St. Felix was born to a peasant family in Cantalice. When he was twelve he was hired out as a shepherd and plowman. He found such work conducive to meditation. A turning point in his life came when the team of oxen he was driving suddenly bolted, knocking him down and pulling the sharp plow across his body. When he found himself completely unharmed, he took this for a miraculous sign and determined at once to present himself for admission as a lay brother at the local Capuchin monastery of Città Ducale.
Very quickly, Felix acquired a reputation for holiness. Even members of his community referred to him as “the saint.” After making his final vows he was sent to Rome, where he lived for forty years, serving as the community’s official beggar for food and alms. People called him “Brother Deo Gratias,” for his habit of constantly giving thanks to God. Among his friends was St. Philip Neri, who read aloud to the illiterate brother the proposed rule for his new order and afterward incorporated his comments and amendments.
Felix was well known for his austerity. He walked barefoot, lived on little more than bread crusts and table scraps, and was later found to have worn a shirt of iron links. If anyone insulted him he would reply, “I pray God that you may become a saint!”
He died on May 18, 1587, after receiving a vision of Our Lady. He was canonized in 1712.
“All earthly creatures can lift us up to God if we know how to look at them with an eye that is single.”
—St. Felix of Cantalice