13 June 2024

St Anthony of Padua, Confessor

From Dom Prosper Guéranger's The Liturgical Year

“Rejoice thee, happy Padua, rich in thy priceless treasure!” (ANT. to Benedictus, for the feast of the Franciscan Breviary) Anthony in bequeathing thee his body, has done more for thy glory, than the heroes who founded thee on so favored a site, or the doctors who have illustrated thy famous university!

The days of Charlemagne were past and gone: yet the work of Leo III still lived on, despite a thousand difficulties. The enemy, now at large, had sown cockle in the field of the divine Householder; heresy was cropping up here and there, whilst vice was growing apace in every direction. In many an heroic combat, the Popes aided by the Monastic Order, had succeeded in casting disorder from out the Sanctuary itself: still the people, too long scandalized by venal pastors, were fast slipping away from the Church. Who could rally them once more? who wrest from Satan a reconquest of the world? At this trying moment, the Spirit of Pentecost, ever living, ever present in Holy Church, raised up the Sons of St. Dominic and of St. Francis. The brave soldiers of this new militia, organized to meet fresh necessities, threw themselves into the field, pursuing heresy into its most secret lurking holes, and thundering against vice in every shape and wheresoever found. In town or in country, they were everywhere to be seen confounding false teachers, by the strong argument of miracle as well as of doctrine; mixing with the people whom the sight of their heroic detachment easily won over to repentance. Crowds flocked to be enrolled in the Third Orders instituted by these two holy founders, to afford a secure refuge for the Christian life in the midst of the world.

The best known and most popular of all the sons of St. Francis, is Anthony whom we are celebrating this day. His life was short: at the age of thirty five, he winged his flight to heaven. But a span so limited, allowed nevertheless of a considerable portion of time being directed by our Lord, to preparing this chosen servant unto the ministry destined for him. The all-important thing in God’s esteem, where there is question of fitting apostolic men to become instruments of salvation to a greater number of souls, — is not the length of time which they may devote to exterior works, but rather, the degree of personal sanctification attained by them, and the thoroughness of their self-abandonment to the ways of divine Providence. As to Anthony, it may almost be said, that up to the last day of his life, Eternal Wisdom seemed to take pleasure in disconcerting all his thoughts and plans. Out of his twenty years of religious life, he passed ten amongst the Canons Regular, whither the divine call had invited him at the age of fifteen, in the full bloom of his innocence; and there, wholly captivated by the splendor of the Liturgy, occupied in the sweet study of the Holy Scriptures and of the Fathers, blissfully lost in the silence of the cloister, — his seraphic soul was ever being wafted to sublime heights, where (so it seemed) he was always to remain, held and hidden in the secret of God’s Face, When on a sudden, behold! the Divine Spirit urges him to seek the martyr’s crown: and presently, he is seen emerging from his beloved monastery, and following the Friars Minor to distant shores, where already some of their number had snatched the blood-stained palm. Not this, however, but the martyrdom of love, was to be his. Falling sick and reduced to impotence, before his zeal could effect anything on the African soil, — obedience recalled him to Spain; but, instead of that, he was cast by a tempest, on the Italian coast.

It happened that Saint Francis was just then convoking his entire family, for the third time, in General Chapter. Anthony unknown, lost in this vast assembly, beheld at its close, each of the Friars in turn, receive his appointed destination, whereas to him not a thought was given. What a sight! — the scion of the illustrious family de Bouillon and of the kings of the Asturias, completely overlooked in the throng of holy poverty’s sons! At the moment of departure, the Father Minister of the Bologna Province, remarking the isolated condition of the young religious whom no one had received in charge, — admitted him, out of charity, into his company. Accordingly having reached the Hermitage of Monte Paolo, Anthony was deputed to help in the kitchen and in sweeping the house, being supposed quite unfitted for anything else. Meanwhile, the Augustinian Canons, on the contrary, were bitterly lamenting the loss of one whose remarkable learning and sanctity, far more even than his nobility, had up to this, been the glory of their Order.

