Thursday, July 19, 2012


(See Part 1 for his life story.)

St. Anthony of Lisbon is one of seven patron saints of Portugal where he was born, raised, educated and served as a priest and Augustinian monk under his baptismal name, Fernando Martins de Bulhoes. When he became a Franciscan friar, he took the name Anthony. He is the beloved patron saint of many cities and towns in Portugal, Spain and South America. He is remembered with feasts and festivals on his feast day, June 13, especially in Lisbon where St. Anthony’s Feast Day is a municipal holiday celebrated particularly with weddings.

St. Anthony of Padua is the patron saint of Padua and many other towns in Italy where he served as gardener, preacher, confessor, teacher, writer, contemplative, and humble miracle worker. He is also the beloved patron saint of many towns and parishes in the United States, France, and other countries around the world. He is remembered especially in Italy and the United States with festivals including large amounts of traditional food, parades, and fireworks.   

Do the Portuguese honor the time St. Anthony spent in Italy? Sim. Do the Italians honor the time St. Anthony spent in Portugal? Si. Do the Franciscan friars appreciate St. Anthony’s study of theology and scripture as an Augustinian monk? Do the Augustinian monks appreciate St. Anthony’s abilities as a talented Franciscan preacher? Of course. These experiences and connections made him who he ultimately came to be – a beloved saint, world wide.

Moments after Anthony died on June 13, 1231, it’s said that the children of Padua ran up and down the streets shouting, “The Holy Father is dead; Saint Anthony is dead!”

People immediately petitioned the pope with words of his many miracles and their great love for Anthony. Only 11 months later, he was canonized on May 30, 1232, by Pope Gregory IX who said that Anthony was the “Ark of the Testament” and the “Repository of Holy Scripture.”

The baptismal font in Lisbon’s 12-century cathedral became cherished and remains on display today, 800 years later, as the font where St. Anthony was baptized.

In 1263, during construction of La Basilica de San Antonio de Padua, a young child drowned in the nearby river. His mother prayed to St. Anthony for intercession in reviving her son, and if he did so, she promised to give to the poor the child’s weight in grain. The child lived. And so began the tradition of St. Anthony’s Bread - alms given to the poor in thanksgiving for answered prayers.

In 1888, a woman named Louise Bouffier managed a bakery in Toulon, France. One morning, the lock on the door of the bakery jammed and the key wouldn’t work. The locksmith couldn’t make it work either. He told her he’d have to dismantle the door and went to get his tools. While he was away, Louise prayed to St. Anthony for intercession in fixing the lock. If he did so, she promised to give some of the bakery’s bread to the poor. When the locksmith returned, the key fit smoothly into the lock and the door opened. Louise kept her word and her friends also gave to the poor in return for answered prayers. In 1890, they founded a charity, St. Anthony's Bread.

In 1946, Pope Pius XIII officially declared St. Anthony a Doctor (teacher) of the Universal (Roman Catholic) Church.

Over-the-top celebrations of St. Anthony’s feast day began soon after his death and continue to this day including the blessing and distribution of St. Anthony’s bread. The blessed bread is freely handed out to the poor, parishioners, family and friends.

In Lisbon, June 13 is a municipal holiday celebrated with parades, feasts, festivals and weddings. In fact, the holiday is also known as the festival of the brides as so many weddings take place on this day. The city even offers to pay for the weddings of those who can’t afford them.

There are stories about people getting angry at St. Anthony for not getting their prayers answered for them. It’s rather common for women to bury a statue of St. Anthony with the head in the ground and bargain with him, in prayer, that as soon as he finds her a husband, she will turn his statue upright.

In one typical story, a woman in Mexico prayed to St. Anthony for intercession in finding her a husband for a long time with no results. One day in a fit of frustration, she threw her St. Anthony statue out the window, where it hit a passerby and knocked him out cold. He was carried into the nearest house, which happened to be her parents’ home and he awoke to find this woman fanning him and placing a cool cloth on his forehead. They fell in love and were married soon after.

Back in Portugal, many new relationships begin on June 13 as women are wooed with pots of sweet basil with love notes, poems, scripture, or prayers tucked inside. People also decorate their porches with pots of basil and pass them out to friends and family. Plenty of delicious food is always part of St. Anthony’s feast day. Grilled sardines are the favored street fare in Lisbon.

