The Catholic Defender: Saint Giles Mary of Saint Joseph “Consoler of Naples.”
St Giles Mary was born on 16 November 1729 at Taranto, Apulia, Italy and died on 7 February 1812 at Naples, Italy of natural causes while at prayer.
Giles’ given name was Francesco, born to very poor but pious parents in the town of Taranto, Italy, in 1729. While still quite young, Francesco learned the rope-making trade and was reportedly very good at it.
It served him and his family well when his father died in 1747, leaving Francesco, at age 18, as the sole support of his mother and siblings.
His father died in 1747 and this forced Pontillo to seek work to provide for his widowed mother and siblings. For a brief period of time he worked as a rope maker.
The lack of a personal education meant that he was unable to become a priest and served instead as a professed religious in the Order of Friars Minor in Naples.
He applied to enter the order on 27 February 1754 and made his solemn profession of vows on 28 February 1755
Though he took up his responsibilities willingly, Francesco also felt the call to religious life. By the time he turned 25, he was able to secure his family’s financial future and subsequently applied to the Discalced Friars Minor in Naples.
Though he wanted to become a priest, he lacked sufficient education and was received as a lay brother instead. For the next nearly six decades Francesco, now St. Giles Mary of St. Joseph, acted as the porter and gatekeeper at his monastery’s seminary.
It was in that position that he discovered his true vocation. As the brother who opened the door to everyone who rang the bell, Giles came into contact with some of the poorest and most wretched citizens of Naples – people who he had a special gift to help.
He seemed to have a particular ministry to the sick, even going outside the city gates to tend to those suffering from leprosy, in addition to serving at St. Pascal’s Hospice in the city. He often carried with him an icon of the Blessed Virgin, called “Our Lady of the Well,” as he made his rounds.
St. Giles Mary of St. Joseph is living proof of St. Mother Teresa’s famous quote: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
His community also gave him the task of distributing alms and food to the poor as well as begging for his fellow friar’s sustenance. Almost miraculously, no matter how much Giles distributed, there was always enough to meet everyone’s needs. He gave credit for this to St. Joseph, who, he said, always took such good care of Mary and Jesus. His devotion to Joseph remained strong throughout his religious life.
As he made his way through the streets of Naples, he would urge the people over and over again to “Love God, love God.” The people whom he encountered even gave him a nickname – “Consoler of Naples.”
In the same year that a power-hungry Napoleon Bonaparte led his army into Russia, Giles Mary of Saint Joseph ended a life of humble service to his Franciscan community and to the citizens of Naples.
Francesco was born in Taranto to very poor parents. His father’s death left the 18-year-old Francesco to care for the family. Having secured their future, he entered the Friars Minor at Galatone in 1754. For 53 years, he served at St. Paschal’s Hospice in Naples in various roles, such as cook, porter, or most often as official beggar for that community.
Finally, in 1812, at the age of 81 and after decades of humble service to all he came into contact with, Giles died. A “model of authentic evangelization,” Giles’ feast day is Feb. 13.
Pope Pius IX named him as venerable on 24 February 1868 after confirming that Postillo had lived a model life of heroic virtue and Pope Leo XIII later beatified the late religious on 5 February 1888 after the confirmation of two miracles attributed to his intercession.
2 October 1992 which led to a medical board approving it on 27 January 1994; theologians did likewise on 13 May 1994 as did the C.C.S. on 18 October 1994. Pope John Paul II declared the healing to be a miracle - the 1937 cure of Mrs. Angela Mignogna - on 15 December 1994 and canonized Postillo on 2 June 1996.
His liturgical feast is celebrated on the date of his death.
“Love God, love God” was his characteristic phrase as he gathered food for the friars and shared some of his bounty with the poor—all the while consoling the troubled and urging everyone to repent. The charity which he reflected on the streets of Naples was born in prayer and nurtured in the common life of the friars. The people whom Giles Mary met on his begging rounds nicknamed him the “Consoler of Naples.” He was canonized in 1996.