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ANTHONY OF PADUA by Fr Jude Winkler OFM Conv

All booklets are published thanks to the generous support of the members of the Catholic Truth Society

CATHOLIC TRUTH SOCIETY PUBLISHERS TO THE HOLY SEE


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CONTENTS Life .........................................................................................5 Born in Lisbon........................................................................6 Religious and priest................................................................6 A new call ..............................................................................9 From Africa to Assisi ...........................................................10 Mission of preaching............................................................12 Heresies of his day ...............................................................13 Preaching to the fish .............................................................17 Violent Opposition ...............................................................18 Reverence for the Holy Eucharist ........................................20 Minister of Reconciliation....................................................21 Consoling the distraught ......................................................24 Converting through respect ..................................................25 Teaching discipline ..............................................................26 Ministry of teaching .............................................................29 Example of the Blessed Virgin Mary...................................32 Peace and Good....................................................................33 Against avarice.....................................................................35 Defender of social justice.....................................................36 Defender against Satan.........................................................38 Bilocation .............................................................................39 St Anthony and the Christ Child ..........................................41 I see my Lord .......................................................................43 A saint for all........................................................................44


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Prayers .....................................................................................47 Prayer to St Anthony............................................................47 Nine Tuesdays Novena ........................................................47 Litany of St Anthony............................................................50 Prayer for the restoration of things that are lost ...................52 Prayer on giving St Anthony’s bread ...................................53 Student’s prayer ...................................................................53


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LIFE Introduction It is not easy to write a biography about St Anthony of Padua (also known as St Anthony of Lisbon) because we have so few details about large portions of his life, especially about his youth. Much of the information that we do have is derived from pious legends whose historic value is often questionable. These legends were often variations of set patterns which could then be applied to any saint (e.g. many saints are seen preaching to animals, including both St Francis and St Anthony). Thus, one must be careful in claiming that one or another of the details of the life of a saint is historic. Nevertheless, certain details about the life of St Anthony can be verified, and the following short biography is based upon those elements. Even if the way that these miracles are described occasionally makes one wonder whether they are examples of the ‘set patterns’ described above, it does not negate the fact that St Anthony was known as a ‘wonder worker’ even during his life time.


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Born in Lisbon St Anthony, whose baptismal name was Ferdinand, was born in Lisbon on 15th August, 1195, the eldest son of an influential family. His parents had great plans for him, and so they arranged for a sound education. This would have meant studying Latin and rhetoric and other basic studies at the local cathedral school. St Anthony’s family were thinking of an ecclesiastical or bureaucratic career, but Ferdinand disappointed them by choosing a life more directly dedicated to the service of the Lord. He was known for his piety and fervour in prayer. In fact, one the earliest legends concerning him is of how he was disturbed by a demon while he was praying in the Cathedral, and how he chased that demon away by making a sign of the cross upon the floor. (There is an old tradition that the cross imprinted on the floor in front of Our Lady’s altar in the Cathedral today is the very one that Ferdinand made.) Religious and priest Ferdinand’s pious intentions brought him into more and more conflict with his family. They wanted him to be successful according to the standards of the world. They wanted him to further the good fortunes of his family. Ferdinand only wanted to respond to the call of the Lord. When he was fifteen, after much prayer and reflection, he left his rich home and went to live in the


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Augustinian Abbey of St Vincent on the outskirts of Lisbon. The Canons Regular of St Augustine, the religious order which he had joined, had always been famous for their dedication to scholarly pursuits. It is to the Augustinians that the Saint is indebted for his intellectual formation which made him one of the most learned clerics in Europe at the beginning of the thirteenth century. Besides studying Sacred Scripture, he studied such scholars as St Jerome, St Augustine, St Gregory the Great, and St Bernard. He also continued his study of Latin masters such as Ovid, Cato, and Seneca. Furthermore, he studied the best sources available on the natural world. He would continuously quote from these and other sources in his later preaching and writing. Ferdinand thought that he would find the Godly peace that he sought by fleeing the world and joining a religious order. Unfortunately, St Vincent was too near to his home. Friends and relatives were constantly visiting him, bringing him gifts which embarrassed him and news of what was happening in their social world which disturbed him. He simply could not find any peace there, and his studies were suffering. Finally, Ferdinand begged his superiors for a transfer to another abbey, and they sent him to the Augustinian Abbey of the Holy Cross in Coimbra (which at that time was the capital of Portugal). There he continued his studies.


