A Garner of Saints – Saint Anthony of Padua

illustration of Saint Anthony of Padua from the book 'Caractâeristiques des saints dans l'art populaire', Charles Cahier, 1867Article

Born at Lisbon in 1195, his baptismal name being Ferdinand, and after a religious education he entered the order of St Augustine. He was early sent to Coimbra, and coming under the influence of the Franciscans, he joined that order in I220, taking the name of Anthony. Obtaining permission from his superiors to go and preach to the Moors, he set out on this mission, but he was thrown on the shores of Sicily by a tempest. From there he proceeded to a chapter general of his order at Assisi, and after its conclusion he followed a brother of his order to a hermitage, where he served as almoner and did menial work in the kitchen. However, on being called upon to deliver an address by some young clerks who had recently been consecrated, he astonished all by his eloquence. From this time he was continuously employed in preaching, and he went through the towns of Northem Italy; and in addition to this, by order of Saint Francis, he professed theology at Montpellier, Bologna and Padua. His sermons created such a stir that in the places where he preached men abandoned their occupations to go and hear him. At one place a woman, who heard of his arrival, was filled with joy, and in her haste put her child into a pot of boiling water instead of into its cradle. At the conclusion of the sermon her neighbours asked her where the child was; fearing misfortune she ran home and found the cradle empty, but in the pot the infant was playing and laughing quite unharmed. Anthony’s efforts were largely directed against the heretics, and the Albigensian doctors, who feared his eloquence, did not venture to appear before him. At Toulouse there was an influential heretic named Guiald, who one day disputed with the saint on religious matters, but though very learned he was beaten in the argument. He then said, “I have a mule which I will keep without food for three days. Bring. the host here, and I will then offer him some hay; if he turns away from the hay to you, I will recognise the superiority of your religion.” The saint agreed, and on the appointed day he took out the host, and, going before the mule, said, “In the name of thy Creator, whom I bear in my hands, I command thee to adore him with humility.” Immediately the mule knelt down and put its head at Anthony’s feet, to the confusion of the Albigenses. His efforts against these and other unbelievers earned him the title of the “Hammer of the Heretics.” On one occasion he visited the Lord of Chateauneuf, who had recently returned from a crusade. His intense spirituality so struck all who met him that after he had retired for the night his host approached the room which he was occupying, and looking in beheld the young monk in the middle of the cold pavement, his head encircled with gold, and holding in his arms a child of wondrous beauty, at whom he was gazing in transport, whilst the child encircled his neck with its arms and patted his cheek. The host was filled with awe and wonder, for he realised that he was looking upon the Infant Jesus. After a chapter of his order at Arles Anthony was appointed superior of the convent at Limoges. At the time of his arrival at the house there was a young novice who was discouraged and desired to quit the order. The saint called for him breathed upon him, and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The youth immediately fell as one dead; the friars came running in as Anthony raised him. The youth then began to narrate his experiences and ecstasies, but Anthony commanded him to speak no more of the grace accorded to him. This novice afterwards became an example of piety. At Rimini, finding that the heretics there would not listen to his preaching, Anthony went down to the sea and preached to the fishes, and great shoals came to hear him, holding their heads out of the water. The people flocked to the place to see the marvel, and many heretics threw themselves at Anthony’s feet and believed. Arrived at Padua the saint aroused the greatest enthusiasm and religious fervour. But the whole district was terrorised by the cruel Ezzelino da Romano, tyrant of the Trevisan March. Anthony went to beard the tyrant at Verona, and denounced his cruelties to his face. Everyone expected that Ezzelino would order him to be put to death, but to the astonishment of all the tyrant was touched, threw himself at the feet of the saint and confessed his sins. On rising again he turned to the stupefied bystanders and said, “Do not wonder; as this holy man was speaking I saw the divine light proceed from his face, and I believed myself cast into the lowest depths of hell.” From Padua Anthony went to Ferrara, and while there he was besought by a woman to clear her innocence. She was accused of a great crime, and though innocent she was the victim of an intrigue which the magistrates could not expose. The saint noticed that she bore a sucking child on her arm, and he commanded the infant to speak, and before an immense crowd the baby proclaimed its mother’s innocence. Preaching one day at Florence at the funeral of a notorious usurer, he took for his text, “For where the treasure is there will the heart be also.” In his discourse he exclaimed, “Open this man’s coffers and you will find his heart.” The relatives and friends of the dead man accordingly went to his treasure-chest and found his heart there amidst the gold, and on opening the body they found that his heart was gone. Returned to Padua Anthony was visited by a citizen named Leonard, who confessed that he had kicked his mother so violently as to knock her down. The saint was seized with horror, and exclaimed that the guilty foot deserved to be cut ofl’. The simple man taking this literally entered his house and actually cut the foot off. Leonard’s mother flew to the saint and accused him of causing her son’s death. The holy man at once went to the place, took the severed foot, placed it against the leg, and with the sign of the cross made it perfectly whole again. Towards the close of his life Anthony vigorously attacked Brother Elias, general of the Franciscans, who had introduced abuses into the order, but his protests were in vain, and he retired into solitude, by the Pope’s permission. He recognised the approach of his end, and though he had earnestly desired the crown of martyrdom, he expired peacefully at Arcella at the age of thirty-six in 1231. The people ran through the streets crying, “The Saint is dead.” A soldier who heard it and who refused to believe in the miracles, exclaimed at the table of the hotel where he was seated that he would throw to the ground the glass cup which he had in his hand, and if the saint prevented it being broken, he would believe. He threw the cup with all his force on to the stone floor, but it remained absolutely intact, and some say that it dented the floor. The relics of the saint were translated to the Church of the Santo at Padua; thirty-two years after his death, in the presence of Cardinal Bonaventura and of Jacopo di Carrara, Prince of Padua, the saint’s tongue was found entire.

Among numerous other miracles Anthony raised to life and strength a noble lady of Padua who had been stabbed by her husband, a valiant officer, in a fit of jealousy, the oflicer having in his repentance had recourse to the saint. At another time he caused a dead youth to speak and exonerate an old man arrested for having assassinated him, as he had been the victim of a feud. A young maiden who had been drowned was restored by his prayers. After Anthony’s death he appeared in a vision to Luca Belludi and comforted him in his sorrow under the tyranny of Ezzelino da Romano by an assurance of the tyrant’s speedy death. 13th June.

Attributes

  • Franciscan habit.
  • Holds infant Christ in arms or on book.
  • Flame of fire in the hand or on the breast.
  • Book and lily.
  • Kneeling ass.

MLA Citation

  • Allen Banks Hinds, M.A. “Saint Anthony of Padua”. A Garner of Saints, 1900. CatholicSaints.Info. 15 April 2017. Web. 24 November 2017. <>