In 1515, in
the Italian village of Cantalice, in the beautiful valley of Rieti, Felix was
born of humble but pious peasants. As a boy he tended cattle, and later he
became a farm laborer. Being so much amid God's free nature, his heart was
attracted to God, who gracious ministering to us human beings he had daily
before his eyes.
Neither did the hard work make him coarse and
worldly-minded, as sometimes happens, but he was gentle and kind towards
everyone. When he came home at night all tired out, he still spent much time
in his little room engaged in prayer, to which for that matter he applied
himself also while at work. It grieved him that he could not attend holy Mass
on weekdays. He would indeed gladly have consecrated his whole life to the
service of God, but he could see no way of carrying out his desire until one
day an accident showed him the way.
Felix had to break to the plow a team of young oxen
that were very wild. The oxen shied, and when Felix tried to stop them, they
ram him down, dragging the sharp plowshare across his body. Peasants ran to
the scene, certain that they would find the man dead, but Felix arose
unharmed, with only his jacket rent. But he went straight to his employer and
begged to be released from his service. The little he possessed he gave to the
poor, and went to the nearest Capuchin convent, where he humbly begged for
admission. After careful trial, his request was granted.
Now Felix felt like one newly born, as if heaven
itself had opened to him. It was the year 1543, and Felix was 28 years old.
But in his novitiate he was yet to experience the burden and the struggles of
this earthly life. The devil attacked him with violent temptations of all
kinds. He was also seized with a lingering illness, which made it appear that
he was unfit for convent life. But patience, steadfast self-control, prayer,
and candor toward his superiors helped him secure admission to the vows, which
he took with great delight.
Soon afterwards he was sent to the Capuchin convent
at Rome, where, because of his genuine piety and friendly manner, he was
appointed to the task of gathering alms, which he did for all the next 42
years until his death. With his provision sack slung over his shoulder, he
went about so humbly and reserved in manner that he edified everybody. When he
received an alms, he had so cordial a way of saying Deo Gratias - thanks be to
God - that the people called him Brother Deo Gratias. As soon as he got back
to the convent and delivered the provisions, he found his way to church. There
he first said a prayer for the benefactors, then he poured out his heart in
devotion especially before the Blessed Sacrament and at the altar of our Lady.
There he also passed many hours of the night, and one time the Mother of God
placed the Divine Child in the arms of the overjoyed Felix.
He was most conscientious in observing every detail
of his role and vows. He did not wait for the orders of his superiors; a mere
hint from them was enough. Although always in touch with the world, he kept
careful guard over his chastity in every word and look, that Pope Paul V said
he was a saint in body and soul.
Poverty was his favorite virtue. Because out holy
Father St. Francis forbade his friars to accept money in any form, Felix could
not be prevailed upon to accept it under ant circumstances. How pleasing his
spirit was to God was to be proved in a remarkable way. Once on leaving a
house, Felix slung his sack over his shoulder, but felt it weigh so heavily
that it almost crushed him. He searched the sack and found a coin which
someone had secretly slipped into it. He threw it away in disgust, and
cheerfully and easily took up his sack again.
Almighty God granted for Felix extraordinary
graces. Many sick persons he restored to health with the Sign of the Cross. A
dead child he gave back alive to its mother. In the most puzzling cases he was
able to give helpful advice. Honored by the great and lowly, he considered
himself the most wretched of men, but earned so much more merits with
Finally, the day arrived when Felix was to gather
the board of his merits. He died with a cheerful countenance while catching
sight of the Mother of God, who invited him to the joys of Paradise. It was on
the feast of Pentecost, May 18, 1587. Pope Urban VIII beatified him, Pope
Clement XI inscribed him in the register of the saints in 1709.
ON THE USE OF MONEY
1. For love of poverty in
the highest degree and recognizing the dangers to Christian perfection usually
connected with money, St. Francis forbade his friars to accept money, as
Christ Himself wished His disciples not to carry money about with them (Mt
10:9). We behold in the life of St. Felix how agreeable to God is the faithful
observance of the precept of St. Francis wherever that is possible. But there
are instances when no Christian may accept money. That were to be the case if
anyone were to offer money in order to make you do wrong or be unfaithful to
your duty. Solomon complained among the Jews: "All things obey money" (Eccl
10:19). Must this complaint not be applied to Christians, too? To such who
accept money for sordid reasons as well as to such who give it, the curse of
Peter, the prince of the Apostles, applies: "Let your money perish with your"
(Acts 8:20). -- Have you perhaps reason to fear this curse?
that to acquire the necessities of life, money is something very useful, and
as civil life is today, one cannot do without it. But it must be used in the
right way. That is why it should not be given freely to such who are apt to
abuse it. such as children or shiftless needy people. It is better to give
such persons the things they need than the ready money. Neither may we
ourselves spend it wastefully or squander it, because God will require an
account of the way we spend our money. But it should serve for necessary
expenses for ourselves and our charges in accordance with our position in
life. The father of a house, for example, must cheerfully provide the
necessary money, so that his wife and children are not driven to tell lies and
to steal. Money should also be applied, according to ones means, to help
relieve the needs of others, as well as to promote good purposes and to
further the welfare of the Church and the honor of God. Fortunate is he who
uses his money thus. -- Have you always used it well?
3. Consider that it
is not wrong to lay aside a quantity of money for times of need. A wise
proverb reads: "Save in time, and you will have something in the day of need."
But be on your guard lest saving should breed love for money, a thing that can
readily happen. In that case economy would not save you from distressful
experience, but would rather increase the chance, since he who loves money,
"sets even his own soul to sale" (Eccli 10:10). Therefore it is well not to be
too saving, but to rely upon God. Should, for example, a particular need arise
to help your neighbor, then with the confidence of a child use your savings
for him as willingly as for your own need, since Jesus Christ teaches: "Love
your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31).
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Make us, Lord Jesus, walk
in the innocence and simplicity of our hearts, since for love of these virtues
Thou didst descend from the bosom of Thy Mother into the arms of Blessed
Felix, Thy confessor. Who livest and reignest forever and ever.
The Franciscan Book
of Saints, ed. by
Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald