Today we celebrate the Feast Day of St. Anthony of Padua.
Here’s what you need to know…
St. Anthony of Padua was born Fernando Martins in Lisbon, Portugal in 1195. Fernando entered the religious life at 15.
Not long after being ordained a priest, Fernando witnessed the bodies of five Franciscan martyrs returning home and was moved to join their order. Upon his admission, he adopted the name Anthony from a nearby chapel named after Saint Anthony the Great.
ANTHONY THE EVANGELICAL
Anthony then set out for Morocco, in fulfillment of his new vocation. However, he fell seriously ill and had to return home. On the return voyage his ship was blown off course and landed in Sicily. From Sicily he made his way to Tuscany and eventually to the rural hermitage of San Paolo.
ANTHONY THE PREACHER
One day, on the occasion of an ordination, a number of visiting Dominican friars were present, and there was some misunderstanding over who should preach. The Franciscans naturally expected that one of the Dominicans would occupy the pulpit, because they were renowned for their preaching; the Dominicans, on the other hand, had come unprepared, thinking that a Franciscan would be the homilist.
In this quandary, the head of the hermitage, who had no one among his own humble friars suitable for the occasion, called upon Anthony, whom he suspected was most qualified, and invited him to speak whatever the Holy Spirit put into his mouth. Anthony objected but was overruled.
Anthony gave a powerful sermon that made a deep impression on everyone in attendance. Everyone was impressed with his knowledge of scripture, acquired during his years as an Augustinian friar.
ANTHONY THE TEACHER
Anthony was soon transferred to Bologna where he came to the attention of the founder of the order, Francis of Assisi. Francis had held a strong distrust of the place of theological studies in the life of his brotherhood, fearing that it might lead to an abandonment of their commitment to a life of real poverty. In Anthony, however, he found a kindred spirit for his vision, who was also able to provide the teaching needed by young members of the order who might seek ordination.
After one of his student’s stole a valuable book of his, Anthony prayed it would be found or returned. The thief was moved to restore the book to Anthony and return to the Order.
ANTHONY THE MIRACLE WORKER
Another miracle surrounding Anthony’s ministry regards the story of a heretic who told Anthony that he would believe that Christ was truly present in the Eucharist only if his mule bowed down to it. So, the heretic starved his mule for the next three days. Anthony then stood off to one side with the consecrated host in his hands, while the heretic stood to the other holding some fodder for the mule to eat. The mule, ignoring its own extreme hunger, went before the Eucharist and knelt down to adore the Blessed Sacrament.
Another legend tells the story of Anthony so disgusted by a local village of heretics and their indifference to his preaching he decided to preach to the fish in a nearby river. “You, fish of the river and sea, listen to the Word of God because the heretics do not wish to hear it.” Suddenly there were thousands of fish neatly arranged in rows, all pushing their heads through the surface of the water as if they were straining to listen to every one of Anthony’s words. The locals, seeing this miracle, changed their minds and gathered quickly to listen to Anthony.
ANTHONY THE SAINT
Anthony died on the way back to Padua on 13 June 1231 at the age of 35.
When his body was exhumed thirty years after his death, it was found turned to dust, but St. Anthony’s tongue was claimed to have glistened and looked as if it was still alive and moist; apparently a sign of his gift of preaching.
Anthony was canonized by Pope Gregory IX in 1232, less than one year after his death.
He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1946 by Pope Pius XII.
St. Anthony is the Patron Saint of lost things.
St. Anthony is often depicted in art holding the Baby Jesus. The exact reason isn’t known for sure, but legend has it that while a friend of Anthony’s was passing by he saw a powerful light coming from Anthony’s room. At first he thought it must be a fire, so he burst into the room. There he saw Anthony in ecstasy embracing the Baby Jesus.
Happy Feast Day.
St. Anthony of Padua, ora pro nobis.
By the way, in case you missed it, here is our recent podcast on St. Anthony of Padua. Enjoy!