Miracle of the Usurer

The 13th century marked a turning point in the economic history of Europe. Previous to this time, people generally depended upon subsistence farming to meet their needs. Each farm and each village were relatively autonomous, for trade was difficult and dangerous. Cities were small and highly dependent upon their immediate environs for the necessities of life.

The great pilgrimages of the late Middle Ages and the Crusades changed this. Slowly people began to trade with more distant lands, and to depend upon goods brought from outside of their world. As trade developed, the cities grew. Simple barter was insufficient, and a money economy developed.

Along with trade and money, there was also a growth of unscrupulous business practices, e.g. usury (the lending of money at exorbitant rates of interest), debtors’ prisons, etc. Anthony, like the other friars, preached a detachment from the goods of this world. They condemned the exploitative business practices of their day, especially usury.

Once Anthony preached at the funeral of a money lender. He told his listeners that they should not bury his body in consecrated ground, for his soul was already suffering the torments of hell. He said that the man’s heart was no longer in his body, but that the Gospel had been fulfilled, “For where your treasure is, there will be your heart (Mt 6,21; Lk 12,34). They opened up the man’s side and found that his heart was missing, but they found it when they opened up his treasure chest.

Watch friar Mario's meditation about this miracle