Saint Anthony of Padova

How can you possibly begin to understand a story about a saint ifyou do not fully understand what a saint is. A saint is a person who after death is formally recognised by the Christian Church, especially the Roman Catholic Church, as having attained, through holy deeds or behaviour, an exalted place in heaven, entitling him/her to veneration. Some say a saint is a person of exceptional holiness and goodness. In God's eyes we are all equal, no one person is better than another; God treats you the same whatever your colour, race, religion or creed, so in his eyes there is nobody who has more holiness or goodness than another person.

Saint Anthony was one of those recognised by the Catholic Church as a saint. Saint Anthony was born in Lisbon, in Portugal, in 1195. Anthony's parents were wealthy nobles who lived right beside a cathedral and so Anthony was sent to the cathedral school. As soon as he had finished his schooling he left and joined the Order of St. Augustine in Coimbra. This was the beginning of his relationship with God. He dedicated his life to God at such a young age because he believed that his mission, which he had to fulfil in his life, was to stay close to God and do his will. We all have a mission in life, not only the saints, but each one of us has a different mission because we are all made in a different image of God.

During his time here he was ordained a priest. For eight years before this, he worked hard in the Order giving great attention to prayer. He became guest-master of the house. This meant that he had to welcome visitors to the house. Obviously he must have been given this job because of the care and kindness he showed to the people whom God had created. Kings and the poor went to visit, but whoever they were he did not mind. If they were the Kings or the poor he showed the same amount of respect, kindness and dignity for he believed, like God, that everybody was equal and, no matter what was said, they must be treated as equals. He was a very fair man and that was why he was liked so much. He was not unjust. He did not differentiate and this made him popular.

As guest-master he had occasion one day to wait on a group of five visiting Franciscans who were on the way to Morocco. Anthony was greatly impressed by these courageous missionaries. He was even more impressed when later he heard that they had been martyred. One day the bodies of five Franciscan friars were brought to the church near the Saint's house. Ferdinand resolved to leave his Order and become a Franciscan and to go to Morocco.

You may be now wondering why I have called Saint Anthony, Ferdinand. Well the reason is that the name Anthony was only given to him when he put on the brown robe of the Franciscans. He loved God so much that he wanted to die for his faith in God. This was very brave because there would not be many people who would give up their lives for their beliefs.

He was disappointed, though, because the leader of the Moors had fallen ill and so they were no longer killing the Christians. Besides, Saint Anthony also became sick. When he had recovered, he took a ship bound for Portugal but the winds caught the sail of the vessel and blew it through the Mediterranean. Saint Anthony landed in Messina in Sicily.

From there, he went to a meeting of the Franciscans at Assisi . They were lucky for they did not need passports to go to all these different places. They did not need passports to go there because people were free and easy in those days so they did not have to trouble themselves with such things. The reason was that all the nations in Europe were Catholic at this time and so were all united. Can you guess which other Saint he saw there? Yes, St Francis.

While in Assisi, St Anthony asked permission to join the monastery. His request was granted. There he spent time in penance and prayer. He prayed to God day and night and loved him very much. He prayed as Jesus tells us how to in the scriptures. He did not tell anybody or boast to anybody of his great knowledge of God. St Anthony had a great knowledge of God because he believed and loved him so much that nothing else in the world mattered apart from God.

One day, some young men were ordained to the Priesthood at Forli and a large crowd attended. The superior had invited several visiting priests to preach a sermon, but they all refused saying they were not prepared. The superior was, however, determined to have someone speak and, not expecting much, commanded St Anthony to speak. St Anthony was also not prepared but did not like to say so. He went along with it and you can imagine the surprise of the crowd when they heard a humble priest preach in a way that they had never heard before. He filled their hearts with love for holy things! How clearly he explained the Scriptures! This priest too was not prepared but he did not back out, he had so much love in his heart for God that he could stand up and speak to these people about him and the Scriptures. The sermon came straight from his heart, where all his kindness came from. God wanted him to do this: it was part of his mission.

God wanted him to send his word to the people. As his superiors listened they decided that he should be sent henceforth as a missionary all over Italy. He went to Padova where large crowds gathered to hear him. Thousands, wherever he spoke, made their peace with God. He had a way of helping people to turn to God that was amazing. The words that poured out of his heart for God had such meaning that he changed the people's hatred of God in to their love for God. He also performed miracles, thus proving the truths of his doctrines. He preached in France where he also brought many people back to the faith.

After three years in France preaching to the people he returned to Padova in Italy where the saint put an end to the practice of casting people in to jail when they could not pay their debts. He also went to Verona where a cruel tyrant had captured many prisoners; and going to see the man, Anthony boldly asked him to let them go, which he did. He saved more people.

Saint Anthony 's health failed and he felt death approaching. He retired to a quiet spot near Padova. There he prepared for the end. On June 13th, 1231 he passed peacefully to his eternal reward. At his tomb many wonderful miracles took place e.g. a boy and a girl were raised to life and many others were healed. Less than a year after his death he was canonized by Pope Gregory IX in 1232.

In his life, Saint Anthony had a great faith in God and led others to give his messages. He had so much influence and such a wonderful love that many people began to pray to him. At a young age he knew he wanted to follow God, and my goodness, did he lead an amazing life and what an example is he to us. How many people you know would go and speak to somebody who was capturing others.

There is one question that people are always asking and that is why does the statue of St. Anthony show him holding the Child Jesus? It is because one day when the saint was praying in his room the Infant Jesus appeared to him, put his arms around his neck and kissed him tenderly as a child kisses his father. St Anthony in turn kissed the Divine Child. This wonderful privilege was given to the saint because he kept his soul free from even the smallest sin.

My grandfather comes from Padova where St Anthony is the patron saint and we have a belief that probably many others have. This belief is that if you lose an item then if you pray to Saint Anthony it will be found. This is because he worked so many other miracles so we pray to him to give us another. When I am at home and I lose something my mother always says to me "Vai a preghiare a San Antonio e lo trovorai", which means go and pray to Saint Anthony and you will find it and hence I do. I also have a picture of St Anthony and the Divine Child and it is beautiful and it goes well in my room.

Saint Anthony, as you can see did fulfil his mission in life. He deserves to be a saint and should be an example to us all. We are a nation that should follow his example and learn from him. Look back at the definition at the top, do you think Saint Anthony is like that? Remember that he will always find whatever goes missing if you just pray hard enough and believe in him. Let us to try to follow in his ways and I pray that there will be others like him but who knows? It could be anybody, you or me! The only person who knows is God for he already has a plan for us, a mission for us, and we have to pray to him to discover his will.

Francesca Evans, Year 9
St. Michael's Convent School,
Barnet, London.