The hour at last came, chosen by Providence, to manifest Anthony to the world; and immediately, as was said of Christ Himself, the whole world went after him. (John 12:19) Around the pulpits where this humble Friar preached, there were wrought endless prodigies, in the order of nature and of grace. At Rome, he earned the surname of Ark of the Covenant; in France, that of Hammer of heretics. It would be impossible for us here, to follow him throughout his luminous course; but suffice it to say, that France as well as Italy, owes much to his zealous ministry.

St. Francis had yearned to be himself the bearer of the Gospel of peace, through all the fair realm of France, then sorely ravaged by heresy; but in his stead, he sent thither, Anthony, his well-beloved son and, as it were, his living portrait. What St. Dominic had been in the first crusade against the Albigenses, — Anthony was in the second. At Toulouse, was wrought that wondrous miracle of the famished mule turning aside from the proffered grain, in order to prostrate in homage before the Sacred Host. From the Province of Berry, his burning word was heard thundering in various distant provinces; whilst Heaven lavished delicious favors on his soul, that remained ever childlike amidst the marvelous victories achieved by him, and the intoxicating applause of an admiring crowd. Under the very eyes of his host, at a lonely house in Limousin, the Infant Jesus came to him radiant in beauty; and throwing Himself into his arms covered him with sweetest caresses, pressing the humble Friar to lavish the like on Him. One feast of the Assumption, Anthony was sad, because of a phrase then to be found in the Office, seeming to throw a shade of discredit on the fact of Mary’s body being assumed into heaven, together with her soul. Presently, the divine Mother herself came to console her devoted servant, in his lowly cell, assuring him of the truth of the doctrine of her glorious Assumption; and so left him, ravished with the sweet charms of her countenance and the melodious sound of her voice. Suddenly, as he was preaching at Montpellier, in a church of that city thronged with people, Anthony remembered that he had been appointed to chant the Alleluia, at the conventual Mass in his own convent, and he had quite forgotten to get his place supplied. Deeply pained at this involuntary omission, he bent his head upon his breast: whilst standing thus motionless and silent in the pulpit, as though asleep, his brethren saw him enter their choir, sing his verse, and depart; at once, his auditory beheld him recover his animation, and continue his sermon with the same eloquence as before. In this same town of Montpellier, another well-known incident occurred. When engaged in teaching a course of theology to his brethren, his commentary on the Psalms disappeared; but the thief was presently constrained, even by the fiend himself, to bring back the volume, the loss whereof had caused our Saint so much regret. Such is commonly thought to be the origin of the popular devotion, whereby a special power of recovering lost things, is ascribed to Saint Anthony. However this may be, it is certain, that from the very outset, this devotion rests on the testimony of startling miracles of this kind; and in our own day, constantly repeated favors of a similar nature, still confirm the same.

The following is the abridgment of this beautiful life, as given in the Liturgy.

Anthony was born at Lisbon, in Portugal, of noble parents, who brought him up in the love of God. Whilst he was still a youth, he joined the institute of the Canons Regular. But when the bodies of the five holy martyred Friars Minor, who had just suffered in Morocco for Christ’s sake were brought to Coimbra, the desire to be himself a martyr enkindled his soul, and he therefore passed over to the Franciscan Order. Presently, still urged by the same yearning, he had well-nigh reached the land of the Saracens, when falling sick on the road, he was enforced to turn back; but the ship bound for Spain, was drifted towards Sicily.

From Sicily, he came to Assisi, to attend the General Chapter of his Order, and thence withdrew himself to the Hermitage of Monte Paolo near Bologna, where he gave himself up for a long while, to contemplation of the things of God, to fastings and to watchings. Being afterwards ordained Priest and sent to preach the Gospel, his wisdom and eloquence drew on him such marked admiration of men, that the Sovereign Pontiff once, on hearing him preach, called him “The Ark of the Covenant.” Chiefly against heresies did he put forth the whole force of his vigor, whence he gained the name of “Perpetual hammer of heretics.”

He was the first of his Order, who, on account of his excellent gift of teaching, publicly lectured at Bologna on the interpretation of Holy Scripture, and directed the studies of his brethren. Then, having travelled through many provinces, he came one year before his death, to Padua where he left some remarkable monuments of the sanctity of his life. At length, having undergone much toil for the glory of God, full of merits and conspicuous for miracles, he fell asleep in the Lord, upon the Ides of June, in the year of salvation, one thousand two hundred and thirty-one. The Sovereign Pontiff, Gregory IX enrolled his name among those of Holy Confessors.

