St. Anthony of Padua was born at Lisbon, Portugal, in 1195. His surname comes from the Italian city where he lived the latter part of his life. His parents were members of the Portuguese nobility; his father was a knight at the court of King Alfonso II.
His early education took place at the cathedral of Lisbon. At the age of fifteen, he joined the Regular Canons of St. Augustine and was transferred to the monastery at Coimbra two years later because of distractions caused by his friends' visits. At the monastery, Anthony devoted himself to prayer and study and became a learned scholar of the Bible.
In 1220, Don Pedro of Portugal brought the relics of Franciscans who had been martyred to Coimbra. This had a tremendous effect on Anthony, who requested admission to the Franciscans. In 1221, he was accepted. Soon after, he set out for Morocco to preach the Gospel to the Moors. On the way to Morocco, he was forced to return to Europe because of illness. On his return home, a storm drove his ship to the shores of Italy, where he would live for the rest of his life.
Upon his return, Anthony went to Assisi, where the general chapter meeting of 1221 took place. At the meeting, he was assigned to the hermitage of San Paolo near Forli. It was in Forli that he gave a great sermon which propelled him into his calling as a preacher.
A gifted preacher, Anthony was also called upon to teach theology to his fellow Franciscans. He was the first member of the Franciscans to be so honored. Anthony drew large crowds wherever he went in Italy, but his greatest success was in Padua where the entire city flocked to hear his word and welcomed him as another St. Francis.
After the death of Francis, Anthony became the minister provincial of Emilia or Romagna. In 1226, he was elected as the envoy from the general chapter to Pope Gregory IX. Soon after, he was released from this duty so he could continue his preaching. He returned to Padua, where he preached until his death. Anthony died on June 13, 1231, at the age of thirty-six. He is a Doctor of the Church.