St Anthony of Padua
One was given to us by my mother and is of Saint Bishoy (read David's wonderful account of his life here )
The other was given to us by my mother in law, and is of St Antonio de Padua (the patron saint of the town my husband's family are from in Italy)
St Anthony of Padua
My knowledge of St Antonio goes back to the first year of my marriage. It was June 13, and my mother in law came back from church with bread. I asked her about it and she said "it's St Antonio's bread". My husband explained to me that June 13th marks the death of St Anthony, and that people take bread to the church on that day, then give the bread later to their families to eat after it was blessed at mass. I heard so much about St Antonio from my husband's family, but I knew I had to look for more if I wanted to write this post and do it justice.
As I started researching the life of this great saint, I found that there were no shortage of information on his blessed life and miracles. St Anthony was canonised about a year after his death, and he is sometimes referred to as 'Doctor of the church'. Most of his work was done in Italy, but I learnt that he was actually born in Portugal.
St. Anthony was born in the year 1195 A. D. at Lisbon (Portugal) where his father was a captain in the royal army. Already at the age of fifteen years, he had entered the Congregation of Canons Regular of St. Augustine and devoted himself with great earnestness both to study and to the practice of piety in the Monastery at Coimbra (Portugal).
However an incident not unlike many that we witness today, caused St Anthony to seek the Franciscan order.
About that time some of the first members of the Order of Friars Minor, which St. Francis has founded in 1206 A. D. came to Coimbra. They begged from the Canons Regular a small and very poor place, from which by their evangelical poverty and simplicity they edified everyone in the region. Then in 1219 A. D. some of these friars, moved by divine inspiration, went as missionaries to preach the Gospel of Christ to the inhabitants of Morocco. There they were brutally martyred for the Faith. Some Christian merchants succeeded in recovering their remains; and so brought their relics in triumph back to Coimbra.
The effect of this event on St Anthony was the loudest proclamation to the strength we can all find in God, if only we would let ourselves!! He very well could have said a prayer to God, so He would bless the souls of the martyrs...and that would have been it. Isn't this what we do today...that is if we do anything at all when we hear about our brothers and sisters who suffer to glorify God's name??? Not St Anthony!! He wanted to do more...
So moved by their heroic example he repeatedly begged and petitioned his superiors to be given leave to join the Franciscan Order. In the quiet little Franciscan convent at Coimbra he received a friendly reception, and in the same year his earnest wish to be sent to the missions in Africa was fulfilled.
This is probably something that may seem odd, or confuse those who haven't grown up in Christ's love. But what moved St Anthony was not anger, or hurt. He wasn't seeking vengeance or even justice. I wish I could ask him exactly why he wanted to go...but I somehow believe that he went there seeking to bring the love of Jesus Christ to those he knew needed it more than anyone else. I believe in my heart he went there wanting the world to know Christ, and he wasn't afraid to die for it.
But God had decreed otherwise. And so, St. Anthony scarcely set foot on African soil when he was seized with a grievous illness. Even after recovering from it, he was so weak that, resigning himself to the will of God, 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. St. Anthony was greeted and given shelter by the Franciscans of that island, and thus came to be sent to Assisi, where the general chapter of the Order was held in May, 1221 A. D..
After this, St Anthony was moved to Romagna (Italy) and spent 9 months as a chaplain to hermits. He was so modest that he thought nothing of spending his days carrying on the lowliest duties of the kitchen and convent. But the Lord had bigger plans for this holy man.
At an ordination ceremony, the priest who was about to give the sermon fell ill suddenly and St Anthony was called upon to give the sermon in his place. Although he refused with humility at first, he eventually had to do so because of his vow of obedience to his supperior. The rest as they say, is history!
St Anthony was so eloquent, so learned and so passionate about the faith that he was then given mission to preach throughout Italy and also commissioned to teach theology by St Francis.
It was as an orator, however, rather than as professor, that Anthony reaped his richest harvest. He possessed in an eminent degree all the good qualities that characterize an eloquent preacher: a loud and clear voice, a winning countenance, wonderful memory, and profound learning, to which were added from on high the spirit of prophecy and an extraordinary gift of miracles. With the zeal of an apostle he undertook to reform the morality of his time by combating in an especial manner the vices of luxury, avarice, and tyranny. The fruit of his sermons was, therefore, as admirable as his eloquence itself. No less fervent was he in the extinction of heresy, notably that of the Cathares and the Patarines, which infested the centre and north of Italy, and probably also that of the Albigenses in the south of France, though we have no authorized documents to that effect.
His wonderful efforts in combating heresies earned him the title "Hammer of Heretics"...Lord knows we need more of those around these days.
Upon exhumation, some 336 years after his death, his body was found to be corrupted, yet his tongue was totally incorrupt, so perfect were the teachings that had been formed upon it.
As for his portrayal holding Christ the child:
Regarding the celebrated apparition of the Infant Jesus to our saint, French writers maintain it took place in the province of Limousin at the Castle of Chateauneuf-la-Forêt, between Limoges and Eymoutiers, whereas the Italian hagiographers fix the place at Camposanpiero, near Padua. The existing documents, however, do not decide the question. We have more certainty regarding the apparition of St. Francis to St. Anthony at the Provincial Chapter of Arles, whilst the latter was preaching about the mysteries of the Cross.
However, it is believed that whilst St Anthony was praying in a chapel owned by an Italian count, immense and beautiful light was seen emanating from the chapel by that count. As he approached, he saw St Anthony holding Christ the child and praying.
Throughout his life as a teacher, St Anthony placed the utmost importance on saving souls, then on learning. He always held onto St Francis' teaching: that the spirit of prayer be not extinguished either in yourself or in the other brethren.
In 1227 A. D., St. Anthony was elected Minister Provincial of the friars living in northern Italy. Thus he resumed the work of preaching. 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 on his countenance. When he was asked what he saw there, he answered: "I see my Lord." He breathed forth his soul on June 13, 1231 A. D., being only thirty six year old. Soon the children in the streets of the city of Padua were crying: "The saint is dead, Anthony is dead."
But he's not forgotten!