In Italy, and in many Italian American parishes in the United States, St. Anthony’s feast day is celebrated with copious amounts of delicious traditional foods, street festivals, parades, and fireworks. Here is the mission statement of one organization’s festival:

“The San Antonio Di Padova Da Montefalcione, Inc. is a non-profit, religious and cultural organization founded in 1919 in Boston by Italian immigrants. The members of this organization are dedicated to continuing the tradition of honoring our patron, Saint Anthony of Padua, by organizing and producing the annual St. Anthony Feast in the North End of Boston.

In addition to encouraging devotion to Saint Anthony Of Padua: its mission includes preserving Italian-American traditions, culture, history and heritage; and strengthening its community by supporting both financially and morally the neighborhood’s other non-profit institutions that aim to improve the lives of its citizens.” 



St. Anthony of Padua: Saint of the People, Edited by Jack Wintz, O.F.M. 
To explain why I feel such a connection to St. Anthony of Padua and Lisbon, I have to start on vacation:

Last month, my family traveled from our coastal town of Wilmington to the mountains of North Carolina. We dropped our son and daughter off at Youth Week at Kanuga Conferences in Hendersonville. My husband, Stuart, and I went on to Asheville where we enjoyed the downtown culture, atmosphere and, of course, the food!

We took two hiking day trips, one to Grandfather Mountain, 

and one to Chimney Rock.

Both trips were great fun and we plan to go hiking together more often.

On our first day trip Stuart drove from Asheville to Grandfather Mountain so I was able to enjoy the scenery. During a lull our in our conversation, my mind wandered and I found myself traveling along mountain roads of western New York State – the hay bales, red barns, cow pastures, winding roads, hills and ever-rising mountains, even the smell and feel of the air rushing through the open windows made the illusion complete, I was home in New York.

When I became aware again that I was actually traveling in North Carolina and not New York, I finally understood why I'm so happy in the mountains.

I lived in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains of New York, which is linked to the Appalachian Mountains via the Appalachian Trail. The very mountain ranges form a strong connection that distance and invisible state lines cannot break or dull.

As a matter of fact, my Uncle Freddie’s backyard abutted the Appalachian Trail. He spoke with many a hiker over the years and helped them out if they needed a hot meal or a place to sleep. Actually, he was my great uncle and with his chest puffed out, thumbs behind his suspenders, and cheeky grin, he insisted we call him Great Uncle Freddie with emphasis on the Great.  

In 2005 with his Great, Great niece

Back at the hotel, I found a copy of Smoky Mountain Living placed in our room by the housekeeping staff. In it was an article called “Women in the Appalachian Home” by Sarah Smith Nester. My epiphany continued as I read:

“These woman were a hearty bunch and joyful, but they didn’t do a lot for themselves. They focused on chores and things that needed to be done.”

I usually work long days; love to laugh, don’t allow myself much idle time and focus a great deal on chores, writing goals, and volunteer responsibilities.

“Food was a way to cultivate friendships inside and outside of their homes. Recipes were created and passed from friend to friend.”

I write a blog called Saints and Recipes. Check.

“Mountain Women tended their own houses and gardens.”

Yup! I clean my own house and gardening is one of my favorite hobbies.

“The daily grind of life could have so easily worn mountain women down, but they were able to turn their tasks into opportunities for self-expression. To make and cherish their “pretties” whether quilts, flowers or songs.”

I share my writing, flowers, and produce from my garden as well as the afghans Great Aunt Ida, sister of Freddie, taught me how to crochet.

“Women were very instrumental in religion; they were the spiritual leaders of the home. This was most likely to be role model for the children.”

My children and I are active members of our church youth programs. 

“People tended to stay home – women especially since a primary duty was to tend to the children.”

I love a day when I have no place I need to be except home. While my teenagers no longer need my tending, they continue to need guidance, a stocked fridge, clean clothes and life skills lessons, a.k.a. Mom School.

Okay, so I don’t muck out the pig pen, weave my own wool cloth, or have any midwifery skills.  But I still marvel at all the traits I share with mountain woman of days past, and I realize that I've been a mountain gal all along. 

Yet, I have no intention of moving to the mountains. I love living in Wilmington and am not usually bothered by the humidity or the threat of the occasional hurricane. We’ve got the ocean with it's breeze, lots of sunny days, and mild winters.

While I think it would be cool to someday rent a mountain cabin for summertime stays with frequent hikes along the Appalachian Trail, I’m staying right here in Wilmington because I love it.

