St. Anthony of Padua was born in 1195 in Lisbon, Portugal. A contemporary of Francis of Assisi, he, like ourselves, wanted to live for something beyond himself that would give meaning to his own life. He was about 20 years old when he joined the Augustinians at a monastery near his native city.
Anthony often helped followers of Francis when they came begging for alms. He was inspired by the martyrdom of five Franciscan friars in Morocco and became consumed with the desire to join the Franciscans and preach the Gospel to the Muslims. In 1220 he became a Franciscan and sailed for Morocco – but upon reaching his destination fell seriously ill and was bedridden for several months.
En route back to Portugal, Anthony’s ship encountered a storm and was washed up on the shores of Sicily, where Franciscan friars nursed Anthony to good health. He then journeyed north to Assisi for a general gathering of some 3,000 Franciscans.
In 1221, Anthony embarked on his career as a Franciscan preacher, proclaiming the Gospel through France and Italy, where large crowds filled town squares and vast fields to hear his sermons.
Anthony called people to a deeper faith because he himself was a man of faith. He never lost sight of the transcendent dimension of his own life which enabled others to see in him the transcendent dimension of their lives. He was truly a living Gospel to others – denouncing injustice and proclaiming the message of love for God and all his creatures.
That is what made Anthony a Wonder-Worker, a friend to all of us. It is in this spirit, and with this vision, that St. Anthony Shrine, founded in 1947, tries to operate.
The Franciscan Friars, in the spirit of St. Francis and St. Anthony, continue our tradition of helping the needy, physically as well as spiritually, and strive to be instruments of peace to all people.
St. Anthony’s Bread
The excellent expression of devotion to St. Anthony, known as St. Anthony’s Bread, goes back to the Thirteenth Century. It has been a source of many favors and graces and has also been of great aid to the poor and the needy.
There is a story associated with St. Anthony where a desperate mother whose toddler son had drowned, calls upon the intercession of St. Anthony promising if she obtained the blessing of her child being restored to life, she would donate to the poor bread equal to the weight of her son. This has resulted in the charitable tradition of St. Anthony’s Bread.
According to the most ancient chronicles, a child of Padua fell into a barrel of water and was drowned. In her grief, the mother called on St. Anthony for help and promised she would donate the child’s weight in grain for the poor if she were restored to life.
While the mother was still praying, the child arose as if from sleep. This miracle gave rise to the pious practice of giving alms to the poor as a petition or in return for favors received through St. Anthony’s intercession.
The practice received its present name from a favor received by a pious woman named Louise Bouffier at Toulon in France in the last century. She promised loaves of bread for the poor in exchange for St. Anthony’s help. Her shop later became a center of devotion to the Saint; the alms of those whose favors were heard were given to the numerous poor families of the city.
The Franciscan Order encourages this act of charity to the afflicted and those in want everywhere. It is a laudable method of sacrifice and of thanksgiving to St. Anthony.
Should you wish to take part in this traditional method of prayer to St. Anthony, you may send your offering and petition marked plainly to St. Anthony’s Bread. Any offering, however small, that you care to send today in honor of St. Anthony will be used for the poorest of the poor.
Traditionally, Franciscans worldwide distribute small loaves of bread on St. Anthony’s Feast Day to remind us to follow his holy example. Through the generous donation of a local baker, St. Anthony Shrine Friars distribute bread after all Masses on June 13, St. Anthony’s Feast Day, and after weekend Masses on June 14th and 15th.
See our page on St. Anthony’s Bread to see how we celebrate this ancient custom here at St. Anthony Shrine & Ministry Center.
St. Anthony’s Lilies
St. Anthony is often pictured with a lily to symbolize his purity and miraculous powers. It is said after the Feast of St. Anthony in 18th century
France, the flowers that adorned a church in his honor were still blooming many months later. Today, we use St. Anthony lilies to remind us of this beloved saint and our own need to pray for grace.
Use your St. Anthony lily to beautify your home or office, brighten the day of a friend, honor St. Anthony by placing it in his chapel here at the Shrine, or remind you of the Saint by drying and pressing it for safekeeping.