Saint Francis of Paola (1416 – 1507) was born in Paola, in the region of Calabria, Italy. His parents were devout and well off but were childless. After having recourse to prayer, asking especially for the intercession of Saint Francis of Assisi, they were granted three children, Saint Francis being the eldest.
From an early age, Saint Francis showed the virtues of humility and obedience. At the age of thirteen, he entered a Franciscan convent in order to fulfil a promise made by his parents. After one year, upon completion of the promise, he left the convent and went to live by himself in his father’s estate, eventually settling in a cave by the sea. For six years he remained alone, deepening his union with God through the constant practice of prayer and mortification.
In 1435, he was joined by two companions. Gradually more men joined the small group and, in 1454, they were given permission by the local archbishop to build a monastery and a church. Saint Francis then wrote a rule for his followers and they were formed into an order: The Friar Minims. Their main charisma was humility, and they practiced severe mortification, living in great poverty and perpetual abstinence of meat and dairy products.
Saint Francis had extraordinary gifts of prophecy, healing and miracles. Among other feats, he foretold the capture of Otranto by the Turks and its recovery by the King of Naples; he crossed the strait from Italy to Sicily sailing on his cloak since the boatman refused him passage; and he raised from the dead at least six persons. In one such instance, while in Sicily he came across a dead criminal hanging from a noose. With the help of one of the brothers, he removed the rope from the corpse’s neck and lowered the body to the ground. He then prayed fervently over it. His prayers were answered, and the man was brought back to life. From then on, the resurrected man led a life of holiness, eventually becoming a monk.
His fame having spread throughout Christendom, Saint Francis was called to the deathbed of Louis XI, King of France. Though he did not wish to go, he did so in obedience to the pope. After the king's passing, his successor, King Charles VIII, pressed Saint Francis to stay in France in order to counsel him. Saint Francis spent the remaining twenty five years of his life assisting the French kings. He died on April 2, 1507, and was buried in Plessis. In 1562, the Huguenots broke open his tomb and finding his body incorrupt, dragged it around the streets and burnt it. Some of his bones, however, were preserved by faithful Catholics and can be found today at the Basilica of Saint Francis of Paola, in Paola, Italy.