders their beloved saint works in response to their prayers.
We are grateful to Rev. Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC