June 12, 2017

St. Anthony of Padua, Priest & Doctor of the Church

Saint Anthony of Padua

Mention the name “Saint Anthony” in a roomful of Catholics, and you are likely to be regaled with story after story of things, people and pets that have been found, often in what seem to be miraculous circumstances, through his intercession. And although this saint is the patron of lost items and a thaumaturgist, or miracle worker, many people may not realize that he is also a Doctor of the Church who had a burning desire to imitate Christ in all things and be martyred for the faith.

St. Anthony of Padua was neither born in Padua nor with the name Anthony. He first saw the light of day in Lisbon, Portugal in 1195 and was baptized Ferdinand by his powerful and well-to-do parents, who were devout Catholics. At the age of 15, young Ferdinand joined the Augustinian Order, totally forsaking the wealth and power that could have been his by reason of his family’s standing in society.

But he did not remain with that order. In 1220, the mutilated corpses of the five Franciscan protomartyrs — Saint Bernard, Saint Peter, Saint Otho, Saint Accursius and Saint Adjutus — were returned from north Africa to Europe for burial; the remains of all five passed through the monastery where young Ferdinand served. So moved was this young man by the sight of those who had given up their lives for the faith that he decided that he, too, wished to shed his own blood for the love of Christ and His Church. To that end, he joined the Franciscan Order in 1221 and took the name we now know him by: Anthony.

God, however, had other plans for him. While preparing to sail for Morocco to preach Christianity to the Saracens (Moors) he was stricken with a severe illness. Instead, Anthony was sent to a hermitage in Italy, where he spent his time reading, praying, and studying Sacred Scripture. Though he did not know it at the time, it was to be the preparation for the task that God intended for him.

It was at an ordination a few years later that God’s plan began to reveal itself to him. Through an oversight, no one had been asked ahead of time to preach at the celebration. Though a Dominican was approached to fill the void, he declined, saying that he had nothing prepared. Then, for some reason—for the brothers did not really think him up to the task—the superior turned to Anthony and ordered him to speak to the assembly. Out of obedience, Anthony began. The longer he spoke the more impassioned he became. So great was his understanding of Scripture and doctrine, and so eloquently did he express it, that the brothers were amazed. From that day forward, St. Anthony became one of God’s greatest teachers and orators— in short, a Doctor of God’s Church.

Anthony was soon called upon to preach Catholic doctrine to the Albigensians, a heretical religious group in southern France during the 12th and 13th centuries who believed that everything in the material world is evil. It was said that his sincerity and holiness converted many back to the true teachings of the Church.

Eventually, St. Anthony settled in Padua, where he preached and wrote. At the age of 36, St. Anthony was again stricken with a severe illness, but this time he did not recover. He died at Padua on June 13, 1231 and was declared a saint less than one year after his death. His feast day is June 13th. Almighty ever-living God, who gave Saint Anthony of Padua to your people as a most outstanding preacher and an intercessor in their need, grant that, with his assistance, as we follow the teachings of the Christian life, we may know your help in every trial. Through our Lord Jesus Christ who reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

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