St. Anthony of Padua

Feast day: June 13

Saint Anthony with Child Jesus

b.1195 d.1231

"Consider every day that you are then for the first time--as it were--beginning; and always act with the same fervor as on the first day you began."--Saint Antony of Padua.

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    At the age of 15, Ferdinand de Bulhoes, son of a knight at the court of King Alfonso II, became an Augustinian monk at San Vincente just outside Lisbon. He had studied under the priests of the Lisbon cathedral, who had inspired him. In 1212, Ferdinand migrated to the priory of Santa Cruz at CoÓmbra because he found the visits of friends too disturbing. At CoÓmbra Ferdinand was well-educated by teachers from Montpellier, Toulouse, and Paris in Scripture, which was presented in a way intended to refute the Moors and heretics. He was ordained in 1219 or 1220.

    He had lived a quiet life as a canon in CoÓmbra for eight years when Don Pedro of Portugal brought from Morocco in 1220 the relics of recent Franciscan martyrs. On hearing of their glorious end, Antony was fired with missionary zeal, which he had little hope of fulfilling as a canon regular. He laid his heart bare before some Franciscans who had come to Holy Cross Monastery to beg. With their encouragement, Ferdinand transferred to the Franciscan Order at Olivares in 1221 and took the name Antony, in honor of the great patriarch of monks, Antony the Abbot.

    Thus, at the age of 26, inspired by the memory of the five Franciscans whom he had met before their martyrdom, he sailed for Ceuta in Morocco. It was his ambition to convert the Islamics to Christianity, but sometimes even saints mistake their will for God's will. God, however, always arranges things so that we realize our mistake. For Antony, God's intervention took the form of allowing the saint's body to betray him upon arrival in Morocco- -he fell so ill that he had no choice but to return home.

    On the return to Portugal, his ship was driven by storm upon the coast of Sicily and he landed at Messina. From Sicily he made his way to Assisi and found himself at the general chapter of Assisi in 1221, the last chapter open to all members of the order. Brother Elias, vicar general, presided over the gathering, with Saint Francis seated at his feet. At the conclusion of the chapter, the brothers returned to their respective posts, but poor Antony belonged nowhere.

    But when he sought admission into a monastery in Italy, he met with difficulty on account of his sickly appearance. He was assigned at last, out of pure compassion, to the rural hospice of San Paolo near Forli outside Bologna, a choice made after considering his poor health. There he appears to have lived as a hermit and was put to work in the kitchen. Here he toiled with great humility, none suspecting his talents or learning, among a group of simple and untutored monks. One day, however, on the occasion of an ordination, when a great many visiting Dominican monks were present, there was some misunderstanding over who should preach. The Franciscans naturally expected that one of the Dominicans would occupy the pulpit, for 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 Antony, whom he suspected was most fitted, and told to speak whatever the Holy Spirit should put into his mouth. "But," replied Antony, "my task is washing dishes and scrubbing floors!" His objections, however, were overruled, and his sermon created a deep impression. Not only his rich voice and arresting manner, but the entire theme and substance of his discourse and his moving eloquence held the attention of his hearers.

    Antony was commissioned by Brother Gratian, the minister provincial, to preach the Gospel throughout Lombardy. From then on his skills were used to the utmost by the Church. Although Antony had been denied a martyr's death at the hands of the Islamics, he was a martyr of the Word, a martyr of the road, a martyr of the crowds. News of his ability reached Saint Francis who at once gave Antony license to expound theology in all the monasteries of the order by appointing him the first lector in theology to his brethren. Occasionally he took another post, as a teacher, for instance, at the universities of Montpellier and Toulouse, but it was as a preacher that Antony revealed his supreme gift.

    In 1226, after attending the chapter at Arles, France, and preaching in Provence, Antony returned to Italy and served as envoy from the general chapter to Pope Gregory IX. At the papal court, his preaching was hailed as a 'jewel case of the Bible,' and he was commissioned to produce "Sermons for Feast Days."

    He was elected minister provincial of Emilia or Romagna on May 30, 1227, which required much travel to supervise the friaries under his charge. During these three years he wrote his "Sermons for Sundays." In June 1230, he secured from the pope a release from his duties of office so that he could preach exclusively. From that time Antony resided at the monastery of Santa Maria in Padua. The following winter he composed his sermons on the saints.

    He had a remarkable knowledge of the Bible, and his sermons impressed the erudite no less than the simple, whether he was speaking on behalf of Christian living or against false doctrine. He was strong and fearless, merciless towards oppressors of the defenseless and towards venal clergy. At Bourges, France, after delivering his sermon to the faithful, Antony turned towards the archbishop and openly reprimanded him for his vices. He worked to abolish debtors' prisons and usury, and for justice. (His last public act was a journey to Verona to procure the release of prisoners.)

