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Saint Anthony Statues the Ultimate Franciscian

St. Anthony was the most famous direct disciple of St. Francis of Assisi. He joined the Franciscan order in 1220 and was a scholar and orator, which was unusual in a Franciscan. St. Francis was a simple man and warned St. Anthony about pride in his learning. In spite of his scholarship, St. Anthony wanted to live a life that emulated Jesus and this wish was fulfilled when he got a vision of baby Jesus. Today, a St. Anthony statue usually shows him holding a child, symbolizing his closeness to baby Jesus.


Born in 1195 to a wealthy family in Lisbon Portugal, Fernando Martins de Belhoes was destine to become St. Anthony. He studied well, including Latin and the Bible and entered a St. Augustinian Abbey when he was 15 against his parent’s wishes. He was determined to live a secluded life, but was always being visited by his family, so he began to travel and went to Italy. He is still considered the patron saint of Portugal and a famous St. Anthony statue stands in Lisbon in the Church of Saint Roch, an early Jesuit church.


 A St. Anthony statue always has a humble atmosphere, even if it is made by the best sculptors of the day. The Franciscan habit and little baby in his arms both give the statue warmth that is very appealing. He could have taken pride in his great learning and skill as an orator to move people, but he remembered his mentor’s words and meditated on the simple life of Jesus and his own vow of poverty.


Another famous St. Anthony statue is in Goa, India, where the Portuguese traded for spices during the Age of Discovery. It is said that in 1752 a blind nobleman was being carried through the rain. His bearers stopped to rest near a small statue of St. Anthony that was also getting wet. The blind man prayed to the saint to restore his sight. He promised to build a chapel with a statue of St. Anthony so he could be out of the rain. His wish was granted and the chapel and statue can be seen today in Goa.


For private homes or churches you can find an appropriate St. Anthony statue. They are made of fiberglass, stone, bronze, pewter, polymer and plaster. Some are hand painted to meticulous detail and look absolutely lifelike especially ones made by the Fontanini family in Tuscany, Italy. For four generations the same family has been making religious statues.


St. Anthony died at 36 and was canonized one year later by Pope Gregory IX. Travelers, especially sailors, also pray to a St. Anthony statue, for protection while they are traveling. Even in his lifetime he was famous for finding things that had been lost. Today, people still pray to him when they want something returned that they have lost. He knew the true value of humility when worshiping God and his fame for his great learning didn’t sway him from his original goal; to live a simple life, quietly with humility.


This article was published on Tuesday 30 March, 2010.

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