Sub-Saharan Africa, 13 June, 2021 / 10:20 am (ACI Africa).
On June 13, Catholics honor the memory of the Franciscan priest St. Anthony of Padua. Although he is popularly invoked today by those who have trouble finding lost objects, he was known in his own day as the “Hammer of Heretics” due to the powerful witness of his life and preaching.
The saint known to the Church as Anthony of Padua was not born in the Italian city of Padua, nor was he originally named Anthony. He was born as Ferdinand in Lisbon, Portugal during 1195, the son of an army officer named Martin and a virtuous woman named Mary. They had Ferdinand educated by a group of priests, and the young man made his own decision to enter religious life at age 15.
Ferdinand initially lived in a monastery of the Augustinian order outside of Lisbon. But he disliked the distraction of constant visits from his friends, and moved to a more remote house of the same order. There, he concentrated on reading the Bible and the Church Fathers, while living a life of asceticism and heartfelt devotion to God.
Eight years later, in 1220, Ferdinand learned the news about five Franciscan friars who had recently died for their faith in Morocco. When their bodies were brought to Portugal for veneration, Ferdinand developed a passionate desire to imitate their commitment to the Gospel. When a group of Franciscans visited his monastery, Ferdinand told them he wanted to adopt their poor and humble way of life.
Some of the Augustinian monks criticized and mocked Ferdinand's interest in the Franciscans, which had been established only recently, in 1209. But prayer confirmed his desire to follow the example of St. Francis, who was still living at the time.