    In his lifetime he was called "hammer of heretics." Though small of stature and even chubby, Antony was one of the most powerful preachers of the 13th century. It seems he could by his brilliant personality overwhelm the sinful and convert them to God. He preached to crowded congregations; the shops were shut, people waited all night to hear him, and church buildings were too small to hold the numbers who flocked to listen; and wherever he came, his words broke down the barriers of apathy and impenitence.

    Antony radiated holiness; sometimes the mere sight of him brought sinners to their knees. He had a wonderful memory, great energy, and a remarkable voice. One woman, forbidden by her husband to attend his preaching, flung open her bedroom window, so that his sermon, though at a distance, filled the room, and her husband, astonished by what he thought was a miracle, was moved to the heart by Antony's words.

    After the death of Saint Francis, he and Adam, an English friar, held out against the relaxation of Franciscan austerities. He became ill with dropsy and, in 1231, went to the woodland retreat at Camposanpiero with two other friars for a respite. There he lived in a cell that was built for him under the branches of a walnut tree. Saint Antony died at the Poor Clare convent at Arcella on the way back to Padua at the age of 36.

    The texts of many of his sermons have survived, and because of these and his reputation as a biblical scholar the Church has honored him with the title "Doctor."

    The Poor Clare sisters claimed Antony's body, but it was enshrined in Our Lady's Church at Padua. A great basilican church was begun the year after his death. Fittingly for one who had hoped to work in Morocco, the building has domes and a bell-tower like an Arab minaret. Antony's tomb lies behind the altar of his chapel in the north transept of this Basilica di Sant'Antonio, with nine superb reliefs lining the walls. He was translated to this site in 1263, at which time his incorrupt tongue and two bones were detached from his body. At this famous pilgrimage site, many miracles occurred at his intercession. Many legends gathered around his name and he is among the most popular of the medieval saints (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Gill, Gilliat-Smith, Walsh, White).

Born: Born in Lisbon, Portugal, 1195

Died: died in Padua, Italy, June 13, 1231

Canonized: canonized 1232 by Pope Gregory IX; declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XII in 1946.

 

Representation: In art, Saint Antony is portrayed as a young Franciscan holding the child Jesus, which is a representation of an episode in which his spying host is said to seen him holding and talking to the Infant Jesus (White). While Antony is usually depicted as a rosy-cheeked youth with wavy hair, a contemporary described him thusly: "Like most Spaniards his coloring was swarthy. He was less than the average height and was corpulent. His skin was dark and rough as a result of the great austerities of his life and the sickness from which he suffered." In 1981, his tomb was reopened and the relics were scientifically examined to verify his physical characteristics. It can be said that Antony had a long, thin face, deep-set eyes, and long, delicate hands. The state of his bones indicated a poor diet (through frequent, long fasts) and fatigue caused by journeys on foot.

He may sometimes be shown (1) with a lily (symbol for his knowledge of scripture according to White) and book; (2) with a flame in his left hand or on his breast and book; (3) with a cross and the child on a book (Roeder); or (4) holding corn, which recognizes miracles he is reputed to have performed. He once saved a field of grain from foraging birds, and on another occasion restored an abundant harvest to a field trampled by people who had come to hear him (White).

Older pictures may show Antony preaching to the fish at Rimini (a story told in the Fioretti similar to the tale of Francis with the birds) or with him showing a consecrated Host to a mule who immediately venerated it, rejecting a bundle of hay. The point of these stories is that sometimes animals were more receptive to the living Word of God than certain people. Some medieval artists preferred to portray Antony in a nut-tree in memory of his solitude and the esteem Saint Bonaventure had for him. The Limbourg brothers painted an image of Saint Anthony Attacked by Devils.

 

Patronage: Antony is the patron of the poor and oppressed; alms given for his intercession are called "Saint Antony's Bread" . This charity, devoted to the relief of the starving still flourishes, especially in the Third World. In Sicily huge loaves in the shape of a crown are still baked on his feast day (Farmer). He is also patron of barren women, harvests, Brazil, Padua, and Flemish men (White). He is often invoked to help find lost objects ("Saint Antony, Saint Antony, please come around. Something is lost and needs to be found."). This was probably spawned by the story that a novice ran away with a psalter Antony had been using and was forced by an apparition to return it (White).