Want of space obliges us to be very meager in the number we give of liturgical pieces; but we cannot omit here the Miraculous Responsory, as it is called, the composition whereof is attributed to Saint Bonaventure. It continues still to justify its name, in favor of those who recite it in the hour of need. In the Franciscan Breviary it is the eighth Responsory of the Office of Saint Anthony of Padua. At a very early date, this, together with the Nine Tuesdays in our Saint’s honor, became a very popular devotion and was fraught with immense fruits of grace.

(called the “miraculous”)

If ye seek miracles, —lo! death, error, calamities, the demon and the leprosy, flee all away; the sick also arise healed. * Sea and chains give way; young and old alike, ask and receive again the use of members, as well as things lost.

℣. Dangers vanish; necessity ceased: let those who have experienced such things relate these facts; let the Paduans repeat:

* Sea and etc. Gloria. etc. * Sea, etc.

℣. Pray for us, O blessed Anthony,

℟. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.


May the votive solemnity of blessed Anthony, thy Confessor, give joy to thy Church, O God; that it may be ever defended by spiritual assistance, and deserve to possess eternal joys. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

O glorious Anthony, the simplicity of thine innocent soul made thee a docile instrument in the hand of the Spirit of Love. The Seraphic Doctor, Saint Bonaventure, hymning thy praises, takes for his first theme thy childlike spirit, and for his second thy wisdom which flowed therefrom. Wise indeed wast thou, 0 Anthony, for, from thy tenderest years, thou wast in earnest pursuit of divine Wisdom; and wishing to have her alone for thy portion, thou didst hasten to shelter thy love in some cloister, to hide thee in the secret of God’s face, the better to enjoy her chaste delights. Silence and obscurity in her sweet company was thine heart’s one ambition; and even here below her hands were pleased to adorn thee with incomparable splendor. She walked before thee; and blithely didst thou follow, for her own sake alone, without suspecting how all other good things were to become thine in her company. (Wisdom 7) Happy a childlike spirit such as thine, to which are ever reserved the more lavish favors of eternal Wisdom! “But,” exclaims thy sainted panegyrist Bonaventure, “who is really a child nowadays? Humble littleness is no more; therefore love is no more. Naught is to be seen now but valleys bulging into hills, and hills swelling into mountains. What saith Holy Writ? When they were lifted up, thou hast cast them down. (Psalms 72:18) To such towering vaunters, God saith again: Behold I have made thee a small child; but exceedingly contemptible among the nations such infancy is. Wherefore will ye keep to this childishness, 0 men, making your days an endless series of inconstancy, boisterous and vain effort at garnering wretched chaff? Other is that infancy which is declared to be the greatest in the land of true greatness.  (Matthew 18:4) Such was thine, O Anthony! and thereby wast thou wholly yielded up to Wisdom’s sacred influence.”

In return for thy loving submission to God our Father in heaven, the populace obeyed thee, and fiercest tyrants trembled at thy voice. (Wisdom 8:14-15) Heresy alone dared once to disobey thee, dared to refuse to hearken to thy word: thereupon, the very fishes of the sea took up thy defense; for they came swimming in shoals, before the eyes of the whole city, to listen to thy preaching which heretics had scorned. Alas! error, having long ago recovered from the vigorous blows dealt by thee, is yet more emboldened in these days, claiming even sole right to speak. The offspring of Manes, whom, under the name of Albigenses, thou didst so successfully combat, would now, under the new appellation of Freemasonry, have all France at its beck; thy native Portugal beholds the same monster stalking in broad daylight almost up to the very Altar; and the whole world is being intoxicated by its poison. 0 thou who dost daily fly to the aid of thy devoted clients in their private necessities, thou whose power is the same in heaven as heretofore upon earth, succor the Church, aid God’s people, have pity upon society, now more universally and deeply menaced than ever. O thou Ark of the Covenant, bring back our generation, so terribly devoid of love and faith, to the serious study of sacred letters, wherein is so energizing a power. O thou Hammer of heretics, strike once more such blows as will make hell tremble and the heavenly powers thrill with joy.

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