Bartolome Esteban Murillo, Saint Anthony of Padua, Mugeo De Bellas Artes, Seville, Spain, 1668

St. Anthony (Fernando Martins de Bulhoes) was born in Lisbon, Portugal, on August 15, 1195. He became a priest and a Franciscan Friar who earned special permission from St. Francis of Assisi to teach the brothers how to preach the gospels. St. Anthony’s humility, deep love of Jesus Christ, knowledge of scripture, ability to preach God’s love in everyday language, and his many miracles led to one of the quickest canonizations ever. He’s the patron saint of the city of Lisbon and all of Portugal as well as Padua, Italy, and many other places around the world. He’s also the patron saint of lost articles and people, sailors, fishermen, priests, and children. He died on June 13, 1231, in Padua. He is honored only in the Roman Catholic Church and his feast day is June 13. Some communities also celebrate his birthday.

His parents, Vicente Martins de Bulhoes and Teresa Pais Taveira, were wealthy nobility with family ties to knights and crusaders. Fernando attended the cathedral school in Lisbon with other boys of the noble class. At age 15, he entered the religious order of St. Augustine at a nearby monastery. Fernando’s parents were most likely disappointed in his decision as they expected him to take care of their estate and carry on the family name, but they accepted it.

Fernando had a love of scripture and an excellent memory. He spent most of his time in study and prayer except for when his childhood friends and cousins visited and engaged in rowdy discussion of secular life in the city. As Fernando grew more contemplative and devout, these interruptions proved to be too much for him. He asked for and was granted permission to transfer 100 miles north to Coimbra where he led a life of intense study of scripture and Augustinian Theology.

(St. Augustine of Hippo, who died on August 28, in the year 430, left a copious amount of theological writings. Augustinian Monasteries were dedicated to the study of his works and biblical scripture.)

Some time during his nine years at the monastery in Coimbra, Anthony was ordained a priest and probably began preaching. However, there is no record as to when he was ordained, so it may have occurred at a later time.

Besides engaging in study and prayer, the monks collected food from the wealthy to distribute to the poor. Fernando had a great love of the poor and enjoyed taking care of them, so he was granted the role of Guest Master who passed out the food and blessings.

Sometimes, traveling Franciscan friars, or those from the nearby friary who didn’t find work that day, begged at the monastery for daily food for themselves and for the poor people who relied on them. Fernando enjoyed speaking with them and learning about Francis and his Order.

There were five friars in particular that Anthony probably met, befriended, and took care of before their journey to Morocco – Bernardo, Peter, Otto, Adiuto, and Accursio. They traveled to Morocco in order to preach about Jesus Christ and convert Muslims. They preached in front of the Mosque in Seville and were almost killed on the spot. But the Sultan issued a strict warning and allowed them to pass on to Morocco. (See St. Francis of Assisi and the Sultan.)

(Islam teaches that Jesus was a powerful prophet in a strong line of prophets including Moses. Muhammad is the latest prophet whose teachings contain the most pertinent part of God’s message. To speak ill of Muhammad or attempt to convince Muslims to abandon their religion was a crime punishable by death.)

Although the friars were warned repeatedly to stop, they continued to preach of Jesus Christ in the streets. For this crime, they were tortured and beheaded. A crusader ransomed and escorted their bodies home. Their remains were paraded around in glory as martyrs for Christ. Fernando was greatly inspired by these martyrs.

To die spreading the Word of Jesus Christ would be for Fernando the ultimate show of devoted faith and love. It was also possible that having grown up in an area of Portugal that was once occupied by the Moors and still contained parts of their culture and language, Fernando believed he would have greater success in communicating with the Saracens. He went to the nearby friary and announced, “Brothers, I would gladly put on the habit of your Order, if you would promise to send me as soon as possible to the land of the Saracens, that I may gain the crown of the holy martyrs.” They agreed.

Although the prior of the Augustinian monastery argued for him to stay, he ultimately granted Fernando permission to leave. Fernando received the Franciscan habit and took the name Anthony after the patron saint of the local church and friary, St. Anthony of Egypt.

(St. Anthony of Egypt who died on January 17, in the year 356, was a rich man who was led to follow the words of Jesus – Sell all that you have, and give to the poor, and come follow me. Matthew 19:21. He became a monk and eventually traveled to Egypt to offer comfort to persecuted Christians and ended up converting many of the persecutors to Christianity.)

