The liturgical memory of Saint Anthony of Padua (1191/5-1231), recalls for us that one of the most renowned Franciscans of history can be real, humble and call all to greater freedom in Christ. No one was immune to the preaching of Anthony: even the fish were converted to the Lord. The record gives us:
Historically, he was baptized Ferdinand into a family of knights in Lisbon, Portugal, then on the frontiers between the Christian and Muslim cultures, he entered the canons regular of St. Augustine as a young man, first stationed in Lisbon and then in Coimbra, where he received an excellent education in the Scriptures. The Friars Minor arrived in Portugal in 1217, and Ferdinand, inspired by five friars who were martyred in Morocco in 1220, joined them, taking the name Anthony after the small Franciscan hermitage outside Coimbra. He ended up in Italy, and within a few years, became a noted preacher in Northern Italy and in Southern France. Given permission by Saint Francis to teach theology to the friars, in 1227 he became provincial minister of Northern Italy and developed a strong association with the city of Padua. His preaching made a strong link between conversion to the Gospel and social justice. He died on this day in 1231 and was canonized the following year.
A thought from Saint Anthony’s homily for the Fifth Sunday after Easter. “Brothers and sisters, let us pray that the Lord Jesus Christ pour his grace into us by means of which we ask for and receive the fullness of true joy. May he ask the Father for us; may he grant us true religion so that we may merit to come to the kingdom of eternal life.”
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If you look at the picture you’ll notice that Saint Anthony holds the lily, the symbol of purity of heart. The presence of the Christ child in the saint’s scripture book is meant to indicate that Saint Anthony discovered the living Christ in the pages of Scripture.