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A new call Only a few years before Ferdinand had entered the Augustinian Abbey, in far away Assisi, a certain Francis, who like Anthony was the son of wealthy parents was inspired by God to live the gospel in a new and radical way. His rigorous adherence to the gospel message of poverty and simplicity had attracted many young men to join him and they wandered about Italy living on providence and preaching the gospel. It was not long before Francis answered the call to preach the gospel to the Muslims. This bold mission by the young Franciscan order would bring Ferdinand into contact with his own new calling. After his ordination, Ferdinand was placed in charge of hospitality in his abbey. It was in this responsibility that he first came into contact with the Franciscans. In 1219 he met five followers of St Francis who were on their way to Morocco to preach to the Muslims. St Francis had sent them out in response to a request made by Pope Honorius III. Rather than going to Muslim countries as crusaders to defeat them militarily, St Francis and the friars intended to travel there to teach them about the love of Christ. St Francis, himself, eventually went and preached to the Sultan in Egypt. Ferdinand was strongly attracted to the simple Gospel life style of the friars whom he had met. Furthermore, he had become somewhat disenchanted with life in the


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community in Coimbra. There were tensions between those friars who sided with the Pope and those who sided with the king of Portugal. There had been excommunications and accusations of heresy. St Anthony tried to avoid taking sides, but he could not avoid the tension. Then in February 1220, news arrived that his five Franciscan friends had been martyred in Morocco. Their death was not interpreted as being a defeat. Rather, they were understood to have acquired the crown of martyrdom for they had been given the privilege of dying for their faith. St Francis, when he heard of the death of these friars, proclaimed, “At last I have five true friars.” Their remains were gathered together and sent to Portugal where they were being venerated as relics. The king ordered them to be placed in the Church of the Holy Cross in Coimbra. Ferdinand meditated upon the heroic response of these Franciscans to the call to live the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, a call that brought them, too, to their cross. He felt embarrassed, because in comparison to active mission and radical way of life of the friars, he considered his own life in the Augustinian abbey to be mediocre, comfortable and filled with compromise. He longed to embrace the heroic life style of the early Franciscans. He wanted the freedom of a charismatic and joy-filled response to God’s call to leave everything and follow Him.


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Ferdinand eventually obtained permission from his superiors to join the Franciscans. His prior is quoted, in fact, as telling him to “go and make himself a saint.” It is not clear whether this was a sarcastic statement or whether it was an honest wish, but Ferdinand accepted the challenge. In the summer of 1220 he was invested with the Franciscan habit and began to learn the teachings of their holy founder, St Francis. With this new life, he also took a new name. He called himself Anthony, after the hermit St Anthony of the desert to whom the Franciscan hermitage where he was living was dedicated. From Africa to Assisi Shortly afterward, St Anthony set off to Morocco with a fellow friar. He intended to die preaching the Gospel there. He had barely arrived when he contracted a horrible fever which left him semiconscious for weeks. It might have been a form of malaria. He did not even have the strength to stand up, let alone to go into the market place to preach the Word of God. St Anthony’s generous dream of serving the Lord with his words and his very life had been crushed. There was only one thing left to do: to surrender to the will of God. And so St Anthony said farewell to Africa and set sail for Portugal. But even this choice would be challenged by the Lord. The ship encountered a terrible storm which blew it off


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course. Finally, it was forced ashore on the island of Sicily. Weak and confused as to the direction that the Lord intended for him, St Anthony met some friars in Sicily whom he joined. At that moment, however, they were in the process of travelling to Assisi for a gathering of all of the Franciscan friars. In the early days of the order, all of the friars throughout the world were expected to gather in Assisi periodically to renew their spirit in the presence of their saintly founder, St Francis. St Anthony travelled to Assisi with the other friars to participate in this great assembly. On the feast of Pentecost in 1221, thousands of friars gathered in Assisi from all over Europe in what has come to be known as the Chapter of Mats, for there were so many of them, there were not enough beds for them to sleep on, and they were obliged to sleep upon mats. In fact Anthony listened to St Francis’ teachings through Brother Elias, for St Francis was so weak from illness that he had to whisper what he wanted to be said to the friars, and Elias would then proclaim it loudly for all the gathered friars to hear. Neither history nor legend have left any record of a meeting or conversation between St Francis and St Anthony nevertheless, at the Chapter St Anthony listened to the teachings of St Francis, and was greatly consoled. As the friars dispersed to go to their home friaries, St Anthony waited for someone to give him a sign of where


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he should go. Yet, because no one knew him, he was one of the last friars to be given a mission. At last, the provincial of Bologna, Friar Graziano, invited St Anthony to follow him. Graziano sent St Anthony to a small hermitage in the mountains in the town of Montepaolo to serve as a priest for the community of brother hermits living there. This was to be one of the most joyful periods in St Anthony’s life. There, at last, St Anthony found the peace that he had sought for so long. He immersed himself in his priestly service to the community as well as in the household tasks of cooking and cleaning (for as the Rule for Hermits of St Francis describes how one of the friars in the community was to serve the others as “Martha,” that is, as the servant in practical concerns). In spite of the various humble chores he had to do, St Anthony was truly at peace. He finally had the opportunity to dedicate his life to contemplation. He was finally living in total simplicity. Mission of preaching But things rarely work out the way we have planned them, for God’s ways are not our ways. In only a short time, St Anthony had travelled from Coimbra in Portugal to the shores of Morocco, then to Sicily, then to Assisi, and finally to a small hermitage in Montepaolo. He thought that he had reached his destination.


