Feast Day : July 14
Also known as: the Miracle-Worker of the New World
Francis Solanus was born in Montilla in the Andalusia region of Spain on March 10, 1549. From an early age he demonstrated spiritual inclinations and talents, such as his ability to make peace between those who were fighting. It was enough for Francis merely to run to the combatants and ask them to desist in order to get them to stop. After studying with the Jesuits, in 1569, at the age of 20, Francis entered a Franciscan monastery, drawn to the poverty and the life of sanctity of St Francis of Assisi. He was ordained a priest in 1576, and a few years later, when an epidemic of black typhus arrived in Andalusia, dedicated himself to attending the sickest. He himself contracted the disease and believed himself about to die, but then, unexpectedly, recovered. From this he understood that God was saving him for still greater challenges. He asked his superiors to send him as a missionary to Africa, but they denied his request. However, in 1589 King Philip II asked the Franciscans to send missionaries to South America, and they assigned him there. Francis arrived in Lima, Peru, in May 1589, having survived a shipwreck off Panama. From Lima he was sent to Argentina, where the Franciscans had several missions. He had a great facility in learning the native languages, considered by his peers to be a divine gift. Even the most warlike tribes attended his sermons. One Good Thursday while Francis was preaching in La Rioja, the sound of thousands of Indians attacking the village was heard. Francis went out to meet them with crucifix in hand and placed himself in front of the attackers, who not only desisted, but soon thereafter also allowed themselves to be evangelized and baptized in the Catholic religion. Like his namesake and patron, St. Francis of Assisi, Francis felt great compassion for animals. Birds frequently surrounded him and then rose in the air, singing happily. One day during a bullfight in the town of San Miguel a bull escaped the corral and took to the streets. Francis was called and he calmly approached the animal. People watched in admiration as the bull allowed Francis to take hold of him and lead him back to the corral. In 1601, Francis was ordered back to Lima, where he spent his last years preaching to and converting sinners. He went to gambling houses and to theaters, where he interrupted plays he deemed immoral, delivering spirited sermons from the stage. In the town square he preached that God would bring terrible punishments if people did not desist from their sinful ways. Inevitably, these acts brought in many converts. One day Francis announced in a sermon that thanks to the sins of the people, everything around him would be destroyed, leaving nothing but the site from which he was preaching. The following year an earthquake destroyed the church and its surroundings, sparing only the site where Francis had made his prediction. In May 1610, the Miracle-worker of the New World (as he had come to be called) began to feel very weak. On July 14 a flock of birds flew into his room in the San Francisco Monastery, singing; Francis exclaimed, “Glory be to God,” and died. His room was lit all that night by an unusual illumination visible from far away.