The thirteenth of June marks the Feast of Saint Anthony of Padua, one of the most venerated saints throughout Italy. Celebrations include processions, street fairs, fireworks, and huge crowds of people in piazzas, especially those in the south.
Sant’Antonio di Padova was born in 1195 to a wealthy Portuguese family with ties to nobility. A royal life with privileges was not what Saint Anthony wanted, though, and he entered the Augustinian Abbey of St. Vincent in Lisbon against his family’s wishes. During his time there, he came into contact with Franciscan friars and soon became drawn to their order.
Saint Anthony ended up in Italy when on a return trip to Portugal, a storm drove his ship into Messina, Sicily. He traveled around mainland Italy, seeking admission to a monastery—and turned away at Assisi—but was eventually placed in the hospice of San Paolo in Romagna because of his poor health. There he distinguished himself as a master preacher and traveled throughout northern Italy and southern France sharing his gift and performing miracles along the way.
He became a special envoy to Pope Gregory IX, commissioned to write “Sermons for Feast Days,” but fell ill in 1231 when he was just 36 years old; he died later that year on 13 June when he was on his way back to Padua. He is buried in the Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua.
Along with festivities throughout Italy, the Feast of Saint Anthony is also widely celebrated in many Italian communities throughout the world, especially in Portugal, Brazil, and the United States; indeed, his childhood home in Portugal is now a church, Igreja de Santo António de Lisboa.
Saint Anthony also happens to be the one many of us turn to when we’ve lost something; the prayer I was taught as a child goes like this:
Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, please come around; something is lost and it cannot be found!
Do you pray to Saint Anthony?