In these times, when unbelievers and the enemies of the Church are using all their cunning to destroy and take away from the heart of man, if possible, the religion of Jesus Christ, and under its ruins bury every authority, both human and divine, by spreading dangerous books, newspapers, and pamphlets filled with calumnies against the Church, it seemed to me proper to bring into prominence a man who during his lifetime defended the Church of Jesus Christ, which was assailed on every side by powerful sectarians. The enemies of the Holy Catholic Church of the thirteenth century were perhaps as dangerous as those of our days. They used the same methods to deceive the simple, they adopted the same weapons to combat the Church, they were eager to obtain riches by despoiling churches, convents, monasteries, and charitable institutions; they recognized no authority, either temporal or spiritual, especially the Albigenses, who made terrible havoc of whatever was good and holy. It is true that at that time, although the authority of the Church was disregarded and the dogmas of our holy faith denied, still materialism did not take entire possession of the hearts of the majority, but faith was lively among them.
This man is Saint Anthony of Padua. This privileged soul renounced everything for love of God, and dedicated his whole life to the service of God. In this saint shone all the divine virtues in the most eminent degree, united with a true apostolic zeal. In him we see a model of purity, profound humility, prompt obedience, heroic patience, fervent charity, an ardent zeal for the honor of God and the salvation of souls, with all the other virtues, which rendered him worthy of admiration before God and man.
This saint confirmed several dogmas of the Catholic Faith by the force of wonderful miracles,—the real presence of Jesus Christ in the most Holy Eucharist, the forgiveness of sins in the sacrament of Penance, the sufferings of hell, the glories of the blessed in heaven, the Divine Providence in our spiritual as well as temporal necessities, and the intercession of the saints. By this is seen the divine mercy in the amendment of sinners, the justice of God in punishing the wicked, and the wonderful effects of the omnipotent wisdom and goodness of God toward sinners.
Indeed, these were all powerful means to soften the hearts of the most obdurate sinners, inflame them with most holy affections, make them hate vice and love virtue, inspire them with a holy fear of the divine justice and so induce them to despise the vanities of this world and infuse a profound respect for holy things, and kindle in the hearts of the faithful the fire of charity toward God and their neighbor, so that, purified from whatever is worldly, they might wish only to please God, and in this way attend to their own sanctification.
In the course of this biography I have related many miracles wrought by God through Saint Anthony. Unbelievers and rationalists will undoubtedly deny them, and others, perhaps, will doubt them. To the former we may say with the royal prophet: “Dixit insipiens in corde suo, non est Deus” (the fool hath said in his heart there is no God). If they deny the very existence of God it is not to be wondered that they do not admit the existence of miracles. To the latter we refer them to the Old and New Testaments, where they can read many miracles which, although they seem extravagant, yet they cannot be doubted bv any one. We read that the serpent spoke to the woman (Genesis 3); that the wife of Lot was suddenly changed into a statue of salt (Genesis 19:26); the ass spoke to Balaam (Numbers 22:28); the water that issued from the jaw-bone of an ass to quench the thirst of Samson (Judges 15:i9,); the money which Saint Peter found in the mouth of a fish, and many other miracles. Moreover, we should reflect on the promise which our Holy Redeemer made to His faithful followers, saying: “Amen, amen, I say to you, he that believeth in me, the works that I do, he shall do also, and greater than these shall he do.” In ecclesiastical history are also related many miracles wrought by God through His faithful servants.
No one, therefore, can with reason doubt the truth of the miracles that are recorded in the biographies of the saint. They are the work of God, who, from time to time, through the intercession of His faithful servants, operates according to the place, time, and person that He wishes to glorify, in order to manifest the glory of His ineffable attributes, to show the excellence of virtue, to confound unbelievers, convert sinners, and confirm them in the Catholic Faith, Christian piety, and to fortify their hopes in eternal salvation.
The biographers of Saint Anthony have been many. The first was John Pecham, an Englishman, who flourished in the thirteenth century, and was a disciple of Saint Bonaventure; he was afterward doctor in the University of Oxford, England, and finally Archbishop of Canterbury. Father John, Father Matthew, and Raimond, O. S. F., also wrote the life of the saint. Father Bartholomew, of Pisa, a celebrated theologian and preacher of the Friars Minor, in the fifteenth century, Father Secco Polentoni, Father Eppolitusda Ponte-Paduano, O. S. F.; Lawrence Sirius, a Carthusian; Father Luke Wadding, of Wexford County, Ireland, a celebrated writer of the seventeenth century, author of “The Annals of the Friars Minor”; the Bollandists, who registered in their celebrated work the memorials which several writers of Saint Anthony left to posterity; in the last century Father Michael Pacheco and Father Damien Cornejo, and many others wrote the life of the saint. Father Lewis da Minaglia wrote the life of Saint Anthony with great accuracy and erudition.
On the occasion of the centenary of the glorious apostle and thaumaturgus, which is being celebrated this year (1895), seeing that the devotion toward Saint Anthony is spreading wonderfully throughout the United States, I have thought it proper to make known to the Catholics of this glorious republic the virtues and privileges of this thaumaturgus. I am sure that this humble work will be well received by the Catholics at large. I protest that I do not intend to attribute in this little work the title of blessed or saint to those whom the Church does not recognize as such, but as far as the writers recognize them as such.
The most merciful God, according to the order of His Divine Providence, sends, from time to time, extraordinary men, adorned with sublime sanctity, to revive virtue in the hearts of men, to induce sincere penance, to show the way of perfection to the just, and to render in this manner His Church more glorious. For this purpose He raised an extraordinary man in the thirteenth century. This privileged soul was Saint Anthony, called the Thaumaturgus of Padua.
In the year 1195, under the pontificate of Celestine III, was born Anthony, in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. Eight days after his birth he was baptized in the Cathedral Church, called Saint Mary, and received the name of Ferdinand.
His parents were Martin de Bouillon and Theresa, or, as some authors called her, Mary de Tavera. Both of them descended from noble families, but they became more illustrious on account of their virtues and Christian piety, which they valued more than their nobility. They inspired in their child the fear of God, giving him a suitable training, and by their words and example making him a sincere Christian.
Arrived at the proper age, he was sent to school, there to be educated by a priest of the Church of Saint Mary, a learned and holy man, in order that under the discipline of this priest he might acquire a knowledge of books and the science of the saints, in both of which he easily succeeded.
In his youth he gave signs of that sublime sanctity to which God was disposing him, for he frequented the churches and religious houses, heard with great delight and attention, the Word of God, and every day assisted devoutly at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Full of compassion and charity toward the poor, he stretched out his hands to help them in their miseries. He was so sincere in his words that he never uttered the least falsehood. The enemy of idleness, he not only applied himself to study, but also to the exercise of piety. He avoided the vain amusements and enticing pleasures upon which his companions were so eagerly bent. Such was the wisdom, the gravity, the modesty of Ferdinand, who, though so young, already possessed the maturity of a much older and sensible man.
He chose as his particular patroness the Blessed Virgin Mary, beloved by him with tender affection, dedicating his studies and everything else to her, in order that he might avoid the dangers that beset the path of youth; hence we have a strong motive to believe that for this special devotion of his to the Mother of God he merited the gift of original purity, whose lily he knew how to guard with jealousy till death.
Having reached the age of fifteen, and being well instructed in worldly knowledge, Ferdinand determined to abandon the paternal house, the world, which, from day to day became distasteful to him, and enter a cloister, where he could enjoy true peace of heart and avoid the dangers by which he was surrounded. He manifested to his parents this noble resolution, and obtained their approval, although it caused them much grief to give to religion a son so amiable.
Outside the walls of Lisbon there was a monastery of the regular canons of Saint Augustine, called Saint Vincent, where discipline and observance nourished among the religious. It was that which induced Ferdinand to abandon the world. There the youth lied, and presented himself to the superior, who, seeing in him the signs of a true vocation, with the consent of the community received him. This was in the year 1210, about the end of January.
After Ferdinand received the habit of the regular canons of Saint Augustine he became an object of contradiction and persecution. His friends and relatives could not bear to see him clothed with the religious habit; hence they did all they could to induce him to return to the world; but the youth, faithful to God, and constant in his vocation, did not allow himself to be led by their worldly advice, preferring the eternal salvation of his immortal soul and the love of God to the honors and riches of this world.
Furnished with these salutary maxims, the novice, helped by the grace of God, soon became the model of the most observant of that community. In him shone a great modesty in his deportment, a maturity in his discourses, and a certain angelic air in his aspect, which attracted the hearts of all. He executed with diligence the obligations which the religious state imposes. Knowing how necessary obedience is, he abandoned himself to it, doing the will of his superiors. In the execution of menial offices he placed his greatest delight, because he was so penetrated with humility and obedience — those virtues which Jesus Christ practised himself and proposed as an example to His faithful followers.
Having finished the year of his novitiate, he made his profession with great joy. He passed two years in that monastery in tranquility and peace; but his friends and relatives, on account of the affection they had for him, began to visit him. For this reason the young religious, fearing that he would lose the religious spirit and fervor, humbly asked his superiors to remove him to some other place, wishing to have more liberty to serve God. Having obtained permission he passed from .the Monastery of Saint Vincent to that of the Holy Cross at Coimbra, a city of Portugal, ninety-six miles from Lisbon.
The saint, having arrived at Coimbra, at once began to give himself up to the study of the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the fathers of the Church, reflecting that a true servant of God is obliged not only to sanctify himself, but also to render himself useful to others; and knowing that the source of true science is the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the holy fathers, he determined to cultivate his mind, and also to extirpate vice and foster virtue in its stead. He almost foresaw what was going to happen; for this reason he searched into the true sense of the Sacred Scriptures, and had recourse to the writings of the holy fathers to interpret the most obscure passages, and in a short time, being young and endowed with much talent and a wonderful memory, he became a great theologian.
The saint, trained in the school of Jesus Christ by means of meditation, strove to put into practice the sacred text and conform his life to the teachings of the Divine Master by continual watching, mortification and abstinence. He was very meek in heart; in that monastery no religious was happier than he, more obedient, more ready for the divine office or any duty that was imposed on him. In his conversation there could be discovered neither vanity nor ostentation, but a singular modesty. He employed the time in such a manner that he was not idle for a single moment. He allowed to his body only what was purely and simply necessary, occupying the remainder of his time in the divine service, in obeying the orders of his superiors, in spiritual exercises, and in the study of the Holy Scriptures.
To this kind of life the servant of God was faithful while he lived with the regular canons of the Holy Cross of Coimbra, who never ceased to admire his wisdom and holiness.
God, on account of the fidelity of His servant, granted him extraordinary favors and the power of working miracles. While Ferdinand dwelt in the monastery a Friar Minor of great sanctity died in the Convent of Saint Anthony the Abbot, near Coimbra. God, wishing to manifest his singular merits, showed, in a vision to Ferdinand during the Sacrifice of the Mass, that blessed soul passing through purgatory and gloriously entering into heaven.
Oh, how wonderful are the ways of the Lord ! When He destines some one for His special purposes He gives all the means necessary to render him worthy of His favors. Ferdinand, while sojourning in the above monastery, became acquainted with the Friars Minor, who had a small convent near Coimbra. The regularity of their lives, the penances and mortifications they practised, made them very pleasing to this great servant of God.
About this time Saint Francis sent many of his children all through the world to evangelize and convert sinners and unbelievers to the true faith. Five of them went to Morocco to preach the gospel in order to convert the followers of Mohammed. They were Berard dor Carbio, Peter and Otho, priests; Ajustus and Accursius, lay brothers. Arrived at Morocco, they began to preach the true faith, and confirmed their preachings by many miracles. For this they suffered imprisonment, scourging and many other indignities, which they sustained with fortitude for love of Jesus and the welfare of their holy religion. Miramolinus, the king, endeavored to seduce them with promises of pleasures, honors, and riches, and, failing to conquer them, drew his sword and cut off their heads. This took place on the 16th of January, 1220. With reverence the Christians who were there gathered the remains of these heroes of the faith and gave them to Don Pedro, brother of Alphonsus, king of Portugal, who placed them in two silver caskets and brought them to Coimbra.
Ferdinand, when he beheld the solemn funeral of these five martyrs, and the prodigies which God performed through their intercession, became inflamed with ardent zeal to fight for the faith of Christ and shed his blood if need be. Though he was willing to put into execution his project, still he thought it best to obtain his superior’s permission. The zealous religious supplicated God with fervor day and night to illumine him and show him the way to carry out his design. Almighty God heard his petition by inspiring him to embrace the Order of the Friars Minor. The saint responded to the call of God in the following manner —
Two religious of the Convent of Saint Anthony the Abbot went as usual to the Monastery of the Holy Cross to ask alms for the maintenance of their community. One day Ferdinand approached them secretly, and, among other things, said to them: “I ardently desire to become a member of your order, provided you will allow me to go among the Saracens, and thereby have an opportunity to shed my blood for the faith of Christ.” The joy that the two religious felt on hearing this cannot be expressed; for they perceived that one who was so virtuous and learned would honor their order, and the next day was fixed for the execution of the project.
Meanwhile Ferdinand went to his superior and asked his permission to join the Order of Saint Francis, but met with many objections from him and the other regular canons, who did all they could to keep him. Nevertheless, the superior gave his consent, knowing that such was the will of God. The next day Ferdinand received the habit of Saint Francis from the superior of the Franciscans, in the Monastery of the Holy Cross. One of the canons, who felt the loss of his confrere, said to him: “Go, go! Perhaps you will become a saint.” Ferdinand modestly answered: “When you know that I am a saint you will praise God for it.” Then he was taken by the Friars Minor to their Convent of Saint Anthony the Abbot. He was not satisfied in having only changed the habit of Saint Augustine to that of Saint Francis, but wished to change his name also, and make himself unknown to his friends and relatives, in order that he might lead a hidden life in Jesus Christ; and he was no longer called Ferdinand, but Anthony.
God so disposed, for the greater glory of His Church and the profit of many souls redeemed by Him, that the passing of Anthony from the Order of Saint Augustine to that of Saint Francis should be effected by a special vocation from heaven. Anthony, when he found himself enrolled among the children of the Seraphic Father, became more desirous of attaining greater perfection, since it is the maxim of heroic virtue to aspire more and more to the service of God. In this convent he practised humility and all the other virtues proper to a perfect religious, in which he was encouraged by the example of those first followers of Saint Francis living there, who, though few in number; were held in great veneration by the people for their good conduct and for the practice of mortification, by which they showed to men the true way to eternal salvation. Meanwhile the thirst of martyrdom was increasing in Anthony, and he was so animated by the desire to bring the true faith to unbelievers that he found no rest. Since the principal object which induced him to embrace the Order of Saint Francis was to have an opportunity to give his life for love of Jesus, he made no delay in asking permission from the superior of the convent to go among the Saracens, according to the promise made to him on entering the order. The prelate, on account of the experience he had of the fervent religious, and knowing his true vocation for an undertaking so arduous, granted him permission to go, hoping one day to hear the glorious news of the valor of this soldier of Jesus in fighting error and infidelity.
Full of the love of God, and already a martyr of desire, Anthony bade his brothers farewell, and sailed for Africa. But God, who had already destined him for the apostolic life, wished to make him an instrument for the conversion of many in France and Italy, and so did not permit Anthony to spend his life in Africa; for as soon as he arrived there he was overtaken by an illness which afflicted him all through the winter. Early in the spring, feeling somewhat better, he determined to return to his native land to recover his health; but God decreed otherwise, for a violent storm drove the vessel as far as the coast of Sicily. The saint was most charitably received by the Friars Minor of that island, and being greatly fatigued by the long and dangerous voyage, and still weak from his illness, he remained there until he became stronger.
He heard that in that year (1221) a General Chapter was going to take place at Assisi, on the Feast of Pentecost, May 30, and, though still feeble, he sailed from Messina with Brother Castigliano, a young lay brother, and other Sicilian friars, and went to Assisi, where he met the Patriarch Francis, whom he had the happiness of embracing, and assisted at the General Chapter, at which Brother Elias was elected vicar-general of the order.
The provincials and custos, according to custom, chose for their provinces those friars who were known and acceptable to them. Among the religious there was no one who had not a convent to go to, and all left Assisi for their destination. Anthony alone remained, and he knew not what to do; being unknown, no one chose him. Though so well versed in the Holy Scriptures, and fitted for the apostolic ministry, on account of his prudence, talents and learning, yet, so great was his humility, he kept carefully concealed these noble prerogatives. Hence, none of the provincials wanted him – in fact, seeing him so weak and delicate, they considered him unfit for religious duties. However, this did not trouble Anthony, who put his trust in God, the only object of his contemplations, waiting to go whither duty called him.
Some may think it strange that Saint Francis, who was present at this General Chapter, did not foresee the holiness and wisdom of Anthony, since the Seraphic Doctor, Saint Bonaventure, plainly says in his “Life of Saint Francis ” that he had the gift of prophecy and of penetrating the secrets of the consciences of his children, and manifested many things to them; hence his friars knew that he was animated by the spirit of the Lord, and they followed in his footsteps. Here we must remark that God did not manifest all to him, since He did not reveal everything to the prophets of old, as St. Jerome says. In fact, He did not reveal to Eliseus the death of the son of the Sunamitess. Even if God had revealed to Francis the greatness of that privileged soul, we must not wonder that the Seraphic Father, who practised the most profound humility, and taught it to his children in word and deed, with wise discrimination left everything in the hands of God.
Anthony, forsaken as he was, did not lose courage, but trusted in God, and prayed fervently; his prayer was answered bv the Lord in the following manner –
The provincial of Emilia, Father Graziano, had not left the Convent of Assisi, and he was requested by Anthony to accept him for his province, with the permission of the vicar-general, without mentioning his studies or his talents, saying that he wished only the love of Jesus crucified. Pleased with such sentiments, Father Graziano spoke to the vicar-general about him, and received the desired permission.
A learned historian of the Order of Saint Francis relates that the provincial of Emilia was anxious to find a priest to celebrate Mass every day for the community of the hermitage of Monte Paolo, because at that time there were few priests of the order, for, in the beginning, those who became friars wished to imitate their holy founder and follow Jesus crucified more with prayer and meekness of heart than by a knowledge of books and the dignity of the holy priesthood.
As soon as he reached Emilia Anthony retired immediately to the hermitage of Monte Paolo, there to enjoy quietness of spirit and contemplation. He celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every day for the religious who lived there, as the provincial desired him to do so; but when he considered their manner of living he felt as if he led an idle life, as it seemed to him that among those servants of God he was the only one who, aside from celebrating the Mass, contributed nothing for the welfare of that religious community. He asked to be allowed to perform the most menial offices, as, for instance, to wash dishes and sweep the house. We must admire the great humility of the saint, since he was of noble birth, the son of a rich father, and esteemed very highly by the royal court of Portugal. He willingly gave up all to embrace a life of holy poverty.
