Saint of the Day – 13 November – Saint Didacus (de Alcalá de Henares) OFM (c 1400-1463) Lay Brother of the Order of Friars Minor, Hermit, Mystic, Confessor, Born in c 1400 at Seville, Spain and died on 12 November 1463 at Alcala, Castile, Spain of natural causes. Also known as – St Didacus of St Nicholas, Diego, Diaz, Didacus de Alcalá de Henares, Didacus of Alcala. Patronages – Franciscan laity, Franciscan lay brothers, Diocese of San Diego, California.
The Roman Martyrology states of him today: “At Alcala in Spain, St Didacus, Confessor of the Order of Minorites, who was renowned for his humility. Incribed on the catalogue of the Saints by Pope Sixtus V, with a Feast Day of 13 November.“
Didacus was born about 1400 at San Nicolas in Andalusia, of poor and God-fearing parents. He entered the Third Order of St Francis when he had scarcely reached young manhood and under the direction of a devout Tertiary Priest, he served God for a long time as a Hermit. Consumed with the desire for still greater perfection, he later entered the Franciscan Convent at Arizafa in Castile and was there admitted to solemn vows as a lay brother.
His rapid progress in virtue made him a model to all his companions. His soul was continually occupied with God in prayer and meditation. From this source, he gathered such supernatural insight concerning God and the Mysteries of Faith, that learned theologians listened with astonishment to the inspiring conversations of this uneducated lay brother. Since Brother Didacus manifested great zeal for souls and willingness for sacrifice, his superiors sent him with other brethren to the Canary Islands, which at that time, were still inhabited by wild infidels. Didacus was eager for martyrdom and in this spirit, bore with dauntless patience, the many hardships that came his way. Both by word and example, he helped in converting many infidels.
In 1445, he was appointed Guardian of the chief Friary on the islands at Fortaventura. Recalled to Spain, he went to Rome in 1450 at the command of the Observant Vicar General, St John Capistrano, to attend the great Jubilee and the Canonisation ceremonies of St Bernardine of Siena. On this occasion, an epidemic broke out among the many Friars assembled in the large Convent of Aracoeli. Didacus attended the sick with great charity and trust in God. And God did not fail him. Despite the lack of supplies in the City at the time, Didacus always had ample provisions for his patients. He miraculously restored many of them to health by merely making the Sign of the Cross over them.
Leaving Rome, he returned to Spain, where, as in the former days, he was a source of great edification to the Friars of every Convent in which he lived.
When he felt that the end of his life was drawing near, he asked for an old and worn-out habit, so that he might die in it as a true son of the poor St Francis. He died on 12 November 1463, at the Franciscan Monastery in Alcalá, pressing a Crucifix to his heart and repeating the words of the Good Friday chant: “Dulce lignum, dulce ferrum, dulce pondus sustinet” – Precious the wood, precious the nails, precious the weight they bear.
Months passed before it was possible to bury Brother Didacus, so great was the number of people who came to venerate his remains. Not only did his body remain incorrupt but it diffused a pleasant odour. After it was laid to rest in the Franciscan Church at Alcalá de Henares, astounding miracles continued to occur at his tomb. Pope Sixtus V, himself a Franciscan, Canonised Brother Didacus in 1588.
The Church pays to Didacus today, the very same honours as we have seen her pay to Bernardine and John Capistrano. What is this but asserting, that before God, heroic acts of hidden virtue, are not inferior to the noble deeds that dazzle the world, if, proceeding from the same ardent love, they produce in the soul, the same increase of divine charity.