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Felix of Cantalice, St.


Capuchin lay brother; b. Cantalice (Diocese of Cittaducale), Italy, May 18, 1515; d. Rome, May 18, 1587. Felix was the third of four sons born to devout peasant parents, Santi and Santa Porri. Until his 28th year he labored as a farmhand and shepherd. Felix led a remarkably innocent life, and spent much time in prayer, especially during his long vigils with the flocks. Finally, desirous of imitating the Desert Fathers, he sought admission to the newly formed branch of Friars Minor known as Capuchins.

In the novitiate of the order's Roman province at Anticoli, Felix (who retained his baptismal name) manifested the heroic spirit of charity, prayer, and penance that characterized his entire life despite temptations and a malignant fever that tried his vocation. He pronounced his solemn vows in the friary of Monte San Giovanni, May 18, 1544, and spent three more years in spiritual formation at Tivoli and Viterbo. In 1547 he was sent to the Convent of St. Bonaventure, Rome, where for the next 40 years he served his brethren as questor. This meant that every day Felix had to trudge the streets of Rome, stopping at homes and shops to collect in a sack the food offered by benefactors for St. Bonaventure's large community. The barefoot friar with the huge sack over his shoulder became a celebrity. Children flocked to him, hailed him with his own constant greeting, "Deo gratias." Along the way he converted hardened sinners, consoled sufferers, and fed the poor. The Romans were edified and amused by his accustomed outcry: "Make way for the Capuchins' ass!" One day (St.) Philip neri deposited his great clerical hat on the brother's cowled head, and obliged him, as a test of humility, to go thus on his rounds. But Felix in return insisted that Philip drink publicly from a huge flagon of wine, to the great glee and merriment of the onlookers.

Felix enjoyed the friendship of other saints and eminent persons. (St.) Charles borromeo consulted him, unlettered though he was, on the rule of life to be given his Oblates. Another personal friend was sixtus v, who, on the day of Felix's death, urged the process of his beatification. Sixtus declared that he had witnessed 18 miracles wrought by the holy questor, and that he would testify to them personally. Consoled by heavenly visions, Felix died on the feast of his patron, which was also the anniversary of his own birth and religious profession. His body lies in the Capuchin Church of the Immaculate Conception, Rome, on the present Via Veneto. urban viii beatified Felix on Oct. 1, 1625. With his canonization by clement xi, May 22, 1712, Felix of Cantalice became the first Capuchin saint. He is often depicted according to one of his visions, holding the Infant Jesus, whom the Blessed Virgin has placed in his arms.

Feast: May 18.

Bibliography: b. gitzen, "St. Felix of Cantalice," Round Table of Franciscan Research, 10 (reprint 1949) 99116. a. kerr, A Son of St. Francis (London 1900). Lexicon Capuccinum (Rome 1951) 574575. a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, ed. h. thurston and d. attwater (New York 1956) 2:344345. Acta Sanctorum May 4:202292. w. de paris, Catholicisme 4:115354. Analecta Ordinis Fratrum Minorum Cappuchinorum 29 (1913) 283288.

[t. macvicar]

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