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Saint Anthony

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Saint Anthony with the Infant Jesus, a cluster of lillies, and an open book.
Saint Anthony with the Infant Jesus, a cluster of lillies, and an open book.

Saint Anthony of Padua is the patron saint of the city of Padua in Italy, the nation of Portugal, and the city of San Antonio, Texas. He is petitioned for help in finding lost things, whether they are car keys, misplaced papers, a lost job, or a lost lover or straying partner. People who are regarded as "lost souls" may also be prayerfully placed in his loving care. Because he traveled widely, Saint Anthony is appealed to for safe travel, especially when ocean voyages are involved. In Portugal, France, Italy, and Spain, he is much beloved by those who work on the sea, and sailors may keep a statue of him on the mast of their ships. His feast day is June 13th.

Born Fernando Martins de Bulhões in Lisbon, Portugal, circa 1190, he was the scion of a wealthy and noble family. He entered the Augustinian Abbey of Saint Vincent on the outskirts of Lisbon, where he studied Scripture and the Latin classics. In 1219, he met five visiting Franciscan monks who were en route to Morocco to preach to the Muslims there. In February 1220, news arrived that the five Franciscans had been martyred in Morocco. Anthony was moved by their deaths and obtained permission from his superiors to join the Franciscan order. He relocated to Italy, where he showed great aptitude for preaching. He was eventually commissioned to produce a series of "Sermons for Feast Days." He died in Padua, Italy, on June 13th, 1231. In 1946 he was named a Doctor of the Church, a rare designation of particular distinction given after canonization by the Roman Catholic church. He is one of the most beloved of all the saints.

In his iconography, Saint Anthony is usually pictured as a young tonsured man holding the Christ Child, and he wears the brown robes of his Franciscan order. He may be shown with a lily, the Roman Catholic symbol of virginity, and with a book, as befitting his role as Doctor of the Church. Alternatively, he is sometimes depicted as an older, bearded Franciscan monk seated or standing alone, with a book.

In the African Diasporic religion religion of Voodoo, which has been syncretized with Catholic practices, including the veneration of Catholic Church saints, Saint Anthony is associated with the lwa Papa Legba. In the African Diasporic religion of Cuban Santeria or Lukumi, Saint Anthony is associated with the orisha Eleggua.

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