This week Lisbon celebrates the Festival of Santo Antonio with street parties, grilled sardines, parades and more. Known as St. Anthony of Padua and the patron saint of missing or stolen items, St. Anthony was born in Lisbon in the 1100′s. He ended up in modern-day Italy accidentally. He left Portugal hoping to follow in the footsteps of five Franciscan missionaries who had been martyred in Morocco. Apparently, he couldn’t wait to join them by serving God as a martyr himself.
But sometimes the path we choose for achieving our greatest desire is not the path God intends for us. On the journey to Morocco, St. Anthony became so sick that the ship had to turn around in the direction of Lisbon. But as the story goes, the ship was blown off course by a massive storm, only to make landfall in Sicily. From there he eventually ended up serving God not as a martyr but by preaching and teaching as the first teacher of the Franciscan order.
St. Anthony’s story is a good reminder that we may be clear on our desires in life, but that our path is not always of our own choosing. It’s just like trying to find your way in the streets of Alfama, the neighborhood in Lisbon at the heart of the Santo Antonio festivities. Alfama is a confusing maze of tiny steep streets and staircases, and the best way to get where you want to be is to aim in the direction of your goal and just walk, making turns this way and that while you figure out the path as you go.
Hold close your dreams, but let go of knowing what path will take you to them. Just start walking and let the path unfold before you. Be aware of where you are in your present situation compared to your desired destination and choose your next step informed by the present moment. And when stormy winds seem to blow you off course, remember that you don’t need to know the path when you trust the goal.