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The Catholic Defender: Saint Francis of Paola


Saint Francis of Paola, Italian San Francesco di Paola, (born March 27, 1416, Paola, Kingdom of Naples [Italy]—died April 2, 1507, Plessis-les-Tours, France; canonized 1519; feast day April 2), founder of the Minim friars, a severely ascetic Roman Catholic order that does charitable work and refrains from eating meat


Francis of Paola was a man who deeply loved contemplative solitude and wished only to be the “least in the household of God.” Yet, when the Church called him to active service in the world, he became a miracle-worker and influenced the course of nations.


After spending a year at the Franciscan friary in San Marco, Italy, he became a hermit at age 14 in a cave on the seacoast near Paola.


Francis was born at Paola, Italy and was educated at the Franciscan friary of San Marco there, and when fifteen became a hermit near Paola.


In 1436, he and two companions began a community that is considered the foundation of the Minim Friars. He built a monastery where he had led his eremitical life some fifteen years later and set a Rule for his followers emphasizing penance, charity, and humility, and added to the three monastic vows, one of fasting and abstinence from meat; he also wrote a rule for tertiaries and nuns.


He was credited with many miracles and had the gifts of prophesy and insight into men's hearts.


The Order was approved by Pope Sixtus IV in 1474 with the name Hermits of St. Francis of Assisi (changed to Minim Friars in 1492).


Francis established foundations in southern Italy and Sicily, and his fame was such that at the request of dying King Louis XI of France, Pope Sixtus II ordered him to France, as the King felt he could be cured by Francis. He was not, but was so comforted that Louis' son Charles VIII, became Francis' friend and endowed several monasteries for the Minims. Francis spent the rest of his life at the monastery of Plessis, France, which Charles built for him. Francis died there on April 2nd and was canonized in 1519. His feast day is April


After accompanying his parents on a pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi, he began to live as a contemplative hermit in a remote cave near Paola, on Italy’s southern seacoast. Before he was 20, he received the first followers who had come to imitate his way of life. Seventeen years later, when his disciples had grown in number, Francis established a Rule for his austere community and sought Church approval. This was the founding of the Hermits of St. Francis of Assisi, who were approved by the Holy See in 1474.


In 1492, Francis changed the name of his community to “Minims” because he wanted them to be known as the least (minimi) in the household of God. Humility was to be the hallmark of the brothers as it had been in Francis’s personal life. Besides the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, Francis enjoined upon his followers the fourth obligation of a perpetual Lenten fast. He felt that heroic mortification was necessary as a means for spiritual growth.


It was Francis’s desire to be a contemplative hermit, yet he believed that God was calling him to the apostolic life. He began to use the gifts he had received, such as the gifts of miracles and prophecy, to minister to the people of God. A defender of the poor and oppressed, Francis incurred the wrath of King Ferdinand of Naples for the admonitions he directed toward the king and his sons.


Following the request of Pope Sixtus IV, Francis traveled to Paris to help Louis XI of France prepare for his death.


While ministering to the king, Francis was able to influence the course of national politics. He helped to restore peace between France and Brittany by advising a marriage between the ruling families, and between France and Spain by persuading Louis XI to return some disputed land.


Saint Francis of Paola, Italian San Francesco di Paola, (born March 27, 1416, Paola, Kingdom of Naples [Italy]—died April 2, 1507, Plessis-les-Tours, France; canonized 1519; feast day April 2), founder of the Minim friars, a severely ascetic Roman Catholic order that does charitable work and refrains from eating meat


Francis of Paola was a man who deeply loved contemplative solitude and wished only to be the “least in the household of God.” Yet, when the Church called him to active service in the world, he became a miracle-worker and influenced the course of nations.


When Jesus walked the earth, He continually performed miracles which confirmed His sacred identity in the eyes of His first followers. By the grace of God, Francis of Paola also performed many miracles, read minds, and spoke prophetically. One day Francis was on a journey to Sicily and was hungry.


He encountered some poor men looking for work along the way and asked the men for food, but they had none. Francis told them to look in their bags, and there they found freshly baked bread that seemed to multiply as they ate it. On another occasion, a boatman refused to take Francis to Sicily one day because Francis was poor and could not pay him, so Francis simply walked or sailed across the ocean on his cloak. On other occasions, Francis is said to have raised the dead; healed the sick and crippled; averted plagues; expelled demons; spoken prophetically to bishops, popes, and kings; and performed many other miracles.


By 1506, when Pope Julius II approved the definitive Minim rule, Francis had established a second order for nuns and a third for laymen. His relics were disinterred and burned by Huguenots in 1562. There were some 9,000 Minim friars at the order’s peak of influence in the 17th century.

After papal approval in 1474, the order spread through Italy to France, Spain, Germany, and Bohemia. The ailing King Louis XI of France induced Pope Sixtus IV to send Francis to him in his final days (1483).


At the age of ninety-one, Francis sensed death was coming for him, so he returned to complete solitude for his final three months. On Holy Thursday he went to confession, received Holy Communion, and prayed in preparation for death. Holy death came for him on Good Friday, April 2, 1519.


He had lived a perpetual Lent throughout his life; thus, it was fitting that his Lent come to an end on Good Friday. Twelve short years later, Pope Leo X canonized Francis a saint. Fifty-three years after his death, a group of French Calvinists broke into the church where he was buried, dug up his grave and found his body incorrupt. They quickly desecrated his body and burned it so that the faithful would no longer pray before his tomb. This final act of humility that God permitted Saint Francis of Paola to embrace flowed from the glories of Heaven.

Francis died while at the French court.


April 2: Saint Francis of Paola, Hermit—Optional Memorial

1416–1507 Patron Saint of boatmen, mariners, and naval officers Canonized by Pope Leo X on May 1, 1519 Liturgical Color: White (Purple if Lenten Weekday)


Brothers, I most strongly urge you to work for the salvation of your souls with prudence and diligence. Death is certain, and life is short and vanishes like smoke. Therefore you must fix your minds on the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ who so burned with love for us that he came down from heaven to redeem us. For our sakes he suffered all the agonies of body and mind, and did not shrink from any torment. He gave us a perfect example of patience and love. For our part, we too must be patient when things go against us. ~Letter of Saint Francis of Paola

Arms outstretched, Saint Francis of Paola levitates while surrounded by a divine light.


The crowd surges towards the saint, whose expression conveys his communion with God at the apex of the composition.


Famed for his miraculous healing powers, Saint Francis of Paola was invited to France by the sickly King Louis XI, who is shown at the left with his royal court.


In the foreground, a man and woman in paroxysms of insanity are restrained while awaiting their cure.


To their right, a dead man comes to life as a sheet is symbolically lifted from his face.


An assortment of people, some afflicted with blindness, deafness, lameness, or the infirmities of old age, ascend the stairs. The varied gestures and expressions enhance the dramatic effect of the whole.

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