Saint of the Day – 2 September – Blessed Antonio Franco (1585-1626) aged 41 – Monsignor, Priest, penitent, ascetic – born 26 September 1585 in Naples, Italy and died 2 September 1626 in Santa Lucia del Mela, Messina, Italy. Patronage – Santa Lucia del Mela. His body is incorrupt.
Bl Antonio was born in 1585 in Naples to a noble family of French origins. He was born as the third of six children to Orlando Franco and Francesca Pisana di Antonio. He studied theology and obtained a doctorate in civil and canon law on 23 September 1602 and he later pursued further studies at the behest of his father in Rome. He then moved to Madrid to serve at the royal court at the insistence of his parents.
He was ordained to the priesthood in 1610 and he was requested by King Philip III to be a member of his court. On 14 January 1611 he was named a royal chaplain and Bl Antonio was later appointed as the major chaplain of the Kingdom of Sicily in 1616. With that appointment came the Prelature of Santa Lucia del Mela. His appointment was confirmed by Pope Paul V. He was formally installed in 1617.
Franco was regarded as a man of extreme holiness who deprived himself of the pleasures in life. He didn’t eat much and he slept on the floor. He wore two chains all the time. He died at the age of 41 due to his penances and his remains are incorrupt. He is buried in the Basilica of Santa Lucia del Mela.
The cause of Beatification for Franco commenced on 11 April 1984 under St Pope John Paul II with the declaration of “nihil obstat” – this stated there were no objections to the commencement of the cause. That meant he could be made a Servant of God. Pope Benedict XVI declared him to have lived a life of heroic virtue and proclaimed him to be Venerable on 14 January 2011. He later approved a decree ratifying the existence of a miracle on 20 December 2012 leading to his Beatification.
He was Beatified on 2 September 2013 by Pope Francis. Beatification recognition celebrated in the Co-Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, Santa Lucia del Mela, Messina, Italy, presided over by Cardinal Angelo Amato.