We imitate the joy, simplicity, and “Deo Gratias” of Saint Felix of Cantalice whose name Divine Providence has chosen for our Congregation.
Saint Felix of Cantalice’s Story
Felix was the first Capuchin Franciscan ever canonized. In fact, when he was born, the Capuchins did not yet exist as a distinct group within the Franciscans.
Born of humble, God-fearing parents in the Rieti Valley, Felix worked as a farmhand and a shepherd until he was 28. He developed the habit of praying while he worked.
In 1543, he joined the Capuchins. When the guardian explained the hardships of that way of life, Felix answered: “Father, the austerity of your Order does not frighten me. I hope, with God’s help, to overcome all the difficulties which will arise from my own weakness.”
Three years later, Felix was assigned to the friary in Rome as its official beggar. Because he was a model of simplicity and charity, he edified many people during the 42 years he performed that service for his confreres.
As he made his rounds, he worked to convert hardened sinners and to feed the poor–as did his good friend, Saint Philip Neri, who founded the Oratory, a community of priests serving the poor of Rome. When Felix wasn’t talking on his rounds, he was praying the rosary. The people named him “Brother Deo Gratias” (thanks be to God) because he was always using that blessing.
When Felix was an old man, his superior had to order him to wear sandals to protect his health. Around the same time a certain cardinal offered to suggest to Felix’s superiors that he be freed of begging so that he could devote more time to prayer. Felix talked the cardinal out of that idea. Felix was canonized in 1712.
Grateful people make good beggars. Saint Francis told his friars that if they gave the world good example, the world would support them. Felix’s life proves the truth of that advice. In referring all blessings back to their source (God), Felix encouraged people to works of charity for the friars and for others.