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June 13 Anthony of Padua

Christians have traditionally prayed to St Anthony for help in finding lost or stolen items.

Outline script for assembly leader

One day, a young Franciscan friar in a monastery near Padua, in Italy, took a book belonging to his teacher, Anthony, without permission. It was a book of Psalms (known as a Psalter) and, like any book in the days before the invention of printing, was an extremely valuable object. It included Anthony's comments, written in the margins, that he would use for his lectures to the younger monks.

The novice monk had become tired of monastery life and wanted to leave. He may have planned to sell the book after leaving the monastery. Meanwhile, Anthony found his book was missing and prayed for its return.

Legend says the novice was stopped in his flight by a devil brandishing an axe and threatening to trample him underfoot if he did not immediately return the book. The young friar not only did so, but remained a monk. The book is said to be preserved in a Franciscan friary in Bologna.

Anthony was born in Portugal in 1195. He became a short chubby man with a voice that carried for miles. He lived as a priest in Lisbon until he visited Morocco to spread the Gospel. Later, he lived as a hermit in Italy.

One day, some followers of St Francis of Assisi heard him preach.

Anthony spoke so wisely that Francis appointed him as a teacher to the Franciscan friars. Like all Franciscans, Anthony helped the poor. St Anthony's Bread is still distributed to the poor on his saint's day.

Anthony died when he was only 36. Shortly after his death, people began praying to him to help them find lost and stolen articles, saying words such as these: "Dear Saint Anthony, help me to find the object I have lost so that I will be able to make better use of the time I will gain for God's greater honour and glory. Amen."

Follow-up

Share or write accounts of trying to put right a wrong-doing.

Discuss the value of "personal" belongings. For example, how can a favourite CD be more valuable than a more expensive one?

Visit the National Gallery's website and look at Herp the Elder's famous oil-on-copper painting, thought to be of Saint Anthony of Padua distributing Bread. www.nationalgallery.org.uk

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