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If it be, in general, true to say, that teaching instructs, but example influences, we could recommend no better reading for the faithful than that of the Life of a Saint. We might speak or write eloquently upon the Evangelical virtues, but could never do either with greater efficacy than by pointing out the same virtues fully realized in the conduct of a man, whose nature was not superior to our own, but who distinguished himself among his fellows by a more faithful and courageous co-operation with grace. As the life of a saint is a sketch of the diverse operations of Divine Grace, we necessarily meet certain actions which are, to use the expression, more to be admired than imitated; but the knowledge even of such actions is useful to the Christian. It shows him the marvels God works in His saints, the infinitely wise conduct of us Divine Providence, which, in the interest of society, sometimes grants to feeble mortals a power which belongs only to Himself: it explains to him also how the most admirable actions of the saints frequently tend only to the advantage and happiness of those who admire them, without looking to the end God proposes in the working of these wonders. These reflections apply in a special manner to the life of St. Antony of Padua. It is sufficient to read his biography to be convinced that, neglecting, so to speak, his own interests, he seemed to forget himself to attend merely to the happiness of others. In it we find neither the merest recital of the particulars connected with his private life, nor the picture of those interior virtues which are of habitual and daily use, in the relations between God and man, and in those of man with his fellow-man; but we meet with a multitude of noble actions, which have no other purpose but the happiness of society: the immolation of self to promote God's glory and the interests of all his brethren, was the characteristic trait which sums up nearly the whole of St. Antony's life. We may conclude from the foregoing, with what scrupulous care the saint concealed from all eyes the precious treasures of his soul - an admirable precaution, which constitutes in itself alone a rare and shining virtue. From his glorious acts flow those virtues which serve them as cause and principle; add to these the biographical information furnished by his writings, as it is specially in the writings of an author that we discover the depth and brilliant points of his character; finally, second that information by some minute details gathered here and there in his admirable life, and we can form an idea, if not complete, at least sufficiently exact, of this wonderful man. A detailed life of our saint has long been desired. Simple information and circumstantial recitals of some few miracles did not fully satisfy the pious curiosity of the faithful, to whom they taught nothing of the moral influence of the saint over his contemporaries, since they did not place his works in relation with the events or manners of his time. Nor did they follow any chronological order, thus offering to the reader a series of facts entirely destitute of logical connection. We have thought it possible to group together, in a fitting manner, all the events in St. Antony's life. We leave the reader to judge of our success. We have followed the chronology of Wadding, who has recorded, in his annals of the Friars Minor, year by year, the actions and enterprises of the saint, with many other events. We have also profited by the learned and laborious researches of the Bollandists, and made use of the chronicles of Mark of Lisbon, and many others; but the chroniclers have only furnished us with isolated facts, since they follow no chronological order. Those events, for which Wadding himself indicates no precise time, we have given such place in our history as conjecture would seem to assign; furthermore, the period during which the annalist merely mentions the simple facts comprehends at most but three years.
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