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St Anthony de Pabua’s retirement and death
ST. ANTHONY DE PADUA (Born Fernando Martins de Bulhoes: 15 August 1195 – 13 June 1231)
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St. Anthony de Padua- Doctor of the Church
In the spring of the year 1231, St. Anthony led a retirement life in the woodland retreat at Camposanpiero a town in the province of Padua, Veneto, northern Italy, where he was stricken with a grave illness.. He was transferred to the Poor Clare Monastery at Arcella or Vercelli a city now with about 47000 inhabitants, where he was comforted by the appearance of the Lord Jesus, and died on June 13, 1231 at the age of 36. He spent 11 years in the Order of Friars Minor, 10 years as a Canon Regular of St. Augustine and 15 years with his parents.
Seconds after his death, St. Anthony appeared at Vercelli to Abbot Thomas Gallo to inform him of his demise. His death was likewise made known to the residents of Padua by crying children announcing his passing and the tolling of bells on their own accord.
Less than a year after his death, St. Anthony was canonized by Pope Gregory IX on May 30,1232, at Spoleto, Italy.and declared a saint. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on January 16, 1946.
Anthony’s name together with Padua gained prominence and was celebrated worldwide. His city mates in Pabua built a magnificent temple in his honor. In 1263 witnessed by St. Bonaventure then Minister General, his relics were transferred to the temple. When the coffin where his sacred body had lain for 30 years was opened, St. Anthony’s body was reduced to dust but his tongue was found intact, fresh and reddish in color. St. Bonaventure took hold of the tongue gingerly and kissed it, "O Blessed Tongue that always praised the Lord, and made others bless Him, now it is evident what great merit thou hast before God.”
Up to this day, St. Anthony’s miracles have never waned and is acknowledged as the greatest miracle worker. His help is likewise invoked in the recovery of things lost.
During the 750th anniversary of St. Anthony’s death, his tomb was reopened on January 6, 1981. This event was witnessed by about 200 people, church authorities, Franciscans, doctors, architects and workers through a special decree of Pope John Paul II. The pope also formed a Pontifical Commission to study, analyze and preserve the relics for coming generation.
The wooden coffin measuring about 1.82 meters in length, 51 cm in width was finally opened. Everybody was amazed to find another coffin smaller in size, embedded within. The smaller coffin bore 3 bundles of damask in gold trimmings: 1 of bones and skull, 1 of hair and bone fragments and the last, a habit.
The coffin with its remains was brought to the Hall of Bishops for the contents to be examined by faculty members of the university.
To recall St Anthony died on Friday, June 13, 1231, at Arcella. With respect to the wishes of the friars, his remains was buried at the Friars’ small church in Padua on June 17, four days after his death. That same day sick and infirmed persons who were brought to his grave site were healed due to his intercession. The news of these miraculous healing spread like wild fire, prompting Pope Gregory IX to canonize him on May 30, 1232.
On April 8, 1263, the body of Anthony was transferred to a larger church, a basilica in a form of a cross. This was done to accommodate the large crowds of pilgrims who came to pay homage to the Saint’s grave. Then general of the Franciscan Order St. Bonaventure who take charge of this second burial, found the saint’s tongue which was miraculously preserved. The tongue is now a part of the relics of the Basilica.
The saint’s body in a coffin is currently enclosed in an elevated sarcophagus before the sanctuary of the Basilica. In 1350 coming as a pilgrim to the famous shrine, Cardinal Guido de Boulogne-Sur-Mer had a reliquary carved for the Saint’s jaw from which St. Bonaventure had withdrawn the tongue. By that same year, the Basilica was able to display St. Anthony’s tongue, jaw and forearm.
The 1981 pontifical commission produced surprising results. The examination showed that the skeleton is almost complete. They found out that the jaw of the reliquary and the rest of the cranium are parts that belong together. They also concluded after measuring the saint’s skeleton that his height is 1.68 meters or 5 ft. 6 in. They likewise discovered that the saint’s entire vocal apparatus was preserved and intact, not only his tongue. Doctors working with the commission finally concluded that St. Anthony’s cause of death was not edema, dropsy, cirrhosis of the liver, kidney failure, intestinal tumor, but by simple fatigue caused by heavy work and penances that sap and exhausted his vital system.