The Life of St. Anthony the Wonder Worker of Padua
Devotion to the saints has always been a great characteristic of our Catholic life. These blessed souls have ever had a place in our hearts which is second only to that of God and His Blessed Mother. We have honoured them because they are the heroes and heroines of the Faith and the special friends of Almighty God. We have honoured them too, because we know that in them we have powerful advocates who are ever ready to plead with their Divine Friend on our behalf.
This pamphlet has been compiled in the hope that it will provide a handy source of prayers and devotions for many lovers of St. Anthony of Padua, and also with a view to introducing to ''the Saint of the world'' the few who may not know him.
Anthony was born in Lisbon, Portugal in the year 1195. At the age of fifteen he entered the community of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine. Two years later he was sent to the convent of the Augustinians in Coimbra. It was there the he met five Franciscans who were destined to become the first martyrs amongst the sons of Francis of Assisi. They came to the convent one night, begging hospitality, and were welcomed by the Canons, who were even more kind when they heard that the Friars were on their way to Morocco to preach the Gospel to the Saracens. Anthony listened with rapt attention to the guests, and, in his capacity of guest - master, tirelessly ministered to their every need. When they had set out on their journey again, they left behind in the heart of Anthony a great desire to follow them and to give his life to God in the foreign missions. Only five months later the five Friars were martyred and their bodies were brought back to Coimbra. This event decided Anthony and he asked to be allowed to transfer to the Franciscan Order so that he might realise his heroic ambition. His request was granted and a few months later we find him on his way to the Mohammedan Mission of Morocco in quest of souls and martyrdom. However, the hour when he seemed to have reached his goal was the prelude to deep disappointment. No sooner had he landed than he was stricken down with fever and there was nothing for him to do but to return home. But God had great works in store for him and gave him, through his superiors, an outlet for his missionary zeal in Italy and France.
Everywhere he went he lit the flame of fervour in the hearts of the thousands of people, who flocked to hear him, and very soon his preaching, together with the miracles which he worked constantly, made the name of Anthony a household word. He set himself to combat the heresies of the Manichees and the Albigenses. His success in this conflict was enormous and the heretics returned in great numbers to the Faith, the shackles which bound their souls smashed by this powerful Hammer of Heresies.
In 1228 Anthony was sent to Padua-the city which has claimed him as its own and has guarded proudly and affectionately his name and fame. There it was that he spent the last years of his all too short life; and there it was that he died on June the 13th, 1231. Less than a year later, on May the 30th, 1232, he was solemnly canonised by Pope Gregory IX, who decreed that his feast should be celebrated each year on the anniversary of his death.
The seven hundred years that have passed since his death have witnessed a remarkable devotion to this glorious saint-so outstanding, indeed, that Pope Leo XIII would have him called "the saint of the whole world." He has won this honour first of all because of the astonishing way in which God has honoured him and the strong appeal that his beautiful, heroic life must make to all who read about him. But he has won this devotion also because of the all-embracing power he has shown to help us in our many needs, both spiritual and temporal. If Anthony was a wonder-worker in life he has earned a far greater right to that title since his entrance into eternal life. It almost seems as though God's beautiful gesture in coming to rest as the Diving Infant in the arms of Anthony was a symbol of the way in which He was to put His choicest gifts and graces into the arms of the saint-ever stretched out through the centuries, pleading in our name. To borrow the words of the Bollandists: "It is impossible to describe adequately the marvels and wonders with which God has deigned to glorify His servant.
The miracles of Anthony are so constant and so numerous as to appear to constitute one great unceasing miracle and it would be a greater miracle still if he ceased to work them.
So famous have they rendered him in the eyes of all people that one is often tempted to remark that Almighty God plays with him as with his holy father, St. Francis, in granting him the power to work wonders, no so much for the needs of souls as for the pleasure it gives Him to rejoice our hearts through His servant, Anthony."
No plea is too trivial, none too great, when we make it to Anthony of Padua. It may be that we come only to ask him to find some trifle we have lost.
Or perhaps we come in great need-dire need. Whatever our request we can rely on him to help us. Today the words of the Responsory attributed to St. Bonaventure are being echoed by a world-wide chorus of grateful souls, forever acknowledging to their beloved saint that
"Death, error, all calamities,
The leprosy and demons fly,
And health succeeds infirmities.
The sea obeys and fetters break,
And lifeless limbs thou dost restore,
While treasures lost are found again
When young and old thine aid implore."
The Holy Father, Pope Pius XII, raised St. Anthony to the dignity of Doctor of the Church under the title of "the Evangelical Doctor." It is not, perhaps, that in these days of great need, when the wants of our troubled hearts are many, Divine Providence would remind us again of His beloved friend, whom He loves to honour by granting requests, which we make through his intercession?