Saint Felix of Cantalicio, Confessor.
ST. FELIX was born of poor but virtuous parents, at Cantalicio, near Citta Ducale in the Ecclesiastical State, in 1513. For his extraordinary piety he was from his infancy surnamed the saint. At the time when in his childhood he kept cattle, and when afterwards he followed tillage and husbandry work, he was careful to sanctify his labour by a perfect spirit of penance. He accompanied all his actions with devout prayer, so as even then to lead the life rather of a hermit than of a country labourer. He watched during part of the night in holy meditation, and to his painful life he added the austerity of rigorous abstinence and fasting. He contrived, without prejudice to his work, every day to hear mass, and he declined the ordinary amusements of those of his age. Oft in the fields, when he had drove his cattle into some solitary pasture, he would pray for several hours together at the foot of some tree before a cross which with his knife he had cut in the bark. At twelve years of age his father put him out to service, in quality first of shepherd and afterwards of husbandman, in the family of Mark Tully Pichi, a virtuous gentleman who lived at Citta Ducale. In his tender years, before the faculties of his mind were sufficiently opened to qualify him for deep reflection and long meditation, his prayer chiefly consisted of the Our Father, Hail Mary, Creed, Glory be to the Father, &c., especially of certain petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, which he seemed almost never to cease repeating in the fields with wonderful devotion. He was yet young, when he learned to habituate himself to the practice of holy meditation during his labour, and he soon attained to the perfection of heavenly contemplation, whereby the fire of divine affections is readily kindled in the heart by the least thought on God, as touchwood catches the flame; whereas holy meditation calls in the succour of reasoning drawn from the truths of faith, to excite ardent affections of virtue in the soul. It is a mistake to imagine that this exercise requires learning or sublime thoughts.
Pious meditation is not a dry philosophical speculation. It chiefly consists in the affections of the will, and in profound sentiments of adoration, praise, compunction, humility, and other virtues. To be capable of this exercise, it is enough that a person has an understanding to know God, and a heart capable of feeling the power of his love. The most ignorant man can repeat often to God that he desires earnestly to love him, and always to glorify his holy name; he can bewail his ingratitude and sins, confess his weakness, and implore the divine pity and succour. To do this well, the most essential dispositions are humility and simplicity of heart; and to this holy art there is no greater enemy than that worldly science which swells the mind with secret self-sufficiency and pride. Even in a religious house this gift may be often denied to many who are distinguished by their learning or dignities, 1 whilst an illiterate fervent lay-brother, who by perfect humility, obedience, and self-denial, has crucified in his heart all self-love and inordinate attachments to creatures, finds wings continually to soar to God by high contemplation. Even in the world, our saint, whilst he followed the plough, attained this gift. The tractableness and instinct of the beasts, the painfulness of his labour, the barrenness of the earth accursed by sin, the vanity of the world, the blindness of sinners, the sight of the heavens, the obedience of all nature, the beauty of the verdant fields, the watered lawns, and hanging forests, every object served to raise his heart to the praise of his Creator, or excite him to deplore in his sight his own spiritual miseries, and his distance from him. In God, in himself, and in all creatures round about him, he found a perpetual fund of pious thoughts and affections; but the sufferings of our Divine Redeemer were the most tender object of his devotions; and he was never weary in contemplating that great mystery, nor in paying to his loving Saviour the homages of adoration, love and thanksgiving, renewing always the most perfect dedication of himself to his service. He was most humble, charitable, meek, and always cheerful. He spoke little, shunned the company of those whose conduct appeared irregular, abhorred all murmurs, complaints and impatience. No injury or insult could provoke him to anger; and if any one reviled him, he was wont to say with an engaging sweetness: “I pray God you may become a saint.” The servant of God found all the means of perfect sanctification in his condition in the world; but God was pleased, for his greater advancement, to call him to a penitential religious state; to which grace two accidents contributed to dispose him. As he was one day driving the plough, at the sight of his master who came up dressed in black, the young oxen started and dragged the plough over his body; yet he received no hurt. Gratitude for this merciful deliverance inspired him with an ardent desire of consecrating himself to the divine service; and by hearing soon after the lives of some of the ancient fathers of the desert read at his master’s house, he became extremely desirous to imitate them.
May 21. Rev. Alban Butler. 1866. Volume V: May. The Lives of the Saints