Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ. -- Saint Augustine of Hippo from “The City of God

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Saint Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Saint Anthony of Padua (also known as Antonio da Padova, Evangelical Doctor) was born as Ferdinand to a wealthy family in 1195 A.D. at Lisbon, Portugal. He was educated in the cathedral school in Lisbon. His family wanted him to be a great nobleman, but, Anthony felt a religious calling and he joined the Canons Regular of Saint Augustine in 1210 when he was 15.

Two years later, to avoid the distraction of family and friends who visited him frequently, Anthony received permission from his superior to move to the Convent of Santa Croce in Cóimbra where he remained for eight years. There he occupied his time with prayer and study, where he learned a great deal about theology and gained the understanding of Holy Scripture.

When the bodies of Saint Berard and his companions, the first Franciscan martyrs in 1220, were brought to be buried in the Church of Santa Croce , Anthony was inspired to leave his order, enter the Friars Minor, and go to Morocco to evangelize, and become a martyr for Christ. After confiding his intentions to some of the Franciscans, he received the Franciscan habit, and took the name Anthony.

When Anthony first started for Morocco, he was stricken with a severe illness which affected him the entire winter. He set sail for Portugal and then Morocco the following spring, but, he was shipwrecked off the coast of Sicily, where he remained for a time until he regained his health. From there he journeyed to a general chapter of the Franciscans at Assisi where he went entirely unnoticed. He applied to the Provincial of Cóimbra for a place where he could live in solitude and penance and enter more fully in the discipline of Franciscan life. The Provincial was in need of a priest for the hermitage of Montepaolo and sent him there to celebrate Mass for the lay brothers.

While Anthony lived at Montepaolo it happened that a number of Franciscan and Dominican friars were sent together to be ordained. When the time for ordination had arrived, it was found that no one had been chosen to preach. The superior turned first to the Dominicans, but everyone declined, saying he was not prepared. They then chose Anthony, whom they thought only able to read the Missal and Breviary, and told him to speak whatever the spirit of God inspired in him. Anthony obeyed, and at first he spoke slowly and timidly, but soon he was enkindled with the Spirit, and he began to explain the most hidden sense of Holy Scripture with such profound learnedness and beautiful doctrine that all were astonished. That moment began Anthony's public career. He was then constantly travelling, evangelizing, preaching, and teaching theology through Italy and France.

Anthony won a reputation as a preacher and teacher of theology, received the praise of Saint Francis, made numerous converts and performed many miracles. He had a vision of the Infant Christ, and he was made provincial of the monastery at Limousin, France in 1226.

Saint Anthony of Padua died of natural cause at Vercelli, Italy in June 1231. His relics are at Padua, Italy. He was declared a Doctor of the Church on January 16, 1946 by Venerable Pope Pius XII.

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