Saint Anthony of Padua, Doctor of the Church, Feast Day: June 13
Patron of the poor, American Indians, animals, boatmen, elderly people, fishermen, harvests, lost articles, mail, Portugal, travelers, travel hostesses, watermen and against shipwrecks, starvation.
Symbol: book, bread, Infant Jesus, lily. Born 1195, died 1231.
'Tony, Tony, Rally 'round. Something's lost and must be found.' Saint Anthony is the patron saint of the poor, and is known as Wonder Worker. But he also can help when something important is lost. The prayer above, or any prayer to Saint Anthony asks his intercession to Our Lord for help.
When we pray to a saint, it is not the same thing as praying to God. God made everything and everyone that is in the world, God made the world and is real in all time and in everyplace. God makes miracles, or answers prayers. Saints are people who we know have gone to Heaven and live with God there. They were very close to God while they lived and are now in Heaven with God, as close as anyone can possibly be. They know the Will of God. So, when we ask a saint for help in something, like passing a test, or finding our best shoes, we are asking the saint to pray with us for help to God. Someone who loved God so well, and knows God so well, can surely help us learn to love God and know His will better, don't you think? That's what intercession means.
Saint Anthony, is who known for his help in finding lost objects and praying so well for miracles, spent his whole life learning how to be closer to God, and to love God.
He lived a quiet life as a monk and didn't attract much attention. All he wanted to do was pray, and work, help the poor and offer his life to Jesus. One day, though, a visiting priest was supposed to speak to Saint Anthony and his fellow brothers at a retreat. The priest was sick and couldn't give his talk, so one by one the brothers were all asked to take his place. They all refused, until finally, Saint Anthony was told to go and give a talk.
He began slowly and quietly, but soon, carried away by his love for God, he was speaking forcefully and passionately. Everyone was surprised by how much they learned from listening to Anthony speak. After that day, he was constantly asked to speak and traveled around Italy and France, evangelizing, preaching, speaking in tongues, and teaching theology. He attracted crowds wherever he went. Some legends about his skill in speaking say that when a crowd did not seem interested in what he had to say, a school of fish came to the surface to listen to him. Another time, a hungry donkey ignored food, and knelt before the Blessed Sacrament after listening to Saint Anthony preach.
He is often shown holding the Infant Jesus. This is because once, when he was staying in a town, his host looked into his room and saw him standing there holding the Christ Child. What a great friend of Jesus!
Saint Anthony of Padua is called so because of his long residence in that city and the affection its people held for him. Born in Lisbon, Portugal and given the name 'Ferdinand' by his wealthy parents, he was educated at the Canons of the Cathedral of Lisbon. At fifteen, he entered the Order of Regular Canons of Saint Augustine near Lisbon. Two years later, he was sent to the convent of the Holy Cross of the same order in Coimbra.
To all intents and purposes, Saint Anthony seemed destined to an 'ordinary life' as a Augustinian. He lived quietly according to the rules of his order for eight years, intent upon his studies.
But when the remains of five Franciscan martyrs were brought from Morocco to Portugal for burial, and their headless and mutilated bodies were displayed to a horrified populace, Saint Anthony discovered a desire to follow in the footsteps of these heroes of the Faith. He petitioned to join the Franciscans, and after much opposition from his brethren, obtained the consent of his superior.
He continued to live quietly, drawing no attention to himself, serving the poor and the Lord with his life. He traveled to Assisi to see Saint Francis when a general chapter of the Order was in progress but still evaded much notice. It appeared again as if Saint Anthony would follow Christ in an 'ordinary' manner.
But this uneventful life was changed again, when Saint Anthony was asked to speak to a gathering. To everyone's surprise, including, perhaps, his own, Saint Anthony was revealed to be a passionate and engrossing speaker, full of fire and wisdom. He quickly became a professor of theology and gained fame as a teacher, preacher, and evangelizer. He attracted huge crowds of people all eager to hear him.
Saint Anthony gave up teaching in favor of preaching and spend the rest of his short life (he died at age 36) traveling around France, Spain and Italy. Instead of a martyrdom of blood, he offered a martyrdom of service, of crowds and of the road. No church was ever large enough to shelter those who came to hear him and he had to preach in the open air. He worked hard to preserve discipline in the monasteries of his order, against those who wished to relax its rules. His fame as a true servant of the Church led Pope Gregory IX to declare him a saint a year after he died. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1946.
Saint Anthony was born in Portugal in 1195 to young wealthy parents, and christened Ferdinand. After receiving an education in the Cathedral school of Lisbon, Ferdinand, at the age of fifteen, joined the Canons Regular of Saint Augustine, in the convent of Saint Vincent, just outside the city walls (1210). Two years later, he moved to the Convent of Santa Croce in Cóimbra (1212), where he stayed for eight years, occupying his time mainly with study and prayer.
