Saint Anthony of Padua
By Aline Laferriere
St. Anthony was born Fernando Martins de Bulhões on on August 15, 1195 in Lisbon to his Father Vicente Martins de Bulhões and Teresa Pais Taveira.
They came from ancestry of rich and noble family. They wished Fernando to be educated and so arranged for it to take place at a local cathedral. However, against their wishes, he entered the community of Canon Regulars at the Abbey of St. Vincent on the outskirts of Lisbon. They were dedicated to scholarly pursuits and finished their major studies in the Abbey of The Holy Cross in Coimbra. His favored subject was Theology to which he dedicated most of his time and energy. After his ordination he was made guest master and in was placed in charge of hospitality. In 1219 five Franciscan missionaries stayed at the Abbey on their way to Morocco to preach to Muslims about God. Through their example Fernando became attracted to simple evangelical lifestyle. The missionaries left and soon were martyred. He saw their bodies coming back to Assisi and Fernando meditated on the heroism of these men. Longing for the same gift of Martyrdom, he recurred permission from church authorities to leave his Augustinian order to join the new Franciscan order.
Upon admission to the Franciscan order he joined a small hermitage in Olivais which was where he took the name Anthony. He took this name in honor of St. Anthony the Great to whom the altar in this hermitage was dedicated. Brother Anthony set out for Morocco in fulfillment of his new vocation, but illness struck and stopped him and he headed for Italy, the center of his new order. On the voyage there the ship was driven in a storm onto the coast of Sicily and landed at Messina. From there he made his way to Luscany to be assigned to the convent order, but was met with difficulty on account of his sickly appearance. Finally he was assigned out of pure compassion to a rural hospice of San Paolo near Forli Romagna. There he appeared to live as a hermit and was put to work in the kitchen while allowed much time in private prayer and study.
On occasion of an ordination many Dominican friars were present and a misunderstanding over whom would preach arose. The Franciscans naturally expected the Dominicans would occupy the pulpit for they were renowned for their preaching. Of course they came unprepared for they assumed the Franciscans would preach. In a quandary the head of the hermitage who had no one suitable to speak called upon Anthony, whom he suspected was qualified, and entreated him to speak whatever the Holy Spirit put into his mouth. Anthony’s sermon created a deep impression due to the beauty and eloquence of his talk. He was one of the best preachers that anyone had ever heard. He was then commissioned by Brother Gratian, the Local Minister of Provincials, to preach the Gospel throughout Lombardy in Northern Italy. On one of his journeys he came to St. Francis of Assisi and in Anthony he found a kindred spirit for his vision and was able to entrust the formation of many of his friars to Anthony. He soon took on another assignment as a teacher in the University of Montpellier and Toulouse in southern France but was still principally known for his gift of preaching. In 1226 he attended the General Chapter in Arles, France. He later returned to Italy where his strength started to fail him.
Anthony became ill with edema and in the year 1231 went to Woodland retreat at Campo Sampiers with two other Friars for rest. Hi cell was built for him under branches of a Walnut tree. He died on his way back to Padua on June 13, 1231 at a Poor Clare monastery at Arcella. He was 36 years old. Several legends surround his death. His tongue is incorrupt and is displayed for veneration. When his body was exhumed thirty years after his death they claim his tongue glistened and looked as if it was still alive and moist. Many believe his tongue is incorrupt as a way to remind believers of his great gift of preaching.
St. Anthony of Padua means a lot to me and he teaches me many things. He was born into a family of privilege and chose to live a life of poverty and prayer. He shows that only through graces from God can we accomplish many things if not all. So as for myself even in today’s world I can proudly and bravely show my love and dedication of life to Our Lord even though it goes against the grain. He has blessed me many times over with strength to withstand taunts and persecution even onto death if need be. St. Anthony was an example for many and continues to be one today in a world so full of secularism and materialism.