This famous and lovable saint was a native of Lisbon. At an early age he entered the Augustinian order and devoted himself with great zeal to the sacred studies. Ten years later, he left the Augustinians and joined the newly founded Franciscans because he was consumed with the desire of going into their “mission” among the Mohammedans in Africa. Ill-health forced him to return to Europe, where he labored as teacher, and more often as preacher, until his early death near Padua, Italy, in 1231. A year later he was canonized. He had already wrought numberless miracles both during life and after death.
A wave of popular veneration for him soon swept the countries of Europe. His life and legend inspired the faithful everywhere with confidence and devotion. What attracted them was his kindness to all and his great love for the poor, which made him a fearless advocate of the common people before the great ones of his time. What appealed to the faithful most, however, was his power of help and intercession, the result of a life of utter unselfishness, charity, zeal, and deepest familiarity with God in prayer. With Joseph, he is the only male saint who is pictured holding the child Jesus in his arms—a favor granted him in a famous vision.
Many and varied are the patronages ascribed to him. During the time of the wars against the Turks the Christian land armies stood under his special protection. His help was invoked by the troops before every battle. The reason for this patronage was the conviction that the saint, who had been forced by sickness to quit his spiritual battle against Islam, would now be glad to assist the fighters of Christianity in defending their faith and their countries against the cruel attacks of Mohammedans.
In 1668 the Spanish government, by special royal order, made the saint a soldier of the second regiment of infantry. At every victory in which the regiment was involved, an official promotion to higher rank was given him. After two hundred years he had obtained the rank of colonel. Finally, in 1889, he shared the fate of so many other great soldiers of our times: he was accorded the rank of general and retired from active service.
Another patronage of Saint Anthony’s is that of the poor. The faithful soon discovered that a powerful means of obtaining his special favor was for them to give alms to the poor. The custom soon spread over Europe, and in 1890 this charity was organized at Toulon, France, under the official name “Saint Anthony’s Bread,” a title which may now be found on poor boxes in many churches.
In Latin countries (Portugal, Italy, Spain, France) Saint Anthony is the patron of sailors and fishermen. They place his statue in a little shrine on the ship’s mast, pray to him in storms and dangers, and even “scold” him if he does not answer their petitions for help speedily enough.
In all Catholic countries Saint Anthony holds a special place in the hearts of women. They turn to him with their problems of love and espousal, happiness in married life, fertility, good and healthy children. This patronage was doubtless occasioned by his great kindness and goodness to all, and by the fact that images show hiin with the Holy Child held tenderly in his arms.
Girls go to his shrines to pray for a husband. They light candles before his image and drink from the fountain in the churchyard (Anthony’s Well). In Spain he is called Santo Casamentero (the Holy Matchmaker). The Basque girls make a pilgrimage on his feast day to the town of Durango in Biscaya, where they climb a high mountain and pray there in the shrine “for a good boy.” Sometimes their prayers are answered immediately; for the young Basque men have the habit of making the same journey, waiting outside the church, and asking the girls to dance after their devotions.
Saint Anthony’s best-known gift, however, is his power of restoring all manner of lost things. In little matters and great, he is prayed to constantly by millions of people, and, like Saint Christopher, is often invoked by non-Catholics as well. There is no particular event in his life, nor any legend, that would explain the origin of this patronage. In fact, many explanations have been attempted, and most of them are quite unsatisfactory.
The most logical seems to be the report in an ancient Portuguese book (and the event might well be historical) that a man had stolen a valuable volume of chants from a monastery. Some time afterward, when praying to Saint Anthony, he not only felt sorry for the theft but was also inspired with a great urge to return the book. He did so, revealing that the saint had made him restore the ‘lost” volume; whereupon people began to invoke Saint Anthony on similar occasions when something belonging to them was lost. The custom of praying to the saint for lost articles actually started in Portugal and spread from there to the rest of Europe, whence immigrants brought it with them to America.
Tuesday is devoted in a particular way to the veneration of Saint Anthony because he was buried on Tuesday, 17 June 1231. In the seventeenth century the practice began of holding weekly devotions to him; and even today most “perpetual novenas” to Saint Anthony are held on Tuesdays.
Portugal and Italy, where the saint was born and where he died, honor his feast day with unusual festive splendor and great devotion. In Portugal the epithet “of Padua” is never used, for to the Portuguese he remains “Anthony of Lisbon” or “of Alfama” (the district of Lisbon where he was born). There every house on June 13 displays, among other decorations, a shrine with a statue of the saint.
Liturgical Prayer – The solemnity of Saint Anthony, Thy Confessor, may give joy to Thy Church, O God; and let her be ever defended by this spiritual assistance, that she may merit the bliss of eternal joys.
- Francis X Weiser, SJ. “Anthony of Padua, June 13”. . CatholicSaints.Info. 1 May 2015. Web. 24 October 2016. <>