St. Francis of Paola first began his works for God at age 13. Born in 1416 in Paola, Italy, he found his calling on a pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi with his parents. He was so moved by the places of devotion he visited that he eventually became a hermit in a cave overlooking the sea. Other men joined him, and they took the name Hermits of Saint Francis of Assisi. They followed the practices of the Franciscans and took the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Francis also took a vow of perpetual Lenten feast, abstaining for meat and other animal products. In 1492, he changed the name of his community to “Minims” because he wanted them to be known as the least in the household of God.
During his time as a hermit, Francis felt God calling him to the apostolic life. This led him to a life defending the poor and plagued. Practicing a spiritual act of mercy, he admonished King Ferdinand of Naples and his sons for their wrongdoing to the oppressed.
When King Louis XI of France was dying, he begged Francis to cure him. Francis at first refused stating the lives of kings are in the hands of God, but the pope ordered him. Channeling corporal works of mercy, Francis visited the king to prepare him for his death. While ministering to the king, Francis was able to influence the course of national politics. He helped restore peace between France and Brittany by advising a marriage between the ruling families. He also coordinated amity between France and Spain by persuading King Louis XI to return some disputed land.
Although Francis preferred a life of prayer, he realized the need for his service. Using the fruits of his contemplation in his ministry, he was able to solve problems of working nations. When he went out into the world, it was not he who worked but Christ working through him. St. Francis died on April 2, 1507. He was 91 years old.
- Patron Saint of mariners
- Canonized by Pope Leo in 1519
- Feast Day: April 2