Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Today is the memorial of my one of my favorite saints -- St. Anthony of Padua, a Doctor of the Church, a Franciscan priest known as the "Hammer of the Heretics", the "Wonder Worker", and the "Ark of the Covenant." (Pope Gregory IX, who heard St. Anthony preach, in his canonization decree gave him the title "Ark of the Covenant," for just as the original Ark held the sacred Scriptures, so did St. Anthony in his person.)
He was born Fernando (Ferdinand) Martin de Bulhom in 1195 in Lisbon, Portugal, the son of a knight of the court of King Alfonso II. At the age of 15, he joined the Augustinian order and at 17, transferred to the priory of St. Cross, a more secluded monastery of the same order, where he devoted himself to prayer and study for eight years.
Ferdinand learned the news about five Franciscan friars who had recently died for their faith in Morocco. When their bodies were brought to Portugal for veneration, he developed a strong desire to imitate their commitment to the Gospel. At the age of 25, Ferdinand joined the Franciscan order, and changed his name to Anthony in honor of St. Anthony of Eygpt, a fourth century desert monk.. He was deeply inspired by the Franciscan martyrs and tried to emulate them. In the same year, his earnest desire to be sent to the missions in Africa was fulfilled.
But God had decreed otherwise. For, Anthony scarcely set foot on African soil when he became gravely ill. Even after he had recovered, he was so weak that 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. There Anthony was greeted and given shelter by the Franciscans of that island, and shortly thereafter was sent to Assisi, where the general chapter of the Order was held in May, 1221. Anthony remained there 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.
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 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 avoid the embarrassment of the moment, quickly asked the friars in attendance to volunteer. Each excused himself, saying that he was not prepared, until finally, Anthony was asked to give it. When he too, excused himself in a humble manner, his superior ordered him by virtue of the vow of obedience to give the sermon. Anthony began to speak in a very quiet and reserved manner; but soon the power of the Holy Spirit seized him, and he spoke with such eloquence that everyone was amazed.
After learning of the event, St. Francis gave Anthony the responsibility of preaching the gospel throughout Italy. He was also assigned the task of teaching theology in Italy and France.
Known for his bold preaching and austere lifestyle, Anthony also had a reputation as a worker of miracles, which often came about in the course of his disputes with heretics.
In one miracle, a horse, which refused to eat for three days, and accepted food only after it had placed itself in adoration before the Eucharist that Anthony brought in his hands. Another miracle involved a poisoned meal, which Anthony ate without any harm after making the sign of the Cross over it. Yet in another miracle, a group of fish rose out of the sea to hear his preaching, when heretical residents of a city refused to listen to him.
St. Anthony once received an apparition of the Infant Jesus. Before going to bed for the night, he was reading his Bible. Suddenly, the Infant Jesus appeared resting on the Bible and in the arms of St. Anthony. The Infant Jesus stroked St. Anthony’s face. Here the word of God appeared to the man who had so well preached His word. For this reason, most images of St. Anthony depict him holding a Bible with the Infant Jesus.
In 1227 A. D., Anthony was elected Minister Provincial of the friars living in northern Italy. 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. When he was asked what he saw there, he answered: "I see my Lord." He died on June 13, 1231, at the age of 36.
Anthony was canonized in 1232 and named a Doctor of the Church in 1946. 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.
Patron: Poor, barren and pregnant women, also against shipwrecks, starvation and of American Indians, animals, boatmen, elderly people, fishermen, harvests, lost articles, mail, Portugal, travelers, travel hostesses, and watermen.
Prayers to St. Anthony