St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231)
Anthony was born in Lisbon, Portugal. As a young man he joined the Augustinian Order, where he received an excellent education. At 25, he received permission to transfer to the new Franciscan Order. Although he had hoped to work and die as a missionary in northern Africa, his poor health forced him to remain in Europe.
The Franciscans recognized his exceptional gift of preaching, and assigned him to areas in Italy where the Cathari and Waldensian sects were attracting many followers. St. Francis knew him personally, and it was through Anthony’s example of combining knowledge with humility and holiness that Francis allowed his other friars to pursue education.
Besides his extensive preaching tours on foot, Anthony also served as a theology professor and a superior among his fellow Franciscans. He had a profound love for solitude, and spent as much time in solitary prayer as his duties permitted. Near the end of his life, a benefactor built him a hermitage in a large walnut tree.
In spite of the many miles he walked, Anthony became quite fat in his last years. The day of his death, he suffered what may have been a stroke. At his own request, he was carried in an ox-cart for five or six hours to Padua. He died before reaching the city, but was buried there with great solemnity. He was canonized by the pope the following year.
Anthony is remembered as a great miracle-worker, both during his life and since his death. He is often pictured with the Christ child, who appeared to him one night before his death. He is particularly popular among the poor of the world, who have found in him a ready ear for their many needs.
His feast day is June 13.
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