Biography of St. Francis Paola
Between the time of St. Catherine of Siena and
that of St. Teresa of Avila came the life of St.
Francis of Paola, one of the greatest wonder-workers
in the history of the Church, Francis was so famous
that Louis XI of France, suffering from a prolonged
ailment, begged Francis to make the journey from
Italy in order to cure him. St. Francis taught
the king that resignation to God’s will
was more important than bodily healing. After
helping Louis spiritually and preparing him for
death (and exerting great influence through the
king), St. Francis held the king in his arms as
he died a good death.
St. Francis of Paola also had occasion to help
his own family, specifically his nephew, Nicholas
d’Alesso, son of Francis’ sister Brigida.
His sister had not consented to allow her son
to become a monk, and the lad had died. St. Francis
of Paola decided to bargain with his sister over
the death and life of the nephew.
When the young man’s body was about to
be lowered into the grave at Francis’ monastery,
Francis stopped the grave workers, and instead
carried the body to his own room. That same night,
after many tears and prayers on the part of Francis,
his nephew came back to life. But Nicholas’
mother did not know this.
In the morning Brigida came to the monastery
church, unaware of what had happened. She wept
there in the church over the death of Nicholas,
her oldest son. Francis kept the youth hidden
away while he spoke to Brigida: “Brigida,
if your son should return to life, would you consent
to his becoming a religious?” Brigida looked
at her brother in his penitential sackcloth robe.
Her eyes glimmered with some spark of hope. “If
Heaven wants it,” she said, bemoaning that
it was not too late, “it will be my greatest
Francis left her, went to his cell, and returned
with Nicholas clothed as a monk. His mother, relatives
and friends who had come sorrowing to the church
greeted him with amazement and great joy.
This and many other miracles were sworn to by
numerous witnesses both before the Bishop of Cosenza,
and later at Rome during canonical hearings in
The life of St. Francis of Paola, founder of
the Hermits of St. Francis of Assisi (“Minims”),
is well documented as that of a super miracle
worker, not only a real thaumaturge but also a
man who fearlessly counseled kings. Francis is
credited with raising at least six persons to
life. One he raised twice: Thomas d’Yre
of Paterna was first crushed by a tree, and later
he fell from a steeple.
When another man, the workman Domenico Sapio,
was crushed by a huge pine tree, St. Francis prayed
on his knees beside the corpse, raised his arms
to Heaven and then having risen to his feet, cried
out: “In the name of Charity, Domenico,
arise!” (Francis continuously preached Caritas,
or Charity, the virtue of supernatural love and
also one of the names of God.) In the Name of
Charity Domenico arose, dusted himself off and,
after thanking Francis, returned to work.
Those who worked on St. Francis’ monastery
building projects were so aware of the great number
of astounding miracles performed by the saint
that they worked with a calm unconcern unknown
on construction projects. But what else could
one expect of a saint who cured the deaf, the
paralyzed, the dying, who drove out demons, ordered
a boulder rolling down a mountain to stop, withstood
the heat within a furnace, and held burning coals
in his hands in the presence of the papal investigator
who was sent to interview him?
After St. Francis of Paola’s famed crossing
on his cloak over the straits of water from Italy
to Sicily, he came to a place called the “Pond
of the Hanged.” A body had been dangling
from the gallows there for three days. With the
help of Brother John who was with him, the saint
removed the rope, and compassionately gathered
the dead man into his arms. He prayed to God,
and the revived criminal fell at his knees with
an outpouring of thanks.
Wanting to be sure of the subsequent safety of
his soul, the hanged man begged Francis to receive
him into his order. He became one of Francis’
Minim friars and saw many years service of God
as a monk.
It is interesting to note that a companion who
was with St. Francis at the time, Father Rendacio,
refused to interfere in this “legal execution.”
But sometimes the saints take matters into their
own hands, just as Christ often overruled the
petty objections of the Pharisees.
At Galeazzo, St. Francis also restored to life
the dead son of the Baron of Belmonte. Later,
after Francis’s death, there were many miracles,
including the April 2, 1613 resurrection of the
four-year-old Ponger boy who had drowned in a
pool at Amiens, France.
It seems fitting to mention also, in the spirit
of St. Francis of Assisi himself and his love
for all creatures, the revivals of the pet trout,
“Antonella,” and the pet lamb, “Martinello,”
by St. Francis of Paola. If St. Francis of Assisi
had a tender spot in his heart for even the fierce
wolf of Gubbio, it is understandable how Francis
of Paola reacted when his innocent pet trout met
with a sad fate.
One day Antonella was swimming about the pool,
like a good fish should. A visiting priest helping
with a religious service saw it, caught it, took
it home and began to fry it.
St. Francis missed the trout, and either realizing
naturally or else having superior knowledge of
what had happened, he sent one of his religious
to get it back. When the priest heard this request
from the hermit sent by Francis, he was annoyed.
He threw the cooked trout on the ground, the impact
shattering it into several pieces.
When the hermit returned to St. Francis with
the broken pieces, Francis placed them in the
pool and prayed: “Antonella, in the Name
of Charity, return to life!” The trout at
once became whole again and happily began to swim
about the pool, Friars and workers witnessed the
Later, at Bormes, as a guest in the home of the
governor, Francis restored to life a cooked fish
which his host had prepared for him, not realizing
that Francis would hold himself to his very limited
On another occasion, from nothing but bones and
fleece left and thrown into an oven, St. Francis
of Paola called back to life his pet lamb Matrinello,
which had been recently roasted and eaten by some