Saint Anthony was born in 1195 AD at Lisbon, Portugal, where his father was a captain in the royal army. When he was fifteen he joined the Congregation of Cannons Regular of Saint Augustine in a monastery at Coimbra, Portugal. There he devoted his life to piety and study. Members of the Order of Friars Minor, founded by Saint Francis, established a monastery in Coimbra. Anthony was greatly influenced by their evangelism, poverty, and simplicity of life. In 1219 several missionaries of the Order were martyred in Morocco. Wishing to earn the same end, Anthony asked for permission to join the Order and go to Italy. His wishes were granted and he made the journey.
No sooner had he arrived in Morocco than he became seriously ill. After recovering, but still too weak to fulfill his mission, he sailed for Portugal. Encountering a storm his ship was driven eastward to haven in Sicily. He was given shelter by Franciscans and there he remained. He was to spend the rest of his life in Italy. In 1221 he was sent to Assisi where the General Chapter was held in May. Still too sickly, the Provincial sent him to Foli. There he lived quietly, but not for long. He was directed to give a sermon at an ordination. While doing so he was miraculously infused with great wisdom and eloquence. People were amazed.
Saint Francis soon heard of this and asked him to preach and teach throughout Italy. Anthony obeyed and soon people flocked to hear him. He became a great defender of the faith and as a result of his efforts there were many conversions and other near miraculous occurrences. He soon resided primarily in Padua, the site of an important university where he taught. He became Provincial General of northern Italy. His days were long and full in the service of Christ and the people. He exhausted himself, became ill, and died in 1231, at the age of thirty six. Many miracles occurred at his tomb and in the following year he was canonized by Pope Gregory IX.
In 1946 he was made a Doctor of the Church because of his achievements as a theologian. He is a patron of the oppressed, finder of lost articles, patron of the American Indian, patron of the mail, and fighter of corruption. He is usually shown holding the Child Jesus and often with a book, a lily, and bread. The practice of picturing him with the Child is said to come from a story that while visiting a friend he was found holding the Child, breathtakingly beautiful and surrounded by bright light.
This information was adapted from Herald of the Immaculate and American Catholic.