Anthony of Padua was born Fernando Martins on 15 August 1195 in Lisbon, Portugal in a very rich and noble family. At the age of fifteen, he entered the community of Canons Regular at the Augustinian Abbey of Saint Vincent on the outskirts of Lisbon. Later distracted by the frequent visits from his family and friends, he asked for a transfer to the Abbey of Santa Cruz in Coimbra. There he studied Theology and Latin. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 16 January 1946. He is also the saint of finding things or lost people.
After his ordination to priesthood, while he was in Coimbra, some Franciscan friars arrived and settled in a small hermitage dedicated to St. Anthony of Egypt. Fernando was strongly attracted to the simple, evangelical style of the friars. The Franciscan order had been founded just eleven years prior. News arrived that five Franciscans had been beheaded in Morocco. King Alfonso ransomed their bodies to be returned and buried as martyrs in the abbey of Santa Cruz. Fernando was strongly inspired by this example and obtained permission from the Church authorities to leave the Canons regular to join the new Franciscan Order. After the admission to the life of the friars he lived in a small hermitage in Olivais, adopting the name Anthony which was the name of the chapel there dedicated to St. Anthony the great.
The reason St. Anthony’s help is invoked for finding things lost or stolen is traced to an incident that occurred in Bologna. According to the story, Anthony had a book of psalms that was of importance to him as it contained the notes and comments he had made to use in teaching his students. A novice who had decided to leave took the psalter with him. Prior to the invention of printing press, a book was considered to be of great value. Upon noticing it was missing, he prayed it would be found. The thief was moved to restore the book to Anthony and return to the Order. The stolen book is said to be preserved in the Franciscan friary in Bologna.
He became ill with Ergotism and in 1231 went to woodland retreat in Camposampiero with two friars for a respite. He died on the way back to Padua on 13 June 1231 at the Poor Clare monastery, aged 35.
Anthony was canonized by Pope Gregory IX on 30 May 1232, less than one year after his death. He was the second fastest saint to be canonized (after St. Peter of Verona). St. Anthony has been attributed to many miracles and has been greatly known for his art of preaching.
Sharon Vas, Student Representative, ACC