From this we can plainly see that Anthony did not value the honors and riches of this world, which are eagerly sought after by so many, who, when they rind themselves raised to some dignity, seem to forget their humble origin, while they disdain to perform duties which, the more mean and despicable they appear in the eyes of men, are so much the more meritorious before God.
In the hermitage of Monte Paolo there lived a fervent religious who had constructed a little cell inside of a cave. Anthony, the moment he saw it, humbly asked that it be given to him, and his request was willingly granted. Here, as far as obedience permitted, he lived alone, and with continual prayer and contemplation, fortified his spirit against temptation and enkindled in his heart more and more the fire of divine love. He punished his body in order to render it subject to the spirit, taking for his food only a little bread and water he mortified himself by fasting, discipline and other austerities, and became so weak that sometimes he could scarcely stand, as the religious who lived with him testified. His bed was of straw, his pillow a stone, and he went to rest only after prolonged vigils. Although he did not remain in the hermitage of Monte Paolo very long, he still retained the same manner of living till his death.
The evil one, jealous of the progress of Anthony in virtue, did not fail to assail him frequently, in order that he might dissuade him from his spiritual exercises, doing his utmost to deprive him of those extraordinary gifts which are received from God by prayer, and which would one day help the holy young man in making known to sinners the manner in which they are deceived by Satan; but the attacks were in vain, for Anthony, strengthened by the power of divine grace, always came off victorious.
Throughout all the time he stayed in Monte Paolo he kept concealed his great wisdom, so that his confreres, although they esteemed him for his virtues and mortifications, believed he was a man without education, fit only for the humblest offices of the community, as he himself attested. Beautiful and instructive lesson! which confounds the pride of those who pretend to know everything, and yet know so little. It was not so with Anthony, who preferred to be considered ignorant rather than appear as a learned man. This silence rendered him worthy to effect the designs of God, who secretly was disposing him for the apostolic ministry.
It happened that some religious of the Friars Minor and of the Order of Saint Dominic were sent to the bishop at Forli to receive holy orders. Anthony was there also with the superior of the friars of Monte Paolo. As it was the pious custom to address those who were to be ordained, in order to excite in them the necessary dispositions to receive the sacrament worthily, the superior requested the friars of the Order of Saint Dominic to perform this duty. They looked at each other, embarrassed by such a request, because there was none among them who had courage to treat on a subject for which they were not prepared, so they all humbly excused themselves. Then the superior, moved as if by a divine impulse, turned to Anthony and said : ” Speak according as the spirit of the Lord will inspire you.” He did not believe that Anthony was well versed in the Holy Scriptures, yet he hoped he would succeed, because he had remarked that on certain occasions, when driven by necessity, he had spoken in such a manner as to make manifest, against his wishes, some of that wisdom which he kept scrupulously hidden. Anthony answered with great humility that he was not fit for such a sublime office, and that he knew better how to wash dishes than to preach; but this artifice did not avail, and he was compelled to obey. He began his address at first very simply, but as he went on he appeared as though inspired, and it seemed incredible that he was speaking extempore. He was no longer the one who swept the cells of the friars, and who had been considered ignorant by all, but appeared the learned man that he was, — a man in whom the spirit of the Lord spoke. His hearers were filled with wonder at his eloquence, his reasoning, his familiarity with the writings of the holy fathers and the examples produced by him to corroborate what he was saying. Their wonder grew still more, because they felt their hearts wonderfully enkindled by the fire of God from the force and efficacy of his words, and they candidly confessed that they had never heard the like before; neither could they decide which was the most to be admired – his great wisdom or the mumble silence with which up to that time he had kept it concealed.
The superior of the province, after the happy discovery of the wonderful ability and learning of Anthony, began to have a better opinion of one whom, till now, he had considered simple and unlearned; he ordered that he should no longer serve in the kitchen, and he esteemed him for the future as a man of letters, well deserving in the order, worthy of honor and respect. He appointed him preacher, in order that he might announce the divine Word to the people within the limits of the province of Emilia. The news of this extraordinary event reached Saint Francis, who, full of joy, gave Anthony permission to preach everywhere.
Saint Francis thought it proper, for the spiritual good of souls, to appoint Anthony to the apostolic ministry, yet he considered it prudent that the new preacher should apply himself to the study of theology, in order that he might exercise his office with more solid learning; therefore he sent him to Vercelli to study theology in the Monastery of Saint Andrew of the Regular Canons, under the discipline of the Abbot Thomas, the greatest doctor Italy had at that time. Thomas was one of the regular canons whom Ugo Sessa, Bishop of Vercelli, had called from the Monastery of Saint Vincent of Paris to that of Saint Andrew of Vercelli, on account of their exemplary lives and regular observance.
Anthony had for his companion of studies Adam de Marisco, from Somerset, diocese of Bath, England, who afterward became doctor of the famous University of Oxford, and finally bishop of Ely, where he became famous for the holiness of his life, the soundness of his doctrine, and for the works which he published. They were both received by Thomas with singular tenderness of love, and they obtained from him those sublime lessons which were necessary for their advancement in theology.
Here we must remark that during the time Anthony and his confrere studied in Vercelli he did not live outside of the Monastery of the Friars Minor; for Saint Francis had obtained, in the year 1214, a convent from Ugo Sessa, bishop of the place; it was situated near an ancient church, called Saint Matthew. Here Anthony dwelt, and at the appointed hours he went to the Monastery of Saint Andrew for his lessons.
The historians of the Order of Saint Francis say that Saint Anthony, though he applied himself to the study of theology, did not omit to preach the Lenten sermons at Milan and other places near by, and the lights he already possessed and those he received from above afforded him an understanding of the most sublime truths. His progress was so great and rapid that his teacher often affirmed that he learned many things from him. Speaking of the book of the ” Celestial Hierarchy,” which he was explaining, he said that “this disciple of his spoke concerning the different orders of celestial spirits with great preciseness and wonderful intelligence, and it seemed to all as if he had them present.”
This is what the same teacher confirmed by these words: “We read that some holy bishops, not very expert in physical doctrines, penetrated so deeply into the theological mysteries that they spoke with admirable subtilty of the mystery of the most Holy Trinity; and I have experienced this in the person of Saint Anthony of the Order of Friars Minor, for although he was not so well instructed in worldly knowledge, nevertheless, from the purity of his soul and the ardor of his charity, he acquired, as he fervently desired, the highest knowledge in the mystical theology, so that I can say of him what was written concerning Saint John the Baptist: ‘He was a burning lamp, and shining; for interiorly he was burning with love and exteriorly he was resplendent by his example.'”
In view of the wonderful progress of Anthony in the study of theology, his confreres desired that he would communicate to them that science of which he had so great a knowledge. The Order of the Friars Minor being founded on humility and the despising of worldly things, the holy founder wished that his followers should not care for literature, but attend to that which they ought to desire above all things; namely, to acquire the spirit of the Lord and to work in conformity with the dictates of the same; hence he could not tolerate the vanity of those who preferred the study of the sciences to true piety. But since the holy patriarch knew how necessary theology is to fulfil properly the office of preaching, to which his children were called by God, and to combat against the heresies that were spreading all through Europe at that time, he never intended to banish entirely the sciences from his order, but only that which would make his followers vain—that is, the science of those who do not care for the glory of God or the salvation of souls, but have in view their own glory and the esteem of this world. He wished his friars to have before their eyes only God, and that, meditating seriously on the sublime dignity of the apostolic ministry, prepare for it by means of prayer, by the knowledge of their nothingness, and with confidence in the divine aid; for this reason, as we shall soon see, he desired them to apply themselves to the study of sacred theology, to learn those things of which they were in need, and for the want of which they were considered incapable of working for the spiritual welfare of their neighbor.
Being convinced, therefore, of the intention of their holy founder, the friars requested Anthony to instruct them in theology; but he, although moved by the zeal of God to second their desires, did not wish to assume this duty till he had the approbation of the Seraphic Father, who, well informed of the great ability of Anthony, not only as a preacher, but also as a professor of theology, thus wrote to him –
To My Dearest Brother Anthony. Health in Jesus Christ:
It pleases me that you should teach sacred theology to my friars, as I greatly desire that the spirit of holy prayer should not he extinguished in you or in the other friars, according to the rule which we profess. Good-bye. Brother Francis.
Having obtained permission from. Saint Francis to read theology to his confreres, Anthony began to exercise this office, which was discharged by him in several places with so much success that there was nothing to be desired; he not only knew how to instruct his disciples, but also took great pains to instill in them the holy fear of the Lord, having always before his eves that which the holy founder had enjoined on him when he was appointed professor.
Wadding writes that Saint Anthony read theology for the first time in Montpellier, a city of France; the second time in Bologna, the third time in Padua, and in Toulouse and other places.
After the saint had read theology for some time in Bologna, the superior determined to send him to preach in France, where the Church had extreme need of learned theologians and zealous preachers to reform the depraved customs and oppose the heresy of the Albigenses.
These heretics were called Albigenses in the Council of Lombardy, a city of Guienne, in France, held in the year 1176, because it was principally the province of Albi, a city of Languedoc, that they infested with their errors. The sect they professed was Manicheism, a heresy which had its origin from Mani, a Persian, in the third century, and which was spreading through France, Flanders, Germany, and various other parts of Europe; it lasted many centuries.
It is probable that the sect of the new Manicheans was propagated by a continuous succession from the ancient Manicheans, although by the vigilance of Catholic rulers and prelates of the Church, the ancient sect had been dispersed in such a way that it seemed altogether extinct; yet it was like a spark of fire under the ashes, ready to be again enkindled, which did happen, to the great detriment of the Catholic religion and society. For this reason we can assert that it always existed, and either openly or secretly had its partisans.
Saint Leo the Great, speaking of the ancient Manicheans, says that their sect was a mixture of all errors, and whatever was sacrilegious and execrable in the other heresies was gathered into it. It is incredible the errors which they proclaimed against the mystery of the most Holy Trinity, the humanity, life and mysteries of Jesus Christ, the saints of the Old Testament, the creation of the world, the resurrection of the body, the general judgment, the sacraments of the Church, the Sacred Scriptures, tradition, the councils, the authority of the fathers and the Church, and other articles of faith.
They were so depraved that they laid aside every natural decency, not even respecting the closest ties of relationship. To this they added frauds, usuries, robberies and rapines, and in their cruelty they became as wild beasts. It is well known from history that in the thirteenth century the Albigenses, protected by Raymond, Count of Toulouse, did everything they could against Catholics and sacred things. They respected neither sex nor age, nor the quality or condition of persons and places. They plundered and defaced churches, insulted holy women, condemned priests to most atrocious torments, and set on fire the houses of the Catholics.
This heresy was spreading everywhere, to the great detriment of the Catholic religion, and the Roman pontiffs, Innocent III and Honorius III, moved by their zeal, used every possible means to extirpate it. To effect this many councils were held, rigorous decrees were published against it, the arms of Catholic princes were called in to aid in its overthrow, and bishops, theologians and zealous preachers were sent to enlighten the heretics by their writings and sermons. Among these Saint Anthony distinguished himself.
Saint Francis, full of zeal for the propagation of the faith and the salvation of souls, seeing his beloved country (France) was infested by the Albigenses, sent there one of his holiest and most learned disciples, — Saint Anthony — who, the moment he received the order to go to France, started immediately, passing through Vercelli, where he visited the Abbot Thomas and Sessa, bishop of the city. Being requested by them and the principal people of Vercelli, who greatly desired to hear him, he preached in the Cathedral of Saint Eusebius, where it pleased the Lord to distinguish him by the following miracle —
While the holy man was announcing from the pulpit the divine Word he saw that the body of a young man was being brought to the church before burial. Moved by compassion for those who, with tears, accompanied the dead, he cried out, commanding the young man to return to life, and he arose immediately, in the presence of all. For this miracle Anthony was considered by the people as a man sent by God for their spiritual and temporal welfare.
The saint continued his journey to France, where he began his holy apostolic ministry, which was to combat the errors of the heretical Albigenses, and bring back sinners to the true way of eternal salvation.
An illustrious writer of the fifteenth century thus expresses the prerogatives of Anthony in the apostolic ministry: “Anthony was very forcible in his preaching, and his study, his diligence, his natural gifts”, and those of grace endowed him with those faculties, without which no one can become a successful preacher or an excellent teacher of truth.”
He possessed, above all, such a wonderful memory that he never forgot anything he had once learned. He preached with such exquisite art that whether he exhorted the people to fast, to give alms, to do penance, to acquire virtues that would enable them to lead good lives and attain eternal happiness, or inveighed. against pride, avarice, lust and other sins which would lead them to eternal perdition, his hearers, learned or unlearned, were convinced and persuaded, and great fruits were produced. When be spoke concerning the power and mercy of God, of piety, meekness, charity (which ought to be practised among men), or the other virtues and vices, he did it with such skill that whatever he said seemed to come from divine wisdom.
The saint, possessed of these admirable gifts, began to go about the vast provinces of Aquitania and Narbonne, preaching there with great fruit for about three years. His principal desire was to destroy the impious and sacrilegious teachings of the heretical Albigenses, who, as cunning foxes, were laying waste the vineyard of the Lord. He was so well provided with solid reasoning and ready sentences from the Sacred Scriptures that the heretics did not dare to remain in his presence, much less to answer him; hence it was verified in Anthony that which the Divine Master had promised to His disciples: “For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to resist and gainsay.” (Luke 21: 15).
He easily discovered their fraud and cunning, discredited their infamous teachings, and reproached them with great energy. There was no one at that time who could attack the heretics with such force as Anthony, and for this reason he was called the “Hammer of Heretics.”
His labors, which he sustained with great zeal, were not without fruit; for, beside the great merit he was acquiring for himself, God was pleased to reward him by granting him the power to perform miracles and to convert a great many sinners.
To the apostolic ministry our saint added teaching, and while in Montpellier he discharged this duty with universal satisfaction, reading sacred theology to the Friars Minor. While he was thus employed occurred a memorable incident, worthy to be related. He had with him an exposition on the Psalms, written by himself, in which he had gathered the best part of the Old and New Testaments, and from which, as from a fountain, he drank of that celestial wisdom which enabled him to explain theological questions, and gave weight and force to his sermons for the benefit of souls.
A novice, tired of the religious life, resolved to return to the world, and having seen the book containing the exposition on the Psalms, stole it and fled from the monastery. The saint, grieved at the loss of a book so useful and necessary to him, immediately had recourse to prayer, requesting the Lord not only to have ‘mercy on the unhappy young man, but also to induce him to restore the stolen book. His prayer was heard by the Lord. The devil, compelled by divine command, appeared to the young man in the form of a horrible monster, and stopped him, saying: wi Go back and restore immediately that which you have stolen, otherwise I will kill you and throw you into the river.” The young man, terrified at the sight, and frightened by the threat of death, humbly returned to the monastery, and throwing himself at the feet of the saint, begged pardon for his fault and restored the book; realizing by divine mercy what had happened to him, he begged to be again admitted into the order, and his request’ was granted. The saint, full of compassion, forgave him, and exhorted him to persevere in the service of the Lord.
From this fact the practice of having recourse to the saint to find lost things had its beginning. William Pepino, of the Order of Preachers, a doctor in Paris, affirms that this is a privilege which the Lord deigned to grant to Saint Anthony, and adds that he himself experienced the effects of his patronage.
The Friars Minor were already established in France, through Houorius III, in 1220, who recommended them to the bishops and prelates of that country for their exemplary lives, which won for them the good will of the people.
In the year 1224 the friars assembled in the Monastery of Aries to hold the provincial chapter, and treat about those things pertaining to the welfare of that province, of which John Bolello, a Florentine, was minister-general. Saint Anthony was present, and addressed a devout sermon to his confreres. It was at this chapter was seen the wonderful apparition to which Father Bartholomew of Trent, of the Friars Preachers, a contemporary writer, testified, and Saint Bonaventure, in the “Life of Saint Francis,” thus describes it —
“As Saint Francis could not be present at every provincial chapter to give his orders, with fervent prayers for the happy success of the same, and his blessing, sometimes it pleased God, in His omnipotence, to make him appear in a sensible manner, as it happened in the chapter of Aries. While Anthony was addressing his confreres on the Passion of Jesus, and upon the inscription of the cross, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,’ a religious named Monaldus, a man of great virtue, moved by the spirit of the Lord, turned his eyes toward the door and saw blessed Francis raised up in the air, with arms stretched in the form of a cross, in the act of giving his blessing to the assembly. Then all felt themselves filled with so great a spiritual consolation that they felt assured of the presence of their father, and this afterward became more certain, for Saint Francis himself confirmed it.”
“There must be no difficulty in believing this prodigy,” adds the same seraphic doctor, “for, as God permitted that the holy Bishop Ambrose should be present at the funeral of Saint Martin, so He willed that the truths announced by His servant Anthony, and especially those on the cross of Christ, should receive new strength and efficacy by the presence of His servant Francis, who carried the cross with courage, and preached it with zeal.”
Saint Anthony, in the midst of his labors as professor of theology and preacher, did not neglect his duty as a religious, and in as much as possible never dispensed himself. Of his diligence in the service of God we have a clear testimony from the following incident —
In the year 1225 the saint was preaching in the Cathedral Church of Montpellier, on Easter Sunday, in the presence of the clergy and a great multitude of people who came to hear him. Having begun his sermon, he remarked that he had forgotten to fulfil a duty imposed on him, and that he had not substituted another religious in his place. It was customary, on the principal solemnities, for two worthy friars to sing the “Alleluia” in the conventual Mass, and Anthony was one of the two who had to sing it. As soon as he perceived this slight fault he became very much afflicted; he leaned his head on the pulpit, and covered his head with his cowl, remaining in that posture for some time in the presence of his numerous hearers. God permitted that he should appear in the choir to sing the ” Alleluia ” at the same hour that he was seen in the pulpit. After having discharged his duty he returned to himself, as if awaking from a profound sleep, and continued his sermon.
God made use of such prodigies to manifest His omnipotence in the person of His beloved servant Anthony, who was full of zeal for His glory and the salvation of souls, as He manifested His infinite power in the persons of other saints. It is a well-known fact that Saint. Severus, Bishop of Ravenna, while celebrating Mass in his church, assisted at the same time at the death of Saint Zaminianus, Bishop of Modena.
