1220 - 1222 From Africa to Assisi

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Shortly after, Anthony set off with a fellow friar, intending to die preaching the Gospel in Morocco. He had barely arrived when he contracted a horrible fever which left him semiconscious for weeks. He did not even have the strength to stand up, let alone go into the market place to preach the Word of God. Anthony’s generous dream of serving the Lord with his words and his very life had been crushed. There was only one thing left to do: surrender to the will of God. And so Anthony said farewell to Africa and set sail for Portugal. But even this choice would be challenged by the Lord. The ship encountered a terrible storm which blew it off course. Finally, it was forced ashore on the island of Sicily. Weak and confused as to the direction that the Lord intended for him, Anthony travelled to Assisi, where there was to be a great assembly of the friars. On the feast of Pentecost in 1221 thousands of friars gathered in Assisi from all over Europe in what has come to be known as the Chapter of Mats.

There Anthony listened to the teachings of St. Francis, and he was greatly consoled. As the friars dispersed to go to their home friaries, Anthony waited for someone to give him a sign of where he should go. Finally, the provincial of Bologna, Friar Graziano, invited Anthony to follow him. Graziano sent Anthony to a small hermitage in the mountains in the town of Montepaolo near Forlì, to serve as a priest for the community of brother hermits living there.