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His quiet life of prayer and penance at the hermitage was exchanged for that of a public preacher. In our experience, it could be compared to an evangelist arriving in a slum driving a Mercedes, delivering a homily from his car and speeding off to a vacation resort. Anthony saw that words were obviously not enough. He had to show gospel poverty. People wanted more than self-disciplined, even penitent priests. They wanted genuineness of gospel living. And in Anthony they found it. They were moved by who he was, more than what he said.
Despite his efforts, not everyone listened. Legend has it that one day, faced with deaf ears; Anthony went to the river and preached to the fishes. Anthony traveled tirelessly in both northern Italy and southern France—perhaps trips—choosing to enter the cities where the heretics were strongest. Yet the sermons he has left behind rarely show him taking direct issue with the heretics. As the historian Clasen interprets it, Anthony preferred to present the grandeur of Christianity in positive ways.
It was no good to prove people wrong: Anthony wanted to win them to the right, the healthiness of real sorrow and conversion, the wonder of reconciliation with a loving Father. He had seen too many theologians taking pride in their sophisticated knowledge. Still, if the friars had to hit the roads and preach to all sorts of people, they needed a firm grounding in Scripture and theology. Anthony first taught in a friary in Bologna, which became a famous school.
The theology book of the time was the Bible. In one extant sermon by the saint, there are at least passages from Scripture.
While none of his theological conferences and discussions were written down, we do have two volumes of his sermons: Sunday Sermons and Feastday Sermons. His method included the use of allegory and symbolic explanation of Scripture. Anthony continued to preach as he taught the friars and assumed more responsibility within the Order. In he was appointed provincial superior of northern Italy, but still found time for contemplative prayer in a small hermitage. Around Easter in he was only 33 years old , while in Rome, he met Pope Gregory IX, who had been a faithful friend and adviser of St.
Naturally, the famous preacher was invited to speak. He did it humbly, as always. The response was so great that people later said that it seemed the miracle of Pentecost was repeated. Padua, Italy is a short distance west of Venice. At the time of Anthony, it was one of the most important cities in the country, with an important university for the study of civil and canon law.
Sometimes Anthony left Padua for greater solitude. He also found a grotto near the friary where he could pray in solitude. In poor health, and still provincial superior of northern Italy, he went to the General Chapter in Rome and asked to be relieved of his duties.
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But he was later recalled as part of a special commission to discuss certain matters of the Franciscan Rule with the pope. Back in Padua, he preached his last and most famous Lenten sermons. The crowds were so great—sometimes 30,—that the churches could not hold them, so he went into the piazzas or the open fields.
People waited all night to hear him. He needed a bodyguard to protect him from the people armed with scissors who wanted to snip off a piece of his habit as a relic. After his morning Mass and sermon, he would hear confessions. This sometimes lasted all day—as did his fasting.
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The great energy he had expended during the Lent of left him exhausted. He went to a little town near Padua, but seeing death coming close, he wanted to return to the city that he loved. The journey in a wagon weakened him so much, however, that he had to stop at Arcella. He had to bless Padua from a distance, as Francis had blessed Assisi. At Arcella, he received the last sacraments, sang and prayed with the friars there. He was only 36 and had been a Franciscan but 10 years. Anthony was a simple and humble friar who preached the Good News lovingly and with fearless courage.
The youth whom his fellow friars thought was uneducated became one of the great preachers and theologians of his day. He was a man of great penance and apostolic zeal. But he was primarily a saint of the people. An expanded version of the above appears in, Saint Anthony of Padua: The reason for invoking St. As the story goes, Anthony had a book of psalms that was very important to him.
Besides the value of any book before the invention of printing, the psalter had the notes and comments he had made to use in teaching students in his Franciscan Order. A novice who had already grown tired of living religious life decided to depart the community.
Saint Anthony of Padua
Upon realizing his psalter was missing, Anthony prayed it would be found or returned to him. And after his prayer the thieving novice was moved to return the psalter to Anthony and to return to the Order, which accepted him back. Legend has embroidered this story a bit. It has the novice stopped in his flight by a horrible devil, brandishing an ax and threatening to trample him underfoot if he did not immediately return the book. Obviously a devil would hardly command anyone to do something good.
But the core of the story would seem to be true.
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And the stolen book is said to be preserved in the Franciscan friary in Bologna. In any event, shortly after his death people began praying through Anthony to find or recover lost and stolen articles. And the Responsory of St. Anthony composed by his contemporary, Julian of Spires, O. Sometimes the alms are given for the education of priests. In some places parents also make a gift for the poor after placing a newborn child under the protection of St.
It is a practice in some churches to bless small loaves of bread on the feast of St. Anthony and give them to those who want them. Different legends or stories account for the donation of what is called St.
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By at least one account it goes back to , when it is said a child drowned near the Basilica of St. Anthony which was still being built. Another reason for the practice is traced back to Louise Bouffier, a shopkeeper in Toulon, France. A locksmith was prepared to break open her shop door after no key would open it. Bouffier asked the locksmith to try his keys one more time after she prayed and promised to give bread to the poor in honor of St. Anthony if the door would open without force. Your contribution may be further edited by our staff, and its publication is subject to our final approval.
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