In this same year (1225) Anthony went from Montpellier to Toulouse, where, although he remained but a short time, he read theology to the friars, without interrupting his principal duty of preaching, arguing against the errors of the Albigenses, and bringing them back into the bosom of the Church by the force of his arguments, his example and his miracles.
Saint Anthony, besides being gifted by Almighty God with supernatural qualities, had, also a remarkable ability for governing, and he was raised to several offices by his superiors.
Having read theology in Toulouse, the saint was appointed Superior of the Convent of Puy. This was in the year 1227, according to Wadding. He discharged all the obligations of a superior with great diligence and prudence, watching over the spiritual and temporal welfare of his subjects, without neglecting the apostolic ministry, for, with his constant preaching, and by the efficacy of his example, he succeeded in causing the people to reform their lives.
Among others he gained a notary public, given up to a worldly and sinful life. Whenever the saint met him he used to bow to him profoundly and kneel before him. The notary, knowing well that he was unworthy of such demonstrations of esteem and respect, did not know what to say; on the contrary, he believed that the saint did it to ridicule him, and he was so offended that he could not tolerate his presence, and used every means possible to avoid him. One day the saint met him accidentally, and as usual bowed to him. The notary, greatly incensed, said to him: “If it were not for the fear of God I would take vengeance with the sword. Why do you make a laughing-stock of me, and render me an object of ridicule? What do you mean by these genuflexions of yours?” The man of God thus answered him: “How willingly I would have sacrificed my life to God in order to be a martyr, but it did not please Him that I should be one. He has revealed to me that you will be a martyr, and for this reason I honor you in anticipation of the illustrious crown you will gain. I pray you, therefore, to remember me at the time of your martyrdom.” The notary laughed at this, but the prophecy was afterward verified.
From this it is evident that Anthony received from heaven the gift of prophecy, which is confirmed by another prediction he made in the city of Puy. A woman, about to give birth to a child, recommended herself to Saint Anthony. He prayed to the Lord and told her to be of good heart, because she would bring forth a child who would become great in the Church, that he would belong to the Order of the Friars Minor, and would gain the palm of martyrdom by the shedding of his blood for the faith of Jesus Christ. The child received the name of Philip at baptism, and at the proper age he became a Franciscan. He made great progress in the love and fear of God, and by a special vocation from heaven, and. with his superior’s permission, went to the Holy Land.
Philip arrived at Axoto, which at that time had fallen into the hands of the Saracens, who, as soon as they occupied it, condemned to death all the Christians, numbering about two thousand. Among them was Philip. He feared that some of the Christians, frightened by such a sentence, might renounce their faith, and asked the sultan to let him be the last to be beheaded. His request was granted, for the Saracens thought that in the meantime he might be terrified by the torments of the others, and would deny his faith; but they were deceived. Philip asked this favor in order to confirm the others in the faith. No sooner had the Saracens begun the slaughter than Philip, with heroic fortitude, began to comfort and animate the Christians to shed their blood generously for Jesus Christ. He succeeded so happily in this that when they were asked if they wished to abandon their faith to save their lives all remained firm in their faith. Philip, full of apostolic courage, exhorted them to be constant, and to act as true soldiers of Jesus Christ, because God had revealed to him that on that very day he would enter into heaven with a great multitude of martyrs. Comforted by this promise they cheerfully offered themselves to their executioners. The sultan, perceiving this, became furious, and commanded that Philip should be punished by more atrocious torments for having exhorted the Christians to reject the religion of Mohammed, and ordered that he should be flayed as far as the loins, and cut out his tongue. Philip, as he could no longer exhort the Christians by words, did so by signs, and much more by his example. Finally, when all had sacrificed their lives for the faith of Christ, Philip courageously offered himself to the executioner to receive the crown of martyrdom. And thus the prediction of Anthony was verified to the very letter.
The people of the territory of Puy and the surrounding towns came in great numbers to hear Anthony preach, and they had a great love for him. A pious woman desired very much to follow him, as he was going to preach in a village two miles distant. She asked leave of her husband, but he refused, as he was ill and needed her assistance. She obeyed, but was greatly grieved. She went to a window in the upper part of her house which overlooked the place where the saint was preaching; she stood still for some time, listening intently, and behold! the voice of the saint was heard by her, and by her alone, as if he were near by. Her husband began to laugh at her, and thought she was crazy. She protested that she understood very well what the saint was saying. The husband, in order to assure himself of the truth, went to the same window and heard clearly the words of Saint Anthony. He was moved by this wonderful event, and not only did not prevent his wife from going to hear the saint in the future, but was always present himself.
Besides the city of Puy, which he sanctified by his preaching, the people in the surrounding towns also had the privilege of listening to him, as he imitated his Divine Master in going about here and there to announce the words of eternal life to men.
The superiors, considering the great merits and ability of Saint Anthony, thought it proper, for the welfare of the order, to appoint him custos in the province of the Limousin. He made an excellent superior, having a true zeal for religious discipline, a singular charity toward his friars, and great justice and prudence in governing. Accompanied by eighteen other religious he went from Limoges to Limousin, where he was received with great veneration by the people, for the fame of his sanctity, miracles and learning made them desirous to see and hear him; and his sermons were so filled with benedictions by our Lord that the people were moved and penetrated by the evangelical maxims announced by him. Hence the saint had the consolation to see here, as the fruits of his words, licentiousness banished, abuses removed, vice destroyed, and the love of Christian virtue introduced.
The people, grateful to Anthony for the immense good he was accomplishing among them, had a great veneration for him, and, anxious to have him in their midst, built convents and churches for him and his confreres. He received from the people of Limoges a house, which was the first convent of the custody of Limousin, of which he became superior. In the city of Brives, diocese of Limoges, a benefactor of his named Quintus de Falcici, built, at his own expense, a house for the Friars Minor, which was demolished by the perfidious heretics in that same century, and two saintly religious were killed, Stephen da Berda and Anthony da Belvedere, who detested their impiety and opposed them with invincible constancy by preaching the faith of the Holy Roman Church.
In this new convent our saint lived for quite a time. A short distance outside the city was a grotto, where he excavated in a rock a small font, in the manner of a hollow cove, to gather in it the water which sprung from the rock; and here he formed for himself a narrow cell, in which he used to retire to pray and apply himself to the exercise of an austere and penitential life. He founded another convent in Guienne, named for him, which was destroyed a few years later by the heretics.
The people were greatly edified by the virtuous lives of the friars, and they loved them and helped them in their necessities. We read of a pious woman whose sincere charity toward the Friars Minor was rewarded by God in the following manner:
She went out to procure something for them, and while she was engaged in this work was overtaken by night. She feared to return home so late, because she had a stern and jealous husband, who disliked to see her occupied in helping the religious, and he continually maltreated her. Her fear was not in vain, as she had no sooner entered the house than the enraged husband resented it greatly, and began at once to abuse her; he dragged her around the room by the hair, pulling a greater part of it out. She was greatly grieved at its loss, and at having to appear in public so deformed. She gathered all the hair scattered here and there, and the day after she sent for Saint Anthony, because, being compelled to remain in bed, he would deign to visit her. The charitable father went immediately to her house, and was informed of what had taken place. She showed him the hair which had been pulled out, saying that it happened to her on account of her charity toward the friars, and requested him, as soon as he returned to the convent, to pray to the Lord, in order that He might restore her hair. The saint prayed fervently, with his religious, for their afflicted benefactress, and she immediately experienced a wonderful effect, for the Lord relieved her sufferings and restored her hair. The husband, who saw this wonderful miracle, repented, and from that time he even surpassed his wife in affection toward the Order of Saint Francis.
Anthony, knowing well that meditation is a powerful means to overcome the passions and temptations by which religious persons, as well as others, are surrounded, insisted that his friars should attend to mental prayer, by which the soul can always gather some good fruit and acquire more fervor to accomplish the duties of one’s vocation; this happens in the soul through those intimate communications with which God favors those who love recollection and solitude of heart, flying as much as possible from the turmoils and cares of the world. Anthony enjoyed greatly to be alone, in order that he might treat more familiarly with God, the only object of his love, whence he merited the singular favor which is related by his biographers.
While traveling through Limoges a pious benefactor gave him lodging, and perceiving that he desired to be far from the noise, assigned him a room separated from the others. It was night when the owner, either by chance or on purpose, passed near the room of the saint, and he observed that rays of unusual light came through the cracks of the door. He was curious to know the reason of that light, and approached the door very slowly. He saw Anthony kneeling, as if in ecstasy, and, full of wonder, admiring and caressing a loving child of rare beauty, who was tenderly embracing the saint. Then the man knew, from the affectionate conversation, and from the superhuman beauty, that it was Jesus Christ who, under the appearance of a loving child, was pleased to visit His faithful servant and fill him with His ineffable consolation.
While Anthony was delighting himself in this celestial entertainment the Holy Infant revealed to him that his host was outside the room observing everything, and that He deigned to favor Anthony with that heavenly vision for the spiritual joy, also, of his devout benefactor in recompense for the hospitality shown His servant.
The day after, while they were speaking of the great mercy shown by Jesus Christ to mankind, Anthony requested the man not to mention the vision to any one while he (Anthony) lived. As soon as he received the news of Anthony’s death he made known to notable persons the wonderful apparition of Jesus Christ to Saint Anthony, testifying on the Holy Gospel the truth of what he had seen. This remarkable favor has given the faithful reason to represent Saint Anthony of Padua with the child Jesus in his arms, the child reaching up His hands as if to embrace the saint.
After this event it happened that our saint, while traveling, passed by the Abbey of the Benedictines of Solignac, where he stopped. One of the monks had been tempted for a longtime by the devil. The temptation did not cease, although he resisted it by prayers and fasting, because the Lord had reserved the remedy for his affliction to the merits of the saint. The poor monk cast himself at Saint Anthony’s feet, requesting him to hear his confession; the good father consented, and the monk made known his faults; afterward, having told him about the temptation by which he was afflicted, he humbly begged the saint to help him. Moved to compassion at such a request Anthony took him aside, and, removing his own habit, gave it to the monk and told him to put it on. The moment he did so the temptation left him.
The presence of Anthony being no less necessary in Italy than in France, to oppose with his doctrine the heresy which was spreading, and to destroy with his apostolic zeal the vices which kept so many souls bound, and were leading them to perdition, God permitted that he should return to Italy. This was after the death of Saint Francis, which took place on the fourth of October, 1226.
The Seraphic Father having gone to his repose, Brother Elias, vicar-general of the order, wrote a circular letter to all the provinces of the order, in which, after having expressed his profound grief at the great loss they had sustained, and also giving a sublime opinion of the sanctity of the holy founder, he showed the necessity of providing the order with a superior to govern it, since it had been orphaned by the death of its founder. For this reason a General Chapter was to be held, and it was necessary, according to the rule, that all the provincials and custos should be present. Saint Anthony, who was at that time custos of Limousin, was among the number.
He started, therefore, for Italy, with his companion, passing through Provence. At first the voyage promised to be smooth, but a sudden and fierce tempest arose, by which they almost suffered shipwreck, and they were driven to Sicily. This was the second time the saint landed in Sicily. Here, since the year 1222, was a convent, named Saint Leo, where Saint Anthony resided for some time. It is a constant tradition among the Sicilians that during the time of his stay there he founded some convents; namely, that of Cefalu, where a cypress planted by him was preserved over three hundred years; on account of malaria only a few friars dwelt in this convent; one in the city of Noto, situated in a most beautiful place, one in Leontini, and one in Prata.
The great esteem in which the saint was held by the Bishop of Prata, and the singular kindness which he showed him were the occasion of envy to an ill-minded man whose hatred of Anthony was so great that he used every means in his power to discredit him. This man, under the cloak of religion and devotion toward the holy man, invited him to dinner on Friday. The saint accepted through politeness, and the malignant man ordered that a fowl should first be brought to the table, that he might accuse him of hypocrisy should he partake of it; and when Anthony refused it, because it was forbidden by the Church and the rule of his order, the perfidious man said boldly that the holy gospel commands us to eat whatever is placed before us, according to the saying of Jesus Christ: “Manducate quae apponuntur vobis,” and for this reason the divine precept should not be transgressed by preferring a precept of the Seraphic Rule or of Holy Mother Church. To this false argument the saint gave no other answer than to explain the sense of the quoted words, showing that they contained no command. Notwithstanding, on account of his ill health, Anthony partook of the fowl, being dispensed by the Church and the rule of the order.
This was enough to make that ill-minded man pretend to believe that he had gained a victory and had evident proof to defame him. He began at once to slander him, and having gathered the bones of the fowl, brought them in triumph to the bishop, saying: “Behold, monsignor, of what Anthony (of whom you have so great an opinion) partakes on Friday. It is evident now that he is a hypocrite, and not the holy man he is reputed by the people.” But, wonderful to relate, in the act of showing them they were changed into the bones of a fish! The slanderer was very much surprised at the sight of this prodigy, and, full of confusion, returned home; he confessed publicly his wickedness against the saint, of whom he humbly begged pardon. Thus God wished to manifest the innocence of Anthony to the confusion of him who was trying to discredit him, as He did in similar emergencies in favor of other servants of His.
After living in Sicily for some time the superiors ordered Anthony to go to Rome, to treat of some important affair. Pope Honorius III, of the illustrious house of Savelli, who approved the rule of the Friars Minor, departed this life on the eighteenth of March, 1227. Cardinal Ugolino, bishop of Ostia, of the celebrated family of Conti of Segni, the intimate friend of Saint Francis, and founder of various convents, and to whom the Seraphic Father had long before predicted the pontificate, succeeded him. His singular merits and virtues, the labors which he had sustained for the Church, and the integrity of his life had so won the esteem of the cardinals that there was not one who did not judge him a worthy successor of Saint Peter. For this reason they did not delay long in electing him, for he was chosen the day after the death of Honorius.
Now, as the newly-elected pontiff had full information as to the sanctity and magnificent achievements of Anthony, we can have no doubt of the pleasure which his arrival caused the Pope and the cardinals. In fact, he was received by the Holy Father and Sacred College with such great demonstrations of esteem and kindness that he was certain to be successful in his mission, and through the favor, the assistance and advice o£ those princes of the Church he obtained from Pope Gregory IX what he desired.
The Holy Father, anxious to hear from Anthony the divine Word, ordered him to preach in the consistory to the Sacred College of Cardinals. Anthony obeyed, and preached with such grace and clear style that all were enraptured, and at the same time they thought that what they heard surpassed the fame which had spread everywhere of his admirable wisdom and most profound erudition. As he was explaining the mysteries contained in the Holy Scriptures with such great eloquence and sublimity of doctrine he was highly praised and applauded by all, but more especially by the Pope, who, full of wonder, called him ” Ark of the Testament and of Faith.” With reason was this title given him, for he had so fixed in his memory the Old as well as the New Testament, that if they had been lost Anthony would, like another Esdras, have written them again literally, so that when he preached he had great facility in quoting the Sacred Scriptures and adapting them to every subject he treated,
Anthony’s biographers relate a wonderful event which happened in the capital of Christendom while he was preaching, by order of the vicar of Christ, to a great multitude of pilgrims of different nationalities, who were there for the solemnity of Easter. Almighty God granted him the supernatural virtue of being understood by all present in their own language, as if he had the knowledge of all the languages. This prodigy was authenticated by the testimony of thousands who had heard him. Thus it pleased the Lord to renew in Rome the miracle of the apostles, who, after they received the Holy Ghost, preached to the people of different nationalities who had come to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. By this miracle God wished to authorize the merit and the apostolic mission of Anthony, for the edification and the salvation of souls, as we read that in the subsequent centuries he wrought such wonders through other apostolic men; for instance, Saint Bernardine of Siena, in the council of Florence, Saint Ludovic Bertrand, and Saint Francis Solanus, the apostle of South America.
From these wonderful deeds of Anthony we can well understand in what great veneration he was held by the Roman citizens and the strangers who were there, and how the Pope and the cardinals had more esteem for him than before. Gregory IX, in his bull on the canonization of Saint Anthony, attested to having himself experienced his holiness of life and his supernatural gifts.
In the year 1227 was held in Rome the General Chapter of the Friars Minor, for the election of the successor of Saint Francis, at which the Roman pontiff presided. Brother Elias, who was vicar-general of the order, was elected. Saint Anthony was made provincial of Emilia.
On account of his humility the saint was far from desiring office, whence we can imagine the repugnance that he must have felt in accepting this new honor; but he saw that it was necessary for him to obey the fathers who had elected him, and with equal humility submitted himself to their will by accepting the administration of the province of Emilia, which he afterward governed with wisdom and discretion. The conduct of Anthony in this election shows that he was well aware of the duties attached to the office of those who have to preside over others, and that they must render a strict account before God’s tribunal of the souls committed to their care, and that the duties of a pastor consist in preaching to his flock and in giving them good example. All these reasons overwhelmed him with fear, and he never allowed himself to desire an office. Would’ to God that these truths were well pondered by those who, moved by their ambition and self-interest, aspire to high offices, not understanding the dangers by which they are surrounded, thereby procuring their own ruin and that of others!
The Lord, who has at heart the conversion of sinners, guided the footsteps of Anthony, His zealous minister, toward those places and cities of Italy where He had decreed to show in a special manner His infinite mercy and omnipotence. Anthonv, moved by divine instinct, went to Rimini, a beautiful city of Emilia, on the river Marecchia, near the Adriatic Sea. He saw the deplorable state of this city, which greatly needed one who would purify it from the heresy with which many of its inhabitants were infected. He therefore gathered the inhabitants, to whom he began to preach with great fervor of spirit and refuted their errors with most clear proofs. His efficacious sermons, full of wisdom, made great impression on the hearts of his hearers, who gave up their heretical sentiments and returned to the faith. Among the number was a certain Bonello, heresiarch, a noble citizen of Rimini, who, after having been involved in the darkness of heresy for thirty years,- was recalled by the saint to the Catholic religion, in which he persevered to the very end as a faithful child of the church.
It was then, as the writers of Anthony’s life affirm, that the wonderful miracle of the fishes happened, when they gathered to hear the divine Word from the mouth of Anthony. He was striving hard to eradicate the errors from that city, and to bring back the heretics to the true fold; but although they were convinced by his arguments, and at the same time confused, they still remained obstinate, and, proudly despising his doctrines, did not want to hear him. The saint did not lose courage, but, armed with faith and full of zeal for the Church of God, and for the salvation of those unhappy people, he went toward the place where the river Marecchia flows into the sea, and here, after having called men to hear him, at the same time called the fishes, addressing them thus: “Come, O fishes of the sea and of the river, to hear the divine Word, which perfidious and obstinate men despise to hear.”
