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Read about the life and miracles of this great Saint!

Saint Anthony the Wonder Worker

Chapter 4
Anthony the Preacher

For a little time only was Anthony permitted to remain in comfortable and peaceful obscurity. Solitude and silence he always loved; but, alas, he was no longer to enjoy them uninterruptedly. In Ember week—March 19, 1222, according to the historian Azzoguidi—the ceremony of ordination called to Forli a number of religious, both Friars Minor and Friar Preachers, who were to receive Holy Orders. Father Gratian and Anthony were also present, but neither in the least suspected the surprise that was in store for all.

Father Gratian, who had not failed to note the edifying fervor of the young priest, as well as the gleams of uncommon intelligence which Anthony was not always able to disguise, was glad to have this opportunity of calling the hermit of Monte Paolo from his vigils to attend the functions at Forli. Father Gratian had been requested by the bishop of the province to deliver to the candidates for ordination the customary address on the sublimity of the priestly office. This honor he courteously offered to the sons of St. Benedict—many of whom were present—but they, being unprepared, refused to speak on so solemn an occasion. It began to look as if the ceremonies were likely to be interrupted.

Suddenly, as if by intuition, Father Gratian turned to Anthony and desired him to exhort the candidates. The simplicity and beauty of his language and the grace of his manner were greatly in his favor; but he had never yet spoken in public, and since he had become a Friar Minor he had opened no book save only his breviary and the Psalms. Therefore he modestly pleaded his inexperience and his inability; he confessed that he was fitter to serve in the refectory than to preach to the learned who were present. He was covered with confusion, and heartily wished himself back again in his grotto at Monte Paolo. The superior was inflexible; and, rejecting all excuses, he directed Anthony to preach out of obedience, and gave him for a text: "Christ became for us obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross."

The young priest arose, trembling with humility; in a low voice, the beauty of which had been often commented upon, he addressed the Franciscans and Dominicans, who were filled with curiosity and expectation. As he proceeded, his voice gathered volume and his speech fire; his cheek flushed with fervor; his body swayed as a reed in the wind; his wrapped gaze seemed fixed upon a Heaven invisible to others, and he spoke as one Divinely inspired. His hour of triumph had come at last, unsought and uninvited.

Is it any wonder that all present were astonished beyond measure, and that they looked upon this maiden effort of the novice as little short of miraculous? It is true that his whole life had been a kind of preparation for the pulpit, but an involuntary and unconscious one. His range of experience had been large; every emotion of the heart he had sounded to its depths; in his solitary hours of abstraction he had, in spirit, again and again communed with the martyrs of Morocco and the Canons Regular of Coimbra. He was storm-tossed in the Mediterranean; prostrated upon a bed of pain in Africa; an obscure and unobserved pilgrim at Assisi; an humble servitor and solitary at Monte Paolo.

Now all returned to him like a flash in brilliant and luminous retrospection; and with all else came knowledge--a revival of knowledge--his knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and of the consecrated writings of the Fathers, together with his own voluminous comments thereon, and a world of wisdom withal--of wisdom not of this world only.

In a torrent of eloquence that thrilled and amazed his listeners, he developed his discourse with the skill of a logician, the art of an orator, the charm of one predestined to the pulpit; and brought his last period to a conclusion amidst a chorus of enthusiastic approbation. On the instant he found himself conspicuous in a life of publicity-----the life he had sought in vain to fly from. Now, in deed and in very truth, his inner life was ended: he was henceforth to be known as Anthony the Preacher.

Taken from Saint Anthony the Wonder Worker by TAN Books & Publishers, Inc.

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