 

Prayers of St. Anthony of Padua

Prayer to Saint Anthony the Wonder-Worker

Saint Anthony, perfect imitator of Jesus, who received from God the special power of restoring lost things, grant that I may find {mention your petition} which has been lost. As least restore to me peace adn tranquility of mind, the loss of which has afflicted me even more than my material loss. To this favor I ask another of you: that I may always remain in possession of the true good that is God.Let me rather lose all things than lose God, my supreme good. Let me never suffer the loss of my greatest treasure, eternal life with God. Amen.

Prayer to Saint Anthony of Padua

Glorious Saint Anthony, my friend and special protector, I come to you with full confidence in my present necessity. In your overflowing generosity you hear all those who turn to you. Your influence before the throne of God is so effective that the Lord readily grants great favors at your request. Please listen to my humble petition in spite of my unworthiness and sinfulness. Consider only your great and constant love for Jesus and Mary, and my desire for their glory and mercy. I beg you to obtain for me the grace I so greatly need, if it be God's will and for the good of my soul. I place this earnest petition in the care of the little mission children so that they may present it to you along their innocent prayers. Bless me, powerful Saint Anthony, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Prayer to Saint Anthony, Consoler of the Afflicted

Dear Saint Anthony, comforting the sorrowful is a Christian duty and a work of mercy. By word, attitude, and deed I should try to brighten their days and make their burden easier to bear. Saint Anthony, Consoler of the Afflicted, may I remember when helping someone in sorrow that I am helping Christ Himself. Kindly mention my pressing needs to Him. [name your special intentions]

Franciscan Mission Associates

Prayer to Saint Anthony of Padua, Disperser of Devils

Dear Saint Anthony, it is still as Saint Peter said: The devil prowls about, lion-like, looking for someone to devour. I confess that I don't always resist him; I sometimes toy with temptation. Saint Anthony, Disperser of Devils, remind me of my duty to avoid all occasions of sin. May I always pray in temptation that I may remain loyal to my Lord Jesus. Pray for my other intentions, please. [name them]

Franciscan Mission Associates

Litany of Saint Anthony of Padua

(For Private Use)

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God, the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Holy Mary,
Saint Anthony of Padua,
Saint Anthony, glory of the Friars Minor,
Saint Anthony, ark of the testament,
Saint Anthony, sanctuary of heavenly wisdom,
Saint Anthony, destroyer of worldly vanity,
Saint Anthony, conqueror of impurity,
Saint Anthony, example of humility,
Saint Anthony, lover of the Cross,
Saint Anthony, martyr of desire,
Saint Anthony, generator of charity,
Saint Anthony, zealous for justice,
Saint Anthony, terror of infidels,
Saint Anthony, model of perfection,
Saint Anthony, consoler of the afflicted,
Saint Anthony, restorer of lost things,
Saint Anthony, defender of innocence,
Saint Anthony, liberator of prisoners,
Saint Anthony, guide of pilgrims,
Saint Anthony, restorer of health.
Saint Anthony, performer of miracles,
Saint Anthony, restorer of speech to the mute,
Saint Anthony, restorer of hearing to the deaf,
Saint Anthony, restorer of sight to the blind,
Saint Anthony, disperser of devils,
Saint Anthony, reviver of the dead.
Saint Anthony, tamer of tyrants,
From the snares of the devil, Saint Anthony deliver us.
From thunder, lightning and storms, Saint Anthony deliver us.
From all evil of body and soul, Saint Anthony deliver us.
Through your intercession, Saint Anthony protect us.
Throughout the course of life, Saint Anthony protect us.


Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.


V. Saint Anthony, pray for us.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

O my God, may the pious commemoration of Saint Anthony, your Confessor and Proctor, give joy to your Church, that she may ever be strengthened with your spiritual assistance and merit to attain everlasting joy. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Readings

Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak. We are full of words but empty of actions, and therefore are cursed by the Lord, since he himself cursed the fig tree when he found no fruit but only leaves. It is useless for a man to flaunt his knowledge of the law if he undermines its teaching by his actions.

But the apostles "spoke as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech." Happy the man whose words issue from the Holy Spirit and not from himself!

We should speak, then, as the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of speech. Our humble and sincere request to the Spirit for ourselves should be that we may bring the day of Pentecost to fulfillment, insofar as he infuses us with his grace, by using our bodily senses in a perfect manner by keeping the commandments. Likewise we shall request that we may be filled with a keen sense of sorrow and with fiery tongues for confessing the faith so our deserved reward may be to stand in the blazing splendor of the saints and to look upon the triune God.
 

-from a sermon by Saint Anthony of Padua