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1195 – 1231 A.D.:  Anthony of Padua, A Speaker Of Tongues And Sermons, and a Worker of Extreme Miracles!  

  Anthony of Padua (also ‘Anthony of Lisbon’) was born in 1195 A.D. in that most ancient of Western European capitals, Lisbon, Portugal, to a wealthy noble family.  His was not a particularly difficult beginning.  But, I believe that when a rich man from a high status family walks away from it all for the Lord it is a most unusual sight, and one worthy of praise from other men.  Money is power…whatever else it can be it always has been power.  When someone spurns worldly power in favor of serving Jesus there has to be some smiles in Heaven! 

  His parents, Vincente Martins and Teresa Taveira, had it in mind to send him to a local school at a nearby cathedral for his higher education.  His earlier teachers recommended that Anthony become a knight, but his father believed that he lacked the physical strength a knight needed, and instead foresaw an academic career for his son, to prepare him for his life as a nobleman.  But, Anthony (still Fernando at this point) had other wishes and instead entered the Community of Canons Regular which was at St. Vincent Abbey in Lisbon. 

  ****A ‘Community of Canons Regular’ is a group which lives under vows of chastity, service, obedience, and community property while obeying a fairly specific set of rules for living first outlined by St. Augustine of Hippo (the Augustinian Order.)  They are friars, not monks, as they do not live secluded lives, but rather a life of service, preaching, and teaching to the communities near to where they are located.****   

  The Canons Regular emphasized education, and saw promise in Anthony, and sent him to one of their several centers of learning called the Abbey of the Holy Cross in the Portuguese important city of Coimbra, about 200 miles away from Lisbon to the north.  Anthony had asked for this transfer as relatives visited him so often there in Lisbon that it was a distraction from prayer and contemplation. 

  After his 8 years of education he was ordained as a priest, and assigned a place there at the Abbey of the Holy Cross.  His first job description as a priest was to be their greeter at the Abbey…to be in charge of hospitality to travelers who stopped by.  While working as the Abbey’s host a pivotal life event occurred.  Saint Francis was alive at this time and the Franciscan Order was young.  One day, five Franciscan friars stopped in for a rest as they traveled to the nation of Morocco in North Africa to preach to the Muslims there.  Anthony was struck by their courage.  (They were Peter, Bernard, Otho, Accursius, and Adjutus.)      Months later their headless bodies were brought back north to be taken to Assisi, Italy, for burial.  They were the first martyrs of the Franciscan Order, having been executed in Morocco by the Muslims. 

  Anthony felt a strong response to this, and determined that this was the sort of Christian commitment that he wished to take part in.  He applied to his authorities to leave his order and become a Franciscan, and his request was granted.  He soon enough was assigned to a hermitage at Olivais in Portugal. 

  After his initial training he was allowed to embark on a mission to go to Morocco and preach to the Muslims.  He no doubt dreamed of meeting a martyr’s end there, but this was not to be his destiny.  As his ship sailed south he became extremely ill, so much that travel was no longer possible.  Worse yet, a strong storm would not even let them reach Italy; they were forced to make port in Sicily, at the town of Messina.  From there, still sick, he later found passage to the Italian mainland and obtained lodging in a Franciscan convent.  But he was so sick that he could do little work there.     

  Franciscan duty was pretty rigid and vigorous.  They gave him an easier assignment to a Hospice of San Paulo, near Forli, Italy, and there, a pale sickly figure, he worked in the kitchen and else wise lived a life almost like a hermit’s.  He was now far removed from the royal and rich young man that he had started life being!  But though far from the course he had imagined for himself, there was at least plenty of time outside of his duties for prayer and contemplation. 

  Yet God had a plan for him.  One day there was an ordination ceremony planned, someone was being ordained to priest, and the Franciscans there at the hospice also invited Dominicans to visit.  The leaders and founders of the relatively new two groups, Dominic and Francis, held each other in high regard and taught their respective groups to be as close as brothers with each other.  Dominicans were focused on preaching, Franciscans a little more on church building and service to the poor.  So, the Franciscans had assumed that the Dominicans would be ready to give a sermon when they came.  But there was a miscommunication, and the Dominicans had not planned to preach, assuming the Franciscans would do it on this occasion.  

    Since no Franciscan had prepared to preach either, their leader had the thought of having Anthony step out from his life of isolation and preach.  Perhaps he thought it would be a good experience for him.  He brought him out, and told him to just preach whatever the Holy Spirit placed in his heart.   

  It was no common effort.  The sermon they received that night from Anthony had a tremendously profound effect on all that heard it, it is recorded.  His voice, his composure, his mastery of the scripture and his very deep seeming understanding of the Bible impressed, almost astounded, the listeners.  His gift, his principal gift it would seem, became apparent that night.  Anthony was an extraordinary preacher. 

  He was soon recommended to the founder of the order, Francis of Assisi, who saw in Anthony the very sort of person that he had been looking for.  Francis recognized the need for strong Christian education in his followers, but had a fear of turning them into academics, less likely to get out and work to convert souls.  In Anthony he found a kindred spirit….an educated man who was devoted to working with the poor yet able to teach sound doctrine and understand scripture.  So Francis made wide use of Anthony both as a preacher and as a reformer of heretics within the church as well.  Anthony was soon famous.   

