by Fr. Vic Kevin Ferrer
FEAST DAY: June 13
St Anthony of Padua is famous as the patron for finding lost things. If you lost your wallet, a key, or maybe you have an important document that went missing, calling on St Anthony will most likely help you find what you are looking for. What if it’s your love life that is missing? Well, having a devotion to St Anthony is your chance as he is also known as the patron saint of those who seek a spouse. But more than simply being a finder of lost things or a soulmate, there is so much more about St Anthony that should make us love him and look up to him as our model. Born to a rich family in Lisbon, Portugal on the year 1195, Anthony was originally named Fernando. At age 15, he joined the Augustinians and studied Theology and the Sacred Scriptures. After being ordained a priest, he encountered a group of Franciscan Friars who were on their way to Morocco on a mission to preach the Gospel. Those same Franciscan friars were martyred in Morocco and only their dead bodies returned to Portugal. This inspired Fernando so much that he desired to follow in their footsteps. He decided to transfer to the Franciscan order to be able to go on a mission that included the probability of becoming a martyr. Taking on the Franciscan habit, he was given the name Anthony and thus he was known until the day of his death.
As a Franciscan, he was sent to Morocco and got sick upon his arrival. Martyrdom there was not God’s will for him as he had to go back to Portugal to regain his health. Aboard the ship that was to take him home, a storm broke out at sea and blew them off course to Sicily. From there he traveled to Tuscany and he was assigned to a small Franciscan convent where he spent a life of prayer and solitude while continuing to recover from his illness. His quiet and obscure life would eventually come to an end when people discovered his gift of preaching by accident. During an ordination ceremony which he attended, the priest who was supposed to give the sermon did not arrive for some reasons and no friar volunteered to take the task. Anthony’s superior made up his mind and asked him to speak whatever was in his mind. Out of obedience Anthony obliged to give the sermon. Everyone who heard him preach was amazed by his eloquence and simplicity of style. From then on, he was a sought after preacher and gained a reputation as “hammer of heretics.” St. Francis of Assissi learned about the intellectual gift and holiness of Anthony and thus appointed him in charge of the education of all the friars. Anthony traveled throughout Italy and France to preach and wherever he went huge crowds of people were waiting to hear him speak. His mere presence radiated holiness, his words were simple and clear and his messages were fearless and straight to the point. In 1231, Anthony became ill while preaching outside of Padua. He asked to be brought home to his convent in Padua but even before reaching their destination he passed away. He was only 35 years old. A little less than a year later, in 1232, he was canonized a saint by Pope Gregory IX in what was one of the fastest canonization processes in history.
Looking at the life of St. Anthony of Padua, here are 5 ways we can follow him to the path of holiness: 1. Study the Sacred Scriptures and fall in love with it. Dedicate 30 minutes to 1 hour each day to read and meditate on the Word of God. Read the Bible or follow the daily liturgical readings. Through the Scriptures we can get to know Christ better and knowing is the first step to loving and following Jesus. St. Anthony was 15 when he started studying the Scriptures. His knowledge of Scriptures strengthened his faith and his conviction to dedicate his life to Christ. It became his guiding light throughout his life. 2. Be courageous in proclaiming the truth even if it means suffering. In a world where fake news proliferates and honest and truthful people are often persecuted, we are called to be witnesses to the truth. It is not always easy to confront another person with the truth about his or her actions. Oftentimes we are tempted to simply remain silent about the wrongs happening around us. St. Anthony was well known during his lifetime to be someone who speaks to people directly about their sins. He did not hesitate to point out something evil as evil. Of course it was in the spirit of charity that he did that and so we too must remember to do the same in charity. Those who heard St. Anthony’s powerful preaching repented of their sins. Who knows, a simple reminder to a friend might be the start of a conversion?
3. Always seek God’s will and be open to His many surprises.
Remember that God is in control and that He has only good plans for you. Things in your life will not always turn out as you planned but trust God anyway. St. Anthony must have simply wanted to be an Augustinian priest dedicating his entire life to studies inside a monastery. But God has other plans, and through prayer he discerned God’s will and made himself available to God who took him to places and positions he never even dreamed of. In the process he was able to serve God and give glory to Him.
4. Learn to share your gifts.
But before you can do this, first you must know what your gifts are. Keep in mind that to each individual is given a gift, as St. Paul tells us. Those gifts are given to us not just for our own benefit but for the good of the bigger community. We know St. Anthony today as the ‘Seraphic Doctor of the Church’ because of his extraordinary gift of preaching. But before he was known to preach he was content living a quiet life of prayer and solitude. However, once he discovered his gift of preaching and people knew about it, he never stopped preaching because he knew it was a gift to be shared, a gift to be used for the greater glory of God.
5. Tell the Good News even without opening your mouth.
St. Francis of Assissi is famously quoted as telling his friars to “preach and if necessary use words.” This reminds us that the most powerful tool for proclaiming the Good News is by the witness of our lives. In St. Anthony’s lifetime, his mere presence already radiates holiness and peace to people around him. Even without speaking, people feel God in him. And when he speaks, he has credibility because he is known to be a man of integrity. This is how we are all called to live. Before you speak with words about God, about what is right and true, it would be good to look yourself in the mirror and see if you are living a life that reflects God even without words.
Let us pray.
Almighty God, You have given
St. Anthony to your people
as an outstanding preacher
and a ready helper in time of need.
With his assistance may we follow
the Gospel of Christ
and know the help of your grace
in every difficulty.
Grant this through our Lord
Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.