St. Anthony & the Lilies
With Saint Anthony lilies have special significance. Lilies are in bloom around much of the world in the month of June, the month of his Feast Day [the 13th]. Of even more import there are two incidents hundreds of years old relating to the Saint of Padua and these magnificent flowers:
In 1680, on June 13, in the church at Mentosca d'Agesco in Austria, someone placed a cut lily in the hand of his statue. For an entire year the lily remained fragrant and fully alive, without wilting. Then the following year it grew two more blooms, so that the church was filled with the fragrance of the flowers.
A little over a century later, during the anti-clerical, anti-Catholic French Revolution, on the island of Corsica, the Franciscans were forced to leave their parishioners. The people refused to give up their devotions although they had no choice in the matter of the Sacraments because they had no priests. They invoked the intercession of Saint Anthony. On June 13 they erected a shrine to the Saint in the deserted church; the shrine included lilies in his honor. Months later the blooms were still fresh as if they had just been placed there.
Permission to bless lilies in honor of the Saint was given by Pope Leo XIII. Many favors have been granted through this devotion, such as help to the sick who have been touched by the petals of the blessed flowers. The Church holds that these blessed flowers are sacramentals, and even when dried and faded they are holy, like the palm fronds we receive on Palm Sunday. In fact, what is called "St. Anthony's Oil" is the extract from pressing the blessed blooms.
Traditionally, the public blessing by a cleric of the lilies for a shrine dedicated to Saint Anthony or simply his statue is on June 13. It is permitted, though, at other times to have a priest bless lilies to place before his image. Any person can ask a priest to do so.
The reason why this Franciscan Saint is often pictured with a book along with the Infant Jesus, as he is above, is that when the Child JESUS appeared to St.Anthony, the Saint happened to be reading a book and as he was reading the Christ Child appeared on the Saint's arm and spoke to him because the Words which Saint Anthony was reading caused the Saint to become enraptured and thereupon the Child Jesus appeared on his arm and spoke so lovingly to him.
When he is portrayed alone it is often with a book as well because he is a Doctor of the Church.