Saint Anthony of Padua was born in Lisbon in 1195, in a noble family with a military background. At the age of 15 he joined the Canons Regular of St Augustine, at St Vincent of Lisbon. In 1219 he was ordained a priest at the Convent of Santa Croce in Coimbra, Portugal’s most important center of religious life and theological studies at the time.
A Portuguese priest, Anthony became a Franciscan in Italy
He then met Franciscan Friars Minor and decided to join them. It all happened when Anthony was 25, in January of 1220, when the relics of St Berard and his companions, the first Franciscan martyrs, massacred in Marrakech (Kingdom of Morocco), were brought to his convent of Coimbra. Inflamed with the desire for martyrdom he begged acceptance into the order of St Francis on the condition that he be sent to preach to the Saracens. In the fall of 1220 he left for Morocco, but a severe illness hindered him during the winter and he finally sailed to Italy.
Anthony began his mission as a preacher and debater in Forli, Italy, where he was asked to give a sermon for an ordination. Gregory IX, for whom he preached at the Vatican, called him the “Ark of the Testament” for his deep knowledge of Scripture. During the winter of 1230-1231, he composed his “Sermons on the Saints” in Padua. He died on June 13, 1236, at the age of 36. His funeral was an apotheosis and Gregory IX canonized him on May 30, 1232.
Anthony’s written legacy is important (notably about Mary and the mystery of the Incarnation) and earned him the title of “Angelic Doctor”
He left an important series of sermons on Sunday gospel readings, the saints and the Virgin Mary, as well as commentaries on many books of the Bible. These texts, generally accepted by critics as authentic, were collected and published in 1895 by Canon Ant. M. Locatelli, using the manuscripts of Padua, under the title: “Sermones dominicales et in solemnitatibus” (926 p.). Saint Anthony enjoyed a knowledge of the Holy Scriptures which seemed extraordinary and supernatural to his contemporaries; his evangelical and doctrinal action, made authentic by his sanctity and sometimes confirmed by miracles, was also powerful against the Albigensian heresy.
As his contemporary Thomas Gallus testified, St Anthony possessed also, to a rare degree, the secrets of mystical theology. In the bull “Exulta, Lusitania felix" of January 16, 1946, Pope Pius XII proclaimed him Doctor of the Church, adding the title of “Evangelic Doctor.”