Born in Lisbon in A.D. 1195, St. Anthony, né Ferdinand, was the son
of noble, God-fearing parents. He received a good education, and, at the
age of fifteen, joined the Canons Regular of St. Augustine which whom he
studied Sacred Scripture and the writings of the Fathers. At around the age
of 25, he became inspired by the Franciscans martyred in Morocco and decided
to join their Order, taking the name "Anthony."
Illness prevented his going to Morocco, so he spent some time in Sicily,
in Assisi, and then in Montepaolo his public life began: during the ordination
of a group of Franciscan and Dominican friars, it was discovered that no
one had been appointed to preach. The superior turned to the Dominicans first
because they are the "Order of Preachers," but all declined, saying they
were not prepared. So St. Anthony stepped up -- and began to teach so beautifully
that word of his talents reached the ears of St. Francis, who blessed his
St. Anthony taught at Bologna, Montpellier, and Toulouse, but it was as a
fearless orator (he became known as the "Hammer of the Heretics") and a miracle
worker that he is most reknowned.
Among these miracles:
In Rimini, an ass
which hadn't eaten in three days refused the oats placed before him, till
he had knelt down and adored the Blessed Sacrament held in St. Anthony's
Some Italian heretics
offered him poisoned food which he rendered harmless by the sign of the cross.
On Holy Thursday,
while preaching in the Church of St. Pierre du Queriox at Limoges, he remembered
he had to sing the Divine Office in the choir. He bilocated, appearing among
the friars to sing, and continued on with his preaching.
Again while preaching
in Limoges (in the square des creux des Arenes), he miraculously kept his
audience dry from the rain.
During the sermon
at St. Junien, he rightfully predicted that the devil would cause the pulpit
to break, but that everyone would be safe.
Either in the province
of Limousin at the Castle of Chateauneuf-la-Forêt, between Limoges
and Eymoutiers or at Camposanpiero, near Padua, the Infant Jesus was seen
by fellow friars visiting with St. Anthony in his room.
On his way back
to Italy after the death of St. Francis (3 October, 1226), he travelled through
Provence where, tired from travel, he and his companions entered the house
of a poor woman, who placed bread and wine before them. She had forgotten,
though, to shut off the tap of the wine-barrel -- and as the wine was running
out, one of Anthony's companions broke his glass. Anthony prayed, and the
wine barrel was filled up again and the glass was made whole.
Among his last
sermons were those preached during Lent of 1231. Huge crowds of people --
30,000 and more -- gathered to hear him. His powerful oratory -- and the
fact that Athony would appear to many of the people in visions urging repentance
-- caused so great a number of people to want to repent, that there weren't
enough priests to deal with them. These visions -- often taking place in
dreams -- occurred after his death, too.
In Padua, a young
man named Leonardo kicked his own mother in a fit of anger. He confessed
his fault to St. Anthony who said to him: "The foot of him who kicks his
mother deserves to be cut off." Leonardo ran home and cut off his foot. Learning
of this, St. Anthony took the amputated foot and miraculously rejoined it.
Near Padua took
place the famous "sermon to the fishes" when, to impress heretics, he preached
the word of God and the fishes poked their heads out of the water to listen.
chapter of the 14th century "Little Flowers of St. Francis" describes this
event like this:
Christ, the blessed
one, was pleased to show forth the great sanctity of his most faithful servant
St Anthony, and how men ought devoutly to listen to his preaching, be means
of creatures without reason. On one occasion, amongst others, he made use
of fish to reprove the folly of faithless heretics: even as we read in the
Old Testament that in ancient times he reproved the ignorance of Balaam by
the mouth of an ass. St Anthony being at one time at Rimini, where there
were a great number of heretics, and wishing to lead them by the light of
faith into the way of truth, preached to them for several days, and reasoned
with them on the faith of Christ and on the Holy Scriptures. They not only
resisted his words, but were hardened and obstinate, refusing to listen to
At last St Anthony, inspired by God, went down to the sea-shore, where the
river runs into the sea, and having placed himself on a bank between the
river and the sea, he began to speak to the fishes as if the Lord had sent
him to preach to them, and said: "Listen to the word of God, O ye fishes
of the sea and of the river, seeing that the faithless heretics refuse to
No sooner had he spoken these words than suddenly so great a multitude of
fishes, both small and great, approached the bank on which he stood, that
never before had so many been seen in the sea or the river. All kept their
heads out of the water, and seemed to be looking attentively on St Anthony's
face; all were ranged in perfect order and most peacefully, the smaller ones
in front near the bank, after them came those a little bigger, and last of
all, were the water was deeper, the largest.
