Saint of the Day – 14 July – Saint Francisco Solano OFM (1549 – 1610) “The Wonder Worker of the New World,” Priest, Friar of the Order of Friars Minor, Missionary, Musician, Preacher, Miracle worker, Apostle of the Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Virgin Mother and of Prayer, Polyglot – born on 10 March 1549 at Montilla, Diocese of Cordova, Andalusia, Spain and died on 14 July 1610 at Lima, Peru of natural causes. He is also known as Francis Solanus. Patronages – Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, against earthquakes, Diocese of Añatuya, Argentina.
Frncisco was born on 10 March 1549 in Montilla, the third child of Mateo Sánchez Solano and Ana Jiménez. When she was pregnant with the future saint, Ana consecrated him to Saint Francis of Assisi, after whom he was named. Francisco Solano’s parents gave him an entirely Catholic formation, which he finished at the Jesuit school in his city. He was a splendid conversationalist and possessed a good bearing, beautiful voice and rare musical sense. At the age of twenty, he joined the Order of Friars Minor at Montilla, entering the novitiate at St Lawrence Friary, which was located in a place of great natural beauty. The community there belonged to the Reformed observance within the Order, following a very strict routine of prayer, silence and fasting. Francisco followed this regimen rigorously, always going barefoot, abstaining from meat, and wearing a hairshirt throughout that entire year. As a result, however, his health was permanently affected, leaving him sick and fatigued.
Francisco was solemnly professed in 1569. He was then sent to the Friary of Our Lady of Loreto in Seville for his seminary studies. There he learned not only philosophy and theology but developed his musical talents. He was Ordained in 1576, a ceremony his mother was unable to attend due to her poor health. Shortly after his Ordination he was named Master of Ceremonies for the community. Still a lover of simplicity, Francis made a small cell for himself adjacent to the Chapel of the Friary, made of clay and reeds.
After completing his final theological studies, Fr Francisco was assigned as an itinerant preacher to the surrounding villages of the region. He was eventually given a licence as a confessor. During this period, he requested that he might be allowed to go to North Africa, with the hope of achieving Martyrdom for preaching the Catholic faith. He was denied this request.
After the death of his father, he returned to his hometown of Montilla to care for his mother. During that time, he gained the reputation of a Wonder worker, as a number of people were cured of their afflictions through his intercession. In 1583, A pestilence having broken out at Granada, he tended the sick and dying.
Fr Francisco always had a remarkable joy when he was in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament or an image of Our Lady holding the Child Jesus. He would become so ecstatic at seeing the Child Jesus cared for in the arms of Our Lady, that sometimes, he would call all the priests in the Monastery together and say: “Father come look, doesn’t this make you happy? Look at how well treated the Child Jesus is in the arms of Our Lady. That is how He lived on earth! Let’s be happy!” He would play the violin, sing and dance before the statue, or even before the Blessed Sacrament.
King Philip II requested the Franciscans to send Missionaries to preach the Gospel in the Americas. In 1589 Fr Francisco sailed from Spain to the New World and having landed at Panama, crossed the isthmus and embarked on a vessel that was to convey him to Peru. During the journey, a storm at sea crashed his ship against the rocks not far from Peru. The crew and the passengers abandoned the ship but Francis stayed with the slaves that were on board. After three days, they were rescued.
For twenty years Fr Francisco worked at evangelising the vast regions of Tucuman (present day northwestern Argentina) and Paraguay. He had a skill for languages and succeeded at learning many of the regions’ native tongues in a fairly short period. It is believed that he could also address tribes of different tongues in one language yet be understood by them all. Being a musician as well, Solano also played the violin frequently for the natives. He is often depicted playing this instrument. Francisco exuded joy wherever he carried out his apostolate. He was always happy and enthusiastic, whether fighting spiritual battles, suffering or contemplating. This wonderful joy was infectious, the local tribes all grew to love him and through him, the Lord of our life whom he brought to them.
