St. Anthony of Padua is a Doctor of the Church and a very popular saint. He was renowned for his preaching which did much to reform the lax morals and combat the heresies of his time. He preached eloquently and with discretion to the poor and the rich alike, and was never afraid to speak out to those in authority who needed reforming. He is also known for working many miracles during his lifetime which earned him the title of "wonder-worker".
He was born in Lisbon Portugal in 1195 and received the name of Ferdinand at his baptism. When he was only 15, he entered the Canons Regular of St Augustine at the convent of St Vincent, which was located just outside the walls of Lisbon. Two years later, he relocated to the convent of Santa Cruz in Coimbra seeking a greater solitude than was possible at St Vincent. It was there in Coimbra that he spent eight years in study and prayer.
In 1220 the bodies of a number or Franciscans who had suffered martyrdom in Morocco at the hands of the Moslems were conveyed to the church at Santa Cruz. St Anthony was inspired by their martyrdom and was determined to likewise preach the Gospel and even suffer martyrdom in the Moslem lands of North Africa. The Augustinians were not involved in the this sort of missionary activity, but the Franciscans were, so he asked permission to join the Franciscans and participate in their missionary activity in Morocco. In 1221 he was given permission to join the Friars Minor (Franciscans) at Coimbra.
After he had joined the Franciscans, he tried to sail to Morocco, but both illness and a storm brought him to Sicily instead. He spent some time there to recover his health. Once recovered, he attended a General Chapter of the Franciscans in Assisi where he went largely unnoticed. Afterwards he was assigned to the hermitage at Montepaolo to say Mass for the lay brothers there. It was there that his talents as an orator were first noticed.
An ordination Mass was being held for a number of Dominican and Franciscan friars. When it was time to preach a homily, the superior asked the Dominicans, but they declined and said they were unprepared. The superior then asked the Franciscans, who chose St Anthony by sheer necessity for he had never preached before and was not considered learned in Scripture or oratory. By the time he was finished they realized what a great treasure they had in St Anthony. St Francis himself eventually appointed St Anthony to teach theology to all the Franciscans.
St Anthony then spent some eight years or so in places in France and Italy preaching and teaching extensively. He also worked many miracles during this time, too numerous to list here. He is usually associated with the city of Padua where he retired to in 1230. He died in Padua on June 13 in 1231 at the age of thirty six. He was canonized by Gregory IX the following year (1232).
St Anthony is the patron of lost articles, Portugal, and harvests. His feast is June 13. He is usually depicted bearing the Child Jesus in his arms and holding a lily. Sometimes he is also holding a book.