Life History of St. Anthony

Life of St. Anthony

Anthony of Padua

Saint Anthony of Padua (Lisbon, August 15, 1195 - Padua, June 13, 1231), also venerated (particularly in Portugal and Portuguese-speaking countries) as Saint Anthony of Lisbon (Santo António de Lisboa), is a Catholic saint who was born in Lisbon, Portugal as Fernando de Bulhões to a wealthy family and who died in Padua, Italy. Today he is one of the most famous saints and is often called upon by Catholics to help find lost possessions.

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Life of St. Anthony

His family arranged a sound education for him at the local cathedral school. Against the wishes of his family, Fernando entered the Augustinian Abbey of St Vincent on the outskirts of Lisbon. The Canons Regular of St. Augustine, of which he was now a member, were famous for their dedication to scholarly pursuits. Fernando studied Scripture, St Jerome, St. Augustine, St Gregory the Great and St Bernard. He also studied the Latin masters Ovid, Seneca and Cato. Fernando was constantly visited by friends and relatives, bringing embarrassing gifts and news from their social world which disturbed him. His studies were suffering and there he found no peace. He persuaded his superiors to transfer him to the Augustinian Santa Cruz Monastery (Abbey of the Holy Cross) in Coimbra, then the capital of Portugal, and continued his studies.

After his ordination, Fernando was placed in charge of hospitality in his abbey. In this role, in 1219, he came in contact with five Franciscans who were on their way to Morocco to preach to the Muslims there. Fernando was strongly attracted to the simple Gospel lifestyle of the Franciscan friars. In February 1220, news arrived that the five Franciscans had been martyred in Morocco. Fernando meditated on the heroism of these Franciscans, and he longed to embrace the simple lifestyle of the Franciscans. He wanted the freedom of a charismatic and joy-filled response to God's call to leave everything and follow Him. Fernando obtained permission from his superiors to join the Franciscan order. In the summer of 1220 he was invested with the Franciscan habit and began to learn the teachings of their founder, Francis of Assisi. He took the new name of Anthony when he joined the Order of Friars Minor in honor of Saint Anthony the Great (251-356), to whom the Franciscan hermitage where he was living was dedicated.

Shortly afterwards, Anthony set off to Morocco with another friar. He intended to die preaching the Gospel there. He contracted a severe fever, possibly malaria. He set sail for Portugal but was blown off course in a terrible storm and the ship was forced ashore in Sicily. He joined up with some of his fellow friars in Sicily who were in the process of travelling to Assisi for a gathering of all Franciscan friars. On the feast of Pentecost in 1221 thousands of Friars gathered in Assisi for what has come to be known as the Chapter of Mats, as the great number of friars meant many had to sleep on mats. After the chapter, the provincial of Bologna, Friar Graziano sent him to a small hermitage in the mountains in the town of Montepaolo to serve as priest for the hermits there. This was one of the happiest periods in his life as he finally got to live in total simplicity. However, Anthony was obliged to preach at an ordination when the preacher failed to arrive, and all were astounded at his marvellous preaching. From then on, he travelled throughout Northern Italy and Southern France preaching especially in areas where heresy was strong

He is said to have been an eloquent preacher with a loud and clear voice, a winning smile, a wonderful memory, and profound learning. With the zeal of an apostle he undertook to reform the morality of his time by specifically combating the vices of luxury, avarice, and tyranny. He taught theology at Bologna, Toulouse, Montpellier and Padua, and won a great reputation throughout Italy as a preacher. He was the leader of the rigorous party in the Franciscan order against the mitigations introduced by the general Elias. His death took place at the convent of Ara Coeli, near Padua, on 13 June 1231. He is buried in a chapel (once a church, now inglobated in the current edifice) of the large Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua.

On the spot where the saint was born in Lisbon a church has been built : the Igreja de Santo António da Sé. The neighbouring museum Museo Antoniano gives a chronicle of his life and several images of this popular saint.



His was the second fastest canonization in history: he was declared a saint 352 days after his death (Peter of Verona was canonized 337 days after his martyrdom in 1252) (Pentecost, May 30, 1232) by Gregory IX. His feast day is June 13th, and is marked by popular and sumptuous celebrations in Lisbon. Saint Anthony is the patron saint of Padua, where his relics remain, as well as Lisbon. He is also remembered as the namesake for the city of San Antonio, Texas; Spanish explorers in the area stopped there on his feast day (June 13) and named the river and settlement after him.

The numerous miracles attributed to him are a reflection of how the name of Anthony is celebrated throughout the world. The inhabitants of Padua erected to his memory a magnificent basilica, where his relics were transferred in 1263.

It is told that when the vault in which, for thirty years, his sacred body had reposed was opened, the flesh was found reduced to dust but the preacher's tongue was seen to be uninjured, fresh, and of a lively red colour, it was reported at the time. St Bonaventure, beholding this wonder, took the tongue affectionately in his hands and kissed it, exclaiming: “O Blessed Tongue that always praised the Lord, and made others bless Him, now it is evident what great merit thou hast before God.“

According to his hagiographies he was a gifted speaker, he attracted crowds everywhere he went, speaking in multiple tongues, the legend being that even the fishes in the Brenta loved to listen.

One of the most beloved of saints, his images and statues are ubiquitous. Proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on January 16, 1946, he is sometimes called the “Evangelical Doctor.“ He is especially invoked for the recovery of things lost; as well as against starvation, barrenness; patron of amputees, animals, boatmen, Brazil, diocese in Beaumont, Texas, domestic animals, the elderly, expectant mothers, faith in the Blessed Sacrament, Ferrazzano, fishermen, harvests, horses, lower animals, mail, mariners, oppressed persons, Padua, paupers, Portugal, sailors, scholars, sterility, swineherds, Tigua Indians, travel hostesses, travellers, and watermen.

In Portugal, Brazil, and some parts of Latin America he is recognized as the marriage saint. In some places, on his feast day (June 13) single women may buy a small statue of Saint Anthony and place (or bury) it upside down for a week, blackmailing him to only put him upright after he helps them find a good husband.

The meagre accounts of his life which we possess have been supplemented by numerous popular legends, which represent him as a continuous worker of miracles, and describe his marvellous eloquence by pictures of fishes leaping out of the water to hear him. There are many confraternities established in his honour throughout Christendom, and the number of “pious“ biographies devoted to him would fill many volumes.

On January 27, 1907 in Beaumont, Texas USA, a church was dedicated and named in honor of St. Anthony of Padua. The church was later designated a cathedral in 1966 with the formation of the Diocese of Beaumont, but was not formally consecrated. On April 28, 1974 St. Anthony Cathedral was dedicated and consecrated by Bishop Warren Boudreaux. In 2006 Pope Benedict XVI granted St. Anthony Cathedral the designation of minor basilica. St. Anthony Basilica celebrated it's 100th anniversary on January 28,2007.