When preaching on March 19 at his installation as bishop of Rome, Pope Francis applied these words to the ministry of St. Joseph and, by extension, to his own new ministry. He had earlier recalled the need to respect and protect all creation, as Francis of Assisi did.
Anthony of Padua certainly reflected the power-as-service leadership model that Jesus demonstrated when he washed the feet of the apostles at the Last Supper. Pope Francis has shown such leadership in several ways. For example, on Holy Thursday he washed the feet of 12 young women and men at a juvenile detention facility in Rome. When Anthony was proclaimed a doctor of the Church in 1946. Pope Pius XII gave him the title “Doctor of the Gospel.” Anthony had extensive knowledge about the entire Bible and was always ready to show its application to his listeners’ lives.
Anthony’s openness to the needs of the Church and of society made him willing to exercise new ministries as those needs changed. He was a servant leader as a teacher, a preacher, the head of the friars in northern Italy, and a writer of sermon notes to aid other preachers. Anthony was not afraid to point out to the citizens of Padua during Lent 1231 that imprisoning debtors should stop.
Anthony urged his contemporaries—and he urges all of us—to live as servant leaders. His feast is June 13.