A Guide to St Anthony of Padua

Saints Day June 13th

Anthony of Padua, O.F.M., also known as Anthony of Lisbon (born Fernando Martins de Bulhões; 15 August 1195 – 13 June 1231) was a Portuguese Catholic priest and friar of the Franciscan Order. Though he died in Padua, he was born and raised in a wealthy family in Lisbon. Noted by his contemporaries for his forceful preaching and expert knowledge of scripture, he was the fastest canonized saint and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 16 January 1946.

Early life

Fernando Martins de Bulhões was born in Lisbon to Vicente Martins de Bulhões and Teresa Pais Taveira. His father was the brother of Pedro Martins de Bulhões, the ancestor of the Bulhão or Bulhões family. His was a very rich family of the nobility who wanted him to become educated, and they arranged for him to be instructed at the local cathedral school. Against the wishes of his family, however, he entered the community of Canons Regular at the Abbey of St. Vincent on the outskirts of Lisbon. The Canons were famous for their dedication to scholarly pursuits, and sent the youth to their major center of studies, the Abbey of the Holy Cross in Coimbra. There the young Fernando studied theology and Latin.

Joining the Franciscans

After his ordination to the priesthood, Fernando was named guestmaster and placed in charge of hospitality for the abbey. It was in this capacity, in 1219, that he came into contact with five Franciscan friars who were on their way to Morocco to preach the Gospel to the Muslims there. Fernando was strongly attracted to the simple, evangelical lifestyle of the friars, whose order had been founded only eleven years prior. In February of the following year, news arrived that the five Franciscans had been martyred in Morocco, the first to be killed in their new order. Seeing their bodies as they were processed back to Assisi, Fernando meditated on the heroism of these men; inspired by their example, and longing for the same gift of martyrdom, he obtained permission from church authorities to leave the Augustinian Canons to join the new Franciscan Order. Upon his admission to the life of the friars, he joined the small hermitage in Olivais, adopting the name Anthony (from the name of the chapel located there, dedicated to Saint Anthony the Great), by which he was to be known.

The new Brother Anthony then set out for Morocco, in fulfillment of his new vocation. Illness, however, stopped him on his journey. At this point, he decided to head to Italy, the center of his new order. On the voyage there, his ship was driven by a storm onto the coast of Sicily and he landed at Messina. From Sicily he made his way to Tuscany where he was assigned to a convent of the order, but he met with difficulty on account of his sickly appearance. He was finally assigned, out of pure compassion, to the rural hospice of San Paolo near Forlì, Romagna, a choice made after considering his poor health. There he appears to have lived as a hermit and was put to work in the kitchen, while being allowed to spend much time in private prayer and study.

Basillica of St Anthony in Padua

Images of St Anthony from Churches around the world

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