Preacher, Franciscan friar and priest. St Anthony was born in Lisbon in 1193. He came from a noble family. At around the age of 16 he joined the Austin Canons and studied at Coimbra. About 1220 he met some Franciscans on their way to Morocco. The group were martyred. St Antony was so impressed with them he became a Franciscan himself and travelled to Ceuta in the hope of continuing their mission. Instead he became ill and was forced to return home.
In 1221 he took part in the General Chapter of Assisi. He was sent to the small hermitage of St Paulo near Forli. One day he was asked to preach at an ordination, and on this day his remarkable gift for preaching was discovered. He had a tremendous knowledge of the Bible but was able to preach in a way that captivated people whether they were learned or simple. After hearing him, St Francis asked him to teach theology at Padua and Bologna. Later he also preached and taught in France.
In 1227 he was elected provincial of Northern Italy and spent much of his time visiting the friaries under his care. During these three years he wrote the Sermons for Sundays and became a member of a commission sent to Rome to discuss the Franciscan Rule and Testament of St Francis.
In Rome his preaching was called 'a jewel case of the Bible'.
St Anthony returned to Padua for the last months of his life, which were devoted to hearing confessions, preaching and helping people in debt. He died at Arcela in 1231, but was buried at the church of Our Lady in Padua. He was canonised just a year after his death. In 1946 he was made a Doctor of the Church.
Many miracles were attributed to his intercession and he is often invoked as the finder of lost articles.
St Anthony was a charismatic preacher and his cult has always been immensely popular. Artists often depict him with animals, preaching to fish, or with a lily carrying the child Jesus seated on a book. He is a patron saint of Brazil.
Today, Saint Anthony's Feast Day, solemn Mass will be streamed live from the High Altar of the Basilica at 10am Central European Time. See: www.saintanthonyofpadua.net