In the year 1220, he saw at the Church of Santa Croce the bodies of the first Franciscan martyrs. He resolved to become a Friar Minor, that he might preach the Faith to the Saracens and suffer for Christ's sake. When he confided this intention to some Franciscans who came to beg alms at the Abbey of the Canons Regular, they gave him the Franciscan habit. After receiving permission to join a new order, Ferdinand left the Canons Regular of Saint Augustine to join the Order of Friars Minor, taking at the same time the new name of Anthony.
A short time this entry into the order, Anthony started for Morocco to carry out his plan of preaching to the Saracens. He fell ill, and had to postpone this trip for some months, at which point, his ship was driven by a violent storm to Sicily, where he remained for some time. Having heard from the brethren of Messina that a general chapter was to be held at Assisi, 30 May, he journeyed thither, arriving in time to take part in it. The chapter over, Anthony remained entirely unnoticed.
"He said not a word of his studies", writes his earliest biographer, "nor of the services he had performed; his only desire was to follow Jesus Christ and Him crucified". Instead, he applied to the Provincial of Cóimbra, for a place where he could live in solitude and penance, and enter more fully into the spirit and discipline of Franciscan life. He was sent to Montepaolo (near Forli)
While Anthony lived retired at Montepaolo, a group of Franciscan and Dominican friars were sent to Forli for ordination. When the time for ordination had arrived, it was found that no one had been appointed to preach. In their emergency they asked Anthony,(whom they thought only able to read the Missal and Breviary), to speak whatever the spirit of God might put into his mouth. Anthony, compelled by obedience, spoke at first slowly and timidly, but soon, he began to explain Holy Scripture with such great understanding that all were amazed. With that moment began Anthony's public career.
Anthony soon became a popular and sought after speaker. He had all the qualities of an eloquent preacher: a loud and clear voice, a winning countenance, wonderful memory, and profound learning, to which were added by God the spirit of prophecy and an extraordinary gift of miracles.
With the zeal of an apostle he undertook to reform the morality of his time by combating the vices of luxury, avarice, and tyranny and working against heresy wherever he encountered it. Many miracles and conversions are attributed to him, the most famous are those of the horse that knelt, poisoned food rendered harmless, and his sermon to the fishes of the Brenta. He gained the title 'Hammer of the Heretics' for the energy and effectiveness he used against heresy.
Anthony traveled, preached, contributed to the discipline and maintenance of his order, and performed many miracles. There are many miracles attributed to Saint Anthony, and while some seem trivial or unimportant to modern thought, they do reveal his saintliness and the love and esteem that he earned from those whose lives he touched. Some of the miracles attributed to Saint Anthony are legendary, but others come to us on such high authority that it is impossible either to eliminate them or explain them away without disregarding all historical accounts and all historians.
Anthony changed many lives with his orations. For example, the last Lent he preached was in 1231; 30,000 or more people came to hear him. These last sermons were mainly against hatred and enmity, and his efforts met with wonderful success. Permanent reconciliations were effected, peace and concord re-established, liberty given to debtors and other prisoners, restitution made, and enormous scandals repaired; in fact, the priests of Padua were no longer sufficient for the number of penitents, and many of these declared they had been warned by celestial visions, and sent to Saint Anthony, to be guided by his counsel. Others after his death said that he appeared to them in their slumbers, admonishing them to go to confession.
In 1227 A. D., Saint Anthony was placed in charge of the friars living in northern Italy, and so resumed the work of preaching. He worked so hard at this position, that his strength, exhausted by his many years of travel, was soon completely depleted. He prepared for death. After receiving the last sacraments he kept looking upward with a smile on his countenance. When he was asked what he saw there, he answered: "I see my Lord." He died on June 13, 1231 A. D., being only thirty six years old.
Pope Gregory IX enrolled him among the saints in the very next year. At Padua, a magnificent basilica was built in his honor, his holy relics were entombed there in 1263 A. D. When the vault in which for thirty years his sacred body had reposed was opened, the flesh was found reduced to dust but the tongue uninjured, fresh, and of a lively red color. From the time of his death up to the present day, countless miracles have occurred through Saint Anthony's intercession, so that he is known as the Wonder-Worker. He is also sometimes known as the Patron of the oppressed, Finder of lost objects, Patron of American Indians, Patron of the mail. In 1946 A. D. Saint Anthony was declared a Doctor of the Church.
Almighty, Ever-living God, You gave Your people the extraordinary preacher Saint Anthony and made him an intercessor in difficulties. By his aid grant that we may live a truly Christian life and experience Your help in all adversities. Amen.
Some Interesting Links:
A Page of Prayers to Saint Anthony
Return to Saints Page.