St. Anthony of Padua Biography

Anthony of Padua or Anthony of Lisbon, O.F.M., (born Ferdinand Martins de Bulhões; 15 August 1195 – 13 June 1231)[1] was a Portuguese Catholic priest and friar of the Franciscan Order. Though he died in Padua, Italy, he was born to a wealthy family in Lisbon, Portugal, which is where he was raised. Noted by his contemporaries for his forceful preaching and expert knowledge of Scripture, he was declared a saint almost immediately after his death and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 16 January 1946.

Early life

Ferdinand Martins de Bulhões was born in Lisbon to Vicente Martins de Bulhões and Teresa Pais Taveira. His father was the brother of Pedro Martins de Bulhões, the ancestor of the Bulhão or Bulhões family. His was a very rich family of the nobility who wanted him to become educated, and they arranged for him to be instructed at the local cathedral school. Against the wishes of his family, however, he entered the community of Canons Regularat the Abbey of St. Vincent on the outskirts of Lisbon. The Canons were famous for their dedication to scholarly pursuits, and sent the youth to their major center of studies, the Abbey of the Holy Cross in Coimbra. There the young Ferdinand studied theology and Latin.

Joining the Franciscans

After his ordination to the priesthood, Ferdinand was named guest master and placed in charge of hospitality for the abbey. It was in this capacity, in 1219, that he came into contact with five Franciscan friars who were on their way to Morocco to preach the Gospel to the Muslims there. Ferdinand was strongly attracted to the simple, evangelical lifestyle of the friars, whose order had been founded only eleven years prior. In February of the following year, news arrived that the five Franciscans had been martyred in Morocco, the first to be killed in their new order. Seeing their bodies as they were processed back to Assisi, Ferdinand meditated on the heroism of these men; inspired by their example, and longing for the same gift of martyrdom, he obtained permission from church authorities to leave the Augustinian Canons to join the new Franciscan Order. Upon his admission to the life of the friars, he joined the small hermitage in Olivais, adopting the name Anthony (from the name of the chapel located there, dedicated to Saint Anthony the Great), by which he was to be known.[2]

The new Brother Anthony then set out for Morocco, in fulfillment of his new vocation. Illness, however, stopped him on his journey. At this point, he decided to head to Italy, the center of his new order.

On the voyage there, his ship was driven by a storm onto the coast of Sicily and he landed at Messina. From Sicily he made his way to Tuscany where he was assigned to a convent of the order, but he 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 Forlì, Romagna, 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, while being allowed to spend much time in private prayer and study.[3]

Preaching and teaching

One day, on the occasion of an ordination, a great many visiting Dominican friars were present, and 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, whom he suspected was most qualified, and entreated 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 local Minister Provincial, to preach the Gospel throughout the area of Lombardy, in northern Italy. In this capacity he came to the attention of the founder of the order, Francis of Assisi. Francis had held a strong distrust of the place of theological studies in the life of his brotherhood, fearing that it might lead to an abandonment of their commitment to a life of real poverty. In Anthony, however, he found a kindred spirit for his vision, who was also able to provide the teaching needed by young members of the order who might seek ordination. He thereby entrusted the pursuit of studies for any of his friars to the care of Brother Anthony. 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 in southern France, but it was as a preacher that Anthony revealed his supreme gift.

In 1226, after attending the General Chapter of his order held 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 his collection of sermons, Sermons for Feast Days (Sermones in Festivitates).

Anthony became ill with edema 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. Anthony died on the way back to Padua on 13 June 1231 at the Poor Clare monastery at Arcella, aged 36.

Various legends surround the death of Anthony. One holds that when he died, the children cried in the streets and that all the bells of the churches rang of their own accord. Another legend regards his tongue. Anthony is buried in a chapel within the large basilica built to honor him, where his tongue is displayed for veneration in a large reliquary. For, when his body was exhumed thirty years after his death, it was claimed that the tongue glistened and looked as if it was still alive and moist; apparently a further claim was made that this was a sign of his gift of preaching.[4]

Veneration

Saint Anthony of Padua Holding Baby Jesus, Bernardo Strozzi, oil on canvas, circa 1625, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg

 

Anthony could be said to have become one of the “quickest” saints in the history of the Catholic Church because he was canonized by Pope Gregory IX on 30 May 1232, at Spoleto, Italy, less than one year after his death.[5] His fame spread through Portuguese evangelization, and he has been known as the most celebrated of the followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. He is the patron saint of his adopted home of Padua, as well as of his native Lisbon, not to mention many other places in Portugal and in the countries of the former Portuguese Empire. He is especially invoked for the recovery of lost items.[6]

Proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XII on 16 January 1946, he is sometimes called the “Evangelical Doctor” (Doctor Evangelicus).

Cultural traditions

St Anthony is venerated all over the world as the Patron Saint for lost articles, and is credited with many miracles involving lost people, lost things and even lost spiritual goods.

References

Notes

  1. ^ Purcell, Mary (1960). Saint Anthony and His Times. Garden City, New York: Hanover House. pp. 19, 275–6.
  2. ^ José Manuel Azevedo Silva (2011), p.1
  3. ^ Foley, Leonard. “Who Is St. Anthony?”. American Catholic. http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/Anthony/0-86716-202-3_lf.asp. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
  4. ^ “Skeleton of St Anthony goes on display to public more than 750 years after his death”. Daily Mail. 15 February 2010. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1251130/Skeleton-St-Anthony-goes-display-public-750-years-death.html. Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  5. ^ Dal-Gal, Niccolò (1907). “St. Anthony of Padua”. The Catholic Encyclopedia1. Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01556a.htm. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  6. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). “Anthony of Padua, Saint”. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  7. ^ Rossetti Morosini, Sergio (March 1999). “New Findings in Titian’s Fresco Technique at the Scuola del Santo in Padua”. The Art Bulletin LXXXI (1).

Sources

  • St. Anthony, Doctor of the Church, Franciscan Institute Publications, 1973, ISBN 978-0-8199-0458-4
  • Anthony of Padua, Sermones for the Easter Cycle, Franciscan Institute Publications, 1994, ISBN 978-1-57659-041-6
  • Attwater, Donald; Attwater, John; Catherine Rachel and Cooper Headley (1993), The Penguin Dictionary of Saints (3rd ed.), New York, New York: Penguin Books, ISBN 0-14-051312-4
  • Silva, José Manuel Azevedo (2011), Câmara Municipal, ed. (in Portuguese), A criação da freguesia de Santo António dos Olivais: Visão Histórica e Perspectivas Actuais, Santo António dos Olivias (Coimbra), Portugal: Câmara Municipal de Santo António dos Olivais, http://www.jfsao.pt/documentos/Historia.da.Freguesia.pdf, retrieved 5 September 2011
  • St. Anthony Basilica Official website
  •  “St. Anthony of Padua”. Catholic Encyclopedia. 1913.
  • Representations of Anthony of Padua
  • St. Anthony of Padua page in Christian Iconography