No sooner had he addressed them than fishes of every kind appeared in large numbers with their heads out of the water. It really was a grand sight to see them disposed in such beautiful order, according to their species, quality and size, the smaller ones near the shore and the larger ones at a greater distance, and they remained immovable, as if they were waiting to hear the divine Word. The saint, seeing them thus gathered, began his sermon. He explained to them, by passages of the Sacred Scriptures, the many benefits which they had received from their Creator. He said that He had assigned to them as their habitation the vast and noble element of water; that He had prepared for them in the water places to take refuge from tempests and other dangers; that He had made the water clear and transparent, in order that they might be able to see where to go; that He had provided for them the necessary food for their nourishment; that in the universal deluge He had preserved them from perishing, and distinguished them also by various privileges; since Jonah, being thrown into the sea, was saved by a fish, so that he should execute the command of God to preach to the Ninivites; that Jesus Christ proved his poverty and that of Saint Peter by paying tribute to Caesar with a piece of money found in the mouth of a fish; that He partook of fish before entering into heaven, to show by it His resurrection and His true humanity. For these and many other things he impressed on them the necessity of thanking their celestial Benefactor.
As if gifted with understanding they applauded the holy preacher by bending their heads, seeming to approve what he was saying, and as if they knew the obligations they were under for the benefits they had received from God; and they did not go away until the saint gave them his blessing.
The wise of this world, particularly of our day, who do not admit the existence of miracles, will, perhaps, ask the question: Why preach to- the fishes, since they are incapable of understanding? But why did David and the three youths invite the fishes of the sea, the sheep, the serpents, and the birds to praise the Lord? A heart enamored of God would wish that all creatures should have hearts and tongues to extol the glories of the Author of their existence. But if irrational creatures cannot praise the Lord with their hearts and tongues, they glorify Him at least with their natural beauty, variety, and with their continual obedience to His laws, which qualities are admirable works of His infinite wisdom, providence, and goodness. Saint Anthony, by inviting them to praise the Lord, induces us to admire His sovereign and ineffable providence. Moreover, the irrational creatures, considered in their own natural properties, move and excite the heart of man to give thanks and to praise the Divine Maker; hence, in a certain way, they make use of the tongue and heart of man to thank and praise Him.
Saint Francis, also persuaded of the truth of these maxims, while near Bevagna, as Saint Bonaventure says, saw a large number of birds of different species. He saluted them as if they were endowed with reason, and while he was approaching them they all looked at him attentively. He thus spoke to them: ” Dear brother birds, hearken to the Word of God. You have great reason to praise your Creator. He has clothed you with feathers, has given you wings to fly with, has placed you in the region of the air which is very pure, and provides you with everything, without your co-operation.” The holy doctor adds that it was wonderful to see the joy they showed while Francis was addressing them; they stretched their necks, extended their wings, opened their beaks and looked with fixed eyes at the holy preacher, who, with unspeakable fervor of spirit, walked to and fro among them; and if they were on the nearest branches, sometimes the saint touched them with his habit, not one of them moving. They only flew away after he had blessed them and given them permission.
We cannot doubt that in the^e cases the saints operated with great consideration and prudence, since it is evident that God approved the sermons they directed to irrational creatures by rendering them ready and obedient to their orders in a wonderful way. It was purely and simply to confirm evermore the divine Word, either by giving some salutary advice or to excite the practice of some virtue, as we can see from the circumstance of place and person by which the saints felt themselves thus moved to act.
The obedience and the attention with which the fishes listened to the words of Saint Anthony, and the birds to those of Saint Francis, make us understand how much more solicitous man should be to hear the Word of God, and culpable was the negligence and stubbornness of those who refused to hear it, since it seemed that irrational creatures heard it. Severus Sulpicio relates that Saint Martin of Tours, while near a river, saw a serpent trying to get near him, and he commanded it, in the name of the Lord, to go back; the serpent obeyed at once. While the disciples who were with him were admiring this prodigy the man of God broke forth in a loud cry, complaining of the foolishness of the people, saying: “The serpents hear me and men do not,” meaning by this that rational beings, helped by divine grace, do not pay attention to the Word of God, while the irrational ones do it from the impulse of divine virtue.
Saint Anthony did not cease to attack the false doctrines of the heretics. One day he began to dispute with great courage with their chief, named Bonello. This .man, more obstinate than ever in his heresy, by which he openly denied the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, impiously ridiculed this most adorable mystery, and said that he would feed his mare with this heavenly food. As he saw that his errors were refuted with great ability and strong reasons, he did not know what to answer; his sophisms and subterfuges, by which he attempted to defend his false doctrine, did not avail him, and he had recourse to another strategy, saying: “If you, O Anthony, would show me by a miracle, in the presence of all, that in the Eucharist there is really the body of Jesus Christ, I promise you to renounce immediately the teachings of my sect and submit myself to the yoke of the Catholic religion.”
“I am willing,” answered Anthony, with confidence. “I confide in my Lord Jesus Christ, who, to gain your soul and those of many others who follow you blindly in your errors, will deign to grant that which you ask.”
Bonello then said: “I will keep my mare closed up for three days without giving her any food, and afterward I will lead her out in the presence of all the people. If the hungry mare will not touch the oats, but come immediately to adore the God whom you say is in the Host, then I will submit myself to the faith of the Roman Church.”
Anthony, moved by divine impulse, consented to this proposal, and, animated by a great faith in his victory, this being the cause of God, he prepared himself for it by prayer.
When the day appointed for the trial arrived an immense number of people gathered in the public square. Meanwhile Anthony went out of the monastery and entered a chapel near by, where he prayed, and, after a most devout preparation, celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Afterward he came out of the church carrying the Blessed Sacrament, and thus presented himself to the people. All the faithful then prostrated themselves in profound adoration; but proud Bonello stood up, surrounded by his followers. Anthony, after he had prayed again to the Lord, began to speak with great eloquence on the institution, virtue, dignity, and excellence of the ineffable Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, which he was holding in his hands.
In the meantime the hungry mare was led out, and immediately the heretics placed before her the oats, believing that she would devour them at once, but they were deceived, for the saint thus spoke to the beast: “In virtue and in the name of your Creator, whom I, although an unworthy priest, hold in my hands, I order you to immediately adore Him, in order that the heretics should understand that every creature recognizes its Creator, who is handled by priests every day on the sacred table.”
As soon as the servant of Christ had spoken, the mare, despising the food which the heretics offered to her, approached, with her head inclined, and bent her knees before the Blessed Sacrament in the act of adoration.
The joy of the Catholics was very great at the sight of such a wonderful miracle, and the heretics were confused and ashamed. From one side were heard praises and blessings by the Catholics, who gave thanks to God, exalting at the same time our holy faith; on the other side the heretical depravity saw itself beaten and confused.
The Heresiarch Bonello, in whose doctrine his followers had placed every confidence, finally opened his eyes, after thirty years of deplorable blindness, to the light of the Catholic faith. He detested publicly all the heresies of his sect, and he was ever afterward an obedient child of Holy Mother Church. The greater number of his followers imitated his example, and others also, when they heard what had happened.
A writer of the life of Saint Francis observes that the conversion of leaders and teachers of heresies is very rare; it seems that God had granted to Saint Anthony the gift of converting heretics, who afterward persevered in the Catholic religion till death. We read in history that nearly all the authors of heresies never sincerely returned to the Church, but obstinately persisted in their errors as long as they lived. “It would be easy,” adds the same writer, “to give recent examples, as, for instance, Theodorus Beza, who, at the age of 70, resisted the fervent exhortation of Saint Francis de Sales to give up his false doctrines, and a few years after he died in the heresy of Calvin, whose successor he was. This is a just punishment of God upon such proud and rebellious men, who lead to destruction an immense number of souls by seducing them with their false doctrines, and by their authority and unlawful means.
Pride blindfolded those heretics in such a way that it was difficult to induce them to surrender themselves; it is not to be wondered at, therefore, that they did not submit their mind to the truth, although Saint Anthony preached to them incessantly. They even became more furious against him, and plotted to take his life. At Rimini they resolved to put him to death by poisoning him. Under a false pretext of friendship, they invited him to dine with them one day. The saint accepted the invitation willingly, since an opportunity was afforded him to confer with them on the truths of faith and recall them from their errors, thus imitating Jesus Christ, who, for similar motives, did not disdain to eat with publicans and sinners.
The saint sat down at the table, and, with apparent kindness, they offered him, among other viands, something that contained a deadly poison. Anthony knew, by a special revelation, what they had done, and he remonstrated with them in a fatherly way. When they found that their plot was discovered they had recourse to a lie, and, imitating the father of lies, frankly said to him: “It is true that we have poisoned this food, but for no other motive than to prove the truth of those evangelical words by which Jesus Christ assured His disciples, saying: ‘If they shall drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them.’ Now we shall know if this promise is infallible; and you, who are the minister of the gospel, can, with security and without danger, eat of this food, although poisoned.”
The saint retorted to this malicious expedient by making them understand that it was not necessary that the evangelical text quoted by them should always be verified materially; that God would work this miracle when it was necessary for His designs, and that His infinite power should never be tempted by indiscreet trials; neither must faith depend on these, whose infallible certitude is accompanied by divine revelation. In the beginning of the Church this and other miracles were made use of in order that faith, like a tender plant, should take root by that means; but faith, being now well planted and grown up. there was no necessity to have recourse to prodigies for its advancement.
The heretics answered: “We do not mean that; what we say is that if we see you partaking of this poisoned food without doing you any harm, then we will believe what you preach as articles of faith, according to what the Roman Catholic Church teaches.”
The holy man, being anxious to gain those souls to Jesus Christ, blessed the food with the sign of the cross, and, taking it in his hands, said to them: “I will eat of this food, not to tempt God, but purely for the honor of the gospel and for the zeal of your eternal salvation.” At once, helped by the grace of God, he partook of it. They hoped to get rid of him, because they considered him the greatest enemy they ever had; but when they knew that the poison had done him no harm, they repented of their sacrilegious attempt, confessed to the glory of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, and to its truth, which before they denied with obstinacy.
On another occasion a similar incident happened. Some heretics, not yet sufficiently persuaded by the teachings of the saint, wished to try the evangelical truths by inviting him to dinner, during which they had designed to put him to ridicule. The saint, who burned with thirst for the salvation of those miserable creatures, did not refuse to go, considering that it would give him an opportunity to draw them out of the darkness of error. Meanwhile the wretches prepared a large toad, and, after it was cooked and well dressed, brought it to the table. They told the saint to eat of it, and that he was to do so by the text of Saint Paul: “If any of the infidels invite you, and you be willing to go; eat of anything that is set before you, asking no question, for conscience sake.”
At this rash pretension the saint did not lose courage, neither did he resent it; but, full of confidence in God, who would know how to confound the perfidy of his enemies and triumph over the obstinacy of their hearts, raised his eyes to heaven, and, having made the sign of the cross upon the revolting food, he changed it in an instant into an appetizing fowl. The guests were amazed at the sight of such a wonderful miracle. For this reason they entered into themselves, and, full of compunction, detested their errors, and were converted to the faith of Jesus Christ. Afterward all those who were at the table with Anthony partook of the wonderful food.
How true is that sentence of our Lord when He told His disciples to go all through the world baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, promising them that He would be always with them, and defend them against their enemies. This promise of Jesus was verified in Saint Anthony in his apostolic career. The saint, though surrounded by powerful enemies, did not become discouraged; ever relying on the promises of his Divine Master, he despised dangers. He burned with zeal for the propagation of the faith and the extirpation of heresies, and many times courageously exposed his very life for love of Jesus, as we have seen.
While Saint Anthony resided in Rimini he taught theology. The cell which the saint occupied has been kept, and is held in great veneration by the inhabitants. It was transferred to the Church of Saint Francis, and was placed on the gospel side. The following words are written on it: “The cell which Saint Anthony occupied, the same crucifix which he adored, the bricks which he kissed, and a few other articles necessary for a religious.”
Anthony’s stay in Rimini was short, since his apostolic ministry required that he should announce the divine Word elsewhere, and as minister-provincial he had at heart the fulfilment of his office, which was to visit his religious scattered here and there through the large province of Emilia. It is said that from Rimini he went to Friuli, and from thence to Gorizia, where he won the admiration and love of the people by the fervor of his sermons and his exemplary life. There is a tradition that a place was given to him by them in which he founded a convent and a chinch, which he dedicated to St. Catherine, virgin and martyr. On the side of the altar, says a biographer of the saint, there was a little cell which had a small window that looked toward the image of the holy protectress and the tabernacle of the most Blessed Sacrament; here Anthony, after he had discharged his daily duties, used to remain in devout contemplation, staying there most of the night.
From Gorizia the saint went to Udine, capital of Friuli, and the see of the Patriarch of Aquileja. Beyond Udine, at the distance of about twenty-five miles, is Gemona, a remarkable place, where Saint Anthony founded a convent. He erected there a church which was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.
While the Convent of Gemona was being built God manifested to the people the singular merits of our miracle worker through an extraordinary, event that ought to terrify those hard-hearted men who ridicule the servants of God. Anthony needed something to carry materials for the building of the edifice, and, meeting a farmer, the saint begged him, for the love of God, to lend him his cart. The man answered that he could not help him, because he had in the cart the corpse of a young man; in reality, he was not dead, only asleep, or feigning sleep. The saint humbly departed. When he was at some distance the farmer, laughing, approached the cart to awake the young man; he began to shake him, but he did not stir; he called him, but there was no answer, because he was not asleep, but dead.
The frightened farmer left the cart and the oxen, and ran after the holy man. Weeping bitterly, he threw himself at his feet, confessed his error, and begged the saint to intercede to God for the life of that unhappy young man. Anthony, moved to compassion at the humble request of the farmer, approached the cart, made the sign of the cross on the dead body, and had recourse to God with great confidence; then, taking the young man by the hands, he raised him up, recalling him to life in the name of Jesus Christ. As soon as the saint had pronounced the words the young man came to life. We can easily understand what a great devotion this miracle must have excited in the heart of the farmer and in all the inhabitants of Gemona, who afterward willingly helped the saint to build the convent and church.
From Gemona he went to Conegliana, a town bordering on Friuli. Here Saint Anthony preached with great fruits, and the people gave him a place outside of the town to build a convent.
From there he went to Venice, and being informed that there was a small island, called Saint Francis of the Desert, on account of the holy patriarch having been there, he wished to visit it. He saw that it was a place well fitted for contemplation, and he induced a patrician of Venice, to whom this island belonged, and who had a great esteem for Anthony, to build there a church in honor of Saint Francis.
From Venice Anthony went to Padua, where he was received with great respect and veneration, because he had been there on other occasions to preach the Word of God.
In the year 1228 he again visited Padua, where the Friars Minor had already established a small convent, near the Church of Saint Mary, which was given to them in the year 1220, on account of the great esteem which the people had for the holy Father Saint Francis. Here Anthony preached the Lenten sermons with great success, making innumerable conversions and reforming the customs. The effectiveness with which he spread the Word of God made such an impression on the minds of the devout people that they requested him to leave to them the sermons which he had delivered during that Lent. He consented to satisfy their desire, and wrote not only the Lenten sermons of that year, but others also, called “De Tempore,” which are enumerated among his works.
A memorable event occurred in Verona while Anthony was in Padua, in the year 1228. At that time there were two famous factions, commonly called Guelphs and Ghibellines. The faction of the Guelphs adhered to the Pope and the Roman Church; that of the Ghibellines to the emperor, Frederick II, who was against the Pope and the Church. Ezzelino da Romano, a powerful man, and a favorite of the emperor, having obtained a number of soldiers from the emperor, occupied the cities of Treviso, Verona, Vicenza, Brescia and Padua, over which he ruled in such a manner as to be styled the most cruel tyrant of Italy. He began his tyranny in the year 1227, when he was invited by his partisans to occupy Verona, and drive away those who adhered to the Church.
This disturber of the public peace and promoter of civil dissensions among the rebellious and restless Veronese, after he had taken possession of the place, killed a great many of the Guelphs. About the beginning of the year 122S, through fraud and without any just motive, he took possession of Castle Fonde, and put in chains William, a young boy, nephew of Tisone, Lord of Campo Saint Pietro, and kept him in prison until he was pleased to release him.
Anthony, horrified by the cruelty with which Ezzelino had slaughtered so many innocent people, and, considering the ruin with which this monster was threatening Italy, decided to go to Verona after he had preached his Lenten sermons in Padua. With courage and intrepidity he presented himself to Ezzelino, who was surrounded by soldiers, and the saint began to reproach him for his fierceness, intimating to him the dreadful sentence of God which was hanging over him if he did not cease his cruelties.
While Anthony was remonstrating with him the soldiers were waiting, expecting that Ezzelino, according to his custom, would order them to kill him on the spot, but he did not do so; for the tyrant, terrified and touched by the words of the servant of God, became as meek as a lamb. With a rope around his neck he threw himself at the feet of the saint, and humbly confessed his faults, to the great astonishment of those present. Saint Anthony encouraged him with fatherly love to execute faithfully what he had promised. He then went away without being insulted by the soldiers, who did not dare to touch him, since they saw their chief so respectful and humiliated.
Ezzelino, the tyrant, moved by the words of Saint Anthony, promised to reform his life and be more humane for the future, but his repentance did not last long. The moment the saint departed, he said to his soldiers: ” Be not astonished at my sudden change. I will tell you the truth. While Anthony was reproaching me I saw in his countenance a divine splendor, and I was so terrified that, if I had dared to take vengeance, I believe that I would have been suddenly carried off by the demons and cast into hell.”
This unexpected humiliation of Ezzelino by the just reproaches of Saint Anthony reminds us of the submission of Attila, King of the Huns, called the scourge of God, to Saint Leo the Great. The barbarian, who was very cruel, after he had devastated flourishing provinces and destroyed the famous city of Aquileja, marched with his army toward Rome to reduce it to ruins. The holy pontiff, moved to compassion for the great evils impending over Rome and Italy, went to meet him, and spoke to him with such energy and eloquence that the tyrant, convinced, promised peace to Saint Leo, and, with his army, went beyond the Danube. Afterward he was asked why he obeyed the voice of the Roman pontiff with such great humility, and why he had executed that which he had been ordered to do. He answered that he saw, near Saint Leo, another venerable personage, clothed in priestly garments, who showed in his countenance something divine, and who, with a sword in his hand, threatened him with death if he did not obey Leo. That Attila told the truth was manifest from his words, his actions, the pallor of his fierce face, and the sudden humiliation of his proud and haughty spirit.
Thus Almighty God, who, from the beginning prescribed limits to the sea, in order that its swelling waves should not inundate the earth; He who humbles sinners, at the voice of His ministers humbled the haughtiness and fierceness of Attila and Ezzelino, making them understand how great is human weakness, and that man must, whether he wishes it or not, bow before the Divine Majesty of God, whom no one can oppose.