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The Lord, however, had other plans for him. One day he was invited to attend the celebration of an ordination to the priesthood of some Franciscan and some Dominican friars in the city of Forli. The preacher failed to arrive, and they first asked the Dominican friars to fill in (for Dominicans are known as friar preachers). They, however, refused to take this responsibility, for they were not prepared. At that point, Graziano, St Anthony’s provincial, ordered him to preach whatever might come to mind. All were astounded when St Anthony preached with both great learning and fervour. His peaceful period of retreat in the hermitage had come to an end, for henceforth he would be called upon the preach near and far. St Anthony travelled throughout Northern Italy and Southern France, preaching especially in the areas that had been plagued by heresy. Heresies of his day The beginning of the 13th century was a period of grave heresies in the Church. Some of them were due to the lack of good example given by many of the clergy. Many of the priests, bishops, cardinals and even popes were involved in political intrigues and moral decadence that scandalised the faithful. As a reaction to this situation, a number of reform movements sprung up which sought to return to the original Gospel values of the Church. Itinerant preachers would speak of the radical call to


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poverty and simplicity proclaimed by Christ. Unfortunately, their preaching often became an attack on the local clergy. Some groups favoured using violence to overthrow the present corrupt order. A second group of heresies involved a return to an ancient idea called Manicheism which originally arose in Persia. This religion proclaimed that there were really two gods who created the universe, a good god and an evil god. All of history is the story of the combat between these two deities. The material world was corrupt and thus must have been created by the evil god, while the spiritual world was pure and created by the good god. These ideas became popular again at the beginning of the 13th century, especially in southern France where it was called Albigensianism. In Italy its adherents were called the “Cathari.” Entire communities would embrace it and reject Christian teaching. Only those who were specially enlightened and totally pure were supposed to preach. Everyone else (including the clergy who were obviously not all that pure) were to listen. The Holy Father called upon the new religious orders, the Franciscans and the Dominicans, to combat these heresies. St Anthony was able to confound many heretics through his own Franciscan Gospel simplicity and his great learning and ability as a preacher. In fact, he eventually received the nickname, “the Hammer of the Heretics.”


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Like St Francis, St Anthony recognised the scandal being given by many of the clergy. He nevertheless taught respect for priests, for they made it possible for Jesus to become present upon our altars in the Sacrament of the Eucharist and for us to receive the forgiveness of sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He loved the Church, and he loved those who represented the Church. He was going to call them to conversion not by condemning them and humiliating them (although in the case of St Anthony, there are a couple of stories where he confronted especially hardhearted clergy with brutal honesty), but rather by respecting and loving them. We see this especially in his sermons. He often dedicates a portion of his reflections to priests and religious so that they might live their callings more faithfully. Furthermore, since many of the Gospel based movements were using Sacred Scripture to attack the Church, St Anthony was able to give a proper interpretation of the Gospel. He demonstrated that the Church’s teachings were not a betrayal of the Gospel message of Jesus, but rather its fulfillment. Likewise, St Anthony’s Gospel based preaching was also a powerful weapon against the heresy of the Albigensians. As he explained the Scriptures, he often drew his examples from what he knew about nature. (Realise, that even though St Anthony had an extensive


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familiarity with the teachings about nature of his day, they were medieval understandings and many of his insights sound almost comical in light of what we now know about nature today.) By using examples from nature, he was implicitly stating that nature (the material world) was not evil. It was good, for it had been created by God. He recognises that in our fallen state, after original sin, we often misuse the good things of the world, but that does not means that nature in itself is evil. God even stated in the first verses of Genesis that this world is good, good, very good. Jesus came into this world to help us return to our original innocence. St Anthony, for example, speaks about the episode in which Jesus heals the blind man by making mud from his spit. St Anthony states that the spit represents Jesus’ divine nature (for spit comes from one’s head, and therefore represents one’s higher dimension) while mud represents Jesus’ human nature. They were joined so that Jesus might lift us up to where we had once been before we had sinned. In this insight, St Anthony is a true disciple of St Francis who celebrates the goodness of God as reflected in the works of the creator in the Canticle of the Creatures. They both taught that if we purify our spirits, then we can embrace that which God has given us without the temptation to want to misuse or somehow appropriate it to ourselves.


Anthony of Padua