Church Doctors:

St. Anthony of Padua

Saint Anthony of Padua was born in Portugal – growing up in a well to do family in Lisbon. He entered the Augustinian Order as an adolescent and met Franciscan brothers who had established a hermitage outside of the city named in honor of Saint Anthony of the Desert.  He became attracted to to the simple way of life.  He heard about the martyrdom of five brothers at the hands in North Africa. Their bodies were buried in his abbey.  Their deaths and burials were a life-changing moment.  He asked permission to join the Franciscans and then adopted a new name—Anthony—taken from the patron saint of the hermitage.

Saint Anthony then sailed for North Africa to die for the faith or to ransom himself for Christians held captive by Muslims.   He became ill, and, on the return voyage, his ship was providentially blown off course to Sicily. From there he made his way to Central Italy, where his education, mastery of Scripture, compelling preaching skills, and holiness brought him deserving renown. Saint Francis himself soon came to know Father Anthony, a man whose learning legitimized the under-educated Franciscans. Saint Francis had been skeptical of scholarship, even prohibiting his illiterate followers from learning how to read. Francis feared they would become too prideful and then abandon their radical simplicity and poverty.  Saint Francis only reluctantly, several years after founding his Order, allowed some of his brothers to be ordained priests. He had originally relied exclusively on diocesan priests to minister to his non-ordained brothers, and he distrusted his followers who aspired to the honor of the Priesthood. The presence of Anthony, and later Bonaventure, changed all that.

In time, Saint Anthony became a famous preacher and teacher to Franciscan communities in Northern Italy and Southern France. His knowledge of Scripture was so formidable that Pope Gregory IX titled him the “Ark of the Testament.” In Anthony’s Shrine in Padua, a reliquary holding his tongue and larynx recall his fame as a preacher. These organs had not disintegrated even long after the rest of his body had returned to dust. Saint Anthony is most often shown either holding the Child Jesus in his arms or holding a book, a lily, or all three. His intercession is invoked throughout the world for the recovery of lost items and for assistance in finding a spouse.

St. Anthony died in 1231 at the age 35 and was canonized about a year later. In 1946 Saint Anthony was declared a Doctor of the Church due to the richness of his sermons and writings.

In his last moments, the brothers surrounding his bed asked him if he saw anything. Saint Anthon said simply, “I see the Lord.”