What does John Paul II say about Saint Anthony?
Pope John Paul II has defined Saint Anthony as the "man of the Gospels". This great honour is found in the pope's speech given in Padua on 12 September 1982, on the occasion of his memorable visit to Saint Anthony's Basilica.
We present some of the more meaningful passages of this speech, so that through the words of the pope you may appreciate Saint Anthony even more.
"During his entire existence Saint Anthony was a man of the Gospel. And if we honour him as such, it is because we believe that the Holy Spirit dwelt in him in an extraordinary way, enriching him with wonderful gifts and moving him 'from within', to undertake an activity which was worthy of note in the thirty-six years of his earthly existence, but which is very far from extinguishing itself as time passes - it continues, vigorously and providentially even in this day and age.
I would like to ask you to meditate precisely on this quality of belonging to the Gospels. This is the very reason why Saint Anthony is proclaimed "the Saint".
Without excluding other qualities or making preferences, this is the sign that holiness has reached exceptional heights in him. His holiness has surpassed all else due to the strength of its example and has helped devotion to Saint Anthony to spread throughout the world. It is truly difficult to find a city or town in the Catholic world that does not have at least one statue or altar devoted to him. His serene face illuminates millions of Christian homes with a kind smile, homes where through him faith nourishes hope in the divine providence of our Heavenly Father. Believers, mostly the smallest and most vulnerable, consider him to be their saint, an intercessor always ready to help.
Exulta, Lusitania felix; O felix Padua, gaude. Exalt, happy Portugal; O happy Padua, rejoice. I repeat these words together with my predecessor Pius XII. Rejoice, Padua, in your roman and even pre-roman origins; to the splendid events of your history you add the noble title of the custodian of the living and breathing memory of Saint Anthony, in his glorious tomb. From you, in fact, his name has spread and resounds throughout the world, for this special characteristic: the sincerity of his living the Gospels.