Saint Anthony of Padua
Doctor of the Church
Feast Day: June 13
Saint Anthony was born on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1195, receiving the name of Fernando at Baptism.
His father, Martin de Bouillon, the governor of Lisbon, Portugal, was a descendant of the Commander Godfrey of the First Crusade. His mother Theresa was a descendant of Austrian kings. She dedicated her newborn son to the Blessed Virgin Mary at his Baptism and he had a lifelong and deep devotion to the Mother of God. His uncle was a priest and our Saint served Mass for him and he was fervently devoted to the Blessed Sacrament.
When he was but fifteen St. Anthony entered the Canons Regular, where he remained for ten years, studying Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers.
The bones of the first Franciscan Martyrs were brought to the monastery in Coimbra, which inspired the Saint to be a missionary. In the summer of 1220 at the monastery of the friars in Coimbra dedicated to St. Anthony Abbot, Fernando received the Franciscan habit and took the name of Anthony. Soon afterwards he was given permission to preach to the Moslems in North Africa. He became very ill and sailed back to Portugal. When he was recovered he went to a Franciscan meeting in Assisi, Italy, where he met St. Francis, and thus came to join the friars near Bologna.
Soon after he attended the ordination of several friars. The superior asked one of the friars to preach but all the Dominicans and Franciscans present declined except for our Saint who amazed everyone with his marvelous sermon on Christ’s obedience unto death on the Cross and he was quickly given permission to preach throughout northern Italy. He gained many converts who were not only attracted to his sermons but his humility and simple manner of living. Two years later he was sent to France to preach against the Albigensians, who were heretics. Again his preaching was very effective and he won the acclaim as ‘The Hammer of Heretics”. A number of Catholics who had fallen in with the heretics came back to the faith. Anthony often had to speak to heretics, who were misled by false doctrine and or error mixed in with truth; and he knew that it was not enough to merely preach and preach well, he must be an example by living as holy a life as possible which would also strengthen him in his labors for Christ.
Learned, he taught theology combining St. Augustine’s works, the Bible, and the ideals of St. Francis, all of which took on the mark of the Franciscan school of theology. Eventually the Church would recognize him as a “Doctor of the Church” for his theology. However, he became known most widely as a “Miracle-Worker”, one so wondrous that he was considered to be without comparison. He not only could command the fishes of the sea, but he was able to restore severed limbs to those who had lost a leg or arm, and even bring some back from death. And he was exceedingly aware of the needs of the poor and there were miracles of bread as well. As if this were not enough to hail him as one of the world’s greatest Saints [some say he is the most well known of Saints], the Christ Child appeared to him one day when he was deep in prayer, consenting to come into his arms.
In memory of this miraculous event, most images of St. Anthony show the Franciscan holding a lily—–symbol of innocence and purity—–lovingly holding the Child Jesus in his arms. Children are especially fond of this Saint. And where the Christ child is, there is also His Holy Mother Mary. One of his outstanding virtues was his tender, constant devotion to her. As we said he was born on her Feast Day of the Assumption, August 15, and thus his mother dedicated him to Our Lady. The church where he was Baptized was named St. Mary of Lisbon, and in the Church of St. Mary of Padua his body was laid to rest, surely no coincidence. On June 13, 1231, at the age of 36 he fell very ill and asked to be taken back to Padua from the lake region where he was at the time. On the way to the friary he received the Last Sacraments and shortly before he died he called out, “I see my Lord.”
Anthony had not been death even a month when the Paduans asked Pope Gregory IX to declare him a Saint. A commission was called to examine his life and he was easily declared a Saint, eleven months later, with the day of his death, June 13 designated for his Feast Day. That same year the people of Padua began building a basilica named after him. A basilica is a church with special honors and there are not that many in the world, with only four in Rome itself.
This church was completed in 1263 and his remains were transferred there. His tongue was still fresh and vibrant among his bones, no doubt God’s way of paying tribute to the Saint’s preaching, and his ability to speak of the love we ought to have for Mary. The great Franciscan, St. Bonaventure, was present for that occasion and he said: “O blessed tongue . . .”
Pope Leo XIII called st. Anthony, “The Saint of the world”. In 1946 Pope Pius XII declared him a Doctor of the Church.
The image above depicts St. Anthony with the Child Jesus and in the background is the basilica in Padua. The Saint holds the lily for purity and the book for theology.
Unfailing Prayer to St. Anthony