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Francis Solanus, Saint

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Francis Solanus, Saint, South American missionary of the Order of Friars Minor; b. at Montilla, in the Diocese of Cordova, Spain, March 10, 1549; d. at Lima, Peru, July 14, 1610. His parents, Matthew Sanchez Solanus and Anna Ximenes, were distinguished no less for their noble birth than for their virtue and piety. When Francis was twenty years old, he was received into the Franciscan Order at Montilla, and after his ordination, seven years later, he was sent by his superiors to the convent of Arifazza as master of novices. In 1589 he sailed from Spain for the New World, and having landed at Panama, crossed the isthmus and embarked on a vessel that was to convey him to Peru. His missionary labors in South America extended over a period of twenty years during which time he spared no fatigue, shrank from no sacrifice however great, and feared no danger that stood in the way of evangelizing the vast and savage regions of Tucuman and Paraguay. So successful, indeed, was his apostolate that he has been aptly styled the Thaumaturgus of the New World. Notwithstanding the number and difficulty of the dialects spoken by the Indians, he learned them all in a very short time, and it is said that he often addressed tribes of different tongues in one language and was understood by them all. Besides being engaged in active missionary work, he filled the office of custos of the convents of his order in Tucuman and Paraguay, and later was elected guardian of the Franciscan convent in Lima, Peru. In 1610, while preaching at Truxillo he foretold the calamities that were to befall that city, which was destroyed by an earthquake eight years later, most of the inhabitants perishing in the ruins. The death of St, Francis, which he himself had foretold, was the cause of general grief throughout Peru. In his funeral sermon at the burial of the saint, Father Sebastiani, S.J., said that “Divine Providence had chosen Father Francis Solanus to be the hope and edification of all Peru, the example and glory of Lima and the splendor of the Seraphic Or-der”. St. Francis was beatified by Clement X, in 1675, and canonized by Benedict XIII, in 1726. His feast is kept throughout the Franciscan Order on the twenty-fourth of July.

STEPHEN M. DONOVAN


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