St. Anthony #1
St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231) became an Augustinian in 1210. His birth name was Ferdinand. When relics of Franciscan martyrs killed in Morocco made their way to Coimbra (Italy), where he was studying, he was consumed with zeal to become a martyr and was released from his Augustinian vows, changing his name to Anthony and becoming a Franciscan in 1221. He was called upon out of the blue to preach at a priestly ordination and moved all who heard him to astonishment at his learning and eloquence. St. Francis of Assisi (d.1226) immediately appointed Anthony as the Franciscans' lector in theology (the first Franciscan to hold the post). In 1230, Anthony's preaching and oratory became famous throughout the Christian world. He spent the last year of his life in Padua, where his relics were to be venerated for centuries after his death, as he had become a worker of miracles in and around Padua. St. Anthony is the patron of the poor, protector of the pregnant and travelers. He became invoked for the return of lost (and stolen) things after a Franciscan novice stole a favorite Psalter St. Anthony was using. The Saint scared the thief to return the Psalter to Anthony after Anthony appeared to the larcenist in an apparition, terrifying the unfortunate novice to return from hiding and bringing the book back to St. Anthony. St. Anthony was canonized several months after his death -- in 1232, and made a Doctor of the Church in 1946. By that time, such was the power of the recitation throughout Christendom of the return of the stolen Psalter that St Anthony of Padua was far and away most famous as the patron saint of the return of "lost property." He apparently accepted this patronage after his passage to Heaven, as there is hardly a Catholic anywhere who will not testify to the long chain of lost articles that St. Anthony of Padua has found for the devout petitioner who prays to "the patron saint of lost things."
St. Anthony #2
St. Anthony of Egypt (c.250--356) gave away all of his possessions and entered into the Egyptian desert, choosing for the completely anti-worldly residence he sought a former Roman cemetery that had broken down for all except the great number of skeletal remains of the former corpses who became Anthony's "roommates.". For forty years solid he fought with the demons of hell, who appeared to him as everything from wild beasts threatening to devour him to lusciously nude women begging him for a kiss and embrace and telling him how handsome, virile and manly he was, usually coming within an inch of his body. For both the wild beasts and for Satan's whores, Anthony had the power to send all apparitions back to hell simply by his words, "Be gone Satan!" Yet, like almost every other human, Anthony naturally began to tire of the 40-year daily grind lasting no doubt from at least 9:00 to 5:00 of sending demons back to hell, when he had originally entered the wasteland merely for a quiet life devoted to meekness, silence, prayer and fasting. He was not aware that the Lord had given Satan the power to vex him so horrendously, yet so strong was his faith in the Lord that he never doubted that Christ for some divine reason must have completely re-written the script for Anthony's life, changing his vocation from a silent, pious contemplative -- as Anthony had intended -- to a hard-fisted pugilist and soldier against the evil one. The power of the Spirit in the cemetery somehow made Anthony renowned throughout the eastern Christian world, so that Anthony's original vocational description had gone to the reverse of his intentions. Living free from acclaim, torment and temptation, in utter silence and doing nothing but praying and fasting didn't last Anthony long. The few brave-hearted Christians stumbling upon Anthony's cemetery abode must have thought they had found an utter madhouse when they heard the shouts of the demons and Anthony's probable screams back to these foes from the pit as they were sent running back to hell!. The future bishop of Alexandria, St. Athanasius, was one of those whom the Spirit called to visit Anthony's looney bin. Any visitor to the boneyard needed to be someone capable of spending time temporarily in Anthony's insane asylum from hell without running the hundred-yard dash away from Anthony's choice for a household and back to a normal church and place of prayer. Athanasius was the leading light of the Council of Nicaea (325), where several hundred of the church's eastern bishops (and four western ones) fought to overcome the heresy of Arianism, which held that Jesus was not fully God, but a "lesser god." As Athanasius periodically went to visit St Anthony in the desert, he must surely have sought and received guidance from St. Anthony on the correct doctrine about the human Christ, no doubt in St. Anthony's humble and unlearned prose, but firmly telling Athanasius what was wrong about Arianism and how to overcome it. And whereas St. Anthony was anything but a scholar, St. Athanasius was one of the earliest doctors of the church and a brilliant man. The Nicene Creed which today's church cherishes as a great gift from the bishops in council at Nicea, it took Athanasius' intellect to parse the new Nicene Creed in the language of the scholars of the eastern church. But, as Athanasius kept going back to visit St. Anthony in the desert well after Nicaea, I feel certain that he patiently explained the lofty sentences of the Creed to St. Anthony in the humble, prayer-filled language that the desert saint could have understood. The Nicene Creed was a gift to the church of both the greatly educated and erudite Athanasius, and his saintly but much less educated mentor, St. Anthony, who likely came to understand the Nicene Creed from Athanasius simply by hearing the holiness that came from the great bishop's words. Spirit speaking unto Spirit, as it were. It was Athanasius' holiness and erudition which convinced the bishops at Nicaea how to formulate the Nicene Creed, and it was Anthony's great struggle in the desert against Satan's minions that prepared Anthony's spirit to comprehend Athanasius' elevated words once the Creed came to be written. Who was the greater of the two saints, Athanasius or Anthony? Athanasius was of course a fundamental bedrock of authentic Christian doctrine, as he transcribed that doctrine into the eventual Nicene Creed. Yet we should not overlook the most famous writing coming from Athanasius' pen, a book that has been famous from the fourth century until today, namely, "The Life of St. Anthony." In that book Athanasius, the scholarly Bishop of Alexandria who was most responsible for the written masterpiece of Christian dogma, the Nicene Creed, gave praise to the poor and humble fighter against evil in the desert, St. Anthony of Egypt, for being the spiritual progenitor of the Creed which we say at Sunday Mass seventeen centuries after the Council of Nicaea. Who gave birth to the Catholic Profession of Faith? Two men: The great and saintly scholar, St. Athanasius. And the great and saintly fighter for Christ against the evil one, St. Anthony of Egypt.