So what’s my connection to St. Anthony of Padua and Lisbon?

First of all, he's a beloved son and saint of both Italy and Portugal. He became a Franciscan friar after 11 years of theological study as an Augustinian monk. And he was a nobleman’s son who served the poor.

I need nothing more to understand that I can be a mountain woman at home by the coast, a Northerner living in the South, and a practicing Episcopalian who honors her Roman Catholic heritage.

But there is more:  My father’s parents, Antoinetta and Domenic, immigrated separately to the United States from the same small mountain village. They met up again in Mamaroneck, New York, fell in love and married. The village is called Collepietro and is located near L’Aquila in the mountain region of Abruzzi, Italy.

Although known to me as Grandma, her friends called her Nettie. 

with my brothers and me

Given another look, one notices that Antoinetta is a feminine form of the Latin Antonio or Anthony.

In 2008, my father traveled with my family on a tour of Italy and a side trip to Collepietro, “where our people come from.”

The day we arrived was June 13. The feast day of the village’s patron saint, St. Anthony of Padua.

Soon after our return from Asheville, I called my father and explained my mountain connection and how it went all the way to Italy and my Italian roots and heritage. Then I said, “And Grandpa (my mother’s father) explains my connection to the sea.”

My father said, “Actually, Portugal is mountainous, too. The mountains just sort of drop off into the ocean.”

My first thought, after once again vowing to read my pile of National Geographic magazines as my only chance in fighting off geographic illiteracy, was that St. Anthony was originally from Portugal and thus I began my St. Anthony research.

But the connections don’t end there. My Grandfather’s name is, wait for it . . . .
Antonio, one in a long line of Portuguese sons named after their beloved saint.

And my younger brother also carries the name of his Portuguese grandfather and his Italian grandmother both of whom were ultimately named after St. Anthony. 

Grandpa was a rather gruff fellow who spoke coarse broken English. I have an early memory of when I was five years old. We were playing outside while my mother sat with Grandpa on our front steps. My older brother, Larry, got a splinter and my mother asked Grandpa to watch me and two-year-old Tony while she took care of Larry.

After they went inside, Tony toddled off down the driveway. Grandpa said, “Tony, see if you come here.”

Tony kept going.

Grandpa said, “TONY, SEE IF YOU COME HERE!”

Tony kept going.

Finally, terrified that Tony would get run over (on our little neighborhood road) and realizing that Grandpa was not getting up; I ran down and grabbed Tony just as he reached the mailbox.

My mother thought the whole thing was hysterical. “Papa,” she said through here laughter, “The baby doesn’t understand ‘see if you come here.’ You have to say, “Tony, no, no.”

Grandpa laughed too, in his way.  The tiniest of smiles.  And that was enough.

Antonio and Edna Mina

Grandpa had two huge vegetable gardens. He would bring us box loads of tomatoes, zucchini, and cucumbers all summer long. My mother enjoyed giving away whatever we couldn’t eat to neighbors and friends. 

He lived right down the road from Great Uncle Freddie. I never met my grandmother, Edna, as she died before I was born. She was the sister of Great Uncle Freddie and Great Aunt Ida. Unlike my three first generation grandparents, Edna’s family were mountain folk with mixed heritage going back many generations and even included a touch of Native American.

My father’s father, Domenic, also died before I was born. But my Grandma Nettie and my Grandpa Tony got along very well. Grandma spoke beautiful English as she immigrated at the age of 13 and Grandpa spoke his “famous” broken English as he immigrated as an adult. But whenever they were together at our house, Grandma spoke Italian and Grandpa spoke Portuguese and they understood each other.

When I was in 5th grade, my grandfather died in a car accident.

I don’t remember his birthday, but I will always remember the day he died, and I honor his memory each year on November 12.

I salute him every time I eat a sardine sandwich as they are a “Product of Portugal.” And whenever I try to open a jar or bottle and need a bit more strength than I have, I say my grandfather’s name out loud, “Tony Mina!” In this way, I’m asking for his help as a saint in heaven, but I'm also summoning that extra bit of strength so that I don’t disappoint him.

Inevitably the jar opens. From now on, I’ll say, “Thanks Grandpa and St. Anthony.” Because when I call on Tony, my grandfather, I’m also calling on St. Anthony of Padua and Lisbon.

