St. Anthony of Padua is one of the most
famous disciples of St. Francis of Assisi. He was a famous
preacher and worker of miracles in his own day, and
throughout the eight centuries since his death he has so
generously come to the assistance of the faithful who invoke
him, that he is known throughout the world.
St. Anthony's Youth & Conversion
St. Anthony was born in the year 1195 A. D. at Lisbon
(Portugal) where his father was a captain in the royal army.
Already at the age of fifteen years, he had entered the
Congregation of Canons Regular of St. Augustine and devoted
himself with great earnestness both to study and to the
practice of piety in the Monastery at Coimbra (Portugal).
About that time some of the first members of the Order of
Friars Minor, which St. Francis has founded in 1206 A. D.
came to Coimbra. They begged from the Canons Regular a small
and very poor place, from which by their evangelical poverty
and simplicity they edified everyone in the region. Then in
1219 A. D. some of these friars, moved by divine
inspiration, went as missionaries to preach the Gospel of
Christ to the inhabitants of Morocco. There they were
brutally martyred for the Faith. Some Christian merchants
succeeded in recovering their remains; and so brought their
relics in triumph back to Coimbra.
The relics of St. Bernard and companions, the first martyrs
of the Franciscan Order, seized St. Anthony with an intense
desire to suffer martyrdom in a like manner. So moved by
their heroic example he repeatedly begged and petitioned his
superiors to be given leave to join the Franciscan Order. In
the quiet little Franciscan convent at Coimbra he received a
friendly reception, and in the same year his earnest wish to
be sent to the missions in Africa was fulfilled.
St. Anthony's Arrival in Italy
But God had decreed otherwise. And so, St. Anthony scarcely
set foot on African soil when he was seized with a grievous
illness. Even after recovering from it, he was so weak that,
resigning himself to the will of God, he boarded a boat back
to Portugal. Unexpectedly a storm came upon them and drove
the ship to the east where it found refuge on coast of
Sicily. St. Anthony was greeted and given shelter by the
Franciscans of that island, and thus came to be sent to
Assisi, where the general chapter of the Order was held in
May, 1221 A. D..
Since he still looked weak and sickly, and gave no evidence
of his scholarship, no one paid any attention to the
stranger until Father Gratian, the Provincial of friars
living in the region of Romagna (Italy), had compassion on
him and sent him to the quiet little convent near Forli
(also in Italy). There St. Anthony remained nine months as
chaplain to the hermits, occupied in the lowliest duties of
the kitchen and convent, and to his heart's content he
practiced interior as well as exterior mortification.
St. Anthony, Preacher and Teacher
But the hidden jewel was soon to appear in all its
brilliance. For the occasion of a ceremony of ordination
some of the hermits along with St. Anthony were sent to the
town of Forli. Before the ceremony was to begin, however, it
was announced that the priest who was to give the sermon had
fallen sick. The local superior, to avert the embarrassment
of the moment, quickly asked the friars in attendance to
volunteer. Each excused himself, saying that he was not
prepared, until finally, St. Anthony was asked to give it.
When he too, excused himself in a most humble manner, his
superior ordered him by virtue of the vow of obedience to
give the sermon. St. Anthony began to speak in a very
reserved manner; but soon holy animation seized him, and he
spoke with such eloquence, learning and unction that
everybody was fairly amazed.
When St. Francis was informed of the event, he gave St.
Anthony the mission to preach throughout Italy. At the
request of the brethren, St. Anthony was later commissioned
also to teach theology, "but in such a manner," St. Francis
distinctly wrote, " that the spirit of prayer be not
extinguished either in yourself or in the other brethren."
St. Anthony himself placed greater value in the salvation of
souls than on learning. For that reason he never ceased to
exercise his office as preacher despite his work of
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. This occasioned
the epitaph given him by Pope Gregory IX "the ark of the
In all his labors he never forgot the admonition of his
spiritual father, St. Francis, that the spirit of prayer
must not be extinguished. If he spent the day in teaching
and heard the confession of sinners till late in the
evening, then many hours of the night were spent in intimate
union with God.
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.
St. Anthony's Death
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."
He breathed forth his soul on June 13, 1231 A. D., being
only thirty six year old. Soon the children in the streets
of the city of Padua were crying: "The saint is dead,
Anthony is dead."
Pope Gregory IX enrolled him among the saints in the very
next year. At Padua, a magnificent basilica was built in his
honor, his holy relics were entombed there in 1263 A. D.
From the time of his death up to the present day, countless
miracles have occurred through St. Anthony's intercession,
so that he is known as the Wonder-Worker. In 1946 A. D. St.
Anthony was declared a Doctor of the Church.
(Taken from the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate)