Anthony of Padua
Fernando Martins de Bulhões was born in Lisbon to Martin Vicente 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 of St. Augustine 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.
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, and, inspired by their example, obtained permission from church authorities to leave the Augustinian canons to join the new Franciscan Order.
On the journey to Italy to enter the new order, his ship was driven by a storm onto the coast of Sicily and he landed at Messina. From Sicily he made his way to Assisi and sought admission into a convent of the order in Italy, but 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, Italy, 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. Upon his entry to the Franciscan Order, he took the name Anthony.
Preaching and Teaching
One day, on the occasion of an ordination, a great many visiting Dominican friars were present, and there was some misunderstanding over who should preach. The Franciscans naturally expected that one of the Dominicans would occupy the pulpit, for they were renowned for their preaching; the Dominicans, on the other hand, had come unprepared, thinking that a Franciscan would be the homilist. In this quandary, the head of the hermitage, who had no one among his own humble friars suitable for the occasion, called upon Anthony, whom he suspected was most qualified, and entreated him to speak whatever the Holy Spirit should put into his mouth. Anthony objected but was overruled, and his sermon created a deep impression. Not only his rich voice and arresting manner, but the entire theme and substance of his discourse and his moving eloquence, held the attention of his hearers.
At that point, Anthony was commissioned by Brother Gratian, the local Minister Provincial, to preach the Gospel throughout the area of Lombardy, in northern Italy. In this capacity he came to the attention of the founder of the order, St. Francis of Assisi. Francis had held a strong distrust of the place of theological studies in the life of his brotherhood, fearing that it might lead to an abandonment of their commitment to a life of real poverty. In Anthony, however, he found a kindred spirit for his vision, who was also able to provide the teaching needed by young members of the order who might seek ordination. He thereby entrusted the pursuit of studies for any of his friars to the care of Brother Anthony. From then on his skills were used to the utmost by the Church. Occasionally he took another post, as a teacher, for instance, at the universities of Montpellier and Toulouse in southern France, but it was as a preacher that Anthony revealed his supreme gift.
In 1226, after attending the General Chapter of his order held at Arles, France, and preaching in the French region of Provence, Anthony returned to Italy and served as envoy from the general chapter to Pope Gregory IX. At the Papal court, his preaching was hailed as a "jewel case of the Bible" and he was commissioned to produce his collection of sermons, Sermons for Feast Days (Sermones in Festivitates).
Anthony became ill with dropsy and, in 1231, went to the woodland retreat at Camposampiero with two other friars for a respite. There Anthony lived in a cell built for him under the branches of a walnut tree. Saint Anthony died on the way back to Padua on 13 June 1231 at the Poor Clare monastery at Arcella, aged 36.
Various legends surround the death of Anthony. One holds that when he died, the children cried in the streets and that all the bells of the churches rang of their own accord. Another legend regards his tongue. Anthony is buried in a chapel within the large basilica built to honor him, where his tongue is displayed for veneration in a large reliquary. When his body was exhumed thirty years after his death, it was claimed that the tongue glistened and looked as if it was still alive and moist; apparently a further claim was made that this was a sign of his gift of preaching.
His fame spread through Portuguese evangelization, and he has been known as the most celebrated of the followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. He is the patron saint of his adopted home of Padua, as well as of his native Lisbon, not to mention many other places in Portugal and in the countries of the former Portuguese Empire. He is especially invoked for the recovery of lost items.
Proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XII on January 16, 1946, he is sometimes called the "Evangelical Doctor" (Doctor Evangelicus).
Unfailing prayer to Saint Anthony
St. Anthony, gentlest of Saints, your love for God and charity for his creatures, made you worthy, when on earth, to possess miraculous powers. Miracles waited on your word, which you were ready to speak for those in trouble or anxiety. Encouraged by this thought, I ask you to obtain for me the favors that I seek (mention your request here).
The answer to my prayer may require a miracle, even so, you are the Saint of Miracles.
O gentle and loving St. Anthony, whose heart was full of sympathy, whisper my petition into the ears of the Infant Jesus, who loved to be held in your arms; and the gratitude of my heart will ever by yours.