In a nod toward my Portuguese, Italian, and Appalachian Mountain Folk heritage, I'm happy to share these two recipes: St. Anthony’s Bread which honors St. Anthony of Padua and Garden Basil Pesto which honors St. Anthony of Lisbon -- one and very much the same beloved Saint.

St. Anthony’s Bread

Remember that St. Anthony’s Bread defines alms given to the poor in payment or thanksgiving for prayers answered through intercession by St. Anthony. A modern-day equivalent would be to “pay it forward.”

St. Anthony’s Bread is also real bread that is baked into small loaves or rolls on St. Anthony’s feast day. Sometimes these loaves are blessed by a parish priest and given away.

One can use regular bread dough for these small loaves, such as Sharing Bread
or this recipe which has more yummy stuff in it. 


2 packages dry active yeast (NOT Quick or Rapid Rise)
1 cup water heated to 110 or 115 degrees F (check with candy thermometer)
2 Tablespoons sugar
4 cups bread flour lightly packed and leveled with knife
¼ cup bread flour for sprinkling on surface and bread before and during kneading
½ tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon dried garlic powder
½ cup milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top of rolls

  1.  Heat water in pot on stove until temperature reaches 110 or 115 degrees F. Measure out 1 cup. Add sugar. Stir. Add yeast. Stir and wait five minutes to proof the yeast.

  2. Meanwhile place flour, salt, Italian seasoning, parsley flakes and garlic powder in bowl and stir.

 3. If after 5 minutes, a bubbling foam layer has developed on the yeast mixture, rejoice for your yeast is alive! Pour mixture into a large bowl.

 4. In a saucepan, heat and stir milk and butter until butter is almost melted. Add and stir into the large bowl.

5. Gradually mix flour into the liquid in the large bowl until it’s all absorbed, either with an electric mixer, a spoon, or your clean hands.

6. If you used your hands, wash them again. Sprinkle flour onto a clean flat surface as well as on the sticky ball of dough. Knead (squish, mash, push, pull) it for a full 5 minutes. Set a timer, if necessary. If your hands get too sticky “wash” them in more flour. Mix in ½ cup Parmesan cheese. Knead for another 5 full minutes.

7.  Place dough in a large glass or oven-safe bowl coated with olive oil. Roll dough ball around until it’s also coated with olive oil.

8. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and proof (let rise) in a warm place (about 85 degrees F) until it doubles in size, about 45 minutes. Some ovens have a "proof" setting or you can set it to “warm,” then turn it off.

 9. Once the dough has risen, punch it down to remove the air. Divide dough into about 16 portions shaping each into a round roll. Place rolls on parchment paper on a regular cookie sheet (or two). Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle on ¼ cup Parmesan cheese.

10. Proof again, uncovered in a warm place about 30 minutes.

11. If proofing in oven, remove tray. Place pizza stone in oven for even cooking. Place a pan of water on bottom rack to provide moisture during baking for a crispy crust. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

12. Place cookie sheet on pizza stone and bake at 375 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.

13. Cool on wire rack.

Serve warm with butter.

Or cool and wrap individually for blessing and sharing.

Or use in assembling these St. Anthony sandwiches:

Slice roll horizontally. Add mayonnaise, a layer of sardines, slice of fresh garden tomato and several basil leaves.      

Or slice roll horizontally. Spread with pesto (recipe below) add slice of Provolone and a slice of fresh garden tomato.   

Garden Basil Pesto


2 cups loosely packed basil leaves, washed and dried thoroughly
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Black pepper to taste

  1.  Grow your own basil either in garden, window boxes, railing boxes, or pots.

  2.  Harvest about 2 cups worth of leaves.

  3.  Wash and dry leaves.

  4.  Purchase toasted pine nuts, or spread raw nuts on a small tray and toast in toaster oven. Option:  Swap out pine nuts for walnuts in honor of St. Anthony’s walnut tree hut.

  5.  Combine the basil, nuts, Parmesan, garlic, salt, vinegar, and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a food processor and puree.

  6. Drizzle in the ¼ cup olive oil while the motor is running. Add black pepper.

  7. Turn off when everything’s mixed into a smooth puree.

  8. Store in refrigerator for up to 5 days or 4 months in freezer. It’s fun to harvest a lot of basil and make batches to give away. 

  9. Or serve immediately over pasta. Add more Parmesan cheese as desired. Perhaps also add grilled fresh sardines, or warmed up canned sardines.