After learning the ways of Franciscan Friar Minors, Anthony was sent off to Morocco with a companion brother to spread the word of Jesus Christ and possibly become a martyr. Alas, as soon as their ship arrived, Anthony became so severely ill, most likely with malaria, that he never left the port. Months later, having recovered somewhat, he realized that they needed to return home.

Their ship didn’t make it home to Portugal; instead it ran into many storms and was blown off course to Sicily. There was a Franciscan friary at Messina that welcomed them and nursed Anthony to partial health. It’s probable that he never fully recovered as he was sickly for the rest of his life.

Anthony traveled with the friars to Assisi for the great Pentecost Chapter of Mats in which three thousand friars gathered and slept on mats outside. Francis was there but was also sick. Francis preached by whispering to Brother Elias who shouted out Francis’s words. Most of the sermon was an admonition of the brothers to give up comforts and high thoughts with the goal of seeking true humility and remaining humble servants of Jesus Christ.

Anthony, already humble by nature, took Francis’s words to heart and repented his mistaken belief that God wanted him to seek glory as a martyr. He asked and was permitted to join a group traveling back with their provincial superior to their friary in Northern Italy. Because of Francis’s lessons on humility and disappointment in his unsuccessful mission to Morocco, he didn’t tell his new brothers about his theological training and preaching abilities. Following the ways of Francis, he led a life of simple manual labor of gardening, kitchen duties, prayer, and quiet contemplation.

In 1222, Anthony, along with his brothers, attended an ordination by Bishop Ricciardellus Belmont of nine Franciscans and Dominicans to the priesthood.

(St. Dominic who died on August 8, 1221, began a brotherhood very similar to Francis’s. The biggest difference in the two orders was that Dominic chose to convert through education and discussion, while Francis chose to convert through example and good works).

One of the Dominicans was expected to give the sermon because they were known to be excellent preachers. But due to a miscommunication, none of them had prepared a sermon. The Franciscans also declined to preach as they were unprepared as well.

Finally, Anthony was ordered to step up and speak off the top of his head — a simple message from a simple brother. Filled with humility, but obedient, he reluctantly agreed.

His knowledge and total recall of scripture, ardent love of Christ, and easy speaking style touched the hearts of all assembled. Most likely, his sermon to his fellow brothers and priests explained in words how they felt inside about leaving their girlfriends, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters who loved them in order to follow the path of Jesus Christ because His love is the greatest love of all.

Anthony’s gift and his future path were revealed.

He was assigned to preach to the heretics in Northern Italy. Unlike the devout citizens of Assisi, these people did not respect the Church. Some heretics rejected the Church because of the wealthy lifestyle of the clergy which was in sharp contrast to the poor to whom they preached.

Unlike Francis and the Friar Minors, who considered themselves lesser brothers to the Church clergy and were fully obedient to Church hierarchy and laws, some heretics not only rejected the clergy, they also denied the validity of the sacraments.

Because Anthony was not a wealthy priest and like Francis was a living example of the gospels, the heretics allowed him to preach to them. With his powerful sermons, he was able to move his listeners and call them home. However once, when Anthony preached in the streets in Rimini, a town along the Adriatic Sea, people mocked him and refused to listen. In frustration, he went to the waterfront and preached to the fish.

It’s believed that Anthony’s first miracle occurred when the fish poked their heads out of the water and appeared to listen. So amazed by Anthony’s connection to God, the heretics invited Anthony back to preach to them. He became known as the Hammer of the Heretics.

Anthony was also a proponent of social justice and rights of the poor. He preached for the removal of an unfair law in which debtors who didn’t make their payments were placed in prison where they were unable to work to earn the money to repay their debts or to support their families. Money lenders profited by this law as they were able to force the wives and children of the debtors to work for them or hired them out as servants, or worse, to pay off the debt.

It’s believed that another important miracle occurred when Anthony was served poisoned soup by a powerful moneylender at a dinner with prominent city leaders. Although loath to make a spectacle of himself, Anthony stood up, blessed the soup and ate it without harm. The law was changed and the debtors were released from prison.

When words of Anthony’s extraordinary preaching reached Francis, he made an important decision that would have lasting effects on the Order. Francis believed and taught that book knowledge was not necessary for the Friar Minors as the gospels were all they needed to share and those with book knowledge tended to think too highly of themselves as compared to others. In other words, Francis frowned upon educated friars in comparison to simple friars with simple faith.

