10 October 2021

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
134, Saint Anthony’s Church, Rethymnon

The Church of Saint Anthony of Padua the only Roman Catholic church in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

This is the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XIX). Later this morning (10 October 2021), I am preaching at the Harvest Thanksgiving in Saint Michael’s Church, Limerick, and, as Canon Precentor, at Choral Mattins in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.

But, before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

My theme for these few weeks is churches in the Franciscan (and Capuchin) tradition. In the past, in this series, I have also visited the chapel at Gormanston College, Co Meath (8 March), the Franciscan friary in Askeaton (25 April), the Capuchin Friary in Chania (2 July), and Saint Francis Church in Rethymnon (4 October).

For the past two weeks, my photographs were from churches in Rethymnon, where I spent two weeks last month. So, those two themes are linked in my photographs this morning (10 October 2021), from the Church of Saint Anthony of Padua, the only Roman Catholic church in the old town of Rethymnon.

Inside the Church of Saint Anthony of Padua in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Saint Francis of Assisi is one of the few Western saints from the period after the great schism who is also revered in the Eastern Church. Many Franciscan churches were built in Crete during the Venetian period, including churches in Iraklion, Rethymnon, Chania and Neapolis, and Petros Philargos, a friar of the Franciscan community in Iraklion who was born in Neapolis in eastern Crete, later became Pope Alexander V.

Saint Francis was popular in the Orthodox community of Crete and by the end of the 14th century was represented in Orthodox Churches throughout the Island. It is mainly due to the fictionalised biography by the Cretan writer Nikos Kazantzakis, The Poor Man of God, that Saint Francis is known throughout the world as ‘God’s Pauper.’

The Church of Saint Anthony of Padua, on the corner of Mesolongíou Street and Salamínas Street, is run by the Franciscan Capuchins and is the only Roman Catholic Church in Rethymnon.

After an absence of over two centuries, ‘God’s paupers’ returned to Rethymnon in 1855 when the Franciscan Capuchins built a small monastery on a corner of Mesolongíou Street.

There had been a continuous, albeit small, Catholic presence in the town since the arrival of the Venetians in the early 13th century, and by the mid-19th century the local Catholic population in Rethymnon was eager to build a new church.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Crete was established in 1874, and the first bishop was an Italian-born Franciscan Capuchin, Luigi Canavo (1827-1907), who was Bishop of Crete from 1874 to 1889.

Catholic numbers in Rethymnon increased with the arrival of Polish soldiers among the allied forces sent to Crete in the 1890s to hold the peace between the Ottoman Turks and Greek islanders demanding union with the modern Greek state.

A small neoclassical church was built on the corner of Mesolongíou Street and Salamínas Street, behind the old port and close to the entrance to Fortezza.

The new tall, slender, Church of Saint Anthony of Padua was completed on 30 March 1897. The doorway is crowned by a pediment with a semi-circular Venetian window. Above this, there is a circular window in an opening in the centre of the tympanum.

After World War II, Saint Anthony’s Church was sealed for many years, and was in a hazardous state of repair. It was renovated in 1982-1988 and restored to its former glory over 30 years ago with the help of local people and foreign residents, mainly from Switzerland.

There is an older church in the basement beside the present neoclassical church. This was used by the Capuchin Friars from about 1855 and is still in good condition. It is now used as a garage, but it served as a church once again briefly in the 1980s while the main church was being refurbished.

The determination and passion behind the renovation and restoration of Saint Anthony’s Church was the work of a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Crete, Father Andreas Marzohl from Lucern in Switzerland.

Today, the majority of visitors to the church are the thousands of tourists who visit Rethymnon between March and November. The church is open all day, every day, to visitors.

Saint Anthony’s Church is the town’s only Roman Catholic Church but it continues the traditional Franciscan link with Rethymnon, dating back to the Venetian era, when the most important church in the town was Saint Francis (Aghios Frangiskos), the church of the Franciscan Friary in the town.

Services are held in Saint Anthony’s Church from April to October on Saturday (7 p.m.) and Sunday (10 a.m.) and from November to March on Saturday (6 p.m.).

The high altar in the Church of Saint Anthony of Padua in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Mark 10: 17-31 (NRSVA):

17 As [Jesus] was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 18 Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother”.’ 20 He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’ 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ 26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, ‘Then who can be saved?’ 27 Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’

28 Peter began to say to him, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you.’ 29 Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age – houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.’

The church is open all day, every day, to visitors (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (10 October 2021) invites us to pray:

Loving Father,
Teach us to have the right priorities.
Let us focus on fellowship and love,
Rather than material wealth.
May we live in a world in which
People matter more than profit.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Saint Anthony’s Church was renovated in 1982-1988 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Colourful steps in the side streets between Saint Anthony’s Church and the Fortezza (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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