November 20, 2018: ST. FELIX OF VALOIS
November 20, 2018: ST. FELIX OF VALOIS, CONFESSOR
[Co-founder of the Order of the Holy Trinity for the Redemption of Captives, along with St. John of Matha]
Felix, happy lover of charity, teach us the worth, and also the nature, of this queen of virtues. It was she that attracted thee into solitude in pursuit of her divine Object; and when thou hadst learnt to find God in himself, she showed him to thee and taught thee to love him in thy brethren.
O God, who, by thy heavenly inspiration, didst call blessed Felix, thy Confessor, out of the desert to exercise his charity in the redemption of captives; grant that, by his intercession, having obtained thy grace, we may be freed from the captivity of sin, and brought safe to our heavenly country. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
Felix was called in his youth to dwell in the desert; and he thought to die there, forgotten by the world he had despised. But our Lord had decreed that his old age should yield fruit before men.
It was one of those epochs which may be called turning points in history. The first of the great active Orders was about to be raised up in the Church by St. John of Matha; others were soon to follow, called forth by the new requirements of the times. Eternal Wisdom, who remaining herself the same reneweth all things (Wis, vii. 27), would prove that sanctity also never changes, and that charity, though assuming different forms, is ever the same, having but one principle and one aim—God, loved for his own sake. Hence John of Matha was led by the Holy Spirit to Felix of Valois, as a disciple to the master; and then, upon pure contemplation personified by the anchorite living out his declining years in the depths of the forest, was grafted the intensely active life of the redeemer of captives. The desert of Cerfroid became the cradle, and remained the chief center, of the Trinitarian Order.
Let us read the Church’s history of the servant of God, remembering that it requires to be completed by that of his son and disciple.
Felix, formerly called Hugh, was born in France, of the royal family of the Valois, and from his cradle gave promise of future sanctity and especially of charity towards the poor. While still an infant, he would distribute money to the needy with his own hand, as if he were grown up and had full use of reason. When somewhat older, he used to send them meat from the table, and would choose what was daintiest for poor little children. When a youth, he more than once stripped himself of his own garments to clothe the poor. He obtained the life of a condemned criminal from his uncle Theobald, Count of Champagne and Blois; forestalling that the man, hitherto an infamous murderer, would shortly become a saint; the truth of which prophecy was proved by the event.
Having spent his youth in the practice of virtue, he was induced by his love of heavenly contemplation to think of retiring into solitude. He was determined, however, first to take Holy Orders, and thus cut off all possibility of succeeding to the crown, of which he had some expectations on account of the Salic Law. After being ordained priest, and celebrating his first Mass with the greatest devotion, he retired into the desert, where he lived in the severest abstinence, but enjoying an abundance of heavenly gifts and graces. There he was joined by John of Matha, a Parisian doctor, who had been inspired by God to seek him; and they lived together in a most holy manner for some years. God then sent an Angel, who bade them go to Rome and obtain a special rule of life form the Sovereign Pontiff. Pope Innocent III received, during solemn Mass, a revelation concerning the religious Order to be instituted for the ransom of captives; and he himself clothed Felix and John in a white habit with a red and blue cross, such as was worn by the Angel who had appeared. Moreover the Pontiff determined that on account of the three colors of the habit, the new Order should bear the name of the most holy Trinity.
Upon receiving the confirmation of their rule from Pope Innocent, Felix returned to Cerfroid, in the diocese of Meaux, and enlarged the first convent of the Order, which he and his companion had built there shortly before. There he caused religious observance and the work of ransom to flourish; and he diligently propagated the Order by sending disciples into other provinces. In this place he was favored with a remarkable grace by the blessed Virgin Mary. On the vigil of the Nativity of the Mother of God, while the brethren, God so disposing, remained asleep instead of rising at midnight for Matins, Felix who was watching according to his custom before the appointed hour, entered the church, and found the blessed Virgin in the middle of the choir, clad in the habit and cross of the Order, and surrounded by Angels in the same attire. Felix joined them, and the Mother of God having intoned the Office, he sang the divine praises with them even to the end. Then, as if calling him from the choir of earth to that of heaven, an Angel informed him that his death was at hand. He exhorted his sons to love of the poor and of captives; and gave up his soul to God, full of days and of merits, in the year of our Lord 1212, in the pontificate of the said Innocent III.
