Saint Francis of Paola
SAINT FRANCIS OF PAOLA
Francis was born at Paola which is a small town in Calabria, the Southern part of Italy, midway between Naples and Reggio. It was March 27, 1416. Mysterious flames on the roof of the house, seen by inhabitants of the fortunate land, greeted and made manifest the birth of the “saint”. Francis’ life was fire, the fire of love. He loved the Lord above all things, and he loved his neighbors like himself. His motto was “charitas”, a Latin word which means love.
His family was very poor materially, but rich spiritually. It was worthy of such a treasure. The combination of the good Christian principles with which Francis was nourished and a special calling by God, made of this little Calabrese a great leader. He was scarcely fifteen when, leaving his home, he retired to an isolated spot about one mile from town. His bedroom, living room and praying room was a cave made by himself in the corner of a rock near the seacoast. His only food was the herbs he gathered in the neighboring woods. His aim was not to avoid other persons and flee from the dangers of life. Rather he sought to elude distractions in order to prepare himself for an intense and widespread mission among his brethren.
Before he was twenty years old, two of his friends followed Francis’ example and joined him. In this way the first cell of the Order of the Minim Fathers was formed. Years later the small group increased and the first monastery was built.
Francis begged the Pope for a singular privilege, that his religious might be called Minims, to signify that they were the ‘least’ in the House of God.
Because he humbled himself, God exalted Francis above all creatures. Both men and beasts obeyed him. All nature came under his dominion.
He became one of the greatest wonderworkers in the history of the Church. His name was famous all over Europe.
Charity was key-note to everything in Francis’ life. It was that charity which gave him courage to talk openly to the king of Naples in favor of his oppressed countrymen. It was the same charity that urged him to go to France, to the court of another King, Louis XI, who was seriously ill. The King wanted Francis to prolong his life with a miracle. The holy man, however, was concerned only with converting him from his evil ways and leading him to do penance. He succeeded.
St. Francis lived many years in France, and, with the King’s favor, his fame grew stronger and spread all over Europe.
He died on the 2nd of April in 1507. Pope Leo X canonized him in 1519, only twelve years following his death. At the time of Francis’ death many houses of the Order were already established in Italy, France, Spain, Germany and Bohemia.
The first papal delegate to America was one of the Minim Fathers, Fr. Bernard Boyl from Spain. Father Boyl had accompanied Columbus on his second trip to the new world.
The world badly needs Francis’ message of charity. Through his glorious Order the spirit of the Founder will never die.