Reflection: THE FEAST OF ST. ANTHONY OF PADUA (June 13, 2018)


(June 13)

Biography of St. Anthony


Anthony was born in Lisbon, Portugal on August 15, 1195 in a wealthy family and died on June 13, 1231 in Padua, Italy. His parents were Vicente Martins and Teresa Pais Taveira. He was originally named as Fernando Martins. His parents gave him education at the local Cathedral school. When he was 15, he joined Augustinian religious community in Lisbon. After becoming a priest, while serving in Coimbra, Fernando met Franciscan friars who were settled outside Coimbra. Their simple and evangelical lifestyle attracted Fernando. During that period, five Franciscans were beheaded in Morocco while trying to evangelize the Moors. Their bodies were brought for funeral in the Portuguese city where he lived. Fernando was attracted by their martyrdom and he joined the Franciscans with permission from his religious superiors. He changed his name to Anthony, the patron saint of the chapel. Anthony traveled to Morocco for preaching to the Moors willing to face martyrdom. However, he became seriously ill there and had to return to regain his health. This shows his love for poverty and missionary zeal with willingness to die for Christ who died for humanity.


Anthony was famous for his oratory style and deep knowledge in the Bible. One event made him popular. Once he was attending an ordination in 1222 in Forli. Dominican and Franciscan friars were present. But none of them was assigned to do the homily ahead of time. Realizing the mistake, the superior asked Fr. Anthony to preach ex-tempore. Though reluctant, Anthony did the homily out of obedience. However, his homily was impressive to all present and felt as if guided by the Holy Spirit. Anthony had gained deep knowledge in the Bible and was invited to preach in many places.


An incident in the life of St. Anthony was the reason for asking his intercession for finding lost or stolen items. Anthony had a book of Psalms that he treasured because it had his scribbling of notes and comments for teaching. During those days, books were valuable because copies were handwritten and not printed. A novice who dropped out had taken Anthony’s book with him. Anthony prayed for finding the book without knowing how it was missing. Later the ex-novice returned the book to Anthony.


Anthony was famous for preaching to heretics in Rimini. Once while trying to preach to them, they did not pay attention to him and even mocked him. So, Anthony went to the seashore and preached his message to the fish. Large number of fish began to come up to water level and appeared to be listening to his preaching. Those who observed the miracle went to the city and called their friends to see the miracle. At the end of the sermon, the saint blessed the fish and they swam away. This miracle prompted the heretics to find God’s power in Anthony and began to listen to him.The city of Rimini was freed from heresy. Because Anthony was a successful preacher to the heretics, he was nicknamed as “The Hammer of Heretics.”


St. Anthony is portrayed in pictures and statues as holding Baby Jesus on an open Bible. White lily depicted in his statue is representing his purity and Bible stands for his love for the Word of God. The appearance of Infant Jesus with St. Anthony is strange because Anthony was born centuries after the incarnation of Jesus. Apart from the picture of Holy Family, St. Anthony is the only saint depicted as holding Infant Jesus. This is based on a vision St. Anthony had of Infant Jesus while he was praying in private at a friend’s house. The host of the house found Anthony conversing with Infant Jesus during his prayer. Anthony had requested the host to keep it secret until his death.


Among the many stories of miracles associated with St. Anthony, a famous one is “The Miser’s Heart.” Once the funeral of a rich man was taking place in the city of Tuscany. Seeing the solemn funeral, Anthony said that the dead man did not deserve such an honor because he loved money and exploited the poor. Quoting Jesus words, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mathew 6:21), Anthony commented: “His heart is in his money-box.” The family and friends who were upset on these words of Anthony wanted to prove otherwise. They had a surgeon cut open the dead body. To their surprise, the heart was missing. Then the family found his heart in his treasure box.


While returning to Padua after a retreat at Camposampiero, Anthony died on June 13, 1231 at the age of 35. Respecting his request, Anthony was buried in a small church of Santa Maria Mater Domini. A large Basilica was built above it and was completed in 1301. Legends hold that when Anthony died, the children cried in the streets and church bells rang by themselves. When his body was exhumed 30 years after his death, his tongue was found uncorrupt and moist. It is believed to be a sign of his gift of preaching. His tongue, jaw and vocal cords are still displayed in the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua.


Pope Gregory IX canonized St. Anthony on May 30, 1232, at Spoleto, Italy. Considering the spiritual richness of his preaching, Pope Pius XII declared St. Anthony as the Doctor of the Church on January 16, 1946.


Saint Anthony is known in Portugal, Spain and Brazil as a marriage saint, because there are legends of him reconciling couples.


Charity is done in honor of St. Anthony called, “Saint Anthony’s Bread.” There is a story behind this. A mother left her 20-month boy Tommy in her kitchen. She lived near the Basilica of St. Anthony. There was a large pot with water boiling on the fire in the kitchen. While the boy was playing, he took a stool and peeped into the pot. He fell into the boiled water with head down as he was trying to touch his image reflected on the water. When the mother returned soon, she pulled the boy out and found him dead. Hearing the cry of the mother, the neighbors and friars from the Basilica came there. Seeing the friars, she prayed to St. Anthony to revive the child’s life. She pledged to donate bread equivalent to the weight of her child to the poor. While praying, the child arose as if from a sleep. This miracle was the origin of the practice of donating bread to the poor on the feast day of St. Anthony by the faithful as an offering of gratitude for the favors received through the intercession of the saint. Since bread is not as important as in ancient times, the friars encourage to give alms to the poor instead.




1.     Following the model of St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscans, St. Anthony also loved poverty and encouraged supporting the poor. Let us follow his example of simplicity, humility, and charity.


2.     St. Anthony’s enthusiasm to read and reflect the Bible and to teach it to others made him a great lover of the Word of God. Let us also imitate him in reading, studying, and practicing the word of God.


3.     St. Anthony was a zealous missionary and even wanted martyrdom, though God’s plan was otherwise. Even if we cannot be active evangelist in the mission territories, let us be missionaries of our homes, communities and workplaces. We also need to support the missionaries by our prayers, encouragement and financial support.


4.     St. Anthony preached to heretics and non-believers and led all to God through Jesus. Our devotion to the saint shall not be limited to asking favors. Let us seek the help of the saint to imitate Christ and lead us to heaven.




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