Today, the Church remembers Anthony of Padua: priest, confessor, doctor, preacher, 1231.
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.
Today’s hagiography of St. Anthony is written by James Kiefer:
Anthony was born in Lisbon in 1195, and spent the first twenty-five years of his life in Portugal. Desiring to become a missionary, he joined the Franciscans and was sent to Morocco to preach to the Muslims. His health failed, and he returned almost immediately and was sent to Italy, where he seemed headed for an uneventful obscurity.
However, a conference of Dominicans and Franciscans was scheduled, at which each group thought that the other was about to provide the preacher, and so no one was prepared. For some reason, Antony was thrust forward and told to say something, and he astonished his hearers with the grace and power of his exhortation. He was told that he must speak more often, and he devoted the last nine years of his life to preaching.
He had a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, and his sermons reflect that knowledge. He was noted for his refutations of heresies, and for his denunciations of clergy who did not live dedicated lives, and of wealthy and powerful persons who oppressed the common people.
It is said that Anthony in his private prayers was accustomed to direct his devotion to Jesus as an infant, and to meditate on the Divine Humility that stooped to accept, not merely the limitations of being human, but the limitations of being a helpless baby, utterly dependent on others. For this reason, artists often portray Anthony in a Franciscan robe, carrying a lily and the child Jesus.
Read more scholarship of James Kiefer: http://elvis.rowan.edu/~kilroy/JEK/home.html