Saint Anthony of Lisbon (his memorial today)

One of my favourite Saints is the Portuguese Saint Anthony (born Ferdinand or Fernando), who began his Religious life as a canon regular of S. Augustine in a house of canons outside the walls of his home town of Lisbon. But he famously left that community to join the then very new Order of Saint Francis of Assisi, having been inspired by some Franciscan missionaries who had been martyred in north Africa.

While most Catholics call Anthony the patron Saint of lost articles (possibly because of his photographic memory), they do not always know that he was a formidable intellect (this probably went along with that photographic memory). He was acclaimed by Saint Francis himself as a preacher beyond compare, although it took a long time for the Franciscans to discover this extraordinary ability in the humble young man who was happiest performing works of charity. Naturally, he was declared a Doctor (Teacher) of the Church. He was also declared a Saint of the Church less than a year after his death, such was the appeal that he had had and the public excitement about the many, many miracles worked by him.

The Church uses the Greek word thamaturge (wonder-worker) to characterise a Saint who has been a prodigious miracle-worker, and this aspect of S. Anthony’s life tends to cloud over his knowledge of Sacred Scripture and the Fathers of the Church. But I’ve located this book on, and I think I’ll try to find some time to work my way through it. The name itself is revelatory: Saint Anthony of Padua, Doctor of the Church Universal: a critical study of the historical sources of life, sanctity, learning and miracles of the Saint of Padua and Lisbon.