At this time, Fr Francisco was appointment as guardian of the Franciscan Friary in Lima, Peru and at the same time, he filled the same office for the Friaries of his Order in Tucuman and Paraguay.
Around 1601 he was called to Lima, Peru, where he worked hard to recall the Spanish colonists to their Baptismal integrity. Francisco predicted the devastating 1619 earthquake of Trujillo, Peru. He died at Lima.
Solanus was Beatified by Pope Clement X in 1675 and Canonised by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726. His feast is kept throughout the Franciscan Order on 24 July (except currently the United States, where it is celebrated on the universal feast day, 14 July).
Still today, most wondrously, in Humahuaca, everyday at precisely 12 noon, on the city hall belltower, heavy copper doors slowly open and a life-sized animated wooden, dramatic-looking statue of San Francisco Solano appears for about two minutes and gives his Benediction to the silent crowd amassed on the village plaza.
The whole life of Saint Francis Solano was Martyrdom and cruciﬁxion; still, during his last two months on earth he was given the opportunity of winning God’s promised reward for suffering patiently as a Christian. Very severe pains and a raging fever forced him to take to his bed for good. But no illness could keep him from praying and during his last days the gift of contemplation was at work in him, to such an extent, that he seemed to be living all the time in the company of the angels.
He was so forgetful of his bodily wants that his ability to go on living seemed to be a miracle, even in the opinion of eminent doctors. He kept on repeating with great feeling his favourite aspiration: “God be gloriﬁed,” or some similar one. Sometimes he asked that the Psalms “Bless the Lord, my soul” and “My soul, give thanks to the Lord” should be recited and these caused his heart to melt. He even wanted to read Saint John’s Gospel for himself, beginning at the passage “It was before the festival of the Passover.” The story of the Cruciﬁxion especially affected him deeply and he would begin to speak of the suffering of Christ, giving Him thanks and praising the goodness and mercy shown to a sinner like him at such great cost. Hymns in honour of Our Lady often helped him to feel better and he was ﬁlled with happiness and joy at the thought of her. On one occasion he said to his confessor: “Father, help me to speak the praises of God,” immediately adding, “0 God, my creator, my king and my father, you are all my delight, you are everything to me.” At this, the ﬂame of divine love burned so ﬁercely that his soul was turned to inward things and was wholly occupied with spiritual joys, leaving him immobile, his senses numbed, his body like marble.
Five days before he died he said to the inﬁrmarian, Brother John Gomez: “Brother, have you noticed God’s great mercy to me in giving me the strength to overcome the enemy?” Two days later he turned to the friar who looked after him and exclaimed with tears and sighs: “How is it, my Lord Jesus, that You were Cruciﬁed while I have Your servants to care for me; You were naked while I am clothed; You were struck with blows and crowned with thorns, while I have everything I need to satisfy my wants and give me consolation?” On the following day in the presence of many of the friars he cried out: “God of my life, may You be gloriﬁed! What honour You heap on me. I rejoice, my Lord, that You are God, the source of all my joy!”
The night before he passed away he was rapt in ecstasy so that everyone thought he had died. But he came to himself again and exclaimed: “I rejoiced when I heard them say: ‘Let us go to God’s house.”’ From then until the end, his face was suffused with an expression of overﬂowing joy, eagerness and beauty. His soul exulted at the thought of the good things promised him and so broke out in these signs of joy. A friar said to him: “Father, after God has taken you to heaven, be mindful of me when you reach the eternal kingdom,” and Saint Francisco replied: “It is true that I am going to heaven but on the strength of Christ’s passion and death; for myself, I am the greatest of sinners. But I will be a good friend to you when I reach my home in heaven.” … Acta Sanctorum July V Paris 1860 pages 884-6 – God of my life, Source of all joy: glory to You.
through Saint Francisco Solano
you led many inhabitants of South America
into the community of the Church.
By his merits and prayers
join our hearts to You in love
and lead non-believers to know and reverence Your name.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen