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 work.
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 hands. 1
- 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
- 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
- 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,
- 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.
49th chapter of the 14th century "Little Flowers of St. Francis"
describes this event like this:
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 him.
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 do so."
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
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
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
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 with
||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 our Lord.
sprinkles the lilies with holy water, saying:
||Sprinkle me 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
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
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
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. See also St. Anthony's Brief.
1 Various 14th. century
narratives place this miracle in Toulouse, Wadding, or Bruges, but the
actual location was Rimini.