Saint of the Day – 7 February – St Giles Mary of St Joseph OFM (1729-1812) Religious Franciscan Friar, Apostle of Charity and Prayer, Marian devotee – known as the “Consoler of Naples” and the “Saint of the Little Way” (also known as Egidio Maria da Taranto, Egidio Maria de Saint Giuseppe, Egidio Maria of Saint Joseph and Francesco Postillo).
St Giles Mary was born on 16 November 1729 at Taranto, Apulia, Italy and died on 7 February 1812 at Naples, Italy of natural causes while at prayer. Patronage – Taranto, Italy (chosen on 29 June 1919 by Archbishop Orazio Mazzella of Taranto).
Francesco Postillo was born in Taranto to a very poor family. Cataldo Postillo, his father and Grazia Procaccio, his mother. Three siblings later followed him. He was baptised as Francesco Domenico Antonio Pasquale Postillo.
His father’s death died in 1747 left the 18-year-old Francesco to care for the family. Francesco had to abandon his hope of education and to seek work to provide for his widowed mother and siblings. For a brief period of time he worked as a rope maker.
Although his desire was to become a priest, his lack of education meant that he was unable to fulfil this desire and served instead as a professed religious in the Order of Friars Minor in Naples. He applied to enter the order on 27 February 1754 and made his solemn profession of vows on 28 February 1755 at the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Galatone. He assumed the religious name of “Giles of the Mother of God” but he later altered this instead to “Giles Mary of Saint Joseph”.
For 53 years he served at St Paschal’s Hospice in Naples in various roles, such as cook, porter or most often as official beggar for that community. He often travelled outside the confines of his convent to beg for alms and to aid those who were shunned and isolated, especially the lepers.
“Love God, love God” was his characteristic phrase as he gathered food for the friars and shared some of his bounty with the poor—all the while consoling the troubled and urging everyone to repent. He invited men and women to recognise their own gifts and to live out their dignity as people made in God’s divine image.
The charity which he reflected on the streets of Naples was born in prayer and nurtured in the common life of the friars. St Giles often carried an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary in a depiction known as Our Lady of the Well when he made sick calls. The people whom Giles met on his begging rounds nicknamed him the “Consoler of Naples.”
In the same year that a power-hungry Napoleon Bonaparte led his army into Russia, Giles Mary of St Joseph ended a life of humble service to his Franciscan community and to the citizens of Naples. The date was 7 February 1812. Huge crowds turned out for his funeral, lamenting the loss of their Consoler.
His relics are enshrined in an urn next to the icon of Our Lady of the Well in the church of San Pasquale Baylón in Taranto.
He was Canonised on 2 June 1996 by St Pope John Paul II. His canonisation miracle involved the cure of Mrs Angela Mignogna in 1937.