June 13 – Anthim of Iberia; Anthony of Padua

Anthim of Iberia (ca. 1650–1716) (ანთიმოზ ივერიელი) was fluent in Greek, Romanian, Slavonic, Arabic, Turkish, and Georgian; well-versed in theology, literature, and science; and unusually gifted in painting, engraving, sculpture, and calligraphy. After being taken prisoner, sold into slavery, and set free, he went to Wallachia to run the royal print shop, turning Bucharest into the publishing powerhouse of the Orthodox east. When he became abbot of the Snagov Monastery, he founded a print shop and started printing service books in multiple languages. He was possibly the first non-Arabic type to create Arabic type.

Being made Metropolitan of Hungro-Wallachia gave him a bully pulpit for Wallachian independence, which won him the disfavor of the Phanariotes, rich Greeks who helped the Ottomans oppress Christians. (I’m sure they’d tell a different story, but this is my book.) A council called by Mavrokordatos, the Phanariote in charge of Wallachia, excommunicated and anathematized Anthim, which was bad enough, and declared him unworthy of being a monk, which was just uncalled-for. Not satisfied, Mavro also had him banished to Mt. Athos*. The entourage was intercepted en route by Turkish soldiers, however, and Anthim was murdered and dumped in a river. (Some historians think Mavro had something to do with it, can you imagine?)

A monastery the saint had built in Bucharest was renamed in his honor, and get this—the trophy the Romanian and Georgian rugby teams battle for annually is called the Antim Cup.

Anthony of Padua (1195–1231) started out in the other Iberia as an Augustinian named Fernando, but don’t let that fool you. After a top-notch education, he settled down as a canon in Coîmbra, you would have thought immovably. But when five Franciscan friars passed through on their way to preach in Morocco, then returned as relics, Fernando burned with the desire to preach the gospel to Muslims and/or become a martyr, not much caring which came first. Since Portuguese Augustinians rarely achieve martyrdom in Morocco, he switched to the Franciscans, taking the name Antony from a pile by the door.

Once in Morocco, he became deathly ill. They shipped him back to Portugal, but the ship was blown (waaaaay) off course and landed in Sicily. Nobody wanted him in their friary on account of his health, so he wound up washing dishes and scrubbing floors at a rural hospice, never once saying, “Here I am with a university education, washing pans.” (I’m not sure I’d make a good saint.) On one special occasion, the hospice played host to a host of Dominicans. The Franciscans had expected the Dominicans to preach because that’s their bag, and the Dominicans hadn’t expected to preach because they were guests, and the idea of letting the occasion pass without a sermon was unthinkable. Anthony was fingered for the job, and after protesting and being overruled, he gave a sermon that people are still writing about. Witness this.

He preached throughout Lombardy to rave reviews, drawing huge crowds, including fish[1]. Francis (Oct 4) was so impressed he appointed Anthony to teach theology, something he (Francis) had hitherto been allergic to. Short, chubby, swarthy, and fearless, Anthony radiated holiness, and just seeing him caused (some) sinners to fall to their knees. He condemned the oppressors of the poor, and worked to abolish debtors’ prisons and usury.

Long after Anthony’s death, a novice stole his prayer book, then sheepishly returned it after seeing a vision of a rather angry Anthony. Since then people have asked Anthony to help find lost things and persons.

[1]You can’t make this stuff up. Well, I take that back. Maybe you can. I can’t.