10. Or spread over sliced Italian bread, add a slice of cheese such as provolone and broil in oven until cheese melts. It makes a delicious appetizer.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012


St. Anthony (Fernando Martins de Bulhoes) was born in Lisbon, Portugal, on August 15, 1195. He became a priest and a Franciscan Friar who earned special permission from St. Francis of Assisi to teach the brothers how to preach the gospels. St. Anthony's humility, deep love of Jesus Christ, knowledge of scripture, ability to preach God’s love in everyday language, and his many miracles led to one of the quickest canonizations ever. He’s the patron saint of the city of Lisbon and all of Portugal as well as Padua, Italy, and many other places around the world. He’s also the patron saint of lost articles and people, sailors, fishermen, priests, and children. He died on June 13, 1231, in Padua. He is honored only in the Roman Catholic Church and his feast day is June 13. Some communities also celebrate his birthday.

His parents, Vicente Martins de Bulhoes and Teresa Pais Taveira, were wealthy nobility with family ties to knights and crusaders. Fernando attended the cathedral school in Lisbon with other boys of the noble class.

At age 15, he entered the religious order of St. Augustine at a nearby monastery. Fernando’s parents were most likely disappointed in his decision as they expected him to take care of their estate and carry on the family name, but they accepted it.

Fernando had a love of scripture and an excellent memory. He spent most of his time in study and prayer except for when his childhood friends and cousins visited and engaged in rowdy discussion of secular life in the city. As Fernando grew more contemplative and devout, these interruptions proved to be too much for him. He asked for and was granted permission to transfer 100 miles north to Coimbra where he led a life of intense study of scripture and Augustinian Theology.

(St. Augustine of Hippo, who died on August 28, in the year 430, left a copious amount of theological writings. Augustinian Monasteries were dedicated to the study of his works and biblical scripture.)

Some time during his nine years at the monastery in Coimbra, Anthony was ordained as a priest and probably began preaching. However, there is no record as to when he was ordained, so it may have occurred at a later time.

Besides engaging in study and prayer, the monks collected food from the wealthy to distribute to the poor. Fernando had a great love of the poor and enjoyed taking care of them, so he was granted the role of Guest Master who passed out the food and blessings.

Sometimes, traveling Franciscan friars, or those from the nearby friary who didn't find work that day, begged at the monastery for daily food for themselves and for the poor people that relied on them. Fernando enjoyed speaking with them and learning about Francis and his Order.

There were five friars in particular that Anthony probably met, befriended, and took care of before their journey to Morocco – Bernardo, Peter, Otto, Adiuto, and Accursio. They traveled to Morocco in order to preach about Jesus Christ and convert Muslims. (This event occurred after St. Francis of Assisi and the Sultan.)

They preached in front of the Mosque in Seville and were almost killed on the spot. But the Sultan issued a strict warning and allowed them to pass on to Morocco.

(Islam teaches that Jesus was a powerful prophet in a strong line on prophets including Moses. Muhammad is the latest prophet whose teachings contain the most pertinent part of God’s message. To speak ill of Muhammad or attempt to convince Muslims to abandon their religion was a crime punishable by death.)

Although the friars were warned repeatedly to stop, they continued to preach of Jesus Christ in the streets. For this crime, they were tortured and beheaded. A crusader ransomed and escorted their bodies home. Their remains were paraded around in glory as martyrs for Christ. Fernando was greatly inspired by these martyrs.

To die spreading the Word of Jesus Christ would be for Fernando the ultimate show of devoted faith and love. It was also possible that having grown up in an area of Portugal that was once occupied by the Moors and still contained parts of their culture and language, Fernando believed he would have greater success in communicating with the Saracens. He went to the nearby friary and announced, “Brothers, I would gladly put on the habit of your Order, if you would promise to send me as soon as possible to the land of the Saracens, that I may gain the crown of the holy martyrs.” They agreed.

Although the prior of the Augustinians argued for him to stay, he ultimately granted Fernando permission to leave. Fernando received the Franciscan habit and took the name Anthony after the patron saint of the local church and friary, St. Anthony of Egypt.

(St. Anthony of Egypt who died on January 17, in the year 356, was a rich man who was led to follow the words of Jesus - Sell all that you have, and give to the poor, and come follow me. Matthew 19:21. He became a monk and eventually traveled to Egypt to offer comfort to persecuted Christians and ended up converting many of the persecutors to Christianity.)

