Along with Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Anthony is the parish patron. He is also the Saint who has the “title” to our parish church on South Olden Avenue. His memorial is celebrated on June 13. It ranks as a solemnity for our parish.
St. Anthony, of the noble Bulhoes family, was born in Lisbon, Portugal and baptized “Fernando.” At fifteen years of age, he joined the Canons Regular (Augustinians) near Lisbon. In 1212, distracted by frequent visits by relatives and friends, he asked to be transferred to the Abbey of the Holy Cross, Coimbra where he studied theology and Latin. After his ordination to the priesthood he was the community’s guestmaster.
During his time in Coimbra, Franciscan Friars arrived and established a Friary nearby. Fernando was attracted to their simple, evangelical lifestyle. When the bodies of Franciscan martyred in Morocco were brought to Portugal, Ferdinand was moved to join the Franciscans. He took the name, Anthony and took up residence in the hermitage of Olivais.
Anthony desiring to follow the example of the Franciscan martyrs, Anthony set out for Morocco but he fell seriously ill and returned to Portugal to regain his health. However, on the return voyage the ship was blown off course and landed in Sicily.
From Sicily, Anthony made his way to Tuscany where he was assigned to a friary of the order and then to the rural hermitage of St. Paul where he tended to his poor health and spent time in prayer and study.
In 1222, in the town of Forli, an ordination took place and there was some confusion over who should preach. The Franciscans expected the Dominicans to preach, but they had come unprepared thinking that a Franciscan was to preach. The head of the hermitage, knowing Anthony’s gifts, entreated him to speak. His manner, eloquence and the theological substance of the homily greatly impressed his listeners.
Recognizing that Anthony’s gifts of mind and heart were needed on the wider stage of Franciscan work, Anthony was sent to Bologna where he eventually came to the attention of St. Francis of Assisi. In this Portugese, St. Francis found a kindred spirit and he entrusted the pursuit of studies for any of the friars to the care of Anthony.
St. Anthony also took the posts of teaching theology in the Universities of Montpellier and Toulouse. Yet it was through his preaching that Anthony revealed his supreme gift.
After his time in France, he returned to Italy and was elected Provincial Superior of Northern Italy and established himself in Padua. His reputation grew even at the Papal Court and he was commissioned to produce a collection of sermons. Pope Gregory IX described Anthony as the “Ark of the Testament.”
In 1231 Anthony contracted ergotism a disease which is now known as “St. Anthony’s fire.” On his return to Padua from Campsanpiero, Anthony died on 13 June at the Convent of the Poor Clares in Arcella (now part of Padua) He was 35 years old. According to his request Anthony was buried in the small church of Santa Maria Mater Domini (St. Mary, Mother of the Lord) He was canonized a saint by Pope Gregory IX only one year after his death! Nine years later, a basilica was built in Padua which conserves his relics. In 1946, Pope Pius XII proclaimed Anthony a “Doctor of the Church,” calling him the “Evangelical; Doctor.”
Our patron is especially known as being the saint to be invoked when things are lost or stolen. This is traced to an incident that occurred in Bologna. According to the story, Anthony had a book of Psalms that was especially important to him since it contained the notes and comments he would use for teaching. A novice who was leaving the order took the book with him. (Prior to the invention of the printing press, any book was valuable!) Noticing that it was missing, Anthony prayed that it be returned. The thief restored the book to its owner and returned to the Order. This book of psalms (Psalter) is preserved in the Friary of Bologna.
The Church of St. Anthony, originally staffed by Franciscan Friars wanted to include a strong Franciscan iconography in a church now in use but the community withdrew from the parish in 1940 and they did not oversee the building of the church we enjoy today. This was left to the first diocesan priest who became pastor, Msgr. Linus Schwarze. He did retain many Franciscan symbols in the church built in 1951. A white Carrara marble statue of St. Anthony is found on right wall facing the main altar. A stained glass window designed in Parish is on the left wall showing St. Anthony distributing bread to the poor. A first class relic of the saint along with a framed image is at the side altar of St. Joseph.
In 2005, a bronze statue of St. Anthony originally from the Church of SS. Peter and Paul, Trenton (now closed) was brought to the parish and erected in the front of the Church.