St. Anthony Leaves Franciscans and Dominicans Awestruck By His Preaching
Miracle of St. Anthony preaching to the fish of the sea, found at Nobility blog
(The following is excerpted from Chapters 9 and 10 of "Saint Anthony: The Wonder-Worker of Padua," by Charles Warren Stoddard; published by TAN Books.)
"...Father Gratian [the Franciscan Provincial of Bologna] turned to Anthony and desired him to exhort the candidates [to the priesthood for the Franciscans and Dominicans]. The simplicity and beauty of his language and the grace of his manner were greatly in his favor; but he had never yet spoken in public, and since he had become a Friar Minor [Anthony was previously an Augustinian], he had opened no book save only his breviary and the Psalms. Therefore he modestly pleaded his inexperience and his inability he confessed that he was fitter to serve in the refectory than to preach to the learned who were present....The superior was inflexible; and, rejecting all excuses, he directed Anthony to preach out of obedience, and gave him for a text: 'Christ became for us obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.'"
"The young priest arose, trembling with humility; in a low voice, the beauty of which had been often commented upon, he addressed the Franciscans and Dominicans, who were filled with curiosity and expectation. As he proceeded, his voice gathered volume and his speech fire; his cheek flushed with fervor; his body swayed as a reed in the wind; his wrapped gaze seemed fixed upon a heaven invisible to others, and he spoke as one divinely inspired....Is it any wonder that all present were astonished beyond measure, and that they looked upon this maiden effort of the novice as little short of miraculous?..."
"In a torrent of eloquence that thrilled and amazed his listeners, he developed his discourse with the skill of a logician, the art of an orator, the charm of one predestined to the pulpit...On the instant he found himself conspicuous in a life of publicity --- the he had sought in vain to fly from. Now, in deed and in very truth, his inner life was ended; he was henceforth to be known as Anthony the Preacher."
"The [Franciscan] Provincial of Romangna, who was present when Anthony delivered his first sermon, at once appointed the young apostle a preacher in his province; and St. Francis [of Assisi], hearing of the extraordinary effort produced by the sermon, not only confirmed the Provincial's appointment, but greatly enlarged Anthony's sphere of usefulness by giving him leave to preach anywhere and everywhere, whenever an opportunity offered."
[St. Anthony would go on to convert multitudes back to the Catholic faith by his preaching -- to such an extent that he was nicknamed malleus haereticorum - or "the hammer of heretics."]