As it happens that many sinners, terrified for the moment by the grave danger in which they maybe, promise God to abandon their vices and amend their lives, but soon return to their former habits, so the resolution of Ezzelino to amend his life did not last long; for the fear which he had experienced at the words of Saint Anthony having vanished, and ashamed of the submission which he had shown, he soon returned to his former cruelty. He began to doubt the rectitude and honesty of the saint, and he resolved to try him in a cunning manner. He sent him a present of great value through his attendants, commanding them to present it to him with great humility and submission, but with this condition: that if he accepted it, to kill him immediately; if he did not accept it, or rejected it with contempt, to leave him alone and not use violence. They went at once to where Anthony was, and, having saluted him with reverence, said: “Father, your son, Ezzelino da Romano, begs you to accept this gift which he sends you as a mark of the esteem he has for you, and asks you to pray to the Lord for him.”
Anthony, moved by a holy anger, rejected the gift and reproached them, protesting that he did not wish to receive anything which came by unjust gains and rapines, and ordered them to leave the house at once, so that it might not be contaminated by their presence. These malicious men, confused and terrified, returned to Ezzelino, who, when he heard what had happened, said: ” Truly, he is a man of God; leave him in peace, and let him sav what he wishes.” Ezzelino knew well that the saint did not cease to denounce his cruelty, and for this reason some say he induced himself to try the saint’s virtue by means of gifts.
From this we can clearly sec that the dis-interestedness of the ministers of God not only makes them free and gives them authority to persuade, but also obtains for them the veneration even of those who are predominated by the desire to accumulate riches, as the tyrant Ezzelino was.
The zeal of Anthony for the conversion of sinners was so great that he could not rest, but went here and there throughout Italy. About this time our saint went to Ferrara, where a wonderful event took place. A young man of noble birth, of one of the most illustrious families of Ferrara, had married a noble lady of equal rank. Although she was modest, wise, prudent, and adorned with Christian virtues, nevertheless she had the misfortune to have a husband who was jealous and doubted her fidelity. We can well imagine the great affliction which oppressed and troubled the heart of that woman, who knew well her own innocence. In the meanwhile she gave birth to a beautiful child, and she thought this would be the means of inducing the father to give up his ill-founded suspicions; but all in vain, for his jealousy increased so much that he refused to recognize the child as his, and resolved to do away secretly with the mother and child; but as the Lord, who does not abandon those who confide in Him, liberated Susanna from infamy and death by means of the holy prophet Daniel, so likewise He saved the innocent woman by means of Saint Anthony. She had recourse to him, and made known the jealousy of her husband and the danger of herself and her beloved child.
The saint prayed to God that He might deign to protect her innocence and defend her from the wickedness of her husband. The most merciful Lord heard the prayers of Anthony. One day, while the saint was talking with some persons, among whom was the husband of the unhappy woman, it happened that the nurse, who was carrying the child, passed by. As soon as Anthony saw her he took from her the child; then, after he had caressed it, he said: “My dear child, in virtue of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, born of the Virgin Mary, tell me, so that all may hear you, who is your father?” At this command the child, born only a few days before, fixed his eyes on the face of his father, and, in a clear and distinct voice, as if he were ten years old, answered: “Behold, this is my father.” Then the saint, turning to the father, said: “Take him, this is your child; now you cannot doubt any longer. Be sure, therefore, of the purity and fidelity of your wife, and love her as every husband should love his wife.”
No one can express the joy and the amazement of those present, and especially the father, who, taking his child, embraced him tenderly and kissed him with fatherly affection. Every suspicion and jealousy had vanished from his mind, and from that day he loved his faithful wife with true conjugal love.
Tuscany, as the biographers of Saint Anthony relate, had also an opportunity to admire his apostolic zeal and witness the miracles he performed. This was in the year 1229. In the year 1228 the general of the Friars Minor sent him to Florence to preach during Advent, and also the Lenten sermons of the following year.
While the holy man was in this city a rich and avaricious man died, whose funeral was to be observed in a solemn manner. The saint was requested to preach the funeral oration. He accepted the invitation; by a divine revelation he knew the most unhappy lot which had befallen that soul, and he took for his text those words of our Lord Jesus Christ: “For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.” In the progress of his sermon he spoke of the dreadful sentence pronounced by the Divine Master on the rich man, applying it to the deceased: “This rich man is dead, and is buried in hell.”
Anthony made known to all that the body should not be buried in a sacred place, but outside the walls of the city, since his soul was condemned to hell on account of his avarice and his cruelty toward the poor; he added that the heart of that miserable man was no longer in his body, but was with the treasure which was his idol during life. The people were moved by these words, and talked among themselves, but Anthony said that if they wished to know the truth to go and find out for themselves. They immediately went to the house of the dead man, and when they opened the safe they found, among great sums of money in gold and silver, his heart, yet warm. The breast of the deceased was opened, and was found to be without a heart, as the saint had predicted.
Such an extraordinary event filled the whole city with astonishment; the people revered the just judgments of God, and became more attached to the saint. The body of the avaricious man was not placed in the mausoleum which he had had built for himself, but was buried outside of the city.
In the saint’s life is related the fact of a soldier, noble and powerful, but so irritable that he became enraged at the least offense, and at times was so furious that he did not know what he was doing or saying. One day his wife, a good and true woman, did not answer him in a proper way, and he became angry immediately, as usual; in his fury he struck her, kicked her, dragged her through the house, pulled out her hair, and threw her down into the yard, where she fell, more dead than alive. The whole family ran quickly to the place; the servants, full of grief, picked her up, and carried her into the house. The husband, coming to himself, repented of his cruel deed, and went to the saint, who fortunately was at that time there, humbly requesting him to visit his dying wife. Anthony went immediately with him to his house, and having entered the room where the woman was, laid his hands over her, and knelt down, praying to the Lord to preserve her life and restore her health. And behold, although her limbs were broken and she seemed already dead, she got up while the saint was praying, perfectly restored to health.
Having accomplished his mission in Tuscany Anthony returned to his province, not only to watch over his subjects, whose minister-provincial he was, but also to carry the divine Word to other places. The celebrated city of Cremona was among the number, and here he won the love of the people by his preaching, and they became so attached to him that they wished to show him a mark of their gratitude and devotion.
In the year 1220 the Seraphic Father Saint Francis passed through that city on his return from the East, and after staying there for a few days, he obtained from the people a place near Saint William, where he built a convent for his friars. When Saint Anthony was there the same people resolved to give another place to the Friars Minor, not far from the former one. While there he received into the -order seven young men of Cremona, in whom he discovered true vocations.
Near the walls of this city is a well, blessed by the two holy patriarchs, Dominic and Francis, and there is another one which Saint Anthony blessed before he departed from the city, and which is now seen in a garden, outside of the cloister of the Convent of Saint Francis. Those who drink of the water of this well experience great benefit.
From Cremona Anthony went to Milan. This famous city was infested by the heretics, and this roused the apostolic zeal of Saint Anthony, who attacked them on every side by the force of his arguments and triumphed over many of them, who detested their false doctrines and were easily converted to the Catholic faith. It is very probable that this was about the year 1229, because Anthony’s office as minister-provincial of Emilia, or Lombardy, obliged him to make a canonical visitation to the convents under his jurisdiction, among which was the convent of the Friars Minor in Milan. On this occasion the saint went to Vercelli to pay a visit to his former teacher, Thomas, in the Abbey of Saint Andrew. Returning to Vercelli he passed through Varese, and there a place was given to him to build a convent, which was erected immediately. Here he blessed the waters of a well, which yet exists in the convent of the Franciscan fathers, giving to them the virtue of healing the sick.
In this same year (1229) he went to Marca Trevigiana, where he had occasion to preach. Ezzelino, as a disturber of the public peace, obtained from the people of Trevigiana the right to be declared a fellow-citizen. Afterward he advised and induced them to take away the lands of the Bishop of Feltre and Belluno, which, he said, belonged to the municipality of Treviso from time immemorial. The people of Treviso prepared their army, and, under the leadership of Ezzelino, went to take possession of those lands. The citizens of Padua protested at this unexpected uprising, and said that the lands of the Bishop of Feltre and Belluno belonged to the municipality of Padua, and that they should not take them; but all in vain, for they even advanced to take possession of both cities, Feltre and Belluno, saying that they would never restore them while the walls of the city of Treviso were standing. The Padnans took up” arms, and with a powerful army invaded the territory of Treviso, sacked it, finally conquering. Through the mediation of Monsignor Gualla, legate apostolic, then Bishop of Brescia, the rulers of Lombardy restored everything to the Bishop of Feltre and Belhmo, and to the Paduans.
After this war, which began in 132S, Marca Trevigiana enjoyed peace for about a year, till the end of 1229; in the following year Anthony arrived. He preached to the people of Trevigiana the Word of God, exhorting them to practise charity and brotherly love.
In the year 1230 took place the solemn transfer of the remains of the holy Patriarch Francis from the Church of Saint George to the magnificent new church dedicated in his name. On this occasion the General Chapter was to be held, to treat of the most important affairs of the order, and also to elect the new minister-general. More than two thousand friars came to Assisi to witness the celebration and to assist at the chapter; also a great multitude of people of every state and condition came to assist at the solemn transfer of the sacred remains of Saint Francis. The city could not afford accommodation for them all, and they were obliged to sleep under tents in the open fields. Among the religious of the order was Saint Anthony, then minister-provincial of Emilia.
The body of Saint Francis having been transferred, the fathers of the chapter assembled, and conferences were held concerning the Seraphic Rule. Some differences came up on this point, and Saint Anthony and Adam de Marisco, who had studied with the saint at Vercelli, had recourse to the supreme pontiff, Gregory IX, by whom the question was to be settled. The Pope called Brother Elias to Rome, who was minister-general, with all the fathers of the chapter, and having heard the reasons on both sides, he thought it expedient to depose Brother Elias from the generalship and put another in his place. Brother John Parenti of Tuscany, a man celebrated for his learning and holiness, then minister-provincial of Spain, was elected. The Pope confirmed the election, and thanked Anthony and Adam de Marisco, praising their zeal in trying to preserve the spirit of the seraphic law-giver, Saint Francis of Assisi.
On this occasion the supreme pontiff exhorted Saint Anthony to continue his apostolic ministry for the salvation of souls, and in order that he might succeed more effectually, dispensed him from every office, including that of minister-provincial, as he himself had requested.
Gregory IX had so great an esteem for Saint Anthony, on account of his wisdom, holiness, and his wonderful miracles, that he desired to keep him in Rome with himself, saying that with his assistance and wise counsels he would be very useful; but Anthony humbly excused himself, as it was contrary to his inclination for solitude. The Holy Father, to please him, thought it proper to leave him free, exhorting him to finish writing his Lenten sermons and those on the festivals of the year. Anthony promised to do what the holy pontiff requested him, and having received his apostolic benediction, went to the solitude of Mount Alvernia.
This is a mountain in Tuscany, situated on the boundaries of the Papal States, about ten miles to the north from Borgo Saint Sepolcro; it is a part of the Apennines, a common name given to a chain of mountains which begins at Genoa, and which divides Italy, reaching as far as Abruzzo. Mount Alvernia rises above the other mountains in a quadrangular shape, in the middle of which there are twelve hills, and it is covered with trees on every side. At the foot there are two rivers — the Arno and the Tiber. On the top are beautiful meadows shaded by beech trees of great magnitude and height; the herb called carline is found here, which is a good remedy against pestilence. There is a tradition that it was shown to Charlemagne by an angel as a cure for a pestilence by which his soldiers were infected.
This mountain was held in high estimation by Saint Francis for its solitude; great splits are seen in the rocks, and it was revealed to Saint Francis by an angel that they were formed when, at the death of Jesus Christ, the earth trembled and the rocks were split.
It was on this mountain that the Seraphic Father, while tenderly meditating on the sufferings of his beloved Redeemer, was favored by that wonderful vision, in which the same Jesus crucified appeared to him, in the figure of a seraph, and deigned to impress His sacred wounds on his hands, feet, and side. This mountain, therefore, is held in great veneration by the supreme pontiffs, bishops, princes, other illustrious persons, and by all the faithful. Gregorv IX, Alexander IV, and other popes enriched it with many indulgences in honor of the stigmata of Saint Francis. After Saint Francis had received the impression of the wounds the Lord showered copious blessings on this mountain; many religious flourished in sanctity in the convent of Alvernia, where the strict observance of the rule is scrupulously kept by the religious, and the faithful, who continually visit that sacred place, obtain there both spiritual and temporal favors from the divine bounty.
If Mount Alvernia, so well fitted for the contemplation of celestial things, had for Saint Francis such a strong attraction that he went there from time to time to retire in that blessed solitude, building there a convent for his religious, and contributing much to their sanctification, it is not to be wondered at, therefore, that Saint Anthony, a most worthy son of the Seraphic Father, and most faithful imitator of his virtues, should desire to retire there also.
When Anthony arrived at Alvernia the cell which had been inhabited by Saint Francis was assigned to him, but his great humility did not permit him to accept a cell of which he considered himself unworthy, and he only desired that they would give him one next to it, in which he would have an opportunity to enjoy, in the silence of that retreat, the most sweet fruits of the secret communications which he had with God in prayer, and as a true, humble servant, who judged himself yet a beginner in the way of religious perfection, he exercised with great fervor all the virtues necessary to attain it.
He spent his spare time in composing his Lenten sermons and those on the festivals of the year, as he had promised Gregory IX. After he had stayed there for a few months he perceived that the inclemency of the weather was hurtful to his delicate constitution, and, moved by a divine inspiration, he obtained permission from the minister-general to go to Padua, where he had preached before with great success. This city was beloved by him not only for the kindness which the inhabitants had shown him, but also for the docility he had perceived in them in obeying his apostolic exhortations; hence, as a sensible farmer uses his tools with greater diligence on fertile ground, he sowed the divine Word among them and helped them in their spiritual necessities in different ways suggested by his boundless charity. This is why our Lord guided the footsteps of our saint to the place of his rest, and He so disposed everything as to sanctify that fortunate city of Padua with his apostolic mission, and enriched her with the treasure of his sacred remains, thus rendering her celebrated throughout the universe.
The saint returned to Padua in the year 1230, and he at once applied himself to finishing the Sunday sermons and also the sermons about the saints, at the request of Cardinal Rainald, Bishop of Ostia and protector of the order, not neglecting to preach from time to time during the winter. He never missed an opportunity of attending to the spiritual welfare of his neighbor and the conversion of sinners. During this time also he taught theology to his confreres (1230-1231).
The biographers of Anthony relate that while he was living in Padua he miraculously helped his father in Lisbon, who was in danger of being condemned to death. Two noble citizens of Lisbon had a great enmity toward each other, one of whom lived in a house adjoining that of Martin de Bouillon, father of Anthony. One of these men met the son of his rival one evening, and resolved to take revenge on the young man for the hatred he harbored against his father. Pie took advantage of the darkness of the night, and, unawares, struck him cruelly, killing him. In order that the horrible crime might not be discovered he caused the body to be brought into the garden of De Bouillon, where he dug a grave and buried it.
When the father of the murdered young man saw that his son did not return he suspected something wrong, and therefore had recourse to the chief magistrate of the city, who ordered that a diligent search should be made. When he heard that the young man had passed through the street where his father’s enemy, lived he visited the garden and the house of the enemy, and examined everything diligently, finding nothing. Then he went into the house of De Bouillon, in whose garden the body of the young man was found. This was sufficient for the judge to be convinced that the murderer was the owner of the garden, and therefore he was arrested, with his family.
God, through His mercy, wished to defend the innocent man, and He revealed to Anthony the extreme distress of his father, ordering him at once to go and help to free him from prison and death. The servant of God, toward evening, asked permission from his superior to go out of the monastery, which was granted to him. He was carried by an angel, as Habacuc was carried to Babylon to help Daniel in the lions’ den; he found himself miraculously in Lisbon on the same evening. This city, as every one knows, is about 1500 miles distant from Padua. The following morning he went to the judge and requested him to let his father and family go free, because they had no part in that horrible crime; but the judge refused obstinately to let them go, because he considered them guilty. The saint asked that the body of the young man be brought into his presence, which was done, and he ordered him to return to life and tell if, in reality, Martin de Bouillon or any other member of his family had killed him. The young man arose and said that neither De Bouillon nor any of his family was guilty of the crime; then afterward, without making known the guilty one, he returned to his former state.
Such an authentic testimony induced the judge to immediately release the innocent ones, and thus the honor of Anthony’s father and family was vindicated. The saint remained with his father that day, in order to give thanks to God for what He had done. In the evening he left Lisbon and was carried to his convent in Padua by the angel.
Michael Pacheco relates that De Bouillon experienced the aid of his son on another occasion. To him was entrusted the administration of large sums of money for various business relating to the service of the king. He paid out money to several persons without demanding a receipt from them. He was a man of good faith, and did not take legal precautions to insure his own interest. The time arrived for him to render an account of his administration, and therefore he called those persons to whom he had given the money, but they bare-facedly denied that they had received anything from him. The efforts he made to make known his faithful conduct did not avail him, because he had no receipt by which he could justify himself, and therefore he could not expect anything else than that the authorities should proceed against him and confiscate all his goods. In fact, he was called to trial, with those to whom he had given the money, and, oppressed by their calumnies, he did not know what to answer, when, behold, Anthony, by divine power, was transferred from Italy to Lisbon and appeared in the assembly! With a threatening look he turned toward the calumniators and ordered them, without delay, to give the receipt of the money received from his father in such a place, on such a day, at such an hour, otherwise the divine justice would at once punish them severely for their felony. They were terrified, and confessed their imposture, making out the receipt immediately. Saint Anthony disappeared, leaving his father happy and contented.
While Anthony was occupied in writing his sermons and in other exercises of piety the Lent of the year 1231 arrived, and, putting aside every other occupation, he did all he could to satisfy the Paduans, who desired to hear the Word of God preached by him. He preached for forty continuous days, to the great admiration of all, and they saw that the saint, notwithstanding his delicate health, made great efforts, in his indefatigable zeal, to instruct the ignorant, to hear confessions, and to gain souls for Jesus Christ; frequently he fasted till sunset.
The devil, displeased at the good which Anthony was doing, tried to terrify him by nightly illusions, to divert him from his undertaking. He himself related to a religious that in the beginning of Lent, while he was lying down to take some rest, the evil spirit dared to assail him, and took hold of him by the throat in such a manner that he would have suffocated him had not God interfered. Anthony at once invoked the name of Mary, made the sign of the cross, and recited, with faith and confidence, the hymn, “O Gloriosa Domina.” The evil one left him immediately, and the saint saw his cell resplendent with divine light, as the Blessed Virgin Mary came in person to defend him because he had invoked her with faith.