  An oddity was noted of him:  once when he preached to heretics and they would not listen, he rebuked them and as they watched he walked to the water and began to preach to the fish.  As he preached, telling them of all the blessings they received from heaven and from God, the people who were gathered there watched in awe as fishes began to gather at the water’s edge and the tops of their heads could be seen assembled, listening to Anthony as if they understood his words.  And they remained like that as he continued talking, and only left when he dismissed them.  That occurrence was a sight was so strange that it remains on record even today. 

  Once in Tuscany Anthony was at a church and there was a funeral that day for a rich man who had passed away.  Suddenly, during the church ceremony, Anthony burst out claiming that the man should not be buried in dignity, but like a dead animal, because he had no heart inside of him.  He was damned and going to hell.  It was because his heart was with what had mattered to him….his wealth.    Such  talk as this, such an outburst, caused a great commotion within the church, and arguing broke out.  The man’s relatives were there, on the one side.  But Anthony was well known and thought of, almost revered as a holy man.  So, it was decided to bring a physician in to settle the matter of where to bury the man.  A cut was made in the man’s chest, but no heart was found.  So, the man’s body was drug off to an embankment and buried there, more like the corpse of an animal.  And when his safe was opened, where he kept his money, his heart was found there inside of it.  This bizarre event was quickly recounted all around the area.     

  These are not all of the miracles, but they are a few, and it becomes obvious even knowing only these that a man who can preach to attentive fishes, discern that a dead man is missing his heart, and do many more things besides that really is a special worker of God.   

  In 1226 Anthony was sent by the general chapter of the Franciscans to the Papal court of Gregory IX to preach to the Pope and his cardinals and priests there at Rome.  By the time their meeting was over, the Pope had declared Anthony’s preaching to be a ‘jewel case of the Bible’.    

  A miracle had happened there as well:  much as had happened at the original Pentecost after Jesus’ death, Anthony had received the gift of tongues.  The assembled listeners, the Pope among them, were from many lands and nations and languages.  But, when Anthony preached to them, they reported hearing his sermon each in their own native language, though all at the same time.   At the first Christian Pentecost shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion there had been many Spirit filled speakers who had spoken and been understood by many foreign visitors to Jerusalem who spoke varying languages.  But in the miracle which occurred when Anthony spoke in Rome, one single man’s speaking voice had been simultaneously heard in many diverse native tongues through the Holy Spirit’s power.  It was a remarkable miracle! 

  Pope Gregory IX sometimes referred to Anthony as ‘the Ark of the Covenant’ and as ‘the Repository of the Holy Scripture’.  The Pope likely heard the best teaching and preaching of his day, and it seems that Anthony must have affected him like no other.  

  That was not to be the only time that Anthony exhibited the gift of tongues.  When he was in France he spoke in excellent French, a language he had never been taught.  And it happened in other nations as well.  Anthony had the gift of tongues to an extent seldom known in the Christian annals!  And this was not the ‘angelic’ tongue, but practical earthly languages in which he could preach the teachings of Jesus.   

  Anthony was thought to have a gift for learning the whereabouts or gaining the return of lost items.  Once a somewhat disgruntled brother left the convent and took Anthony’s prayer Psalter (a Psalter is a book containing the Psalms as well as other writing that might aid in devotions.  Sometimes in the Middle Ages they were beautifully illustrated as well, and quite expensive, as there were no printing presses until the 1300’s! )  Not only was it valuable as a Psalter, but it had Anthony’s handwritten notes and observations on the scriptures it contained collected over a good deal of time.   

  Anthony prayed to Jesus for its return, and the brother unexpectedly showed back up with the book, and asked to be allowed back in to the group, which was granted.  

  Anthony was known as ‘the miracle worker’.  In the region of Tolosa where Anthony had gone to debate against heresy he was arguing with a heretic, point by point, and slowly gaining a little ground, when finally the heretic challenged him:  If Anthony could show by some miracle that the bread of communion was in some form the actual body of Jesus as the Catholic church maintained, then he would renounce his beliefs and conform to the Catholic church.   

  Anthony readily agreed.  They arrived at an interesting test.  A mule would be placed in the stall and denied food and water for three days.  It would be brought out then, and presented with two things.  It would be exposed to fresh food and water.  Nearby they would place the blessed bread of the Eucharist.  They agreed that if the animal showed preference for or respect to the Eucharist, it would be admitted that the holy blessed bread – the body of Christ – was indeed holy and in some manner was actually the body of Jesus.   

  After three days the crowd gathered, a mass was given, and afterwards a portion of the Holy Bread of Communion was brought outside to perform the test with.  Both food and water was set out prominently.  Beside it, the small amount of blessed bread.  Anthony prayed to Jesus that out of pity for the souls of those who were wrong, and because of His great mercy, the Lord would work a sign to correct men’s understanding.   

