St. Anthony

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Saint Anthony of Padua


Anthony was born on the Feast of the Assumption in Lisbon, Portugal, to Martim Vicente de Bulhões and wife Teresa Pais Taveira (a descendant of Alfonso VI of Castile – and thus a half-third cousin once removed of King Afonso II of Portugal – and ironically of Muhammad), and brother of Pedro Martins de Bulhões (ancestor of the de Bulhão/de Bulhões family), in a very rich family of the nobility who wanted him to become a noble; however these were not his wishes. His family arranged sound education for him at the local cathedral school. Against the wishes of his family, Anthony entered the Augustinian Abbey ofSt. Vincent on the outskirts of Lisbon. The Canons Regular of St Augustine, of which he was now a member, were famous for their dedication to scholarly pursuits. Anthony studied Scripture and the Latin classics. Anthony was constantly visited by friends and relatives, bringing embarrassing gifts and news from their social world which disturbed him. His studies were suffering and there he found no peace. He persuaded his superiors to transfer him to the Augustinian Santa Cruz Monastery (Abbey of the Holy Cross) in Coimbra, then the capital of Portugal, and continued his studies.

On the return trip to Portugal, his ship was driven by storm upon the coast of Sicily and he landed at Messina. From Sicily he made his way to Assisi and sought admission into a monastery in Italy, but met with difficulty on account of his sickly appearance. He was finally assigned, out of pure compassion, to the rural hospice of San Paolo near ForlìRomagna, Italy, a choice made after considering his poor health. There he appears to have lived as a hermit and was put to work in the kitchen.

One day, on the occasion of an ordination, when a great many visiting Dominican monks were present, there was some misunderstanding over who should preach. The Franciscans naturally expected that one of the Dominicans would occupy the pulpit, for they were renowned for their preaching; the Dominicans, on the other hand, had come unprepared, thinking that a Franciscan would be the homilist.

In this quandary, the head of the hermitage, who had no one among his own humble friars suitable for the occasion, called upon Anthony, who he suspected was most qualified, and instructed him to speak whatever the Holy Spirit should put into his mouth. Anthony objected but was overruled, and his sermon created a deep impression. Not only his rich voice and arresting manner, but the entire theme and substance of his discourse and his moving eloquence, held the attention of his hearers.

At that point, Anthony was commissioned by Brother Gratian, the minister provincial, to preach the Gospel throughoutLombardy, a region in northern Italy. From then on his skills were used to the utmost by the Church. Occasionally he took another post, as a teacher, for instance, at the universities of Montpellier and Toulouse—both in southern France—but it was as a preacher that Anthony revealed his supreme gift.

In 1226, after attending the Franciscan chapter at Arles, France, and preaching in the French region of Provence, Anthony returned to Italy and served as envoy from the general chapter to Pope Gregory IX. At the papal court, his preaching was hailed as a “jewel case of the Bible” and he was commissioned to produce “Sermons for Feast Days.”

Anthony was elected minister provincial of the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna on 30 May; the friars held out against the push of Franciscan austerities. Anthony became ill with dropsy and, in 1231, went to the woodland retreat at Camposampiero with two other friars for a respite. There Anthony lived in a cell built for him under the branches of a walnut tree. Saint Anthony died on 13 June 1231 at the Poor Clare convent at Arcella on the way back to Padua at the age of 36.

When he died, it is said that the children cried in the streets and that all the bells of the churches rang of their own accord, rung by angels come to earth to honor the death of the saint. He is buried in a chapel (once a church, now enclosed by the current edifice) of the large Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua. The house where he was born in Lisbon was turned into a church, the Igreja de Santo António de Lisboa.

One of the most beloved of saints, his images and statues are ubiquitous. Proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on January 16, 1946, he is sometimes called “Evangelical Doctor”. He is especially invoked for the recovery of lost things.

On January 27, 1907 in Beaumont, Texas, a church was dedicated and named in honor of St. Anthony of Padua. The church was later designated a cathedral in 1966 with the formation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Beaumont, but was not formally consecrated. On April 28, 1974, St Anthony Cathedral was dedicated and consecrated by Bishop Warren Boudreaux. In 2006 Pope Benedict XVI granted St. Anthony Cathedral the designation of minor basilica. St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica celebrated its 100th anniversary on January 28, 2007.

Seventeenth century Spanish missionaries came across a small Native American community along what was then known as the Yanaguana River on the feast day of Saint Anthony and renamed the river and eventually a mission built nearby in his honor. This mission became the focal point of a small community that eventually grew in size and scope to become the city of San Antonio, Texas.

St. Anthony is known in Brazil and Portugal as a marriage saint, because legend has him as one who conciliated couples. His feast day, June 13, is Lisbon’s municipal holiday, celebrated with parades and marriages of humble couples, and he is one of the saints celebrated in the Brazilian Festa Junina (along withJohn the Baptist and Saint Peter). The previous day, June 12, is the Brazilian Valentine’s Day.

In Uvari, in Tamil Nadu, India, the church of St. Anthony is home to an ancient wooden statue that is said to have cured the entire crew of a Portuguese ship suffering from cholera. St Anthony is said to perform many miracles daily, and Uvari is visited by pilgrims of different religions from all over South India.