“St. Anthony of Padua is one of the most beloved saints in the Church and one of the most well-known early disciples of St. Francis of Assisi. He was a renowned preacher and worker of miracles during his lifetime, and throughout the eight hundred years since his death he has so generously come to the assistance of the faithful who invoke him, that he is known throughout the world. We celebrate his feast day on June 13.
St. Anthony was born in Lisbon, Portugal in the year 1195 and entered the religious community of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine at the Monastery of Coimbra when he was 15 years old – there he fervently devoted himself to study and prayer. During his formation at Coimbra, some Franciscans moved the the area and begged a small space from the Canons Regular. Young Anthony was very struck by their evangelical poverty and simplicity. After members of this early group of Franciscans were brutally martyred in Morocco, Anthony was seized with an intense desire to join them and go to the missions. Moved by their example Anthony begged and petitioned his superiors to release him so he might become a Franciscan. Shortly thereafter his petition was granted and he was received into the small Franciscan community in Coimbra in a simple ceremony.
Anthony’s fervent hope to join the Franciscan missions in Africa was never completely fulfilled as the Lord had other plans for him. He became very ill upon arriving in Africa and had to return home to Portugal. A storm diverted his ship and landed on the coast of Sicily – there he took refuge with a group of Franciscans. Henceforward Anthony remained in Italy where he became known for his preaching and as an example to all who encountered him. St. Francis himself gave Anthony the special mission of preaching throughout Italy. The number of those who came to hear him was sometimes so great that no church was large enough to accommodate and so he had to preach in the open air. Frequently St. Anthony wrought veritable miracles of conversion. Deadly enemies were reconciled. Thieves and usurers made restitution. Calumniators and detractors recanted and apologized. He was so energetic in defending the truths of the Catholic Faith that many heretics returned to the Church.
Once a man, at whose home St. Anthony was spending the night, came upon the saint and found him holding in his arms the Child Jesus, unspeakably beautiful and surrounded with heavenly light. For this reason St. Anthony is often depicted holding the Child Jesus.
In 1227 A. D., St. Anthony was elected Minister Provincial of the friars living in northern Italy. Thus he resumed the work of preaching. Due to his taxing labors and his austere penance, he soon felt his strength so spent that he prepared himself 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.” One year after his death, Pope Gregory XI proclaimed him a saint. In 1946 he was made a Doctor of the Church and has been given the title “Evangelical Doctor.”
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More Information about St. Anthony and the Franciscans
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Pope Benedict XVI’s “Apostolic Journey to the United States” with the theme “Christ Our Hope” has just concluded. For some time to come, we will all be thinking about and reflecting on this historic visit.
What a gift and blessing this was to the Church in America!
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The Theological Vision of Pope Benedict XVI
“By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors. ‘The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church’s history.’ Indeed, holiness is the hidden source and infallible measure of her apostolic activity and missionary zeal.’
The intercession of saints.
Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness . . . they do not cease to interceded with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus . . . So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.”
- from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 828, 956
St. Anthony lived a life of profound prayer, an intimacy with God, following St. Francis’ example and instructions. St. Paul the Apostle urges us to “pray without ceasing” – here are some books we recommend on prayer – the very heart of our Christian faith experience -
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Prayer in honor of St. Anthony:
“To the ends of the earth . . . proclaim the word of joy . . . ‘Ask, that your joy may be full.’ Proclaim it not only to the just who are in the Church’s midst, but to the outer bounds of the earth . . . , that is, outside the precepts of the Lord, which are for us the bounds within which we must live. Let them hear the word of joy so that they might obtain the full joy which has no bounds. May Jesus Christ lead us to this joy.