Loading
St. Francis of Paola's monastic achievements remembered April 2
By Benjamin Mann
St. Francis of Paola
St. Francis of Paola

.- Catholics will remember the life of St. Francis of Paola on April 2. The saint founded a religious order at a young age and sought to revive the practices of the earliest monks during a period of corruption in the Church.

Francis was born in the Southern Italian region of Calabria during 1416. His parents, who maintained a strong devotion to St. Francis of Assisi, named their son after him. The boy's father and mother had little in the way of wealth, but they passed on a rich spiritual heritage to their son, with the hope that he would imitate his namesake.

The young Francis showed signs of a remarkable spiritual life, following his parents' lead in accepting poverty as a path to holiness. When his father placed him in the care of a group of Franciscan friars to be educated at the age of 13, Francis made a personal decision to live strictly according to the rule of their religious order.

After a year with the friars, Francis rejoined his parents as they made a pilgrimage to Assisi, Rome,  and the historic Franciscan church known as the Portiuncula. When the family returned to their hometown of Paola, Francis – at the age of only 15 – asked his parents' permission to live as a hermit, in the manner of the earliest desert fathers such as St. Anthony of Egypt.

The young monk slept in a cave, and ate what he could gather in the wild, along with occasional offerings of food from his friends in the town. Within four years, two companions had joined him, and the townspeople assisted in building three individual cells for the hermits, as well as a chapel where  a priest would offer Mass.

With approval from the local archbishop, this small group continued to grow into a larger religious order, without compromising the young founder's insistence on penitential and primitive living conditions. They were first known as the Hermits of St. Francis of Assisi, but later renamed the “Minimi” (or “Minims”), meaning “the least,” and signifying their commitment to humility.

Francis and his monks were notable not only for their austere lifestyle, but also for their strict diet, which not only eliminated meat and fish, but also excluded eggs, dairy products, and other foods derived from animals.

Abstinence from meat and other animal products became a “fourth vow” of his religious order, along with the traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Francis instituted the continual, year-round observance of this diet in an effort to revive the tradition of fasting during Lent, which many Roman Catholics had ceased to practice by the 15th century.

Ironically, Francis' pursuit of solitary communion with God attracted attention from a range of important figures, including several European kings and other nobility along with Popes and bishops. Some of these men regarded Francis as a spiritual leader in a corrupt age, while others may have been more interested in his gifts of prophecy and miraculous healing.

Francis traveled to France at the request of Pope Sixtus IV, taking with him his nephew Nicholas, whom he had raised from the dead. There, the notoriously power-hungry King Louis XI was approaching the point of death himself, and hoped that Francis would perform a miracle and restore his health.

Francis told the king bluntly that he should not fear the end of his earthly life, but the loss of eternal life. From that time, the hermit became a close spiritual adviser to the king. He discussed the reality of death and eternity with him, and urged him to surrender his heart and soul to God before it was too late.

The king died in Francis' arms in 1483.

Louis XI's son and successor, Charles VIII, maintained the monk as a close adviser, in spiritual and even political affairs. Nonetheless, Francis persisted in following the monastic rule he had developed while living in his hermitage outside of Paola. He continued as superior general of the Minim order, and founded new monasteries in France.

Francis sensed that his death was approaching at the age of 91, and returned to living in complete solitude for three months to prepare himself. When he emerged, he gathered a group of the Minim brothers and gave them final instructions for the future of the order. He received Holy Communion for the last time and died on April 2, Good Friday of 1507.

Pope Leo X canonized St. Francis of Paola 12 years after his death, in 1519. Although the Minim order lost many of its monasteries in the 18th century during the French Revolution, it continues to exist, primarily in Italy.


Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis visits poor neighborhood and meets with young people from Argentina
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida
Denver rally draws hundreds in support of religious freedom
Pope Francis prays over a sick man in St Peter's Square
Denver women's clinic will offer natural, Catholic care
Interview Clips: Barbara Nicolosi speaks to CNA
US Cardinals press conference at North American College
Pope Benedict to retire to monastery inside Vatican City
Pope cites waning strength as reason for resignation
Hundreds convene in Denver to urge respect for life
New Orange bishop encourages Catholic unity in diversity
Chinese pro-life activist calls for reform, international attention
At Lincoln installation, Bishop Conley says holiness is success
Mother Cabrini shrine reopens in Chicago after a decade
Ordination of 33 deacons fills St. Peter's with joy
Cardinal says "Charity is the mother of all the virtues"
Augustine Institute expands evangelization effort with new campus
Bishops recall 'Way of St. James' as chance to trust in God
Los Angeles cathedral's newest chapel houses Guadalupe relic
Apr
23

Liturgical Calendar

April 23, 2014

Wednesday within the Octa ve of Easter

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 28:8-15

Gospel
Date
04/22/14
04/21/14
04/20/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Acts 3:1-10
Gospel:: Lk 24:13-35

Saint of the Day

St. Adalbert of Prague »

Saint
Date
04/21/14
04/20/14

Homily of the Day

Mt 28:8-15

Homily
Date
04/22/14
04/21/14
04/20/14

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: