The son of a notary, Antoninus was born in Florence, Italy, in 1389. Very little is known about his early life, except that he was a frail and lovable child and that he was always drawn to God and to prayer.
At the age of 14, Antoninus heard Blessed John Dominici preach and later begged to be allowed to join his reformed Dominican priory. John Dominici thought Antoninus looked much too small and delicate for such a life, but didn't have the heart to tell him “no.” Thinking to discourage the boy, he gave him the task of memorizing a large and forbidding book called Decretum Gratiani. However, a year later, Antoninus returned to Blessed John to recite the book as requested. Seeing his determination and fervor, Blessed John allowed Antoninus to join the Dominican order at Fiesole in 1405.
After ordination, Antoninus' fervent devotion moved the hearts of the Florentines. He was given several positions in the Dominican order, and became a prior at a young age. He also became a master of canon law and assisted popes in their councils.
In 1446, Pope Eugenius IV name Antoninus archbishop of Florence, and it was only with great reluctance and the threat of excommunication that he finally accepted the position. The people of Florence, however, rejoiced at his appointment and he became known as the "people's prelate" and the "protector of the poor." His first thought was always for the people of his diocese and he set them a powerful example with his simplicity of life, his great charity, and his firm integrity.
After 13 years as bishop, Antoninus died surrounded by his religious brothers from San Marco and mourned by the whole city. His whole life was mirrored in his last words, “to serve God is to reign."
1. In this so-called "information age" when we are besieged on all sides with distractions that keep us from union with God, let us keep in mind St. Antoninus' advice: “To enjoy interior peace, we must always reserve in our hearts amidst all affairs, as it were, a secret closet, where we are to keep retired within ourselves, and where no business of the world can ever enter.”
2. In the same way the entire world was moved to see John Paul II forgive the man who tried to assassinate him, St. Antoninus freely forgave and prayed for a criminal who once attempted to kill him. These two leaders of the Church from the past and the present have shown us what it means to truly love our enemies. Let us pray to the Holy Spirit for the grace to forgive all those who have hurt us in any way and for the humility to seek forgiveness if we ourselves have hurt anyone.