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Contact: Christopher Heffron
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CHeffron@franciscanmedia.org

May 15, 2001   382 Words

 

St. Anthony of...Portugal?

CINCINNATI—He may be known as St. Anthony of Padua, a city in Italy, but those from Lisbon are quick to insist that the celebrated saint, patron of those searching for lost possessions, was in fact Portuguese. Born around 1195 and baptized Fernando Bulhom, St. Anthony found education, a religious life and an introduction to the Franciscans, all in Lisbon, the city along the coast of Portugal.

His early life and birthplace are featured in the June issue of St. Anthony Messenger. Assistant Managing Editor Carol Ann Morrow, from her own travels to Lisbon and Coimbra, writes of the seaside city’s rich history, as well as its unabashed delight in and fierce protection of St. Anthony’s origins. The story can also be found at: http://www.AmericanCatholic.org.

Hailing from the Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood, a young Fernando, intent on being a preacher and martyr, sought a more reclusive life in the city of Coimbra in 1212. Yearning for knowledge and the silence to pursue it, Fernando became well-read in theology, natural history, anatomy and etymology.

After becoming a Franciscan and adopting the name Anthony, the young religious left Portugal, never to return in his lifetime. He became a courageous missionary and fearless traveler, journeying to such places as Morocco, northern Italy and southern France. In the spring of 1231, however, Anthony passed away at the age of 36. He was canonized within a year of his death.

Lisbon’s unwavering devotion to its native son is evident. Each year on June 12, the eve of St. Anthony’s feast, costume parades are held along the Avenida da Liberdade (Liberty Avenue). Multicolored paper lanterns, streamers and banners are displayed throughout the Alfama and along the parade route. Bonfires are built and food is prepared in reverence to Lisbon’s most eminent citizen.

Although he preached and spent his later years in Padua, St. Anthony’s ties with Lisbon are etched in history. Maria Teresa Ferreira, a Portuguese guide and interpreter, said it best: “Anthony is present in marriages, in children asking for a coin. Anthony is always with us, not only when we pray. He is outside on the streets as well.”   

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