St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231) was a Portuguese priest famous for his gifted preaching. He originally planned to join the Augustinian Order, but when he saw the bodies of the first Franciscans to be martyred for their faith, he was filled with an intense desire to become a missionary — and, he hoped, a martyr — himself.
After joining the Franciscans, he preached to the Moslems of North Africa for a time, but a serious illness forced his return to Europe. Anthony attended an ordination at a monastery; through an oversight, no one had been assigned to preach. When it was hurriedly suggested that Anthony do so, he humbly but hesitantly obeyed — with amazing results. Anthony’s years of prayer, study of Scripture, and poverty allowed God’s Spirit to speak through him in a very powerful way. His unprepared sermon was a sensation, and for the remaining nine years of his life, Anthony traveled about preaching, correcting errors, and upholding the Church’s true teachings. His words had an impact on both the learned and the simple, and helped many return to the faith.
A great Scripture scholar and theologian, Anthony was the first Franciscan to teach theology to the other friars. He died while still young, and was buried at Padua. St. Anthony was canonized the year after his death in 1231, and was later declared a Doctor (an eminent and reliable teacher) of the Church.
1. God does not promise to fulfill all our desires, even our noble ones; St. Anthony’s vocation involved neither missionary work nor martyrdom, for God had something different in mind for him.
2. Anthony, who is revered as a helper in finding lost objects, discovered his own vocation of preaching by accident; things have a way of “turning up” for those who make a point of trusting in God.
3. It may take time to discover our true vocations; as St. Anthony wrote, “In His providence Christ conceals the saints 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 of contemplation for the works of mercy as soon as they perceive in their heart the invitation of Christ.”