Where is it? I know I put it somewhere!” Sound familiar? When something is lost, St. Anthony is a great saint to ask for help in finding whatever you are looking for. But who was Saint Anthony?
Anthony’s birth and baptismal name was Fernando Martins. He was born in Portugal in 1195 to a wealthy family, yet he felt called to the priesthood and chose a life of poverty. At the age of fifteen he travelled to the capital of Portugal to study to become a priest. After his ordination, he lived at an abbey and was responsible for taking care of visiting guests. Once when some Franciscans were visiting, Fernando felt called to join their order. When he took the vows of this order, he changed his name to Anthony.
The plan was for Anthony to travel to Morocco to help spread the Catholic faith. While there, he became very sick. (Have you ever been sick when you were away from home? It is scary. I wonder how Anthony felt when he became sick in a strange country.)
Because he was so sick, his superiors decided to send him back to Portugal. On the way home, a storm came and blew his ship off course. Instead of landing back in Portugal they landed in Sicily, not far from Italy. They then travelled to Tuscany which is in the middle of Italy. Being ill and weak, Anthony’s superiors decided to have him stay with some local friars to regain his health. He spent a long time there praying and studying.
One day, Dominican friars arrived and there was some confusion about who was to give the homily at a Mass. Somehow, it was determined that Anthony should give it. Anthony was not known for his preaching abilities and his superior told him, “Just say what the Holy Spirit wants you to.” (In other words, don’t prepare anything and God will give you the words to say.) His homily was so well received that he was from then on asked to preach to various groups. He became known as a great preacher. What was so special about Anthony’s preaching? Anyone, young or old, educated or not, could understand what he was trying to teach.
Books back in this time were rare and highly treasured. Anthony had a book that he often used for reference when teaching. One day it was stolen. Saint Anthony prayed that the thief would return it. His prayer was answered. The thief even eventually became a member of his religious order! (This is why Saint Anthony is often called upon by people who are searching for lost items.)
Feast day: June 13
St. Anthony, pray for us!