The violence of the devil did not intimidate Anthony, nor did it lessen his courage for a moment, but in his apostolic zeal he continued his Lenten sermons. He preached here and there to accommodate the people, and they came in such numbers to hear him that often it was necessary to place guards at the doors of the churches. As there was no building in Padua that could hold the immense crowds of people who came from other cities and villages to hear him, it was necessary for the saint to preach outside of Padua, in the open air.
It was something admirable to see not only common people go to the place where he was preaching, but noble ladies and gentlemen, with lanterns in their hands, in order to find their places, waiting patiently for the hour of the sermon. The Bishop of Padua, also, with his clergy, came to hear the saint, and this was a source of great edification to the bishop’s flock.
When the man of God ascended the pulpit the people were so eager to hear his words that, although the number of hearers often exceeded thirty thousand, not a whisper was heard, not a murmur, but a profound silence was observed. All were quiet and attentive, with their eyes fixed on the saint, and they had extraordinary devotion, as if it were not a man who was preaching to them, but an angel from heaven. We cannot doubt that notwithstanding the great number of hearers, he was heard and understood by every one perfectly; for Anthony, besides being gifted with a clear and penetrating voice, was endowed by God with such a grace, power, and force, that his words were heard not only by those who were near, but also by those at a distance.
While he was preaching every business was stopped; court houses, the stores of merchants, artisans, and vendors were closed, and they were not opened until the sermon was over, because all desired ardently to hear the holy preacher. So great was the multitude of people that gathered around him, when he descended from the pulpit, to touch him, that sometimes they were in danger of injuring themselves and the saint; for this reason, therefore, he was assisted by strong men, without whose aid he would not be able to return to the monastery.
One day, when Anthony was returning from preaching, he met a man named Peter, with his little daughter, four years old, called Paduana. The poor child was afflicted with epileptic fits, and was deformed in both feet; hence, deprived of the use of them, sometimes she made use of her hands to walk, and sometimes she crawled. The afflicted father eagerly prayed to the saint to make the sign of the cross over the little girl. Anthony, knowing his lively faith, blessed the child with the sign of the cross from the head to the feet, and instantly she was perfectly healed. A similar event occurred in a city of Lombardy, ol Emilia. After the saint had finished his sermon he was returning to the monastery, through a lonely road, in order to evade the applause of the people, when a woman came to meet him with a child in her arms; the feet of the child were contracted, and the mother had a firm hope that he would be healed by receiving the blessing of the saint. Anthony, as soon as he saw her, wanted to avoid her by turning his footsteps elsewhere; but she suppliantly insisted that he should bless the child with the sign of the cross. Anthony, through his great modesty and humility, was unwilling to do so; then the woman cried and entreated him, saying: “Ah, Father Anthony, have pity on me.” The saint was moved by the requests of his companion, Brother Luke, by the tears of the afflicted mother, and the pitiful state of the poor child, and no longer resisted; he therefore made the sign of the cross upon the child and blessed him, and he was immediately healed.
Anthony attributed this miracle to the faith of the woman; he gave thanks to God, and told her that while he was alive not to make known to any one what had happened to her child.
It is not easy to describe how copious were the fruits reaped by our evangelical worker. As a light shines more brightly when it is nearly extinguished, or as a stone has more velocity in its motion when it approaches the centre of gravity, so Anthony, as he was drawing near his blessed end, succeeded more admirably in his works, and was more efficacious in his preaching and in inducing obstinate sinners to repent by the force of his words. He eliminated the most implacable hatred and enmity, he induced usurers to make restitution of ill-gotten goods, worldly women were converted to penance, thieves and assassins ceased their robberies and rapines, debts were paid, and prisoners were set free. It seemed that his voice was issuing from a burning furnace, for by his preaching he enkindled the hearts of his hearers and excited them to devotion, to compunction, and to detest their sins; tears were shed, sighs and groans were heard, and many were seen striking their breasts, and they exhorted one another to confess their sins, do penance, and amend their lives. Padua, in a word, seemed a new Ninive converted to God by the saint. Then it was that a great multitude of men was seen in a procession with scourges in their hands, striking their bare shoulders, and begging mercy from God by devout prayers; this pious and praiseworthy custom was introduced by our saint.
The number of persons of both sexes who were moved and penetrated by the words of the saint was so great that they came in great crowds to the tribunal of penance, and sometimes the priests of Padua were not sufficient to hear their confessions; many asserted that they had been commanded by God, in dreams, to go to Anthony, and to comply with what he enjoined, so pleased was our Lord to render His faithful servant worthy of admiration by the prodigies He deigned to work by means of the saint. We read that Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, while yet living, appeared to Constantine, the emperor, and with threats commanded him to set free three innocent tribunes who were imprisoned; thus Saint Anthony miraculously appeared to those who were bound in the chains of sin, and suggested to them the means whereby they could be loosened and obtain the liberty of true children of God. In fact, many attest that the saint used to appear to sinners while they were asleep, and made known to them the names of the priests to whom he wished them to confess their faults.
Many others affirm that the saint appeared to them, woke them up, called them by name, and exhorted them to confess such and such a sin, although secret, committed at such and such a place; they arose immediately, surprised, not understanding how he could get in, the door of the room being locked; but what surprised them more was that Anthony told to them the sins that no one could know, except God, who knows everything, and therefore they immediately went to confess them.
On one occasion a man was so moved by the preaching of the saint, and repented so much of the bad life he had led till then, that he went and threw himself at the feet of the saint to confess his sins; but when Anthony saw that the penitent could not say a word on account of his great grief, he told him to go home and write his confession and come again. The penitent obeyed, and wrote his sins with all possible exactness, returning afterward to the saint. Anthony read the confession, and consoled the man greatly by showing him the same sheet of paper all blank, no trace of the writing being apparent. A miracle of this kind showed how sincere was the conversion of that sinner and how intense his contrition, since the divine hand was pleased to cancel all the sins committed by him.
Saint Anthony, assisted by God, was achieving innumerable conversions by his apostolic ministry as he was fast approaching his last end. Twelve highway robbers who heard of his wonderful works came to hear him, and they experienced in reality what they had heard, as what Anthony said made such an impression on their hearts that they repented of their wickedness, and after the sermon they all presented themselves to the holy man, to whom they made a sincere general confession of their crimes, promising to amend their vicious lives.
Luke Wadding relates that a certain man, advanced in age, was returning from Rome in the year 1292, and on the road met a Friar Minor, to whom he said that he had known Saint Anthony of Padua; that he had had eleven companions, and they became highway robbers. They heard of the wonderful power of the holy man in preaching, and that many times more than twenty thousand persons came to hear him; they also became desirous to hear him. They all changed their clothes and their aspect, as much as possible, and went to hear him. “We heard him uttering burning words, we saw his tongue burning like a lamp, we felt that our hearts were melting like wax near the .fire; we began then to feel sorry, and experienced as great a contrition for our misdeeds as if that celestial preacher were wringing our hearts, and each of his words wounded us; thus sorrowing and repenting of our faults, we wept, sighed, and cast ourselves at the feet of the holy preacher; we confessed our sins to him, and we received from him a fatherly exhortation. I would explain, but I cannot; the great goodness and love which he showed us was truly admirable. What beautiful instruction, what salutary advice he gave us! I cannot express how earnest and grave he showed himself in promising eternal salvation to us if in the future we would do good; and he threatened unheard-of punishments in this world and in the world to come if we would return to our former life of sin. A few of my companions did not persevere, but became worse than before, and I myself, a short time after, saw them condemned and put to death in the most excruciating torments. As the others persevered in doing good, so they finished their days in a holy manner, and of the twelve I alone remain. Among other penances, the saint enjoined on me to visit the Basilica of the Holy Apostles in Rome twelve times. The visit from which I am now returning is the last that remained for the fulfilment of the penance imposed on me. I am very happy in the hope I have of seeing accomplished in me the promise of the holy man, whose advice I have till now tried to put into practice, as much as human frailty allowed me.”
The apostolic labors sustained by the saint in the last year of his mortal life were not sufficient to satisfy his ardent zeal for the salvation of souls; he wished to continue to preach till Pentecost, which was on the eleventh of May in that year.
God had already revealed to him, that his end was drawing near, but he judged it expedient not to make it known to the friars, as it would sadden them. Toward the end of May he gave them a hint of his death. Fifteen days before he died, being in a very high place, he was contemplating at a distance the city of Padua, and, transported by joy, did not cease to exalt her, and turning to a religious predicted to him that Padua in a short time would be greatly honored, but not telling him why. He wished to declare with prophetic spirit the glory which that happy city would derive from himself after his death.
This prediction was verified to the very letter; for since his death to the present day Padua has always had the honor to possess the treasure of his sacred remains, through which she has become renowned throughout the world, and great multitudes of people of different nationalities visit the sanctuary where God has been pleased to work wonders through the intercession of His faithful servant.
The saint, to free himself from intercourse with secular people, determined to retire to a certain solitary place called Campo Saint Pietro, ten miles from Padua, so that he might attend more freely to God, to himself, and to compose sermons. According to all appearances it was on this occasion that the Lord was pleased to show toward him a special and loving mark of His benevolence, as it is related by the writers of his life: The saint having resolved to go to Campo Saint Pietro, wrote a letter to his minister-provincial to obtain permission; he went to the superior of the monastery and requested him to have the kindness to send the letter by a trustworthy person, which the superior promised to do. Anthony returned to his cell to get the letter, which he had left on his desk, but, to his surprise, did not see it, and after searching for it diligently could not find it; he was a little confused, and, thinking that losing the letter might be a sign by which the Lord wished to make him understand that it wTas not His will that he should go to that place of retreat, resigned himself to the holy will of God. But, behold, when the time required for a messenger to go and come, if he had been sent, had elapsed, he found on his d.esk the answer of his minister-provincial, who accorded him the required permission. In this miraculous occurrence it is credible that God had sent an angel, as to Tobias, who would serve Anthony as a messenger, to honor his great humility, and to assure him of the divine will that he should go to Campo Saint Pietro.
God, who sees the uprightness of His friends, is pleased to hear their just desires and to console them sometimes by way of miracles, as in the case of our saint. The Lord is also accustomed to use such kindness in order to drive from their hearts certain anxieties which holy souls experience, even in their lawful actions and in their most pure intentions, for fear that some imperfections may be mixed with them.
Anthony, who had desired to go to the retreat of Campo Saint Pietro, had already abandoned the thought of going, because, although his intention was good, nevertheless he feared that his self-love had something to do with it, under the pretext of greater quietness of spirit. The judgment of the saints on this point is very delicate, as the greater their humility the less they trust themselves in their actions, and they fear danger in virtue itself, as the wasp hidden among the flowers. For this reason Saint Augustine says: ” When we perform a good action it is necessary to examine the purpose for which we do it.”
Anthony, before going to Campo Saint Pietro, was charged by the authorities of Padua to go to Verona to save Richard, Count of San Bonifacio, a Guelph, who had been taken prisoner by his enemies and put in prison in Verona with some of his companions. The Paduans did all they could to save Richard, but they failed; hence they sent Anthony- The servant of God went willingly, and tried to obtain the freedom of the illustrious prisoners through his merits and eloquence; but all his efforts were in vain, since Ezzelino and the rulers of Lombardy refused to hear him. The saint saw that his words were fruitless, and returned to Padua; he then went to Campo Saint Pietro.
A noble and devout chevalier, called Tisone of Campo Saint Pietro, from which his family took the surname, Lord of Campo Saint Pietro, of Castle Fonde, of Campreto and Treville, was moved by the preaching of Saint Anthony, and, inflamed by a holy desire to lead a life more conformable to the maxims of Jesus crucified, despised the honors of the world and embraced the Rule of the Third Order of Penance, which the Father Saint Francis had instituted for persons of both sexes living in the world. He persevered in this holy state of life till his death, which took place in Padua, on the last day of January, in the year 1234; his body was buried in the Church of Saint Peter, by the Benedictine Sisters; over his grave is this simple inscription: “The grave of Lord Tisone of Campo Saint Pietro.”
At the coming of Anthony, therefore, to Campo Saint Pietro, Tisone was so pleased that he received him with singular demonstrations of esteem, affection, and devotion, considering him as an angel sent by God. He possessed, at a little distance from the convent of the Friars Minor, a grove, where there was a walnut tree of great magnitude, from whose trunk extended six large branches, forming a sort of crown. The saint, who wished to remain as much as possible in a solitary place, resolved to build a little cell in this tree, because it seemed to him a very fit place for his retreat. Tisone heard from the friars the desire of the servant of God, and, eager to please him, built with his own hands little cells on the branches of the tree, surrounding them with mats; one was for the saint and the other two for his companions, Brothers Luke and Rodger.
This was the last dwelling-place of Saint Anthony among mortals; here he prayed, meditated, wrote, and occupied himself in casting away everything worldly which he might have contracted in the discharge of his apostolic duties and ministry in France, Italy, in so many villages, cities, and provinces, with so much applause, accompanied by so many people, and in performing such wonderful prodigies that he had become the terror of heretics and the object of the highest admiration; with tears of compunction and by various kinds of penances he purged his spirit from the defects (though very light) he might have contracted.
In this respect he was a perfect imitator of his Seraphic Father Saint Francis, who, after he had preached in various places in Tuscany, in which he had made many conversions, returned to Saint Mary of Angels, where his principal care was to examine if ever, in the exercise of his preaching, his soul might have been attached to anything worldly by his continual intercourse with lay people, and whatever his conscience made imperfect in his eyes he purged with the most rigorous penance.
This wise conduct of these two pillars of the church is conformable to what Saint Gregory the Great taught. This holy doctor of the church shows the necessity of those who announce to others the divine Word to purify themselves of the defects contracted in preaching. It is very difficult, he says, to exercise such a ministry without falling into some faults, because the preacher either is moved by anger if he does not meet the approval of his hearers, or a little vain glory if he is esteemed and applauded by them.
The Lord fittingly washed the feet of His holy apostles after His preaching, to show that often, even in the practice of good works, some little shadow of sin may be contracted; hence the hearts of the preachers are a little stained and those of the hearers cleansed, for very often it happens that when preachers see that by means of their efficacious exhortations those who hear them derive the grace of purging themselves from vice they esteem themselves and become vain, so that while they try to purify the actions of others they tarnish their own. This excellent doctrine should be seriously considered by those who, though called to the apostolic ministry, have not even acquired the perfection of the holy preachers.
Although Saint Anthony, in this retreat, found his spiritual delight in conversing secretly with his beloved God, and occupied himself in the study of the Old and New Testaments, preparing to write useful spiritual works for the benefit of Christian people, nevertheless he never neglected the common exercises of the community, descending promptly from his little cell at the appointed hours.
On the thirteenth of June, being at the table with his confreres, he felt his bodily strength failing; worn out by the incessant labors of his apostolic ministry, then overtaken by illness, his weakness increased so much that he could no longer stand erect. The friars took him in their arms, and with great love and care carried him to a poor and hard bed made of straw. The saint regained a little strength, and, perceiving that he had a short time to live, called Brother Rodger to him and said: “You, brother, see that on account of my infirmity I am a burden to this poor convent; therefore, if you think it proper I will go to the Convent of Saint Mary at Padua.”
Brother Rodger at once approved the proposal. The religious of Campo Saint Pietro did not want to permit him to depart from their convent, and they did all in their power to keep him there; but when they heard the desire of the saint they yielded to his wishes; neither did they dare to oppose his departure. A carriage was at once prepared to bring him slowly toward Padua. While on the way, being near Padua, a religious named Vinoto met him; he was going to visit Anthony at Campo Saint Pietro. He saw how very ill he was, and persuaded him not to enter Padua, and thus avoid the importunities and frequent visits of the people, but to stop at the near Monastery of Arcella. This monastery belonged to the Nuns of Saint Clare, at that time called “The poor of the Lord.” This monastery was afterward destroyed by the army of Maximillian, in the year 1520. It was in this place that a saintly penitent of Saint Anthony died, Blessed Elena Elzelmina of the same order; that is, of Saint Clare. In the place of Arcella was afterward built an oratory, in which the image of Saint Anthony dying is seen; this oratory was kept by a hermit of the Third Order .of Saint Francis.
The advice to remain here pleased the saint; soon after reaching the monastery his disease was aggravated more and more, and soon he was reduced to the extremes. After a short rest he made his confession, and having received absolution, began to sing the hymn, “O Gloriosa Domina,” with most affectionate devotion, in praise of the holy Mother of God, to whom he dedicated himself from his very childhood. Afterward, raising his eyes, he held them fixed, as if gazing at something, and being asked by a religions what he was looking at, he answered: ” I see my Lord Jesns Christ.” The religions, in the meanwhile, perceiving that his last hour was fast approaching, immediately administered to him the sacrament of Extreme Unction.
The saint having received the sacrament of Extreme Unction, with his hands joined he devoutly recited with his confreres the Penitential Psalms; after about half an hour he placidly expired, as though he were sleeping, in the arms of his brethren, and his soul, freed from the prison of his body, entered the eternal glory of heaven, all absorbed in the beatific vision of God. His precious death took place on Friday, the thirteenth of June, in the year 1231; at the time of his death he was about thirty-six years of age, fifteen of which he had passed in his paternal home, two at the Monastery of the Regular Canons of: Saint Vincent at Lisbon, nine years in the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Coimbra, and about ten years and a half in the Order of the Friars Minor.
God was pleased to call to Himself His faithful servant Anthony, the light of the Christian world, the hammer of heretics, the ark of the Testament, the admiration of the universe, who, after having fought manfully the enemies of the Catholic faith and routed the infernal powers by his admirable conversions of innumerable sinners; after having consummated, in suffering and labor, his apostolic ministry, faithful to God till death in the mortification of himself and in the practice of the most heroic virtues, full of merits he went to receive from his most loving Jesus the unfading crown of glory in heaven.
