June saint: St. Anthony of Padua
“St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around, something’s lost and can’t be found.”
St. Anthony of Padua may hold the record for number of times he has been called upon by Catholics (and a few others) for his particular prayers of intercession; that’s because he is the patron saint of lost items. But who was Anthony really, and why is he the first person we think of when we can’t find our car keys?
Anthony was born Fernando Martins in Lisbon, Portugal, around the year 1195. Though his very wealthy family wanted him to become a powerful nobleman, Fernando already had decided that his life would take a different path. In 1217, he joined the Canons Regular of St. Augustine but only remained with them for a short time. In 1220, when the bodies of the first Franciscan martyrs went through the Portuguese city in which he was stationed, Fernando was filled with a desire to join that order instead. The Franciscans agreed to his request and Fernando soon became Brother Anthony.
Inspired by the deaths of those first Franciscan martyrs, Anthony decided that he also wished to die for the faith. To that end, he set off for Morocco to preach to the Moors, but a serious illness prevented him from accomplishing his goal. Instead, he found himself in a small hermitage in Italy, where he spent his time praying, reading scripture and taking upon himself the most menial tasks.
It wasn’t until he was asked at the last minute to preach at an ordination in 1221 that Anthony’s greatest gift was revealed. Fortified by years of reading and reflection, he gave such an astonishing and moving homily that he subsequently found himself named the preacher of the province of Romagna, Italy. His reputation for knowledge spread, and St. Francis himself set him as a teacher to the other friars. He soon became a renowned speaker throughout both Italy and France, refuting the Cathar heresy and convincing many Albigensians to return to the faith. One story says that once, when Anthony tried to preach to some heretics who refused to listen to him, he preached to the fish instead. According to the legend, the fish began to gather, and those who had been his critics decided that perhaps they should listen to him also.
When St. Francis died in 1226, Anthony was made minister provincial of Romagna, whose principle city was Padua. When he reached the last days of his life, Anthony retired to a treetop hermitage, where he completed his work, “Sunday Sermons.” He died in 1231 and was canonized less than a year later. Because of his eloquent teaching, he was named a Doctor of the Church in 1946.
His feast day is June 13.
And those lost items? Legend has it that a young novice, who had decided to leave the order, stole a book from Anthony; when the saint prayed for its return he got back, not only the book, but a repentant young man as well.
Sources for this article include:
“Saint Anthony of Padua.” CatholicSaints.Info. 14 March 2022.
Schreck, Alan. “Catholic Church History from A to Z.” Michigan: Servant Publications, 2002.