San Francisco de Paula, protector of sailors and fishermen

By: Gregorio Emmanuel Hidalgo, SSP

San Francisco de Paula

A desired and expected child

Sometimes it happens that a couple in marriage fails to have children and seeks them, by various means. This was the case for husbands Santiago and Vienna, originally from the small town of Paula, in the Kingdom of Calabria, Italy. For fifteen years they had wished for a baby without achieving it until, after praying to St Francis of Asses, they succeeded; it was March 27, 1416, and they obviously gave the child the name Francis, the same as the saint of Asseses.
A month of birth, an abscess was manifested in his left eye that would affect his cornea and therefore vision. The parents, after seeking remedies and seeing that the doctors gave no hope, again came to the saint of Asses and came the cure. The mother, full of joy, promised the saint to have the child for a whole year in a Franciscan convent wearing the habit of order; so at the age of thirteen his parents took the child to the convent of San Marco Argentano, north of Cosenza, Italy.
A child or adolescent does not usually show a pious and penance life, so the friars of St. Mark wanted and admired Paula’s child very much, for his exceptional gifts and hard penances, his obedience and his pious life.

Attached to the gospel of poverty

It is narrated that being in San Marco Argentano, Francis saw a cardinal adorned in his investiture clothes pass by. He approached him and told him that these ostentatious clothes for a servant of God were not well. The cardinal explained that they were necessary to preserve the respect and prestige of the Church. The young man was saddened by that answer.
At the end of the promise, the parents showed up at the Franciscan convent to pick up their son. But the young man, motivated by his experience in the convent, asked them to let him live in a lonely place to do his prayer. He then settled in a cave near Paula, where he initially lived five years in penance and contemplation.
Over time he gained fame and some people came to ask for his advice. Two young acquaintances approached him and begged him to accept them into his company. Thus, other boys also came to him to join them in meditation, prayer, and loneliness. Gradually the nucleus of a new order, that of the Hermits of Paula, was being formed, which would later become the Order of the Minimums (1493). If Francis of Assess had founded the Friars Minor, Paula’s wanted them to be “the Minimums”, that is what they should be among all the orders of religious. They lived on the alms people gave them: bread, vegetables and some fish.

Expansion of Paula’s Hermit Movement

Francisco de Paula was thirty-six years old when he began, in 1452, the construction of a second church with a small convent that is preserved to this day. Pope Sixtus IV approved the order as Hermits of Calabria and appointed Francisco de Paula as perpetual superior general by a document signed on 23 May 1474.
The spirit of the order arising from the inspiration of Francis of Paula was the same one that always characterized religious life: to preserve the spirit of the gospel in the face of the “worldization” of peoples and peoples. As a first premise he contemplated attachment to the values of the gospel: fraternity, unity, prayer, work, penance for one’s own sins and those of the community, humility and trust in God.
Societies that today have increased worldization away from the Gospel, relativizing the examples of Jesus of Nazareth, displacing God and thus taking by reference other alternate “values” in their coexistence and organization, have in St Francis of Paula an example to remember and follow. It is not that the healthy searches of the human being are sanctioned in themselves, but it is true that if man, with his wit and work, takes into account God and gives him his place, he will have positive and favorable results in everything and for all.
One day, while Francis of Paula was in prayer a heavenly spirit appeared to him, it was an angel, possibly Michael, who held in his hands a kind of shield of light where the word “Caritas” (charity) was read as he said, “This will be the emblem you are looking for.” Indeed, the founding brother will fix it in this way: “Glory to God and Charity to others”. This motto will take you to the letter and ask your brethren to assume it in its entirety. Like any organization with its slogans and programs, that of Paula’s brother provided the Church with the example of charity with others seeking in all the “glory of God”.

The power of God and the humility of our brothers and sisters

As his fame continued to rise, he was forced out of Paula to found other convents in various places in the Calabria.
Some people in Sicily begged him to open a community of brothers there. To do this I had to cross the Messina Strait. Since neither of the brothers brought with which to pay for the boat to the other side of the Strait, Francis prayed and then, in faith, spread his mantle over the waves and climbed upon him along with the two accompanying brethren. And as if it were a sailboat and in the amazement of those who looked at them, they began to move to cross the Strait. This episode (fabulado, no doubt), has since made Paula’s hermit a protector of sailors and fishermen. But if anything illustrates the incredible event, it is the role of faith and the humble and trusting prayer that reaches from God the necessary favors, which is exemplary for many Christians who, in need of help, come to God to plead for their favors, but without the necessary faith in their power.

Enemies are always

While for most people Francis de Paula was a saint, for others he was a subversive and considered his sermons violent, which not only spoke of God and good, but also shouted against the powerful and denounced abuses against the poor.
The king of Naples, Ferdinand I of Aragon, was one of those who saw the religious’s speeches wrong. At this point he was annoyed by his preachings that he sent some soldiers to catch him and impose silence on him. They couldn’t capture him, not even see him (says people who had become invisible to them). The king gave Francis permission to continue opening convents and even asked him to found one in Naples itself.
King Louis XI, for his part, also hated him. However, Francis managed to get him to convert before his death. Grateful, he instructed him to spiritually guide his son, the future king of France, Charles VIII. This is how devout men (and women) sincerely to God succeed in bending the might of the proud and unjust man, as proclaimed by the psalms of the Bible.

His last Good Friday

At the age of ninety-one, fulfilled and signed by the fraternity motto “Glory to God and Charity with Others”, Francisco de Paula, full of virtues and merits, reached the end of his career on April 2, 1507 in Plessis-les-Tours, near the city of Tours, France. It was Good Friday and he asked to be read the Passion according to St John. He closed his eyes in meditation and fell asleep in the Lord.
Unsurprisingly, many people began to honor him in recognition of his virtuous life and various favors attributed to his intercession were obtained. Twelve years after his death he was proclaimed a saint by Pope Leo X in 1519.
Francis de Paula, a pious and complete person since he was young, left to the world his testimony of total belonging and dedication to God, as well as the traces of the path he leads to God through fraternity, goodness and service among human beings. Christians like him honor God and entol the human being. Ω

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