Saint of the Day – 4 November – St Felix of Valois (1127-1212) – Priest, Hermit and Co-Founder of the Trinitarians. He was born in April 1127 in the province of Valois, France as Hugh and died on 4 November 1212 at the Cerfroi monastery, Picardy, France of natural causes.
St Felix was son of the Count of Valois. His mother throughout his youth, did all she could to cultivate in him, a spirit of charity. The unjust divorce between his parents matured a long-formed resolution of leaving the world and, confiding his mother to her pious brother, Thibault, Count of Champagne, he took the Cistercian habit at Clairvaux.
His rare virtues drew on him such admiration that, with St Bernard’s consent, he fled to Italy, where he led an austere life with an aged hermit. At this time he was ordained priest and his old counsellor having died, he returned to France and for many years lived as a solitary at Cerfroid. Here God inspired him with the desire of founding an Order for the redemption of Christian captives and moved St John of Matha (1160-1213), a young nobleman, a native of Provence and doctor of divinity, who was lately ordained priest, having heard of the holy hermit of Cerfroid, sought him out and put himself under his direction. St John proposed to him the project of founding an order for the redemption of captives. Felix, though seventy years of age, readily agreed as it conincided with his similar wish. Together they drew up the rules of the Order of the Holy Trinity.
Many disciples gathered round them and, seeing that the time had come for further action, the two Saints made a pilgrimage to Rome to obtain the confirmation of the Order from Innocent III. Their prayer was granted and the last fifteen years of Felix’s long life were spent in organising and developing his rapidly increasing foundations. When Felix returned to France to establish the order, he was received with great enthusiasm and King Philip Augustus authorised the institute in France and fostered it by benefactions.
Margaret of Blois granted the order 20 acres (81,000 m2) of the wood where Felix had built his first hermitage and on almost the same spot he erected the famous Monastery of Cerfroid, the mother-house of the institute. Within forty years the order possessed six hundred monasteries in every part of Europe. St John was obliged to go to Rome to found a house of the order, the church of which, Santa Maria in Navicella, still stands on the Caelian Hill. St Felix remained in France to look after the interests of the congregation. He founded a house in Paris attached to the church of St Maturinus, which afterwards became famous under Robert Guguin, master general of the order.
St Felix died amongst his fellow Trinitarians at their motherhouse in Cerfroid on 4 November 1212.
Although no bull of his Canonisation is extant, it is the tradition of his institute that he was canonised by Pope Urban IV on 1 May 1262. His feast was kept in the Diocese of Meaux as early as the year 1215. On 21 October 1666, Pope Alexander VII confirmed his status as a saint because of his immemorial cult. In 1679 St Felix’s feast was transferred to 20 November by Pope Innocent XI, when it was placed in the General Roman Calendar because, since 1613, 4 November was the feast day of Saint Charles Borromeo. In 1969, his feast was restored to 4 November, his dies natalis.
Statues of Felix of Valois and John of Matha. Charles Bridge, Prague.