After learning the ways of Franciscan Friar Minors, Anthony was sent off to Morocco with a companion brother to spread the word of Jesus Christ and possibly become a martyr. Alas, as soon as their ship arrived, Anthony became so severely ill, most likely with malaria, that he never left the port. Months later, having recovered somewhat, he realized that they needed to return home.

Their ship didn’t make it home to Portugal; instead it ran into many storms and was blown off course to Sicily. There was a Franciscan friary at Messina that welcomed them and nursed Anthony to partial health. It’s probable that he never fully recovered as he was sickly for the rest of his life.

Anthony traveled with the friars to Assisi for the great Pentecost Chapter of Mats in which three thousand friars gathered and slept on mats outside. Francis was there but was also sick. Francis preached by whispering to Brother Elias who shouted out Francis’s words. Most of the sermon was an admonition of the brothers to give up comforts and high thoughts with the goal of seeking true humility and remaining humble servants of Jesus Christ.

Anthony, already humble by nature, took Francis’s words to heart and repented his mistaken belief that God wanted him to seek glory as a martyr. He asked and was permitted to join a group traveling back with their provincial superior to their friary in Northern Italy. Because of Francis’s lessons on humility and disappointment in his unsuccessful mission to Morocco, he didn’t tell his new brothers about his theological training and preaching abilities. Following the ways of Francis, he led a life of simple manual labor of gardening, kitchen duties, prayer, and quite contemplation.

In 1222, Anthony along with his brothers attended an ordination by Bishop Ricciardellus Belmont of nine Franciscans and Dominicans to the priesthood.

(St. Dominic who died on August 8, 1221, began a brotherhood very similar to Francis’s. The biggest difference in the two orders was that Dominic chose to convert through education and discussion, while Francis chose to convert through example and good works).

One of the Dominicans was expected to give the sermon because they were known to be excellent preachers. But due to a miscommunication, none of them had prepared a sermon. The Franciscans also declined to preach as they were unprepared as well.

Finally, Anthony was ordered to step up and speak off the top of his head -- a simple message from a simple brother. Filled with humility, but obedient, he reluctantly agreed.

His knowledge and total recall of scripture, ardent love of Christ, and easy speaking style touched the hearts of all assembled. Most likely, his sermon to his fellow brothers and priests explained in words how they felt inside about leaving their girlfriends, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters who loved them in order to follow the path of Jesus Christ because His love is the greatest love of all.

Anthony’s gift and his future path were revealed.

He was assigned to preach to the heretics in Northern Italy. Unlike the devout citizens of Assisi, these people did not respect the Church. Some heretics rejected the Church because of the wealthy lifestyle of the clergy which was in sharp contrast to the poor to whom they preached.

Unlike Francis and the Friar Minors, who considered themselves lesser brothers to the Church clergy and were fully obedient to Church hierarchy and laws, some heretics not only rejected the clergy, they also denied the validity of the sacraments.

Because Anthony was not a wealthy priest and like Francis was a living example of the gospels, the heretics allowed him to preach to them. With his powerful sermons, he was able to move his listeners and call them home. However once, when Anthony preached in the streets in Rimini, a town along the Adriatic Sea, people mocked him and refused to listen. In frustration, he went to the waterfront and preached to the fish.

It is believed that Anthony’s first miracle occurred when the fish poked their heads out of the water and appeared to listen. So amazed by Anthony’s connection to God, the heretics invited Anthony back to preach to them. He became known as the Hammer of the Heretics.

Anthony was also a proponent of social justice and rights of the poor. He preached for the removal of an unfair law in which debtors who didn’t make their payments were placed in prison where they were unable to work to earn the money to repay their debts or to support their families. Money lenders profited by this law as they were able to force the wives and children of the debtors to work for them or hired them out as servants or worse to pay off the debt.

It is believed that another important miracle occurred when Anthony was served poisoned soup by a powerful money lender at a dinner with prominent city leaders. Although loath to make a spectacle of himself, Anthony stood up, blessed the soup and ate it without harm. The law was changed and the debtors were released from prison.

When words of Anthony’s extraordinary preaching reached Francis, he made an important decision that would have lasting effects on the Order. Francis believed and taught that book knowledge was not necessary for the Friar Minors as the gospels were all they needed to share and that those with book knowledge tended to think too highly of themselves as compared to others. In other words, Francis frowned upon educated friars in comparison to simple friars with simple faith.