Here it will not be out of place to give a brief idea, not only of the particular qualities which adorned the soul of this great saint, but also of his personal appearance. With regard to the first we can say of Anthony what the patriarch Isaac said of his son Jacob: “And immediately as he smelled the fragrant smell of his garments, blessing him, he said: ‘Behold, the smell of my son is as the smell of a plentiful field, which the Lord hath blessed.'” (Genesis 27:27). Thus the divine grace poured out over Anthony His celestial blessings in a copious manner, and he was noted for his virtues, a rare humility, original purity, strict poverty, and a fervent charity. To these singular virtues was united a profound learning and a most persuasive eloquence, which captured the hearts of men. He was a religious full of honesty, affable with all, charitable and humane in conversation; discretion, which is the mother of all virtues, and without which virtues would become vices, was noted in his preaching, in giving advice, and in administering the sacrament of Penance, and there was nothing in his words or actions that was not seasoned by the salt of this virtue. He was solicitous for the salvation of his neighbor, without distinction of persons, and did everything he could to draw them out of the abyss of sin; he never refused to give aid to any one when it was in his power to do so; therefore the eulogy pronounced on Moses was verified in Anthony: “Moses was beloved of God, and men: whose memory is in benediction” (Ecclesiasticus 45:1).
In regard to his natural qualities^ according to the historians quoted by Papebrochio, and also from the likeness taken immediately after his death, which is kept in the church in Padua dedicated to him, he was naturally of a brown color, rather small in size and stout; he had a pleasing countenance and was somewhat youthful-looking, but at the same time grave and majestic. He had bright eyes, a prominent nose, and ruby lips. In his countenance was seen something extraordinary and devotional, and all who saw him, though he was unknown to them, judged him a saint. His flesh, from its natural color, the great austerity of his life, and his weak constitution, was rather brown and rough; but immediately after his death it became as white as snow7 and as smooth as that of a child, and those who looked at him felt no repugnance, as is usually the case; his expression wT as so pleasing and calm that he seemed to be yet alive and sweetly sleeping.
On the day of his happy death he appeared to the celebrated doctor, Thomas, abbot of the Canons Regular of Saint Andrew of Vercelli, who had been his professor; he was alone in his room studying and meditating, and after they had saluted each other Anthony said: ” Behold, my lord abbot, I have left my earthly habitation in Padua, and I am going in haste to my country.” He touched the throat of Thomas, and instantly he was cured of a disease that had troubled him for some time; Anthony at once disappeared. The abbot, who knew nothing about his death, believed that Anthony was, in reality, going to his country (Lisbon), and he immediately went out after him, and not seeing him, asked the servants of the monastery where Anthony was; they were surprised at this question, and said that they knew nothing about him. The abbot insisted that he had certainly seen him, and that Brother Anthony, in person, had told him this and that, that he had miraculously cured him of his sore throat, and that he had just gone out of his room. He caused a diligent search to be made in the city, but no one knew anything about him. Then he sent a messenger to the convent of the Friars Minor to find out if they knew anything concerning the arrival of Anthony; but the friars said that they had no news of him. The abbot, considering all that had occurred, judged that Anthony had in reality passed to the celestial country; he took notice of the time, and learned afterward that Anthony had died on the same day and at the same hour that he had appeared in his cell, as the abbot told the friars, with tears of tenderness.
After Anthony’s death the friars did not wish to make it known immediately, because they feared that a great crowd of people would come to see him, and they tried to keep it secret; but it could not remain hidden from the knowledge of others; God made it known in a wonderful way, and the news reached the citizens of Padua. Although no one except those who were present knew what had taken place, nevertheless, innocent children suddenly began to cry out and exclaim throughout the city: ” The holy father is dead; the great preacher is dead; Saint Anthony is dead!”
This rumor spread through the city in a short time, and the people, principally those who lived in the street called Campo di Monte, which then separated the city from the suburbs, where the Monastery of Arcella was situated, went to the monastery, accompanied by a large number of armed young men, to prevent the body being taken elsewhere. The people, putting aside every work and abandoning their household duties, went,to the convent of the friars, to see the remains of the saint, and the number was so great that it seemed as though no one remained in the city.
The Nuns of Saint Clare were very much grieved at the death of Saint Anthony, and they wept bitterly to see themselves deprived of such a father. They desired very much to keep the sacred body in their chapel for their spiritual consolation, and they supplicated the principal persons of the city, but the friars of the Convent of Saint Mary were opposed to this, because when the holy man was near death he requested a religious who assisted him to take his remains to Padua, to the Church of Saint Mary, and they insisted on taking the body to the city. The citizens of Capo di Ponte resisted strongly, and would not allow the body of the saint to be touched; for fear of losing it they increased the number of armed men who watched the sacred remains day and night.
A great tumult arose among the people, who were divided into two factions; some of them favored the Nuns of Saint Clare, the others sustained the rights of the friars, and they took up arms, with grave danger of serious trouble if the principal citizens and dignitaries, headed by the bishop, had not interfered. The religious had recourse to the bishop, Monsignor James Corrado Paduano, a man venerated for his knowledge and the sanctity of his life, and recommended themselves to his protection. He promised to help them, and called together the canons of the Cathedral to hear their opinion of the affair. Some of them thought that the body of the saint should be left in Arcella and buried there; others were of the contrary opinion. The bishop, taking into consideration the views of both parties, decided the question in favor of the friars, and ordered the magistrates of the city to lend their help in bringing the sacred remains to the Church of Saint Mary.
These precautions, however, did not avail to repress the boldness of the people of Capo di Ponte, who persisted in their design to have the saint buried in the church of the Nuns of Arcella, and, paying no attention to the orders of the bishop and the magistrates, made greater efforts to sustain their claim. They called others to their aid, and unanimously consented to resist every one, and to lose their goods and their lives rather than permit the body of the saint to be removed from the place in which he died. They became so determined in this that some of them who were enemies laid aside every feeling of hatred and made alliances among themselves through fear of losing the sacred remains. They were afraid that they would be deprived of the body of the saint by fraud, and in order to better assure themselves, by a common agreement they tried to steal it. The bishop, who feared further disturbances that would arise from such an obstinate contest, deemed it expedient, with the co-operation of the friars, to put an end to the tumult. He gave the principal citizens of Capo di Ponte to understand that the minister-provincial of the Friars Minor, who was absent at that time, was to come to Padua soon, and therefore he exhorted them to be quiet until his arrival, lie was a good religious and the head of all the friars of the province, and it was just that they should abide by whatever decision he might come to, since it regarded the burial of a religious subject to him.
This proposal pleased the people of Capo di Ponte, and they quieted clown, going away from the Convent of Arcella. The friars closed the door of the convent with strong bolts toward evening, but at midnight a great crowd of men came, driven by the desire to see the sacred remains; they attacked the convent and opened the door by violence. Notwithstanding all this, after having tried three times, they could not find the way to enter, though the door was wide open and the house lighted by a great number of lights; they were amazed, and were so blind they could not see the entrance, as they afterward affirmed.
During the absence of the provincial the friars, fearing that the heat of the season would hasten the decomposition of the body, deposited it in a wooden coffin and buried it, covering the grave with very little earth. The people of Capo di Ponte, not seeing the body, thought that it was taken away; they at once took up arms and clubs and ran to the monastery of the friars. They broke open the door, and, turning everything upside down, went to the place where the body was and searched until they found it.
Finally the provincial arrived at Padua, and the whole city awaited the decision of the controversy. The insurgents, taking up arms again, went in all haste to him, asking him to leave the body of the saint where it was; to their requests they added threats. The provincial did not show any resentment at their insolence, and made known to them that by reason of justice they could demand nothing, but if they wished that their request should be granted he would consult his religious, and would abide by whatever God would inspire them, at the same time adding: “In order that you may not suspect any fraud, I will permit you to guard the place where the sacred body is.”
On the following day (the fifteenth of June) the provincial had recourse to the magistrates, asking their advice and their aid; they responded promptly, causing guards to be placed around the place where the body was, and at the same time prohibiting any one, under a heavy fine, from daring to use violence on the friars or to approach their habitation until the bishop and the clergy should decide what was to be done.
On the sixteenth of June the bishop, after having again examined the cause, decreed that the sacred remains should be brought to Saint Mary’s. On the next day great preparations were made to remove the body, and every precaution was taken to prevent any disturbance.
There was a solemn procession, at which the Bishop of Padua was present, with his clergy; also the magistrates, soldiers, and a great multitude of people. The casket was carried by noblemen and magistrates, and to the unspeakable joy of the Paduans the body was transferred from Capo di Ponte to Saint Mary’s, at present called the church of the saint. All who could accompany the body carried lighted candles; it was wonderful to see such a great number of lights, which made the funeral very devout, and at the same time imposing. When they arrived at the Church of Saint Mary the bishop celebrated the Sacrifice of the Mass, and after the solemn obsequies the body was placed in a beautiful urn, which, by divine Providence, was found.
The magnificence of the solemn ceremonies at the funeral of the servant of God was what might be expected from the singular devotion, gratitude, and generosity of those people, who all wished to honor Anthony, so great a benefactor of the city of Padua. Infinitely superior, though, was the magnificence which the Lord showed in glorifying before men His faithful servant, even after his death, for every tumult having been quieted and the people reconciled, He began that very day (the fifth after his death) to make him shine with a multitude of prodigies, so that whoever was troubled by any infirmity was healed by touching the tomb of the saint. For those who could not approach the tomb, on account of the great number of people, it was enough to invoke his patronage to be instantly healed in the presence of all. The blind recovered their sight, the dumb their speech, the deaf their hearing, the crippled the use of their limbs; in a word, all those who invoked his name obtained from God, through Saint Anthony’s intercession, the desired favor.
The citizens of Capo di Ponte, who were opposed to having the remains of Anthony brought to Padua, weeping, barefooted and full of sorrow for what they had done, went in procession, preceded by the clergy, to the tomb of the saint, and prostrated themselves before it with so much reverence and humility that the spectators were greatly moved. All the other people, animated by their example, divided themselves into companies, and on certain days likewise went in procession, barefooted, to honor the sacred remains. Other devout persons, composed chiefly of religious, the bishop with his clergy, teachers of public schools, with their disciples, professors of various arts, the magistrates, with the soldiers, also went to visit the tomb of Anthony. The matrons and noble ladies followed their example, and, with candles in their hands, went to the Church of Saint Mary, with modesty and devotion, to offer their homage to the saint.
While the city of Padua rejoiced at the wonders which God performed through the intercession of the saint, the renown of these wonders was spread all over Europe. An immense number of strangers went to Padua to visit the tomb of the saint, and the Lord was pleased to honor him by wonderful miracles. It was a great spectacle to see in Padua not only the people of the surrounding provinces of Venice, Vicentino, Bergamo, Brescia, Verona, Mantua, Trento, Lombardy, but also Spaniards, Frenchmen, Germans, Slavs, Hungarians and Englishmen, who saw the miracles and favors which were obtained from God through the merits of Saint Anthony, and they admired and praised His divine Majesty.
Scarcely a month had elapsed after the death of Anthony when the clergy and people agreed to have recourse to the supreme pontiff for the canonization of the servant of God, and they sent ambassadors to Pope Gregory IX. They were received by him with great kindness, and the virtues and miracles of Anthony being well known to him, he appointed a commission, consisting of the Bishop of Padua, James Corrado; Giordan Forzati, prior of Saint Benedict, and John, a Dominican, prior of the Convent of Saint Augustine, to make an exact and solemn inquiry into the miracles performed through the intercession of Saint Anthony. The commissioners, obedient to the order of the Pope, used the necessary diligence for an affair so important; after they had formed an authentic process, in the space of seven months, they sent it to the Pope, about the month of February, 1232.
The judicial report having been made, the Paduans gave to the Apostolic See other instances, in order that the servant of God should be numbered among the saints, and they sent different ambassadors to the Pope. The bishop and clergy delegated two canons, with two Friars Minor, the magistrates and the city as many chevaliers of the first nobility, and all the doctors of the university united their requests in a letter to Gregory IX; but more efficacious were the letters written to the Pope by two cardinals — Otho Bianchi d’Alerano, Marquis of Casal Montferrato, and James Pecoraja Pavese, Bishop of Palestrina — who, having been sent as legates to Lombardy in the year 1232 by the Pope, at the request of Emperor Frederic II., went to Padua at the time the people were discussing the question of sending ambassadors to the Holy See. These cardinals, having witnessed and well considered the many miracles performed at the tomb of the servant of God, gave to the ambassadors letters directed to the supreme pontiff, in which they testified to the truth of the miracles worked through the intercession of the saint.
His Holiness, after be received” the letters of the ambassadors and those of the cardinals, convoked the consistory of the cardinals, and ordered them to examine with diligence the judicial process of the miracles attributed to Anthony. He gave the principal charge to John of Abbeville of France, Archbishop of Besancon and Bishop-Cardinal of Santa Sabina, who was well versed in canon law. This cardinal finished the canonical examination of the miracles in a short time, and immediately gave to the Pope the validity of the process and of the truth of the miracles, so that only the decree of canonization remained.
His Holiness announced in the consistory his decision to enroll the servant of God in the catalogue of saints, and there were some cardinals who thought that the canonization was too premature, as a year had not elapsed since his death. Among them was a cardinal who opposed it more strongly than the others, alleging that such a cause should not be decided so hastily, and the Holy Father thought it best to put off the canonization for a time, and wait for another consistory.
In the meanwhile God, who wished that His servant should be honored as soon as possible, permitted that the cardinal who had been so opposed to the canonization should have a vision, which changed his opinion. It seemed to him that he saw the Pope, dressed in the pontifical vestments, assisted by cardinals, also dressed as the sacred rite required for the occasion, consecrating a new church, and when the}’ went to consecrate the altar they looked for the relics of the saints, but could not find any; then, looking around they saw a casket in which was a body coyered with a white veil, and the Pope commanded them to take the relics from that body. It seemed to him that the cardinals felt some repugnance in looking at it, and, much more, to touch it; but the Pope insisting, they took courage, approached it, touched it, and they perceived a sweet and fragrant odor coming from the body; from this they understood that it was the body of Brother Anthony. Finally, it seemed to him that all present were vying with each other to procure some relics for themselves, and all cried out at the same time: “Saint Anthony! Saint Anthony!”
The next morning, which was the day on which the consistory was to be held, the cardinal told his domestics about the vision, interpreting it as a mysterious dream which the Lord had sent him so that he should understand that Anthony was worthy of the honor of the altars; and therefore, full of fear at having opposed so firmly the opinion of the others, he resolved to do all in his power to hasten the canonization of the saint. As he was leaving his house he met the ambassadors of Padua, who were going to request him to cease his opposition; but the cardinal, before they had time to say anything concerning the affair, said: “It is not necessary to make known to me your request, as I am of a different opinion now. I know well that Anthony is a saint, and therefore he is worthy to be canonized. I will do all in my power to hasten his canonization.”‘ In fact, there was no one who worked with more eagerness to promote the cause of Anthony.- He persuaded the other cardinals who had been opposed to it in the consistory to yield to the judgment of the promoters for the canonization of Anthony, and they unanimously told the Pope that it would be very unjust to take from Anthony the veneration due to him.
All the cardinals having agreed, the vicar of Christ appointed the day of the canonization of the saint, the last day of May, which happened to be Pentecost. The solemn ceremony of the canonization took place in Spoleto, where, in the presence of a great multitude of people who came from various parts of Europe, was read a compendium of the great many miracles which were wrought through the intercession of the saint from the day of his death till that time.
On the day that the body of the saint was brought into the Church of Saint Mary a woman named Cunizza, a hunchback, followed the funeral procession as well as she could, and when she arrived at the church she devoutly recommended herself to the saint, and she was immediately cured.
In Concordia, a city in the duchy of Mirandola, there was a man named Frederic who imprudently had gone up the tower of the church; unfortunately he fell, and he was horribly crushed; some of his limbs were broken, so that he could not walk without crutches. He heard of the many miracles which the Lord worked through the intercession of Anthony, and he was led into Padua, to the tomb of the saint; he prayed fervently, imploring the assistance of the saint, and he was immediately cured. As a testimony of that miracle, he left there his crutches, and, thanking the Lord and Saint Anthony, returned to his home.
Brother Theodoric of the Friars Minor, who for two years had been afflicted with an infirmity by which he became blind in the left eye, heard of the miracles performed through the intercession of the saint, and went to Padua to venerate the relics of Anthony and to implore a remedy for his eye. His hope was not in vain, for after he had prayed devoutly “before the tomb he immediately regained his sight.
Rolandus, surnamed Bulgaro, had suffered for a long time with a severe headache, and he became so deaf that he could not hear anything. He had recourse to the saint, and had the happiness of having his hearing restored, after being deprived of it for twenty years. The same favor was obtained through the saint by two Venicians – Leonardo and Domenico — the first of whom had been deaf for four years and the latter two years; both prayed before the tomb, and at once they were cured.
In Monopoli a young man was digging a ditch near the convent of the Friars Minor, and one side of the ditch fell in, burying him under an immense pile of dirt. His mother cried out, and the religious came with spades and at once began to remove the mass of dirt. They thought the young man was crushed to death, but found him alive and unharmed. Being asked how it could have happened that he was still alive, he answered that when the immense pile of earth was falling on him he invoked Saint Anthony of Padua, of whom he had heard in relation to so many miracles, and immediately the saint came to his aid, putting one hand on his throat and with the other sustaining the weight, in order that he should remain untouched, and in this manner he was saved from death.
A certain Aleardino da Salvaterra, a valiant soldier, who had been a heretic from childhood, came to Padua a short time after the death of Saint Anthony. While in a hotel one day at dinner he heard his companions relating the miracles which God performed daily at the tomb of His great servant. Being an unbeliever, and thinking that all these wonders were mere illusions, he became somewhat angry; he stood up, took a glass in his hand, and, blaspheming, said: “It is just as possible that Anthony has worked these miracles as that this glass, if thrown against a stone, would not be broken into pieces; however, if in this case the glass does not break, but remains entire, then I will believe that Anthony is a saint, and also believe in his miracles.” Then, with all his might, he threw the glass from an upper window of the hotel upon the stone pavement; naturally it should have been broken into many pieces, and yet, like a solid piece of diamond, it remained whole. Aleardino, terrified at the sight of such a miracle, who had despised Brother Anthony and denied that he was a saint, became converted to the Catholic religion, believed in Anthony and his miracles, and related and exalted everywhere his sanctity, which he himself had experienced, in proof of which he showed the glass to every one, and preserved it with great care and devotion, among other relics of the saint.
In consequence of this miracle, another one, not less wonderful, occurred. On another occasion, while Aleardino was seated at table he showed to one of his companions the same glass, and related to him the prodigy; this man, who was of the number of those who regard themselves as learned and of great intelligence, declared that it was hard and difficult to believe the wonders attributed to the saint, and taking in his hands a dry piece of a vine which was then in a basket of grapes, said: “I will believe the miracle that you relate of Anthony when this little branch of vine, which is so dry, will become green again and produce grapes, from which I could squeeze some juice to fill my glass.” Wonderful to relate, the branch became green, budded, and produced grapes, from which he squeezed the juice and drank of it. Such a prodigy of the Divine Omnipotence made him tremble with fear, and he was so confused that he confessed himself guilty of incredulity, and weeping in the bitterness of his heart, he humbly begged pardon of God and of the saint.
