St Anthony the Missionary

 

                                                                                        St ANTHONY THE MISSIONARY

 img091                                                                                St Anthony of Padua by El Greco

Anthony was born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1195. At a young age he entered the Congregation of the Canons Regular of St Augustine. About this time, the first members of the Order of the Friars Minor, which St Francis of Assisi had founded in 1206, came to Coimbra. Given hospitality by Anthony’s community, they impressed everyone by their poverty and simplicity.

Then in 1219, some of these friars went as missionaries to the inhabitants of Morocco. They were brutally martyred for the faith, and their remains were eventually brought back to Coimbra. The example of those first Franciscan martyrs inspired Anthony and he begged his superiors to be given permission to leave and to join the Franciscan Order.

He was warmly welcomed by the Franciscans and in the same year was sent on the missions to Africa. He had scarcely set foot in Africa when he became extremely ill. When eventually he recovered after many months, he was so weak that, resigning himself to God’s will, he boarded a boat back to Portugal.

Hit by a huge storm, the ship ran aground in Sicily. The local Franciscans welcomed him and thus he come to be sent to Assisi. This quiet and sickly man gave no evidence of his scholarship and was sent to Forli, where he was happy enough serving in the kitchen and as chaplain to the local hermits. On one occasion a preacher was needed; all the others made their excuses and Anthony was ordered to preach. He did so with such humility, learning and eloquence that his fame quickly spread. St Francis gave him the mission to preach throughout Italy, and later to teach theology. Anthony’s preaching had extraordinary effects; there were miracles of conversion; enemies were reconciled; thieves made restitution, and heretics returned to the Church.

Anthony died in 1231, at the age of 36, just five years after Francis. Devotion to him was spread through the Portuguese voyages of discovery. Many miracles have been worked through his intercession and was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1946.    

 

 

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