Feast Day: June 13
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. 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 was devoted to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and Our Lady from his childhood, when he served as an Altar Boy for his uncle who was a priest.
He was ordained to the priesthood at a young age, and became a member a religious community named after St. Augustine – The Augustinians. While living in Portugal, he worked in the Kitchen and served the other members of his community. He was asked to preach a sermon at a Priest’s Ordination. He had never done so…and they all thought it would be a poor delivery, since he wasn’t very educated at the time. When Anthony began to speak, everyone was taken by surprise, not only was he eloquent, not only was he learned, but he knew the Gospels and Holy Scriptures so intimately that he seemed like a living icon of the Word of God himself.
When St. Francis heard about Anthony – he invited Anthony to join the Franciscan Community and devote his time to teaching and preaching to the Friars. St. Francis recognized in Anthony an authentic and deep spiritual love he had for Christ and the Truth. Anthony did become a Franciscan. He spent the rest of his life traveling around Italy and Southern France preaching against the heresies of the day, working miracles and astonishing all by his humility and obvious sanctity. He drew huge crowds who came for many miles to hear him.
St. Anthony placed greater value in the salvation of souls. He urged his listeners to put the Holy Scriptures at the center of their lives, just as he did. If you wish to know God, if want to see his Face – go to the Holy Scriptures – this was his advice. 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. Enemies were reconciled.
He was so energetic in defending the truths of the Catholic Faith that many heretics returned to the Church. He would spend hours during the day teaching, preaching and hearing Confessions….but would also spend many hours of the night in intimate union with God in prayer. One night, the Child Jesus appeared to the Saint and held him in his arms. For this reason St. Anthony is often depicted holding the Child Jesus.
Later, he was elected as Provincial of the Franciscan Friars and lived in Padua, Italy. Thus he resumed the work of preaching. He died on June 13th, at 36 years old! His tomb is in a Basilica in Padua, Italy – The Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua. His tongue and vocal cords are incorrupt and are kept in a reliquary in the Basilica in Padua. St. Bonaventure, a friend of St. Anthony, in discovering that the St. Anthony’s tongue was incorrupt said: “O blessed tongue, which always blessed the Lord had made others bless him, now you show all the great merits you have acquired with God.”
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, St. Anthony was declared a Doctor of the Church.
Saint Anthony of Padua, pray for us, that we would strive to know and love Jesus – and recognize Him in the Church, the Scriptures, and the Holy Eucharist.
Books to read about St. Anthony: “St. Anthony: The Wonder-Worker of Padua” by Charles Warren Stoddard (TAN Books). For children: “Saint Anthony and the Christ Child” by Helen Walker Homan (Ignatius Press).