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Amazing Lives of Saints

Saint Anthony of Padua

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Saint Anthony of Padua was the twenty ninth saint to be declared a doctor of the church. He was a great theologian and became the most typical of the popular Italian creatures of the Franciscan tradition. God's providence disposed that he preached to simple souls; his pulpit was not a university church or a seminary chapel but the market places and the humble shrines of the poor. He even preached to the fishes in the sea.

Some details of his life are familiar to us. He was born at Lisbon, Portugal. His parentage was noble and nature was lavish in her gifts to him. A young man of brilliant intellect, prosperous and imposing, he chose to abandon all inheritance, all prospects of worldly success, all the allurements o the legitimate ambition and the consolations of courtier's life instead he chose to follow the life of sanctity marked by the evangelical counsels. He joined the canons regular of St. Augustine. The monastery into which he was admitted was a celebrated center of learning and of prestige. Here he speedily found his place among the most promising of the monks.

The lifelong characteristics of St. Anthony were manifest even in the spring time of his religious life. St. Francis of Assisi was later to call him "My Bishop", in gentle mockery of the great learning and natural dignity in this most humble of priests. Yet even in the early days of his Augustinian vocation, St. Anthony manifested that blend of the natural gifts of intellect with the supernatural spirit of wisdom which differentiates the doctors of the church from the wise men of the world.

The Eternal Word of God comes to us through two principal channels: the Incarnation and the Revelation. Incarnate, the Word comes to us in flesh fashion from the body of the Immaculate Queen to whom St. Anthony from childhood devote his most prayerful thought. Revealed, Eternal Word was and is transmitted to the faithful of all times through the Sacred Scriptures, and to the repository of the Word. Devotion to Mary and the Sacred Scriptures were the constituent principles of the piety and learning of the young Augustinian monk who was destined to live his Order and native land in obedience to the call of Christ whom he loved.

 

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That call of Christ came under strange circumstances. It came through means which, humanly speaking, we would not have expected to influence the young Augustinian. One day, there came to the region of his monastery certain eccentric-looking figures. They were men poorly dressed, barefooted, rude in appearance. This foreigners called themselves "penitents from the city of Assisi" and they presumed to preach in the public places about penance and the renunciation of worldly pomp. In those times it was not uncommon for wandering preachers to go about preaching reform, while being themselves ignorant of a church's laws and teachings. But the penitent poor men of Assisi were different; far from disassociating themselves from Orthodoxy, they preached loyalty to the church. Their simplicity and the very absence of recommendations of learning made a profound impression on the young scholar. Later, he was to gazed in fascination on the relics of some members of this company who become martyrs, massacred by moors.