Another account of St. Felix of Valois
St. Felix, of the royal house of Valois, was born in France, in 1127, and manifested in his earliest childhood great compassion towards the poor. While yet in the arms of his nurse, no greater pleasure could be given him than to allow him to bestow alms on the needy. When older, he sent the best dishes from his table to the poor; and it happened more than once, that he gave his own cloak to some beggar, because he happened not to have anything else at hand. He once implored mercy and life for a condemned criminal, who, he said, was destined to become a great saint; and the event justified the prediction. Having passed his youth in acquiring knowledge, and in the practice of virtue, Felix resolved to serve the Almighty in retirement and solitude. He first, however, took holy orders, so as to deprive himself of all hope of ever attaining the crown, from which, by his birth, he was not far removed. After having said his first Mass, he went into a desert, where he led a very austere life, which was made extremely sweet to him by divine consolations; so that he intended to spend his whole life, unknown, in that lonely place. But the Almighty, who had chosen him for greater work, sent to him a noble young doctor from Paris, named John of Matha, who had also been ordained priest, and who desired to walk in the path of perfection under his direction. St. Felix received him with great pleasure; for he perceived in the candidate great inclination to virtue. They had lived harmoniously together, in great piety, for three years, when, one day, while they were sitting beside a well, in devout discourse, a stag, bearing a blue and red cross between its antlers, came suddenly forth from the bushes. St. Felix, greatly amazed, knew not what to say; but John made use of the occasion to relate a vision which he had had while saying his first holy Mass, and which was vividly recalled to his memory by the appearance of this stag. Both saints sank upon their knees and prayed that they might be favored to recognize more clearly the will of God. Heaven inspired both with an intense desire to labor for the ransom of those prisoners who languished under the yoke of the Turks and other barbarians, and thus save many from the danger of renouncing their faith, and going to eternal ruin. Both were admonished three times during their sleep to found a special order for this end, and to request, at Rome, the necessary permission. Innocent III, who sat at that time on the papal throne, was greatly pleased with such holy intentions, but desired to confer on the subject with some learned men, and consult the will of the Almighty in prayer. During holy Mass the Pope saw the same vision which had been shown to St John of Matha, during his first Mass, as as we related. On the 8th of February, putting away all doubt, Innocent approved the plan of the new “Order of the Most Holy Trinity, for the Redemption of Captives,” and invested the two holy founders with the habit. The first monastery was founded in the diocese of Meaux, by means of ample donations from charitable persons whom God had moved to favor the undertaking; whilst others eagerly flocked to the monastery, as soon as it was completed, to devote their lives to the noble work of ransoming their captive brethren. When this happy beginning had been made, St. John again set out for Rome, leaving the government of the house to St. Felix, who, by word and example, led those under him in the path of religious perfection. He represented to them, with special energy, the many and fearful dangers of those Christians who were slaves among the barbarians, as many of them forsook the Christian faith, either from fear of greater misery, or in the hope of regaining their liberty. The same representations he made to the laity in his sermons; and thus, after having awakened in the hearts of his religious a great desire to relieve the captives, he also induced the laity to contribute liberally to their ransom. With the funds thus collected, the religious of the new order sailed to Africa, where they knew that the Christians were imprisoned. They bought them from the infidels, liberated them from slavery, and saved them, not only from temporal misery, but, what was of much greater importance, from the imminent danger of going to eternal ruin. It is easy to conceive that the disciples of St. Felix, in this holy work, had to combat with many and great dangers, and also to endure numberless sufferings and hardships. But they were so inflamed by their holy Master with love for God and their neighbor, that they feared neither danger nor dishonor, nor even death. All this gave great comfort to St. Felix, as he considered that, in this manner, many souls were saved for eternity. The holy man received great favors from heaven, among which may be counted the vision which he had, in the night preceding the festival of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. He went, according to his custom, an hour earlier than the rest to the choir, in order to pray. On arriving there, he saw the divine Mother, surrounded by a great many angels. Going towards them, he fell into ecstasy, and with them sang the praises of the Almighty; when one of them told him that he would soon be called into heaven to sing eternally the glory of the Almighty. Felix, greatly rejoicing, called his disciples to him, admonished them most earnestly to remain constant in their devotion to the captives; and, after receiving the holy Sacraments, gave his soul calmly into the hands of his Maker, in the eighty-fifth year of his age.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. VI, Edition 1903;
The Lives of the Saints, Rev. F.X. Weninger D.D., S.J. Vol. II, Permissu Superiorum, 1876; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
St. Felix of Valois, pray for us.