Francis of Assisi died in 1226 during Anthony’s ministry in France. The story is told that while Anthony was once preaching at a regional meeting of the friars there, the now-deceased Francis appeared at the door, a sign of support for what Anthony was saying. In those days, provincial ministers (regional leaders of the friars) were appointed by the minister general (worldwide leader of the Order).
It probably came as no surprise that Anthony was chosen to lead the friars all across northern Italy. He did that between 1227 and 1230, spending most of his name visiting the friars and encouraging the older friars in their ministries and preparing younger ones to accept more serious responsibilities.
During these years Anthony became linked to the city of Padua although he did not live their permanently until he had completed his service as provincial minister. The friars were already well established in Genova, Torino, Milano, Trento, Bozen, Brixen, Bologna, Padua, Venezia, and many other cities. Bishops were usually quite happy to invite friars to minister in their dioceses.
By the time that Anthony became a provincial minister, the Pentecost chapter was no longer attended by all the friars but only by the provincials and a few other friars. During the Chapter of 1230, a question arose among the friars that required a decision by Pope Gregory IX. Anthony was chosen to be part of a delegation to represent the friars in this matter.
Do I see leadership as a possession to be jealously guarded or as an opportunity to serve?
In Anthony’s Own Words
“During the meal, Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it as a sign that his body would be broken, too, through his freely accepted death. The humanity of Christ is like the grape because it was crushed in the winepress of the cross so that his blood flowed forth over all the earth….
‘This is my blood of the new covenant, which shall be shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins.’ How great is the charity of the beloved! How great the love of the Bridegroom for his spouse, the Church!”
Did You Know?
Anthony went to a little town near Padua, but seeing death coming close, he wanted to return to the city that he loved. “If it seems good to you,” he said to one of the friars, “I should like to return to Padua to the friary of Santa Maria, so as not to be a burden to the friars here.” The journey in a wagon weakened him so much, however, that he had to stop at Arcella. He had to bless Padua from a distance, as Francis had blessed Assisi.
At Arcella, Anthony received the last sacraments and sang and prayed with the friars there. When one of them asked Anthony what he was staring at so intently, he answered, “I see my Lord!” He died in peace a short time after that. He was only 36 and had been a Franciscan but 10 years.
—Jack Wintz, OFM, Saint Anthony of Padua: His Life, Legends, and Devotions
Lord Jesus, when you wanted to
give your disciples an unforgettable
example of servant leadership, you
washed their feet.
Help us always to remember that
your power is never given to anyone for
its own sake but always for the service
of our sisters and brothers.
Show us how to speak your truth in
love, whatever the circumstances.