Born in Lisbon in A.D. 1195, St. Anthony, né Ferdinand, was the son of noble parents. He received a good education, and, at the age of fifteen, joined the Canons Regular of St. Augustine which whom he studied Sacred Scripture and the writings of the Fathers. At around the age of 25, he became inspired by the Franciscans martyred in Morocco and decided to join their Order, taking the name "Anthony."
Illness prevented his going to Morocco, so he spent some time in Sicily, in Assisi, and then in Montepaolo his public life began: during the ordination of a group of Franciscan and Dominican friars, it was discovered that no one had been appointed to preach. The superior turned to the Dominicans first because they are the "Order of Preachers," but all declined, saying they were not prepared. So St. Anthony stepped up and began to teach so beautifully that word of his talents reached the ears of St. Francis, who blessed his work.
St. Anthony taught at Bologna, Montpellier, and Toulouse, but it was as a fearless orator and a Wonder Worker that he is most reknowned.
Blessing of Lillies:
In some areas of France people will ask their local priest to bless lilies for them in honour of St. Anthony. The blessing of lilies, stems from a miracle which took place in Revolutionary France: many priests and religious were murdered, so many churches and convents destroyed, but the faithful still showed up at a surviving church on the Feast of St. Anthony. Months later, it was discovered that lilies that had adorned the church at that feast were still fresh.
People will either press or dry these lilies and use them as part of altars or sacred spaces dedicated to this powerful saint to aid them in prayer for healing or miracles.
There is some debate about which coloured candles to burn for St. Anthony, some people say brown, matching his habit. Some suggest that white or red for him because of the colour of the lilies holds and the fact that the Holy Spirit descended on him whilst preaching (red). I've also heard it said that, like the Honey Bee, Anthony is an industrious labourer in the Service of the Lord and so as a special devotion to burn specifically bees wax candles for him on his feast day.
St. Anthony can be petitioned for all things, and his devotee's will pray to him for all areas of their lives. He is especially invoked for the return of lost or stolen things.
I remember as a child my great-great-aunt would get a safety pin and pin the arm of her chair or a cushion asking for St. Anthony's help to find something, and she'd say the Lords Prayer and within minutes the lost item would miraculously turn up. Then she would thank him and unpin the pin.
Typically petitions and candles are accompanied by saying the Lords Prayer and Three Hail Marys. If the petition is for something big, often people will publish a public testimonial. Previously this could have been in a newspaper or church bulletin, but in the 21st century social network testimonials are becoming increasingly common place.
Glory to you St. Anthony of Padua!