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Saint of the Day

St. Felix of Cantalice

May 18
1515, Abruzzi, Italy. Died 1587 in Rome.

Having little education, he had a friend read him the lives of the early Desert Fathers; they left him torn - he wanted to live as a hermit, but feared he would give in to temptation if he had no superior. He sought entrance to the Capuchins; they were hesitant, but finally accepted him as a lay brother in 1543 at Anticoli near Rome. Sent to Rome in 1547 as questor for the community; he stayed there the rest of his life.

Felix's reputation for holiness spread quickly. He could not even read, yet theologians consulted him on spirituality and Scripture. Sinners on the street would hide from him when it became obvious he could see their sins, and knew their hearts. Felix preached in the street, rebuked corrupt politicians and officials, and exhorted young men to stop leading dissolute lives. Once during Carnival, a time of open vice in the streets, Felix and St. Philip Neri organized a procession of Capuchin friars right into the middle of the revelers; Fra Lupo, a well-known Capuchin preacher, spoke to the crowds, and Carnival ended for the year.

Felix worked with the children of Rome; his inherent simplicity and lack of education made him rather childlike, and children trusted him. He composed simple teaching canticles, and had the children gather in groups to sing them as a way to teach them catechism. The canticles became well-known and popular, and while Felix was begging for his house, Roman citizens would invite him in to sing for them; he saw these invitations as opportunities to teach, and always jumped at them.

During the famine of 1580, the city fathers asked the Capuchins for the loan of Felix as a fund raiser; he was tireless in the work. His friend, St. Philip Neri, considered Felix the greatest saint then living. St. Charles Borromeo sought St. Philip's help to draw up the constitutions of the Oblates of St. Ambrose; Philip referred him to Felix as a the best advisor.

Slept little, ate what came to hand, attended Mass every morning. Had a great devotion to Our Lady; he frequently recited the rosary, sometimes swept away in ecstasy, unable to finish the prayers. Received a vision of the Virgin Mary during which he was allowed to hold the Christ Child in his arms. Acclaimed a saint by the people of Rome immediately after his death.

St. Felix of Cantalice, pray for us!

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