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THE LITTLE BROTHER WITH A BIG HEART

Father Francis's picture
Saint Deduces of Alcala

God often chooses the most unlikely people to carry out a special task for Him. One of them is Saint Didacus, a Franciscan Brother, who was poor and uneducated yet became a teacher and an inspiration to his fellow friars.

Didacus or Diego, was born around 1400 to a poor Spanish family. He grew up with a great love for the Catholic faith and while he was still a teenager joined the Third Order of St Francis. For some time he lived as a hermit and then entered a friary and took his vows as a lay brother.

Didacus chose to spend as much time as he could in prayer and meditation. In this way he gained so much knowledge and insight into the faith that he was able to talk confidently about it and explain it to others. Even the learned theologians in the Order were amazed when they listened to the conversation of this illiterate lay brother.

The Order sent Didacus to the Canary Islands to try to convert the pagan inhabitants. It was a difficult mission but in 1445 he was appointed guardian of the principal friary there.

Five years later the Vicar General sent Didacus to Rome to represent the Spanish friars at the canonisation of the Franciscan Saint Bernardine of Siena. Many friars had assembled for the celebrations, and an epidemic broke out in the friary where Didacus was staying. He immediately set about nursing the sick and somehow always managed to find provisions for his patients. He cured many of them simply by making the Sign of the Cross over them.

He returned to Spain where he spent the rest of his life. In every house in which he lived he made a great impression on the community, with his knowledge and his example of living. As he reached the end of his life he asked for an old worn-out habit so that he could die, as he had lived, as a poor Franciscan.

He died on 12 November 1463, aged 63, and his body remained incorrupt. When at last he was buried, several miracles took place at his tomb. In 1588 Pope Sixtus V, himself a Franciscan, canonised Didacus and made him the patron of all Franciscan Brothers.

Didacus was not gifted intellectually and yet he could hold his own among learned theologians. How was this possible? There can only be one answer - that he laid himself open to the influence of the Holy Spirit and was the recipient of His gifts of wisdom, understanding and knowledge. Perhaps many of us feel that our talents are very limited, but if we allow the Holy Spirit to use those talents we may be surprised at what He can achieve through us. God has a job for everyone. He can use our gifts, however small. Little in our hands is much in the hands of God.