St Anthony, the ‘Patron Saint of Lost Things’.
St. Anthony of Padua is one of the Catholic Church’s most popular saints. St. Anthony of Padua, patron saint of lost and stolen articles, was a powerful Franciscan preacher and teacher. His feast day each year is celebrated on the 13th June. He is typically portrayed holding the child Jesus – or a lily – or a book – or all three – in his arms. Many people give alms to St. Anthony Bread in thanksgiving to God for the blessings received through the prayers of St. Anthony.
St. Anthony’s life is what every Christian’s life is meant to be; a steady courage to face the ups and downs of life, the call to love and forgive, to be concerned for the needs of others, to deal with crisis great and small, and to have our feet solidly on the ground of total trusting love and dependence on God. St. Anthony is beloved throughout the world and is responsive to all people and all needs. His intercessory powers before God are awesome.
Anthony of Padua was born on the 15th August 1195 and died on the 13th June 1231. His family name was Fernando Martins de Bulhoes. He was born into a wealthy family in Lisbon, Portugal. His wealthy and noble family arranged for him to be instructed at the local Cathedral school. At the age of 15, he entered the Augustinian community of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross at the Abbey of Saint Vincent on the outskirts of Lisbon. After ordination, he was strongly attracted to the simple, evangelical lifestyle of the friars, whose order had been founded only 11 years prior. Inspired by their example, Fernando, obtained permission from church authorities to join the new Franciscan order. Upon his admission to the life of the friars, he joined the small heritage in Olivais, adopting the name Anthony (from the name of the chapel located there, dedicated to Anthony the Great), by which name he was to be known.
Noted by his contemporaries for his powerful preaching, expert knowledge of scripture, and undying love and devotion to the poor and the sick, he was one of the most quickly canonised saints in church history. Less that a year after his death, on the 30th May 1232, Pope Gregory IX, moved by the many miracles at Anthony’s tomb, declared him a saint. Anthony was a simple and humble friar who preached the Good News lovingly and with fearless courage. The youth whom his fellow friars, thought was uneducated became one of the great preachers and theologians of his day. He was a man of great penance and apostolic zeal. But he was primarily a saint of the people. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 16th January 1946.
The reason for invoking St. Anthony’s help in finding lost or stolen things is traced back to an incident in his own life. As the story goes, Anthony had lost a book of psalms that was very important to him. Besides, the value of any before the invention of printing, the psalter had the notes and comments he had made to use in teaching students in his Franciscan Order.
A novice who had already grown tired of living religious life decided to depart the community. Besides going AWOL he also took Anthony’s psalter. Upon realising his psalter was missing, Anthony prayed it would be returned to him. And after his prayer the thieving novice was moved to return the psalter to Anthony and also to return to the Order, which accepted him back. The stolen book is said to be preserved in the Franciscan friary in Bologna.
This saint is widely adored and prayed to by many people, particularly when something has gone missing. Just as Anthony lost his book of psalms, (psalter), many people in our churches invoke his intercession for articles that have been mislaid.