When they had placed themselves in this order, St Anthony began to preach
to them most solemnly, saying: "My brothers the fishes, you are bound, as
much as is in your power, to return thanks to your Creator, who has given
you so noble an element for your dwelling; for you have at your choice both
sweet water and salt; you have many places of refuge from the tempest; you
have likewise a pure and transparent element for your nourishment. God, your
bountiful and kind Creator, when he made you, ordered you to increase and
multiply, and gave you his blessing. In the universal deluge, all other creatures
perished; you alone did God preserve from all harm. He has given you fins
to enable you to go where you will. To you was it granted, according to the
commandment of God, to keep the prophet Jonas, and after three days to throw
him safe and sound on dry land. You it was who gave the tribute-money to
our Saviour Jesus Christ, when, through his poverty, he had not wherewith
to pay. By a singular mystery you were the nourishment of the eternal King,
Jesus Christ, before and after his resurrection. Because of all these things
you are bound to praise and bless the Lord, who has given you blessings so
many and so much greater than to other creatures."
At these words the fish began to open their mouths, and bow their heads,
endeavouring as much as was in their power to express their reverence and
show forth their praise. St Anthony, seeing the reverence of the fish towards
their Creator, rejoiced greatly in spirit, and said with a loud voice: "Blessed
be the eternal God; for the fishes of the sea honour him more than men without
faith, and animals without reason listen to his word with greater attention
than sinful heretics."
And whilst St Anthony was preaching, the number of fishes increased, and
none of them left the place that he had chosen. And the people of the city
hearing of the miracle, made haste to go and witness it. With them also came
the heretics of whom we have spoken above, who, seeing so wonderful and manifest
a miracle, were touched in their hearts; and threw themselves at the feet
of St Anthony to hear his words. The saint then began to expound to them
the Catholic faith. He preached so eloquently, that all those heretics were
converted, and returned to the true faith of Christ; the faithful also were
filled with joy, and greatly comforted, being strengthened in the faith.
After this St Anthony sent away the fishes, with the blessing of God; and
they all departed, rejoicing as they went, and the people returned to the
city. But St Anthony remained at Rimini for several days, preaching and reaping
much spiritual fruit in the souls of his hearers.
St. Anthony, as
a Franciscan, was also famous for helping the poor. At his encouragement,
Padua passed a law in 1231 to help debtors who couldn't pay their debts.
St. Anthony died in Arcella, strengthened by an apparition of Our Lord and
in the "odor of sanctity," at age thirty-six on 13 June, 1231. After he died,
he announced his own death to Abbot Thomas Gallo by appearing to him. His
death was also announced to the citizens of Padua by a troop of children,
crying: "The holy Father is dead; St. Anthony is dead!" Gregory IX canonized
him within the year, the fastest canonization ever.
The people of Padua built a temple for his relics, which were transferred
to it in 1263 in the presence of St. Bonaventure. His body was found to be
dust -- but for his tongue, which was fresh and red. St. Bonaventure kissed
it and cried, "O Blessed Tongue that always praised the Lord, and made others
bless Him, now it is evident what great merit thou hast before God."
St. Anthony is the patron of sailors, pregnant women, amputees, fishermen,
and the poor. He is invoked against shipwrecks and
in order to find
lost objects, by women to find a husband, to conceive a child, and to
ensure safe childbirth. He is also invoked
to see that mail and packages are safely delivered. St. Anthony is most
often depicted in art wearing his Franciscan habit and holding a lily and
the Christ Child, or sometimes with loaves of bread or a book.
Customs of the Day
On the Feast of
this most wonderful of Saints, your priest might bless lilies for you to
keep (this isn't a universal practice). The blessing of lilies, which remind
us of St. Anthony's purity and have always been a symbol for him, stems from
a miracle which took place in Revolutionary France: many priests
and religious were murdered, so many churches and convents
destroyed, but the faithful still showed up at a surviving church on the
Feast of St. Anthony. Months later, it was discovered that lilies that had
adorned the church at that feast were still fresh. Let the lilies beautify
your house, or carry them with you, or press them in a book, etc. If your
priest doesn't bless lilies, you can still use them non-sacramentally to
remind you of one of the greatest Saints ever. The English of the Blessing
of the Lilies is as follows:
of Lilies on the Feast of St. Anthony
The priest vests
in surplice and white stole, and says:
||Our help is
in the name of the Lord.
||Who made heaven
||The Lord be
||And with thy
||Let us pray.
