|Apparition of the Child Jesus
to Saint Anthony of Padua
Francisco de Zurbarán
1627 until 1630
This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other
countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus
Anthony of Padua, Portuguese: António de Pádua; born Fernando Martins de Bulhões;
15 August 1195 – 13 June 1231, also known as Anthony of Lisbon (Portuguese: António
de Lisboa), was a Portuguese Catholic priest and friar of the Franciscan Order. He was
born and raised by a wealthy family in Lisbon, Portugal, and died in Padua, Italy. Noted
by his contemporaries for his powerful preaching, expert knowledge of scripture, and
undying love and devotion to the poor and the sick, he was one of the most quickly
canonized saints in church history. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 16
January 1946. He is also the patron saint of lost things.
Fernando Martins de Bulhões was born in Lisbon, Portugal. While 15th-century writers
state that his parents were Vicente Martins and Teresa Pais Taveira, and that his father
was the brother of Pedro Martins de Bulhões, the ancestor of the Bulhão or Bulhões
family, Niccolò Dal-Gal views this as less certain. His wealthy and noble family arranged
for him to be instructed at the local cathedral school. At the age of 15, he entered the
Augustinian community of Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross at the Abbey
of Saint Vincent on the outskirts of Lisbon.
In 1212, distracted by frequent visits from family and friends, he asked to be transferred
to the motherhouse of the congregation, the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Coimbra,
then the capital of Portugal. There, the young Fernando studied theology and Latin.
After his ordination to the priesthood, Fernando was named guestmaster at the age of 19,
Franciscan friars arrived and settled at a small hermitage outside Coimbra dedicated to
Anthony of Egypt. Fernando was strongly attracted to the simple, evangelical lifestyle of
the friars, whose order had been founded only 11 years prior. News arrived that five
Franciscans had been beheaded in Morocco, the first of their order to be killed. King
Afonso II ransomed their bodies to be returned and buried as martyrs in the Abbey of
Santa Cruz. Inspired by their example, Fernando obtained permission from church
authorities to leave the Canons Regular to join the new Franciscan order. Upon his
admission to the life of the friars, he joined the small hermitage in Olivais, adopting the
name Anthony (from the name of the chapel located there, dedicated to Anthony the
Great), by which he was to be known.
|c. 1630 attributed to Francisco de Herrera the Elder.
where the copyright term is the author's life
plus 100 years
Anthony then set out for Morocco, in fulfillment of his new vocation. However, he fell
seriously ill in Morocco and set sail back for Portugal in hope of regaining
his health. On the return voyage, the ship was blown off course and landed in Sicily.
From Sicily, he made his way to Tuscany, where he was assigned to a convent of the order, but he met with difficulty on account of his sickly
appearance. He was finally assigned to the rural hermitage of San Paolo near Forlì, Romagna, a choice made after considering his poor health.
There, he had recourse to a cell one of the friars had made in a nearby cave, spending time in private prayer and study.
One day in 1222, in the town of Forlì, a number of visiting Dominican friars were
present for the occasion of an ordination, and a misunderstanding arose over who
should preach. The Franciscans naturally expected that one of the Dominicans
would occupy the pulpit, for they were renowned for their preaching; the
Dominicans, though, had come unprepared, thinking that a Franciscan would be
the homilist. In this quandary, the head of the hermitage, who had no one among
his own humble friars suitable for the occasion, called upon Anthony, whom he
suspected was most qualified, and entreated him to speak whatever the Holy Spirit
should put into his mouth. Anthony objected, but was overruled, and his sermon the
entire theme and substance of his discourse and his moving eloquence, held
the attention of his hearers. Everyone was impressed with his knowledge of
scripture, acquired during his years as an Augustinian canon.
At that point, Anthony was sent by Brother Gratian, the local minister provincial, to
the Franciscan province of Romagna, based in Bologna. He soon came to the
attention of the founder of the order, Francis of Assisi. Francis had held a strong distrust
of the place of theological studies in the life of his brotherhood, fearing that
it might lead to an abandonment of their commitment to a life of real poverty. In
Anthony, however, he found a kindred spirit for his vision, who was also able to
provide the teaching needed by young members of the order who might seek
ordination. In 1224, he entrusted the pursuit of studies for any of his friars to the care
The reason St. Anthony's help is invoked for finding things lost or stolen is traced
to an incident that occurred in Bologna. According to the story, Anthony had a book
of psalms that was of some importance to him, as it contained the notes and
comments he had made to use in teaching his students. A novice who had decided
to leave took the psalter with him. Prior to the invention of the printing press, any
book was an item
of value, and would have been difficult for a Franciscan friar to replace given his
vow of poverty. Upon noticing it was missing, Anthony prayed it would be found
or returned. The thief was moved to restore the book to Anthony and return to
the order. The stolen book is said to be preserved in the Franciscan friary in
Occasionally, Anthony took another post as a teacher at universities
such as University of Montpellier and University of Toulouse in
southern France, but his preaching was considered to be his supreme
revealed his supreme gift. According to historian Sophronius Clasen,
Anthony preached the grandeur of Christianity. His method included
allegory and symbolical explanation of Scripture. In 1226, after attending
the general chapter of his order held at Arles, France, and spreading the
word of the Lord in the French region of Provence, Anthony returned to
Italy and was appointed provincial superior of northern Italy. He chose
the city of Padua as his location.
In 1228, he served as envoy from the general chapter to Pope Gregory IX.
At the papal court, his preaching was hailed as a "jewel case of the Bible"
and he was commissioned to produce his collection of sermons, Sermons
for Feast Days (Sermones in Festivitates). Gregory IX himself described
him as the "Ark of the Testament" (Doctor Arca testamenti).
|Antony in a frame in the living room at the Manse
Copyright EMMI TOSF Ministry.