Anthony joined the Canons Regular of St Augustine when he was fifteen and over the next eight years of study developed an extraordinary knowledge of Scripture, the foundation for his future ministry.
When he was about twenty-five, he met some Franciscans who were martyred shortly after in Morocco. Moved by their sacrifice and wanting to imitate them, Anthony transferred to the Franciscan order in 1220. He became ill on his first missionary trip to Morocco and returned to Europe, where the Franciscans assigned him to a hermitage near Forli. He divided his time between prayer and menial chores.
One day at an ordination, his superior asked him to preach extemporaneously since no else had come prepared to speak. His years of prayer and study converged at this moment and his words impressed his audience. He was immediately assigned to preach throughout the area, and Saint Francis himself approved his appointment as theology teacher to hsi fellow Franciscans.
Anthony’s learning, eloquence, and zeal drew many back to the faith, and he often preached in the open air, since no building was large enough to accommodate the huge crowds.
He had enormous courage that empowered him to preach against the oppression of the poor, the immorality of the clergy, and many heresies flourishing at the time.
He was known as “the Hammer of the Heretics and the Repository of Scripture.
Anthony’s reputation as the saint who intercedes for the return of lost or stolen items possibly dates to an incident in his own life. A novice quit the order and left, secretly taking Anthony’s psalter with him. Anthony prayed for the book’s return and the novice came back, rejoined the community, and restored the psalter to Anthony. The core of this story seems to be true although it was later embellished with fantasy.
The church honors Anthony for his biblical scholarship rooted in deep piety and love for the poor.
He died at the age of thirty-six. He was declared a Doctor of teh Church in 1946.
Feast : June 13