Several miracles are attributed to St. Anthony during his lifetime. One miracle occurred when he was preaching on Holy Thursday evening in the Church of St. Pierre du Queriox in Limoges, France. He remembered that he had to sing a lesson in the Divine Office back at his monastery. He appeared simultaneously preaching in the church and singing the lesson at the monastery. Here is the miracle of bilocation.
Another famous miracle involved the defense of the real presence of the holy Eucharist. (The same story is told with different antagonists one a Jewish merchant, the other a heretic named “Bonillo”; for this article, the former will be used.) The Jewish merchant challenged St. Anthony to prove the “fable” of the holy Eucharist and devised a contest. The merchant would starve a donkey for three days, denying it any kind of food. Meanwhile, St. Anthony retreated to the forest where he would fast and pray for three days. At the end of the three days, St. Anthony returned to town, and went to the church where he obtained the Blessed Sacrament. He then went to the town square where the donkey was. The merchant placed a bale of hay 20 feet from the hungry donkey. The donkey was untied and walked toward the hay. St. Anthony then exposed the Blessed Sacrament and called to the donkey, “Mule, in the name of the Lord our God, I command you to come here and adore your Creator!” The donkey stopped as though someone had pulled him by a bridle, turned and walked to St. Anthony. The donkey bent his forelegs, bowing to the Blessed Sacrament with his head toward the ground. The Jewish merchant was astonished, asked St. Anthony for forgiveness and converted. These and other miracles during and after St. Anthony’s death merited him the name, “Miracle Worker.”
St. Anthony also received an apparition of the Infant Jesus. (French writers maintain that it happened at the Castle of Châteauneuf-la-Forêt near Limoges, and Italian writers maintain that it happened at Camposanpiero near Padua.) St. Anthony, before going to bed for the night, was reading his Bible. Suddenly, the Infant Jesus appeared resting on the Bible and in the arms of St. Anthony. The Infant Jesus stroked St. Anthony’s face. Here the Word of God appeared to the man who had so well preached His Word. For this reason, most images of St. Anthony depict him holding a Bible with the Infant Jesus.
St. Anthony is invoked as the patron saint of lost things. A little jingle goes like this: “St. Anthony, please look around; something is lost and must be found.” This attribution comes from an incident when a novice carried off a valuable psalter St. Anthony was using. St. Anthony prayed very hard that the psalter would be found. After seeing an alarming apparition of St. Anthony, the novice returned the psalter. However, many suggest he is more importantly the patron of lost souls those who have fallen to mortal sin, have abandoned the Church, and have grown apathetic to the practice of the Faith.
He also had a great devotion to our Blessed Mother. He was especially noted for his defense of the Immaculate Conception and assumption of Mary. St. Anthony wrote the following prayer in honor of our Blessed Mother: “We ask you, Our Lady, Mother of God, exalted above the choirs of angels, that you fill the vessel of our hearts with grace; that you make it resolute with the power of your virtue; that you adorn it with the precious stones of virtue.” This great saint knew that to strive for holiness and become a saint himself, the assistance of the Queen of the Apostles, Saints, and Angels was indispensable.
This beloved saint died on June 13, 1231, at the age of 36. Right before he died, he went to confession, sang a hymn to the Blessed Mother and was anointed. He was asked, “Do you see anything?” to which he replied, “I see my Lord.” Upon his death, the children of Padua ran through the streets crying, “The holy Father is dead. St. Anthony is dead.” Thirty years after his burial, the vault was opened and his body had deteriorated to dust except for his tongue, which remained preserved and incorrupt. St. Bonaventure took the tongue in his hands and kissed it, exclaiming, “O blessed tongue that always praised the Lord, and made others bless Him, now it is evident what great merit thou hast before God.” Moreover, to this day, many faithful have received miracles at the tomb of St. Anthony in Padua.
Pope Pius XII declared St. Anthony a Doctor of the Church on January 16, 1946. His apostolic letter began as follows:
Exult, happy Portugal, rejoice, happy Padua; for you have given birth for earth and Heaven to a shining star, a man who has illuminated and still dazzles with a radiant light the whole earth, not only by holiness of life and fame of miracles, but by the splendor of his celestial teaching.
Fr. Saunders is pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Potomac Falls and a professor of catechetics and theology at Notre Dame Graduate School in Alexandria. If you enjoy reading Fr. Saunders's work, his new book entitled Straight Answers (400 pages) is available at the Pauline Book and Media Center of Arlington, Virginia (703/549-3806).
(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)