O God, send forth your Holy Spirit into my heart that I may perceive, into my mind that I may remember, and into my soul that I may meditate. Inspire me to speak with piety, holiness, tenderness and mercy. Teach, guide and direct my thoughts and senses from beginning to end. May your grace ever help and correct me, and may I be strengthened now with wisdom from on high, for the sake of your infinite mercy. Amen.

-a prayer attributed to Saint Anthony

Anthony of Padua is one of the most popular saints, largely due to the countless miraculous cures attributed to his posthumous intervention. He was born in Lisbon, Portugal. Traditionally, 1195 has been accepted as the year of his birth, but tests performed on his remains in 1981 indicated that he was almost 40 years old at the time of his death (which is firmly established to have been in 1231) instead of 35. So it is likely that he was born in 1191.

His noble Portuguese parents named him Ferdinand and expected him to grow up to be a knight like his father, but at the age of fifteen he decided to give up wealth and power and devote his life to God. He joined the Regular Canons of Saint Augustine, a group of friars, and took the name "Anthony" as a sign of devotion to Saint Anthony of Egypt.

The Augustinians sent him to Coimbra, where he became a Biblical scholar. In 1220, the relics of a group of martyred Franciscans were brought to Coimbra. Anthony, hearing their story, was filled with a longing to be a martyr himself and requested admission to the Franciscan order. They accepted him, and in 1221 he set out for Morocco to preach the Gospel to the Moors. During the journey he fell ill and was forced to turn back towards Portugal. A storm drove his ship to the shores of Italy, where he would remain for the rest of his life.

In Italy, he was stationed in a small hermitage. He lived in a cave, praying and studying the Scriptures, leaving only to attend Mass and sweep the monastery. His life continued this way for several years. Then, when the scheduled speaker failed to appear for an important ceremony, his brothers pressed him into speaking. He was unprepared, and everyone (including Anthony himself) was surprised by the eloquent words that came out of his mouth. After that, he became the first friar to teach theology to the other friars. A story about this period of his life is the source of his reputation as the patron of lost objects. When a novice took his Psalter without permission, Anthony prayed for its return. As a result of his prayers, a frightening apparition caused the novice to rush to restore the book to its rightful owner.

Eventually, there was such demand for his sermons that he gave up teaching in order to spend his time travelling and preaching throughout Italy and France. Wherever he went, he attracted crowds. He often preached in village squares, as churches could not contain his vast audiences. His greatest success was in Padua, where the entire city welcomed him as another Saint Francis. It is said that men gave up gambling and drinking at the sound of his voice, that criminals were reformed and feuding enemies were reconciled. It is also said that on one occasion, when the audience wasn't appreciative enough, he went out to the river and preached to the fish, who rose up out of the water to listen to him.

Anthony had a particular devotion to the poor, and was instrumental in the passing of a law in Padua that stated that a debtor could not be imprisoned if he was unable to pay. Alms given to the poor to obtain his intercession, or in thanksgiving for his help, are referred to as "Saint Anthony's Bread." In Sicily, huge loaves of bread in the shape of a crown are baked on his feast day (June 13).

Exhausted from his travels, Anthony died in Padua in 1231. He was canonized less than a year later. A basilica was built in Padua in his honor, and his relics were entombed there in 1263. When the vault in which he had rested for thirty-five years was opened so that his remains could be transferred to the basilica, his flesh was found to have been reduced to dust except for his tongue, which was supposedly "fresh, uninjured, and of a lively red colour." His entire jaw was removed and placed in a reliquary which is still on diplay in Padua. When his remains were examined again in 1981, it was discovered that his vocal cords were still recognizable.

Saint Anthony was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 16 January 1946. He is the patron of amputees, animals, boatmen, Brazil, elderly people, expectant mothers, fishermen, harvests, Italy, Lisbon, lost items, mail, Padua, paupers, and travellers. His name is invoked against infertility, shipwrecks, and starvation. In Christian art, he is almost always depicted holding the Infant Jesus, who miraculously appeared to him during his travels.


Many thanks to Ouroboros for encouraging me to node this.

Dreamvirus says In Ireland, most of the older generations invoke St. Anthony when they've lost something. The tradition is to offer St. Anthony a small amount of money in return for "finding" the lost item. If you find it, you then give that amount to the church, or the poor, or any charity you like. King of like "no win, no fee" personal injury lawyers...hehe