Anthony was born in Lisbon in 1195 and baptised Fernando. When Fernando was 15 years old, he joined the community of Canons Regular of St Augustine in Lisbon. However, because of the constant visits from his family, he asked to be moved to another house of the Order. At seventeen he was transferred to the Augustinian Monastery of Santa Cruz at Coimbra which was renowned for its biblical scholarship. Here he spent nine years in intense study.
When he was 25 years old he was inspired to die for Christ by the martyrdom of the Franciscan Friars whose bodies were brought back from Morocco. Soon after, with the reluctant permission of his Augustinian superior he joined the Franciscan Friars taking the name "Anthony" after the patron of the friary at Coimbra called St Anthony of the Olives. Anthony probably took vows immediately and within a few months he was sailing for Morocco to achieve his dream of martyrdom.
However, God had other plans for this generous young man. Soon he became so ill with malarial fever that it was necessary for him to set sail for home. On the return voyage a violent storm arose and they were blown all the way to Sicily where they found safety in the harbour at Messina. In this city Anthony found a group of Franciscan Friars and accompanied them to Assisi.
In 1222, when St Anthony was 27 years old, a number of Dominicans and Franciscans were ordained .The preacher who was to speak at this occasion did not arrive, so they asked if someone else would give a short sermon. No one was willing to get up in front of such a group and preach, so Anthony was asked to speak.As he began to speak his words captured their imagination by the power of the Holy Spirit. When he was finished all the friars realized that they were in the presence of a brilliant and powerful preacher.
From the time of his first sermon Anthony was always on the road, preaching. His fame spread and he was commissioned by St Francis to preach everywhere. He journeyed to many places in Italy and Southern France on an evangelic crusade and his sermons drew such huge crowds that the churches could not hold the people. Platforms had to be set up outside in the town squares because of the numbers of people who came to hear him. Up to thirty thousand people would attend.He spoke pointedly to Bishops and priests if he knew of their failure to live up to the high standards of their calling. He called on those who were listening to repent and to face up to the challenge of living a Christian life.
Anthony's last sermons were preached in lent in Padua. During this time there was a complete uproar in the city because the citizens could not provide enough accommodation or food for the crowds that invaded the city to hear him preach. The effect of his preaching in Padua was amazing: Quarrels were patched up, enemies were reconciled, debtors were released from prison, men and women reformed their lives, and the public life of Padua was very much improved.
After Easter, he and his companions went to a country estate to rest.Anthony was ill with dropsy, which made breathing difficult. There Anthony found a giant walnut tree which had six branches growing upward from the crown. The friars bound the branches together with woven willows and roofed it over with rushes to make a cool airy cell for the tired preacher. On June 13th 1231, aged only 36, he knew he was dying. Because he did not wish to be a trouble to his friend whose estate he was staying at, he asked the brothers if they would take him back to Padua. St. Anthony's canonization was one of the fastest on record. It took less than 12 months. He was canonised in the town of Spoleto by Pope Gregory IX on the 30th of May 1232.
Saint Anthony is the patron saint of many causes, including air hostesses and expectant mothers. The most well known patronage is to the seekers of lost objects. Perhaps this prayer will be helpful.
Dear Saint Anthony, you are the patron of the poor and the helper of all who seek lost articles. Help me to find the object I have lost so that I will be able to make better use of the time I will gain for God's greater honour and glory. Grant your gracious aid to all people who seek what they have lost - especially those who seek to regain God's grace. Amen.