God, the Creator and Preserver of the human race, the Lover of holy purity,
the Giver of supernatural grace, and the Dispenser of everlasting salvation;
bless + these lilies which we, Thy humble servants, present to Thee today
as an act of thanksgiving and in honor of St. Anthony, Thy confessor, and
with a request for Thy blessing. Pour out on them, by the saving sign + of
the holy cross, Thy dew from on high. Thou in Thy great kindness hast given
them to man, and endowed them with a sweet fragrance to lighten the burden
of the sick. Therefore, let them be filled with such power that, whether
they are used by the sick, or kept in homes or other places, or devoutly
carried on one's person, they may serve to drive out evil spirits, safeguard
holy chastity, and turn away illness--all this through the prayers of St.
Anthony--and finally impart to Thy servants grace and peace; through Christ
Then he sprinkles
the lilies with holy water, saying:
with hyssop, Lord, and I shall be clean of sin. Wash me, and I shall be whiter
than snow. Pray for us, St. Anthony.
||That we may
be worthy of Christ's promise.
||Let us pray.
We beg Thee, O Lord, that Thy people may be helped by the constant and devout
intercession of Blessed Anthony, Thy illustrious confessor. May he assist
us to be worthy of Thy grace in this life, and to attain everlasting joys
in the life to come; through Christ our Lord.
After this the
lilies are distributed to the people.
In some parishes, chapels, or countries, animals might be blessed today as
they are also sometimes blessed on the Feasts of St. Anthony Abbot and of
St. Francis of Assisi.
Another custom on this day is known as "St. Anthony's Bread" and goes back
to A.D. 1263 when a child drowned near the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua
as it was still being built. The mother besought St. Anthony and promised
that if her child were restored to life, she would give to the poor an amount
of wheat equal to the weight of her child. Of course her son was saved, and
her promise was kept. "St. Anthony's Bread," then, is the promise of giving
alms in return for a favor asked of God through St. Anthony's intercession
(the custom also takes place throughout the year when parents give alms after
placing their baby under the patronage of St. Anthony). In some places, the
custom has a literal parallel in that loaves of bread might be blessed and
given away at church or, generally, to the poor.
Because of St. Anthony's history of being invoked by single women in search
of a husband, today is a good day for single people who have a vocation to
marriage to make a visit to a church or shrine dedicated to St. Anthony!
In Lisbon, his birthplace, it is a traditional day for getting married (women
who get married on this day are called "brides of St. Anthony"). So popular
are weddings on this day in Lisbon, that the city hall hosts them for free
if the couple are poor. St. Anthony altars are built and decorated, parades
are held, bonfires lit, grilled sardines and sangria are enjoyed.
1 (750-ml) bottle red wine (Rioja, if possible)
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup orange flavored liqueur (triple sec or Grand Marnier)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 orange, thinly sliced
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
1 unwaxed apple, cored, and cut into thin wedges
1 (750-ml) bottle sparkling water, chilled
Combine everything but the sparkling water in a large plastic container or
glass pitchers. Cover and chill completely, 1 to 2 hours. When ready to serve,
add the sparkling water, pour over ice cubes, and enjoy.
It is also customary
to decorate with pots of sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) and to give
some away to friends with prayers invoking our Saint (tea made from basil
is good for headaches, fevers, stomach aches, and indigestion -- but it should
not be drunk by pregnant women).
Finally, because he is also especially cherished by the Italian people, parishes
with large Italian populations might host great festivals on this day, rather
like the Italian festivals held in honor of St.
Joseph on 19 March, so keep an eye out for one in your area.
Note: Because St. Anthony was buried on a Tuesday and many miracles accompanied
his funeral, Tuesdays are special days of honoring him throughout the year.
It is customary to pray a Novena to him
on thirteen consecutive Tuesdays.
St. Anthony's Brief.
1 Various 14th. century narratives place this
miracle in Toulouse, Wadding, or Bruges, but the actual location was