Anthony was born in 1195 near Lisbon,
and given the name Ferdinand. He was sent to the cathedral school
in Lisbon, but at the age of 15 joined the Canons Regular of St. Augustine.
He moved to Coimbra, near Lisbon, and over the next eight years he
devoted himself to study of theology and scripture.
After a group of Franciscan martyrs whom Ferdinand had briefly met
were returned to Coimbra as martyrs, Ferdinand was determined to become
a missionary and a martyr. He left the Augustinians to join the Franciscan
Order. He received permission to go to Morocco as a missionary, but
was forced by illness to return home. He was stationed in a small
hermitage in Italy, where he prayed, studied, and performed menial
One day, the preacher at an ordination ceremony failed to appear.
No one else was prepared to speak, and the duty was given to Ferdinand,
now known as Anthony. Those gathered where astonished by Anthony's
knowledge of scripture and theology and his skill as a speaker. He
was soon appointed as a traveling preacher. In years to come he travelled
throughout Italy and France. A major aspect of his preaching was to
combat the heresies of the day. He also criticized weakness and corruption
in the clergy and greed and tyranny in society. Anthony also became
the first friar to teach theology to the other friars.
During Lent in 1231, Anthony was preaching in Padua. After Easter,
Anthony set out with two companions for a friend's estate near the
city. On the way, they made Anthony a cell in a walnut tree by binding
the branches together. Later that spring he died, on the way back
Anthony should be the patron of those who find their lives completely
uprooted and sent in a new and unexpected direction. Like all saints,
he is a perfect example of turning one's life completely over to Christ.
God did with Anthony as he pleased - and what he pleased was a life
of spiritual power and brilliance that still attracts admiration today.
He, whom popular devotion has nominated as finder of lost objects,
found himself by losing himself totally to the providence of God.
-- Leonard Foley, O.F.M.
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