The Story of Saint Anthony

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November 2021

The History and Life of Saint Anthony of Padua

Saint Anthony of Padua (baptized Fernando, also known as Anthony of Lisbon) was born on August 15, 1195 and died on June 13, 1231. Anthony was a very popular advocate of the gospel message. He was a brilliant orator and preacher. Churches overflowed with people to hear him preach. It was often necessary to move outside the church because of the numbers of people present.

At the age of 15 he joined the Augustinians in Lisbon. He moved to the monastery at Coimbra to lead a more monastic life away from his friends. There he met monks from the Franciscan order who had just arrived from Morocco and gave accounts of the martyrdom of their friends. Anthony joined the Franciscans and later went to Africa with them. He chose to evangelize in Africa regardless of the dangers and possibility of martyrdom. He became sick after a short time in Africa and had to leave. He was shipwrecked on the coast of Sicily.

After arriving in Messina he traveled north to join St. Francis at Padua. St. Anthony followed the directives of St. Francis to be sworn to poverty and prayer. He lived in a cave in order to pray in solitude. Accounts say that Anthony wasn’t a priest until he was ordained at a Dominican abbey at Forli at the age of 27. His ordination opened up new avenues of activity which exposed his true talents.

At a gathering after the ordination he was coaxed to deliver a sermon. He started to talk in a simple, humble way. But the longer he spoke, the more vivid and forceful became his words, until it seemed to the friars that the Holy Spirit Himself was inspiring his words. St. Francis commissioned Anthony to travel to all his communities to instruct his friars in theology, “provided that in such studies they did not destroy the spirit of holy prayer and devotedness.”

Later, Anthony traveled to the province of Romagna to preach doctrine to heretics, who were called Albigensians. Then he went to France where the Albigensian movement had started. He had great success in proclaiming the gospel and gained many followers. In every town and village the wonderful deeds of the champion of the cause of God called for a universal admission. All ranks of society had recourse to him. The poor, the afflicted, the sinful and the sorrowful turned to him for benediction. He consoled them in their troubles, raised them from despondency, blessed their children, and performed the most touching miracles.

St. Anthony was called to his eternal reward on June 13, 1231. His remains rested in the chapel of Friar’s minor in Padua, Italy. Hardly had the tomb been closed when it became the center of pilgrimages and the scene of many manifestations. The bishop of Padua immediately petitioned the Holy See to confer the honor of canonization on the wonder-worker. In less than a year after his death the decree of canonization was pronounced on May 30, 1232 by the Holy father at Spoleto.