St. Francis of Paola

Friends in Christ,[i]
Today is the feast of St. Francis of Paola. He was born in 1416 at Paula, a small town in Calabria, Italy; if Italy is the ‘boot’, Calabria is the toe of Italy. His parents loved God very much, and for a long time could not have a child. But after earnest prayer, they had a son, whom they named after St. Francis of Assisis: Francis.   

His early education was with the Franciscans, where he learned to read; more importantly, he developed a love for prayer and the spiritual life, and with his parents permission at age 14, he went to live an austere life as a hermit in a cave by the sea. Others eventually joined him, and they built cells for themselves to pray in. They chanted the Liturgy of the Hours, and a priest would come to offer Mass.  As others joined them, a church and monastery were built; the people of the area loved them so much, that they themselves worked tirelessly to help built it.   

Francis had a favorite expression, ‘out of love,’ he would say. ‘Out of love, the heaviest stone can be made light. ‘Out of love, a brother can be corrected. ‘Out of love, will you not help the poor.’ He would say this.  

Francis worked many miracles. One time, in order to make a point, he lifted out of the fire burning coals which he held in his hand for some time while speaking.  On another occasion he wanted to go from the shore of Italy over to Sicily.  A boat was lying in the harbor.  Francis asked the owner if he would take him and his companion along on the boat.  “If you pay, monk,” “I will take you along, he said with a huff;  “Out of love,” Francis pleaded; “for I have no money.”   “Then I have no ship for you,” came the mocking reply.  Francis walked a little down the shore, blessed the sea, and then, to the man’s surprise, he stepped out on the waves, and walked on top of the water all the way to Sicily.  

Francis lived a very penitential life; his bed was a plank, a stone was his pillow. In addition to the 3 traditional vows,  his order never ate meat, eggs, or anything with milk. So in this spirit of mortification,  he is a real example for us during this Lenten season.   


[i] Adapted from “The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch” and Butler’s lives of the Saints.

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