20 Nov Saint Felix of Valois, Confessor
Today is the feast day of Saint Felix of Valois. Ora pro nobis.
by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876
St. Felix, of the royal house of Valois, was born in France, in 1127, and manifested in his earliest childhood great compassion towards the poor. While yet in the arms of his nurse, no greater pleasure could be given him than to allow him to bestow alms on the needy. When older, he sent the best dishes from his table to the poor; and it happened more than once, that he gave his own cloak to some beggar, because he happened not to have anything else at hand. He once implored mercy and life for a condemned criminal, who, he said, was destined to become a great saint; and the event justified the prediction. Having passed his youth in acquiring knowledge, and in the practice of virtue, Felix resolved to serve the Almighty in retirement and solitude. He first, however, took holy orders, so as to deprive himself of all hope of ever attaining the crown, from which, by his birth, he was not far removed. After having said his first Mass, he went into a desert, where he led a very austere life, which was made extremely sweet to him by divine consolations; so that he intended to spend his whole life, unknown, in that lonely place. But the Almighty, who had chosen him for greater work, sent to him a noble young doctor from Paris, named John of Matha, who had also been ordained priest, and who desired to walk in the path of perfection under his direction. St. Felix received him with great pleasure; for he perceived in the candidate great inclination to virtue. They had lived harmoniously together, in great piety, for three years, when, one day, while they were sitting beside a well, in devout discourse, a stag, bearing a blue and red cross between its antlers, came suddenly forth from the bushes. St. Felix, greatly amazed, knew not what to say; but John made use of the occasion to relate a vision which he had had while saying his first holy Mass, and which was vividly recalled to his memory by the appearance of this stag.
Both saints sank upon their knees and prayed that they might be favored to recognize more clearly the will of God. Heaven inspired both with an intense desire to labor for the ransom of those prisoners who languished under the yoke of the Turks and other barbarians, and thus save many from the danger of renouncing their faith, and going to eternal ruin. Both were admonished three times during their sleep to found a special order for this end, and to request, at Rome, the necessary permission. Innocent III., who sat at that time on the papal throne, was greatly pleased with such holy intentions, but desired to confer on the subject with some learned men, and consult the will of the Almighty in prayer. During holy Mass the Pope saw the same vision which had been shown to St John of Matha, during his first Mass, as we related. On the 8th of February, putting away all doubt, Innocent approved the plan of the new “Order of the Most Holy Trinity, for the Redemption of Captives,” and invested the two holy founders with the habit. The first monastery was founded in the diocese of Meaux, by means of ample donations from charitable persons whom God had moved to favor the undertaking; whilst others eagerly flocked to the monastery, as soon as it was completed, to devote their lives to the noble work of ransoming their captive brethren.
When this happy beginning had been made, St. John again set out for Rome, leaving the government of the house to St. Felix, who, by word and example, led those under him in the path of religious perfection. He represented to them, with special energy, the many and fearful dangers of those Christians who were slaves among the barbarians, as many of them forsook the Christian faith, either from fear of greater misery, or in the hope of regaining their liberty. The same representations he made to the laity in his sermons; and thus, after having awakened in the hearts of his religious a great desire to relieve the captives, he also induced the laity to contribute liberally to their ransom. With the funds thus collected, the religious of the new order sailed to Africa, where they knew that the Christians were imprisoned. They bought them from the infidels, liberated them from slavery, and saved them, not only from temporal misery, but, what was of much greater importance, from the imminent danger of going to eternal ruin.
It is easy to conceive that the disciples of St. Felix, in this holy work, had to combat with many and great dangers, and also to endure numberless sufferings and hardships. But they were so inflamed by their holy Master with love for God and their neighbor, that they feared neither danger nor dishonor, nor even death. All this gave great comfort to St. Felix, as he considered that, in this manner, many souls were saved for eternity. The holy man received great favors from heaven, among which may be counted the vision which he had, in the night preceding the festival of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. He went, according to his custom, an hour earlier than the rest to the choir, in order to pray. On arriving there, he saw the divine Mother, surrounded by a great many angels. Going towards them, he fell into ecstasy, and with them sang the praises of the Almighty; when one of them told him that he would soon be called into heaven to sing eternally the glory of the Almighty. Felix, greatly rejoicing, called his disciples to him, admonished them most earnestly to remain constant in their devotion to the captives; and, after receiving the holy Sacraments, gave his soul calmly into the hands of his Maker, in the eighty-fifth year of his age. (1)
Image: Sant Felix of Valois, (8)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff