Saint Anthony of Padua

A Priest and Doctor of the Church

Statue of Saint Anthony of Padua in the Church of San Crisogono in Trastevere, Rome.
Statue of Saint Anthony of Padua holding the Christ Child in the Church of San Crisogono in Trastevere, Rome. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)

Born into a wealthy family near Lisbon, Portugal, Saint Anthony of Padua, also known as Saint Anthony the Wonder-Worker, was a 13th-century priest and Doctor of the Church. Chosen by Saint Francis of Assisi himself to teach theology to the Franciscan brothers, Saint Anthony was known in his lifetime as a great preacher and an implacable foe of heretics.

Quick Facts

  • Type of Feast: Memorial
  • Readings: 1 Kings 18:20-39; Psalm 16:1b-2ab, 4, 5ab and 8, 11; Matthew 5:17-19 (full text here)
  • Dates: August 15, 1195 (Lisbon, Portugal)-June 13, 1231 (Arcella, near Padua, Italy)
  • Birth Name: Fernando de Bulhões
  • Patron of: Faith in the Blessed Sacrament; amputees; sailors; elderly people; seekers of lost articles; animals, especially horses; American Indians; expectant mothers; barren women
  • Canonization: May 30, 1232, by Pope Gregory IX; proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XII on January 16, 1946.
  • Prayers: Novena to Saint Anthony for any Need; Novena to Saint Anthony to Find a Lost Article

The Life of Saint Anthony of Padua

Saint Anthony entered the Canons Regular of St. Augustine at age 15, over his parents' objection. He excelled in his studies of Scripture and the Church Fathers, and, after two years, he convinced his superiors to transfer him to the Monastery of Santa Cruz in Cóimbra, Portugal, so that he could continue his education without distraction from his family.

In 1220, five Franciscans whom Saint Anthony had met were martyred at the hands of Muslims in Morocco. Saint Anthony received permission to leave the Canons Regular of St. Augustine and to become a Franciscan. He took the name Anthony at that time and set off for Morocco to preach the Faith, fully expecting to suffer a martyr's death as well.

Becoming severely ill, he tried to return to Portugal, but his ship was stranded on the coast of Sicily. When he recovered, he traveled to Assisi for a general meeting of the Franciscan order, and he would spend the rest of his life in Italy and France.

The "Hammer of the Heretics"

In Italy, his preaching came to the attention of Saint Francis, the founder of the Franciscans, who directed him to teach theology to the Franciscan brothers. He preached so strongly against the Cathars and Albigenses that he earned the title "Hammer of the Heretics."

Saint Anthony the Wonder-Worker

During his life, Saint Anthony performed many miracles, including rendering poisoned food innocuous by making the Sign of the Cross over it; bilocating (appearing in two places at one time) so that he could celebrate Mass and sing the Divine Office; and reattaching an amputated foot. His miracles, both during his life and after his death, earned him the title thaumaturgus, a medieval Latin word which comes from the Greek. In modern English, it means "wonder-worker" or "miracle-worker." There are many Eastern Christian saints who are known as thaumaturgus, but relatively few in the West, and Saint Anthony is the best known among them.

thaumaturgus is often renowned for the miracles attributed to him after his death, but he earns the title during his life. St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 12:7-10, lists among the "manifestations of the Holy Spirit" the "gift of miracles." Interestingly, while we often think of simple, saintly people working miracles, it is usually the case that the wonder-working saints are, like Saint Anthony, excellent Scripture scholars and theologians.

The Patron Saint of Lost Items

Of course, today Saint Anthony is best known as the patron saint of lost items, and while finding a lost item may not quite count as working wonders, many of the millions of Catholics who are the beneficiaries of Saint Anthony's intercession every day find it just short of miraculous.

A Doctor of the Church

Saint Anthony is often portrayed with the Infant Jesus in his arms, in honor of an apparition of the Infant Jesus, in which He kissed Saint Anthony and told him He loved him for his zealous preaching.

Saint Anthony died on June 13, 1231, and his feast is celebrated on that day. His canonization took less than a year. In 1263, Saint Anthony's tomb was opened to transfer his relics, and his tongue was discovered to be incorrupt, which the great Franciscan Saint Bonaventure took as a sign that God had been pleased with Saint Anthony's preaching. On January 16, 1946, in recognition of that preaching, Pope Pius XII declared Saint Anthony a doctor of the Church.