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THE FRIAR WITH A LESSON FOR US

Father Francis's picture
Saint Felix of Nicosia

Patience and perseverance were the special qualities of a humble shoemaker who had to knock no fewer than five times at their door before the Capuchins would accept him.

Born in 1715 in Nicosia in Sicily and named James, his father worked as a cobbler. They were very poor but prayer and the family rosary were an important part of daily life.

As he grew up, apprenticed to a successful and prosperous cobbler, James impressed everyone with his serenity and inner calm. He accepted all difficulties patiently with the words, "for the love of God," and every evening would lead his fellow-workers in prayer.

When he was 18, he decided to become a Capuchin but was refused admittance. He accepted the refusal calmly 'for the love of God' and returned to shoemaking. He applied again, and then again. No reason was given but James assumed that it was because of his family responsibilities. When his parents died he tried a fourth time, only to be rejected again. Many men would have given up at this stage but James was quietly determined. At last, in 1743, when he was 28 years old, he entered the novitiate with the name Felix, in memory of the first Capuchin saint, Felix of Cantalice.

After a year away Felix returned to his home town of Nicosia where he remained for the rest of his life. His principal task was that of questor, begging for food for his fellow friars - once again knocking on doors! He would approach people humbly, repeating his favourite phrase 'for the love of God' while regarding this work as a missionary activity: he used it as an opportunity to teach some Christian doctrine and encourage reverence for God and devotion to Our Lady. He taught children the Creed and spoke to them often about their faith. On Sundays he would visit prisoners, bringing them encouragement and gifts of food.

Felix's patience was severely put to the test by one of his own fellow Capuchins, who was his Guardian for 24 years. This cruel man apparently took a delight in criticising and humiliating Felix whenever possible. In May 1787, while working in the friary orchard, Felix was taken ill with a fatal fever and died. He was 72.

It could be said that he was a man who acted upon those words of Our Lord, "Knock and the door will be opened; seek and you shall find." (Mt 7:7; Lk 11:9) Yet he never became discouraged nor angry. He accepted every setback 'for the love of God' and he never gave up trying.

There are many lessons Felix can teach us but the most important is patience. How many of us lack this virtue. We are impatient with God when He fails to answer our prayers immediately, with other people who do not do things the way we want, with elderly folk who are deaf and stubborn, and even with ourselves because we have set tasks that are too demanding and standards too high to attain. May Felix help us to nurture the virtue of patience for the love of God.