St Anthony was born in Lisbon,Portugal, on the feast of the Assumption,August 15, 1195. His pious mother was zealously careful to excite and cultivate in his heart feelings of piety and devotion.At the age of five, he vowed his virginity to his heavenly mother.Endowed by God with the choicest gifts of nature and grace, he was a model to his school-fellows.His charity and humility, his modesty and piety and above all, his great love for the Most Holy Sacrament won the admiration of all.
Even at an early age, God marked the life of His future Wonder-Worker with miracles. One day, while he was praying in a church with eyes fixed on the tabernacle, the devil appeared to him in a hideous form, striving to distract his attention.Anthony, nothing daunted,made the sign of the cross on the marble floor, which miraculously received the impress of his finger,and the demon fled in terror.
At the age of fifteen, disdaining the world, he entered the Institute of the canons Regular of St Augustine.
But the sight of the Five Franciscan martyrs whose bodies were translated to Coimbra from Morocco, where they had died for the faith, kindled in him an ardent desire of martyrdom. He therefore became a Franciscan and soon went to Morocco. But God had other designs on him. Ill health forced him to re-embark for Spain; but a violent storm drove the ship to Sicily. Having recovered his health, he hastened to Assisi, where a General Chapter of the order was being held. Having concealed his great learning he was sent to the out-of-the-way monastery of Monte Paolo, where he gave himself up entirely to prayer, fasting and contemplation. But God’s time had come to exalt his humble servant.
A sermon that he preached under obedience, revealed his great learning and piety; the whole audience was moved to tears; and St Francis at once set him apart for the work of preaching. Arles,Montpellier and Bourges in France and Vercelli, Rimini and Padua in Italy, were the chief scenes of his fruitful labours.The unction with which he spoke and the sanctity and austerity of his life, gave strength to his rare eloquence and rendered it a flame of burning fire which set everything ablaze. His words were so many darts which pierced the hearts of his hearers and brought them to repentance. Wherever he preached, dis-sensions were extinguished, unjust gains were restored, vicious connections were broken off, and the most hardened sinners and the most perverse heretics were converted, so that he came to be known as “the Hammer of Heretics”.
God himself set the seal of miracles upon the work and preaching of His favoured servant. These miracles were of all kinds. He was endowed with the gift of tongues and the prerogative of bilocation; he cured the sick and restored broken limbs; he lulled storms and raised the dead to life. It is well-known how the fishes of the sea came in crowds at his bidding to hear him; how he proved to the heretics the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament by making an ass kneel down and adore It; how to save the honour of a mother he made a babe speak; how while preaching at Padua, he showed himself at Lisbon and saved his father from calumny and death, by making a dead man rise and declare his innocence. In a word, all nature seemed to pay homage to his rare sanctity. This great power of our Saint has been immortalised by St Bonaventure in the well-known “Miraculous Responsory”. The chief privilege enjoyed by him, was the love sensibly manifested towards him by Our Lord. Who visibly appeared to him as a babe of wondrous beauty, fondly caressing him and allowing Himself to be caressed by him.
At last his short earthly course short in duration but rich in usefulness was about to close. Near Padua, the city from which he was to receive his name, where God had manifested abundantly the treasures of grace, with which He had enriched the soul of his servant, and which witnessed some of his greatest miracles and reaped the greatest fruits of his labours, worn out by fatigue and interiorly consumed by the fire of divine love, with his favourite hymn, “gloriosa Domina” — “O Glorious Lady” — on his lips, he passed to his eternal rest on June 13, 1231, aged 36 years.
“The saintly father is dead.St Anthony is dead!” cried little children,running about distracted, without being informed by any one. Crowds hastened to venerate the remains and invoke the aid of the newly departed Saint — a Saint all took him to be. For four days however no miracles were witnessed. On the fifth day while all the city was accompanying the sacred body to its chosen resting place in the church of the Blessed Virgin at Padua, the miraculous gifts of the Saint burst forth afresh and with such power that not one, as his biographer says, of the hundreds who had recourse to him on that day was sent away unconsoled. This was a Tuesday. Tuesday therefore has been ever since devoted by his clients to his honour and the innumerable favours received on Tuesday have testified that the happy choice has been pleasing to God and our Saint. The writer of this sketch is also in a position to declare that some of the most remarkable favours from St Anthony, in Mangalore, have been received on Tuesdays.