But news of Anthony’s sermons showed Francis that education and faith could be combined in a preacher whose messages to the people would be stronger due to education in scripture and theology. In one of his rare letters, Francis wrote, “Brother Francis sends his wishes of health to Brother Anthony, my bishop. It pleases me that you teach sacred theology to the brothers as long as – in the words of the rule, ‘you do not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotion’ with study of this kind.”

Although this letter contains a bit of sarcasm and a warning, Anthony was overjoyed to receive this letter of approval from Francis. Thereafter, with this blessing and permission, Anthony became a teacher of friars, especially those preparing for priesthood and a life of preaching.

Anthony was also asked to write down his sermons to help his brothers preach. For many years, in between his preaching, traveling and teaching, he wrote, SUNDAY SERMONS and FEAST DAY SERMONS which are still referred to today. Unfortunately, even the translated versions are not easy to read because they are sermon notes for other preachers to use.

Anthony’s most popular miracle occurred when after many years’ work, the almost complete manuscript was stolen out of his cell by a friar who was dealing with some sort of negative issues.

After looking everywhere for the book and learning that one of the brothers left the friary, Anthony prayed that the book and the brother would return. The next morning the brother appeared with the book and confessed to Anthony who counseled him, prayed with him, and, of course, forgave him.

News of this miracle spread, and people sought Anthony’s prayers of intercession in the finding of lost things and missing people. This practice continues today, not just for lost car keys but for that which is missing but hasn’t been lost, such as a spouse for the unmarried, or a baby for the childless.

Looking deeper, the story of the brother who stole Anthony’s book is more a story about a restoration of lost faith than about the lost article, no matter how important or precious. People still pray to St. Anthony for intercession in restoring the lost or missing faith in those they love and care about.

Anthony continued to preach, teach the friars, and take on more responsibility in the Order. He was appointed Provincial Superior of Northern Italy in 1226, soon after the death of Francis.

Following his beloved Francis’s example, Anthony depended on solitude and contemplative prayer to sustain him during his busy times.

In 1228, Anthony went to Rome where he met Pope Gregory IX, who had been a friend and advisor to Francis. Anthony was asked to preach and he did so with great humility. His sermon had a profound effect on the thousands of people assembled outside to hear him. Later, the pope said that he believed Anthony had memorized the entire Bible.

The travel and the demanding life of a preacher and confessor began to take their toll. Anthony sought solitude and contemplative prayer whenever he could. One time a good friend, a nobleman named Tiso, invited Anthony to stay in a small room in his tower. During the night, Tiso saw a bright light coming from under the door. Believing that Anthony was in danger of a fire, he burst into the room and found Anthony in deep conversation with the Christ Child surrounded in Holy light.

It’s believed that this miracle is why St. Anthony appears in statues and other artwork holding the Child Jesus as He’s standing on an open Holy Bible as if coming out of the words.

In fact, Anthony believed that Jesus was the Word. Meaning that God’s gift in the form of this precious child given to us freely, even before his brutal death and resurrection, was such a gift of complete love,  no other words are necessary:

The fruit of the bee is the Son of the Virgin. Blessed is the fruit of thy womb (Luke 1.42), it says; and Canticles 2: His fruit was sweet to my palate (Cant. 2.3). This fruit is sweet in its beginning, middle and end. It was sweet in the womb, sweet in the crib, sweet in the temple, sweet in Egypt, sweet in his Baptism, sweet in the desert, sweet in the word, sweet in miracles, sweet on the ass, sweet in the scourging, sweet on the Cross, sweet in the tomb, sweet in hell, and sweet in heaven. O sweet Jesus, what is more sweet than you are? ‘ Jesu-the very thought is sweet . . . sweeter than honey far.’

(The last quote is from Jesu Dulcis Memoria a hymn written by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, 1090 to August 20, 1153.) ” 

In another sermon Anthony explained why he sees Jesus as a precious child:

Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son; and his name shall be called Emmanuel. (Is. 7/14) that is God-with-us. God made himself a little child for us; he was born for us. There are many reasons why Christ is called a little child: and for briefness’ sake here is just one: If you hurt a child, make him cry, but then show him a kindness, give him a flower, a rose, or some other object he likes, instantly he forgets the hurt you did him, his anger is gone and he runs to embrace you. Thus it is with Christ. If you have offended him by a mortal sin or wounded him by some fault, but you offer him the flower of contrition or the rose of a tearful confession (Tears are the soul’s blood.), at once he forgets your offense, he forgives your sin, and he runs to take you in his arms and gives you his kiss of peace.

