God’s call to Anthony to enter into the heart of the world came in the summer of 1222. After a priestly ordination of Franciscans and Dominicans at Forli, all gathered for a festive dinner. When no one accepted the superior’s invitation to give a talk, he called on Anthony. The friars were son spellbound by his words – awed by his knowledge of the Scriptures and moved by his eloquence and fervor.
Soon afterward Anthony embarked on his career as a Franciscan preacher that would continue through France and Italy for the next nine years. His sermons often drew large crowds that overflowed town squares and filled vast fields.
The Franciscan final Rule was approved by Pope Honorius III in 1223. Around the same time, Anthony was chosen by Francis to teach theology to his the friars, uniting the vision of St. Augustine with the ideals of Francis. T his became the special mark of the Franciscan school of theology. Anthony also served as leader of the Franciscans in a region of northern Italy.
St. Francis died in 1226 and was canonized in 1228. From that year onward Anthony took a residence in Padua but was often on the road, continuing a lasting Franciscan mission of love at work. In his sermons, he defended the Church’s teaching against who rejected them. He spoke out against unjust interest rates and interceded for debtors. He challenged people to give alms to the poor. His stirring words revealed how deeply he understood the problems of the people.
And he strengthened his words with a holy life. “The preacher must by word and example,” he wrote, “be a sun to those to whom he preaches. You are, says the Lord, the light of the world … our light must warm the hearts of people, while our teaching enlightens them.”
Perhaps one of the most famous stories about the Saint concerns an appearance of Jesus to him in the form of a child near the end of Anthony’s life. He was working on a book of sermons for saints’ feasts, while staying at a small Franciscan friary not far from Padua. Anthony’s mystical experience of the Child Jesus reflects the central place of the Incarnation of the Son of God in his sermons.
After giving a series of Lenten sermons to the people of Padua in the spring of 1231, Anthony became seriously ill. In the chaplain’s quarters of the Poor Clare Convent at Arcella near Padua, on June 13, 1231, he died singing, lie Francis – his final song, a hymn to Mary.
The children of Padua ran through the streets calling out, “The Saint has died! The holy father has died!”
Prayer: Heavenly Father, God the Almighty, You gave Saint Anthony of Padua to Your people as a preacher of great power and a patron in their needs. Grant that, with his help, we may follow the Christian way of life, and feel Your aid in all our trials. We pray this, in the most precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jakarta, 13 June 2020
A Christian Pilgrim