St. Francis of Paola
When they lived:
St. Francis of Paola, also known as Francis of Paola, was born on March 27, 1416, in Paola, a small town in Calabria, Italy. He lived during the late Middle Ages and the early Renaissance period.
Where they lived:
St. Francis of Paola spent much of his life in Italy, particularly in the region of Calabria. He founded the Order of Minims, a religious order focused on asceticism and humility, which gained prominence during his lifetime and beyond.
Notable world events during the time of their life:
- Fall of Constantinople (1453): St. Francis of Paola witnessed the pivotal moment in world history when the Byzantine Empire fell to the Ottoman Turks, leading to significant geopolitical shifts and influencing the Renaissance in Europe.
- Invention of the Printing Press (c. 1440s): The advent of Johannes Gutenberg’s movable-type printing press revolutionized communication, making information more accessible and accelerating the spread of ideas, including religious ones, across Europe.
- European Exploration (late 15th century): During St. Francis of Paola’s later years, Christopher Columbus embarked on his historic voyage to the Americas in 1492, marking the beginning of European exploration and the expansion of the known world.
- Italian Renaissance: St. Francis of Paola lived through the height of the Italian Renaissance, a period of remarkable artistic, cultural, and intellectual achievements. Notable figures like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael were active during this time.
St. Francis of Paola is renowned as the patron saint of mariners, sailors, and naval officers. This patronage is especially fascinating considering his humble origins in a small Italian town. He is also invoked for those seeking help in overcoming difficult or challenging circumstances, reflecting his own life of austerity and reliance on faith.
When St. Francis of Paola was thirteen years old, he joined the friary of the Franciscan order. This was after he had a vision of a Franciscan friar, and this was also to fulfill the vow that was made by his parents when he was ill.
After a year, he had completed his training, and with his parents, they went on a pilgrimage to Assisi in Rome and other places of devotion.
When they returned to Paola, he secured himself in a cave on his father’s estate and lived there in solitude; however, he later found an even more secluded cave on the sea coast where he lived, giving himself to prayer and solitude.
In 1435, two followers joined him in his retreat, and as a way of accommodating them, he had three cells and a chapel built. This was the beginning of a new order with humility as the hallmark of their brotherhood.
This brotherhood abstained from meat and any animal-derived foods. They also vowed poverty, obedience, and chastity. They adopted a life of extraordinary severity, living unknown and hidden from the world, and they thought it was a necessary means for spiritual growth. They also aimed at reviving the practice of fasting during Lent, which many had stopped practicing.
The number of his disciples gradually increased to about 1454, and St. Francis built a large monastery and church. When this church was being built, a lot of people were moved, such that even the nobles joined and carried stones for the building.
In 1474, he was permitted by Pope Sixtus IV to write a rule for his community and to assume the title of Hermits of St. Francis, which was later changed to Minims by Pope Alexander VI.
St. Francis also performed many miracles as answers to the people’s prayers, and this increased the people’s devotion. At one point, King Louis XI of France was ill, and he requested that St. Francis of Paola come and pray for him, but he initially refused, only to agree after being ordered by the Pope.
On his way to the king, he cured many who were sick of the plague. He was with the king until his death and became the tutor to the King’s heir. This new king, King Charles VIII, built two monasteries for the monks. This king held St. Francis in high esteem, as did his predecessor.
The king would not permit St. Francis to return to Italy because he did not want to lose his counsel and direction.
It is also believed that St. Francis of Paola had the gift of prophecy, which he foretold to several people. He also predicted a lot of events, including the capture of Otranto by the Ottoman Turks.
St. Francis of Paola is also said to have performed a lot of miracles, including using his cloak as a sail when he was refused passage by a boatman. He is also believed to have prayed for his nephew when he died, and the boy’s life was restored.
The Love for Animals
He is also reported to be compassionate towards animals and would occasionally give life to animals that would have been killed to be eaten. He at one point raised his pet lamb from the dead after it was killed for consumption. What is more fascinating is that the lamb had been eaten already, and he just went to the fire furnace where the fleece and bones had been thrown and called the pet’s name. The lamb then came out of the fire untouched.
At one point, one of the friars got a fish from the pond and had already prepared it, which was now in the frying pan, when St. Francis noticed that it was missing. He sent someone to go and get the fish, and the friar threw the fish on the ground, breaking it into pieces. St. Francis took the pieces and threw them into the water. He prayed, and the fish was restored to life.
Even after the deaths of animals, he continued to call them by their names, as he believed that they continued to exist even after their deaths.
St. Francis of Paola is considered the patron saint of boatmen, mariners, and naval officers. His liturgical feast day is celebrated on April 2nd, which is the day of his death.
St. Francis was canonized for his humility and discernment.
He founded several new monasteries in Calabria and Sicily.
He also established monasteries for nuns and the third order for people.
5 Interesting Facts About St. Francis of Paola
- St. Francis of Paola had his first followers before he was 20.
- He lived in solitude in a cave on the coast for six years.
- Relied exclusively on alms for survival.
- St. Francis of Paola did not respect anyone based solely on their
worldly rank, as at one point he rebuked the king.
- St. Francis of Paola was never officially ordained as a priest.
Prayer to St. Francis of Paola
O most Holy Saint Francis, God gives wisdom to the simple and makes the wisest child wise. Pray that He grants me this reward He promises to the humble through your intercession. Help me always to make a good examination of my conscience and confession. Amen.