Two years before his death, travel finally became too much for Anthony, and he remained in Padua. People gathered in large outdoor crowds numbering as many as thirty thousand to hear Anthony preach. Then so moved by his sermon, people would line up so that Antony would hear their confessions.

His brothers took as good care of him as he would allow between his demanding work schedule and strict adherence to fasting. Anthony began to suffer from dropsy (now known as edema – abnormal accumulation of fluid within the body) and he withdrew from his works with the people.

With the help of his brothers and Tiso, he traveled to Camposampiero where, either underneath or within a giant walnut tree’s branches, a hut was built for him. Anthony spent most of his time within the hut in prayer and holy contemplation.

As he felt his life slipping away, he asked his brothers to take him back home to Padua. The trip by cart was difficult, so the brothers stopped at the Poor Clares’ Convent within sight of Padua. Before they brought him inside, Anthony raised his hand in blessing of Padua.

He received last rites and joined his brothers in a hymn dedicated to Blessed Mother Mary. It’s said that right before he died, he stared upward with a stunned look on his face. When asked what he saw, he answered, “I see my Lord.”

O God, who by your Holy Spirit gave your servant Anthony a love of the Holy Scriptures, and the gift of expounding them with learning and eloquence, so that your people might be established in sound doctrine and encouraged in the way of righteousness, grant us always an abundance of such preachers, to the glory of your Name and the benefit of your Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. – James Keifer’s Christian Biographies

For More Info:

St. Anthony Medal




Saint Anthony: The Miracle Worker of Padua, DVD produced by Ignatius Press

In a way different, yet at its core similar to his spiritual father, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony, in his humbleness and total giving of himself in good works unto death, is a lasting example of one who walked the Way of Jesus Christ.

Speaking of walking, recently when my husband was lamenting over the phone about a cancelled airline flight, I was sympathetic but I also reminded him that while St. Anthony may have ridden a donkey especially if he was sick, he, most likely, WALKED barefoot from Padua to Assisi, to Rome, to France, and back to Padua.

Stranded at the airport, my husband replied, “Yeah, but he was destined for SAINTHOOD.”


Did Anthony know he was destined for sainthood? Did his humility allow him to accept the very idea during his life? Are any of us destined for something more? I think it wouldn’t hurt for us to look beyond ourselves and pay attention.

As St. Anthony explained, “The saints are like stars. In his providence, Christ conceals them in a hidden place that they may not shine before others when they might wish to do so. Yet they are always ready to exchange the quiet contemplation for the works of mercy as soon as they perceive in their heart the invitation of Christ.”

Check out St. Anthony of Lisbon and Padua, Part 2  in which I explore how St. Anthony continues to be honored in Italy, Portugal, and the United States with street festivals, special bread, and pots of basil. I’ll also discuss the many ways in which I’m connected to St. Anthony, and why I’m so attracted to him.

But first, let’s sustain ourselves with:


1 teaspoon canola or vegetable oil for greasing

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

¾ cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup or 1 stick of butter, melted and cooled slightly

2 eggs

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups fresh or frozen berries or diced fruit


1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degree. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan.

Combine flour, ¾ cup sugar, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.

Whisk butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla in a small bowl.

Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Fold in fruit.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.

In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon sugar, light brown sugar, cinnamon, and optional nuts.

Sprinkle mixture on top of each muffin.

Bake about 30 minutes until toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean or with dry crumbs.

Cool slightly before popping out of muffin pan and serving. Or allow to cool completely and store in freezer.


For the fruit, I like to use berries and peaches in the summer, apples in the fall and bananas in the winter.

As you can see, these muffins contain more fruit than walnuts. I actually just tossed the walnuts into the recipe to make it relevant to this post and St. Anthony’s time under the walnut tree. Allergies notwithstanding, walnuts add an extra bit of protein making these muffins that much more sustaining.

But more importantly, just like walnuts in a fruit muffin recipe, St. Anthony’s an extra hug in the perfect love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

(Originally posted on July 10, 2012 to Saints and Recipes on Blogger.)

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