St Francis of Paola

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Patron saint of seafarers. Founder of the Franciscan Minim Friars, Born at Paola in Calabria, in 1416, St Francis lived at a friary for a year when he was 13. He made a pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi, and then became a hermit living in a cave overlooking the sea.

When he was 20, he was joined by two companions. The neighbours built them a chapel and cells to live in. Later others came. The Friars were called the Minims and were approved by the Pope in 1474. They followed the Franciscan ideal. The two major charisms in this order were humility and non-violence. The word 'Minim' refers to living as the smallest or least, or embracing radical humility and simplicity. The call to non-violence was expressed through veganism, or not doing harm to any creature. Francis followed a vegan diet, not only free from animal flesh, but also from all animal-derived foods, such as eggs and dairy products. One of the vows of the order he founded was the abstinence from meat, fish, eggs, butter, cheese and milk.

St Francis of Paola became famous for his gifts of prophesy and miracles. He spent his last 25 years in France, establishing his order at Plesis, Amboise and other places. Like St Francis of Assisi he was never ordained.

King Louis XI asked for him to visit when he was very ill and terrified of dying. He also helped negotiate peace between France and Brittany, and France and Spain.

For a while he was tutor to the future king Charles VIII. He died at Tours in 1507.

Many artists, including Murillo, Velasquez and Goya have painted him. Liszt wrote the piano study: St Francis of Paola - 'Walking on the Water'.

He is particularly popular in Italy, France and Mexico. Because so many of his miracles took place at sea, in 1947 he was declared patron of mariners.