  The hungry and thirsty mule was brought out and was allowed to look about at what had been put out.  Then it was released.  It went to the bread and, as everyone watched, it knelt, placing its head to the ground.  It had assumed a posture of adoration.  Some of the crowd cheered, and those who had been heretics allowed that this proved Anthony’s point, and they would convert back to orthodox worship.  

  Another of Anthony’s miracles occurred near Padua.  A somewhat simple minded man named Leonardo confessed to Anthony that he had once kicked his mother so hard with his foot that she had fallen to the ground.  Anthony was a man with strong feelings against wrongdoing, and he harshly told the man that a foot that kicked a parent like that should be cut off immediately. 

  The man ran home and, in remorse and shame and fear that this holy man had condemned his sin in such strong terms, he took some sharp blade and cut off his foot.   When the people heard about what had happened they were shocked at Anthony and at the event.  Anthony heard and hurried to the man’s home.  He took the foot and with prayer and the signs of the cross he held the foot to the ankle and it was seen to reconnect with great swiftness, so healed that the man could jump up and down upon it immediately as if it had never been harmed, as if it had not been cut off.  So this event became extremely famous there. 

  Anthony’s parents once became embroiled in a crime.  There were two feuding families in Lisbon, and it was no casual feud.  One night the young son of one of the families was passing through the neighborhood of their family enemy when he was seen by a man from that family and seized.  He was taken to a secluded spot and killed.  Then, the man took the body to a garden not too far off and buried the youth.   

  The garden, unfortunately, belonged to Anthony’s parents.  When an enquiry was conducted someone reported seeing the boy walking near that family’s neighborhood, and so the search shifted to there.  Soon, with nearby properties being searched also, the burial spot was found, and of course Anthony’s parents were taken into custody.  Far away in Padua Anthony received a revelation about this, and asked permission to return home.  Allowed to leave, he began to hurry there when he suddenly found himself there by divine transport.  Locating his parents, who had not yet been executed, he attempted to persuade the authorities that they were innocent and should be released, but they would not listen to him, and his parents were in great danger.  He therefore asked to see the body of the murdered boy.  He was allowed this.  With the body before him he prayed, and then commanded the boy to awaken and rise up, which the body did do, the boy being brought back to life in this miraculous fashion.  They then questioned the boy, and he cleared Anthony’s parents of all suspicion, asserting that they were not involved.  And so Anthony’s parents were released, and Anthony’s reputation as a miracle worker - a very exceptional miracle worker - grew even larger.           

  In 1231 A.D. Anthony’s amazing life ended at 36 years old.  He was ill, and went with two friars to a retreat at a place called Camposampiero, where they built a simple place for him - a monastic cell of sorts - under the branches of a walnut tree.  He prayed and reflected there for a period of days, trying to recover his health.  He suffered from edema (a fluid buildup in the body tissues) perhaps from heart problems, as that is one fairly common root cause.    Returning back to Padua he became seriously ill again, and on June 13th, 1231 he died at a Poor Clare Monastery (a woman’s order also started partly by Saint Francis) in Arcello.  There remain reports that church bells rang on their own accord and even that young children broke out in prayer at the time of his death.  As with so many things pertaining to Anthony it sounds like too much to believe in this doubting generation, but these are surviving reports by regular people of the time, and so let each of us think as we feel led to.  This man is counted as an exceptional saint, so perhaps we should not be hasty in judging anything about him as too much to believe.        

  After Anthony’s death there were many miracles surrounding his burial place, prayers said in his name, and articles of clothing cut away from him while alive.  (Such was his fame that those who came to hear him preach often mobbed him afterwards, cutting off patches of clothing.  Great cures came when these patches touched the sick or wounded, or were given as gifts to the sick.)   

  Such healing miracles came first from Anthony’sactual  life, then later from his grave and personal items, and prayers in his name that his was the second fastest canonization of a saint ever.  

  Thirty years later his body was relocated, and it was reported that while it had generally experienced decay (some Saint’s bodies essentially do not) his tongue, with which he had so effectively preached, looked fresh and still moist.  It was therefore placed into a reliquary for safe keeping.     We cannot know exact truths of all that is attributed to Anthony of Padua, but whatever the true and actual extent of his miracles, he irrefutably was a vessel through which God revealed His glory to many, to great affect for their souls.  There are just too many miracles by far to discount them all, and no reason except their remarkable character to discount any.  Anthony of Paddua, also known as Anthony of Lisbon, was connected to Christ in a special way.

 

 

Hello,

  I believe that knowing how many great deeds of God have actually occurred through out history will lead some people to be saved through joining their life to Christ.  If you agree, then please, take the time to be a 'missionary', to love your neighbor enough to care about their soul.  Please mention and recommend visiting the Deeds of God website on any social media sites that you belong to.  Tell a favorite account to your friends or family, and tell them where you read it.  To know God is to stand in awe of Him, but too few people know Him today.  Accounts like these are yet another way to come to know Jesus and the Holy Father, and the Spirit of Truth that helps us understand.  Thank you.  Dan Curry

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