The first days of April often fall in the holiest time of the year: Passiontide. And these days filled with the Feasts of some of the greatest Saints in the history of the Church. The second day of this month is no exception for we celebrate on this day one who is probably the second greatest miracle worker after Saint Vincent Ferrer, and yet he is very little known in the United Sates or even anywhere else outside of Italy: Saint Francis of Paola. The fact that his feast always falls in Lent is most fitting for like Saint Patrick and Saint Benedict he is a most worthy model of penance and mortification.
If you can think of an incredible miracle then you can assume that Saint Francis performed it at one time or another. He cured the sick, raised the dead, prophesied the future, walked on water, and he is one of only two Saints to have obtained the grace of invisibility, which he prayed for in order to be able to be alone and pray (the other was the great Redemptorist, Saint Gerard Majella, another great wonder worker). He also had significant influence on five Kings and seven Popes, established an order of hermits which would eventually have around five-hundred monasteries, and was canonized just twelve years after his death.
The Liturgical Year
Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B.
Saint Francis of Paola
The heavenly life of the Saint, whose name is brought before us to-day, teaches us that, aided by divine grace, man may imitate his Risen Lord. Francis of Paula lived in this world as though he were above the ordinary laws of mortals. His mortifications were severe; but his soul enjoyed peace and liberty. He had the gift of miracles to an extent, which has rarely been surpassed. Louis the 11th, King of France, obtained the sanction of the Holy See that Francis should come and live near him: he gave him a Convent at Plessis-les-Tours, and died assisted by the Saint’s presence and prayers.
Francis of Paula died on the Good Friday of the year 1507. This resemblance to his Crucified Saviour was a reward for his love of the Cross. But God would show the world how close was the union existing between his faithful servant and our Risen Jesus:—Leo the Tenth celebrated the Saints’ Canonization during the Easter of 1518. Low Sunday was the day chosen by the Pontiff for the Canonization, which took place in the Vatican Basilica. Thus the glory of the humble man, who would have his disciples be called Minims, was raised above that of the Caesars of ancient Rome.
Let us read the abridged account of his life given us in the Liturgy.
Francis was born at Paula, an unimportant town of Calabria. His parents, who were for a long time without children, obtained him from heaven, after having made a vow, and prayed to St. Francis. When very young, being inflamed with the love of God, he withdrew into a desert, where, for six years, he led an austere life, but one that was sweetened by heavenly contemplations. The fame of his virtues having spread abroad, many persons went to him, out of a desire to be trained in virtue. Out of a motive of fraternal charity, he left his solitude, built a Church near Paula, and there laid the foundation of his Order.
He had a wonderful gift of preaching. He observed virginity during his whole life. Such was his love for humility, that he called himself the last of all men, and would have his disciples named Minims. His dress was of the coarsest kind; he always walked barefooted, and his bed was the ground. His abstinence was extraordinary: he ate only once in the day. and that not till after sunset. His food consisted of bread and water, to which he scarcely ever added those viands which are permitted even in Lent: and this practice he would have kept up by his Religious, under the obligation of a fourth vow.
God bore witness to the holiness of his Servant by many miracles, of which this is the most celebrated: that when he was rejected by the sailors, he and his companion passed over the straits of Sicily on his cloak, which he spread out on the water. He also prophesied many future events. Louis the Eleventh, king of France, had a great desire to see the Saint, and treated him with great respect. Having reached his ninety-first year, he died at Tours, in the year of our Lord one thousand five hundred and seven. His body, which was left unburied for eleven days, so far from becoming corrupt, yielded a sweet fragrance. He was canonized by Pope Leo the Tenth.
Apostle of Penance! thou enteredst into eternal happiness by the Cross, and during thy whole life thou hadst in mind the words spoken by Jesus, after his Resurrection, to the Disciples of Emmaus: ought not Christ to have suffered, and so to have entered into his glory ? (Lk 24:26) It seemed to thee, that the law of the Master should be also the disciple’s; and the day at length came, when the disciple was glorified, as his Master had been before him. Thy earthly triumph was celebrated amidst the splendours of the feast of Jesus’ Resurrection, and thou art one of our protectors during Paschal Time. Deign, then, to bless the faithful who beg thy prayers, and strengthen within them, by thy powerful intercession, the new life they have received at the Paschal banquet of the Lamb. Bless and preserve the Order thou hast founded. Thy holy relics have been destroyed by the fury of heretics; avenge the injury thus offered to thy name, by praying for the conversion of heretics and sinners, and drawing down upon the world those heavenly graces, which will revive among us the fervour of the Ages of Faith.