What A Thankful Friar Can Teach Us

Saint Felix of Cantalice

Feast Day: 18th May

Few friars can have earned a nickname more appropriate than Saint Felix did. He never failed to show his appreciation for whatever he was given and so he became known as Brother Deo Gratias!

Born in Italy in 1515, the son of a poor peasant family, he looked after cattle as a small boy and later became a farm labourer. Working outdoors he enjoyed the beauty of the countryside where he felt very close to God. He would have liked to go to daily Mass and, in fact, wished he could devote his life to the service of God but could see no way of achieving that ambition. Then one day, while he was ploughing, the team of oxen broke loose and trampled him. Neighbours ran to the rescue, fearing the worst, but Felix was unharmed apart from his torn clothing. This amazing escape helped him to make up his mind about his future: he applied, at the age of 28, to join the Capuchins.

As a country boy Felix had hoped to spend his life in some quiet rural friary, but his superiors sent him to one in Rome. Despite having to adjust to city life he was given the job of questor, because of his friendly and cheerful manner, and for the next 42 years he was to be seen every day, walking barefoot from house to house. He would not accept money but whenever given food or wine he said a heartfelt "Thank God." Returning to the Friary in the evening he would pray before the Blessed Sacrament, giving thanks for all that he had collected and placing all the benefactors in Our Lady's care.

Felix became very popular wherever he called. He was very fond of children and would teach them little prayers or sing hymns and songs which he composed himself. He visited the sick, in their homes or in hospital, and many people were cured after he had blessed them with a crucifix.

When famine struck the city Felix shared with hungry families the food he had been given. On one occasion his Guardian protested, saying that there would be nothing left for the friars, but Felix replied, "Believe me, Father, if the poor are fed the friars won't go hungry." And he was right.

With his love of poverty and a simple life, Felix was following the footsteps of St. Francis and, like him, referred to his body as "the Ass" making it work extremely hard. At the age of 72 he succumbed to old age and exhaustion. "The Ass can go no more" he told his fellow friars, but even as he lay dying he composed yet another song of praise. He died on 18 May 1587 on the feast of Pentecost. He is buried in the Capuchin Church of the Immaculate Conception in Rome.

Today, it is our turn to say, "Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the life of Brother Felix. He was willing to entrust his life to You and to be grateful for whatever You and others gave him. We can ask him to pray for us, that we may have the same simple faith and never forget to thank You for all your blessings.”

Saint Felix, pray for us.