During the time that the body of Anthony remained unburied, on account of the disagreements of the citizens of Padua, Sister Olivia, of the Order of Saint Clare, who lived in the Monastery of Arcella, near which was the hospice of the Friars Minor, where the saint gave up his soul to God, approached the holy remains with great reverence and devotion to kiss his hands, and among other favors she requested the saint to obtain for her the grace of suffering in this life all the pains which she would have to suffer in the next world for her sins, so that nothing should remain for her to undergo after her death. Having made this prayer she returned to the monastery, and immediately she was assailed by such excruciating pains that she could not endure them, and began to cry out in such a way that all the other religious were in great trouble. She, became somewhat better toward midnight, so that the next day she was able to go to the refectory; but while there she was again assailed worse than the day before, and she began to cry out and twist herself like a snake. At this sight the religious believed that she was at the point of death, and the mother abbess ordered her to be brought into the infirmary, where the pains still continued, and seeing that she could not endure them, she prayed to the saint, that by his intercession she might be freed from them. She remembered that she had a portion of his habit, and she applied it to her body; immediately the spasms and pains vanished, and she was again able to resume her daily duties.
A young man of Padua was afflicted with a tumor on his neck. His mother made a vow that if he were healed she would bring him to the tomb of the saint, and there she would make an offering of a wax image and a torch. The young man was healed at once, at least in part; but as his mother did not entirely fulfil the the vow, having, through avarice-, neglected to offer the torch, the neck of the young man began to get worse, and his mother could find no other remedy for her son than to fulfil the vow.
All these miracles and many others were verified in the canonical process, and were read in the Cathedral of Spoleto, in the presence of a great number of people, who with joyful acclamations extolled the holiness of Anthony. The supreme pontiff arose, and having invoked the name of the most Holy Trinity, solemnly canonized the blessed Father Anthony and enrolled him in the catalogue of the saints. He decreed that his feast should be kept on the day on which he died — that is, the thirteenth of June, and granted the remission of a year’s penance to all those who, every year, would confess their sins and devoutly visit his holy sepulchre on the day of his feast and throughout the octave. Then all the prelates sang the “Te Deum,” after which His Holiness intoned the antiphon, “O Doctor Optime,” which was continued by the clergy. The supreme pontiff finished the solemn ceremony with the chant of the little versicle and the corresponding oration. A few days after the Pope wrote a bull, in which he notified all the prelates of the Catholic Church, exhorting them to venerate Saint Anthony.
“Gregory, Bishop, Servant of the Servants of God:
“To Our venerable brothers, archbishops and bishops, to Our beloved abbots, priors, and other prelates of the churches, who shall see the present letter, health and apostolic benediction.
“Since our Lord Jesus Christ says, through the prophet, ‘I will give you a name and praise among all the people of the earth’ (Zephaniah 3:20), and promises that the just ‘shall shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father’ (Matthew 13:43), it is therefore a pious and becoming thing that We should venerate, exalt, and glorify those here on earth who, on account of their merits and holiness, God crowns and honors in heaven. Surely God, to make known His omnipotence in an admirable manner, and to work through His mercy our eternal salvation, frequently is pleased to honor here on earth His faithful servants, whom he always rewards and crowns with glory in heaven, by rendering their memory glorious with signs and prodigies, by means of which heretical depravity is confused and unmasked, and the Catholic religion is more and more confirmed; the faithful Christians shake off their idleness and negligence, exciting themselves to the practice of good works; the heretics dispel from their hearts the darkness of the errors which blindfold them and return to the right road of the true faith, and finally the Jews and pagans, knowing the true light, run to Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Hence, my dear brethren, let us give thanks to God, if not as we ought, at least as we can, who, in our days, evidently renews the ancient wonders in confirmation of the Catholic Faith, to the confusion of the heretics, by making those great men shine with the light of miracles, who with their hearts, their voices, and their illustrious works have established the Catholic religion. Of this number was blessed Anthonv, of holy memory, of the Order of the Friars Minor, who, when alive, rendered himself renowned and illustrious by the greatness of his merits, and now that he lives in heaven, is honored by God with many miracles, in order that his memory should be proved by clear and undeniable signs.
“Our venerable brother, the Bishop of Padua, and Our beloved children, the magistrates and municipality of Padua, having sent ambassadors to Us with letters in which they humbly supplicate Us, saying that as the Lord, to manifest the merits and the immortal glory of His servant, has been pleased to make his tomb renowned by many miracles, it would be unworthy not to venerate Anthony as a saint and invoke his patronage, We commanded that a canonical process should be held. Considering, therefore, that to be a saint before God in the Church triumphant final perseverance is sufficient, according to the Sacred Scripture: ‘Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life,’ yet in order that a man be recognized as a saint before man in the Church militant, two things are necessary; namely, the virtue of his life and the truth of the miracles; that is to say, merits and miracles, because the one and the other should render testimony to each other, so that neither the merits without miracles, nor miracles without merits can be fully sufficient to authenticate one’s sanctity. On the contrary, when the merits precede and manifest miracles follow, then We have clear signs of holiness by which We are induced to venerate the person whom God makes known to Us, by the preceding merits and by subsequent miracles, to be worthy of Our veneration. These two conditions are contained in the words of the evangelist: ‘But they going forth, preached everywhere; the Lord co-operating with them, and confirming the word, with signs, that followed’ (Mark 16:20). Therefore We have judged it proper to appoint the above-mentioned bishop, and Our beloved children, Brother Jordan, prior of Saint Benedict, and Brother John, prior of the convent of Saint Augustine of the Order of Preachers, to receive the canonical deposition of the miracles of the saint. On account of the relation made to Us by the bishop and by the priors, and, also by the deposition of witnesses judicially examined in this affair, We have been assured of the virtues and of the miracles of blessed Anthony, whose holiness We have also experienced, and his admirable company, when he dwelt for a short time with Us; moreover, being again supplicated by the bishop, the magistrate and municipality of Padua, through ambassadors and letters, to enroll the same Brother Anthony among the saints, therefore, in order that by the apostolic authority, a worthy honor should be rendered to him on earth, who, being freed from this mortal life, merited to be with Jesus Christ, and is actually honored in heaven, as it appears by the evidence of miracles, We have decided, with the advice of Our brothers, the cardinals and all the prelates near the apostolic see, to enroll him in the number of the saints, so that it should not appear that We, in a certain way, would wish to diminish the honor and glory which is due to him if We permitted that he who is already glorified by God should be deprived of public veneration. Since, therefore, the holy gospel says: ‘Neither do men light a candle and put it under the bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may give light to all that are in the house,’ and because the lamp of the above-mentioned saint has been thus lighted and shining in this world, it has merited to be put not under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, We request that you should excite the devotion of the faithful to the veneration of him, and every year, on the thirteenth of June, that you should celebrate his feast, and order it to be solemnly celebrated, in order that the Lord, moved by the prayers of His servant, would grant Us His holy grace in this life and eternal glory in the next world. As We wish that the sepulchre of so great a confessor, who illustrates the Church of God with the splendor of His miracles, should be frequented with due honor, confiding in the mercy of Almighty God, and in the authority of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, We remit a year’s penance to all those who, truly contrite, confess their sins and visit devoutly the same sepulchre on the day of the feast and throughout the octave.
“Given at the city of Spoleto, on the third day of June, sixth year of Our pontificate.”
On the same day that the solemn ceremony of the canonization of Saint Anthony took place a wonderful event occurred in the city of Lisbon. All the bells of the city tolled of their own accord; the people, without knowing the reason, were full of joy and sang hymns of thanksgiving to God, and it was something admirable to see men and women so moved that they could not refrain from giving vent to demonstrations of joy. A few days later some Friars Minor came to Lisbon, and it was learned from them that on that very day Saint Anthony was canonized, and then the people understood the reason of their extraordinary joy and the miraculous tolling of the bells; for this reason they were full of joy and gave thanks to the Most High, who was pleased to glorify their fellow-citizen, even among men.
In the year 1231, in which occurred the death of the saint, the Church of Saint Mary was being enlarged; but after his canonization, seeing that the miracles were increasing, the people of Padua decided to build a large and magnificent church in honor of the saint, distinct from that of Saint Mary, but the plan was afterward changed, as it was thought better to enlarge the Church of Saint Mary and render it more majestic, as the body of the saint reposed there, which had been glorified by God with wonderful miracles. The work was begun, but it was interrupted on account of the disturbances caused by the tyranny of Ezzelino.
Frederick II, Emperor of Germany, having taken possession of Padua by force, placed over it Ezzelino, who, in the name of this ambitious emperor, ruled over it for nineteen years, and he oppressed the people with such tyranny and cruelty that he became odious to every one. They resolved to shake off his tyrannical yoke and rescue the unhappy city from his hands and restore its former liberty, in which they succeeded happily. The authors of this memorable undertaking were Azzo, Marquis of Este; Tisone, Lord of Campo Saint Pietro, and the nobility of Padua, who had been exiled by Ezzelino. In view of the fact that the cruelty of this tyrant was becoming worse and worse, they became incensed with indignation, and they appealed to the supreme pontiff, Alexander IV, requesting him to succor the unhappy people of Padua, who were so greatly oppressed. The Pope was moved to compassion by their unhappy state, and resolved to promulgate the crusade against Frederic II, Emperor of Germany, and Ezzelino, a heretic and disturber of the public peace.
The Pope appointed Monsignor Philip Fontana, archbishop-elect of Ravenna, as his legate in the Marca Trevigiana, who went at once to Bologna, where he enrolled about six thousand crusaders; he then went to Ferrara, where he enrolled a great number of the citizens; from there he went to Venice, where he found the citizens equally well disposed, and they furnished him not only with an army, but also with war ships, giving to him as leaders two men illustrious in military affairs: Marcus Badoers, who was appointed by the Pope as legate, marshal of the army of the crusaders, and Marcus Querino, whom the people of Padua elected as their prefect.
In the meanwhile Brother Luke Belluti of Padua, who had been a companion of the saint, and Brother Bartholomew Corradian, guardian of the convent of Padua, both belonging to illustrious families of the city, moved by the tears of their fellow-citizens, and by the terrible oppression of Ezzelino, prayed repeatedly at the tomb of the saint, confidently requesting him to intercede with the Father of Mercies to aid their unhappy city by freeing it from the cruel slavery of the tyrant. They heard a voice issuing from the tomb which assured them that in that same year, during the octave of his feast, the city of Padua would shake off the tyrannical yoke of Ezzelino and acquire its former liberty. This prediction was afterward verified.
The legate apostolic, at the head of a powerful army, approached the city of Padua, and took possession of it, banishing the followers of the emperor and Ezzelino. Ezzelino tried to recapture the city, but all his efforts were vain. With his army he went to take possession of Milan, but he was repulsed by the citizens; finally he tried to conquer Monza and Trezzo; there he was taken prisoner and brought to Sonico, where he ended his days, unrepentant, at the age of seventy.
It will not be out of place to give a brief sketch of the qualities of Ezzelino, as they are related by the historians. He was a man of middle size. When he was a simple citizen, serving in the army, though severe against his enemies, he was very mild, tractable, and courteous toward his friends, most faithful in keeping his promises, steady in his resolutions, wise and prudent in his counsels, and in all his actions an excellent soldier. After he began to have power he showed himself altogether different from what he had hitherto been, for he became austere in his countenance, terrible in his speech, proud in his carriage, and so ferocious in his aspect that with one look he inspired terror. He was the enemy of peace and the instigator of civil wars. He suspected every one and he always put a wrong construction on the deeds and sayings of others. He was avaricious to excess in accumulating money, spending it only for the army and to enlarge his domain. He was such an unmerciful tyrant that he treated barbarously a great number of people and experienced no horror at staining his hands with the blood of the innocent. He caused some to be murdered, others to be shut up in dark prisons, having no regard for young or old, virgins or innocent children, priests and religious or laymen, who perished with thirst and hunger. He caused the nose and ears of noble matrons and young women to be cut off, and compelled them to live thus for the remainder of their lives. He did not even spare his own relatives, for he caused the death of his father-in-law, with all his children, by imprisonment and starvation; also his brother Giramonte and a son of his sister, whom he cast into prison, where he perished miserably.
As a sworn enemy of the Church he gave vent to his rage even against religious persons, and caused the slaughter of sixty Friars Minor for having taken the part of the people, and for having reproached him for his cruelties. He did not hesitate to deform God’s annointed by depriving them of their eyes and cutting out their tongues, casting them into prison, condemning them to suffer hunger, and casting them to the flames.
He was so blinded by avarice as to take the lives of those who possessed riches, so that he might have what belonged to them. He despoiled bishoprics, abbeys, churches, stealing the sacred vessels, gold and silver images of the Saviour, the Blessed Virgin, and the saints, to coin them into money.
On account of his crimes and his enmity against the Catholic Church Alexander IV. was obliged to condemn him as a perfidious heretic, as well as all his adherents. He thus became odious before God and man, and when he thought to increase his power and to render his name famous, he ended his days miserably. A great number of his adherents belonged to Verona, and he made this city the centre of his atrocities because it was faithful to him.
All the disturbances caused in Padua by the tyranny of Ezzelino having been ended by divine Providence, in the year 1259 the work on the enlargement of the Church of Saint Mary was resumed with great fervor. In the progress of years this temple became so large and so magnificent that it can be numbered among the most celebrated ones of Europe. The structure is composed of two parts; the anterior portion is very ancient, and some historians are of the opinion that it was built some centuries before the birth of the Saviour; the other is a new addition. The first extends from the eastern side of the door to the gallery, and this was the church donated to the Friars Minor in the year 1229, under the title of Saint Mary; the name was afterward changed to the Santo. The new portion renders that temple very majestic, and shows the great veneration and gratitude of the Paduans toward the saint, and the Christian piety of Catholic princes and other illustrious personages in honoring it with their gifts.
In this magnificent temple three translations of the remains of the saint occurred. The first took place in the year 1263, in which year the people of Padua had, according to Wadding, prepared a mausoleum, where the remains of the saint were deposited. At this solemn translation, which took place on the first Sunday after Easter (the eighth of April), was present the seraphic doctor, Saint Bonaventure, then minister-general of the Friars Minor, who afterward was created cardinal by Gregory X and Bishop of Albano. This saintly general opened the casket in which the body of the saint had been for thirty-two years. The flesh was reduced to dust, like sand, and the bones remained bare; but the tongue was found to be intact, as if it were the tongue of a living person. The great seraphic doctor, moved by this wonderful miracle, and weeping with joy and tenderness, took the tongue in his hands with reverence, in the presence of all, and gazing at it as if in ecstasy, burst forth in this memorable eulogy: “Oh, blessed tongue, which always didst bless the Lord and madest others also bless Him, now it is evident how great a merit thou hast before God!” He kissed the tongue with great devotion and gave it to the magistrates of the city, in order that it might be placed in a proper and separate place. The urn was therefore transferred, as we read in Valerio Polidoro, and other biographers of the saint, to the place where it is at present; for although in the year 1310 it was removed, it was again replaced in the year 1350, as we shall see. It was placed in a very rich and precious reliquary, formed in the shape of an ostensorium, as may be seen at present.
Father Ignatius Martinez, a Portuguese, a member of the illustrious Society of Jesus, returning to his country from the fourth congregation held in Rome, came to Padua to venerate the remains of Saint Anthony; he devoutly kissed the sacred tongue of the saint, and experienced a wonderful effect, for he felt himself suddenly changed into a new man and he seemed to be invested with the spirit and zeal of Saint Anthony. After he returned to Portugal he began to preach in the apostolic style, with such fervor of spirit and with such spiritual fruits that lie astonished all the people; this was due to the veneration and devotion he had for the great child of Saint Francis of Assisi.
The second translation of the body of Saint Anthony took place in the year 1310. On this occasion the urn containing the sacred remains was transferred to the middle of the church, because in the place where Saint Bonaventure had put it was to be built a large and magnificent chapel corresponding to the great treasure that it was to contain and to the grandeur of the temple.
On the fourteenth of February, 1350, the third translation of the remains of the saint took place. Guidus of Montfort, a Frenchman, who was cardinal priest of the title of Saint Lucy, Bishop of Port, apostolic legate of Lombardy, Marca Trevigiana, Germany, Hungary, and the kingdom of Naples, entered Padua, on the ninth of March, 1349, and was met by the magistrates, the clergy, and the people, and he took up his residence there. From there he went to Venice by way of Treviso and to Hungary, where he arranged a truce between the king of that nation and Ludovic, husband of Queen Johanna of Naples. In February, 1350, he returned to Padua, and in memory of a singular benefit which he had obtained from God through the intercession of Saint Anthony, went to visit the church to venerate and give thanks to the saint. In gratitude to the saint lie caused a silver urn to be made at his own expense, to which the sacred relics were transferred, with great solemnity, on the fourteenth of February; then the cardinal legate, in the presence of the Patriarch of Aquileja, the Archbishop of Zara, the Bishop of Padua, and many other bishops and prelates, celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The marble urn was transferred from the middle of the church to the new chapel, where it is at present.
In the year 1350, in which the last translation of the saint’s body was made, a terrible incident occurred on the tenth of April, as related in the history of Cortusi. While passing through the city of Padua on his way to Rome, a certain nobleman, called the Duke of Poland by the historians, visited the Temple of Saint Prosdocimus, first Bishop of Padua, a disciple of Saint Peter, who had also been Bishop of Rieti; he also visited the Church of Saint Justina and that of the Santo, admiring its magnificence and beauty, and asked whose temple it was. On being told that it was the Church of Saint Anthony, protector of the city, a gentleman who accompanied the duke began to laugh and mock the saint, saying: “Is he, perhaps, that Anthony in whose name the pigs carry little bells on their necks?”
No sooner had he uttered these words than he was chastised by God for his impious derision, for the arm which he had stretched toward the temple was immediately paralyzed and the mouth from which came such satirical and contemptible words was extended to the ears; he looked so hideous that those who saw him were horrified. The duke was frightened at this sight, and having asked the reason of such a sudden and terrible event, he was fully informed by his own son. After he heard the cause he became thoughtful, not knowing what to do; but being illumined by God, he said: “Let us go and implore a remedy for this unhappy man from Him who justly punished him.” They therefore entered the church, the duke leading the miserable man by the hand; they went to the urn where the saint’s remains reposed, and after having begged pardon, with many tears, for his fault, and having prayed devoutly, he obtained his recovery from God, through the intercession of Saint Anthony, to the great wonder and joy of the duke and of the whole city.