"St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around...please come around. Something is lost which cannot be found!"
(Photo: A faithful praying before the incorrupt tongue of St. Anthony of Padua)
So goes a little prayer intoned by many of the faithful when searching for their keys, a piece of jewelry or any lost object. St. Anthony of Padua is a much-loved saint and one of the most famous contemporaries of St. Francis of Assisi. He was born near the Cathedral of Lisbon in 1195, raised by devout parents and joined the Augustinians when he was 15 years old.
He studied and prayed in the Augustinian abbey for many years, but when he was 24, five Franciscan friars passed through on their way to Morocco. St. Anthony met them and was greatly impressed by their desire to serve God in dangerous territory. When they were martyred and their mutilated bodies brought back to Lisbon, he was so moved that he requested permission to join the Franciscans, and did so in 1220.
St. Anthony of PaduaHe wanted to follow them and also go to Morocco, but he became very ill and was sent home. God had plans which the young Anthony didn't know about, and his ship ended up in Sicily. From there he traveled to Assisi where he was assigned to a hermitage near Forli. He kept largely to himself and did menial jobs in the kitchen, living a quiet life of prayer and service.
One day he attended an ordination of Dominican and Franciscan friars, where mistakenly no one had planned a homily. Although Dominicans were known for their oratory skills, they deferred to their hosts when asked to preach and Anthony was asked to read the Gospel and speak a few words. He stood up and began to preach, quietly at first but soon became on fire, almost as if he had experienced his own personal Pentecost! The Dominicans and his own friars were so amazed that they reported back to St. Francis of Assisi himself, who sent a letter asking Father Anthony to teach theology to the brothers, provided, that as the Rule prescribes, the spirit of prayer and devotion may not be extinguished. Humble and obedient, St. Anthony became a distinguished teacher and preacher.
Although he was small in stature he had a loud, clear voice and a strong grasp of Franciscan spirituality. One of the most well-known miracles attributed to him was that he preached to the fish in a river near Padua, who rose out of the water and listened to him. He was also found by a man, whose house he spent the night in, holding in his arms the Child Jesus, unspeakably beautiful and surrounded with heavenly light.
St. Anthony of Padua died at the young age of 36. It is said that the children all cried and angels rang the church bells. The miracles attributed to St. Anthony continued through the centuries, so much so that he became known as the Wonder Worker, and his popularity as a saint of the people endures to this day.
St. Anthony wrote in one of his sermons:
"The saints are like the stars. In his providence Christ conceals them in a hidden place that they may not shine before others when they might wish to do so. Yet they are always ready to exchange the quiet of contemplation for the works of mercy as soon as they perceive in their heart the invitation of Christ. What a beautiful thought! All of us can be like that - beautiful stars who shine when Christ calls on us, not for ourselves but for His glory. If we take the time to open ourselves to the things of God through prayer and contemplation, we will be ready when He calls us to do some work of mercy. And yes, everyone is capable of this! Why not get up a little earlier to start your day with scripture, use your lunch hour to read something uplifting, pray as you prepare dinner. In small ways open yourself to Christ, and He will open your heart!
It is said that St. Anthony went to preach to the fish because the people whom he tried to bring his message to wouldn't listen to him. He was not deterred from his mission by uncooperative circumstances! When we find ourselves beset by problems, can we be as creative? Asking the Holy Spirit to increase our gift of fortitude can help us to keep trying in situations where we may normally have given up. When you have to overcome adversities in your life, remember St. Anthony preaching to the fish!