Antonio Margil was born in Valencia, Spain. At a young age, he entered the Franciscans and adopted the nickname “Nothingness Itself,” by which he subsequently signed his letter. At twenty-five, after distinguishing himself as a preacher and theologian, he was ordained. Immediately, he volunteered to join the mission in New Spain.
Fr. Antonio spent many years as a missionary in Yucatan, Costa Rica and Guatemala. Always travelling on foot, he overcame the fears of the Indians by his poverty and simplicity, and his determination to dissociate himself from Spanish rule. For some time he interrupted his travels to preside over a missionary college in Zacatecas in Mexico, then travelled north to participate in missionary expedition to Texas. There he established six missions, including the mission of San Antonio. His reputation for holiness began to grow, fed by astonishment over his ability to traverse huge distances in no time, to read people’s souls and other miraculous signs. Above all, he was renowned for his charity. As he said,
“We must serve our neighbor more than ourselves, for by doing so we make Almighty God our debtor, and He will aid us in our necessities.”
Eventually he returned to Mexico, where he died on August 6, 1726. In 1836, Pope Gregory XVI issued a decree of his heroic virtues and he was declared venerable.