Today is the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua. From at least his teenage years, St. Anthony pursued his vocation to be a priest, first joining the Augustinians in his home country of Portugal and later, inspired by the tale of the order’s first martyrs, the Franciscans. On his first journey as a Friar Minor, his ship was blown off-course and he wound up in Tuscany by way of Sicily. There he entered a life of prayer and study as deep as the cave he called home. One day, when there was some confusion over who would preach a local ordination Mass, Anthony was chosen against his will. The Holy Spirit gave him eloquence and wisdom in his speech and the crowd was greatly moved at his words. (St. Anthony’s preaching was so good that his tongue became incorrupt and remained intact even after the rest of his body turned to ash.) His intelligence and learning became reputed throughout the region and, when he finally met St. Francis of Assisi, he was exempted from the order’s general prohibition against theological studies, as St. Francis recognized a humility in Anthony that would not be lost to academic stature. St. Anthony became a theological instructor of his brothers in the order and later a provincial superior in Padua.
The reason St. Anthony’s help is invoked for finding things lost or stolen is traced to an incident that occurred in Bologna. According to the story, Anthony had a book of psalms that was of some importance to him as it contained the notes and comments he had made to use in teaching his students. A novice who had decided to leave took the psalter with him. Prior to the invention of the printing press, any book was an item of value. Upon noticing it was missing, Anthony prayed it would be found or returned. The thief was moved to restore the book to Anthony and return to the Order. The stolen book is said to be preserved in the Franciscan friary in Bologna.
Preaching is an important part of life for our deacons, priests, and bishops. The intercession of St. Anthony of Padua for strong preaching – and perhaps for finding lost pulpit notes – is invaluable to the clergy. Praise God for his life and example. St. Anthony, pray for us!