Weekly Series on the Soul, Part 16, St Francis, not the one you’re thinking

+JMJ+ Welcome to part 16 of our weekly series on the soul. Tonight I wanted to share something I learned today about Saint Francis de Paola. I have to confess that I knew very little about him other than his name until now, but I read a little about him today (since it is his feast day) and downloaded more to sift through. But what I want to share with you right now is the animal/soul connection. It seems that St. Francis de Paola had legendary compassion for animals. And I say “legendary” because the only mentions I can find about it are in accounts of legends that have grown up about him. That doesn’t mean they aren’t true or that there isn’t at least a kernel of truth about them. I haven’t gotten very far along in my research yet, but I find it interesting nonetheless. (Notes and links will be at the end of the post.)

I’ll just quote the three paragraphs that tell the most (that I could find tonight) about St. Francis de Paola and the animals. 

“There are several stories about his compassion for animals, and how he gave back life to animals that were killed to be eaten. For example, a biographer writes: “Francis had a favorite trout that he called ‘Antonella.’ One day, one of the priests, who provided religious services, saw the trout swimming about in his pool. To him it was just a delicious dish, so he caught it and took it home, tossing it into the frying pan. Francis missed ‘Antonella’ and realized what had happened. He asked one of his followers to go to the priest to get it back. The priest, annoyed by this great concern for a mere fish, threw the cooked trout on the ground, shattering it into several pieces. The hermit sent by Francis gathered up the broken pieces in his hands and brought them back to Francis. Francis placed the pieces back in the pool and, looking up to Heaven and praying, said: ‘Antonella, in the name of Charity, return to life.’ The trout immediately became whole and swam joyously around his pool as if nothing had happened. The friars and the workers who witnessed this miracle were deeply impressed by the miracle.”

“St. Francis also raised his pet lamb from the dead after it had been killed and eaten by workmen. “Being in need of food, the workmen caught and slaughtered Francis’ pet lamb, Martinello, roasting it in their lime kiln. They were eating when the Saint approached them, looking for the lamb. They told him they had eaten it, having no other food. He asked what they had done with the fleece and the bones. They told him they had thrown them into the furnace. Francis walked over to the furnace, looked into the fire and called ‘Martinello, come out!’ The lamb jumped out, completely untouched, bleating happily on seeing his master.”

“St. Francis Paola called the animals by their names even after their lives had ended. He apparently believed they continued to exist after their deaths.”

St. Francis de Paola, Wikipedia entry.

Interesting, yes? I’m well aware that the Church does not teach that animals have rational souls or that their souls continue to exist after their bodies die or that they go to heaven. We’ve covered the different kinds of souls earlier in this series. (See Part 9 and Part 10.) That’s why I was surprised to read what I read about St. Francis de Paola. And I have to say that most of the Catholic sites I’ve searched to not say much if anything about this. Wikipedia by far gave the most space to it, and it also led me to some books that I downloaded but haven’t had time to look at yet. One is The Church and Kindness to Animals (anonymous author), and another is The Physical Phenomena of Mysticism, by Herbert Thurston, S.J. (Links at the end of this post.)

That’s it for tonight’s brief post because I’m working on adding a Divine Mercy thread to our devotions during the Coronavirus situation, and my eyes are getting super tired. Always sumpin. Thank you for visiting and reading. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, and may the Lord bless and keep you and yours, and may His peace be always with you. +JMJ+

Notes and Links

Tonight’s wandering led me down some interesting (to me) rabbit holes. :)

  • St. Francis de Paola, Wikipedia. It was the page that had the most to say about the animal connection so I’m sharing it. (Not that it’s a great reference work, but it is a serviceable starting point, a jumping off place, providing linksc and often images in the public domain, so I use it. The image you see at the top of this post came from Wikimedia Commons. So handy! The Rosary Project has benefited greatly from that source.)
  • The Church and Kindness to Animals, anonymous author, free PDF at archive.org. I haven’t read this yet so I’m not recommending it, I’m just telling you it exists. I’ll write about it once I’ve had a chance to look into it.
  • The Physical Phenomena of Mysticism, by Herbert Thurston, SJ, Paperback. Kindle. (Amazon affiliate links, see Full Disclosure below.) This work has come up a few times lately in my reading. (I thought I’d found the free PDF of it tonight, but when I opened it, I’d downloaded one by the exact same title but by Montague Summers instead. Argh. I’d returned my Kindle version of the Thurston one thinking I could get it for free. So I had to go back to Amazon and purchase it again. Oy vey. I kept the Summers one. I remember his name from my new age days, so I at first I was horrified that I’d gotten that one, but it turns out he was a priest, an Anglican who converted to Catholicism. So I’ll look at his work (at another time) and see what’s what later. I’ll let you know. If you know about him, please let me know.) My library on this subject is growing and I’m at pains to have only reliable Catholic sources, don’t ya know. Except for sources that I acquire solely in order to scribble madly in the margins. I love to argue with authors…in my mind. ;)

Images: St. Francis de Paola, by from Wikimedia, public domain. And the second one is from the Circle of Jusepe de Ribera.

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