But news of Anthony’s sermons showed Francis that education and faith could be combined in a preacher whose messages to the people would be stronger due to education in scripture and theology. In one of his rare letters, Francis wrote, “Brother Francis sends his wishes of health to Brother Anthony, my bishop. It pleases me that you teach sacred theology to the brothers as long as – in the words of the rule, ‘you do not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotion’ with study of this kind.”

Although this letter contains a bit of sarcasm and a warning, Anthony was overjoyed to receive this letter of approval from Francis. Thereafter, with this blessing and permission, Anthony became a teacher of friars, especially those preparing for priesthood and a life of preaching.

Anthony was also asked to write down his sermons to help his brothers preach. For many years, in between his preaching, traveling and teaching, he wrote, SUNDAY SERMONS and FEAST DAY SERMONS which are still referred to today. Unfortunately, even the translated versions are not easy to read because they are sermon notes for other preachers to use.

Anthony’s most popular miracle occurred when after many years’ work, the almost complete manuscript was stolen out of his cell (small room in a monastery) by a friar who was dealing with some sort of negative issues.

After looking everywhere for the book and learning that one of the brothers left the friary, Anthony prayed that the book and the brother would return. The next morning the brother appeared with the book and confessed to Anthony who counseled him, prayed with him, and, of course, forgave him.

News of this miracle spread and people sought Anthony’s prayers of intercession in the finding of lost things and missing people. This practice continues today, not just for lost car keys but for that which is missing but hasn’t been lost, such as a spouse for the unmarried, or a baby for the childless.

Looking deeper, the story of the brother who stole Anthony’s book is more a story about a restoration of lost faith than about the lost article, no matter how important or precious. People still pray to St. Anthony for intercession in restoring the lost or missing faith in those they love and care about.

Anthony continued to preach, teach the friars, and take on more responsibility in the Order. He was appointed Provincial Superior of Northern Italy in 1226 soon after the death of Francis.

Following his beloved Francis’s example, Anthony depended on solitude and contemplative prayer to sustain him during his busy times.

In 1228, Anthony went to Rome where he met Pope Gregory IX, who had been a friend and advisor to Francis. Anthony was asked to preach and he did so with great humility. His sermon had a profound effect on the thousands of people assembled outside to hear him. Later, the pope said that he believed Anthony had memorized the entire Bible.

The travel and the demanding life of a preacher and confessor began to take their toll. Anthony sought solitude and contemplative prayer whenever he could. One time a good friend, a nobleman named Tiso, invited Anthony to stay in a small room in his tower. During the night, Tiso saw a bright light coming from under the door. Believing that Anthony was in danger of a fire, he burst into the room and found Anthony in deep conversation with the Christ Child surrounded in Holy light.

It’s believed that this miracle is why St. Anthony appears in statues and other artwork holding the Child Jesus. Looking deeper, we see that often the Child Jesus is standing on an open Holy Bible as if coming out of the words.

In fact, Anthony believed that Jesus was the Word. Meaning that God’s gift in the form of this precious child given to us freely, even before his brutal death and resurrection, was such a gift of complete love, that no other words are necessary:

“The fruit of the bee is the Son of the Virgin. Blessed is the fruit of thy womb (Luke 1.42), it says; and Canticles 2: His fruit was sweet to my palate (Cant. 2.3). This fruit is sweet in its beginning, middle and end. It was sweet in the womb, sweet in the crib, sweet in the temple, sweet in Egypt, sweet in his Baptism, sweet in the desert, sweet in the word, sweet in miracles, sweet on the ass, sweet in the scourging, sweet on the Cross, sweet in the tomb, sweet in hell, and sweet in heaven. O sweet Jesus, what is more sweet than you are? ‘ Jesu-the very thought is sweet . . . sweeter than honey far.’”

(The last quote is from Jesu Dulcis Memoria a hymn written by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, 1090 to August 20, 1153.) ”  

In another sermon Anthony explains why he sees Jesus as a precious child:

“Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son; and his name shall be called Emmanuel. (Is. 7/14) that is God-with-us. God made himself a little child for us; he was born for us. There are many reasons why Christ is called a little child: and for briefness’ sake here is just one: If you hurt a child, make him cry, but then show him a kindness, give him a flower, a rose, or some other object he likes, instantly he forgets the hurt you did him, his anger is gone and he runs to embrace you. Thus it is with Christ. If you have offended him by a mortal sin or wounded him by some fault, but you offer him the flower of contrition or the rose of a tearful confession (Tears are the soul’s blood.), at once he forgets your offense, he forgives your sin, and he runs to take you in his arms and gives you his kiss of peace.”

