Eat, drink, meet and do charitable work: that is what the friars and their volunteers in Zagreb, Croatia are offering and proposing to all those who come to enjoy a meal; what they pay for that meal goes to help feed the poor. It’s a story worth telling!

St. Anthony’s House is situated next to the Friary of the Holy Spirit in Zagreb and has existed since 1995. It houses fourteen students who come from poor families. It is also the location of the “Veritas – Messenger of St. Anthony” editorial office and a soup kitchen for the poor. Friars Vladimir VIDOVIĆ and Vilček NOVAČKI are currently in charge of the reception facility. The enterprise has developed and expanded over the years. In the last two years, this initiative has caught the interest of the community and the friar’s work has attracted the attention of the national media.
For several years, before and during Christmas time, the “Zagreb Advent” has been organized in downtown Zagreb. It is one of the most famous Christmas markets in Europe and attracts thousands of locals and tourists. It also hosts numerous cultural events. Since 2018, the friars and the Zagreb Tourist Board have collaborated to create the “Obrok za obrok” [a meal for a meal] initiative. The city made a small house available to the friars, entitled “The Friar’s Advent House,” which serves to raise awareness of the needs of the poor, homeless and most needy. The friars and volunteers offer a delicious menu which includes a number of gastronomic specialties such as Friary “Sarma”: cabbage rolls wrapped with vine leaves with a tasty filling; Friary Sausages; Friary “Ajvar”: sauce with peppers; Friary Honey; various liqueurs from the friary; boiled wine; and two types of Friary Beer: one named “S.anto” after St. Anthony and another called “Jeronim” after St. Jerome. The income generated from these sales goes to support the soup kitchen for the poor. Diners at the Friar’s Advent House, besides eating well and helping the needy, get to spend some time with the friars and volunteers and talk with them about the activities they carry out.
Due to the pandemic, this year the famous market could not be set up in the normal way. However, this did not thwart the ingenuity and creativity of the Conventual friars. They came up with an idea of organizing things by adapting to the measures prescribed by the government. Near the friary, in front of the soup kitchen, they have set up a “drive-through” Friar’s Advent House, where meals are distributed to the poor until 2:00 p.m. Then, from 4:00 to 10:00 p.m., a menu is offered to all those who want to help their fellow citizens, and eat well at the same time, by purchasing a meal, visiting briefly with the friars and taking food home—all in compliance with government restrictions. Thus “St. Anthony’s House” receives the funds it needs to prepare meals for more than four hundred people every day. As Friar Vladimir says, the number of soup kitchen clients this year has greatly increased due to the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus, as well as by the earthquake that hit Zagreb last March. Because of these hardships, the friars are grateful for any donations and assistance. This initiative, supported by the entire community of friars in Zagreb, has been well received and is a great success.
It is an example of how the Franciscan charism remains alive, creative and attractive, even today. Moreover, it demonstrates how the Church can present her values to the world and thus foster friendly dialogue between us, who are brothers and sisters all.

Friar Zvonimir PERVAN