St. Anthony

“The sea obeys and fetters break
And lifeless limbs thou dost restore
While treasures lost are found again
When young or old thine aid implore.”

- Julian of Spires, O.F.M.

The 13th of June is celebrated every year the world over as the feast of the Catholic Church’s most beloved and popular Saint, St. Anthony of Padua. He was one among the great preachers and theologians of his day. There are many legends associated with  St. Anthony. He is known as the Patron Saint of lost and stolen articles.

St. Anthony, was born Fernando Martins de Bulhões in a wealthy family in Lisbon, Portugal in 1195. At a very young age he joined the Augustinian Order in Lisbon. When he was in Coimbra (Portugal), he was inspired to join the Franciscan Order by the example of a group of five Franciscan Friars who were martyred in Morocco. After joining the Franciscans he went to Morocco to preach. However, he took ill in Morocco. When he was returning to Portugal, the ship that he was travelling in was caught in a storm and he landed in Italy. Since then, he mostly lived his life in Italy and spent his time praying, reading the Scriptures, preaching and doing menial tasks. He died in Padua, Italy on 13th June 1231 after receiving his last sacraments.

St. Anthony was a great preacher. A lot of people were moved by his preaching and also by his way of life. However, despite his efforts not everyone listened. Legend has it that one day as no one was listening to him preach, he went to the river and started preaching to the fish. This got everyone’s attention and a lot of people gathered around him to witness the event. This episode from the life of St. Anthony has also been depicted in art.

St. Anthony has been pictured by artists and sculptors in different ways. The main attributes of St. Anthony are the lily, book (closed or open) and Infant Jesus. As far as the depiction of St. Anthony is concerned, the earliest images show him standing with a closed book in his hand, with the Franciscan  tonsure and wearing the brown Franciscan habit with a hood and the long cord belt with its three knots symbolizing chastity, poverty and obedience to the rule hanging down at the front or side. From the 16th century onwards, Infant Jesus became a part of the iconography of St. Anthony. Initially, the Infant Jesus was placed upon the book that St. Anthony held in his hand and in later images He was shown resting on the arm of St. Anthony. St. Anthony has also been painted preaching to fish, holding a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament in front of a mule or preaching in the public square.

The depiction of St. Anthony carrying the Infant Jesus is based on the account of Count Tiso, an Italian Nobleman, who had converted after hearing the preaching of St. Anthony. In 1231, when St. Anthony’s health was deteriorating, Count Tiso and the Friars invited him to reside at the hermitage in Camposampiero. While at the hermitage, the Friars noticed St. Anthony admire a huge Walnut tree in the garden. When Count Tiso was told about this, he had a small tree house built in the Walnut tree for St. Anthony. One night as Count Tiso was passing by the room of St. Anthony, he saw a bright light coming from the room. At first he thought that it was a fire and rushed into the room. But when he entered the room, he saw St. Anthony in ecstasy embracing Baby Jesus. As per the request of the Saint, Count Tiso did not tell anyone about this incident until after the death of St. Anthony.

‘St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around. Something is lost and needs to be found.’ This is a popular prayer said to St. Anthony seeking his intercession to find a lost object.