Saint Anthony of Padua
Feast Day: 13th June
Patron Saint: Padua Portugal, Poor, Oppressed, Prisoners, Travellers, Things Lost, Shipwrecks
Symbols in Art: Lily, Ass kneeling to the Blessed Sacrament, book with Baby Jesus standing on it
Also Known as:
Shrine: Basilica di San Antonio, Padua
Saint Anthony was born in 1195 in Lisbon Portugal and Baptised Fernando. His parents, Martin and Mary Bulhom were wealthy, prominent members of the city. From a young age, Anthony decided he wanted to dedicate his life to Christ and against his parents’ wishes, he joined the religious order of St Augustine at the age of 15. For the first two years he had friends visit regularly when he would get into arguments about politics. He was sent to Coimbra where he embarked on nine years of study, learning Augustinian theology, and was ordained a priest.
Around this time, the first five Franciscan monks who had embarked on mission work in Morocco were martyred. Anthony begged to leave the Augustinians and join the Franciscans on condition he could travel to Morocco. It was on entering the Franciscan friary that he took on the name Anthony. He was soon off to Morocco, however, God had different plans for Anthony and on the journey he became seriously ill and had to turn back, however, the ship hit a storm which blew them across the Mediterranean, finally arriving in Sicily.
The friars in Sicily nursed Anthony back to health, still sick he asked to attend the great Pentecost Chapter of Mats. He asked a Superior “Teach me in the Franciscan life” but did not mention his theological training. He went into a life of seclusion and contemplation but went to an ordination of Dominicans and Franciscans in 1222. As they grouped for the meal, the Superior suggested that a friar give a sermon. There were no volunteers, so Anthony was asked to give “something simple” since at this point no one knew he had been educated.
He spoke in a simple but knowledgeable way with passion and his holiness impressed everyone. Saint Francis heard about Anthony and he was sent to Northern Italy to preach. Most preachers of the time were relatively wealthy and therefore the poor found it difficult to relate to them. Anthony was just what they needed, genuine, godly, interested in nothing Worldly, he just wanted to spread the Good News.
Allegedly, not everyone listened, and fed up with the actions of people, he went to preach to the fish in the river. This caught people’s attention. Anthony preached extensively in Northern Italy and Southern France promoting God in a positive way. He was in areas full of heretics but never tried to convert by proving people wrong, always by the positives that conversion offered.
Anthony taught in a friary in Bologna while continuing his preaching. He was appointed provincial superior of Northern Italy in 1226. In 1228 around Easter time he met Pope Gregory IX, who had heard about his reputation as a preacher. He was asked to preach and afterwards people remarked that it was like the miracle of Pentecost had repeated.
Anthony would still find time to spend in solitude. He was spending lots of time in Padua by this point, with crowds for his sermons at 30,000+. He needed a bodyguard to stop people with scissors cutting pieces of his habit for a relic. After morning mass, he would hear confessions which would last all day, he would also fast all day. This exhausted him and he went to a city outside of Padua to rest, but seeing death coming he headed back to Padua but was taken ill before reaching it. He blessed Padua from a distance.
Before his death, a friar noticed him staring into the distance, asked what he was looking at Anthony said, “I see my Lord” He died shortly afterwards at the age of 36. So many miracles were attributed to him after his death that Pope Gregory IX declared him a saint just a year after he died. His body was exhumed 336 years after his death and although his body was corrupt, his tongue was incorrupt.
Anthony is the Patron Saint of lost things, he had a book of psalms that was particularly important to him, it is said that he lost the book and prayed for it’s return. The book was taken by a friar who had decided to leave the Order and took Anthony’s book with him. The Friar, after the prayer, felt moved to take the book back and to re-join the Order.
A child was said to have drowned near the Basilica being built for Anthony, the mother promised that if the child was restored to her she would give her child’s weight in corn to the poor, he returned to life and she did what she had promised.
Another story suggests that while Anthony was visiting the Lord of Chatenauneauf, he went off to pray. The room was filled with bright light and Jesus as a child appeared to Anthony. The Lord, seeing the bright light entered the room and witnessed the event, promising not to tell anyone until after Anthony’s death.
A short Youtube video of Saint Anthony's life can be found here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcg1gJIcjjc