13 June is the Feast Day of St. Anthony of Padua.
The life of St. Anthony, who was actually from Portugal, not Italy, is a lesson in how the plans we make, even if they are good and noble, are sometimes not what God wants from us in the long run. For some people, the play really doesn’t end until the third act. Sometimes God takes time to reveal to us where things are going, and seemingly coincidental circumstances can result in sharp turns of destiny.
St. Anthony was born in 1195 and given the name Fernando. He entered the Augustinian order at a young age. After ten years as a friar, of which we know little, he was given instant inspiration upon the martyrdom of five Franciscan missionaries at the hands of the Muslims in Morocco. Now earnestly desiring martyrdom himself, he begged to switch his habit, and it was granted. He changed his name to Anthony and entered the Franciscans, and he was sent to Morocco to preach, and tempt fate.
It seems God had other plans. Anthony fell seriously ill, and had to return home. But that wasn’t the plan either, as he was shipwreck at Sicily and ended up traveling into the Italian mainland. After his recovery, his life was transformed into one of solitude and prayer. Act II. But then his fame debuted while attending a Dominican ordination, where the assigned homilist failed to show. Anthony was asked to fill in, and he brought the house down.
So much for solitude. He was sent to Padua, and he became so famous as a preacher that the churches just weren’t big enough. And when even the piazzas couldn’t contain the crowds, the sermons were moved to nearby hillsides. By all accounts, this is not pious legend, this really happened. Over 30,000 people on some days.
We have some of these sermons today, but very little of his writings. Yet he is a Doctor of the Church. He was Canonized just a year after his death, and his intercession is very powerful. He is most commonly invoked over lost material things. But he is much, much better than that. It is best to think about him as Patron Saint of The Lost. Lost material objects, yes, but also spiritual things. A lost spouse, apostate children, apostate parents or grandparents, friends in dissolute lifestyles, etc. Beg St. Anthony to bring them back. Go ahead and team him up with St. Monica; they make a great pair, Anthony starting out as an Augustinian, you know.
St. Anthony, pray for us.