Anthony of Padua, St. (praiseworthy, priceless) (1195–1231) In Christian legend, Doctor of the Church. Invoked to find lost property. Feast, 13 June. Born in Portugal, Anthony wished to become a missionary. He went to Italy, where he became a follower of St. Francis of Assisi. He was noted for his preaching and knowledge of the Bible.
There are numerous legends associated with him, some contained in The Little Flowers of St. Francis, a collection of medieval tales and legends of St. Francis and his companions. According to that source, one day as Anthony was preaching before the pope and cardinals, he spoke so eloquently, “so sweetly, so clearly, and in a manner so efficacious and so learned, that all those who were in the Consistory, though they spoke different languages, understood what he said as perfectly as if he had spoken the language of each.”
Another legend in the same collection tells how he preached to the fishes in Rimini after some heretics had refused to listen to him. He went to the seashore and placed himself on a bank and “began to speak to the fishes . . . who kept their heads out of the water” and looked attentively at the saint. When the townspeople heard what was happening, they came to see, and the heretics among them were converted by Anthony’s preaching.
Once the saint preached at the funeral of a very rich and avaricious man. He condemned the man, saying his heart would be found in his treasure chest. The man’s relatives discovered that his heart was missing from his body. Another legend tells how the saint was asked by a heretic to prove that Christ was really present in the Holy Eucharist. The man’s mule bowed down as Anthony carried out the Sacrament and remained so until he passed.
A 17th-century legend tells of the Christ Child appearing to the saint, standing on a book. In Christian art St. Anthony of Padua is portrayed as a young Franciscan, often with a lily or crucifix in his hand, or in later paintings, with the Christ Child standing on a book or carried by the saint in his arms.
From the Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow -Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante