Anthony was born in 1195 in Lisbon, Portugal, of a young noble couple. As a youth, he was educated by the clergy at the cathedral of Lisbon, but when he turned 15, he joined the regular canons of St. Augustine. Approximately two years later, he transferred to the priory at Coimbra, where he lived a more quiet and contemplative life of prayer. He was a scripture scholar with a supremely incredible memory.
In 1220, Don Pedro of Portugal brought from Morocco, the bodies of Franciscan martyrs who were murdered in Morocco by the Moors. The sight of these heroic individuals greatly moved Anthony. Therefore, he left the Augustinian Order to become a Franciscan, ready to die for his Catholic Faith, for Jesus Christ. Accordingly, in 1221, he became a Franciscan.
Subsequently, a short time after joining the Franciscans, he was traveling to Morocco to preach the Gospel to the Moors. But on the way, he became extremely ill and had to return to Europe. He then traveled to Assisi where a great gathering of the Franciscans occurred, called the general chapter, presided over by Vicar General Brother Elias. Posts were assigned to the Franciscans, whereupon Brother Anthony was assigned to a hermitage in San Paolo near Forli. There, he lived a quiet life of prayer and performing menial tasks for the rest of the friars. Little did they know of his intellectual and spiritual brilliance, his mental acuity, nor were they aware that he possessed many gifts given to him by the Holy Spirit, including his ability to preach effectively and defend the Faith as an extraordinary apologist.
The final incident, shall we say, that uncovered Brother Anthony’s gifts, occurred at an ordination held at Forli. Remarkably, because of communication misunderstandings, no one was prepared to give the homily. (I picture in my mind’s eye, everybody looking at each other perplexed. LOL.) Hence, St. Anthony came forward and delivered such an eloquent and meaningful homily that everyone was indeed amazed.
Accordingly, the minister provincial took Brother Anthony out of seclusion and sent him to preach, especially to the many heretics in Northern Italy. He became the first friar to teach theology to his colleagues, now a lector in theology. After this post, he was sent to preach to the Albigensians in France who converted in great numbers to the Catholic Faith, renouncing their denial of Jesus Christ’s divinity and their denial of the Sacraments.
He was a preacher of tremendous power, with a passion for the salvation of souls, a passion for the Truth and an appealing voice. Indeed, he even had a magnetic personality. Wherever Brother Anthony went, people flocked to him, including hardened criminals. Heretics came back to their Catholic Faith, back to Our Lord Jesus Christ, after listening to the Truth preached by the great Brother Anthony. The churches were filled when he spoke, wherein he preached also out in the open market-places and squares.
After St. Francis died, he was assigned to go to Italy to serve as the minister provincial of Emilia or Romagna, acting as an envoy from the chapter general in 1226 to Pope Gregory IX. Anthony was granted his request to be released from this office so that he could devote his life to preaching.
Therefore, on forward, Brother Anthony lived in the city of Padua, a place where he worked before, being well-loved and welcomed there by the people. Large congregations listened to him speak, leading sinners to reform their lives, ending fighting and terrible quarreling establishing peace.
In the spring of 1231, once again Brother Anthony became very ill. Thus, he retired with two other friars to a retreat in the woods known as Camposanpiero. He stayed there for awhile, but asked to return to Padua. Sadly, he only reached the outskirts of Padua. On June 13, 1231, having received the last rites, he died in an apartment at the Poor Clares of Arcella.
Brother Anthony was only 36 years old when he died, and in 1232, he was canonized. In 1946, Pope Pius XII declared him to be a Doctor of the Church. Because of his greatness, he was known as “The Wonder-worker.” He is pictured holding the Infant Jesus. During one of his visits, his host, looking through a window, saw St. Anthony gazing upon the Holy Child whom he held in his arms. Numerous miracles were attributed to him. St. Anthony is the patron of the poor, and the founder of lost objects. This is completely appropriate, since he found himself by losing himself totally to the Triune God.
St. Anthony wrote in one of his sermons about the saints: “The saints are like the stars In His providence, Christ conceals them in a hidden place that they may not shine before others when they might wish to do so. Yet they are always ready to exchange the quiet of contemplation for the works of mercy as soon as they perceive in their heart the invitation of Christ.”
My dearest St. Anthony, I have always loved you and you have always been efficient in tending to my requests. Thank you for your example of true love in defending the Faith against heretics, standing for the truth, preaching the Gospel with great eloquence and serving the people of God. I am sure you are aware that we live in a time of “in your face evil.” Please come to our aid here in this world, and assist us and pray for us to Our Lord. May we now continue to follow your example, dear St. Anthony! Praise be Jesus Christ!
With love and respect,
Sources: Vatican website; One Hundred Saints, Bulfinch Press; Franciscan Media