Our Patron, St. Anthony of Padua

St. Anthony of Padua is the patron of St. Anthony Church in Knoxville and is a Catholic saint, most notable the patron saint of lost items and souls.

A common rhyme is often used for those hoping for his intercession in finding whatever they’ve lost.

This attribution comes from an incident where a novice removed a valuable psalter belonging to St. Anthony. St. Anthony prayed very hard that the psalter would be returned. After seeing an alarming apparition of St. Anthony, the novice returned the psalter.

However, many suggest he is more importantly the patron of lost souls — those who have fallen to mortal sin, have abandoned the Church, or have grown apathetic to the practice of the faith.

Birth and Early Life

Fernando Martins de Bulhoes was born circa 1195 in Lisbon to a very rich family of the nobility. His family wanted him to become educated, however, these were not his wishes. His family arranged an education for him at the cathedral school of Lisbon. At the age of fifteen, against the wishes of his family, Fernando entered the Augustinian Abbey of St. Vincent on the outskirts of Lisbon. The Canons Regular of St. Augustine, of which he was a member, were famous for their dedication to scholarly pursuits. Fernando studied scripture and the Latin classics.

Priestly Work and Spirituality

After his ordination, Fernando, now known as Anthony, was placed in charge of hospitality in his abbey. In this role, in 1219, he encountered five Franciscans who were on their way to Morocco to preach to the Muslims there. Anthony was strongly attracted to the simple Gospel lifestyle of the Franciscan friars. In February 1220, news arrived that the five Franciscans had been martyred in Morocco. Anthony meditated on the heroism of these Franciscans. He wanted to obey God’s call to abandon everything and follow Him. Anthony obtained permission from his Augustinian superiors to join the Franciscan Order.

On the return trip to Portugal, Anthony’s ship was driven by a storm upon the coast of Sicily and he landed at Messina, Italy. From Sicily he made his way to Assisi and sought admission into a monastery in Italy, but met with difficulty on account of his sickly appearance. He was finally assigned, out of pure compassion, to the rural hospice of San Paolo near Romagna, Italy, a choice made in consideration of his poor health. There he appears to have lived as a hermit and worked in the kitchen.

One day, on the occasion of an ordination, when a great many visiting Dominican friars were present, there was some misunderstanding over who should preach. The Franciscans naturally expected that one of the Dominicans would occupy the pulpit, for they were renowned for their preaching; the Dominicans, on the other hand, had come unprepared, thinking that a Franciscan would be the homilist. In this quandary, the head of the hermitage, who had no one among his own humble friars suitable for the occasion, called upon Anthony, whom he suspected was most qualified, and encouraged Anthony to speak whatever the Holy Spirit should put into his mouth. Anthony objected but was overruled. His sermon was well-received and created a deep impression. Not only his rich voice and arresting manner enchanted the assembly, but the entire theme and substance of his discourse, as well as his moving eloquence, held the attention of his audience.

In 1226, after attending the Franciscan chapter at Arles, France, and preaching in the French region of Provence, Anthony returned to Italy and served as envoy from the general chapter to Pope Gregory IX. At the Papal court, his preaching was hailed as a “jewel case of the Bible” and he was commissioned to produce “Sermons for Feast Days.”

Anthony became ill with dropsy and, in 1231, went to the woodland retreat at Camposampiero with two other friars for a respite. There Anthony lived in a cell built for him under the branches of a walnut tree.

Saint Anthony died on the way back to Padua on 13 June 1231 at the Poor Clare convent at Arcella, aged 36, of ergotism (poisoning from a fungus that grows in rye berries and flour). When he died, it is said that the children cried in the streets and that all the bells of the churches rang of their own accord, rung by angels come to earth to honor the death of the saint.

Sainthood

St. Anthony of Lisbon (or Padua) is known to have become the “quickest” canonized saint in the history of the Catholic Church because his canonization was held by Pope Gregory IX on 30th of May of 1232, less than a year after his death. His fame spread just as quickly. He is remembered as one of the most celebrated of the followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. He is the patron saint of Padua, as well as many other cities in Portugal and in the countries of the former Portuguese Empire. He is also a patron of Italy. He is especially invoked for the recovery of lost things and lost souls. Proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on January 16, 1946, he is sometimes called the “Evangelical Doctor”.