History of St. Anthony of Padua
St. Anthony was born Fernando Martins to a wealthy family in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1195. He entered the Augustinian monastery at the age of 15. After two years he was transferred to the motherhouse of the congregation, the Abbey of Santa Cruz in Coimbra, and was eventually ordained a priest.
While he was a priest at the Augustinian monastery, the remains of a group of Franciscan martyrs were brought to the Abbey via a large cortege. Inspired by their example, Fernando said to the Franciscans, “Brother, I would gladly put on the habit of your Order if you would promise to send me as soon as possible to the land of the Saracens, that I may gain the crown of the holy martyrs.” Upon obtaining permission to join the newly established Franciscan Order, Fernando changed his name to Anthony.
St. Anthony traveled to Morocco but soon fell ill. While attempting to return to Portugal, his ship was detoured to Sicily due to a violent storm and high winds. While recovering, Anthony spent his time praying and studying at a hermitage. During a visit from Dominican friars, Anthony was called up to give a homily. Though he tried to decline, he ended up giving the homily, surprising everyone with his eloquence, passion, and holiness. Thereafter, Anthony’s preaching became widely respected.
Venerated the world over as the Patron Saint of Lost Articles, Anthony had a book of psalms that he used when teaching and giving sermons while traveling throughout northern Italy and southern France. He quite valued this book and was distraught when he realized it had been stolen. Anthony prayed, asking God for his book to be returned. After his prayer, the novice who had stolen the book from him returned it. Because of this, a book is often depicted with St. Anthony. His book can be found at the Franciscan friary in Bologna, Italy.
St. Anthony of Padua died on June 13, 1231, at the age of 36 at the Poor Clare monastery at Arcella, Italy (now part of Padua). He is buried in the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua, Italy. St. Anthony of Padua was canonized within the year by Pope Gregory IX (his friend), and people began praying for St. Anthony’s intercession when items were lost or stolen.
Remembering St. Anthony
In addition to being the Patron of stolen and lost items, St. Anthony of Padua is considered the Patron Saint of sailors and fishermen (especially in Spain, France, and Italy), elderly people, harvests, and the mail. Just like St. Jude, St. Anthony preached the Gospel of Jesus with great fervor and can be called upon for intercession in desperate times.