Issue Date: 25 May 2021
Designer: Bimba Landmann
Sheet Composition: 1 stamp
Stamp Size: 36 x 49 mm; souvenir sheet size: 88 x 136 mm
Printing Method: Offset lithography 4 colors
Perforation: 13¼ x 13½
Printer: Cartor, France
Quantity: 30,000 souvenir sheets
First Day Cover
It has been 800 years since St. Anthony of Padua sank on the coast of Sicily and from his first meeting with St. Francis of Assisi.
For Fernando Martins de Bulhões, the future Saint Anthony, the choice to be a friar came from meeting some of the first Franciscans, five Italian missionaries departing for Morocco where they suffered martyrdom. Inflamed by their example, he wanted to follow in his footsteps. He also left for Morocco, but when he arrived in Africa he fell seriously ill. At this point he wanted to return to Portugal, but in the spring of 1221 a furious storm forced his ship to change course and land in Sicily where he was welcomed by the friars of Messina, who made him regain the lost vigour and announced that Francis, the founder of the Order, had summoned them to Assisi for the great gathering of all the friars of the time , called the Chapter of Maes.
Antonio then left, walking up Italy until he arrived in Assisi, where for the first time he met St. Francis. Since then, animated by the Spirit, he has made himself known and appreciated as a great man of the Gospel and charity, a friend of God and friend of men, especially of the poorest, so much so that he remains still in the hearts of all, known in every corner of the world with the name of St. Anthony of Padua.
The anniversary souvenir sheet, created by the illustrator Bimba Landmann, depicts in the stamp the Saint holding the Child Jesus, and on the margin a stylization of Italy where the path from Milazzo to Padua is traced.
Anthony or Antony of Padua (born Fernando Martins de Bulhões; 15 August 1195 – 13 June 1231) was a Portuguese Catholic priest and friar of the Franciscan Order. He was born and raised by a wealthy family in Lisbon, Portugal, and died in Padua, Italy. Noted by his contemporaries for his powerful preaching, expert knowledge of scripture, and undying love and devotion to the poor and the sick, he was one of the most quickly canonized saints in church history. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 16 January 1946. He is also the patron saint of lost things.
Fernando Martins de Bulhões was born in Lisbon, Portugal. While 15th-century writers state that his parents were Vicente Martins and Teresa Pais Taveira, and that his father was the brother of Pedro Martins de Bulhões, the ancestor of the Bulhão or Bulhões family, Niccolò Dal-Gal views this as less certain. His wealthy and noble family arranged for him to be instructed at the local cathedral school. At the age of 15, he entered the Augustinian community of Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross at the Abbey of Saint Vincent on the outskirts of Lisbon.
In 1212, distracted by frequent visits from family and friends, he asked to be transferred to the motherhouse of the congregation, the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Coimbra, then the capital of Portugal. There, the young Fernando studied theology and Latin.
After his ordination to the priesthood, Fernando was named guestmaster at the age of 19, and placed in charge of hospitality for the abbey. While he was in Coimbra, some Franciscan friars arrived and settled at a small hermitage outside Coimbra dedicated to Anthony of Egypt. Fernando was strongly attracted to the simple, evangelical lifestyle of the friars, whose order had been founded only 11 years prior. News arrived that five Franciscans had been beheaded in Morocco, the first of their order to be killed. King Afonso II ransomed their bodies to be returned and buried as martyrs in the Abbey of Santa Cruz. Inspired by their example, Fernando obtained permission from church authorities to leave the Canons Regular to join the new Franciscan order. Upon his admission to the life of the friars, he joined the small hermitage in Olivais, adopting the name Anthony (from the name of the chapel located there, dedicated to Anthony the Great), by which he was to be known.
Anthony then set out for Morocco, in fulfilment of his new vocation. However, he fell seriously ill in Morocco and set sail back for Portugal in hope of regaining his health. On the return voyage, the ship was pushed off course and landed in Sicily.
From Sicily, he made his way to Tuscany, where he was assigned to a convent of the order, but he met with difficulty on account of his sickly appearance. He was finally assigned to the rural hermitage of San Paolo near Forlì, Romagna, a choice made after considering his poor health. There, he had recourse to a cell one of the friars had made in a nearby cave, spending time in private prayer and study.
In 1222, in the town of Forlì, a number of visiting Dominican friars were present for the occasion of an ordination, and a misunderstanding arose over who should preach. The Franciscans had expected that one of the Dominicans would occupy the pulpit, being renowned for their preaching. However, the Dominicans had come unprepared, thinking a Franciscan would be the homilist. In this quandary, the head of the hermitage, who did not think any of his own humble friars could give a homily for the occasion, called upon Anthony, whom he suspected was most qualified, and entreated him to speak whatever the Holy Spirit might inspire. Anthony objected, but was overruled, and his impromptu sermon created a deep impression on his audience. His audience was moved by not only by his rich voice and arresting manner, but also the theme and substance of his discourse, his deep knowledge of Scripture, and the eloquence with which he delivered his message.
Anthony was then sent by Brother Gratian, the local minister provincial, to the Franciscan province of Romagna, based in Bologna. He soon came to the attention of the founder of the order, Francis of Assisi. Francis had held a strong distrust of the place of theological studies in the life of his brotherhood, fearing it might lead to an abandonment of their commitment to a life of real poverty and service. In Anthony, however, he found a kindred spirit who shared his vision and could also provide the teaching any young members of the order seeking ordination might need. In 1224, he entrusted the pursuit of studies for any of his friars to the care of Anthony.
