Childhood & Early Life
Saint Anthony of Padua was born Fernando Martins de Bulhoes, on August 15, 1195, in Lisbon, Portugal, into the well-settled, rich family of Vicente Martins and Teresa Pais Taveira. His was one of the most respected and wealthy families in the city of Lisbon.
As expected, Fernando received quality education. He studied various subjects at a local cathedral school till the age of 15. Once he reached the age of 15, he became a member of the religious order of St. Augustine. He lived in the monastery for the next 2 years, but his life there was not exactly as he had hoped it would be.
Many of his old friends came to visit him frequently and tried dragging him into many political discussions. Hence, it became increasingly difficult for Fernando to focus on his prayers and studies. Tired of this, he made a formal request to be sent to Coimbra.
In Coimbra, he finally focused hard on his studies. For the next 9 years, he became strongly immersed in learning about the Augustinian order. Around the same time, he was officially ordained as a priest.
The Franciscan priests from his area were on regular trips to the Middle East to preach Christianity among Muslims, which was always an extremely risky business. The corpses of a few martyrs were once sent from Morocco. This turned out to be a life-changing experience for Fernando.
In the presence of the queen, the dead bodies of the martyrs were brought back to the monastery where Fernando stayed. He noticed that while the event was supposed to be deemed as a sad and unfortunate incident, it was glorified instead. He realized the value of martyrdom and thus decided to become a Franciscan.
Continue Reading Below
As a Franciscan
In 1220, at the age of 25, he became a friar of the Franciscan Order officially. Soon, he expressed his feelings of being sent to the land of the Muslims, where many friars had already attained martyrdom. In order to become a complete Franciscan, he had to leave the order of St. Augustine, and he did so. However, later in his life, he combined the teachings of both of these ideologies.
Fernando took the vows of the Franciscan faith after going to a convent. He then adopted the name “Anthony.” He changed his name to honor the patron saint of hermits.
After regular demands, he was allowed by the Franciscans to move to Morocco, preach about Jesus Christ there, and attain martyrdom, if that was what God required of him. However, he fell terribly sick after reaching Morocco and realized that God probably had other plans for him. A few months after landing in Morocco, he decided to move back to Lisbon.
However, while he was on his way back to Portugal, the ship he was on ran into heavy storms. The storm took the ship away from its course, and Anthony found himself in Sicily, Italy. The local friars, although unaware of him, welcomed him warmly and nursed him back to health.
Anthony’s great skills as a preacher became evident when he was 27 years old. Back then, he lived in Italy. He spoke at a gathering of Dominicans and Franciscans in 1222. One of the friars was asked to speak once the meal was over. Nobody volunteered. Finally, Anthony did, and he impressed everyone with his great knowledge and skills as an orator.
As his talents were revealed gradually, he transformed from living a life of seclusion to being promoted to the position of a public priest. In the next few years, Anthony made several trips across Italy and France and preached the Franciscan faith. It is said that he made about 400 trips to various places around Italy and France in the early years of his preaching career.
His direct superior, St. Francis, kept hearing the news of his excellent skills as a preacher. St. Francis wrote him a letter and requested him to teach his fellow Franciscans. He thus became the first preacher of the order to gain special approval.
Anthony continued preaching in the following years, and in 1228, he met Pope Gregory IX in Rome. The pope was a dear friend of St. Francis and had heard about Anthony’s talents. He thus invited Anthony to speak.
His reputation had crossed borders. People came in droves from all over to listen to his sermons. Sometimes, the places he was supposed to speak at would fall short of holding large crowds. Thus, the sermons were forced to take place in open fields. People waited for hours to listen to him. His popularity had become so widespread that he was given a bodyguard to be with him around the clock.
After the sermons and the morning masses, Anthony heard confessions. That lasted for hours and sometimes all day. Around this time, he also tended to the poor and sickly wherever he went. Soon, he was rumored to be in possession of supernatural powers.
In June 1231, Anthony began exhibiting signs of physical and mental exhaustion. He stayed in a town near Padua to rest, but he had already foreseen his demise in the coming days. He expressed his desire to die in Padua. He was supposed to be taken there. However, during the journey itself, he became further ill and rested at a place called Arcella.
Death & Legacy
Anthony of Padua passed away on June 13, 1231. His last wish of dying in Padua could not be fulfilled. Hence, he blessed the city from a distance before dying.
While receiving the last sacraments, Anthony was staring intently at one particular spot. Upon asked, he told friars that he was looking at the Lord.
Pope Gregory IX heard about several miracles that had occurred at Anthony’s tomb and decided to confer sainthood on him.
Pope Pius XII, in 1946, awarded Anthony of Padua with the honor of ‘Doctor of the Universal Church.’