St Anthony of Padua who was born in a native of Lisbon, Portugal in 1195, received his surname from his long residence at Padua, . This city has the honour of possessing the treasure of his relics. He was born in 1195, and christened by the name of Ferdinand which he changed to that of Anthony when he entered the Order of St Francis, out of devotion to the great Patriarch of Monks, who was the titular saint of the little chapel of his Order in which he took the habit. His father was Martin De Bullones, an officer in the army of Alphonus I, surnamed el Consultador. The mother of our Saint was Mary of Tevara, one of the most accomplished of women. Both his parents were equally distinguished by their nobility and virtue. They placed their son while very young in the community of the Canons of the Cathedral of Lisbon, and from his tender years he advanced both in knowledge and devotion.
At fifteen years of age he entered among the regular Canons of St Augustine near Lisbon; but being unable to bear the interruption and distraction which the visits of his friends there gave him, he desired two years after, to be sent to the Convent of the Holy Cross of the same Order at Coimbra, a hundred miles from the city. Here he lived nearly eight years in close retirement and austerity, pursuing his studies in the Sacred Scripture. At this time Don Pedro, Infant of Portugal, brought over from Morocco the relics of the five Franciscans, who had been lately crowned there with martyrdom. Ferdinand was strongly affected at the sight, and conceived an ardent desire to lay down his life for Christ. Shortly after, certain Franciscan friars came to his monastery of the Holy Cross for alms; Ferdinand at once disclosed to them his inclination to embrace their institute, thinking it a good opportunity to suffer martyrdom, but no sooner was this known among his canons, than they endeavoured to dissuade him from such a resolution; but he earnestly begged the direction of the Holy Spirit, and he received the new habit in 1221, in the little Franciscan convent dedicated to the great St Anthony, Patriarch of the Monks, near Coimbra. After having spent some time in solitude, prayer and penitential austerities, and burning with a desire for martyrdom, he obtained leave to go to Africa to preach the Gospel to the Moors.
He scarcely arrived there, when God, satisfied with the sacrifice of his heart, visited him with a severe attack of illness, which obliged him to return to Spain for the restoration of his health. But by contrary winds the vessel on which he embarked was driven to Sicily and touched at Messina, where he was informed that St Francis, the holy founder of his Order, was then holding a general Chapter at Assisium. Here he offered himself to the provincials and guardians of Italy, but not one of the superiors would be troubled with him, so unpromising and sickly was his aspect. At last, a guardian in the province of Romagna, named Gratiani, took pity on him and sent him to the hermitage of Mount Paul, a little solitary convent near Bologna, where he took upon himself the duties in the kitchen and other servile work. Here Anthony never let fall one word which might show his learning, much less anything of the sublime communications of his soul with God,; but he listened to everybody, and only spoke when obliged, till the following incident made him known to the world. An assembly of the neighbouring Dominicans and Franciscan friars was held at Forli, in which the Dominicans as strangers were desired to make exhortation to the company. They all excused themselves, everyone saying that he was not prepared. Then Anthony’s guardian ordered him to speak and to say whatever the Holy Spirit should put in his mouth. The Saint begged to be excused, alleging that he had been only used to wash the dishes in the kitchen and to sweep the house. But at the insistence of the Superior, he spoke with such eloquence, erudition and unction that all were astonished. He was at that time about twenty six years old.