The traditional practice of praying for St. Anthony’s help in finding lost or stolen things is traced to an incident during his lifetime that occurred in Bologna. According to the story, Anthony had a book of psalms that was important to him, as it contained his notes and comments for use in teaching his students. A novice who had chosen to leave had taken the psalter with him. Prior to the invention of the printing press, any book was hand-copied, and thus, an item of high value; a Franciscan friar in particular, given his vow of poverty, would have found such an item difficult to replace. When Anthony realized his psalter was missing, he prayed it would be found or returned, after which the thief was moved to not only return the book to Anthony, but also return to the order. The stolen book is said to be preserved in the Franciscan friary in Bologna.
Occasionally, Anthony took another post as a teacher at universities such as University of Montpellier and University of Toulouse in southern France, but his preaching was considered to be his supreme gift. According to historian Sophronius Clasen, Anthony preached “the grandeur of Christianity”. His method included allegory and symbolical explanation of Scripture. In 1226, after attending the general chapter of his order held at Arles, France, and preaching in the region of Provence, Anthony returned to Italy and was appointed Provincial superior of northern Italy. He chose the city of Padua as his location.
In 1228, he served as envoy from the general chapter to Pope Gregory IX. At the papal court, his preaching was hailed as a “jewel case of the Bible” and he was commissioned to produce his collection of sermons, Sermons for Feast Days (Sermones in Festivitates). Gregory IX described Anthony as the “Ark of the Testament” (Doctor Arca testamenti).
The story of Anthony “preaching to the fish,“ originated in Rimini, where he had gone to preach. When heretics there treated him with contempt, Anthony was said to have gone to the shoreline, where he began to preach at the water’s edge until a great crowd of fish was seen gathered before him. The people of the town flocked to see this marvel, after which Anthony charged them with the fact that the fish were more receptive to his message than the heretics of the church, at which point the people were moved to listen to his message.
In another oft-told story, which took place in Toulouse, Anthony was challenged by a heretic to prove the reality of the Real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The man, who sought to mock Anthony by show, brought out a half-starved mule and showed it fresh fodder on one hand, and the sacramental host on the other. The mule was said to have ignored the fodder and instead of eating either, bowed before the sacrament.
Another account tells of an occasion in Italy when Anthony was dining with heretics. He realized the food they put before him was poisoned, and he confronted them. The men admitted to attempting to kill him, but then challenged him to eat if he truly believed the words spoken in Mark 16:18 about the apostles of Christ: “…and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.” Anthony is said to have blessed the food, eaten it, and suffered no harm, much to the amazement of his hosts.
Anthony became sick with ergotism in 1231, and went to the woodland retreat at Camposampiero with two other friars for a respite. There, he lived in a room built for him under the branches of a walnut tree. Anthony died on the way back to Padua on 13 June 1231 at the Poor Clare monastery at Arcella (now part of Padua), at the age of 35.
According to his request, Anthony was buried in the small church of Santa Maria Mater Domini (probably dating from the late 12th century) and near a convent which had been founded by him in 1229. Nevertheless, due to his increased notability, construction of a large basilica began around 1232, although it was not completed until 1301. The smaller church was incorporated into the structure as the Cappella della Madonna Mora (Chapel of the Dark Madonna). The basilica is commonly known today as “Il Santo” (The Saint).
Various legends also surround the death of Anthony. One holds that when he died, children cried in the streets and all the church bells rang of their own accord. Another legend is in regards to his tongue. He was buried in a chapel that became part of the basilica, where his tongue, jaw, and vocal cords were symbolically chosen as relics for veneration (as was tradition in medieval times) to be displayed in a large reliquary. When his body was exhumed 30 years after his death, it was found turned to dust, but the tongue was claimed to have glistened and looked as if it were still part of a live body; a further claim being made that this was a sign of his gift of preaching. On 1 January 1981, Pope John Paul II authorized a scientific team to study Anthony’s remains and the tomb was opened five days later.
Anthony was canonized by Pope Gregory IX on 30 May 1232, at Spoleto, Italy, less than one year after his death.
“The richness of spiritual teaching contained in the Sermons was so great that in [16 January] 1946 Venerable Pope Pius XII proclaimed Anthony a Doctor of the Church, attributing to him the title Doctor Evangelicus [“Evangelical Doctor”], since the freshness and beauty of the Gospel emerge from these writings.“
Anthony’s fame spread through Portuguese evangelization, and he has been known as the most celebrated of the followers of Francis of Assisi. He is the patron saint of Lisbon, Padua and many places in Portugal and in the countries of the former Portuguese Empire.
He is especially invoked and venerated all over the world as the patron saint for the recovery of lost items and is credited with many miracles involving lost people, lost things and even lost spiritual goods.
St. Anthony Chaplets help devotees to meditate on the thirteen virtues of the saint. Some of these chaplets were used by members of confraternities which had Anthony as their patron saint.
In 1692, Spanish missionaries came across a small Payaya Indian community along what was then known as the Yanaguana River on the feast day of Saint Anthony, 13 June. The Franciscan chaplain, Father Damien Massanet, with agreement from General Domingo de Teran, renamed the rivers in his honor, and eventually built a mission nearby, as well. This mission became the focal point of a small community that eventually grew in size and scope to become the seventh-largest city in the country, the U.S. city of San Antonio, Texas.