If then you ask for miracles,
Death, error, all calamities,
The leprosy and demons fly,
And health succeeds infirmities.
The sea obeys and fetters break,
And lifeless limbs do you restore;
While treasures lost are found again,
When young and old your aid implore. . . .
Pray for us, blessed Anthony.
Make us worthy of the promises of Christ.
Besides depicting Saint Anthony with the traditional medieval symbols of the Bible and the lily, El Greco placed an image of the Christ Child on the book to indicate that Anthony encountered the living person of Christ in his Word. As time went, on the book tended to disappear. Image: St. Anthony by the young El Greco (1580).
Anthony reminds us: “The person who is filled with the Holy Spirit speaks in different languages. These languages are different ways of witnessing to Christ, such as humility, poverty, patience, and obedience; we speak in these languages when we reveal in ourselves these virtues to others. Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak. . . . It is useless for people to flaunt their knowledge of God’s law if they undermine its teaching by their actions.”
Is this the real Saint Anthony? In 2014 a team of scientists and artists, working with the University of Padua Anthropology Museum, developed this image of Saint Anthony using the most recent technology, based on digital images of his skull. It confirms medieval records that state Anthony was a robust man, not the slender, delicate figure so often depicted in art. For more details, see the story.
Main image: St. Anthony by Maso di Banco, c. 1340–1350 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). Medieval artists tended to portray Anthony holding the Bible, due to his great knowledge and love of Scripture.
Dominic V. Monti, OFM, is a Franciscan Friar of Holy Name Province (USA) and currently professor of Franciscan Research in the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University. He devoted the greater part of his ministry to teaching the History of Christianity, in particular the history of the Franciscan movement. He has contributed two volumes to the Works of St. Bonaventure series and is author of Francis & His Brothers, a popular history of the Friars Minor.