The gospel call to leave everything and follow Christ was the rule of Anthony’s life. Over and over again God called him to something new in his plan. Every time Anthony responded with renewed zeal and self-sacrificing to serve his Lord Jesus more completely. His journey as the servant of God began as a very young man when he decided to join the Augustinians, giving up a future of wealth and power to be a servant of God. Later, when the bodies of the first Franciscan martyrs went through the Portuguese city where he was stationed, he was again filled with an intense longing to be one of those closest to Jesus himself: those who die for the Good News.
So Anthony entered the Franciscan Order and set out to preach to the Moors. But an illness prevented him from achieving that goal. He went to Italy and was stationed in a small hermitage where he spent most of his time praying, reading the Scriptures and doing menial tasks.
The call of God came again at an ordination where no one was prepared to speak. The humble and obedient Anthony hesitantly accepted the task. The years of searching for Jesus in prayer, of reading sacred Scripture and of serving him in poverty, chastity and obedience had prepared Anthony to allow the Spirit to use his talents. Anthony’s sermon was astounding to those who expected an unprepared speech and knew not the Spirit’s power to give people words.
Recognized as a great man of prayer and a great Scripture and theology scholar, Anthony became the first friar to teach theology to the other friars. Soon he was called from that post to preach to the heretics, to use his profound knowledge of Scripture and theology to convert and reassure those who had been misled.The feast day of St. Anthony is June 13.
Anthony should be the patron of those who find their lives completely uprooted and set in a new and unexpected direction. Like all saints, he is a perfect example of turning one’s life completely over to Christ. God did with Anthony as God pleased—and what God pleased was a life of spiritual power and brilliance that still attracts admiration today. He whom popular devotion has nominated as finder of lost objects found himself by losing himself totally to the providence of God.
In his Sermons, Anthony says: “The saints are like the stars. In his providence Christ conceals them in a hidden place that they may not shine before others when they might wish to do so. Yet they are always ready to exchange the quiet of contemplation for the works of mercy as soon as they perceive in their heart the invitation of Christ.”
How did St. Anthony, most known for his skill at preaching, become associated with finding lost things?
When he was teaching friars, Anthony had a book of psalms that was very important to him. This was before the advent of the printing press, so the book itself was extremely valuable, but more importantly, it also had his notes for teaching which were irreplaceable.
A disgruntled novice decided to leave the community and took Anthony’s psalter with him! Upon realizing it was missing, Anthony prayed it would be found or returned to him. The novice saw a vision which compelled him to return the psalter to Anthony and return to the Order which accepted him back. The stolen book is said to be preserved in the Franciscan friary in Bologna. Shortly after his death people began asking St. Anthony’s help to find or recover lost and stolen articles.
One of the most beloved of saints, his images and statues are ubiquitous. Proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on January 16, 1946, he is sometimes called “Evangelical Doctor”. He is especially invoked for the recovery of things lost (“Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, please come around. Something is lost and cannot be found.”).
On January 27, 1907 in Beaumont, Texas, a church was dedicated and named in honor of St. Anthony of Padua. The church was later designated a cathedral in 1966 with the formation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Beaumont, but was not formally consecrated. On April 28, 1974, St Anthony Cathedral was dedicated and consecrated by Bishop Warren Boudreaux. In 2006 Pope Benedict XVI granted St. Anthony Cathedral the designation of minor basilica. St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica celebrated its 100th anniversary on January 28, 2007.
Seventeenth century Spanish missionaries came across a small Native American community along what was then known as the Yanaguana River on the feast day of Saint Anthony and renamed the river and eventually a mission built nearby in his honor. This mission became the focal point of a small community that eventually grew in size and scope to become the city of San Antonio.
St. Anthony is known in Brazil and Portugal as a marriage saint, because legend has him as one who conciliated couples. His feast day, June 13, is Lisbon’s municipal holiday, celebrated with parades and marriages of humble couples, and he is one of the saints celebrated in the Brazilian Festa Junina (along with John the Baptist and Saint Peter). The previous day, June 12, is the Brazilian Valentine’s Day.
In Uvari, in Tamil Nadu, India, the church of St. Anthony is home to an ancient wooden statue that is said to have cured the entire crew of a Portuguese ship suffering from cholera. St Anthony is said to perform many miracles daily, and Uvari is visited by pilgrims of different religions from all over South India.