Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Francis Solano, Confessor

detail of a the painting 'Saint Francis Solanus and the Bull' by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 1645;  Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, Seville, Spain; photographed on 26 February 2000 by Marbregal; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Pope Benedict XIII, in the year 1726, solemnly canonized Francis Solano, of the Franciscan Order, famous for his virtues and sanctity. He was born in 1549, at Mantilia, in Andalusia, of devout parents; and his conduct during his youth was so blameless, that he served as a model of piety to all who knew him. Having arrived at the age of twenty, he took the habit of the Franciscans, and he never relaxed the zeal to gain spiritual perfection which he manifested during his noviciate. Very soon after he had been ordained priest, he was appointed master of the novices, as his Superiors had perceived in him an unusual ability to lead others in the way of a spiritual life. He was also, in the course of time, entrusted with the functions of Superior, but at his own earnest request was permitted to resign. The greater part of his religious life was spent in preaching. At the time when a pestilence raged, he requested and received permission to nurse the sick, and although himself stricken down with the disease, he returned immediately after his recovery to this work of Christian charity. Somewhat later he desired to be sent to America, that he might shed his blood for the sake of Christ. During his voyage, he did a great deal of good among those who were on board. His principal care was to prevent the rough sailors and others from committing sin, and to effect this he endeavored to inspire them with great horror for it by explaining to them the great wickedness of offending the Almighty. “Sin,” said he to them, “is the greatest evil in the world. Death is preferable to offending God.”

On his voyage to Peru, he gave an admirable and unprecedented example of love for his neighbor. When the large vessel, on board of which were Saint Francis, another Franciscan, and 800 more passengers, had struck on a rock during the night and become so leaky that they feared it would sink, the captain sought to save himself with some of the better class. Saint Francis was one of these; but aware that of those who would be left behind, many would not only die a temporal but also an eternal death, as some of them were still in the darkness of heathenism, while others were probably laden with great iniquities, he refused to accept the captain’s offer, and remained on board of the sinking vessel. Using well the time left to him, he persuaded almost all the heathens to be baptized, absolved the Christians after having heard their confessions, and, holding in his hand the crucifix, he prepared all for death. He himself was for three days carried hither and thither by the waves, and was at length thrown with several others upon an island, where they suffered terribly for want of food. At Lima, the capital of Peru, he remained not long, but soon continued his journey with the Father Superior to Tucuman, which was the field of labor assigned to him. It is known only to God how many heathens he converted to the true Faith, and how many sinners he brought to repentance.

The last nine years of his life he passed at Lima, whither his Superiors had sent him to establish a stricter discipline in the Franciscan monastery. His principal occupation in this city was again preaching, which he did partly in the churches, partly in the streets, to the greatest benefit of souls. The most remarkable of his many sermons there, was one which he preached in 1604, when one day, by divine inspiration, he came upon the market-place, and began to speak with great eloquence and pathos of the wickedness of the inhabitants. In the course of the sermon he said, that he, with truth, could say of Lima what Saint John had said of the whole world: “All that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Hence, he said, they ought to know that because the measure of their sins was overflowing, God would punish the city most severely; they should therefore do penance without loss or time, and thus at least escape eternal destruction. The threatened punishment was not immediately inflicted upon them, as the inhabitants of Lima, like those of Nineve, by a general penance, and by prayers, averted, for a time, the wrath of the Almighty. In this century, however, we all know that they were punished with a terrible earthquake and a destructive submerging of the city by the sea, just as it happened to Nineve, whose inhabitants, returning to their former vicious life, were punished by God with famine and war. To the inhabitants of the city of Truxillo he also announced the divine vengeance on account of their vices. They, however, listened not to his admonition, but continued in their wicked courses, until God’s judgment came down upon them, and the city was destroyed by a fearful earthquake. Many other future events were predicted by Saint Francis, as he was graced by God with the gifts of prophecy and miracles. The difficult language of the Tucumans he mastered in fourteen days, and though his hearers were often of many different nationalities, they all understood the language in which he preached. Health returned to the sick when they merely touched his girdle, or when he laid his hands upon them. He raised one boy from the dead, and another, whose body was covered with ulcers, he healed instantaneously. Once, when an immense swarm of locusts devastated the land, the Saint drove them away by saying a short prayer and blessing the fields. The Tucumans complained that they had no water in the district appointed for them, and they therefore intended to make their home elsewhere. The holy man exhorted them to trust in God, went with them to a certain place, and, after having prayed, he ordered them to dig. Scarcely had they begun their work when so large a stream of wholesome water sprang up, that afterwards they built two mills that were driven by its force. Many sick regained their health by the use of this water, which made it so celebrated that people came for it from places many miles distant. Whoever considers these and other miracles of Saint Francis will not be astonished to read how highly he was esteemed by persons of all stations, throughout the whole country. But he earned greater reputation by his virtues, which had procured for him, while yet in his novitiate the name of Saint, and in after life, that of an apostle. We have far too little space to relate all his deeds of love towards God and man, or all the labors he performed for the salvation of souls, nor to give examples of his humility, his patience, his meekness, nor the spirit of penance which dwelt within him, nor the other Christian virtues that adorned his soul. He was so extremely austere, and mortified his body to such an extent, that he was, during the last years of his life, disturbed by scruples for having gone too far in his self-abnegation. Goa, however, revealed to him in a vision the great glory which he had gained by it in heaven, which not only quieted all his anxiety, but increased his eagerness to live more austerely than before. God decreed at last to call His servant from this world into the kingdom of heaven, and revealed to him the day of his death. Two months before it took place, He sent him a fever, which confined him to his bed. He did not complain, but said that as he, for want of strength, could no longer mortify his body, Divine Providence was taking his place and was punishing him according to his deserts. Hence, he looked at his suffering as an especial mercy of the Almighty, and gave fervent thanks for the grace bestowed upon him. He desired to have the crucifix constantly before his eyes. The loving colloquies which he addressed to his Saviour, and the tender, pious ejaculations into which he broke forth, filled the eyes of all present with tears. Several times they saw him in an ecstasy. One day, when he came to himself, he exclaimed in the words of King David: “I have rejoiced in what has been told me: we shall go into the house of the Lord.” Thither he went without delay, after having devoutly received the last Sacraments, as the many apparitions and miracles which happened after his death testified. His last words were those which he had before so frequently used: “Honor and praise be to God!”