Two years before his death, travel finally became too much for Anthony and he remained in Padua. People gathered in large outdoor crowds numbering as many as thirty thousand to hear Anthony preach. Then so moved by his sermon, people would line up so that Antony would hear their confessions.

His brothers took as good care of him as he would allow between his demanding work schedule and strict adherence to fasting. Anthony began to suffer from dropsy (now known as edema – abnormal accumulation of fluid within the body) and he withdrew from his works with the people.

With the help of his brothers and Tiso, he traveled to Camposampiero where, either underneath or within a giant walnut tree’s branches, a hut was built for him. Anthony spent most of his time within the hut in prayer and holy contemplation.

As he felt his life slipping away, he asked his brothers to take him back home to Padua. The trip by cart was difficult, so the brothers stopped at the Poor Clares' Convent within sight of Padua. Before they brought him inside, Anthony raised his hand in blessing of Padua.

He received last rites and joined his brothers in a hymn dedicated to The Blessed Virgin Mary. It is said that right before he died, he stared up with a stunned look on his face. When asked what he saw, he answered, “I see my Lord.”

O God, who by your Holy Spirit gave your servant Anthony a love of the Holy Scriptures, and the gift of expounding them with learning and eloquence, so that your people might be established in sound doctrine and encouraged in the way of righteousness, grant us always an abundance of such preachers, to the glory of your Name and the benefit of your Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.


James Kiefer's Hagiographies
Capuchin Friars
St. Anthony Medal
St. Anthony's Sermons
Saint Anthony: The Miracle Worker of Padua, DVD produced by Ignatius Press

I noticed that some of my online reference sources are no longer available. Sorry about that. Meanwhile, I discovered a new book to recommend -- SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA: His Life and Writings by Paul Spilsbury. It contains his sermons and is available at  - updated 9/6/2013


In a way different, yet at its core similar to his spiritual father, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony, in his humbleness and total giving of himself in good works unto death, is a lasting example of one who walked the Way of Jesus Christ.

Speaking of walking, recently when my husband was lamenting over the phone about a cancelled airline flight, I was sympathetic but I also reminded him that while St. Anthony may have ridden a donkey especially if he was sick, he, most likely, WALKED barefoot from Padua to Assisi, to Rome, to France, and back to Padua.

Stranded at the airport, my husband replied, “Yeah, but he was destined for SAINTHOOD.”


Did Anthony know he was destined for sainthood?  Did his humility allow him to accept the very idea during his life? Are any of us destined for something more? I think it wouldn’t hurt for us to look beyond ourselves and pay attention.

As St. Anthony explained, “The saints are like stars. In his providence, Christ conceals them in a hidden place that they may not shine before others when they might wish to do so. Yet they are always ready to exchange the quiet contemplation for the works of mercy as soon as they perceive in their heart the invitation of Christ.”

Click here for St. Anthony of Lisbon and Padua, Part 2 & Bread and Pesto,  in which I explore how St. Anthony continues to be honored in death in Italy, Portugal, and the United States with street festivals, special bread, and pots of basil. I’ll also discuss the many ways in which I’m connected to St. Anthony and why I’m so attracted to him.

But first, let’s sustain ourselves with:

Fruity Walnut Muffins


2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup or 1 stick of butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 eggs
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups fresh or frozen berries or diced fruit

1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


 1. Preheat oven to 375 degree.
 2. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan.
 3. Combine flour, ¾ cup sugar, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.
 4. Whisk butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla in a small bowl.
 5. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
 6. Fold in fruit.
 7. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
 8.  In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon sugar, light brown sugar, and cinnamon and optional nuts.
 9. Sprinkle mixture on top of each muffin.
10. Bake about 30 minutes until toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean or with dry crumbs.

Cool slightly before popping out of muffin pan and serving. Or allow to cool completely and store in freezer.

(For the fruit, I like to use berries and peaches in the summer, apples in the fall and bananas in the winter.)

As you can see, these muffins contain more fruit than walnuts. I actually just threw the walnuts into the recipe to make it relevant to this post and St. Anthony’s time under the walnut tree. Allergies notwithstanding, walnuts add an extra bit of protein making these muffins that much more sustaining.

But more importantly, just like walnuts in a fruit muffin recipe, St. Anthony’s an extra hug in the perfect love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Bonus material: