In founding the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Felix of Cantalice, Foundress Blessed Mary Angela looked to Saint Felix of Cantalice as the Congregational patron saint and namesake. A most pious, humble, joyous friar, Saint Felix of Cantalice exemplified a devout prayer life coupled with a life in service to God’s people—inspiring an active-contemplative model of religious life that Blessed Mary Angela would help to pioneer with our Congregation’s founding in 1855.
The son of peasants in Cantalice, Italy, Felix spent his early years as a shepherd and farm hand. He later became a Capuchin friar, and soon became known for his pious yet joyful presence on the streets of Rome, seeking donations for the friars’ ministries to the poor and sick. Walking barefoot through the streets with a sack slung over his shoulders, Brother Felix blessed all benefactors and all those he met with a humble “Deo Gratias!” (thanks be to God!) , causing many to refer to him as “Brother Deo Gratias.”
He also could be found ministering to children on the city’s streets, instructing them through canticles he had composed about the goodness of life and life of the spirit. They would come to greet him with smiles and joyous requests for more songs and stories. Children, in particular, had a special affinity for this joyful friar, who, himself, possessed a childlike simplicity.
His was also a life of contemplative prayer, spending countless hours absorbed in meditation, in devotion to Our Lady, or spending hours before the Blessed Sacrament. All who knew him regarded him as a most devout, holy man.
He left a legacy of living a joyful faith serving God and neighbor with gratitude, joy, simplicity, and humility.
He was canonized by Pope Clement XI in 1712, becoming the first Capuchin to be named a saint. The feast of Saint Felix is celebrated each year on May 18.