St. Anthony of Padua was an extraordinary man. He was born in 1195 in Portugal to wealthy parents as Fernando Martins de Bulhões. Fernando knew from a young age that he was to dedicate his life to doing God’s will. When he was only 15 years old, he requested to be sent to the monastery of the Holy Cross in the city of Coimbra. It was here that he diligently studied, and eventually ordained to the priesthood.
The newly formed Franciscan order set up a hermitage outside Coimbra, and Fernando felt a longing to live their lifestyle. He therefore received permission to leave his current monastery, joined the Franciscans, and took the religious name of Anthony.
Anthony quickly developed a reputation for his intricate and engaging preaching. He was sent to various parts of Europe, and called on to preach, particularly to those places which had not accepted the Catholic faith. St. Francis of Assisi was so impressed by Anthony, he instructed that all future Franciscans were to receive their religious instruction from Anthony.
St. Anthony is most known for being the patron of lost items. This is due to an event that took place while Anthony was in Bologna. Someone had stolen a book of the Psalms from Anthony (and at this time, any book was of great value!). Besides having the Psalms, this book had many of his personal notes. Therefore Anthony immediately began to pray that the book would return. Shortly after, the thief actually returned to the monastery, and personally returned the book! We continue to ask St. Anthony’s help in locating lost articles. This is why statues sometimes will depict Anthony holding a book.
Towards the end of his life (1231), an event was witnessed that demonstrates how close Anthony was to Christ. In the middle of the night, one of Anthony’s acquaintances (Count Tiso) noticed that significant light was coming out of Anthony’s room. Intrigued by this, the Count approached the room and looked through the keyhole. What he saw nearly knocked him over! He witnessed a small child of great beauty standing on the table, with both arms around Anthony’s neck. This is why St. Anthony is usually depicted holding the child Jesus.
St. Anthony’s preaching was so profound, his tongue never decayed after his death (this is referred to as being incorruptible). This tongue is a great relic, and can still be viewed in Padua, Italy