Anthony had an extraordinary knowledge of Scripture, thanks to the natural gifts that were expanded by his excellent education as an Augustinian canon. He had committed so many biblical passages to memory that some of his contemporaries said that if the Scriptures were lost, he could recreate them from memory! That’s certainly an exaggeration, but he had a phenomenal memory that led not to overbearing pride but to ever-deeper humility. God’s self-revelation in the Bible was not given for anyone’s personal advantage.
Anthony moved from knowledge about the Scriptures to the divine wisdom they are intended to share. Francis of Assisi would later caution the friars about becoming puffed up because of their ability to quote many passages from the Bible. That temptation was one that Anthony quickly and consistently rejected, partly because Anthony was well acquainted with Scripture commentaries by Saints Augustine, Jerome, and other Church fathers.
In Anthony’s day, the Catholic Church’s fiercest critics loved to contrast biblical passages with current events clearly reflecting non-biblical values. For example, Jesus said that the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head (Mt 8:20), but a local bishop or abbot might then be involved in a nasty fight over land and a contested inheritance.
Do we follow Anthony’s example in allowing the word of Christ to dwell in us richly (Col 3:16)?
In Anthony’s Own Words
“You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart. Notice that Christ says: Your whole heart. He doesn’t say: Leave a corner of your heart for yourself. He bought the whole of you by giving his whole self for you, that he alone might possess every part of you. Do not try to hold back any part of yourself. If you really wish to have the whole, then give it all to him, and he will give you all of himself.”
Did You Know?
As the historians interpret it, Anthony preferred to present the grandeur of Christianity in positive ways. It was no good to prove people wrong. Anthony wanted to win them to the right, the healthiness of real sorrow and conversion, the wonder of reconciliation with a loving Father.
The word fire recurs in descriptions of him. And though he was called the “Hammer of Heretics,” the word warmth describes him more fully.
—Jack Wintz, OFM, Saint Anthony of Padua: His Life, Legends, and Devotions
You wanted to reveal yourself to the
human family by means of your
inspired word, the Scriptures.
Give us hearts able to resist the
temptation, as Anthony did,
to reinforce what we like there
and minimize what we find extremely
challenging, whatever will require
a deeper conversion on our part.