An event which took place during his last illness, and especially on the day of his death, ought not to be omitted. The Saint, always filled with the desire to praise God, had frequently during his life invited all beings, especially the birds, to praise the Almighty. How much God was pleased with this, the following oft-repeated miracle proves. Several birds, following this invitation, came immediately and praised God with their beautiful songs. At the time of the Saint’s illness, they came to the window of his room and rejoiced him with their warbling, without being frightened by the crowd of people who were constantly around the patient. On his last day, a whole chorus of the most beautiful birds sang before his room from five o’clock in the morning until near noon. This event cannot be denied or doubted, as many of the laity and clergy saw these birds with their own eyes and listened with the greatest astonishment to their exquisite notes. The Almighty desired to honor in an especial manner him who had labored so many years for the honor of his God.

Practical Considerations

1. “I would rather die than offend God,” said Saint Francis. By this he meant that he feared sin more than death. And he was right; for sin is a greater and more hurtful evil than death. Yes, death is, in itself, no evil; for, as Saint Chrysostom says: “Sin is the only real evil.” Death itself does not harm man, but if he be prepared for it, is beneficial to him, as it brings him to heaven. Sin alone harms man both in soul and body, and if he do not repent, precipitates him into the abyss of everlasting misery. What are your thoughts on this subject? Are you one of those who care little or nothing for sin, commit it without shame, continue in it without fear, and do not think of correcting their lives and atoning for their wickedness? Oh! woe be to you! How terrible a sign is this! Children of the Almighty despise sin and are willing rather to die than commit it Should they, however, more from weakness than from wickedness, commit a fault, they immediately endeavor to purify themselves from its stain. Hence they must be children of Satan, who care little or nothing for sin, and who not only live on in their iniquities, but do not even feel their disgrace. To which of these do you belong? Pray today, that God may enlighten you in regard to sin, and you will most assuredly fear it much more than death.

2. Saint Francis regarded his bodily suffering as an especial grace of God. In this again he was right; for, according to the words of Saint Ignatius, disease, as well as health, is a gift of the Almighty. When God sends any one a disease, it is for his good. Man lives either a pious or a godless life. If he lives piously, sickness will afford him an opportunity to expiate the still remaining punishment which he deserves for past offences, and to gather for himself treasures in heaven. If he live a godless life, then by sickness, the Almighty gives him time and opportunity to recognize, not only the power and justice of heaven, but also his own weakness and mortality, and thus repent, do penance, and either reform his life, or, should God call him into eternity, prepare himself for a happy death. Hence, consider sickness from whatever point you will, it is always a benefit. “It is a grace,” writes Saint Gregory the Great, “when we can expiate in the flesh the iniquities committed in the flesh.” “It is better,” says Saint Bernard, “to suffer pain and gain heaven, than to remain in perfect health and be condemned.” How many would have gone to eternal destruction, if they had not been sick before their end? If God sends a sickness to you, regard it as a sign of His mercy: give thanks to Him, and make good use of it. “If you are scourged by the pains of your disease, give thanks to the Almighty,” says Saint Augustine.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Francis Solano, Confessor”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 21 March 2018. Web. 16 November 2018. <>